Speak Up

I truly thought my days of writing were behind me. I still continue to write for myself however I haven’t been sharing it. When you have no one at home to discuss how your day went you either bottle it up or write it down. Bottling it turns it into a disease, I know I was there once. Bottling, or as some put it, eat your feelings just allows negativity and bitterness to fester both in yourself as well as your community. Writing is the better way to excise those demons that build up in your soul and let it fester until your loss in the darkness of despair. Having someone at home that you can share things with is the way to go. Just writing for myself is really loss of direction so you have become that person I empty my soul to at the end of the day. Thanks for that…

I have been an activist most of my life and with this newest COVID19 crisis now is not the time to go quiet. I have over forty years of fighting for change and I’m not going to sit back while a bunch of self-serving, ideology driven egos who call themselves “government” undo all of that by increasing panic on an already frightened community. I will not quietly let ideological driven individuals use this crisis to shred rights. That is not what true activism is about. Activism is for life, not for the moment.

A simple picture quoting Hubert Humphrey stating "It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of their life, the children; those who are in the twilight of their life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped" with my own caption "You can't solve a community health crisis that requires moral guidance when you have a government that is morally bankrupt"
You can’t solve a health crisis that requires moral guidance when those doing the guiding are morally bankrupt

I’m also an advocate. The biggest difference between an activist and an advocate is that an advocate is there for the moment. An advocate act as the voice for those unable to speak for themselves. Now that the the COVID19 has been labelled a pandemic people are scared, particularly the marginalized. These are the very individuals the Alberta ideologically driven government have been busy stripping supports from.

Now these individuals and the entire community are in full panic mode. Based on the phone calls I am receiving it’s a toss up if they are more frightened by the pandemic or the fear of losing the few supports they do have left. When you are dependent on a system that has been slowly stripped away under the Kenney government well fear, as Frank Herbert in his famous Dune series put it, is the “mind killer”. When your ability to control your life is dependent on a care giver arriving at your home in the morning to get you dressed, out of bed and into your wheelchair doesn’t arrive without notice panic takes over and rational thought, justifiably, goes out the window. This “social distancing” they speak of is already a life style for many of the highest risk target groups for COVID19.

As an advocate I response however minimally. Not having someone at the end of the day to unburden some of this plays into my own “social distancing”. What are the options? All of these high risk groups, the elderly, the disabled, children and marginalized individuals often suffering substance abuse, loneliness, homelessness wind up further stigmatized when you have a government that is busy dismantling healthcare, education and social programs. Now is not the time for me to stop communicating with others. How can I honestly tell people to speak out to these issues when I have silenced myself? I can NOT remain silent but I can change my approach. Enter the true power of social media.

Using social media as a tool of protest

I no longer physically participate in much protest marching but I do participate in my own way. It is time to exercise the power of social media as the constructive tool it was meant to be. Not as “click bait” in hopes of your cat being the next viral phenomenon, or as a source of meme’s distorting truth, spreading hate or building sickness. Social media is “social distancing” by design so let’s use it effectively. Thanks for listening, I’ll be back.

And the Children Shall Lead the Way

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye.
Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.
– Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Teach Your Children)

Crescent Heights School Student Protest 1964

With the actions of the influencers of tomorrow, those students who took one (1) class off to to remind this government what democracy is about. Our Premier, again, displayed his ignorance (or maybe disdain) for history since what these students did is not new. The first one I remember in Calgary was the 1964 student walk-out protest at Crescent Heights High School and it was a true learning experience in a time when civics was taught in Calgary schools.

This has been an insane week and I am still trying to make sense out of it. Again the influence of social media is highlighting the polarization of the generations and it really is a coin toss as to which way our society is heading. So I need to ask these polarized baby-boomers (a generation I am a member of) what does this “better future” look like that you want your grandchildren to have?

The same grandchildren that were probably part of the student walk out that took place on Friday May 2. These kids showed more insight into the potential threats to their future than you did at the voting poll. So, please, quit hiding behind the excuse of “building a better future” for your grandchildren and face up to your own lack of knowledge of the truth. It is these same grandchildren that recognize the issues that lead to things like young nine year olds committing suicide due to bullying in a school system supposedly protecting her.

This is a generation that is connected by social media and are more aware than you are about the reality of this new world. Your lack of knowledge regarding social media has put you exactly in that position that we use to bad mouth our own parents comments about rock and roll while they listened to Perry Como. Your denial of it is polarizing you and you are not even aware of that polarization. You are still firmly entrenched in the groupthink of the 80’s and that entrenchment is as much of a threat to your grandchildren as your dismissal of climate change.

We now have a Premier who has bullied our democratic process, filled a cabinet with dangerous ideologues and managed to insult a whole new generation of voters while removing school protections they had gained in the last couple of years. When a politician fails to see the educational aspect of activism we are no longer a democracy. When we have a Premier who is prepared to change recently amended legislation to force teachers to betray the trust they have developed with their students we are no longer a democracy. The building a better future for your grandchildren is spelt out in the opening of this article. “You who are on the road, must have a code you can live by, and so become yourself because the past is just a good-bye”. Teach your children well.

There is a certain irony to a Premier having just returned from politicized trip to Ottawa. A Premier who, for three days, spewed his ideological rhetoric and misinformation on issues that impact, not only the country, but these very students future. Then for him to come back to Alberta and admonish thousands of students from all spectrums of the province (students who will be old enough to vote by the time the next election rolls around) to “doing politics outside of a school during school hours” is beyond arrogance and again we have left democracy.

These very students exhibited more character in standing up to an issue for thirty minutes then returning to class. These very students that went out of their way to tell the public they kept their protest short out of respect for their teachers. Meanwhile our Premier is busy threatening our Confederation with a Constitutional challenge because he can’t get his way. So tell me again how it is that you elected a man who is going to remove the protections of the very grandchildren you state you are voting for to protect. If you weren’t so disconnected from the new world of social media you would have a better understanding of “Fact checking”. You would be better prepared to filter the vitriol and misinformation so many ideologues like to push.

And to those parents/grandparent who are so worried about their children’s future I borrow from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to say “Teach your children well, Their father’s hell did slowly go by, And feed them on your dreams, The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.” Meanwhile to those students who took a stand I also borrow and repeat “Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry, So just look at them and sigh, And know they love you”. Lesson well learnt…

The Precipice of Aging

The Precipice

For sixty years they had been wed,
In thirteen seconds they would be dead,
She is frail and oh so ill,
But to live without her he has no will.

Perching on the precipice high,
Holding her close with a smile they will die.

The love they have shared for all of these years,
Keeps them together shedding their tears,
He’s watched her strength drain from the illness inside,
But living without her he cannot abide.

Perching on the precipice high,
In love’s embrace they soon will both die.

He wrapped her warmly in her hand knitted shawl,
Then walked her slowly to the elevator stall,
From the fourth to the twelve the lift it did rise,
Then one flight of stairs to reach their demise.

Perching on the precipice high,
Hand in hand from a fall they will die.

Arm in arm to the edge they do walk,
Holding a gaze that held silent talk,
Just one final kiss that tasted so sweet,
To their death they did plunge on the dark silent street.

Lying all broken from precipice high,
Their love has transcended as their bodies do die.

Terry Wiens – Jan 2005

Summer is flying by faster than the speed I am able to get things done.  Life is like that, at 20 we think there is lots of time then all of a sudden fifty years has flown by and we start to realize how many of our agenda items are still waiting for our attention.  I have too many things left on my agenda that I have continually put off for time management sake.  What that “putting off” has taught me is that using time management as an excuse to avoid dealing with agenda items in the here and now leads to “crisis management” later in life.

As someone who has spend his life believing he was a social justice warrior I come down hard on myself when I see something I “put on the back-burner” having reach a crisis proportion.  Life can be crazy that way, we wait until we reach a crisis point and are forced to confront those issues we “tabled”.  We are now in the midst of that crisis and it has nothing to do with opioid’s.

The crisis I am referring to is the rising homelessness and suicide rates confronting the current generation of seniors.  I could provide an endless list of articles, news stories, reports and studies but I shouldn’t have to.  People just have to step outside their personal silo’s and open their eyes.  It’s all around us.  We shouldn’t have to be reading news headlines like those surrounding the Wettlaufer case or cases like Fran Flann (an 82 year old discharged from a Vancouver hospital to a homeless shelter) for us to recognize the crisis.  This has been going on for years.  We shouldn’t need private studies like the recent BC Seniors Poverty Report Card to understand the aging crisis.Continue reading “The Precipice of Aging”

Opening Your Own Door

Friends and Self

Our life has many ups and downs,
We question why we’re here,
But deep inside we know ourselves,
Loss of friends is what we fear.

Is it our expectations?
Or the way that others act,
That makes us really doubt ourselves,
Over how our friends react.

We put our faith in people,
And trust in all our friends,
So when our world does crumble,
We justify the ends.

But friendships can be fragile,
And often not so true,
True friends are more accepting,
Of all the things we do.

We do not need a preacher,
Or friends that leave us high,
The truest friends are those,
That stay when the others fly.

So recognize what’s in you,
You are the only one,
You truly can depend on,
When all is said and done.

Terry Wiens – Feb 2005

I wrote this in a very black period of my life, a time when I was surrounded by negativity and toxic people.  I have since moved on but was reminded after reading an article by a Dr. Perry that focused on toxic relationships.  It captured most of the components that went into the creation of this poem.  This was my experience and a strong example of what can happen when you wrap yourself in a blanket of love made up of toxic materials.

I have over twenty years experience as a mental health therapist both in a hospital environment and community agencies.  My sense of empathy was always my strength.  I even had it tested by participating in an 80’s study measuring empathy and I scored very high.  I attribute my empathy to having spend most of my formidable years in a hospital.

By the time I was sixteen I had spend eight years in a hospital full of polio survivors.  That has an effect on various developmental milestones and one of those was the affect on the anterior insular cortex, that section of the brain that enhances, among other things, empathy.  When you are 8, 9 or 10 years old verbal communication is as limited as the vocabulary you have developed and as a kids there are limitations.

A picture of the brain using different colours to highlight different areas of the brain.
The Insular Cortex makes up part of the limbic system
Many of us developed better skills at body language and, believe it or not, the emanations rising from ones body, often referred to as “body auras“.  This is an issue that many people just write off as “new age metaphysical crap” but as a ten year old entering puberty our minds were not littered with the filters of adulthood.  I became very good at reading the mood of a room full of people early in life.  I am convinced this contributed to my effectiveness as a therapist.  It also helped with my ability to study neurolinguistic programming (NLP).  A skill I formally studied in the early 80’s and use to this day.

For an abstract thinker spoken language is only about 25% of the communication process and the other 75% is based on a wide variety of cues.  Just a quick simple example, if someone is spinning you an untruth look at the hairs on their arms.  If they are standing up, you’re being spun.  It’s an anatomical reaction.  If the hair is smooth against the skin there is truth.  Anyway I’m explaining empathy, not teaching NLP.

These are concepts that don’t sit well into rigid cognitive beliefs systems, a natural trait of “concrete” thinkers.  I only raise this part because when I left the counselling professions I entered the world of policy analysts surrounding myself by concrete thinkers.  To most policy analyst’s the world is pretty black and white.  It’s difficult to write a “grey” policy.  The very nature of government policies is to eliminate those grey areas.  Transitioning into that kind of groupthink proved to be more difficult than I had initially given it credit for.  It caught up with me later.  I was a better therapist than policy analyst.Continue reading “Opening Your Own Door”

The Awakening

Alphabet of Despair

Abandoned by friends,
Abandoned by wife,
Abandoned by children,
Abandoned by life.

Betrayed by his feelings,
Betrayed by his drive,
Betrayed by his body,
Betrayed can’t survive.

Captured by torture,
Captured by loss,
Captured by drugs,
Captured by sauce.

Destroyed by his blindness,
Destroyed by his lust,
Destroyed by his ignorance,
Destroyed he is dust.

Ended by sorrow,
Ended by grief,
Ended by loneliness,
Ended life brief.

Terry Wiens – March 2005

CONFESSION – When you have two cups of water in the pot and it’s boiling while you are Googling how to get the buffering agent out of prescription analgesics you start to realize what depression is.   That’s the moment of awareness that successful suicides miss.  I’m not sure if I was lucky, insightful or too stubborn to succumb.  That’s how deeply I was mired in my depression while maintaining the facade that everything was fine.  I was teetering on that balance beam of other people perspectives while trying to live my life based on their expectations of what I should be.

The short-term pain of accepting a truth is much better than the long term pain of believing an illusion
The truth will change your path…or kill you, your choice

I had become so adept at fooling people about my own feelings I was now convincing myself that what I was doing was “normal”.  I couldn’t see the truth let alone accept it.  It took a combination of events and the recognition of a good friend to really shake me out of the illusion I was living.  I was one cocktail of prescriptions away from accepting the illusion.

I have a lifetime of compartmentalizing myself to make things work for whatever situation I was in.  I had never really put the sum of all my parts together into one package.  I have had that idea floating in the distance mist of my beliefs for many years but it was always one of those periphery types of things.  When you tried to look directly at it, it wasn’t there.  A prime example of this was Allan and Terry.

All the years I worked in psychiatry I used my middle name, Allan.  The only place Allan really existed was in my career as a mental health therapist and came into existence in 1976.  At the end of each work day Terry reemerged.  People that knew me in those days could attest to the difference between Allan and Terry.  I had nicely split those two entities and it worked well for me for many years.  This may sound a little esoteric however Allan had always walked on crutches and was never encumbered with access issues.  He was accepted for a whole world of different reasons.  He ceased to exist in 1990 but there were ghosts of his insights buried in the clippings of my belief system.Continue reading “The Awakening”

Introspection on Perception

Reflection or Refraction

I look in the mirror and what do I see,
The reflection there, that can’t be me,
Others see what they want me to be,
From the reflection that’s there I want to flee.

Who can say why Anthony Bourdain took his own life when a perceived success was knocking on his door?  Most of us have an idea of what others see in us but very few know how we see ourselves.  This had to be true of Anthony.  I enjoyed his adventures and his perceptions of the world however there was something Anthony saw differently.

His life wasn’t easy by his own admission.  He lived with our perception which can make it easy to avoid talking about the inner machinations we have to live with.  It is very difficult to survive the trauma’s of life Anthony went through on his way to success and then express your true feelings to those who admire your strength.  I believe this was Anthony’s curse.Continue reading “Introspection on Perception”

The Winding Road of Life

“Let us never know what old age is.  Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years” – Ausonius

With the exception of some birds twittering outside it is very quiet however it is only 5:30 in the morning and for some reason I am awake.  It’s grey but refreshed.  It rained sometime in the night and natures water cleansed some of the earth.  We need some rain to help cut back on the threat and presence of the summer forrest fires.  Water can be so cleansing and represents life or renewal.

Many years ago today my mothers waters also ran and I came into this world.  It was the day of my birth.  May 31, Gemini through and through.  I celebrate this as my “arrival day” however in true Gemini style I celebrate my birthday in another four weeks.  Four weeks following my third birthday is when I was diagnosed with polio and the person that was became the person who was to be.

I have no idea who that little person that came into the world may have been if I had not contracted polio but I am well aware of the person I have become.  I am very good at deductive reasoning and all I have to do is compare my personalty to that of my five siblings to recognize the differences.  They are all very concrete, linear thinkers while I am very much an abstract lateral thinker.

Small black and white personal picture of me as a baby with a tiny curl of hair on the top of my head
Baby Terry

I can’t say with a 100% certainty how much of that difference is attributable to nature versus nurture but I grew up in a hospital (nature) while my siblings grew up in a family setting (nurture).  I suspect my development is partly from growing up in an environment (hospital) where there were no real definitive answers to so many issues while in the family setting it was basically yes or no.  So my upbringing by so many standards (except mine) was anything but normal.

I arrived early in the morning so maybe that’s why I am up so early today.  Perhaps on some sub-conscience level the sound of mother earth’s water released during the night triggered some memory of my mother’s water breaking announcing my arrival.  I do know the person I started out as arrived early in the morning many years ago but the person I became was born three years later.  It was almost like having been in a cocoon for three years.  I could ask myself why, with three other siblings at the time, I was the only one to contract polio but that is really irrelevant.  Most of my family became other polio kids in the hospital.

By the time I was 16 I had lost five peers who would never see 16 while all my siblings had to deal with was the death of a family pet.  That goes a long way to the nature versus nurture developmental philosophy.  Somewhere deep down I made a commitment to each friend who never got half way through their teens to squeeze a bit of fun and experience into my life for them.  I believe I did that.  I don’t count my life by years but by the experiences I have enjoyed and there have been not only many but also very diversified.  My life experiences were never simple but always varied.Continue reading “The Winding Road of Life”

Starting the Story Anew…

“Until you make the subconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl G. Jung

The snow has just started so the earlier week stocking up proved valuable.  However on the positive side, snow on Vancouver Island generally means it will warm up and I have had my fill of the cold weather.  My obsession with having the news on in the background paid off so I made sure to stock up after seeing the 7 day forecast.  I don’t go out when it snows so this type of weather provides me with the time to reflect on my own thoughts.  So the more it snows the more time I have to return to the substance of the opening Carl Jung quote.

I entered this new year with two main goals.  One, find some form of assisted living arrangement and two, do something about my low grade depression that doesn’t involve more prescriptions.  I figured I’ve been dragging this depression around for almost 30 years so why start more pills.  Both of these goals are important and both will need careful planning but moving is external so I will focus on a place to live first.

Dealing with depression is internal so I can do some self assessments while I’m organizing a move.  I worked in psychiatry for twenty years so I think I know how to work through that.  Unfortunately I was in a situation for many, many years where “psycho-babble” was frowned upon and any discussion regarding feelings was considered bunk so when I left the profession I left emotional expression.

For me independence is almost a religious experience and to surrender any of it is like a Catholic giving up confession but I recognize the necessity.  Acceptance of moving into an assisted living environment was a big step for me.  That acceptance has economic, physical and emotional impacts so I need to set the ground work myself.  One of the contributing factors to this decision was my recent hospitalization.  If living in an apartment community where there are supports will keep me out of hospital, all the better.  So imagine my disappointment when the feds/provinces failed to reach a new health agreement last month.

Provincial governments across the country lost out on an additional $11.5 billion meant to target mental health and homecare (much neglected areas) but the provinces didn’t like having terms dictated.  I don’t know about you but I was raised in a world where if your bargaining with someone then everybody has input until a compromise is reached.  Instead we seem to be drifting further apart.  Whatever happened to the centrist nature of Canada?Continue reading “Starting the Story Anew…”

Anger and Apathy

Today is just a rant to get something off my chest.  Life can be a bitch to get some of this frustration out there when you have become like white noise to almost everyone around you.  Something happened two days ago and it raises numerous flags for me.

We have #blacklivesmatter, we #bluelivesmatter, and even an #alllivesmatter but I am left with the impression following this incident that there is an underbelly of belief out there that some lives are more valuable than others.  What am I ranting about, the planned, announced and completed murder of 19 disabled individuals, leaving 26 others injured and where is the outrage.  The same outrage that created the movements mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.

The perpetrator of this horrendous event had been in custody after submitting documentation that he could “obliterate 470 disabled people” to the police.  He turned himself, an action I would interpret as a cry for help and they still choose to release him on March 2.  So we now have disabled killing other disabled, in part, due to a disparity of service provision.

If those closest to us don't get why will anybody else?
If those closest to us don’t get why will anybody else?

This is indicative of a societal thought process, “groupthink“.  In some situations it can manifest itself through terrorism but it can also manifest itself as “disability erasure“.  We begin to marginalized based on productivity and we do it to ourselves.  Although some of my peers may deny it, the truth is approach a Paralympian and congratulate him on his efforts at the “special Olympics“.  Two completely different events but one that inadvertently marginalizes the other.

And now we have done it again.  If this had of been a facility for veterans there would be world-wide condemnation.  But it wasn’t, it was an institute servicing persons with developmental disabilities.  I don’t hear much indignation over this one and that just leads me to wonder how much we have segmented ourselves…

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”