You Gotta Know When To Fold’Em

I’m not one to talk about the past too often unless it brings fond memories, which for the most part I have many. The topic is not that far in the past that it doesn’t still give me residual pangs of hurt that feel as recent as yesterday at times. But I wouldn’t be willing to discuss it openly if it didn’t offer some level of experiential wisdom for anyone who may be facing similar circumstances.

You see it would be approximately 5 years ago that I made the decision to leave my marriage. The marriage was a result of a very long relationship in which it seemed just natural and right to transition to the next step. There is no real love story behind it, rather quite the opposite. In fact if you were to have only had the experience of knowing me more recently, the idea that I would have consorted with the mundane would seem absurd. However, let us return to the Cece of Christmas’s past. Proposals, marriage and the filling of new homes with children is what everyone was doing at that time. It’s what everyone was doing around us. I’m unclear why my mother’s voice wasn’t piping in at this time saying “If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you?” But in the case of marriage and settling down, the world around you is giving you a life jacket and pushing you off the ledge. I admit its easy to blame societal pressures to conform; I don’t deny that at that time I was all in. And when I say “all in,” I mean I wasn’t able to foresee my life being anything different than what it was. My vision was exceptionally narrow and reinforced by the baggage I had brought with me from my previous abusive relationship.

Often when marriages and relationships dissolve its only natural in many instances to look at the other person and place the blame on them and their shortcomings. That’s not to say that many partners are 100% to blame and do terribly selfish and hurtful things in which the other played no role other than love someone who didn’t deserve them. And in my case, it went both ways, however its never fair to dive into the details without the other’s ability to share their perspective. And I’d be open to that but he hasn’t answered my calls in three years.

I’m sorry to disappoint you and advise this post is not about my shitty marriage that didn’t work out. In all likelihood, I may devote a whole wine fuelled podcast on the subject, but until then I’ll uphold some integrity. I’m grateful that I am alive and well today living my life in the most authentic and honest way. What a difference 5 years can do for you when you make the best decision of your life.

Which leads me to the topic of how I reclaimed my life when it began to gain momentum in a direction that wasn’t a genuine path for who I am as a person. I believe for many people there are “tells” just like in a game of poker. You see just like the game of poker we often bluff when we aren’t holding a good hand; getting caught up in the risk taking and potentially losing it all. Often when the momentum has us pulled in, there is no consideration for the long game. The more we begin to lose, the more our “tells” come out as the anxiety and desperation begins to build. You see, when you keep seeking the rush of winning and ignore the consequences of losing, we’re left in the emotional poor house. At the tail end of my losing streak, I admittedly had lots of tells, but I also gave the illusion that I had lots of chips in my pocket.

Poker-playing AI threatens to unseat a raft of Texas Hold'em champions -  ExtremeTech

So its no surprise that when I landed on my ass, my emotional poor house was located on the corner of Despair avenue and Hopeless Street. I found myself in a deep, destructive depression that I could not for the life of me dig myself out of. I was erratic in my choices and behavior, and admittedly had considered running my car into bridge barrier one evening as I was screaming at the top of my lungs at the universe in anger. That event haunts me until this day because while it was over 5 years ago, the emotions, my surroundings, what I was wearing, the car indicator lights are as clear as if I was there right now in this moment.

Bridge Underpass Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock

You ask what could have brought me to such a place of despair?

I can trace it all the way to the beginning when I first met my ex-husband. I was a single mother at that time with a one and a half year old. I was fresh out of an extremely horrifically abusive relationship with her biological father that left me in ruins emotionally, physically and psychologically. I was 22 years old and I was not equipped with the self awareness and emotional maturity to tackle the damage- in fact I was oblivious to it. I ended up settling after a year with the first real boyfriend I had since leaving my abusive relationship. When I say anyone that was nice to me and wasn’t physically abusive towards me was my standard at that time. The relationship brought many good things regardless of my basic standards whereby I returned to University and got my Social Work Degree from the University of Victoria. My daughter grew a close and loving relationship with a man who accepted her as his daughter whereby they remain very close. I couldn’t have asked for a better father for her and for that I will be forever grateful. He provided us with an extended family and sense of belonging that I had not experienced coming from such a small family myself. He remained committed to our little family and moved to where I got my first Social Work Job in Northern Alberta, leaving his family behind and beginning a life as a unit in a strange small town. Life was looking up as it was during the Alberta Oil Boom and Fort McMurray promised wealth and stability for us as a family. The momentum of my life appeared to be moving in the right direction. I was adequately distracted by my own ambitions and self actualizing a life that was ultimately the way it’s supposed to be in the naively idealistic sense.

Then one day his vision began to blur which quickly turned into vertigo, precipitating what we thought was a stomach flu. We went weeks attending the hospital and trying to treat his stomach flu. I knew something was terribly wrong, and finally demanded he be admitted to hospital otherwise I was approaching the media. Through further testing he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 25. He left Fort McMurray to recover with his family thousands of miles away, where I ultimately decided that I would help him get through this and we would make it work.

It was a devastating blow in every aspect.

This wasn’t part of the plan. In fact it shattered all our plans, and dreams which were left in pieces at our feet. Despite my rage and the unfairness of it all, I quickly resorted back to what I knew best. I had been here before and did what I thought was best in crisis; which was to ignore the emotional impact and take care of those who weren’t as seemingly strong as I.

And there you have it. Mistake #1-Believing others don’t possess strength without you.

Poor Self-Esteem and Confidence can make the human spirit rely on others to validate importance and purpose where others who are in pain can fulfill these voids for us. The experiences/traumas responsible for planting those weeds of doubt in ourselves can be vast and complex. In my circumstances, it would be the trauma from domestic violence, the psychological and verbal abuse. I strongly believe that there is a strong sense of co-dependency created within these dynamics, whereby one enables the other. When done improperly, assuming the role as the “rock” can also perpetuate maladaptive inferiority roles for those who feel powerless with their diagnosis. And in regards to my marriage- I take accountability for succumbing to depending on being needed then feeling stifled years later by creating the culture of dependency.

How do we remedy this? Well I can’t say I was successful in doing it in my marriage otherwise I wouldn’t be speaking about a husband that is now an ex. But over the last 5 years since starting over, I have successfully committed to putting my physical and emotional health ahead of others. This often means, setting firm boundaries and expectations with loved ones and communicating my bottom line. At times it can appear intolerant, or lack empathy, however when our reasonings are given context it can be the most admirable lesson ever. Not everyone will understand this- but know it is for us as individuals to actualize our strengths, and I see no better way than to demonstrate it by walking the walk.

So this leads me to my second mistake.

Mistake #2- Using others crisis as a distraction to avoid my own shit.

I feel like I take the cake with this one, because I could have picked a more appropriate career as a social worker to enable me in doing this. Nonetheless, do you ever find yourself immersed in others lives, being over involved in problems that aren’t your own, and coming to the rescue of some damsel in distress. I was this person, and counted on filling my world with a plethora of noise to avoid the loneliness and pain I was feeling. My bucket continued to run empty as the fruits of my perceived “strength” went unacknowledged or appreciated by my partner, and overutilized by others. I had created the norm and the illusion that I was the “Rock,” someone who had their shit in a pile. That was my doing, because if I eluded to otherwise people would stop running to me with their noise and I’d really be alone. You see, he was increasingly declining in health and struggling with the neurological complications of Multiple Sclerosis. He was angrier, moodier, and more depressed. Intimacy or signs of romantic connection were not reciprocated and I found other ways to appease my needs to feel a connection and needed.

It wasn’t until I left my marriage that I truly felt what it was like to be alone as my home was loaded up and squished into a small 2 bedroom condo. You see at that time I had nothing available to give therefore the noise stopped and the distractions saw no value in what I had to offer during this period. There were few calls or invitations to reach out and help me move or keep me company. It was then that I saw the value in standing alone in the deafening silence and appreciating the space required in order to redirect all my focus inwards. Often we look at isolation or being seemingly forgotten as a reflection of not being worthy or loved- when in fact its Solitude that is being given to us. So the next time you are feeling lonely or overlooked, take the silence as an opportunity to give your soul some good advice and leave the unnecessary distractions at the door.

Mistake #3-Believing that others opinions mattered

I was completely debilitated by what I thought people would think if I made the decision to leave. Never mind that the circumstance were making me suicidal, but with no success in reaching out for extended family support, I was still left with an enormous amount of guilt. What kind of wife was I leaving her husband when he had MS. The only thing worse than me was the husband who left his dying wife with cancer for the cute blonde nurse that was hired to do the home care. I was worried about what they would say about me and how I would be perceived by choosing a chance at life again. What would my daughter think of me, who couldn’t even begin to understand what I was feeling. And why would she, I had managed to shield her from the majority of my unravelling. I was terrified by all the hurt that I would be placing on everyone around me.

Do you see Mistake #1 weaseling its way in here again?

What I realized in this process is that not one person who’s opinion I was worried about ever took the time to listen or ask if I needed support. I can’t believe I was worried about what this would mean for them and concerned that they would have to take over the responsibility of his care. I was actually worried that this would burden them and they would be angry with me that I had not tried hard enough or just endured longer. In the end it all worked itself out, which is a testament that when we walk away people have the ability to find a solution with or without us.

In hindsight, I wish I had been more kind to myself during this time. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the challenges we were facing could be tackled in isolation yet we were left with no other option. The marriage counseling along with the long list of personal coping strategies and personal sacrifice at the expense of my mental health had fallen flat. The fact that I’m explaining this further is my lingering “tell” that perhaps I still have some feelings of guilt to work through.

What awaited me on the other side of it all was the overwhelming support from my own family and close friends who knew there was a life out there for me. You see they had boundaries with regards to where they were willing to rejoin me again and even my daughter stood by my decision and me throughout it all.

Mistake #4- Not Doing it Sooner

I wish I had conjured the courage and wisdom it took to commence the decision to move ahead quicker that had been overdue. My days of bluffing no longer held a strategic purpose in my life and with a sense of relief, happily folded the cards I was dealt. Perhaps that ominous bridge barrier that originally symbolized an end for me, alternatively was the beacon of hope that life was worth living if I just changed the direction of my wheel.

Amen to that.

And while I don’t intend on stewing to much more on the mistakes of the past, I hope that in sharing them provoked some fruitful “What if’s” for you if you are facing a need for change. Whether you are facing a decision to get sober, ending a toxic friendship or leaving an abusive relationship-know that you always have choice to change the direction.

Begin to free yourself at once by doing all that is possible with the means you have, and as you proceed in this spirit the way will open for you to do more.
~ Robert Collier

Please go follow my Instagram @cece_a_broadtalez

A Fluffy Birth Story: Overcoming the Hurdles of Fertility

I’ve never been a woman that has based her life on her ticking biological clock, especially in regards to my own maturity or lack there of in the eyes of some. I haven’t always embraced my spirited personality qualities, but thankfully I’ve found a sense of confident acceptance with those qualities,and are here to stay. I’m sure I m not alone in this as I’ve experienced close friends evolution into parenthood who would naturally grow weary and tired of certain activities that involved all night music festivals and furry costumes. I on the other hand was just getting started, and while I too have retired my fairy wings, I could be talked into a “for old times sake”, scenario. The arm twisting involved I imagine would be minimal. You see, I’ve always subscribed to the habits of saying yes to anything that ignites excitement and thrill in my being. One could suggest that my vice is thrill that is delivered through a syringe of soul stimulating experiences, sparking a fiesta of synaptic fireworks of pleasure.

Fearless curiousity is what drives this beastly vessel into the abyss of life!

I’d be lying however if I didn’t admit that at one point I tried to assimilate to the societal norms of women my age. It had a lot to do with finding myself more and more on my own and feeling the need to stay connected with my evolving peer network. I missed them and I missed having shared interests that we no longer seemed to have. You see my story didn’t pan out the way it was supposed to, and everyday I’m thankful it didn’t! I’d be miserable in a prison of life without love, passion, and not to mention glorious mind blowing sex.

But to be perfectly honest almost 5 years ago I left a 15 year marriage in which I produced no more children due to my ex-husbands multiple sclerosis diagnosis. It wasn’t becuase we weren’t able to have children to my knowledge, but I feared the idea then of having a husband debilitated by MS and a new baby. It was a daunting concept and not a step I was brave enough to take as I had experienced single parenthood and struggle before with my daughter. I had essentially wrapped my head around not ever having or wanting more children.

But then life likes to throw you a curve ball or two, and mine came in the form of a new special someone. Interestingly enough, when we began dating, the conversation of children came up and he too had stated he was not interested in having children. I couldn’t have been more excited as I had found the yin to my yang who was also fearless, free and looking for adventure. Early on I envisioned us for the next 10-15 years acting like couple of crazy kids in love with no anchors or responsibilities tying us down. We would look around us and share a sigh of relief that we didn’t have the same lives as everyone else our ages. The world was our oyster and we were ready to conquer and fuck shit up together. The Slim to this Queen, Beyonce to her Jay-Z just living a life of sin, just me and my boyfriend.

Until we fell deeply and utterly in love.

Love will do funny things to a person. Like make you all of a sudden want to procreate at the age of 40 even though you have just sent your one and only child off to university. IVF and fertility treatments start to be considered as a priority over the plastic surgery you’ve been researching and saving up for. In fact, this desire can grow so strong that it becomes the only adventure you want to go on. Holding babies and smelling their sweet breath now provided the same exhilaration that the PK Sound Base used to give me. Furthermore with that being said romping three times a day and 7 nights a week at the swanky Boudoir a la Home Bedroom, a hedonistic vacation it is.

But as I’m fully aware, you can’t always control the story we believe we are meant to live. So after 3 years of trying to conceive and a referral to the fertility clinic, the adventure of parenthood has fallen flat. We have experienced all of the ups and downs privately associated with the disappointment. My partner had already anticipated the emotional spiral from myself in which I often interpreted as lack of faith in my ability to carry a a baby. Respectively though, he was already used to my raw and deeply felt pain associated with the disappointments I had become accustomed too over my lifetime, quipped with unrealized dreams.

He was just being realistic. He too has had his share of disappointments whereby he falls on the other end of the spectrum of often never expecting things to turn out the way they should. I’ve often been critical of this quality because from a dreamers perspective, I’m a believer in manifesting positive outcomes. His realism is what protects his heart and keeps him strong, and in hindsight was only interested in protecting mine too.

Accompanied with heartache and a sense of loss, we turned our attention elsewhere in the hopes of reclaiming that original unique confidence we had in the early years of our relationship.

So we introduced the idea of getting a puppy.

Some would say perhaps as equally as challenging as a baby at times, and others would suggest a good “starter kit” before children. My only fear at this time is what if I get both? The baby would have to go back where it came from, because I’m pretty sure I’m completely in love with our New American Akita that we named Geisha.

All jokes aside we decided to take on our little “baby starter kit” by choosing probably one of the most challenging breeds of dogs. If you are not familiar with American Akita’s here is a bit of insight:

The Akita was never bred to live or work in groups, rather to be alone or in a pair. The Akita is happy to be an only dog, and can be aggressive toward other dogs not in his family group. Properly socialized, an Akita can learn to tolerate other animals, but will most likely try to keep his status as top dog at any cost. The Akita is loyal and affectionate toward his family and friends, but quite territorial about his home and aloof with strangers. They are excellent watchdogs and will only bark when there is truly something amiss.

The large size of the Akita can make him difficult to control and so is not a breed suitable for everyone. He has extreme strength and endurance and needs dedicated training to help him properly channel energy. Being an intelligent breed, however, the Akita can easily become bored with training. He thrives when challenged and given a job to do.

So just as we would be attending our prenatal appointments/classes, we are anxiously awaiting Geisha’s obedience classes. At the ripe age of 8 weeks old and weighing in at approximately a five year old child I already believe she is in the top percentile of her age group.

But who’s bragging. Most definitely this mama right here!

She has the qualities of her mom and dad. The intelligence and beauty of her mother and the confident boldness of her daddy. We couldn’t have created a more perfect little girl. Try to tell me otherwise.

And while you may already be thinking that I’ve completely come undone here me out. I may have minimized my hurt and disappointment significantly with regards to our fertility issues. Its a subject thats often brought up whereby the pressure to produce is on and its not as a result of not trying. There are deeper emotions attached to not being able to conceive, in addition to creating strain in relationships.

I came across an article that hit a few nails on the head for me with regards to those complicating stress factors involved with fertility issues and relationships.

The Impact of Infertility on Your Self-Esteem

My Body Has Failed Me.

“My body has failed me.” When forced to face that reality, it’s very common to feel as if your body has failed you in a basic way.

We know that one in 8 women will struggle to conceive. You just never expect that you might be that one. When forced to face that reality, it’s very common to feel as if your body has failed you in a basic way. It’s a hit to your self-esteem. That feeling of failure can often produce anxiety, regret – for not seeking treatment or answers sooner, or a sense of self-blame. It also produces a sense of shame which can lead to isolation and even depression.

Why Hide The Struggle?

In a culture that highly prizes family-building, couples who struggle to conceive or to carry a baby to term often report feeling frustrated with the assumptions and questions friends and family have for them regarding when they plan to start a family. Confiding in those closest to them often yields unsolicited advice, intrusive questions and horror stories of other couples’ struggles. When one is feeling hurt and raw about the inability to conceive, it often feels wiser or safer to protect oneself and not share at all or to let others assume that she doesn’t plan on having children. Keeping a painful secret this big can feel like another blow to your self-esteem.

In fact, that same survey found that one-third of patients reported that their “ability to confide in others” decreased when they started to struggle to get pregnant and more than half of all the couples said it was “easier just to tell people that they were not planning to have children.” Being inauthentic about your hopes and dreams with folks you care about can be yet another hit to your already-teetering sense of self.

I Feel Depressed. Am I Depressed?

That need to guard oneself coupled with the retreating in isolation and shame can seriously impact one’s mental and emotional health. According to Dr. Ali Domar, “40% of women had significant symptoms of anxiety or depression at their very first visit to an infertility specialist, and the percentage increases as the complexity of treatment increases.” Additionally, the symptoms of depression rise for many women after they’ve experienced an unsuccessful IVF cycle as well. Depression is yet another serious blow to your self-esteem. Fragile emotions, layered in with hormones and fertility medications all come together to make you feel awful about yourself and your circumstances.

Now My Marriage is Struggling.

Many couples reveal that the tension of infertility has created a lack of spontaneity, feelings of unattractiveness, and difficulty maintaining emotional and sexual intimacy.

When a couple is struggling to achieve the dream of building a family together and emotions are raw, it can strain the marriage. Sex becomes routine and clinical. Conversations can be tender or downright inflammatory. When you add the layers of fatigue from other folks’ often unwanted input and the inclination toward isolation or depression, it’s a recipe for marital discord. While many patients report that the struggles to create a family have drawn them closer as a couple, many couples also reveal that the tension of infertility has created a lack of spontaneity, feelings of unattractiveness, and difficulty maintaining emotional and sexual intimacy. Those feelings are,  again, more hits to your self-esteem. It’s not impossible to overcome this tension but it definitely requires time and attention to each other’s needs through a supportive connection with your spouse.

Where There is Fur There is Love

So at this stage I’m sure you are probably feeling duped into believing that this was going to be a fluffy funny post about puppies and rainbows I assure you it still is! I could not feel happier at this point despite our difficulties to conceive. What I have come to realize is that giving love to any life whether it be animal or human can open up parts of us and invite healing in where its most needed. The idea of caring for something that is 100% counting on you to provide it with not only its basic needs but nurture its overall growth and learning can provide the same or similar satisfaction.

Without further Adieu, I’m happy to share the beginning of our fur baby parenting journey. Brace yourself for many more proud parent fur baby posts as we embrace the joy that this little gal has already brought to our lives.

Here is our “Fur Baby Birth Story”

Make sure you Follow Geisha’s Journey on Instagram: GeishatheAkitaGuida

Covid Brain: I Need Answers, Please Speak Slowly and use Small Words

It was exactly 3 month ago that I became symptomatic with Covid-19 and would later that week be a confirmed case after being tested at a drive-thru testing center here in Calgary Alberta, Canada. I remember that day I fell ill, because I joked to myself that perhaps at the fabulous age of 42, I had maybe over done it after attending 2 social gatherings. It wasn’t abnormal for me to require at least a week to recover typically after a good ol’ night of over consuming the godly yet deadly grapes of the earth.

I was working from home already that week and after three days in a row of 8 hour long naps, confusion, body aches and headaches that worsened in severity I realized it was most definitely the “Rona.” Thankfully I had already been self-isolating, but had to make the call to work to deliver the bad news. Not only did I have to tell my already strained unit they were going to be down a worker, I also had to contact everyone that had attended the outdoor tea party I had thrown at my house that same weekend. It was embarrassing to say the least but thankfully we would later find out that no one had become ill as a result of my illness. Aside from being relatively ill and stuck in my bedroom for 10 days, the two weeks of isolation after that I would say to date was the easiest part that I have endured thus far.

You see, no one is able to prepare you for the complicated variables after the initial diagnosis. Not only can it be challenging to return back to work, whereby do you have to repeat the Provincial Health System directions at least 3-4 times then await approval from the varying levels and then be told to repeat yourself another 3-4 times. Lets not even start on receiving the daily calls from the contact tracers who do not seem to have the information that you spoke with someone earlier that day. But for some reason they also want to take you through 15 minutes of questions only to be told something different than the person you spoke to 3 hours before told you to do. At the end of the day, I’m typically very good at doing what I’m told but I’d have to say I was left feeling less confident in what they had to offer me in terms of advice.

I remember when I returned back to work several weeks later, feeling happy to get back into a routine and be productive again. I’ve fallen victim a few times during this pandemic with the assumption that being back at work is going to produce familiar feelings that give that long awaited dose of normalcy or familiarity. However, my assumptions have fallen short as there is nothing normal about doing child protection in a COVID world, let alone doing it while recovering from COVID.

So it should not be surprising when I tell you in my last naive attempt to resume my regular scheduled programming that I fell hard and fast. It led me to the decision that I had to make for myself. It’s been 3 months since I tested positive for COVID and I have been sick 3 times with the exact same symptoms as before. Extreme fatigue, severe headaches, shortness of breath/tightness in my chest, and intermittent dry cough. The physical ailments are one thing, the mental health is a whole other challenge. I had to wave my white flag and take a lengthy leave from my job in order to heal, however remain at somewhat of a loss as to how to do this.

You see I’m well versed in how to treat and manage my mental health when I’m struggling in that aspect. I know how to implement a regiment of exercise, therapy, vitamins and nutrition as well as a healthy work life balance. I’m also well versed how to recover from a flu, illness, or physical ailment that I’m presented with. So perhaps from the outside its seems quite simple to overcome an illness that is being presented as “the common flu” when in actuality its just not the case for everyone. Just ask the people that have died from it.

So you can see where my confusion lies as for whatever reason I don’t have a clear action plan yet as to how I’m going to use this time to heal. All I’m armed with is the conviction that my cognitive functioning and body is telling me that we are in some uncharted territory and I’m at sea without a compass. In my attempt to seek out answers from my family doctor and the Provincial COVID Health link I have not been provided much information around whats happening to me. Since my initial diagnosis, I have presented at hospital twice, and received ECG’s, blood work, and chest X-Rays but no MRI or brain scan. My research has left me with little direction as the resources available speak to either health specific or alternatively mental health specific. But what happens if they are interconnected and are neurological in nature, which means an umbrella approach to assessment and treatment?

Seeing as I’m not one to sit around and be patient with essentially anything in my life, this predicament is no different. Therefore it seems that I have some work to do when it comes to advocating for my health and taking it into my own hands in order to press the health care system in catching up with the times. So I have quickly began to go down the rabbit hole researching information on the medical case studies involving the neurological effects of Covid-19.

I came across an article in Medical News Today which discusses how viral infections can impact the brain even if the if the virus has not directly infected brain tissue. For example, inflammation of the brain, or encephalitis, most often results from a viral infection. These infections usually cause mild, flu-like symptoms, but when they affect the brain, the issues can be severe.

Politics and personal perspectives aside, I think history can be a valid starting point in order to establish some sort of reference that’s not based in a conspiracy or political agenda.

What we do know is that in the 1918 flu pandemic, there was an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, or “sleeping sickness.” Between 1917 and 1927, millions of people likely developed this issue worldwide. Many of the survivors experienced lasting behavioral changes and extreme lethargy. Some lived in catatonic states.

Previously, some researchers have observed a link between infections with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV — the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS, respectively — and signs of damage within the central nervous system.

Are you scared yet?

While there is no evidence of anyone living in a catotonic state due to Covid I can attest to feeling the extreme lethargy and some odd behavioral changes. If I wasn’t so in tune already with my pre-existing mental health condition, I could have quite easily mistaken it for just that with the addition of my physician attributing it to depression, anxiety or a mood disorder.

A study was completed with regards to Brain Inflammation in the U.K. at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery that described the experiences of 43 people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 between the group had a wide age range of 16–85 years.

The study team analyzed both the clinical features and the results of brain scans and laboratory tests, and it is the first to have done so in this context.

The report details 10 cases of temporary brain dysfunction, or encephalopathies, with delirium. These patients were mostly over 50 and presented with confusion and disorientation, with one patient experiencing psychosis.

A further 12 patients experienced inflammation of the brain. The majority of these people experienced a rare disorder called acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which is triggered by viral infections and leads to damage of the myelin sheaths around nerves.

The study went on to say that “ADEM is more common in children and that they typically see around one adult with the condition per month. During the period that the study was concerned with, this rate increased to one case per week. This is concerning, as ADEM can progress to multiple sclerosis.”

The team also found reports of nerve damage. Specifically, there were seven reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks healthy nerve networks. This syndrome is often associated with a prior infection and also involves damage to myelin.

The finding is consistent with a previous report, from Italy, of five cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in COVID-19 patients.

“We identified a higher-than-expected number of people with neurological conditions such as brain inflammation, which did not always correlate with the severity of respiratory symptoms. We should be vigilant and look out for these complications in people who have had COVID-19.”

– Co-senior author Dr. Michael Zandi

The team also reported eight cases of stroke, which confirms previous findings. These cases are thought to result from the “sticky blood” found in COVID-19 patients.

The remaining patients had other neurological complaints, including dysfunction of the cranial nerve and a brain abscess.

Immune response gone wrong

Interestingly, some patients in the study did not experience any severe respiratory symptoms, making their neurological symptoms the first and major presentation of COVID-19.

The authors say that doctors should look out for possible neurological symptoms in people with suspected COVID-19.

“Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes. People recovering from the virus should seek professional health advice if they experience neurological symptoms,” says co-lead author Ross Paterson, Ph.D.

In eight of the patients, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord was tested for the virus, and no evidence of it was found. This suggests that neurological symptoms of COVID-19 are not a result of a direct attack on the nervous system.

Understanding exactly how an infection with the new coronavirus causes these symptoms will require more research. However, it seems likely that the neurological consequences of COVID-19 result from an immune response gone awry, rather than the virus itself.

One of the lingering effects that I have personally continued to experience along with the severe headaches and lethargy is the loss of taste and smell.

See “Lost Smell and Taste Hint COVID-19 Can Target the Nervous System

While the media and health officials report that COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease that attacks the lungs, but it has also manifested seemingly unrelated symptoms, such as a loss of taste and smell or memory loss, that can persist for months beyond the initial diagnosis. These oddities suggest a neurological source. 

It has been reported that at least two patients also developed strange behaviors shortly after being discharged from the hospital.

“One woman, as described in the paper, repeatedly donned and took off her coat, and began hallucinating lions and monkeys inside her home. Another woman became drowsy and ultimately needed emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain.”

Thankfully I have not come across any lions, tigers or bears, Oh MY! But have experienced confusion and episodes of overwhelming panic whereby I’ unable to process the source or trigger. This can be daunting and imbarssing especially in a professional role like mine as a social worker who is typicaly the one moderating panic and confusion in others.

The authors of the study are now pushing for larger, possibly global efforts to track neurological symptoms. Zandi tells The Guardian that health professionals should begin incorporating cognitive function into their patient assessments, while his coauthor Ross Paterson, a neurodegenerative specialist at University College London, says early diagnosis is key. “Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause,” Paterson tells Reuters. “Doctors need to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes.”

Ultimately the general consesus out there is that the full long-term effects of these symptoms may not be realized for years, says Zandi. Many patients are currently too sick to place inside brain scanners, The Guardian reports, meaning the full extent of neurological symptoms remains unknown. In addition, some changes may be more subtle and happen over time.

In a seperate Reuters article, Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at Western University who was not involved in the study, expressed concern over their potential to severely affect the quality of life for recovering patients.

“My worry is that we have millions of people with COVID-19 now. And if in a year’s time we have 10 million recovered people, and those people have cognitive deficits . . . then that’s going to affect their ability to work and their ability to go about activities of daily living,” Owen says.

My hope would be that going forward that both the Canadian Federal and Provincial government will begin applying the research and studies into our present health care approach to Covid -19 as a part of their medical practice and assessment. I believe as the numbers continue to climb more people will be looking for answers. In the meantime, us “long haulers” may just have to pave the way with the wisdom we carry as Covid-19 survivors. From one Long Hauler to another, Keep your Head Up!

Surviving Social Work in Pandemic: A Practice Model in Staying Well

I had created this presentation for my unit about 2 months into the Pandemic. Probably the only time ever in my long career to take on an ass kissing task like this. Admittedly, I was struggling to get my footing and I knew that this slow period needed to be spent in a meaningful type of way. So the social worker in me decided to social work myself and put this helpful guide together for others alike.

Approaching Wellness From a Canadian Indigenous Framework

The Medicine Wheel: Organizing our Wellness

How Can We Lead or Support Our Teams if We Are Struggling too?

“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

Lets Begin

Spirituality

“Solitude is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Spirituality as a Support to Mourning and Grieving; Identify those losses in your life and all that you are missing. Create idea pin boards, lists of restaurants, places you want to travel, bucket list plans, or even festivals you want to attend. These will all contribute to a sense of hope by changing your lens that some of these losses are just temporary and better times are ahead.

Connect with others who are passionate about the same issues.  Whether it’s your self-care buddies, community of care, or a local organization or campaign you are volunteering for, surround yourself with people who can understand how you feel. Venting alone doesn’t help, combine complaining with action! Get into the practice of walking away during your Venting/Complaining Sessions with action items of how to constructively do something about the things we want to see changed.

Put good deeds back into the universe—directly. Focus on creating that human connection, on giving back and showing others that there is still kindness in the world. Balance your self-care with a healthy dose of kindness activism.

Curate your methods of staying informed. Truly evaluate how much news you are absorbing and be mindful of how the news affects you—physically, mentally and emotionally. Almost two years ago, I decided to stop getting my news from television. Turn off all but one of the push notifications on my phone in order to limit interruptions during the day.

Give myself permission to cry. Anticipate the ebb and flow of emotions that go along with the adaptation processes.  Feeling sad, disheartened, or downright hopeless at times is a commonality among us all.

Incorporate Prayer/Meditation/Breathing Exercise’s in the morning and at night if you are struggling to manage the anxiety, worries and restlessness.

Consider What’s in Front of You. Pay attention to what is simply visibly present around us that blesses us each day

Examples:
Did you tackle a recipe that you’ve been meaning to try, or bake a cake from scratch that actually turned out?
Did you hit the lottery and able to find Lysol Wipes or toilet paper at the store?
Were you able to finally transition from your day pajamas to wearing pants for your zoom/skype meetings?
Is your family safe with you at home?
Is the isolation and social distancing giving you more time to make room for other things that never had time for before?

Don’t minimize your accomplishments as small as they may seemingly be.

Try some for yourself!

And Most Importantly…Don’t Forget to Laugh

Physically:

“Did my FitBit  really only count 932 steps today?”

•Create a space in your home to work in(outside of your bedroom), and make it your own by filling it with things that bring you joy. Ensure your set up properly so you have all the items you need from forms, technology, and equipment.

•Ensure you are taking wellness breaks by getting up, walking, cycling, gardening or spending time in your drive-way chatting to the neighbor across the street. Included in this may also look like trips to the fridge for a snack. These steps count!

•Schedule time for Fitness in your day: Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete, now is the time to get moving. Not only will it improve your energy, but boost your immune system in times we need to stay healthy.

•Now is the time to take your vitamins and eat as much nutrient rich foods as you can. Sun is also a great source of Vitamin D- Take your computer and sit in the sun when you can, to avoid an unnecessary trip to the pharmacy.

You’re Hella Canadian if you grew up with these two!

Free Fitness Resources/Apps

´1. RUNTASTIC

Running, jogging, biking – it doesn’t matter how you train, keeping track of your workouts is essential. Runtastic allows you to set goals, uses a built-in GPS to record routes in real-time, and even lets you share your successes with your friends.

PERKS OF RUNTASTIC

The app syncs with Apple Music to offer high tempo playlists for true musical motivation

By tracking your mileage, Runtastic guages what wear and tear your trainers are enduring

´2. ASANA REBEL: YOGA AND FITNESS

You don’t have to be a full-blown ‘yogi’ to use Asana Rebel. This handy little fitness app offers the perfect introduction to the regime. Rather than bombarding you with annoying notifications, you get a green dot on the built-in calendar when you train. You also get two new workouts every day so you’ll never get stuck doing the same old routine.

PERKS OF ASANA REBEL

When you first login to the app – using Facebook or an email – you’ll see a screen that asks you to ‘unlock’ the premium version. Don’t be fooled. You can still use the free option by simply clicking the exit button at the top of the screen.

´3. MYTRAINING WORKOUT TRACKER LOG

MyTraining packs a selection of helpful training videos, a routine log, and a handy calendar feature, but that’s not all. Technology may have come a long way, but you just can’t beat support from world class coaches. That’s exactly what this tracking app offers.

PERKS OF MYTRAINING

Got a burning question about your workout? Simply open the chat feature and speak to a certified coach in minutes.

´4. MY VIRTUAL MISSION

Are you in need of some workout motivation? If your current exercise is less-than-inspiring, My Virtual Mission may be the app for you. Use it to create the virtual fitness route of your dreams – literally. If you can imagine a route, the app can create it.

PERKS OF MY VIRTUAL MISSION

If you have a desired route in mind, the app will tell you how many miles that is and set a goal for you.

When you’ve completed the route, you can even send a virtual postcard to your contacts to show off.

5. COUCH TO 5K RUNNER

The hardest part of any run is taking that first step. Couch to 5K offers running novices all the advice, support, and help they could possibly need. The NHS program claims to get people off the couch and running in just nine weeks.

PERKS OF COUCH TO 5K RUNNER

Great for easing you into your new regime, so you can realistically work your way from a 15-minute route to a 5K run

Each workout is guided by a voice over from the likes of Olympian Michael Johnson to BBC presenter Jo Whiley

6. DAILY WORKOUTS FITNESS TRAINER

Ideally, staying fit and healthy means hitting the gym or track regularly. However, sometimes, you may not have the chance to get out nor the time to dedicate to it. The Daily Workouts Fitness Trainer app means you can exercise well in the comfort of your own home.

PERKS OF DAILY WORKOUTS FITNESS TRAINER

You can choose which area of your physique you’d like to target and the app offers a simple yet effective five to 30-minute workout that fits the bill

The uniquely genius thing about this app is it’s simplicity. Download it, pick a discipline, and get working

7. FITBOD WEIGHT LIFTING TRAINER

If the CrossFit phenomenon has inspired you, you’re not alone. More men and women are lifting weights than ever. When giving this regime a shot, Fitbod Weight Lifting Trainer is the ideal app. The step-by-step nature of the program makes planning an effective strength training workout effortless.

PERKS OF FITBOD

The more you use the app, the more it understands your abilities and the challenges you face

You can tailor your workouts to suit your training style and the available equipment too

Free Dance Apps/Websites

Apps for IOS/Android 

 Top 20 Free Dancing Apps To Learn Dance On Android And iOS Device1.1 Crazy Flamenco Rumba Dance

´1.2 ElfYourself ´

1.3 Just Dance Now

´1.4 Step Dance ´

1.5 Hip Hop Dance

´1.6 Pole Dance Lessons

´1.7 Pocket Salsa

´1.8 Dancing elf

´1.9 Face Dance

´1.10 Animate Yourself 3D

´1.11 Belly Dance Fitness

´1.12 Animate Me

´1.13 NinjaMe

´1.14 Hip Hop Dance School

´1.15 STEEZY Studio

´1.16 DWM

´1.17 Learn Bhangra

´1.18 Santa’s Christmas Dance

´1.19 Baby Hazel Ballerina Dance

´1.20 Dance School Stories

Emotional:

“REMEMBER, IT’S HUMAN TO FEEL HOPELESS.”

The National Center for Emotional Wellness defines this term as an awareness, understanding, and acceptance of your emotions, and your ability to manage effectively through challenges and change.

Emotional Wellness is so important there is even a whole month dedicated to this, can anyone guess what month that is?

For the most part, being human means having challenges and problems; however, it’s all about how you deal or cope with those issues that determines your emotional wellness.

It’s about embracing all the goodness in your life and looking at your glass as half-full rather than half-empty

Lets do a test-
Are you maintaining a good sense of emotional wellness?

1)Living in the present, without excessive worry about the future or rumination about the past?

2)Do you feel connected to others?

3)Self compassion?

4)Have you been holding on to grudges and been unforgiving?

5)Do you feel that you have been thinking rationally?

6)Do you feel in control of your own feelings, thoughts and actions?

7)Can you laugh at life and yourself? 8)Have you felt grateful lately?

Intellectually:

How do we stay sharp when the World’s been flipped upside down on us?

Defining Intellectual Wellness

Intellectual wellness encourages us to engage in creative and mentally-stimulating activities. These activities should expand your knowledge and skills while allowing you to share your knowledge and skills with others.

Intellectual wellness can be developed through academics, cultural involvement, community involvement and personal hobbies.

Why is Intellectual Wellness Important?

Intellectual wellness encourages learning. It is important to explore new ideas and understandings in order to become more mindful and better-rounded. Having an optimal level of intellectual wellness inspires exploration. Intellectual wellness also stimulates curiosity. Curiosity is important because it motivates you to try new things and develop an understanding of how you see the relationship between yourself, others and the environment.

The Route to Intellectual Wellness

Be open to new ideas, new cultures, new knowledge, new skills and new environments. When you have an open mind, the world is truly yours. This allows you to explore issues relating to problem solving, critical thinking, learning and creativity. Below is a list of suggestions for you to adopt in order to enhance your intellectual wellness.

Listen. When you participate in active listening you are able to fully comprehend the information that is being given to you.

Pick up a hobby. Hobbies are great ways to increase your skill set. They can also be fun!

Express your creative side by exploring different avenues of creativity and artistic expressions.

Sessions that support Intellectual Wellness

´Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction: Mindfulness is seeing things more clearly, and paying attention moment to moment to moment. When you are mindful, you notice what is happening—as it is happens. This creates a space, a pause in which you can respond considerately to situations, rather than react. Creative possibilities open up; new ways of being with life’s challenges can present themselves.

´Transformational Coaching: Together we will identify the specific steps to make your dreams a reality. In addition, we will overcome fear, self-doubt and find the clarity needed to make the changes you desire. And finally, we will co-create strategies and your plan to reach your goals so you can achieve and have a well balanced life.

Steps to Achieve or Maintain Intellectual Wellness

´Read. There are good books, newspaper articles, essays from the internet that can be read by anyone. Through reading, your comprehension skill is challenged and it widens vocabulary that would equip you with the new development around.

´Listen to good music and radio program. It is found therapeutic to listen to positive music because it calms the emotions and decreases the risk of stress.

´Watch positive TV programs and videos. Choose informative videos and not the ones that corrupt the mind or infuse negative ideas. This way, you will absorb positive energy that enhances the ability to think.

´Be creative. When there is an activity to do, challenge yourself to make something new and different, not the one you are accustomed to, to see how far your mental ability can go.

´Desire to continue learning. Always challenge yourself to learn something new to keep your brain active and be curious to what is unknown to you.

´Attend seminars or workshops. This will help you gain new ideas that are seldom included in the books you buy. You will also improve your social wellness by meeting people and gaining new friends.

´Eat a well-balanced diet. Proper nutrition is significant for the brain to function well and avoid mental stresses that may cause additional health problems.

Questions to consider as we go forward into a continuum of change and time of uncertainty…

Reflect on some of the old habits that were no longer serving purpose to you. What were they? How did they impact your self-care and wellness. What will happen if you let go of them?

What Habits have you acquired during the pandemic that have been beneficial and what is your plan to continue it?

Identify times, actions, or accomplishments that demonstrated strength and resilience in yourself? Can you share this with your team?

How have you grown or changed in reference to the 4 quadrants of the medicine wheel in the last 2 months? Where do you see areas that need attention? How can your leadership support this?