PTSD The Blog

What I have learned about my own flavor of crazy sprinkles.

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As anyone that would read this blog knows (First Responders, Military/Veterans, Public Safety Personnel, and HealthCare Professionals), in three days the people of our country will stop what they are doing and take the time to REMEMBER with us.

There is a grace to remembering and it keeps those we lost alive at least for those that knew them. The thing is, there is also pain in remembering and for some its going to be harder than usual.

Many of us have lost someone who was serving. Some were Military or Veterans, some lost those in healthcare who risked their lives to save ours during this pandemic. And some lost their battle with the invisible injuries that we within OSI-CAN have in common.

On November 11th please know there are people and places to turn for help. Someone to listen while you remember and that in doing so we are honoring those we lost. Reach out if you need help and reach out to those that may need help.


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COVID, Isolation, and Mental Health

There have been a number of negatives and a few positives that have come out of this pandemic. Before people bring out the pitchforks, by positives what I am referring to is the change of perspective on what is meaningful to us as alot of the "extras" have been stripped away. Who we look up to has shifted from Hollywood to our first responders, our healthcare professionals, and essential workers. These are not glamorous people, they are the people that are working knowing they are at risk so that we can access food at the grocery stores, have medication on the shelves when we are sick, put gas in our tanks to go to work, and they are the ones keeping us safe or helping us to heal from injury and/or illness. I think this has helped us to reflect on our values, and make course corrections in our lives.


I don't think I need to go into what I mean by the negatives of the pandemic--those have been far less subtle than the positives and felt on a global scale. They have also been discussed at length in the news and in almost every conversation. Now that the pandemic is coming to an end (knock on wood), what I wanted to discuss here is one of the ripple effects and to do that I need to tell you about my nephew.


I want to tell you about Shane. He wasn't a first responder nor did he have PTSD. He did have schizophrenia and I know alot of you with an OSI or PTSD can relate to many parts of his story.


Shane died last week at the age of 31 years old. I was his aunt and we do not know his exact cause of death, though suicide is suspected. During this pandemic, his supports were cut off and though he had access to his family by phone a lot of the things he did to socialize, distract himself, and keep his body busy were cut off as people were asked to stay home (for the safety of ourselves and others). For Shane that meant staying in his one bedroom apartment without internet or cable and though he was able to talk on the phone and watch DVD's he was often alone with his thoughts. I believe that had we as his family known what he needed he would still be here today. What is the cost of cable or the internet plus a streaming service to one's quality of life? The thing is he didn't tell us that was what he needed because he was sick and often we don't know what we need to be well. If we did, it stands to reason we wouldn't be sick right?


As someone with PTSD, I know that too much time alone with my thoughts (particularly when I was in a dark place) was not good for me and didn't lead to recovery or wellness. Being in the dark place was not a place to find light, it was a place that bred more darkness and colored the joy that I did have in my life with feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse. Only by being surrounded by the light of other people, by other perspectives, by the hope held by others can we climb out of the dark and back into the light. During the isolation of COVID, I had support groups that went virtual, the family I live with, and a work-life that required contact with other people. Shane didn't have those things and as he was ill and not always medication compliant, wasn't always well enough to reach out for help. I think for those of us that have been in the dark place as many of us refer to depression, we can identify with what was going on for Shane.


I think for me, one of the things that I got out of the pandemic is a desire to speak with other people again. As comfortable as it was for me to isolate, we don't grow in a vacuum and I felt that during the pandemic. So moving forward we can do as we have been doing this last year and several months and keep to ourselves OR maybe we can resurrect the feeling of community that many of us haven't felt since long before COVID.


So here is my call to action. What can we do to help others, not just people from our professional backgrounds, and not just for people with PTSD/OSI? What can we do to help each other as PEOPLE so that we don't have the aftermath that my family is working through right now? What I know I can do, is reach out to people more. Make sure people know they are not alone but part of something bigger than themselves whether you call it community, society, family or humanity. I can send someone flowers, or a card, or a simple text letting them know they are important to me. I can greet a stranger or have a conversation with someone I don't know while we mutually wait in line at the store. I can leave my work office door open so that people feel invited in to chat.


The thing is we don't know what is going on behind a persons smile or what they need to be mentally well. And we can't expect ourselves to know or anticipate what the people in our world will do. Though I am not a religious person there is a Yiddish saying that I repeat to myself all the time which translates to "man plans, and God laughs". As someone working on her control and responsibility issues this reminds me that there are limits to what I can control and therefore what I am responsible for.


Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you to those of you that expressed your condolences for Shane's passing. He will always be loved, missed, and remembered.



RESOURCES:


If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please know you are wanted and loved. Reach out to someone that can help you, call 911 (or the emergency number in your area) or see the resources below or at the bottom of all the OSI-CAN pages.


Canada Text Us | Suicide Support & Resources | Crisis Services Canada Call1-833-456-4566

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Yesterday was July 1st, Canada Day and for the first time in my own lifetime, I didn't celebrate the way I normally would have. Yes, things have been impacted by COVID these last sixteen or so months, but that wasn't why. With the findings of the graves believed to belong to the aboriginal children of residential schools, we as Canadians are as polarized as we have ever been. To me, and not to oversimplify by any means, it comes down to how Canadians treat Canadians, and from there the global population.


Every country has parts of history they are not proud of, and part of moving forward is to learn about these things so that we don't repeat them. We don't want to erase these reminders OR glorify them, we need to remember both the rights and the mistakes of our pasts in order to make better choices in our collective future. What comes to my mind is keeping Auschwitz Concentration Camp open to locals and to tourists. Not because it is something to celebrate, but to remember how easy it was for people to be turned against each other, and to have some of the biggest historical depravities happen in the name of some twisted view of social justice. People travel there by the thousands each year to remember and in remembering have a greater awareness of how easy it was to turn neighbor against neighbor.


That said, as people grow they evolve. Hopefully for the better. Hopefully, the morals of today aren't the same morals that led to the creation of residential schools and hopefully today we identify more as one people of many colors who can SEE one another. See the differences to be celebrated, the wounds not yet healed, and the difference in perspective that help us all to grow....but only if both sides are willing to listen. Hopefully.


This year, as I celebrate a country that I am proud to call my own, I do so knowing that the people under this flag are not now nor have ever been perfect people. Wonderful innovation and horrible actions alike have been carried out under the flag of our nation. What I believe is that knowledge of our own history as Canadians are there to set our own moral compasses by. Do we continue to set it by the ethics of the past or do we continue to evolve? Do we identify by the color of our skin, or as people? I know that for me, moving forward, I want to evolve. I am not a perfect person either, I am simply Canadian.

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Crisis/Suicide Hotline 24/7: 1-877-435-7170

Mobile Crisis Unit 24/7: 204-940-1781 

CMHA Service Navigation Hub:  

Call 204-775-6442 or

email hub@cmhawpg.mb.ca