Is Being a Pioneer Worth It?

“In a word I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail” – Major Taylor 

There’s a light fog out there today, maybe better described as a mist but enough that you know the horizon is there but you can’t quite make it out.  That same fogginess has been clouding my mind of late which has stymied my writing.  So today I have to get some thoughts to paper before I go completely ballistic.  This misty mind is very depressing and when you are socially isolated the only form of expression is my writing.

People have been telling me for most of my life that my activism made me a “pioneer”.  That may be true but in my mind a pioneer has a destination with the plan of arriving at a destination.  My destination has always been an inclusive community which involves minimizing barriers, a society build on policies and regulations designed to eliminate any type of physical, attitudinal or systemic barriers.  A community that protects and supports all members otherwise known as an “inclusive” community.

To fully understand inclusion one needs to recognize three basic concepts.  Inclusion can have numerous forms but are generally defined by three parameters.  Some individuals may need more hands-on supports, which is interdependence.  Some may simply need protections provided through some policy or regulations that just even a playing field, independence.  Those two states are different but related.  The connecting concept, which often gets lost in translation, is the ability of self-determination.  That ability to self-determine contributes deeply to ones dignity and self-esteem.  How important is inclusion if you have to live it without dignity?

If you can’t differentiate between those three concepts you will never really grasp the importance of the “independent living movement“.  Those three terms are the trifecta of an inclusive community.  Without acknowledging all three you are simply creating a “product” for a healthcare system.

As a young polio survivor I was in the perfect demographic to be a pioneer in the coming independent living movement.  I grew up in the shadows of the likes of Robin Cavendish, Doug Mowat (one of the founding members of the BC Canadian Paraplegic Association and first elected disabled MLA), and Judi Chamberlin.  These are but a handful of activists whose mantle I picked up in the late 60’s and forward in my life.  They prepared the pathway that my generation began to pave.

I did my first activist march as an 18 year old hippie in Vancouver.  I got involved, as so many hippies did, protesting the Vietnam war.  It wasn’t due to my crutches but it did introduced me to the world of activism.  I was in Vancouver as a way to outrun the Alberta Eugenics Board.  Sterilizing the disabled was still allowed in Alberta so when I saw that letter show up I was out of Calgary and on my way to Vancouver before my parents even got home from work.  So the seeds of activism were already there, they just hadn’t been nurtured yet.  Vancouver did that and gave me a process.

Picture of a person walking through a field of high grass with caption
Never let them see you bleed

After retuning to Calgary I enrolled at Mount Royal College in 1970 at a time when schools didn’t have to accept students with disabilities.  The old Mount Royal in Calgary was far from accessible and again I was told I was a pioneer.  The students union nurture my activism gene even more and it took off faster than a Japanese Honeysuckle vine. Continue reading “Is Being a Pioneer Worth It?”

Are We Talking..

I’m in that hurry up and wait stage of dealing with a government bureaucracy.  The sun is trying to shine and it has certainly warmed up.  Has been raining buckets (as I write that two of the local high school kids on their way home in shorts…how wimpy am I) but not to bad today.  So while I sit here waiting for my request to percolate its way through a  filter of god knows how many vacant positions before anybody actually makes a decision it’s time to put some words paper.

This grey misty weather condition can have a depressive effect on a wide variety of individuals.  Some days it gets to me but not today.  I find the moments of sunshine breaking through the clouds is uplifting but I also dumped a big anger this morning, one I had been carrying around for a long time and it felt good.

gainpainRegardless of how well today worked out for me (or has been working out, the day isn’t over) the are many who are just beginning their first major rollercoaster decent of the year.  Between the depressing weather, the inauguration on Friday and, the thousands of little things that make life what it is, you need to remember the #LetsTalk day Jan 25.

Depression is not a weakness, depression is a communication, a non-verbal one but communication all the same.  Many of us don’t know how to talk that way.

I worked in an environment for fifteen years where we spend a lot of time discussing “getting in touch with your feelings”.  That was psychiatry in Calgary.  My job was to understand feelings while looking for meaning in them.  To many it later became “psycho-babble” but to my peers it was communication.Continue reading “Are We Talking..”

Dusting Out the Old Year

It's not how often you get knocked down but how many times you get back up that counts!
It’s not how often you get knocked down but how many times you get back up that counts!

I plan on doing a lot of writing this year in hopes of not repeating the emotional turmoil of 2015.  My writing is really my therapy.  I enjoy writing, semantics, playing with words, had a painter friend tell me recently that I painted with words so thank you Milton.  It is a way for me to declutter my psyche, feel good about myself knowing I can share things which, to me, are important.  Writing also helps me keep some balance in my life.  In researching these things I learn so thank you, you are contributing to my education.  DISCLAIMER: let me be clear here that I am NOT endorsing the links I have provided below, how you process them is up to you but they do give you a starting direction.

I want to get away from the political toxicity I have experienced over the last number of years.  The toxicity created by watching programs and support systems that I had helped develop being eroded faster than the banks of the Bow in the Calgary flood of 2012.  Much of my writing will be focused on community challenges that are important to me like #access, mental health awareness or the restoration of so many programs already gone (ask any #veteran).  Since my last article was an access story, today I want to support the #LetsTalk mental health initiative.

As a matter of disclosure I spent almost 20 years of my career working in mental health and psychiatry.  Eleven of those years was as a mental health therapist in a fairly large inner-city hospital so I believe I have a bit of professional knowledge on the topic of mental health.  My last five years in that field was spend as a stress and pain management therapist which is where my attachment to cognitive therapy and core belief systems came from.  Beliefs are like faith, you may not always see them but acknowledging them helps you deal with the challenges life throws your way.Continue reading “Dusting Out the Old Year”