Weekend in the Woods

& Lyme Prevention Tips

I just had an amazing weekend away at Campbell Bay Music Festival on Mayne Island, BC. It was an incredible weekend spent listening to great music with the most beautiful people on breathtaking farms and in magical forests. Seriously I walked into the field and couldn’t help but think, “these are my people.”. We walked around in bare feet and sat on blankets in both the light of the sun and the moon; we swam in ponds and walked through the woods and sat in the forest. It was everything I love and more (minus the makeshift outhouses!).

For most of my life I have gone on getaways like this and not thought twice about the possibility of ticks. I wouldn’t have even worn bug spray because, in my own words, “the chemicals in that shit have got to be worse for me than anything I could possibly get from a little bug”. Naivety at its finest folks! Of course I can remember hearing the odd thing about ticks and Lyme disease but I honestly just didn’t think that it was a big risk. To this day the only tick I have ever seen in real life is one from my friend’s freezer that she pulled off her dog a couple of months ago – on Mayne Island – so it never used to cross my mind that I would get Lyme disease or that I’d ever been bit by a tick. I thought that if I had been bitten by a tick I would know, because I believed that I would find it lodged under my skin or something gross like that. Oh man, was I ever naive.

It took me a while after finding out the cause of my life-altering health concerns to feel comfortable being barefoot in the grass or to sit in the grass or walk through a forest or to garden. I know some Lyme survivors that are so filled with fear that cannot even walk through a grassy field, they need to take the paths. I am a person who needs nature in my life and I cannot sacrifice my well-being and the healing I receive from nature out of fear of being bit again. Therefore, I had to come to a place of educated awareness and safety rather than my past states of naivety, then fear.

Before living through Lyme I never would have tucked my pants into my socks while hiking, worn bug spray, or even done a proper tick check. I simply didn’t know better.

I know that there are people out there who push the bug spray or the tick checks or the prevention and education of Lyme hard and can come off as being paranoid sometimes. Though I do my best not to be that way, I am guilty of it too and that’s how I know that it stems from genuine fear. Fear that someone else might have to go through the same thing we have. Fear that we could have somehow prevented a friend or family member from going through it if we’d only educated them a little further. Fear, simply as a suffering human being, not wanting another human to suffer in the same excruciating way. I would not wish Lyme and co-infections on anybody.

I know that Lyme can be contracted in backyards and parks in my hometown of Ladner, BC, but when spending a weekend on the Gulf Islands in the woods and farm fields, I took a reasonable amount of precautions. Not because I’m crazy and paranoid or can’t sleep at night for fear of being bit, but because I’m not naive anymore and I understand my risks.

Did I wear socks up to my knees or my pants tucked into them? No. Obviously not. It was a beautiful sunny festival and I wanted to have fun and not look like a total dork. I did however use bug spray every day – the chemical-shit-storm kind with deet, even though I’ve gone almost 100% natural with all of my body and cleaning products. I did sit on a blanket instead of directly on the grass or forest ground. I did do full tick checks each night before bed. I did throw all of my clothing and towels straight into the dryer before they went in the wash or touched anything else in the house. I did vacuum the laundry room where dirt from my clothes fell and could have left poppy-seed sized ticks hiding.

This probably sounds extreme to some people – at least it would have to me pre-Lyme – but it honestly was so easy and has minimized my risk factor significantly. Of course there is always going to be the risk of being re-infected due to missing one, or being bit while at the festival and never finding it, or even of one latching onto me after I got home from within my own yard, but at least I know that I did what I could do to prevent this for myself – especially, but not limited to, during a higher risk situation like this weekend. My memories from this festival can now hopefully continue to be ones of beauty and healing, rather than one of, “I really wish I’d just put on the bug spray”.

Dear Doctors, there’s something you need to understand.

Dear Doctor’s, there’s something you need to understand…

I believed you every single time you misdiagnosed me.

I believed you when you told me I had chronic fatigue syndrome.

I believed you when you told me I had anxiety.

I believed you when you told me I had depression.

I believed you when you told me I had PTSD and Panic Disorder.

I believed you when you told me I had Central Sensitivity Syndrome and that there was no known cause or cure.

I believed that you would have told me if the Lyme testing wasn’t accurate.

I believed that you would have told me if my test came back positive. (Note for the public – did you know that your GP is legally allowed to tell you that your Lyme test came back negative when it came back positive? I didn’t.)

I believed that you had my best interest at heart, not a political or private agenda.

I believed you had my back.

It’s funny to me, that after all this time of advocating in the mental health world and understanding how many gaps there are within the system, that it hadn’t crossed my mind that those gaps are in the general medical system as well.

Read More

Self-care is a septum piercing.

So today I did a thing – to my face – against all my friend’s and family’s advice (besides 2) – and it made me think about self-care.

I have seen a flooding of internet posts on self-care in the recent months, even more so in the last week with the recent tragic Hollywood deaths by suicide, as well as many equally as tragic deaths by suicide that happen every single day to people’s families and friends and coworkers and lovers all around the world. But did you know that the media isn’t recommended to talk about suicides because there are studies that show that this can trigger other people to end their lives too? I don’t know where I stand around that one because to be honest I haven’t read the studies, and I have mixed feelings surrounding the obviously complex pro’s and con’s surrounding the balance between raising awareness for a continuously-rising suicide rate, the risk of triggering someone else who’s already struggling, and the feelings of the deceased’s loved ones. What I do think we need to talk about though, is how to better take care of ourselves, each-other and our communities so that possibly, we can help keep our people healthy and happy. The scope of mental health is so vast and there is still so much that we don’t know. Maybe you are perfectly healthy as it is, both mentally and physically and don’t need any help ever, but let’s face it that’s not the case for most people. Which is why I love that self-care is becoming trendy, but I want to tell you that it’s not all about pedicures and bubble baths with a glass of red.

Read More

Meditation; a game changer.

You’re talking to the girl who wouldn’t take yoga class because she’d burst out laughing during savasana – the meditative, still, yoga posture that always ends a session – out of the pure discomfort of being still.

The girl who would rather be doing burpees or mountainclimbers or deadlifting than rest day or yoga/stretch day.

It’s become clear however, that I’m not coming out the other side of Lyme the same girl I went in as.

Never would I have thought that I’d be paying money to sit with a group of people while

Read More

Juice Fasting and Social Media Detox!

I am on the end of day 3 of my juice fast, day 5 of my cleanse and day 3 of no social media or cell phone use (phone/text). My Facebook, Instagram and snapchat are all logged out and I’ve only used very minimal email for communication for the past 3 days, and only when necessary.

It’s been beautiful.

I’ve meditated, read, and detoxed. I’ve spent more time in complete silence than I probably ever have before. I went over 24 hours without speaking a single word to another person. I haven’t left the house besides the vet on Friday, and my only visitor was one girlfriend today.

The juice fast has been great, as has been the whole cleanse so far. It is 2 days of raw food, prepping my body for fasting, then 3 days of juice fasting (making your own juices as per their recipes not store bought), and then tomorrow will begin 2 days of easing my body back into solid food. I have to be very careful during this time to follow the meal plan strictly. In the first few days it’s easy to follow the meal plan because it’s new, but now that I’ve had 3 days without solid food and I’m nearing the end, I find myself really wanting those chocolate almond bites that are prepped in the fridge for Tuesday nights dessert! After a juice fast though, my body is not prepared to digest many foods such as leafy greens and I’m sure it’s not prepared to digest the fat from all the coconut oil in the chocolate almond bites that I want to eat!

Read More

Balance

This weekend I did very little, because I chose to do little, not because my body forced me to. That’s not to say that I was bursting with extra energy, but I could have pushed myself to do more and I didn’t. I did a huge grocery shop Saturday, organized my meds, and attended a baby shower today. Besides that I vegged out and binge watched Grace and Frankie on Netflix (I’m going to be Frankie when I grow up LOL).

I ate chocolate and pho and cheese and crackers and drank tea under a blanket on the couch. Alone. Happily. By choice. My laundry basket is full, my dishwasher is clean (and full) and my kitchen is dirty. For the first time in a month. And most significantly, the first time in ages (a year? Maybe 2?) that it’s dirty because I’ve chosen to chill and binge Netflix and not because my body has forced me into submission.

Read More

Rising numbers of deaths by suicide – what can you do? #BellLetsTalk

*Trigger warning, this blog post discusses mental health and death by suicide and may be hard for some people to read. Also I want to be so abundantly clear that absolutely no one is to blame for anybody’s death by suicide and that no matter what, if someone in your life has died in this very unfortunate and devastating way, it is in no way your fault or responsibility. This is in no way a message of blame, but a message of what I believe we can do as a society to create positive change. I truly hope that this post doesn’t sound too harsh or offend anyone, I do honor that we are all just doing the best we can, but truly, ignorance is only bliss for the ignorant and I do believe that education helps create understanding and change.*

We are in the energy of a full blue super moon, and I spent the weekend in and out of panic attacks for the first time in ages, and I just spent the morning on the phone with a friend and their psych nurse and their family, and I keep learning about children under 10 making suicide plans, and its #BellLetsTalk day.

Wow. Deep Breathe.

I also cannot believe how many suicides I’ve heard of recently (in case you don’t know,

Read More

Lessons from someone who couldn’t (wouldn’t) slow down

I am literally sitting in an office in Steveston, BC, with an IV in my arm as I write this. Antibiotics quite literally coursing through my veins, in attempt to kill the bacteria that have stolen my life.

I often forget how active and vibrant I was just before I got sick. I read a quote the other day that truly hit home for me, it was “make time for health or you’ll have to make time for illness.” Wow. That’s a gut punch. If someone had said that to me before I got sick while I was exercising 7 days a week and meal prepping and working 3 jobs, I would have said I didn’t have time to rest. Or that I didn’t need it. The truth is the thought of slowing down was terrifying. I truly believed that if I slowed down or stopped any of what I was doing the world would crumble around me. It was like the walls were slowly crumbling and I was running in circles trying to catch the pieces before they hit the ground, half-ass gluing them back in place just in time to catch the next one, trying to seal any cracks as I went.

While I was so focused on keeping everything outside of me together, I had no idea that it was actually what was inside that was succumbing to intruders like an attack by a Trojan horse.

My body kept asking me to slow down and I kept ignoring it. Through all of my fitness and businesses I had gained a confidence that I’d never experienced before and I was afraid to loose it. Growing up with mental health issues such as severe depression and panic disorder you stop trusting your body and mind. You learn to push through and ignore the signals your body is sending you because often in the case of panic disorder anyways, they aren’t real. Your mind and body believe you’re in danger when you aren’t. To overcome that you learn to ignore those alarm bells and keep trekking through.

Physical illness on the other hand is the opposite. You have to listen to your body and slow down when necessary and give your body plenty of rest and time to heal itself. So you can see how opposite that is. If I hadn’t learned growing up to push through my mental illnesses I wouldn’t have survived. Now, if I don’t learn to listen to my body again and to rest, I won’t survive either.

Ideally though, growing up with mental illnesses I would have learned to sit with the uncomfortable. To allow myself to truly feel all of the sharp and ugly pieces and to then allow them to pass. Ideally I would have learned mindfulness and grounding and some of the spiritual lessons that I’m learning now so that I could have understood better what was happening in and around me and then maybe I wouldn’t have had to get Lyme in order to learn all of these things. But I didn’t, and I can’t turn back time so what’s really important is that I’m learning all that I can now, and sharing my journey to help others.

I’m 27 and learning to listen to and trust my body and intuition all over again – or really, for the first time. Some people learn this young and others don’t learn it until their skin has softened and hair turned gray. Others, I think, maybe don’t ever learn it, and what an unfortunate situation is.
It’s no secret that the Universe will continue to give us the same lessons over and over again until we learn them. I’ve learned to let myself feel the ugly. I’ve learned to let myself love and forgive and heal. I’ve learned enough therapy that I could practically be a therapist. In fact, I’m often teased by my hair clients, “Denise, I’m here for my therapy session!”. I’ve learned what boundaries are and what they feel like and how to put them in place (almost!). I’ve learned what no feels like and the power of the word and when to use it, as well as the same for yes. I’ve learned how to say yes to my body and it’s needs and to rest and to experience the uncomfortable in all of its lessons. I’ve learned that I’m worth a lot more than I thought I was. That my mind and my heart and my knowledge and willingness to share and be open and all of the quirky little things that some won’t appreciate, are worth something; they’re meant to be appreciated not cut down. I’ve learned that I’m not for everybody. And that I’m okay with that. More than okay with it actually because it wiens out those who are not my people without me having to do the work. I’ve learned that there are so many people who love and appreciate and honor and respect me for being exactly who I am. I am now one of those people as well.

A letter to the person who’s about to give up their life, from someone who almost did.

As I was laying in a soul and toxin – cleansing salt bath this evening topped with some beautiful gifted Sage lavender bath salts and Sage analgesic bath salts, meditating to a guided meditation for awakening your guide, I was surprised to be feeling both the highest and best parts of myself as well as the absolute darkest shadows during the “who am I?” question.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this at all as the light cannot be without the dark, but hey! I’m new at this.

I am still learning to ask myself questions and trust the answers. Frankly I am still learning to trust myself at all. At the end of the meditation when asking what I need to do, I intuitively recieved, “A letter from someone who almost gave up(died by suicide), to someone who almost did,” so I chose to trust that there is someone out there who needs to hear this right now so I am writing to whomever that may be.

I see you.

And deep in my chest, I feel you. I know you are hurting so deeply that you cannot possibly see the surface, let alone the light. I am seeing the light for you. I am feeling it for you the same way that I am feeling your pain and I am sending it to you. I am washing away your dark.

Life is worth it.

I promise you this from deep within my bones. It is worth it. My journey through the dark was about 14-25 years long, and now, I can finally say with honesty that it was worth it. I know that many people will read that and think they can’t possibly stick it out for that many years. I definitely would have said that, but I did it. Some people only have to sludge through the mud for a few months. No matter where you are in your journey don’t assume that because mine was that long yours will be too. It is likely to be shorter, it could also be longer; my hope in you reading this is that this article makes it a little bit shorter for you.

What I’m coming to understand I would have liked someone to say to me in my darkest days was, “I’m feeling it too, but we are in this together.” I, however, needed to feel unsupported in my outside world so that I would eventually be forced to turn inward, looking to my higher self and the energy of the Universe to carry me. It will happen if you let it. Ask for it, invite it in.

I cannot even count the number of times I’ve seriously considered killing myself. Mostly I was tired of hurting and I truly believed that the world would not only go on without me but would actually be better without me. I am now being taught how untrue that is, but that is plain and simple how I felt. Even when I grew a bit and learned different coping skills and got to a place of not being at risk to myself, I still was never happy. I was your typical, averagely miserable human being. Knit-picking at things that I realize now don’t effect me. Taking things personally that at their core didn’t have anything to do with me. Needing people to like me. Measuring my level of success on what was visible to other people. Feeling overall irritable all the time. In comparison to my below-rock-bottom depression and panic disorder, this is what I thought happy was! To be honest, I think it’s what a lot of the human race considers normal.

I can now say that was most definitely not happy, though it may be average.

I don’t know exactly what got me to where I am today. I imagine that it is a combination of many small things compounded – counseling, medical intervention, drugs when needed, supplements, family support, lack of family support, a whole bunch of not so great doctors along with a few great doctors (this is not to downplay the role of doctors in mental health, it is to express that I understand that you’ve probably had a lot of unfortunate doctors visits but to keep trying new ones because there are a few really good ones making a really big difference), naturopaths, energy healers, mentors, exercise, clean eating, salt baths, infrared saunas, lemon water, meditating, less t.v. more personal development reading, writing, mindfulness, learning when to say no, learning when to say yes, learning when to be “selfish”, and learning when to be selfless. Learning what boundaries are – not only the definition but truly understanding the concept in my life, and how to place them, was also more than minimal towards my healing.

I still have bad days, yesterday was one of them. I had treatment in the morning earlier than I’d normally be up, then continued to my first in person appointment at the Complex Chronic Disease Program, a clinic that says they treat Lyme disease but doesn’t actually have a good way of diagnosing us, nor do they have any lyme-literate doctors (theirs all quit, in my understanding because they weren’t allowed to properly treat), so instead they diagnose us with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and central sensitivity syndrome which are all illnesses with unknown causes and unknown cures. This does at least give patients grounds for disability and access to programs that will teach them coping skills and offer counseling, acupuncture, doctors and other supports. The point is, my life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and in fact the truth is that I’m in pain every day, sick most of them, need about 12-14 hours of sleep per night and am not well enough to work as much as I’d like to or exercise or do as much socializing as I like or to be independent. I sleep more than I ever have, I am sicker than I have ever been, and yet I’m still happy. And I’m still telling you that it’s worth it to live.

Find what makes you happy and do it. Not just one thing but a million little things compounded. Find what adds a little bit of meaning to your life. It’s actually very simple, something either makes you feel good inside or it doesn’t. Sometimes we have to do the things that make us feel bad such as take that client that isn’t our favorite but we need to pay the bills, or visit that family member that really means well but drives us nuts, but wherever you’re able to, choose the option that makes you feel good. If you feel good while reading, read instead of watching tv. If you feel inspired after watching a documentary, choose one of those over your mindless TV show. If you have a favourite walk but you have to drive to it, drive to it. Do guided meditations for abundance and manifestations. Write down what you’re grateful for each day. Buy the flowers, or if you can’t spend the money go for a walk and pick them! I don’t care what it is that makes you feel good, inspired or energized, only you can decide what those things are, what resonates with you. It’s up to you and only you to find those things and to do them.

Do minimum one a day. It can be as simple as having your morning coffee on the patio. Start with one simple, easy to incorporate step. Just one is all I ask. Then over time as it feels comfortable and right for you, add in another, and another, and so on. It isn’t a race, there is no time limit. You do it in a year, or if you’re not ready you can do it slower and spread it out over 14 years like I did! You are the only one make that decision, and it doesn’t feel like it, but it is a decision to take these steps. You may not be able to decide how you feel, but you can decide what action steps you take. Choose one thing and start.

Whether you climb out of your darkness in a year or 30 years, I promise you, it’s worth it.

How are you not grateful?

I am living my life with consciousness, and it’s teaching me that I can’t understand how the average person is not immensely grateful for what they have.

I don’t understand this and yet I was one of them. Living a fast paced, un-grounded, un-centered life of lack. Sure, I thought I was grateful, and in comparison to the people I surrounded myself with maybe I was, but there was always this sense of lack. An underlying feeling of not having enough. It’s Christmas time so it’s natural to be contemplating gratitude and all that I have but there’s more to it this year. I am going through a process of awakening. I am still so sick and yet I’ve never been happier or more grateful for what I have, with no sense of need for more. I still have goals and ambitions of course, and I would give almost anything to be healthy, but today, for this moment and in every moment, I have all that I truly need.

I no longer feel that sense of longing for the newest technology or a fancier house or car. I am not sad that I am spending the holidays single, or that on this Saturday night I am alone. There has been a shift inside of me.

One day recently I truly did not have it in me to make dinner and as I was eating popcorn and drinking tea on the couch in my pajamas’s I was surprised that I didn’t feel disappointed in myself for being unable to cook or for not having someone else to cook for me. Instead I felt truly grateful that I am a single person with no kids to feed because this allowed me to eat popcorn for dinner without guilt. The reason this feeling surprised me is because I didn’t have to think about it, I naturally felt that way. This is not something that always would have come naturally to me and has definitely taken training.

I don’t have a lot of money, and what I do have has basically been allocated to my treatment and bills, but with the major help of my parents with medical costs, I truly do have enough. I rent a basement suite that I have made home. I have a car that is old and run down but it works. I have a dog that is my soul-puppy. I am single but I have self-respect and happiness. I have so many beautiful people in my life. Do I never want anything more for my life? Of course not! But for today I truly do have more than enough.

I was recently chatting with a friend who, based on his family and who he is as a person I would have assumed wanted kids, so I was shocked when he told me that he didn’t. Not being able to afford to give his kids the life that his parents gave him was his reasoning. Well, I thought that this was completely delusional! First of all, no matter how much money you’re making, you’re going to be raising your kids in a completely different era than you were raised in. Even in the span of ten years the world changes so significantly. I’m 27 and I have not had kids yet and I look at the kids in schools now and can’t believe how different it is than when I was in school. The technological advances alone are enough to change society completely, not to mention ecological and economical changes. I live just outside of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. One of the most expensive places to live in the world. Even if I moved somewhere cheaper I would never be able to give my children the same life that my parents gave me. And they couldn’t give me the same life that their parents gave them, and so on and so forth. Not because of finances, but because the world has changed so much. The person that I was having this conversation with does not have a menial job. I don’t know what he makes but I know he’s on a great path to move up within a good company and that he makes more than I do for sure. Everyone has different needs and comfort zones when it comes to finances and I am not here to judge, but I can only assume that based on where he is now, if he were to have kids in the next 5 years, I think they’d turn out okay. I am far from saying that someone should have children before they’re ready, or that children aren’t expensive or don’t require extra care, the point is that this conversation, and a lot of my conversations with this person were very focused on lack. A lot of people that I talk to all seem to focus on lack. Even when I know that they have more than me, I often only hear about how little they have. The light-bulb that finally went on for me during this one particular conversation was “wow, it’s not that you don’t have enough, it’s that you’re not grateful for what you do have.” I wanted to shake him and say, “you’re 32, you have a roof over your head, you have a $60,000+ vehicle, you have a good job with benefits and room to move up. You get to go on a hunting trip once a year. You have holiday pay, sick pay, and over-time. Your work is paying for you to travel across the world next month. That is a lot more than many 32 year old’s have and if you don’t think that that’s enough right now then it doesn’t matter how much you have in the future it will never be enough!”

I’m home alone on a Saturday night, hair still wet from my shower as I had to sauna as I do most days for my health. Every joint in my body hurts. It’s the Saturday before Christmas and I should be out with my friends but my health simply won’t allow it. I can picture them all, laughing and clanking their drinks as I sit in the empty quiet of my home. Some people would feel lonely. They would feel betrayed by their bodies and angry. Sometimes I feel this way too. But the truth is, it’s Christmas in two days. The weather has been mild but cold, and there is snow on the ground. I’m sitting on my couch writing this under a heated blanket with the fire place on, on a 10 year old laptop that although has broken keys and is painfully slow, clearly works well enough for me to blog. My fridge is full of groceries that I was able to go purchase for myself to make Christmas breakfast for my family. I am drinking a glass of wine from a bottle that I purchased without stress today, my dog is curled up beside me and I am looking at a dozen red roses that were dropped off this morning by a dear friend. How can I not be immensely grateful? There have been countless times that due to my health I was unable to go to the grocery store for myself, unable to get out of bed even. Vomiting from treatment for days on end, still going to work throughout it because I couldn’t afford the time off. There are so many people who right now are curled up with their kids in their car, trying to stay warm and keep from crying so the little ones don’t see. They’re trying to make sleeping in their car in the dead of winter not so scary for their children. The shelters are all full. There are men and women and children of all ages and backgrounds huddling under 2ft overhangs off of buildings, trying to stay dry.

Somewhere, someone is sitting all alone in the dark because they couldn’t afford their power bill. Someone else is grieving the loss of their child; another their wife. Someone’s child is lost and someone is being beaten, a child watching through the slats in the closet doors. Someone has just lost their ability to see, someone else to walk, another to hear. Somewhere, someone has just lost a leg. Somewhere else an arm; somewhere else, their life.

With all of this happening while I sit in a warm house with the lights on, sipping my glass of wine, how can I not be filled with immense gratitude? I hope that no matter how dark my life gets, no matter how sick I am, that I can always see and feel this gratitude for all that I do have.

Recognize yourself in this blog post? Start a gratitude journal. I used to write down every single morning 3-5 things that I was grateful for followed by 1-3 people that I wanted to send energetic love to. What you focus about comes about.