this is what strength feels like.

Tonight at the yoga studio, the teacher started the class by saying, “I was going to play music – and then I thought, no, I just want to hear your breath. Everyone breathing together”.

Nearly thirty people began to inhale together, and exhale together. Inhale – take your deepest sip of air – exhale – let it all go.

It was the most incredible feeling. Community breath. Breathing in your neighbours powerful energy, exhaling their stress. Deep and controlled breath.

I felt strong. I felt life. I saw a future for myself in that studio tonight – a life that I sometimes never thought I would live.

Breathing – it’s what strength feels like.

delicate.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “delicate”?

I think of a flower, perhaps a peony, that you must be careful not to bruise. I think of fine glass, that if dropped, would shatter into a million pieces. I think of relationships – family, friends, and lovers. I think of a heart, being given away. I think of emotions, that need to be handled with care. I think of a life, hanging in the balance, between a place of life or place of death. Mirriam-Webster uses the phrases “easily torn or damaged”, “requiring careful handling”, and “not robust in health or constitution”.

This word was said to me yesterday to describe a recent personal event, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind….. delicate, delicate, delicate. It’s just been running through my mind – I’m trying to grasp its full worth.

After sleeping on it, and much thought, this is all I have to say: life is delicate.

Be kind to people. Be kind to yourself.

 

a great kindness.

I am overwhelmed with emotion.

I have been shown a great kindness today. My community came together and supported me in a way that I never knew possible. Old and new friends, loved ones, and wonderful people I had never met before joined together to help me raise funds for yoga teacher training. It was a beautiful afternoon, with a few tears, and a lot of laughter.

From the bottom of my heart, thank-you to each and every one of you.

I would like to share a song with you, to take you into your weekend (thank-you to a lovely friend who shared the song with me, and a lovely yoga teacher who sang her verson in class this morning). You are light, and I am light.

I Am Light – India Arie

I am light, I am light

I am not the things my family did
I am not the voices in my head
I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside

I am light, I am light

I’m not the mistakes that I have made or any of the things that caused me pain
I am not the pieces of the dream I left behind

I am light, I am light

I am not the color of my eyes
I am not the skin on the outside
I am not my age, I am not my race, my soul inside is all light

All light, all light
I am light, I am light

I am divinity defined
I am the God on the inside
I am a star, a piece of it all
I am light

emotional resilience.

If you have been following along with my journey, you will know that I participated in a three-month program for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy at the local hospital. (If you’re new to the site, and would like to read about the program, you can click here to go to the blog post.)

I finished the program at the end of April, but wasn’t completely discharged from the hospital. There is one more course to take – one that the therapists do not allow patients to start until they have gained the coping skills and emotional balance from the dialectical behavioural therapy. The course is called Emotional Resilience, and I started it yesterday.

I have been terrified to start this course – it was explained to me as “delving into the complex trauma that affects your day-to-day life, and figuring out what triggers you, which causes anxiety and depressive episodes.” Yikes.

But I see it as a necessary evil: it will be hard, yes. I will cry, yes. I will drudge up memories that I have stored in the back of my brain in a locked box marked ‘do not open‘, yes. But it will help me to heal, fully.  So, I will attend this class for the next eight weeks, do the homework, and keep working on me.

A hand-out given in yesterdays class defined Complex Trauma: the kind of trauma experienced in early childhood when bad things happen repetitively. The experiences may not be life threatening, but they are repetitive, are associated with no real escape, and usually perpetrated by trusted care-givers. The trauma interferes with the normal bonding or attachment process that a child has to have in order to soothe oneself. Whatever the trauma may be, it is the individuals experience of the traumatic event(s) and the meaning it has for them that is the most important issue to understand.

Complex trauma creates a disorganized attachment (ie – Is it safe for me to be attached to this person?) The hand-out states, “when early attachments are dangerous, it creates an internal struggle between the yearning to attach and the drive to be safe. ‘Do I run toward, or do I run away?'”.  The teacher in class described it as a push-pull scenario, which resonated with me deeply. I have always had a yearning to have a relationship with my mother, but when I get close to her I always get hurt.

I want to leave you with these song lyrics that I heard a few weeks ago, and felt very attached to, as they reminded me of her.

Julia Michaels – Issues
“…you got hands like an ocean, push you out, pull you back in”

 

remember what you’re fighting for.

This week has been a blur, trying to get things organized for my Go Fund Me campaign. I hadn’t been writing, or even practicing my newly learned mental health coping skills, and I found myself having a busy mind, and not stopping to just breathe.

Then I saw in the news that musician, Chris Cornell, committed suicide, and I was reminded of why I am running this campaign in the first place. To raise awareness about mental health. To let people know that there are humans out there, suffering, and they need your help. They need understanding, and forgiveness, and unconditional love. To talk about depression, and suicide, and for me to tell my story, so you know you’re not alone.

I can host all the fundraising events in the world, and I can go to this Yoga Training ten times over, but what really matters here is spreading the word. Ending the stigma. Fighting for a life.

So I would like to share a journal entry from May 13, 2017 – I was having a rough week:

“I think there is a difference between wanting to kill yourself, and not wanting to be alive.

I do not actually want to cause my body harm. I don’t want to feel pain, or have my family find my lifeless body in some surprise gruesome fashion.

I wish that upon no one.

I do have moments, many moments, where I think it would be better, easier, if I was not alive. It would be less of a burden on my family and friends, both emotionally, and financially. 

But mostly, it would end my suffering. This ball of constant anxiety that lives in my throat, that I choke back each day, would be released into the universe and my energy could be used to create something beautiful, like a star.

The star could light the way for my loved ones, to move on, knowing I was at peace.

Please don’t think I am going to harm myself. I know I sound morbid, but it is just how I feel inside.

I feel so alone.

I am lonely.”

It’s important to know that there are ups and downs in every life, and I feel grateful that I was able to get through this rut. You are not alone. Always remember that.

 

*as a side note, I would like to extend a huge thank-you to all that are helping my in my journey – those who have donated money, items for me to sell, time, and much more, thank you.

one step forward.

Depression is a dance that I have not yet learned the steps to – a waltz of sorts, and I can’t quite get the footing down.

Each time I learn a new step, a pattern that I finally figure out, I am hurled backwards and I lose balance. One step forward, two steps back.

I feel like I show no grace as I stumble through this journey. I have no fancy footwork, no elegant twirl, no final dip. The performance is just me, wading through a pool of emotions, trying to figure out the next step. But I don’t feel much like dancing, and sometimes, I’d like to sit this one out.

Regardless of the coping skills I have learned over the past few months, I find myself asking, why?
Why does the universe think I am strong enough to bare this burden?
Why do I sit, surrounded by loved ones, yet feeling so alone?
Why I am so tired?
Why me?

I know there are no answers to my questions; I know that it is up to me to build my strength, and surpass the questions – create my own path.

So maybe I don’t have to be any good at dancing with depression (waltzing was never my strong suit anyway). Maybe I’ll change the music and freestyle my steps, so there are no backward movements. I’ll just keep moving forward.

One step at a time.

freezing cold, soaked in sweat. 

My nightmares are back with a vengeance. For a few weeks there they had ended, allowing me a restful nights sleep, bringing me to a joyful morning. 

But now they’re back; I wake in the night, whimpering like a wounded animal, freezing cold and soaked in sweat. 

Im groggy in the morning, and can barely make it a couple hours without needing a nap. I’m exhausted, which contributes to my anxiety, which begins the circle again. 

During the day, I feel like a tortured character from an old movie – the ones where they strap the good guy in front of a tv, hold open his eyes and flash pictures of atomic bombs, poverty, death – trying to turn him to their side, the bad side. 

I keep reminding myself to breathe, counting to ten with my breath – 1 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale, and so on, and then I begin again. 

Let’s all take a minute to be aware of our breath today – for without it, we would not be here. Even on the bad days. 

sitting in silence

The amazing owners of Moksha Yoga Cambridge, asked me to write a blog post for their website, talking about my journey with mental health, and how yoga affected it.

They reached out because I recently started a campaign to raise money to attend Moksha Yoga Training.

You can read the blog here

And see the Go Fund Me page here 

I would be so grateful if you wanted to share!!

Much Love,
Shannon

yoga 2

i won’t quit, i want more.

This blog post has been bubbling up in my throat all day. I knew I had something to write, but as I moved through the motions of my day, I didn’t know what it was yet. It started out as a feeling of anxiety – tightness in my chest and shoulders, feeling like I was going to vomit – and turned into whirling thoughts in my head that I couldn’t stop. I tried everything that normally helps me when I’m feeling this way – writing, reading, painting, meditation, and even a nap – nothing worked. Eventually the tears came.

I have been feeling like a bit of a mess since returning to Ontario. A lot of crying, sleeping, isolating myself, and just a general feeling of overwhelming sadness. I feel weak, physically and mentally, and I feel like giving up; I feel quite a bit like I did when I first moved here.

Here’s the difference between then and now: Now I am able to recognize these feelings. I am able to say to myself, its okay to feel what you’re feeling, but you have to keep going.

So, I went to yoga. I cried the whole way there in the car, but I got my butt into the studio and onto my mat. I inhaled and exhaled until my body knew it wasn’t in fight or flight mode anymore, I was safe. During many points in the class I wanted to just lie down and cry (it wouldn’t have been the first time) but I didn’t. I told myself that after class I could run to my car and cry the whole way home. But I didn’t. I felt just a little calmer, and I felt ready to write.

On the way home, a song came on the radio, and I couldn’t help but turn it as loud as it could go, and sing at the top of my lungs – the lyrics felt fitting for my day.

My body – Young the Giant sings in the song, “My body tells me no / But I won’t quit / Cause I want more”.

And I won’t quit. Not today.