Are You Kind?

I can’t stop thinking about something that happened to me or rather, for me, the other day. For many reasons it affected me profoundly.

Perhaps, because I’ve been so ill. Perhaps, because for the last two years death and dying has been such an invasive subject. Maybe, because I’m alone without human touch. Or is it because I’ve lost trust, had my heart-broken, struggle to find hope purpose and joy in the “in-between moments” of pain and illness. Is it because I was adopted and abused?      Who knows. It just is. Most likely all of those things.IMG_2662 I love Brené Brown’s quote above for many reasons. It’s very challenging for many people including of course, adoptees, people who have been abused, neglected, are chronically ill, or just trying to move forward. The experience I had, I realize now, was only possible because I allowed myself to be vulnerable.

At this point in my life, nothing is off-limits. I’m an open book. My heart is wide open. My mind accepting, forgiveness comes easily when your time on this earth is unpredictable and could change any moment. The truly important things become obvious.

The definition of Kindness is rather simple.

the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate, affection, warmth gentleness, care

Kindness is synonymous with Love except that Love is a state of being and Kindness is a state of doing. When you can make each human interaction a moment inspired by Love, you are practising Kindness…you are taking the step. Love allows us to see the people on our path as the Buddhas they are, and then Kindness allows us to bless them  with loving acts.IMG_2010

I know what i experienced was far deeper than “just kindness”. It was authentic compassion. Authentic empathy. Authentic gentleness offered by a very kind soul.

So many people say they’re kind, perhaps even truly believe they are. Unfortunately for the receiver, you can feel the disingenuous energy and know it’s feeding their own ego being.

Many adoptees I’ve encountered over the years experience the same feeling when offered authentic kindness morsels. It’s overwhelming often leading to tears. The fact that someone truly cares and is offering you a piece of their heart in their hand can be overwhelming to say the least. How sad that such a deeply ingrained belief can still be present even at my ripe old age. From the time you absorb the negative energy in utero, you have the belief you aren’t worthy of love. Of course you know it’s not true. It’s just so deep that until someone comes along and offers you authentic kindness and you let yourself be vulnerable and open to receiving it, that you realize what you’ve lost.

Of course, I’m speaking for myself here, but I know others have experienced the same.

Here’s the story. As I mentioned, I’ve been dealing with my own mortality and all that it entails. Dying is a lot of work! Paperwork, emotional work, medical work, constant thinking work, saying goodbye work. A great deal of work. It’s especially challenging when you are alone. I’m blessed to have a couple of dearly loved friends, the ones that pulled me through my near death hospitalization. We had dinner one night and laughed until we cried as we discussed my death. Now, those are good friends!

Oh right, the story.

I was in a meeting. A business meeting with a business person I’ve known for many years now. I’m filling him in on some of “the story”. You know, the one that is over. The story of the last few years, condensed of course! I’ve been very tearful since my last admission to hospital last week. Part Mast Cell Madness, part facing reality and the exhaustion of it all. I felt a tear slip out of my eye and roll down my cheek. When I looked up, there he sat. His hands were stretched out to me, palms up. His eyes focused on mine. At first i was confused. What does he want? A “low five”, “patty cakes” “a book”?

What? What?

Then it hit me!

I’m supposed to put my hands in his! OMG! He’s being authentically kind! He’s oozing empathy and compassion. I reached over and gently lowered my hands onto his. He slowly rolled up his fingers wrapping my hands in the warmth of connection. I could feel the energy, the caring. I could feel his gaze. I forced my eyes to move from our hands to his eyes. He looked and said softly, “I’m here for you. Do you hear me? I’m here for you.”

It was authentic and my heart burst open, leaving me flailing in vulnerability and tears. For that moment, I felt the healing energy of..

Compassion, empathy and authentic kindness

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I wonder why more people can’t speak from the heart through actions. Words mean very little unless accompanied by actions.

I wonder if others take this for granted. I wonder what it would be like to experience this daily. I can’t stay there too long because I’d know all I’ve missed. What I can do, is encourage everyone to connect, to care, to be kind every chance you get. You will never know what a gift you have given to someone. A gift that may have changed the course of their life.

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“We are each of us angels with only one wing.

And we can only fly embracing each other.”

 Luciano De Crescenzo

 

 

 

 

 

Undones, Do You Have Them?

It’s been a tough week in the masto community. We’ve lost two amazing people who struggled with the daily challenges of Mast Cell Disease like I have. Another special friend is in the ICU fighting for her life as I write. That’s how unpredictable this is…life is
I’ve been in that place of almost not coming back. The last few months I’ve dipped my toes in that place several times.
Please..if you know someone that is struggling, reach out, check on them, love them. Your time may be limited.
If you can, please send prayers, healing energy, your thoughts to Jeanne Johnson Griffin and her family.
We need research, we need a cure

The Almost Daughter & More

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Having faced death several times myself and recently experiencing the deaths of two very special people, I find myself preoccupied with loss.

Adoptees tend to do that of course. Our beginnings in utero had already started the prewiring necessary for our survival which was begun with loss of our mother.

Of course, I’d like to be thinking of sunshine and rainbows, but the reality for all of us is that death is inevitable. It could be tonight even.. It will come whether you’re ready or not. That is a certainty and we don’t have many of those in this life.

My life has been filled with loss as most adoptees are. The loss of our mother, our family, our heritage, our genetic markers, our family dynamics. Each future loss such as the recent losses I’ve mentioned open that old wound.

Then of course you add in the numerous losses one…

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Down The Rabbit Hole With ICU-itis

“ICU psychosis is a disorder in which patients in an intensive care unit experience anxiety, auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia, agitation and disorientation”

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November 22nd 2015 my life changed forever…again.

Exactly one year ago today.

It’s taken a year to sit with  the almost daughter, the experience still so vivid.  I can’t wrap my brain around everything that happened on that day and for weeks and months after. I’ve wanted to write a blog about my experiences. It’s an experience that family and friends are never prepared for and from a patients view terrifying. There are simple things you can do to help alleviate someones terror, someones hallucinations, delusions. I’ll tell you what those things are at the end.

I woke up with one difference that day. Centralized, excruciating, left, lower quadrant pain. Pain so severe that with any movement at all, a scream, dripping with tears would escape. I have a very high pain tolerance and dealing daily with a mast cell disease you are used to pain and feeling quite ill.  My rational brain said go to the hospital, the nurse/patient thinks it will go away.

Being chronically ill with a complicated mast cell illness along with ME and Fibro you tend to forget what normal is, what not being sick is, what acute pain feels like vs the constant deep bone, muscle and joint pain of disease.

By noon I was bleeding heavily rectally, in so much pain I couldn’t get up from the toilet. Within minutes, my friend and the ambulance arrived. They are familiar and know my mast cell protocol by heart.

This was different. We all knew it was bad. No words needed to be spoken.

 I had been feeling worse the past few months.I thought it was my mast cells acting up. I had recently started a continuous Benadryl pump with hopes of keeping my mast cells in check and me out of anaphylaxis and the hospital.

The diagnosis: pelvic abscess, bowel perforation, partially collapsed lung and sepsis.

Very quickly things became a blur. CT’s with contrast, meds, IV’s, surgery the only option. The surgeon informed my daughter and friends there was a good chance I wouldn’t make it through surgery. My systems were severely compromised due to the sepsis and of course, mast cell issues adding to the complexity.

After experiencing respiratory arrest in the OR and with continued problems with my oxygen levels I was sent to ICU. My O2 sats were 82%@7L, systems unstable, survival questionable.

Day after day, hour after hour,

moment by moment,

systems stopping and starting

Days passed.

There were brief moments of awareness, of tears and fears and then quickly I would be put back in the twilight zone. 15 IV bags being controlled by nurses, each system tweaked by moments.

Life and Death in The Rabbit Hole

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Critical Care would continue in the 3 bed step-down unit.  Constant monitoring by machines and nurses. I emerged from the rabbit hole for brief moments. I lay there attempting to reorientate myself. I tried to check out body parts but I couldn’t move. Tubes and bags hissing and whooshing were everywhere sucking out toxins and spitting into collection bags of assorted sizes.

I was very much in the danger zone, no guarantees of tomorrow.

Pale beige curtains surrounded me. I had my own tiny cubicle. Stains from previous tenants moved changing patterns as I watched in horror.

In Critical Care, the lights never go out,  noise never stops,  call bells constantly ring, the retching, the demands for pain meds, the cursing of another patient in The Rabbit Hole. Reality fades in and out like waves..

I hear them. I know….

They’re talking about me!

Stop whispering! Please!!

I know what you are thinking. It’s not true. They’re  going to take pictures of me. Their friend, I know all about him…he’s the guy that has been stealing medication from patients drawers and little old ladies purses while they wait for answers about their loved ones.

It’s true.

I hear them talking.

I whisper when my friends visit. Pointing, desperately gesturing in attempts to have them make sure my purse was safe…zipper side at the back. They don’t understand my desperation but they patiently show me that everything is there and quietly close the drawer exchanging looks of confusion.

A constant stream of doctors, nurses, phlebotomy staff, physio, dietary, more blood work, new bags of nutrition added to the several already hanging. A whirlwind of medical necessities keeping me alive. To them, I speak appropriately. I know my eyes show my terror. No one asks.

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 I can’t tell them about the guy across from me and his friend and the many changing patients beside me. I know they wouldn’t believe me. Each one is part of the rabbit hole. One is chanting Native prayers and putting spells on us with his computer coding which I know nothing about. The other, screams obscenities while he pulls out tubes, blood and feces splattering over the floor oozing under my curtain.

At night, the sounds are deafening, bells ring louder, a tangled tube is pulled out. I call for the nurse to help him.  I can’t yet move myself. My left side is so swollen, hot and painful, from shoulder to hip. My trusty mast cells coming to the rescue in crowds, building the fluids and swelling until it looks like a raw slab of meat plastered on my side. I drift off and awaken to screaming. My voice, screaming for help. The nurse said it was night terrors.

They can only get blood out of my foot. My body hangs on to each drop with vengeance. I don’t remember how many times I was taken down to have CT scans with contrast to monitor the abscess and lung. No easy feat considering the tangled puzzle of tubes and machines. The people in nuclear medicine wore makeup..heavy makeup.Almost like clowns I thought. I think they were making a movie or something. I didn’t dare ask. I was always left right by the nursing station where the other patients in their tiny cubicles could see me. I could hear the whispers between them. They were laughing because my book was on the TV but they didn’t believe I was the author. I didn’t correct them. I couldn’t look at them so I lay quietly, tears rolling down my cheeks, eyes closed. Even then the constant movie that played in my mind didn’t stop.

And no one knew.

So many other stories, all with a few pieces of truth. Helicopters so close I could hear the pilots and nurses talking. I was sure they were getting rid of me. The drones that my roommate would throw over and under my curtain. The look on certain nurses faces when I rang the bell. The chaos in the hall. They had placed tape around an area in front of the door. I couldn’t understand. I slept with my buddhist mala for safety, reciting mantras to keep the constant voices subdued in my head. It didn’t really work.

I tried sending random garbled messages, despite the fact I couldn’t see my phone letters. I had to get someone to help me. I managed one message.

All it said was HELP. No one came.

I could feel the energy drain out of me. The simplest conversation left me feeling spent, drenched in sweat, wanting it all to end. The pain was endless and uncontrollable. It was like being on a bad acid trip back in the 60’s. One that didn’t end.

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I don’t scare easily. Or at least that’s what I thought. Until the Rabbit Hole sucked me in, that is.

I’ve never been so terrified, nor felt so alone as my month-long journey dragged on.

You can experience flashbacks for up to a year and it creates PTSD. Another experience to add to my already full box with that label.

The prayers, the energy and most of all, my two friends pulled me thru. It’s times like this you find out who your true friends are.

I wanted to write about this because it’s not uncommon after someone has been in the ICU for a while. The multi cocktail of medications that keep you alive but living in the Rabbit Hole can often create ICU psychosis. Having been an RN for many years, the last 20 spent in Acute Care Psychiatry I felt I understood my psychotic patients. I didn’t. Now I do. It’s so real, so frightening, so isolating. My heart goes out to those that suffer with psychosis, schizophrenia or anything that creates a Rabbit Hole Experience.

Here are a few simple measures that help someone who is psychotic: Gentle reassurance that they are safe. Gentle touch, holding a hand, words of love and safety. Gently pointing out things that are real such as my “drones” that were sprinkler heads.

Understanding. Compassion. Love. Your presence, your composure and quiet voice.

This year has been challenging. Physically and emotionally. My Mast Cells are still not settled creating a physical nightmare. Some days, the tears flow freely and thoughts wander to places I’d rather not go. I now have a piece of my bowel on the outside of my body. My world is dictated by my medical issues and mast cells.

I’ve spent a year in The Rabbit Hole. I’m so tired, so sick. My life has been reduced to living in a bubble and hospitalizations.

I’m trying to find my way back.

Can you lend a hand?

Who Stole My Life?

It’s over a year later and this post applies even more now. Having a bowel perforation, sepsis and collapsed lung nearly killed me. I sometimes wonder why I’m still here fighting. I’m halfway thru writing a blog about my time in ICU and step-down. I am still processing my ICU-itis and the fear i was wrapped in, unknown to anyone. I have a clear picture of what my patients used to go thru now and it’s not pretty. Bare with me…I’m slowly and shakily pressing the keys again.

 

The Almost Daughter & More

Imagination is the first step toward action. You have to be able to hope before you move forward. Otherwise, you are always acting out of fear.

— Gloria Steinem

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I’ve been missing.  Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn’t. I did.  I really noticed. I missed my writing, my friends, my life. I’ve been in and out of the hospital. Yes, the Mast Cells have been dictating my life…again, still.

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Not long ago I was in India walking the streets of Dharamsala. I remember the energy of chanting with the Monks at Sherab Ling Monastery questioning if perhaps I was finally home, and if I should stay.You could touch the energy it was so powerful. It felt so right. I remember the smells, the people, the traffic and chaos. I remember this last part of my life.

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Way before that…I had a life. I remember running miles on concrete floors as an…

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Who Do You Trust?

I’ve been quite ill the past year. I’m going to try and start blogging again. I have half a post in draft describing my experience post ICU. I thought I’d repost a few blogs to remind myself and others of why I blog. Namasté

The Almost Daughter & More

“I’m not upset that you lied to me,

I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

Do you honestly love yourself?

Maya Angelou believes that unless you love yourself, you really can’t be trusted.  She quotes an African Saying which is:

“Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

Because of relinquishment, trust is difficult for adoptees.  I know everyone experiences trust issues over their lifetime and most are able to repair the damage.  With adoptees, that first betrayal never leaves.  On top of that you have no genetic markers, no history.  In my childhood I wasn’t able to trust my adoptive parents, and running away experiencing life on the streets as I describe in Finding Heart Horse certainly didn’t foster trust.

When trust is destroyed at such an early age in adoption, it takes effort and practice to regain. Whether it’s in…

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Adoption—Can you die from a broken heart?

In a perfect world, which is not the adoptees world…
People would try to understand and have compassion for ” broken hearts”

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

“The intense emotional pain and stress resulting from unrequited love, disassociation, severance, rejection, adoption, divorce and the death of a loved one have always been associated with broken hearts. World literature, songs, and poems in every language are filled with proclamations about the distressingly painful effects of separation. Legends and fictional tales speak of characters that have died after suffering a devastating loss—a concept that dates back over 3,000 years to describe the physical pain and feelings associated with relationship loss.” Judith Land, Adoptee

Judith Land | Adoption Detective | Broken Heart Syndrome Adoptees diagnosed with broken heart syndrome can benefit from the support of friends and family members, draw comfort from their faith, obtain understanding and sympathy from support groups, and profit from the advice of therapists and health professionals.

Psychologists believe that primal separation fears are a survival instinct that encourages humans to form close family relationships—the reason why we experience emotional pain when those connections are…

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nuns selling babies: adoption scandal growing worldwide

The world needs to recognize the depth of this corruption and the endless pain and trauma it creates for generations. Great read by Lara.

lara trace hentz

Adoptees Sold by Nuns WorldWide

March 28th, 2012 | (see link and photos: http://dna-footprints.com/adoptees-sold-nuns-worldwide/)

Nun’s Habits in Spain
It started with a whisper in Spain. A Catholic nun was charged for the first time with abducting a baby from an unwed mother which was sold to a childless couple. Sister Maria Gomez Valbuena told the mother that the baby had died at first, later admitting that it had been adopted. There had been whispers before in Quebec in the 1930-1970s with thousands of French Canadian babies being taken from their single mothers who were coerced into signing releases, often while still under the effects of anesthetics or immediately after childbirth. Many young girls were told that their baby had died but that they couldn’t see the body. When it happened in Quebec, over half a century ago, the power of the church swept the atrocity under the carpet. In this…

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My Adoptivemother and My Birth Mother

A controversial topic in the adoption world. Language, names, history. I didn’t have a name. I have been underfire many times for the use of the word “birthmother”.
Karen says it well.
There was a woman who gave birth to me yet never named me. I had a woman who was to care for me, yet hated the sight of me.
I’m an adoptee who never had a mother, was never mothered. I’m one of the many motherless daughters.

GOT TRAUMA? Write it out…

Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.

Oscar Wilde

Last night I couldn’t sleep. As I lay there in deep contemplation of all that has happened in the last few years I thought about Finding Heart Horse and The Wall of Secrets and the traumas held between their covers. Many of them had been buried so deep and were so painful I couldn’t bare to think about them for years. If you are familiar with my books you  know about The Wall of Secrets.

wall-of-secretsI hid my secrets, my traumas in the drawers for years.  It was the only way to survive. To disassociate until I was able to deal with the immense amount of pain I knew was wrapped around each trauma. I didn’t know if that time would ever come or if I would be strong enough to push through to the other side. I did and I was.

I’ve been a practicing Buddhist for a long time and mindfulness is one of the most important practices Buddha teaches. Also, one of the most challenging.

Sati-Buddha chose this word for Mindfulness meaning “to remember”

There are two kinds of memory:

implicit: which is learning a skill and remembering automatically, like riding a bike.

Explicit: narrative memory, functions through self-awareness accessed thru thought, not body

Trauma is implicit memory. Fight or flight. It encodes itself in the mind and body.

Mindfulness is not only being aware of present but also how trauma embeds into our daily experience. Re-remembering also means bringing that which is disassociated back into the self. It’s recognizing , rejoining something into consciousness that has lurked outside our awareness.

First, I was set afire by the process of finding my birth mother. The primal wound was let out of its cage. I found myself curled up in fetal position many times howling like an injured animal. A guttural sound coming from a place i didn’t know existed. I didn’t understand then what was happening to me. The drawer that held that first trauma had been opened and one by one the rest were beckoning me to open them.

I’m sure everyone around me would tell you that I was an emotional disaster, reacting, reliving without recognizing. I also had a biological family that I so desperately wanted to fit in, yet had just met. It wasn’t until I completely crashed, partly because my mast cell disease had taken over my body and partly because I was so traumatized I was unable to function. No one recognized either, including myself. I had many labels cast in my direction trying to explain things, none fit.

Trauma isn’t held in normal memory because the feelings associated with them are unendurable. They never make it into the part of the brain that makes sense out of emotional experience.

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As the Primal Wound which is our first trauma is based on the neural pathways deep in the amygdala, they operate outside the influence of conscious thought. In an instant trauma can hijack our mind, destroy our awareness. It slips us out of time, no past, no future when one is overtaken by it. It feels like it is happening now. This was Buddha’s philosophy as well. We colour our experiences thru prisms of our own mind. Unresolved trauma waits patiently for opportunity to express itself. Unfortunately, it can be enacted with little self-awareness.

As I was writing, for eight years I lived, breathed every moment of my traumas. I was now in contact with biological  family that constantly reminded me of what I was not part of. The pain of hearing stories, seeing pictures knowing I was missing, had missed 50yrs of being a daughter, a sister, an aunt. For the books, I surrounded myself with visual reminders of old wall paper, pictures, furniture. I felt each moment. I smelled the smells, felt the pain. At times overwhelmingly so. I knew each drawer must be cleared out. There would be no more secrets. In order to find my authentic self, my freedom I had to walk, crawl through the world of traumatic pain to get to the side where peace lived.

As the Buddha taught mindfulness he was aware as psychotherapists are today that trauma encoded in implicit memory could become objects of meditation.

Mindfulness creates a container for our pain. By moving our ego’s to a neutral place of observation we can heal. As I wrote, I collected my dissociative elements and brought them back into self. It’s a very humbling experience but one of relief and healing. As I now hold my traumas in my awareness I can move forward in peace.

Write it out. Even if its for no one but yourself it’s transformative and healing. Come on. Pick up that pen, tap those keys. You can do it.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION; Mind, Body, Soul and Website

So, I know you have been wondering where I have been these last weeks. Right? IMG_5149Let me tell you.

I’ve been everywhere and nowhere.

Easy part first. Slowly I’m creating this blog into a better, more accessible, website. I did say slowly didn’t I?

Mast Cell Wise its been a rough time. Plenty of anaphylaxis, the insertion of a PICC Line which will lead to continuous medications via a CADD Pump and weekly hydration, not to mention the injections of Xolair monthly. My body is tired..very tired. The pain at times unbearable. I have hope that these new trials will provide a better quality of life. Hope is a wonderful thing,. even when you are clinging to it by your fingernails as we often do.  It keeps us going.

SOULSEARCHING

Life on a couch allows one plenty of time for contemplation, meditation and wonder. I have dates set up for readings at library’s, interviews being organized. I need to do these things because, as you know, the books are for Covenant House, Vancouver. The kids, my kids, our kids.

I get worried I won’t be able to honour my commitments and try to stay conscious and awake to my true feelings. Self betrayal comes easy for adoptees, well everyone, but adoptees especially. It can be a habit we don’t even know we have. As adoptees we were born without our truth which you need to be your authentic self. The discovery takes time, energy, search, fragmentation from reunion or discovery and then rebuilding on a stronger foundation.

What do YOU want for a change?

Go with your feelings. Ask yourself when and with whom do you swallow your truth. Why do you swallow your truth? Why do you hide your authentic self? Do you give in to others easily? Why? Are you not worthy of being true to yourself?

Having lived a life of search and discovery I see clearly now as my authentic self. That little whisper of a voice you hear, that sense of spirit, intuition…it belongs to you. That is what you need to tune in to, pay attention and listen to. Overtime, if you don’t follow that inner wisdom, you will feel a loss of energy, power and a sense of spiritual deadness.

Have you given up your own personal story for that of another?

Have you sold out yourself?

Behind that.. lies the voice of fear. Don’t let fear run your life. Ask yourself questions, face fear straight on.

People may judge but in the end it is yours to live, just yours. Embrace yourself and your story. Time passes quickly, life changes. Find your authentic being.

Live loud and strong.

As I contemplate my recent losses, my recent discoveries, my new normal in the physical/medical world, I know I’m now living from my heart and spirit.

David Whyte, the poet reminds us that the soul would rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else’s.

Times will present themselves where you are given the option of which direction to go.

Which will you choose?