I’m back and the blog title is the same (for now)

Hello lovely people. I’m back in wordpress land and I have kept the blog title the same (for now). Last month I went through a blogging slump where I felt a bit frustrated with the topic of mental health and I thought about morphing this site into something different. But in reality I think I just needed a break to do some personal contemplation, reading, walking, mediation and refocusing. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent less time on the internet and more time reading real books. There’s something refreshing about good old print… but I’m back now surfing the interwebs with renewed interest.

The frustration I felt in relation to the mental health arena will probably come up again no doubt. It extends to my frustration with the entire medical model, which I believe has been corrupted by a profit driven pharmaceutical industry, that ironically doesn’t always have people’s health as it’s top priority. Okay so maybe I sound like a conspiracy theorist or scientology driven anti-psychiatry campaigner but I promise you I’m neither.  No, I don’t belong to any obscure religious groups and there’s no cult agenda behind this blog.

What drives this blog is a quest for truth in the spirit of activism; to explore the inconvenient facts that your physician might not have told you such as:

  • There is a serious lack of research on the long-term outcomes of people taking psychiatric drugs. The few available studies suggest that all the major classes of psychiatric drugs add little additional long-term benefit, and for some patients they may lead to significantly worse long-term outcomes. EEEK!!!
  • The concept of a chemical imbalance in the brain is a theory not scientific fact… it’s never actually been proven… double EEK!!

The quest for mental health is broad, epic, complex and controversial. Brains live in bodies and bodies inhabit the planet. Environmental scientists tell us our planet is sick, and our behaviour unsustainable. It’s not surprising then that much of this is reflected in our individual pathology. But conventional practice keeps selling the dream of a simplistic problem (broken brains) and magic pill solution. And I keep bumping up against people who have this view… and sometimes I get OVER IT!!

But I’m going to keep my chin up and keep asking questions because that’s me. I’m a curious soul with a sensitive BS meter. So what else is possible? How do we go beyond the corporate slogans and cultivate real, authentic, genuine and lasting mental health? How do we thrive in an insane world?

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Anxiety is excitement with no place to go

anxiety is excitment

The late Psychologist Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, often said “anxiety is excitement with no place to go”. Whilst I don’t believe this quote explains anxiety in its entirety I do believe it points to a type of anxiety that is the result of suppressed or misidentified excitement. I can certainly relate to the feeling of not knowing how to realise my excitement for certain goals and projects and therefore feeling a sense of pent up frustration, which at times can bubble up into an intensity.

I know for myself I need to take action on what excites me. This is key.  Lately I haven’t been doing this nearly enough! I have my reasons, health issues have arisen or life gets in the way but I believe it’s important to keep coming back to what is exciting and either FIND A PLACE TO GO with it, make a plan, or map out a path that’s going to get you there. Easier said than done but still important to remember when navigating through those difficult times.

When I was in my 20s I explored the idea of becoming a Dance Movement Therapist which is a type of body-centred psychotherapy that often incorporates Gestalt type ideas. I did some volunteering for a dance therapy association and took some classes which I really enjoyed. I wasn’t much of a dancer in the traditional sense but enjoyed the creative and improvisational process. I remember in one of the group workshops the facilitator kept singling me out to say “you are a real sensation seeker” … “look people she’s a real sensation seeker.”

At the time I didn’t know what she was on about but later I read that “sensation seeking” from a psych point of view is “the tendency to pursue sensory pleasure and excitement. It’s the trait of people who go after novelty, complexity, and intense sensations… and who are often “easily bored without high levels of stimulation” (Psychology today). Right on the money teach but I have no idea how she could have known this about me based on my movements dancing around like a freestyle idiot. LOL.

I went off the idea of becoming a dance movement therapist because I decided to pursue the music path instead. This is where I felt I had I had more skills/ ability but dance therapy has always been one of those careers that I’ve thought is very much underutilised and under the radar. It’s often an excellent choice for people who find talking therapies limited in their effectiveness. It’s used a lot with dementia patients, people with eating disorders and in drug and alcohol recovery. Perhaps it’s also ideal for real “sensation seekers.”

Sometimes you can talk about “anxiety” until the cows come home but really what you might require is to move, find direction or take action… to let your body talk and to remember your excitements. Below is a wonderful clip from a dance therapist on the topic where she explores the idea of anxiety as excitement in relation to her work with a client. It’s a wonderful clip and I hope you enjoy it!

 

Rethinking this blog

Hello great ones! This blog has been a bit quiet lately as I’ve been mulling over how to morph it into a theme that continues to inspire me. Initially I was driven to write about holistic mental health, to support the work of Dr Kelly Brogan and other health practitioners who are offering an alternative to the pharma based treatment protocols. I was angry about over prescription of psychiatric medications, the corruption in conventional health care (see talk below) and the lack of awareness about evidence-based alternatives.

However, no matter how compelling the argument and how much evidence the alternative presents… conventional thinking continues and deeply rooted myths persist. Many sheeple are just not willing to challenge the status quo. They believe what they’re  told and nothing is going to convince them otherwise. They are second hand people reciting old thoughtforms. They are not interested in thinking for themselves.

When writing articles for this blog I felt like I was trying to prove my truth.. to convince people of what I’ve always believed intuitively since the word go: that no health issue is isolated, that we are whole beings needing whole health treatment.. that people aren’t just random meat suits with broken biology… there’s a layer of meaning behind many illnesses … that pills are best as bandaids and have serious side effects to consider.. and that they are often not a long term solution. This is a gut feeling/ instinct that I’ve tried to validate by finding practitioners who share my opinion.. and there are many! But at the end of the day I’m done trying to convince! This is my belief system… things I think I know but can’t prove.

Holistic health, alternative health and complementary health.. I’ve been drawn to these areas since I was a teenager. I didn’t have to read evidence or literature to convince me to give them a go. I remember walking into a heathfood store when I was 15 and noticing how it just “felt good in there.” I never needed proof. I always felt at home in this world. I’m drawn to doctors like Kelly Brogan intuitively and don’t care if they get into controversial territory with their protocols. I try things because I feel a pull there. A gut feeling that there’s something relevant for me. I follow my natural curiosity, in an often non-scientific way and I’m 100% okay with this.

So moving forward, I think this blog needs a different theme.. a lighter feel. I’m so bored with the term “mental health” it’s heavy and ironically somewhat depressing in it’s nature. I’m so over even thinking about it. I’m still not sure where I might go though… I need more time to consider what else I can offer here. Bare with me.. I expect to find clarity on this soon!

 

Calm body clear mind: free online course!

I just noticed Dr Kelly Brogan is offering a free online mental health course where you can learn to how to treat anxiety and depression and leverage your mindset for transformation. Register here.

Dr Brogan is a New York Times bestselling author and psychiatrist who treats mental health with the greater whole body context in mind. She’s known for myth busting and spreading awareness about mental illness.

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How this student survived a social media insult fest

Lauren Hellner

Lauren Kirsten Hellner, a student and actor who fundraised over $2k to pay her rent

This is so wrong! I can’t believe she’s raising money for her lousy lifestyle while homeless people are freezing outside…”

This comment caught my attention as I was browsing a facebook group for self-employed women … The post was accompanied by this derogatory news article about a struggling student and emerging actor who had launched a personal fundraising page to help pay her overdue rent.

I was taken aback. Not only by the facebook post itself but by hundreds of negative comments that followed. An onslaught of slander, hate and judgement; the commentators were relentless.

“Outrageous”… “Stupid bitch”.. “selfish and entitled” .. “is that not your classic con artist?”…  the insults went on and on as I scrolled through them in disbelief. Why was this fundraiser so triggering? What was so bad about someone asking for help when experiencing financial hardship? Why wasn’t anyone digging deeper and considering the real reasons why this student might be in trouble?

In the days that followed several other media outlets picked up the story, including a morning TV segment that was far more positive in its approach. But still there were many questions left unanswered. So I decided to reach out to this brave soul myself and find out the truth …and I’m really glad I did because what I discovered was a story of hardship, hope and transformation.

In this Q & A interview below Lauren reveals how she coped with crippling financial stress and social media madness whilst staying true to her dreams.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself; your career, background goals and general interests.

I grew up in Vaucluse in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. I went to the local public schools until year 9 when mum moved me to a private girls school. Sadly she passed away a few days after my 17 birthday and I was pretty much left to fend for myself. My dad was never really part of the picture. He was a violent alcoholic and mum pretty much made him leave when I was 4.

She would spend years switching the lights off and hiding us when he’d try to come kick the front door down while having one of his episodes. The Watsons Bay police station knew him well. He spent many nights there sleeping off a bottle of scotch. In saying that though, dad was also very personable and funny. He had a great sense of humour when sober and every year we were all invited to the annual Watsons Bay police Christmas party as a family.

While he did many amazing things as a human, sailing for Australia in the 1976 Montreal Olympics and traveling the world going to galas and balls with my mum, he was a terrible husband and father. This didn’t bode well for my future relationships with men. I tend to date abusive men also and I have struggled to break free from this type, but I am doing much much better this year (🙄)

Anyway, dad died a year after mum and I have to say I was pretty relieved with his passing. He finally couldn’t hurt me anymore and I considered it a blessing. I finished high school a year after mums death. I didn’t pass my HSC and struggled to find a career for years that I felt I belonged in. I finally fell into retail and worked for some amazing designers selling mid-range to high fashion for about 15 years. This was amazing and I loved working with amazing fabrics and styles but alas I needed something else.

It was around this time that advertising for Open Universities began to appear. Basically anyone could pretty much enrol. So I did. I couldn’t even write an essay for one of my first subjects but still scraped through with a distinction overall for the subject out of sheer determination. I struggled through a BA Communications working full time managing a cloth in store and evenings in a restaurant and also studying full time.

I was exhausted and it was around this time I began to get sick. I was living in a tiny tiny little room on the ground floor of an apartments nestled (ok one metre away) next to an identical apartment block. There was zero natural light and lots and lots of mould. An autoimmune disease kicked in. I was always tired. My nails started flaming off and my scalp was always itchy regardless of whether I washed my hair everyday or every three or five days. The doctor said I had psoriasis and it was a breakdown of my immune system probably due to stress and overworking.

It-was-about-the-time-my (1)I decided to apply for Austudy and qualified so left the stressful management role and worked as a nanny. It was much better and my health improved. It was about the time my health started fading that I questioned what I really wanted to do with my life. I sat and ruminated for a long time and asked the universe to throw me some signs. The questions that came back to me were, ‘what did you always turn to in difficult times as a means of escape?’ And the answer was FILM.

You know that sweeping feeling that washes over you when you have found something you completely and wholeheartedly love without abandon? Yep. That’s what hit me. And hard. I love film. All films. Every film. The process of filming. Watching films and most importantly I started flirting with the idea of being in front of the camera. The thought terrified me. So I began doing some very personal work on building my confidence and working towards starting acting classes.

I eventually enrolled and after a few years started searching for an agent. The process of becoming an actress is equally satisfying and terrifying. All these emotions that simmer quietly under the surface are of course important to use for your work. Becoming an actress has helped me to find my voice in so many other areas of my life. When people say you’ll know when you’ve found your calling, it’s really really true.

You recently appeared on the morning show talking about your GoFund campaign to help pay your rent. Can you tell me a bit about what happened with your rent situation and how you found yourself in financial trouble? Was it related to the housing crisis sweeping across Sydney?

Finding publicity was never my intention when I started the GoFundMe page. I was in such a panic about receiving an eviction notice that a friend said start a GoFundMe. So I did. I thought nothing of it till a few hours later when I started receiving notifications that people were in fact donating. I was not only completely shocked but incredibly humbled that people were actually sharing with me not only their money but their love.

My rental arrears began a few years ago. About the same time I was struggling with juggling two jobs, acting and uni. I began work as a nanny and the family I worked for had a young child with autism. My studies had now taken me in the direction of psychology and as I had an amazing connection with this non-verbal little boy, I began training as a therapist to work with autistic children. So now I was juggling two jobs, training as a therapist and studying full time.

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The iconic Bondi Beach, where long term locals are struggling to pay their rent

I let go of my other job to focus solely on therapy work and working toward becoming a shadow at a day care centre for this family. So my hours decreased and the family kept promising more work more work more work but after 6 weeks I was in dire straights. I worked out a payment system with my real estate agent but after experiencing a particularly gruelling relationship I was at rock bottom and emotionally spent.

I slowly got myself back on my feet and was whittling away at the outstanding amount but it wasn’t quick enough. They wanted to increase the rent and in order to do that I had to pay my arrears off first. I had a look around at other suburbs and the rent was the same if not MORE than where I was so I decided to stay and pay what I owed off rather than relocate.

I weighed up relocation costs against what I owed and it was in my best interest to stay where I was even with the rental increase. There is an absolute affordable housing crisis in all major Australian cities and popular suburbs. As travellers and backbackers travel to Australia and pay money to live in unsafe housing conditions in Bondi and the city, in rooms with multiple bunk beds and room mates, landlords pump up the rents. This in turn sees locals and people who have lived in the area their entire lives struggling to not only afford these unreasonable prices but also to find work.

I mean no disrespect to anyone who wants to come and give it a go in Australia but the strain of affordable housing and employment has increased ten fold in the past twenty years with the influx of overseas travelers who want to stay in Australia to live and work.

Rent for the apartment I live in was $180 per week eight years ago. It is now $450pw. That’s an incredible mark up for such a short period of time. I have lived in the apartment for nearly 5 years and have noticed that other apartments in the building are exactly the same size and landlords rent it out with two bunk beds in a one bedroom apartment charging each tenant $150pw for a bed and no contracts. It’s totally illegal and many many landlords are doing this throughout Sydney.

Two bedroom apartments in the city have four or five bunk beds and each tenant is charged $200pw. How are we meant to cope with this? It used to be so affordable to live frugally in Bondi and the eastern suburbs and still afford rent and nice things.

When your GoFund campaign went viral you received some incredibly negative and judgmental commentary. Was this emotionally challenging and did you feel overwhelmed? How did you cope with the negativity on top of the stress of facing eviction?

You kind of question your own values when you have complete strangers telling you what a terrible person you are for asking for help. They were comparing me to kids with Leukaemia who had GoFundMe pages and looking at photos on my social media and thinking I was spending all my money on shoes and designer gear therefore unable to pay my rent. But it just wasn’t the case.

But that’s the nature of social media. You only see snippets of people’s lives and generally only the good parts. They didn’t see the struggle or the skipping meals in order to afford new trainers or work shoes which were generally purchased on sale or layby’ed for months.

Something I have always found is that I work really well amongst chaos. It calms me. So I had this whirlwind of media and attention around me and it made me focus. I looked at my actions and honestly could not find fault with anything I had done. Why does someone have to be homeless before they can ask for help?

Yoga-exercise-and-uniI felt ashamed but not because I was in this situation but because I couldn’t accurately explain what had happened to me to get me to this point. I was embarrassed that I had been in an abusive relationship and it had destroyed me. I was embarrassed that it had gotten me to the point I couldn’t continue with uni and had to take a semester off to get back on my feet and feel safe. But you have to just keep living through the chaos and find the beauty amongst the disease.

Yoga, exercise and uni were essential at this point. Having assignments and reading about something other than what was happening on social media was vital. Learning to separate myself from the broken person people were trying to make me into and remember I was still healing and still moving forward and that change happens in the blink of an eye.

You also have to remember that none of these people slaying into you on social media would have the audacity to say such things in person and that if they did they’d probably be arrested hahhaa.

Do you have any tips for people out there suffering severe rent stress or eviction? How can they better deal with the pressure and uncertainty?

Communicating with your landlord and agent is imperative. Explain your situation and include them in your plans. Ask for help. There are such amazing fundraising platforms out there for legitimate reasons that people are just too afraid to use.

You-dont-need-to-beI wouldn’t change what I did or how I did it but it’s been such an eye opener into human nature both good and bad. You don’t need to be homeless to ask for help. It doesn’t make you any less of a human being asking for help. If anything, it opens you up to receive help and that is an amazing thing. We have all struggled from time to time. It’s the human condition. How we respond to it can help us to grow or it can hurt us. Find the best way for you.

………..

If you’d like to learn more about Lauren you can check out her acting page here

https://www.facebook.com/laurenkhellner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired action vs. reactive lack-based action

create reality
When it comes to taking action, whether it be planning a holiday, looking for a job or starting a blog, I’ve noticed there are two different types. There’s action that feels good… and then there’s action that feels forced, obligatory, heavy and at times almost futile. I call these two types of action 1) inspired action and 2) reactive lack-based action.

Many desires come from a state of lack in that knowing what we don’t want makes it clear to us what we do want. Let’s use the example of learning to sew. Say you can’t find clothes that fit you ideally (lack) and so you decide you’d love to create your own funky pieces.

This desire feels exciting.. There’s some part of you that feels called to this challenge. It feels good to consider learning a new skill… and the thought of having custom made funky and original clothes fills you with joy! So you start to think about how you might achieve this goal of learning to sew. As a first port of call you might do an internet search and look for info, resources and classes on the topic.

Now the internet is a vast place with a trillion possibilities and as such you might find yourself experiencing information overload… with hundreds  of classes in your city… thousands of different types of machines .. and endless conflicting commentary about what brand and models are best/ worst .. you might feel completely unsure where to go next.

So what happens if you find your self getting caught up in negative emotions, like confusion and overwhelm? What happens if the longer your surfing the net the less excited you’re getting because there’s so many options it’s mind boggling? This is where you might tend to react to the negative emotions, and try to take control and “make things happen” to resolve this inner turmoil. You could find yourself frenetically making a shopping do list, enrolling in several online classes and ringing some friends to hound them on what they know.

The problem is, your dominant emotions through all of this are frustration, impatience, and annoyance.. you just want to resolve it already in fact you want to resolve it yesterday! And why are those machines so darn expensive!! Somehow you’re not even feeling exited about the project anymore.

This is lack-based reactive action taking. Action coupled with negative emotions is often not that generative. I know this because I’ve been through the process a million times. It’s like it creates it’s own tornado of negativity and then life reflects that back to you. The shop assistants are assholes, the internet starts playing up, .. you go to call your sewing guru friend but she’s away.

This, in my opinion, often happens when we take cerebral forced anxious action as opposed to inspired action.. So what is inspired action?

This is when the action simply feels “right” and in alignment. There’s often a flow and resonance to it. You still might feel eager or impatient but it’s in the context of a greater excitement that’s pulling you forward. Even if you’re pushing shit uphill and it’s crazy hard work there’s something you’re enjoying about it nonetheless, there’s a sense of trust that you’re on the right track. There’s a knowing that’s hard to articulate in words alone.

Going back to the example of sewing, if you were to approach it in an inspired action way you might still first, surf the net. But when you start to feel info overload you might, take a break and go for a walk. If you’re a spiritual person you might ask the universe “show me a good way to learn to sew” then you might go into allowance mode and trust that you will find a suitable course and that the right actions to take will come to you in due course . You might take it a bit slower because you’re more trusting. You wait for the next urge, inspiration or creative idea to move forward.

On your walk you might see a notice board out the front of the local milk bar… “fashion student offering sewing tutoring $20/ hr”. The pictures look really funky and so you call immediately, what a bargain! The student designer is lovely and her services provide a wonderful opportunity for you to get started with your hobby.  You just saved yourself a lot of internet search time and frustration!

Okay so it doesn’t always come about this easily but you get my drift. I’m sure you would have experienced these type of situations many times before. But if you’re anything like me, you might still need the reminder from time to time to refocus on trust and excitement!! Whilst it’s fabulous to have so many options in life it can also be extremely confusing when you need to make a decision. That’s why we need to keep tuning back in to our true inner beings, our broader goals and our positive overarching emotions.

Below is an vintage Abraham Hicks video exploring a similar concept. I believe it’s important that we keep returning our minds back to what excites us.. to keep that our dominant creative force. And sometimes when we do this the particulars can just work themselves out or we can take inspired action when it’s required.. but not in a forced and counter productive manner.

As Abe puts it “You blast that energy out in advance and you can create a visual, an absolute reality, that begins to vibrate of it’s own accord because you’ve given life to it, and then it vibrates and reaches out and actually beckons the action right out of you.” Abraham Hicks.

From clinical depression to breaking dawns: How this Reverend regained her reverence for life

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Adirondack Mountains, upstate New York

Rev. Pam Peterson always knew she wanted to be a minster… but life took her on treacherous journey through an abusive marriage and clinical depression before the opportunity was ripe. It wasn’t until the age of 47 that she was officially ordained to become a spiritual teacher and mentor.

Yesterday I interviewed Rev. Peterson about her experience healing from depression and becoming an “optimist with a capital O”. The picturesque Adirondack Mountains, where she now resides, provide a perfect metaphor for the peaks and troughs of her challenging life path.

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Rev. Pam Peterson

“The earth is my church and nature my religion”, she says as she talks about her favorite prayer and meditation spot in the nearby landscape… and with those views in reach, it’s no surprise that her sense of spirituality extends beyond the chapel walls.

When did you decide to become a minister? Was there a particular catalyst or spiritual experience that called you in that direction?

I knew from the time I was confirmed in the Lutheran church in 1979, at the age of 17, that I was called to be a pastor. Life circumstances, though, took me on a different journey so I did not go into the seminary until 2008 at the age of 47!

There was no one “day” or moment where I experienced an “I am supposed to do this” … rather it was many years of confirming my call to ordained ministry. That in itself is a book worth writing, with new chapters to be added every Sunday! Because of my relationship with my ex-husband during my 19 year marriage, I chose not to purse ordained ministry.

After my divorce in 1999 I searched for almost 10 years to find the right denomination that was a fit for me theologically, spiritually, emotionally and in worship and fellowship. The Spirit, through the voice of my then 3 year old grandson Brady, led me to the United Church of Christ, and I could not be happier! Not only am I an ordained minister but I am also a Provisionally Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains (one more paper to write and I become fully board certified.)

I served for 3 years as the Trauma Chaplain for a large trauma hospital on the east coast and am now serving as the Interim Minister for a Presbyterian Church in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate NY. I chose to leave hospital chaplaincy for now so that I could develop a healing ministry for first responders and medical personnel whose focus is trauma – doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers, etc.

Can you tell me a bit about your experience of depression; what was it like and how you overcame it? Did you find your spiritual faith helped you get through those difficult times or was your faith tested? What other tools were helpful?

I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression in August of 1998. It seemed to be a sudden onset of depression- like symptoms and it was at the very beginning of the newest claims to cures using anti-depressants. While I do agree that my lifestyle was the main cause of the mental anguish that I was living in (my ex is psychologically abusive) I never understood why I got so sick so fast.

I suffered from extreme anxiety, waking in the morning with rapid heart beat, sweating, racing thoughts and nausea. I would walk for 5 miles just to calm myself down. Then the wringing hands, loss of appetite, and a morphed perception of my physical body all set in. I lost 25 pounds in 2 months, suffered from memory loss, suicidal ideation and would go between sleeping 12 hours a day to sleeping 2 hours a night. I would get on crying jags that would last for hours.

The doctor (psychiatrist) put me on Paxil, I got a divorce and found true freedom for the first time in my life, and the depression symptoms stopped within a month of my separation. I stopped walking because the symptoms stopped. I had to learn how to feed myself (my ex controlled my food) I gained 80 pounds in a year. I stayed on the Paxil for 6 years because the doctor said to, and whenever I tried to stop taking it the crying jags and suicidal ideation would kick in.

I finally stopped taking it in 2004 because I lost access to health insurance and I didn’t like the side affects of the tics and electrical brain impulses “brain farts” as I called them. I tapered off over a 2 month period, was living in Boulder CO where I got a lot of fresh air and exercise, was active in a great church that recognized my gifts for ministry, and all has been well since!

Faith… that’s a great question. I lived in a constant state of prayer… I still do. I pray all of the time. Everything from “Thank you God for this glorious day!” to “WHAT THE HECK, GOD???” I believe that our faith is tested every hour of every day. I had a great, and I mean REALLY GREAT support team. My 3 sisters, brother, mom, in-laws, out-laws, friends…you name it…they all rallied behind me 100%. Especially my sisters, and they still do.

My sons were teenagers at the time and we stuck it out together through the thick and thin of it. My older son is my rock, but I am still his mom so I am careful of taking care of my own needs rather than putting any expectation on him for that. He’ll have his hands full with me when the time comes for nursing home care in 30 years…I’ll be the one that’s always escaping and getting caught in the most precarious places!!

It took many years, but I finally found therapists/counselors and pastors that I could work with. Most of my depression and anxiety “symptoms” were a result of a lifetime of co-dependency and it took a fantastic therapist to help me get to the root of that. I also stay active in playing music (I’m a flutist), journaling, reading…and I’m an extrovert who is a 7 on the eneagram wheel so I know that I need to be around people! I’m also an Optimist…yes, with a big “O” and have belonged to the Optimist International organization where I learned how to always look on the sunny side of life.

Can you tell me a bit about your more recent experience with anxiety, what were the circumstances and how did you overcome it?

When I left the work of trauma chaplaincy in a huge city (3 years of 40-60 hours a week with at least one 24 hour shift/ 3-7 deaths a day, rarely a day that I did not witness CPR or an infant death) I moved to a rural mountain town in Upstate NY in January. No family, no friends, one acquaintance and my cat. Within 3 months I had finally caught up on my sleep, watched all of the reruns for my favorite shows, read 10 books by my favorite author and adopted my dog, Buddy B.

I also gained 25 pounds. Out of the blue I started waking up at 5 am with anxiety-like symptoms. Rapid heart beat, short of breath, weakness in my legs. The doctor wanted to put me on Welbutrin and I said, “Hell no.” I figured out on my own that my body was still pumping the adrenaline for the trauma work into a brain that was, well, on vacation! Within a week of figuring that out my son recommended I listen to the Joe Rogan show with Dr. Kelly Brogan and now here I am!

Changing my eating patterns and selections has been a tremendous help. I’ve lost all of the weight, meditate to relieve the anxiety symptoms and I am back on track. No pharmaceuticals either! I still wake up many days with the rapid heart beat and I’m trying to figure that out. It lets up with meditation, especially the Kundalini anxiety and adrenal healing meditations, so I’m thinking it’s still my body and brain trying to figure each other out.

I should also mention that I do have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and take levothyroxin. I’m pretty sure that my next blood tests will show that I need to cut way back on the meds as I am healing!

As a minister do you find yourself self called to help others recover from mental health challenges? What have you found helps people recover?

As a minister and a chaplain I am always dealing with what is perceived as mental health challenges for people. Now that I am learning about the VMR program and learning about Dr. Brogan’s theories and research, it’s a whole new ballgame in counseling for me. People are calling me out of the blue to talk to me. People are having prophetic dreams about me. I’m “popping” into people’s thoughts and they are calling me to thank me for who I am. There’s a lot of weirdness going on in my life right now and I am just taking it all in and laughing with the Spirit as we figure it all out.

One thing that I do know is that so far, some people don’t want to hear about how to get better without pills! They would rather medicate and eat whatever they want, rather than eat what their body needs and do the work of healing. Healing is A LOT OF WORK!

 

Take what you need and leave the rest

“From all the things you read and from all the people you meet, take what is good – what your own ‘Inner Teacher’ tells you is for you – and leave the rest. For guidance and for truth, it is much better to look to the Source through your own ‘Inner Teacher’ than to look to people or books. Books and people can merely inspire you. Unless they awaken something within you, nothing worthwhile has been accomplished.” The Peace Pilgrim

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What can we learn from a penniless pilgrim who walked for 28 years across America?

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Peace Pilgrim in the late 1970s. She had walked 25,000 miles by 1964, and continued for almost two more decades. She carried only a pen, a comb, a toothbrush and a map.

Recently I was at my local library looking for a good read, perhaps something to escape the weight of pending bills and a prolonged sense of penny pinching … when I overheard this conversation.

I’ve just come from a lecture about Peace Pilgrim, I’m so inspired .. have you heard of her? 

No, who is the peace pilgrim? 

She walked across America for 28 years promoting peace… she renounced money and material positions and simply walked until offered shelter and fasted until offered food. Between 1951 and 1964 she walked 25,000 miles and gave lectures about peace along the way.

After hearing this curious dialogue I found myself looking up The Peace Pilgrim rather than a light escape novel as originally planed. What I found was nothing short of fascinating and her teachings couldn’t have reached me at a better time.

The Peace Pilgrim, was a an American non-denominational spiritual teacher, mystic, pacifist and peace activist. At the age of 45 she she set of on a walking pilgrimage across America to promote inner and outer peace. Her only possessions were the clothes on her back and the few items she carried in the pockets of her tunic which read “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “25,000 Miles on foot for peace” on the back. She vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walk until given shelter and fast until given food.”

Whilst some may see this as freeloading off the generosity and charity of others, the Peace Pilgrim saw her mission as “work” as she explains in her book Steps Towards Inner Peace

“I work for my living in an unusual way. I give what I can through thoughts and words and deeds to those whose lives I touch and to humanity. In return I accept what people want to give, but I do not ask. They are blessed by their giving and I am blessed by my giving.”

Part of her work included giving lectures at universities (see talk below at California State), and often people would offer her food or a place to stay in exchange for experiencing her teachings or good deeds. For those times where people didn’t offer her food or accommodation she said she trained herself to sleep rough, in parks or at bus stops and just went without food for days at a time. However she said she never went more than 3 days without someone offering her food and that in the end God always took care of her.

So what can we learn from this curious and eccentric character? Although I don’t plan on renouncing my material possessions or sleeping rough in parks any time soon her story challenged a few of my limited beliefs about basic needs and happiness.

What you will quickly see if you watch her videos or read her material is that she’s exuberant; brimming with vitality and zest. For many of us the risk of homelessness might be a terrifying thought, something to be avoided at all costs but for The Peace Pilgrim it was part of her unique mission and purpose.

This is one of the greatest exercises in “trust” and pushing the boundaries that I’ve ever come across. To give up everything and put your faith in the goodness and generosity of others requires a level of trust that most of us simply don’t have.

But what would happen if we took a leaf out of the peace pilgrim’s book and trusted a little more in living our own version an inspired life?.. even if that looked a bit unusual? If she was happy with essentially nothing but a toothbrush then what are we waiting for? What’s stopping us from having that same inner peace? What are we using as an excuse to not be happy?

Perhaps the answers to those questions might be found in her book, which is of course available at no charge here.