Walk In Her Shoes: Celebrate the World’s Women on Sunday March 9th 2014

 

WALK IN HER SHOES 103KM RELAY CELEBRATING 103 YEARS OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 

Vancouver’s Sarah Jamieson, founder of RUN4ACAUSE joins forces once again with CARE Canada for the annual Walk In Her Shoes campaign. An annual run event, that aims to empower women and girls globally. 

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Vancouver, January 31 2014 – To help break the cycle of poverty and in celebration of the 103 years of international women’s day (IWD), Sarah Jamieson  of RUN4ACAUSE & CARE Canada want to empower Vancouverites to join a Walk In Her Shoes 103km relay team.  

Who is CARE?

CARE focuses on global issues such as maternal and child health, education, economic empowerment, adaptation to climate change and emergency relief. The necessities to empowering women, children and whole communities through the ability to live, learn and earn.

CARE Canada’s staff, many of whom are citizens of the countries in which CARE works, help strengthen communities through an array of programs that work to create lasting solutions to root causes of poverty. 

What is Walk In Her Shoes?

She needs to walk an average of 6km per day to gather the things she needs to keep her family alive. CARE & RUN4ACAUSE are challenging you to try and experience what this is like. On Sunday March 9th, join thousands of Canadians in celebration of International Women’s Day to empower women and girls to fight global poverty – Join Walk In Her Shoes.

How Can You Help?

RUN4ACAUSE & CARE are challenging Vancouverites to participate in our 2014 Walk in Her Shoes campaign. This 103km relay is divided into 8 relay legs ranging from 10km – 12km in length and each supports a specific CARE project. You can join as part of a team and run or walk at your own pace or become a run ambassador. As a run ambassador, participant or volunteer you inspire your community to help CARE empower women and girls in the developing world.

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Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Sign up to be a Run Ambassador and build a team for your relay leg, supporting a specific CARE project.
  • Join a relay team, walk or run at your own pace.
  • Raise funds to help women and girls fight global poverty.

 

This is your chance to…

  • Learn more about global issues.
  • Become physically active.
  • Inspire girls around the globe.

What Impact Can you Make:

Your support and donation is then leveraged at 3:1 ratios by our Canadian Government; thereby increasing the impact! All projects are instrumental towards empowering women and girls around the world.

What the numbers tell us:

  • When women earn an income, they reinvest 90 percent of it in their families
  • For every year a girl spends in school she raises her family income by up to 20 percent
  • Educated girls grow into educated women, who have healthier babies and are more likely to educate their children
  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children
  • Engaging men, boys, girls, and women can transform gender roles and increase gender equality.

Join today…

 To register contact Sarah Jamieson @ 604 789 0203 or Email: sarah@fittotrain.com.

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True Focus Lies Somewhere Between Rage & Serenity

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Vulnerability.    Fear.    Anger.

These words are just a few of the “labels” we give the emotions, that no one really likes to talk about. Emotions like these we bury deep down inside of us, like a suit of armor, building resistance against the dark forces. Yet, it is here where most change has the potential to occur. In my last article I articulated that “vulnerability is at the heart of authenticity.” That vulnerability is just another word for fear; well so is anger. It all stems from the unknown, and as humans not being able to control an outcome and just go with the flow, can be debilitating and overwhelming.

In the movie “X-men First Class,” we see a young Charles Xavier (soon to be professor X) and a young Erik — the vengeful, angry and tormented young man who will eventually become his arch-rival, Magneto come together for a common ground.

In the movie Erik cannot unleash the full extent of his power except when he is swept away by emotion — specifically, anger and sorrow. Charles Xavier instructs him on how to control his mind and his emotions in order to control his power and to unleash it’s brilliance upon the world. Charles says “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.

This line from the movie was a pivotal moment for me. Much like Erik, I have experienced a traumatic childhood where most of my beginning belief systems were built upon the emotions of pain, anger and sorrow and as a young adult strived to define my purpose, make the world right and safer place for all.

True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity – it makes you think. Much like the duality of the world – good vs evil, within us we also have anger and joy, or rage and serenity. It is only in the understanding of both of these – this paradox – that we can tune into the depth of our potential.

It has been an excruciating journey to try to learn how to change these patterns that were once built upon the framework of anger, sorrow or fear. One of the lessons I have learned is that one must learn how to stay in the conversation longer, how to sit through the fear and discomfort of personal emotional openness, the shedding of one’s armor and standing in one’s nakedness (especially when it comes to expressing my own anger, which is the emotion that I least comprehend and most fear.)

This particular idea of accessing ones power potential in that between space is much like the view point of Buddhism, where the key to working skillfully with our emotions – both the pleasant ones and the painful ones – is to find a balance between, on the one hand, feeling the emotion and opening to its energy, and on the other hand, having enough space around the experience of the emotion that we do not get swept away by it or become too attached to it.

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In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, and particularly in the view of “formless” meditation practices and whatever arises in the mind — even powerful, afflictive emotions such as anger, jealousy, or rage — is regarded as the path of awakening. All emotions are thought to serve a purpose, as long as we are not attached to them long term. Every experience is the play of mind’s natural luminosity and emptiness. This approach can be further explained through the central doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, a conceptual framework for all of Buddhist thought where they explain the nature of suffering, anxiety, un-satisfaction, their origins and the cessation of these emotions through introspection and careful thought.

  • The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying.
  • The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.
  • A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance.

That space of true focus, I believe is in the letting go of the second bullet point above; “The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.” It is here where we struggle to let go, to let in, to move on etc.

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Here’s what I think, if we allow ourselves to “feel”… like really feel fear, what happens? When we face our fears, they aren’t so fearful anymore. Why? Because we begin to understand why it exists and we begin to contemplate whether it’s productive in our lives. Fear, anger and rage can be productive when used to add value or perspective to ones life. It can be used as a catalyst towards change. It can dispel what hinders us, and can create space for creativity, love and compassion.

Exercise #1: Talk to Fear

Moving into the New Year I have decided that part of my own growth needs exercise, not just for my body, but for my mind.  Every day I will sit with fear and in doing so I will have the self- compassion and grace to know that in transformation I need to accept that Fear will always come with it. I will talk with Fear, speak to it, and acknowledge it not with anger or sorrow, but with love and respect. I will say to it; hey I know you are afraid, that’s your job, and be being afraid you show me how not to be.

You show me that when I choose serenity, grace and transformation I am making the right choice and am no longer afraid. You may join me on my journey, but you must know that you cannot stop me from succeeding with grace and self – compassion.

Exercise #2: What value inspires you to show up even when you’re fearful and/or uncertain?

I love this one, and have to give the credit to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and her latest novel The Signature of All Things  which Brene Brown said “is a sprawling tale of 19th century botanical exploration.”

“When I am experiencing emotional/interpersonal vulnerability, the best I can do sometimes ask myself what the alternative is to my entering the scary arena — to live a hard-hearted, locked-down, resentful and unforgiving life? Is that really who I want to be? Have I ever met a hard-hearted, locked-down, resentful and unforgiving person whom I truly admired?”

Bhahaha … ya no. And when you put it that way… how can you have true focus amongst that? Understanding your values helps you determine your driving force, it keeps you on your path and aligned with what is integral to your soul, your being. My number one value is “empowerment,” when I feel empowered; I am inspired to take on the world, to try new things, to have adventures, to climb peaks and mountains and change the world.

True Focus: the Untapped Resource:

The key to understanding your purpose is that you can never really understand it. I know, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Here’s the thing – all we have is our experiences and out emotional attachments to them. We know our past, and we unveil our future in this very moment. This means that our purpose is in the here and now and unlocking your true focus and potential is in the understanding of this very moment. If you have fear, or are angry – feel it, own that emotion and use it to better yourself in the here and now. If you are joyous, content and happy – feel it, own that emotion and use it to better yourself in the here and now. The most important thing you can do is give equal attention to both and to build your resilience to fear by appreciating its impact on your life. I guarantee, you too can move things with your mind (metaphorically speaking of course)!

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The Science of Compassion: Nature Vs. Nurture & How SuperHero’s are Born

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What’s your most important goal/s?

What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?

Why does it matter so deeply?

Are you living your purpose?

How will you overcome the obstacles?

How can we answer these questions with sincerity, mindfulness and compassion and proceed with integrity?  While at the same time setting in motion the steps towards personal transformation?

It all starts with letting go of the fear and establishing a greater connection with ourselves, our values and our beliefs towards personal change.  In my own personal journey this is a two pronged path – one deeply rooted in the wisdom of ancient energy healing and meditation/movement practices and the one deeply engrained in the nature of the science and my obsession with Darwinian Theory. They both hold powerful portals to better understanding my own internal GPS, my position in the world, and my relationship to time and purpose. In my own process of what Brene Brown called “Gremlin, Ninja, Warrior Training” my personal resilience to suffering, (dis)ease, (heal)th, and stressful life challenges all stems from a greater understanding of my brain (even though pea like in mass), my relationship to time and my ability to always put compassion as the underlining foundation of my overall value system.

Train Your Brain:

Our understanding of the incredible power of the human brain and what it is capable is at an all-time high, in both the fields of science, as well as movement mechanics and energy healing. These new emerging fields of neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and psychophysiology are opening new possibilities for greater health, happiness, and freedom from suffering, as well as a deeper understanding of our connection to the world, to technology and  the ever evolving fields of innovation.

This connection to the organ that is responsible for taking a third of our caloric daily intake; is even opening up connections to our brain’s biochemical and biological make-up with the current research in compassion and empathy.  A few months ago I wrote on the topic of “compassion” and how our brain is wired to be empathetic towards others – humans and the world around us. We see this not only in the homosapein sphere, but in our animals as well.

The vagus nerve (or wandering nerve) is one of the most important nerves in our body. This nerve carries axons of type GVE, general visceral efferent, which provides parasympathetic innervation to glands of mucous membranes of the pharynx, larynx, organs in the neck, thorax, and abdomen, and all our skeletal muscle, as well as our aortic body and arch (known as our heart). The Vagus nerve is the biological building block of human compassion, because it’s connected to everything in our structure.

Since the dawn of time, we have been led to believe that humans are selfish, greed is good because it brings power and power rules the world. Altruism is an illusion and cannot be attained in our lifespan. Cooperation is for suckers and kumbaya singing hippies. Competition is natural, survival of the fittest.  War is inevitable. The bad in human nature is stronger than the good. And so on.

These kinds of claims have reflected age-old assumptions about emotion and who we are as a species. For over millennia, we have regarded emotions as the fount of irrationality, baseness, weakness and at times sin. Nothing good can come from being over emotional.  Hell, the idea of the seven deadly sins takes our destructive passions for granted and splays them out for all to witness.

Yet, biology tells us something different and it begs us to look at another age old question; which is are we a buy product o f“Nature or Nurture.” Usually it’s a little of both.

What if we have been looking through the wrong lens? What if perhaps, we have just led our brains down the wrong path, trained them wrong.

What if we chose to look at it this way: we were born into this world with pure love and joy and through the struggles of our ages, we “dis”evolved to believe that we are all alone, we have to fend for ourselves, etc. What if we accepted that this all crap propaganda and in fact –  This is “nurture” NOT “nature.”  These “beliefs” are learned skills, and thoughts, not our actual biological blueprint and thus – a new door opens.

FACT: The brain has neuro-plasticity and can be re wired to think and act in ways that benefit humanity and personal power. Ways that align with a more compassionate way of living. This is nature AND nurture.

The brain, as we know from research seems wired up to respond to others’ suffering—indeed, it makes us feel good when we can alleviate that suffering, dispelling the so called ideology that “all humans are selfish.”

At Princeton University a study was done on children and victims of violence – and what they found was astonishing. Take these two very different subject demographics and we find they are united by the similar neurological reactions they provoke when asked to contemplate harm to others. This consistency strongly suggests that compassion isn’t simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains – this is “nature.”

In a recent Ted Talk called “How to Make Stress Your Friend” McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others. Dr. McGonigal reveals these startling findings—including the clinically supported methods for training the mind away from default states and negativity that no longer serve us and establishing behaviors and attitudes aligned with our highest values and aspirations.

As the world’s wisdom traditions teach and science is now verifying, our lives are in fact defined by constant change, when we can understand our biological and biochemical make up are rooted in connection, and compassion and that when we reach out to others we improve our health. Now, doesn’t that make you feel a bit better about your health?

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How about TIME?

Are we there yet? How often have each of us asked this in our lifetime.

I recently taught at a workshop in Salinas California called “The Evolution Power Pack” held at Wolf Fitness Systems;  a movement based smorgasbord of modules designed to use the power behind movement sophistication and physical challenges designed to evoke connecting with our personal power and introspectively ask ourselves the above questions we are now pondering in this article.

In the first module; Shane Heins, founder and owner of “Dare to Evolve,” opened with a profound statement that set the tone for the rest of the weekend. His booming voice asked the participants; “this weekend I ask you to deeply reflect upon the idea of time, we know that we cannot change time, but we can choose to change our relationship to it.”

The ultimate ideology behind Shane’s module “Clubbell Hero Evolution” outlined immense room for each of us to embody transformation through goal setting and in his follow up blog to the attendees he showcased the importance of what it means to “Participate or Contribute.” Here is a short excerpt from his blog:

There is a fine line between Participate and Contribute. That difference resides in the choice you make.

When we participate:

  • we are there, but it does not necessitate that we be “present”.
  • we need only take part, not take whole
  • we are in a position to receive without having to give.
  • we can do so without commitment

When we contribute:

  • we invest wholeheartedly in what lies before us
  • we give of ourselves honestly to exploring the process
  • we step forward with the courage to share the best part of ourselves with each other
  • we value all present
  • we are grateful for all involved

The physical realm has always been a vehicle for me to process, transform, change, shift and evolve by challenging the very fabric that makes up my innate value structure. When I excel physically at my sport, when I become stronger, faster, more nimble – all spheres of my life flourish. I feel more balanced.

Personally, it brought up the question of patterns for me. What patterns do I accept and acknowledge in my own life that require change? What lessons am I learning or repressing, or more importantly what patterns am I repeating that no longer serve me? Am I holding onto fear, and if so why? What is my relationship to time?

You see, when we move, we release tension, we feel energized, we feel free and science shows that the biochemical response to movement increase the good chemicals and hormones like serotonin, endorphins; both of which reduce our automatic stress response.  This makes us feel good, thus what we do physically (you can call it exercise, a movement meditation), is a metaphor for life.

Therefore, if we honor our emotions and train our brain to see that the science that nature has designed for us, we will see we are wired to be compassionate – that good will always prevail over evil, greed and power.

Yet, feeling compassion is one thing; acting on it is another. We can see and now understand the human propensity for compassion and science has shown us the effects compassion can have on behavior and to the relationship to the world around us, but can we actually cultivate compassion, or is it all determined by our genes?

At Berkeley, Dacher Keltner  wrote in his article called “the Compassion Instinct;” “Recent neuroscience studies suggest that positive emotions are less heritable—that is, less determined by our DNA—than the negative emotions. Other studies indicate that the brain structures involved in positive emotions like compassion are more “plastic”—subject to changes brought about by environmental input. So we might think about compassion as a biologically based skill or virtue, but not one that we either have or don’t have. Instead, it’s a trait that we can develop in an appropriate context. What might that context look like? It is based on our values, ethics, and belief systems.”

The Positive and Negative of Stress:

And what about stress? In the hustle and bustle of city life, stress has become a way of life. If you aren’t stressed, you must not be working hard enough, right? You can’t possibly succeed if your knuckles are bleeding, or sporting the external or internal wounds of a great battle….right?  Wrong! If you are stressed, you are one day closer to death. How about that for a bold statement – and it’s true.

In the Ted Talk “How To Make Stress Your Friend;” one study “tracked 1000adults in the US ranging in ages form 34 to 93. They were asked two questions? How much stress have you experienced in the last year? They also asked how much time have you spent helping out neighbors, family, friends, and people in your community?  And then they used public records to find out who died.

Now for the bad news:  for every major stressful experience you have (like really stressful) this increases the risk of dying by 30%.  BUT, that wasn’t true for everyone; people who spent time caring for others showed no increase in stress related dying in bio markers. The catalyst – caring created resilience. How we think, and how we act transform how we use stress. When we choose to view our stress response as helpful, we create the biology of courage and when we choose to connect with others under stress, we create resilience.

Stress gives us access to our hearts – a compassionate heart, one of joy, love and appreciation for others. This gives us strength and energy. And thus, we make a pretty profound statement – we say to ourselves that we CAN face life’s challenges and that we do not have to do it alone.

Recently, I met someone who has had a growing impact on my life and my ability to create greater resiliency to stress and he reminded of this amazing poem called the invitation, and now in closing, I leave it with you.

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The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Sources:

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RUN4MOM WRAP UP: “Break the Silence. End Violence. (Me)ntal (Heal)th.”

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“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller

In loving memory of Nora Lynne Donnelley (1951 – 2008).

57km RUN4MOM, (technically 61km door to door) was a success and a grand feat to say the least. Most often races I compete in have a traditional start and finish line, timing chips and hundreds of athletes looking to break their PB and score a new PR, but this event was; in fact, was quite the opposite.  This event, I most often run solo because it is a not a race against time, but a race to slow down time and reflect on the meaning and significance the run holds. To honor and pay tribute to my mother;  57 years of strength and courage, 1km for every year she was alive.

For many women like my mother, being labelled a victim of domestic violence and abuse and being diagnosed with a mental illness – is a large burden to bare, because it comes with an emotional rollercoaster of, not only navigating the system and showcasing to the world your most vulnerable moments, but the stigma of the societal miss conceptions of that ultimately looks to define who you are through the lens of “being a victim” or “being a survivor”. Even as a survivor, those labels shift the paradigm of how you live your life and where you fit into society.

This annual run aims to break the silence of stigma and labeling. It aims to showcase that we as “warriors” not merely, “survivors” will not be defined by our past, or by a label – we will be defined by our actions and our resilience to stand tall and stand beside our convictions. To use that emotional roller coaster as a means to filter, process and transform our past into more constructive means – to be a voice for those who may not be strong enough yet to stand with you. This run aims to honor the women who we have lost, whose memories and life must be celebrated. These women warriors are never forgotten.

61km in total… 5 hill climbs over varied terrain in 8 hours and 45mins. Were there times I wanted to give up – hell’s yes, but then much like any great feat in life – you remind yourself of the outcome, of the vision and your mission. Being on the road, out there going the distance is a test. A test of physical and mental stamina, or over coming obstacles and raising above for a greater purpose. We runner’s understand this oath, and it pledged forward with every step, forging onward.

The 5 Stages of Grief: 

Denial:

“There are men laying down their lives. I got no right to do any less than them. That’s what you don’t understand. This isn’t about me.  – Steve Rogers

Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mob says. Doesn’t matter what the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else; the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – now YOU move.” – Captain America

We must face our reality head on, there are no blueprints or manual for the time it takes to process what happens to us, and denial is a simple way out, it is the path of least resistance, but sooner or later it catches up with you. After 2 years of nearly hitting rock bottom, I realized there was no bottom; there was merely a heightened sense of duty to my community. A” break-through” that lead me to retract my head from my a** and pull my way out of the darkness we all feel, but much like the 5 stages of grief, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

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Anger:

“I tend to see transformations in terms of anger, but what drives Rick is guilt. He can’t convince himself that he isn’t responsible for the Hulk. Even though I made the bomb. It’s all on me. Now he runs towards every big threat, always recreating that day, solving it over and over. Is that healthy? I don’t know that I’m qualified to say. I’m a physicist. All I know is he’s going to do it whether I want him to or not…and it makes him happy. There’s got to be room for a happy Hulk somewhere, right?  – Banner

Letting go, is no simple task. Why? Because sometimes we think that letting go, means forgetting or letting someone down.  Even with the best of intentions, letting go can be the hardest and scariest of places, because it means making it all real. It means dealing with those deep dark places, the vulnerability that seeps into our being and sabotages our best efforts to cope.  Yet, within this comes the opportunity for a major shift or transformation in our lives. The reality is, identifying with anger and the act of releasing that which hinders does not require force or “to fight,” it requires us to not fight, to not resist. When we change our energy, we ultimately change the outcome.

Bruce Banner…aka… The Hulk struggles to keep that anger, which is inside of him at bay. “Don’t make me angry, you won’t like it when I’m angry,” is an iconic phrase in the Hulk comic world. Yet, even in his destructive phase, and in his fear, through the Avengers he is able to constructively use this strength and power to save humanity.

 Depression:

“True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity” – Charles Xavier or Erik (a young Magneto)

Humans are often hard wired to think about the negative.

When we ask someone about love… they tell us about heartbreak.

When we ask them about happiness… they tell us what doesn’t make them happy.

When we ask someone what does their vision of life and success look like… we often hear stories of what they don’t want in their lives.”

Brene Brown says in her book “Daring Greatly;” Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”  Understanding that the world is based on the theory of duality; where there is darkness, there is light, where there is negative there is positive… where there is full fat, there is non-fat.

Losing someone we love, those memories and emotions, never go away, they just shift and dance around. Most often we think about what we lost, rather than what we have gained. And it has taken the better part of 5 years to move from the space of hurt and fear of letting go, to a place of allowing those memories of serenity seep in and LET.IN.

It is by far the most liberating experience to remember the fondest of moments with my mother and to accept that those dark moments; just as important, are also my fuel to ensure we strive to end violence and abuse and to understand that mental illness is like any other (dis)ease – it does not define who we are.

Bargaining:

 “I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams” – Spiderman

The art of self-sabotage, I like to think, is a conversation held by the person you once were and the person you have yet to become and the person I used to be… has some epic strategies of self-sabotaging my efforts to move forward.  It’s that voice that says… “Don’t put yourself out there, you will be judged,” or “it’s too scary of place, you aren’t strong enough,” or  “ what if they criticise you, what if you can’t finish what you start,” or my favorite…”the 12 minute pace bunnies will pass you again, you suck at this.”

The reality is that the loudest nay-sayer is always yourself. It’s there for self- protection and self-preservation, and understanding your own epic manipulation strategies gives way to putting into action the transference of using “who you once were” into the direction of “who you want to become.”

“Don’t put yourself out there, you will be judged” – transformation – “ Who cares, stay aligned with your purpose.”

“It’s too scary of place, you aren’t strong enough” – transformation – what defines strength? I am strong enough to endure; I am strong enough for this”

“What if they criticise you, what if you can’t finish what you start.” – transformation – “ I have never not finished what I start, even if it means, blood, sweat and tears.”

“The 12 minute pace bunnies will pass you again, you suck at this.” – transformation – “who gives a d*ck, I relate more to the tortoise than the hare. My only competition, is the one in mirror.”

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Acceptance:

 “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Batman

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself,” is a quote by Harvey Fierstein and one that resides with my always. The hardest job we do all day, as warriors, as survivors is accepting our fate and using it as a tool for positive change. It is a never ending cycle that shifts daily. Believing that are larger forces at work, that the universe offered you these experiences because you are strong enough to bare them, is what keeps me going – it’s what keeps me running. To live, is to have a cause to live for.

Every leader; Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Big “D” Dali Lama; all believed that true happiness is found through serving others, from helping your fellow man, animal or even plant. Whatever capacity you find yourself in, it is a larger calling to act. Through this I find acceptance and understanding in my own purpose and RUN4MOM every year reminds me of this path. It reminds me, that even though I am enough as is, I also realize that my story, when told – inspires others, and that, at the end of the day is enough for me.

Until next year…. This RUN4MOM was immensely successful, and I look forward to working with BWSS (Battered Women’s Support Services) and CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) in our annual partnership to “Break the Silence. End Violence. (Me)ntal (Heal)th.”

Our donation site is open until August 5th, please consider donating to our RUN4MOM RUN4ACAUSE. Link Here: http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=27748

finish line

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RUN4MOM: Break The Silence. End The Violence.

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 FEATURED ORGANIZATION:  Battered Women’s Support Services

THE FACTS:

  • 1 in 3 women will suffer violence at the hands of another at some point in their lives
  • 1 in 3 Canadians will experience or be connected to a mental health problem
  • 66% of all female victims of sexual assault are under the age of twenty-four, and 11% are under the age of eleven. Women aged 15 to 24 are killed at nearly three times the rate for all female victims of domestic homicide.
  • Immigrant women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources
  • On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.

THE POWER OF A SINGLE STORY:

“I was 6 years old the first time, my mother’s second husband hit me.  I had left an empty popsicle wrapper on the table, and forgot to put it in the trash. These memory of how this event shaped is still fuzzy, but what I do remember was my first real and raw understanding of what fear, anxiety and no longer feeling safe feels like. What I do remember is hearing screaming behind me as I ran up the stairs blindly grabbing at the carpet, as he dragged me back down – kicking and screaming.  Being thrown into the spare bedroom, it was dark, a chill in the air. He scrambled on the bed and my own screaming for my mother was deafening. She cried in the corner of the doorway, begging him to stop. Then I felt something hit the side of my head, sending me flying off the bed and into the side wall. I remember tucking myself into the fetal position, my face hot, I was sweaty, shaking, my head pounded and I could taste iron – my own blood. He left, closed the door and told me, lights off and to not come out until I was ready to be “good.

I stayed in that room for what seemed like hours, laying on the floor, trying to understand what had just happened. Trying to understand why someone who said they loved me and my mother would cause such pain and fear. At the age of 6 – nothing, none of this makes any sense and it re defines, it re shapes how you see the world and your place in it. From that moment on, I slept with a night light on, I had a backpack ready by my bedroom window, a crayoned route to my biological father’s house and I slept with that widow cracked open in case my cat and I had to escape. No child should ever have an escape route from their own home.

After that day, the abuse, the anger would continue. I would witness him hit my mother, fight with her, knock her down; physically, psychologically and spiritually. Over the years she became less and less the strong, vibrant mother I knew – and more of a woman fighting for her life. He controlled her actions, she lost friends, she rarely went out, she drank, he made her do cocaine with him. He was a sexual predator. For 9 years, I was slapped, spanked, whipped with a belt and even up to the age of 12 I remember being stripped naked and “disciplined.” At the age of 14 when we lost our home to debt, I convinced my mom to leave him. I got 2 jobs in high-school, she got a restraining order and when the divorce was finalized – the healing began. The long road of recovery, begins with a single step.”

 heros

I tell this story in detail because stories, like mine, need to be told. They need to be heard and the silence needs to be broken. Abuse is what started the downward spiral of my mother’s mental illness – a two decade long battle with her demons, her manic depression – later turned- bi polar disorder, struggling with alcohol addiction.

For me – I turned to running as a way to process and understand “what the F*** had happened to me.” In all our trauma, my mother never got angry with me, she was always loving and even at a young age, I knew I was the glue that had to hold it all together. This burden turned out to be my most valued lesson.  In my mother’s passing from accidental suicide; I have learned that in my own silence there can be no full healing. I choose to not only speak for myself, but to pay tribute and honor to my mother’s memory by telling her story of courage.

As an adult, I have had decades of therapy to better understand the long term effects of my childhood abuse and chronic pain has been one of them. I have suffered from back pain for nearly a decade. The reasons why some children experience long-term consequences of abuse while other’s emerge relatively unscathed are still not fully understood. The ability to cope, and even thrive, following a negative experience is what we call “resilience.”

Resilience comes from really owning your sh*t, really accepting the cards that we are dealt and more importantly, accepting that your future, the life you wish to lead, the legacy you wish to leave behind – can only be chosen by “YOU.”  The right to choose is the most important rights we, as a human species can harness.

For years I struggled to understand why some people who survive trauma – be it combat, violence, sexual or physical abuse, neglect or isolation – exhibit tremendous resilience and lead full, loving lives; while others become defined by their trauma. For years, I stood somewhere in between. Someone who couldn’t fully accept her past, but someone who wasn’t about to be defined by it either.

Over the last year, I have been knee deep, head down, rolling around in every leader, TED Talk and podcast I could my hands on that deals with; wholehearted living, defense against the dark arts, vulnerability, cognitive behavioral therapy, superhero movies – you name it, I am researching it.

vulnerability

DARING GREATLY

One of the turning points for me was the talks, and associated books by Brene Brown, specifically, her book called “Daring Greatly,” where she discusses “Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training.” Shame derives power from being unspeakable – from being silent. It’s easy to be silent, because they do not have to risk judgement, ridicule or criticism. To be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen – is a scary place.

Daring greatly requires worthiness and much like those manipulative “gremlins” from the 1984 Steven Spielberg movie; shame is that booming voice that self sabotages our efforts to move forward, it numbs us from feeling. I don’t want to feel hurt anymore, I don’t want to be angry anymore – but at the same time those gremlins numb us from feeling love, connection, trust and joy. We cannot NOT feel. It is that voice that says…. “You’re not enough,” “You don’t have a degree,” “Your past is less than exceptional,” “You’re still single,” and so on and so on and so on.

Roosevelt once said; “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The answer is shame resilience. Resilience is about moving from shame to empathy. When we share our story with someone or a group who responds with empathy and understanding, and we practice self-compassion – shame cannot exist. Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training has four elements:

  1. Recognizing shame and understanding its triggers
  2. Practicing Critical Awareness – Give yourself reality checks
  3. Reaching out – Own your sh*t and share your story
  4. Speaking Shame – talk about how you feel

RUN4MOM is all about putting one foot in front of the other; both metaphorically and physically. This is the first year where I am focusing the majority of my acceptance, advocacy and awareness on surviving child abuse and sharing my mother’s story of domestic and family violence. Battered Women’s Support Services has been an expert on providing women-centered, anti-oppression support and training for more than three decades. They provide several training programs for women and front line workers across BC, as well as programs, support services and crisis intervention for women and girls experiencing violence.

 BWSS-Logo

SUPPORTING BATTERED WOMEN’S SUPPORT SERVICES (BWSS):

For over 30 years BWSS has been working to end violence against women and girls. They provide education, advocacy and support services to assist all battered women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence and to work from a feminist perspective that promotes equality for all women. In 2010 they launched their The Violence Stops Here campaign recognizing the role men play in eliminating violence against women.

One of the key programs, I feel needs to be recognized is the Advancing Women’s Awareness Regarding Employment (AWARE) program; which  is one of the many ways that Battered Women’s Support Services works to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against girls and women.  Their specialized employment program includes:

Recognizing, Understanding and Overcoming the Impact of Abuse (RUOIA)

Workshops related to personal development and employment related skills

Career Exploration including informational interviews, job search skills, volunteer work experience

Information and referrals to educational and training resources

Critical and Essential Services:

This pass year Battered Women’s Support Services:

  • responded to 10,000 information & direct service requests
  • provided 4200 court/police accompaniments
  • facilitated 500 Legal Advocacy workshops
  • ran 420 support group sessions – 1520 women attended
  • provided 3550 1-1 counselling sessions
  • supported 105 women in Job Search skills
  • offered 500 Training in Violence Prevention & Intervention

Diversity:

  • Percentage of women who self identified as recent immigrants: 42%
  • Percentage of women who self identified as Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations, Native, Indian or Métis: 18%
  • Percentage of women who self identified as refugee: 2%

For more information on BWSS: http://www.bwss.org/

MY SISTER’S CLOSET:

Women are the experts of their experience and their healing journey. BWSS has numerous programs to help women establish better connections and healing along their journey. Everything from crisis line support, to counseling, to legal advocacy, to youth programs, to a social enterprise called “My Sister’s Closet.”

One of the many ways BWSS meets the needs of women in our community is through social enterprise. This includes a Retail Program and a thrift boutique, My Sister’s Closet.

My Sister’s Closet is a community boutique offering a mixture of fashion to shoppers and an exceptional experience to over 40 volunteer women, who enable their boutique to be open 7 days a week. Their boutique is a space for community to come together each and every day to end violence against women and girls.

You can find gently used, recycled, vintage, and eco-fashion clothing in a variety of styles and sizes for women and men. All the clothing and accessories are donated by community members, retailers, and film industry.

The proceeds from sales go to fund BWSS support services and programs. My Sister’s Closet was born from the decision of being free from the whims of government to end violence against women. In the past year alone, 10,000 women accessed services at BWSS.  In addition, clothing is donated out to organizations serving women and men in need of free clothing such as the YWCA Single Moms housing, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, DTES Women’s Centre, and to BWSS Safety & Outreach Program in the DTES.

My Sister’s Closet also supports local women artisans. Giving retail space and promoting their work contributes to their financial independence and the growth of their artistic expression.

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For more information on My Sister’s Closet: http://www.bwss.org/services/programs/social-enterprise/my-sisters-closet/

Join us for RUN4MOM ON July 28th and why not stop by and support BWSS, CMHA and Sarah J on July 26th for our RUN4MOM Pre race event party!

RUN4MOM Pre Race Event @ My Sister’s Closet

Date: Friday July 26th

Time: 7pm – 9pm

Location: 1092 Seymour Street, Vancouver

Come and join Sarah Jamieson for the RUN4MOM pre race party. This is a great opportunity to connect and meet the women and supporters of BWSS and SHOP at My Sister’s Closet. This is a free event, and all refreshments can be purchased by donation.

HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT?

  1. Join me on RUN4MOM. Walk with me on my run route – from Ambleside to Dundarave @9am on July 28th
  2. Donate to either one of the charities and take a stand against violence and stigma. Donate here: http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?
  3. Share RUN4ACAUSE and help break the silence at www.sarahmjamieson.wordpress.com
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“RUN4MOM” CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF ON CANADA DAY

ms marvel 2

“You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he’s going to change the world. You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. Then the trust thing comes afterwards.”  – Man Of Steel

Trusting the process of one’s life and evolutionary path, can be a daring and grand adventure. And in every daring comes with it a re-evaluation, a re-defining of ones values, goals and place in the world. Adversity is part of the acceptance of this daring adventure – we call life.

A DAY OF CELEBRATION:           

Today, our Canada Day on Native land symbolizes the 1867 enactment of the British North American Act; where Canada became a kingdom in its own right. It is known as our nation’s birthday.

Yet, for me, this day means something more, because on July 1, 1951 marked the birthday of my mother, Nora Lynn Hall. She would have been 62 years old today. It has been 5 years since the tragedy of her death, rocked the suburb of Edgemont Village on the North Shore. Accidental suicide is one of the highest causes of death in ages 24 – 45.

It was a long and arduous battle, a 2 decade battle; her fight with addiction and mental illness, where the memories of violence, and control and helplessness  of her second marriage haunted her. Where a man who vowed to love us both unconditionally, became an abuser, and my mother and I the victims,

These memories, are also mine; the road to acceptance and forgiveness is no easy task. Being able to let go, is one of the hardest, yet more influential lessons of my life.  Yet, there can be no triumph without the necessary challenge.

A daring adventure requires methodical dedication to your ideals, your values and your integrity. It is the “Why” I lace up my shoes every July 1st and July 31st  to celebrate my mothers memory, to honor her strength and courage. It is the “Why” I continue to stand up against violence against women and children, because in 1948 when Canada implemented Human Rights into Canadian Law, it stated that “WE” a people, that “WE” as women are equal. The right to choose is THE most powerful weapon, we as humans can unsheathe. And it is “WHY” I continue to tell my story, because with any adventure worth pursuing and achieving comes with it the “Hero’s Journey. Every Superhero, great and small has looked their demons in the face, have stepped inside the vessel we call fear, and has been shaken to the core so deep there are times when we think there may be no chance, we can crawl and scrape our way back out of that deep, black hole – the abyss of grief, of anger of pure rage.

 

RAGE AND SERENITY:

rage

In my FEAT Canada speech this past March, I spoke about the space between “Rage and Serenity.” In X-Men first Class a young Charles Xavier, says to a young Magento; “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.” It is that space where all of the memories co-mingle, the ones that frighten us, and the ones of pure joy. It is this gap where we can focus our attention and find our purpose. It is the initial inertia that sets forth the Hero’s Journey where motivated and acceptance of life’s card you are dealt enable you to commit to a major shift, a  transformation in our lives.

“Minding the gap is a daring strategy. We have to pay attention to the space between there we’re actually standing and where we want to be. More, importantly, we have to practice the values that we’re holding out as important in our culture. Minding the gap requires both an embrace of our own vulnerability and cultivation of shame resilience – we’re going to be called upon to show up as leaders and educators in new and uncomfortable ways. We don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with action.” – Brene Brown, page 172  of Daring Greatly.

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“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” is the famous saying from Banner, also known as the Hulk. There is a fear in knowing ones power, because it means you must identify with anger and rage. Banner struggles to keep that inside of him, however, be that as it may, as angry and destructive as the Hulk may be, that power, if channelled for the betterment of humanity, to aid in survival can be a source of immense strength.

Captain America: “Dr. Banner, now might be a really good time for you to get angry.”

Banner: “That’s my secret Captain. I’m always angry.”

Anger is like any other emotion, it is irrational, never fixed, but always there. Superhero’s understand that any narrative, including their own has a measure of duality, the dark and the light. We can never truly know one, without the other. It is within these shadowy regions, where we begin to navigate and re design how and when we use this power towards positive change.

It is here, RUN4ACASUSE exists.

THE FACTS: DON’T BE A STATISTIC

  • 1 in 4 women will suffer violence at the hands of another at some point in their lives
  • 1 in 3 Canadians will experience or be connected to a mental health problem.
  • 66% of all female victims of sexual assault are under the age of twenty-four, and 11% are under the age of eleven.Women aged 15 to 24 are killed at nearly three times the rate for all female victims of domestic homicide.
  • 60% of women with a disability experience some form of violence.40
  • Immigrant women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources
  • On average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. In 2009, 67 women were murdered by a current or former spouse or boyfriend.1
  • On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.

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“RUN4MOM” CAMPAIGN:

Every year, I start July with a run to pay my respects to where my mother passed. I took up running after high school as a means to bring peace to my mind, to process, to let go and to one day be able to let it. It is on this day I walk that path again and pay tribute to all the lessons, my mother taught me in silence, in all the late night, half inebriated talks we had where she would tell me; “Sarah, never let a man hurt you, never settle. You are stronger than me, marry someone like your father.” She would tell me how proud she was of me, for all that I had accomplished, never taking the easy road, always taking the higher one, less traveled and more rocky.” She would tell me that even though she didn’t like the idea of me wanting to be a cop, she knew her daughter would never settle on a job she didn’t have the opportunity to change the world in.”

My mother was right; now, 2 decades later, I know what my “why” is and so now I run to use my sport to bring hope and clarity to others. Being honest with yourself is first and foremost. Choosing to push through the pain and make fear your ally is second. Thirdly, you have to go all balls out. Putting yourself and your story on display sets you up for criticism, ridicule and possible failure, which is why I believe there is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback. That feedback, is your fuel.

On Sunday July 28th, I will run 57km in honor of my mother, to celebrate her life. Every 1km represents a year of her life, a run from my house to WhytCliff Park, where we laid her ashes to rest. It is on this day where I pay tribute to her memory by supporting 2 organizations who strive to end violence against women and children, and who uphold the code of breaking stigma. My mother’s mental illness, her bi polar and addiction will not define her memory, nor will it define my future.

“What are not what we are underneath, but what we do that defines us.” – Batman Begins

BREAK THE SILENCE. SPEAK UP. STAND TALL.

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Battered Women’s Support Services:

A determined group of women started BWSS in 1979 (the year I was born).

Vision
To End Violence Against Girls and Women
To Engage Men to Own Their Role To End Violence Against Women

Mission
The Violence Stops Here Campaign was established to:

  • To Urge Men to Own Their Role to End Violence Against Women and influence change in men’s behaviour promoting healthy manhood
  • To engage social media and online fundraising to raise awareness, engage volunteers and funds to see the end of violence against women
  • To deliver training and education workshops on the issue of violence against women
  • To hold cultural events that raise awareness, engage the general public in ending violence against women
  • To entrench a national movement of men and women to end violence and discrimination against girls and women

CMHA North Shore

The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of British Columbians on the North Shore and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness through information, education, services, research and advocacy.

Agenda for BC

  • Mental health has the same priority as all other matters in public policy and in the allocation of resources
  • There is no longer any discrimination and societal stigma attached to any form of mental health problem or illness or to those who live with a mental illness
  • CMHA’s Framework for Support is the accepted guiding model in the formulation of public policy and the provision of care
  • Communities encourage and support the creation of environments where nurturing of healthy minds and attitudes is an accepted, ongoing priority
  • Support and assistance is provided in an appropriate, dignified and timely manner to all those who are experiencing mental illness
  • Families and caregivers receive effective support in their important role in the provision of assistance

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Over the next month I ask you to please show your support. You can do this any way you wish, by donating funds or supporting by raising awareness.  You can get involved here:

  1. Join me on RUN4MOM. Choose to run 5km or more on Sunday July 28th 2013.
  2. Donate to either one of the charities and take a stand against violence and stigma.
  3. Share this blog, share my story and raise awareness.

 

SUPPORT HERE:

Donation link here: http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=27748

Please help me reach my goal of a minimum of $1,000 for each charity. Thank you in advance. We are united, let’s break the silence.

Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be sharing my insights on my personal journey with being a survivor of child physical and sexual abuse, and domestic violence. Each week I will present on the 5 stages of grief, a path to healing, exploring the daring adventure of rising above the stigma and breaking the silence – one step at a time.

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Part 2: A Hero’s Journey and Back from PTSD: Captain John Croucher, Platoon Leader of the PPCLI First Battalion

ENDURING FREEDOM

Officers endure 25 kilograms of body armor, a Kevlar helmet and a tactical vest gleaming with weaponry, heavy equipment on their backs, and regular army issue sunglasses and scarves pulled up over their faces to protect against the dust that seems to billow out of every crevasse; where our Canadians are deployed to the Afghan landscape, moving across the desert like sand-colored, camouflaged characters from a mainstream movie flick.

In 2006, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed approximately 2,500 Canadian Forces personnel to Afghanistan; of which 1,200 comprised the combat battle group. Platoon commander Capt. John Croucher — Captain John to his troops or simply “The Sir” was assigned to the the PPCLI First Battalion.

The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI, generally referred to as The Patricias)  is one of the three Regular Force infantry regiments of the Canadian Army of the Canadian Forces. The 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (1PPCLI) is a mechanized infantry battalion and uses the LAV III (light armored vehicle) as its primary fighting vehicle, used to patrol and survey. The battalion is made of four rifle companies, one support company and one command and support company.

I met Captain John Croucher in 2007, after his deployment as part of his rehabilitation treatment. It was a day I would never forget, and his personal story is one that I continue to carry with me. His bravery, courage and strength go beyond the call of duty and his ability to endure and persevere after severe injury and occupational stress are a tribute to what the make and model of a solider should strive to be. What always struck me the most was how humble he was, how open he was about his experiences, and how his thoughts were always for his men – their health and well-being, pre and post deployment – always for  his team, his platoon. He  put others first; it was and has always been one of his most endearing qualities.

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The Art Of War:

Most of what we know of war, what we “think” of war; is not what is all encompassing of war. For those of us who never step off the comfort of our own soil in our own backyard, our representation of combat is merely what we see in the news, in the media or in movies. We cannot fully appreciate what it truly means to go to war, what it means to lead men into battle, to be responsible for their lives and your own and more importantly, to put your life on the line for your country – for the security of your family. Yet, Captain Croucher does and during my year and half as his movement and rehabilitation coach; he confided in me several times about the war in Afghanistan, what it was like and his role as platoon leader.  I had always had a yearning to serve my country and have always respected and honored the code and community of our military and law enforcement officers, hearing these stories were at times comical – boys being boys, very GI Joe, and other stories of hardship. It is no easy take being a solider. It is a discipline and a family unlike any other. One routed in…  “one for all.”

Afghanistan has always been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and a passage or  human pilgrimage, since the dawn of time. Three decades of war made Afghanistan one of the world’s most dangerous countries and with this comes a dangerous place for civilians and villagers as well to reside.

Captain Croucher’s duties; not only included platoon leader, but included communications, negotiations and meetings with district governors, village headmen and local police chiefs, when and if necessary and most often these took place in village mud huts, open orchards and the occasional office. However, I have been told these “offices”  are far and few between. The national drink of choice is chai or sweet hot Afghan tea, and by the sounds of it Captain Croucher drank a lot it on his deployment.

In a Globe and Mail Interview with journalist; Christie Blanchford, Captain Croucher confided;  that many elders are frightened of the Taliban, many villagers do not want trouble, and allow whomever to come into their houses late at night demanding food and shelter. They really have no say in the manner. This is no way for anyone to live. Any country where the lines between law and human rights are blurred, people live in fear, they are afraid for their lives and those of their families.

“Some of them might be sympathetic to the Taliban, but most of them aren’t on anyone’s side. These people just want to be left alone.” – Captain Croucher.

Canada in Afghanistan:

Canada has always been a strong supporter of the United Nations Peacekeeping, and has participated in almost every mission since its inception. These efforts are focused on four priorities: (1) investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programming in education and health; (2) advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, through the provision of up to 950 CF trainers, support personnel, and approximately 45 Canadian civilian police to help train Afghan National Security Forces; (3) promoting regional diplomacy; and (4) helping deliver humanitarian assistance.

Canada’s role in 2006 (and all deployments over-seas) is not always just combat related, but includes elements of peace keeping and supporting and protecting the civilians; their needs range from a new water well to such basic supplies as blankets and food. Reporting back the needs of the village was also part of Captain Croucher’s position; this helped to bridge gaps, keep the peace and formulate Intel.

At the young age of 33, confident and in peak physical shape; Captain Croucher seemed invincible and his team respected him highly. The name “The Sir” is a testament to that honor and respect. With considerable pride, John spoke with confidence, that he had been deployed with 38 guys, and with 38 he returned to the mud-walled compound every patrol that Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry they then called their home away from home. Day in and day out they would patrol. Captain Croucher would always say patrolling is a necessary evil, and IEDs are always on their minds. Officers know the danger, yet no matter how much training one undergoes to prepare for combat, you never really can prepare enough. Always be ready, always be on guard.

May 25, 2006:

May 25th 2006 was not unlike any other patrol day; the officers went through their daily checks, headed out, but it was on this day that Captain John Croucher’s world would change. On May 25th, Captain Croucher’s LAV was hit by an IED; which this would be the third to hit Alpha’s second platoon. This strike left Captain Croucher severely injured. His recount of that day are words I find it hard to read. This excerpt is taken from an interview with The Globe and Mail’s journalist Christie Blanchford (2).

“My first push with my arms immediately told me that I was getting no help from my legs. I pushed myself out and onto the back deck of the LAV.

“I was on fire, the right side of my body from toes to mid-body was on fire. I tried patting myself out when I noticed that my right hand was burned extremely badly. I was having no luck putting myself out, and knowing that the guys were on the ground, I rolled myself off the car, falling to the ground some eight feet, where the guys noticed me and started to put out the fire.

“The pain was incredible but the crew had a stretcher beside me in no time. Within seconds I was rushed back to the safety of cover behind a G-wagon, all the way demanding to know how many guys were hurt, very concerned about these numbers and the possibilities as I watched the vehicle go up in flames. The checks confirmed that everyone else was okay, non-life-threatening injuries only. My only thoughts were for my crew. Myself, I took the worst of it, but that’s the way every commander would want it: Keep the men safe.” 

Captain Croucher’s injuries included first- and second-degree burns from ankle to hip on his right leg and on his hand, as well as a broken fibula and tibia. His right ankle was literally a shattered mess, where he had to undergo eight surgeries at three different hospitals in three different countries; the first a Canadian-led base hospital at Kandahar Air Field, the second at a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and finally the third in Canada at the University of Alberta, and to top it all off  a shattered heel and a large puncture wound from shrapnel; where 70% of his lower limbs had significant reduced motor control and atrophy after the long stint in the hospitals.

When I started working with Captain Croucher he had difficulty walking, and performing basic movement patterns like bending at the knees into a hip hinge, or rotational patterns that required the ankle, knee and hip to work together. The neuromuscular control had to be re built from the ground up and from the inside out. Restoration of muscular strength, stability of the neighboring joints, and mobility/ degree of freedom in lower quadrant was the primary focus of our rehabilitation.

As tough as a man is, no matter how resilient they are, that sort of traumatic experience can leave a any man scarred psychologically and Captain Croucher had a long road of recovery ahead of him. The physical trauma; albeit long and arduous for Captain Croucher, was not the major obstacle. Captain Croucher knew shortly after his injury that the major barrier would be overcoming the sheer horror of the experience and mentally and emotionally processing it all.

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The Nightmare of PTSD:

After a month or so from the attack, after the haze of pain killers started to wear off; Captain Croucher started to make a list of the “things to do” to get back to active duty. “The Canadian Armed Forces has screening protocol in place for post deployment, mental health screening. I knew a month or so after that I could be suffering from PTSD and I wanted to get the best treatment I could, so I could get back to active duty,” he said in a phone interview with me. “

Captain Croucher went on to say in our interview several weeks ago; “there is still a lot of stigma attached to being labeled with PTSD, and many officers do not come forward. The CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) were not ready for the amount of injuries coming back when we first deployed officers to Afghanistan, therefore we just  didn’t have enough professionals to go around. After 2006, the CAF implemented better strategies, mandatory post deployment mental health screening, and consult with leaders in these fields. ”

Captain Croucher had always been a step ahead of the rest; a loyal military and family man, a great friend, and someone who always stressed being proactive and diligent in the face of adversity.During the early stages of his treatment, Captain Croucher knew Vancouver had some of the top resources for treatment so he put in for a transfer.

After Captain Croucher’s transfer to Vancouver he started his treatment with a Vancouver based clinical psychiatrist, by the name of Greg Passey; who, Captain Croucher said was instrumental in his treatment and moving forward with overcoming PTSD. Mr. Passey has spent over 22 years in the Canadian Forces as a Medical Officer in Canada, Norway, the United States, and Rwanda, specializing in PTSD, occupational stress disorders/injuries.

Captain Croucher also received support and treatment through the 39th Brigade, composed of Canadian Forces (CF) and Primary Reserve units, all of which are at the 39 CBG Headquarters located at the Jericho Garrison on West 4th Avenue. For his physical treatment and rehabilitation, I was honored to support Captain Croucher with weekly movement and yoga classes, and he continues to be a good friend and someone I admire greatly.

Now, more than ever Canadian soldiers are coming forward to make claims for psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Captain Croucher noted that there has also been a large concern within the military on officers claiming to have PTSD and associated stress disorders for disability insurance. Since mental health is subjective and we do not yet have wide spread standardization for screening, treatment etc it can be difficult to navigate the system on your own and it can also be hard for professionals to diagnose.

Back in the Trenches:

Today, Captain Croucher is back in Edmonton with the PPCLI officer working at 1CMBG;  in the light infantry battalion, they are trained in a variety of insertion methods (parachute, helicopter, vehicle, boat, and most importantly by foot) and in a variety of complex terrains (e.g. urban, mountains) that would prove difficult for mechanized forces. Most recently, Captain Croucher was deployed a little closer to home –  to Calgary to help support rescue and emergency response during the latest flood.

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For those who struggle with significant life challenges, who have seen and experienced beyond the normal range of trauma, those who live each day with chronic pain – there is hope. If you are a returning vet or a family member of a returning vet  I would encourage you to ensure there are no mental health risk factors. This can be performed with a professional or you can take the self-test located (here), through the PTSD Association.  The stigmatization and labels that come attached to “the invisible wounds” are of immense magnitude. Unfortunately we live in a society that does not acknowledge the deep wounds that cannotbe seen. But this is changing as rapidly as the numbers of people with PTSD are increasing and more people are speaking out and telling their stories. Hero’s like Captain John Croucher.

Happy Canada Day!

Sources:

(1)     Canadian’s In Kandahar – National Post

(2)     “Absence from his men adds salt to his wounds;” by Christie Blanchford, Globe and Mail on July 14 2006 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/absence-from-his-men-adds-salt-to-his-wounds/article1106075/ Christie Blanchford: cblatchford@globeandmail.com

(3)   The book “Fifteen Days” by Christie Blanchford

(4) PTSD Association – http://www.ptsdassociation.com/about-ptsd.php

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