Let’s Talk 2017

Don’t remember if I’ve posted about Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada before, but January 25th, 2017 was a good day.

Bell raised money in support of mental health, asking Canadians and Bell subscribers to share messages with #BellLetsTalk in text messages and various social media platforms. The idea is that by talking about mental health openly, we can help end the stigma around it, and hopefully better support those around us who are affected or who are dealing with mental health.

This year’s #BellLetsTalk results:

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Some people might say that Bell’s approach to mental health awareness isn’t the right one, that money needs to come to programs and from the government and while this is all true, at least Bell is actively doing something, and they are getting people talking. Change happens when people start talking. “We must all work to eliminate the stigma around mental illness” by Erin O’Toole is a good read.

I’ve struggled with depression for a long time, and in January 2016 when things got really bad, I had a few great friends who were instrumental in getting the support and medication I need. Things are not perfect now but they are better than they were.

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Quote 8

 

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person. When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the friendship to an end.

Sometimes they die.

Sometimes they walk away.

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled and their work is done. They prayer you sent up has been answered and it is time to move on.

Some people come into our life for a season, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.

They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it; it is real, but only for a season.

Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas in your life.

Today, thank the person who in one way or another has been part of your life, even if in a small way you can make them feel that you are indeed thankful for their presence as well as the beautiful moments they have given. No matter if they are your reason, season or lifetime.

– Unknown

 

Stories

 

*I wrote this post for Cori after reading some of her beautiful posts about stories like,  “Attending to the Messy Ones“, “Indifference to Stories” and “Stories to Live By (Stories to Leave By)“, and from part of a  conversation on Twitter. I wanted to share that post here as well, in my own space. Over the past little while, the words I wrote have come to mean much more to me, then when I first wrote it.

………..

We all have a story. It deserves to be told.
They have different meanings and  different forms during our lives.
But each is important.

………..

“There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” – Erin Morgenstern

We begin by hearing stories.


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by courosa

Since we were little kids, most of us have had the pleasure of being read to whether at home, in a school or a similar setting. Books in classrooms, bedtime stories, and novels read for enjoyment and lead to kids using their imagination to grow, learn, explore and ultimately create their own stories. As they grow, stories become a part of who they are; they show who they have been and play a role in who the person they will become.

Have you ever had the pleasure of sitting down with a young child around the age of 3-5 years old? Maybe it was a friend’s child, your own son or daughter or a young student. If you have, I’m sure that once you started interacting with them, they were able to tell you a fascinating tale or two.

I can remember feeling simply captivated and intrigued by sitting on a blanket in the middle of the floor with my friend’s 4 year old son. I simply listened to him. He took us on an adventure, one where we were in the middle of the ocean, travelling to a distant island. Upon arrival we found animals and new friends. We stayed and played for what seemed like hours. This story he created came alive in the form of play.

As one continues to grow up, we are constantly reading are creating stories all around us. Our lives further grow in story. Just as we have grown up hearing about our grandparents and parents lives, and what they have gone through growing up. Now, we too continue journeying through our own and sharing with others. But we also have our own personal stories. Stories about things that cause us to wonder, things that we struggle with, things that are important to us and events that have helped create the very person we are. Sometimes we share these personal stories, our narratives with those around us. But too often, we keep them hidden deep inside us, deep inside our hearts. These are the stories that need to be told and shared, the words me must find the courage to share with others because they are important.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” – Maya Angelou

………..

In schools and classrooms, students come to us as they are. Much of a child’s time is spent in a classroom with teachers and their peers.

They bring with them attitudes and happiness, sadness, anger, fear and they bring with them their stories.

People in the role of a teacher can choose to listen. They can choose to engage in discussion and create a room, an atmosphere where everyone is able to share and talk, learn and grow. A place where children gather needs to be a safe space, one where they feel supported and accepted, and free to share what is on their mind, free to share their stories.

These learning spaces are not just for learning that comes from curriculum guides, lists of required skills and abilities and learning materials. In these spaces things are taught and learnt that aren’t always stated in guides and requirements. Empathy, relationship skills, trust, support, communication skills, the power of sharing and the power of caring also happen in learning spaces. They should happen in learning spaces and come somewhat naturally in a classroom, where they aren’t just facilitated by teachers, but led by students. Too often, I think that some teachers are focused on pushing through the curriculum guides and they may forget to take some time for these things to happen with and for their students.

When sharing starts to happen, some stories will be hard to understand. They will convey pain and hardship that is unique to the storyteller. Other stories will be happy and joyous. The good and the bad make up the storyteller. All of their stories need to have a voice put to them, and they both equally need to be shared.

“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.” – Madeline L’Engle


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Bindaas Madhavi

It’s okay to sit alongside your students and learn with them, discuss and share with them. Sometimes a teacher needs to step out of the role as a “teacher – the one more than often is seen as having power within the classroom”. This can be done by simply sharing a story or a part of your story with the students, encouraging discussion and letting them know that they are not alone and that we are in a space that honors story. It can also be done by letting students have a journal where they are free to write about what ever is on their mind and not just required writing prompts. It can be kept private or it can be shared with the class and others. This is also one way to record our thoughts and our stories, and to put into words our experiences and feelings.

I recently came across this article: Teacher reveals secrets to reach out to students, complete with a video.  [http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/teacher-reveals-secrets-to-reach-out-to-students-1.1129684] In the article, Catherine tells her students and all kids out there that “teachers are there to help, teachers are there to listen. People often forget that teachers are not just passionate about their subject, they are passionate about their students.” I agree with her. She has let kids know that it is okay to share, to discuss and to ask for help if that’s what they need.

“We are our stories – it was that kids were heard, it was the space for story, not me” – @corisaas

………….

“Closed-up in classroom scoring. Get this text, “I would have never been able to get through school if it wasnt for you.” #beathless” – @corisaas

Cori has had her own experiences in her classroom/learning space and with her own students. Reading her blog posts and tweets, this is evident. In many ways, I have been that student in that text message. Now, I hope to be the kind of teacher like Cori and to have my own classroom one day where students are able to share, to talk, to discuss, and where we can keep our stories going.

I don’t think I would have been able to make it through high school with out the support of my music /choir teacher and guidance counselor. Things were much different, but still like they are today. I needed a space to escape the things that were going on. I needed a space where I could share what was going on and where I could talk with someone who would not judge. Many times there were thoughts of giving up. But thanks to those two ladies, I made it through it. Not all teachers were as willing to help me through this. I had an English teacher so focused on moving a head in the course that she completely ignored me and the visible signs that something was going on, that something was wrong. I don’t expect all teachers to be open to sharing and helping, but they should be aware.

Again in University, things changed from good to the same as before, but were worse. To make a long story short, the university counseling services got involved. I talked with a few people and they were mainly helping me from a psychology point of view. They did help. But I found more help from one of my university professors. We spent time walking around campus and talking, her listening, sharing and offering support. Without her, I don’t think I would have made it through the education program because I simply did not see the point of going on. She let me tell my story and let me put a voice to what was happening.

In both of these times, I was being heard and that mattered so much.


cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by B Rosen

Since then, I keep trying to move forward, but there are times when I go backwards. One thing that has made me go on has been working with students, in internship and now through subbing. Any time I get to talk with them and simply listen to them is a wonderful experience. I let them tell me about their story and it is truly an honor to be able to listen. Whether it is a student telling me about the new dog she’s getting and later shared it with the class, which led her to start to blossom socially in the class, or the boy who told me about his family, and how he cherishes and cares for his parents so much. All of their stories are worth hearing and sharing, not just with me but with all of us.

It may not seem like it, but it makes a big difference when our voices, and our stories are shared and heard.

“Perhaps it is how we are made; perhaps words of truth reach us best through the hear, and stories and songs are the language of the heart.” – Stephen R. Lawhead

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*The other day my story almost ended. It wasn’t yet time for it to end.  I’m glad it did not end. Now I have the chance to share my story and to make myself strong so that I can listen to others and share with them.

 

It needs to be shared

When you get better, everything in your life will get better. Nothing improves until you do.
– Larry Winget

 

The following is a part of my personal story. Recent in fact, from a few days ago.
I feel like it needs to be shared.

It is okay to ask for help. To reach out because you are worth it. I have been reminded of this.

I need to get better this time. I am continuing on that path as I have been for 8+ years.
However, this time things need to be improved. They must get better.
So that I can be the best person I can be.

. . .

I arrived 2 August’s ago and met you in September. I knew your name and what you taught. 
I would see you almost everyday in passing. 
I didn’t really meet you until mid November though, when I actually talked to you. When I began to work with your class.
It was then that I realized you would become a good friend to me. 
But this would come too late, early December. 
You left early for Christmas and I was going back to Regina at the end of that month. 

When I actually did talk to you, I found out you were different than people said you were.
You cared. You wore your heart on your sleeve. You’ve had to be so, so strong; and you still are, perhaps stronger even. 
I confided in you and you told me you would be there for me. 
That’s something so easily said, “I’ll be there for you”. 
I often wonder if we truly mean it when we tell someone this..

When we said goodbye, we didn’t really say  goodbye. 
You said we’d stay in touch..
You made me promise to call you if I was ever in a rough spot, if I needed someone to talk to. 
No matter what time it was, or whether you were in Yorkton or if you were in California. 
You gave me all your numbers, I still have them today. 
But the best thing you did was make me make that promise to you. 
There were times I thought of calling you, but I didn’t. 
I don’t think you realized how important I valued what you offered me, nor did I ever think I would have to call you..

. . . .

Time went on. 
We texted each other for a few months after I came back to Regina. 
That was good. 
But then life went on and I felt like we drifted apart. 
I felt like I should have things together by now; that I no longer needed your support. 
I realize now how silly those thoughts were..

. . . .

It was early August again, a year later. 
You called and said, “Why don’t you come back to Yorkton? There might be a job for you here.”
I sent in the forms and a resume and I was put on the substitute teacher’s list 
It was a start.
I came back for you, but I also in part came for me … but I came because I was running again; I was still running.  
I watched you have to be even stronger than ever.
I respected you so much more. 
Things got better for you – thank heavens. 

You would text me the odd time and ask me tech questions – I was your tech person. 
And then it stopped.. 
I felt like that was all I was good for; helping with tech problems.
The dynamics of our relationship/friendship changed; or maybe it didn’t but to me it felt like it did. 
I became angry and frustrated. 
I gave up and thought what was the point. 
You were busy with your own life and family and that was fine. 

. . . 

I got to a bad point. 
I didn’t see the point anymore.
I thought it would be easier to end my story. 
I didn’t think anyone would care or would notice. 
I had already lost the people I thought were important to me. 
There was nothing really keeping me here since people stopped being a part of my life, or I had simply pushed them out. 

That morning I did something stupid. 
I did it, and I realized what I had done.
It cause me to feel scared, to panic and to worry.
I didn’t image it would be this way.  
Ultimately I didn’t want to feel this way…

I realized that it was in fact not time for my story to end. Not just yet. 
But I was gonna wait to see what would happen. 
After some time, I picked up my phone and texted you. 
I said, “I’ve done something stupid. I made a mistake. Help me.” 
I didn’t know if you were at work or if you would answer but you did. 
You messaged me and then you called me, and then you came and got me . 
We went to the hospital. You stayed for a bit, then you went to work. 
You came and picked me up. 

We talked. 
You told me you want to help me. 
You told me that this time, counselors and doctors need to make things better this time for good. 
That yes, the 4th time needs to be the charm. 
You said you won’t give up on me this time. 

I got your attention. That’s what a part of me needed. 
I never wanted you to worry or to feel scared for me, although I realize I did that.
And for that I am truly sorry.
You’re here for me, and you never left me. 
You’re so glad that I kept my promise to you. When the doctors where there and you were with me, you told them about that promise.

. . . .

I am and will forever be grateful to you.
Beyond words, there is no way I can express to you how blessed I am to know you. 
So we’ve started a plan. You’re on my case about it, which is good. I need that. 
I want this to be the time things get better. It has to this time. 
I can’t do it without you.
I know you’re still here, that you never left me, nor that you ever will.

I am truly honoured that you are my friend.
I’m glad I called you.

promise me

I’m still keeping that promise to you …

 

Quote 3

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

– Brene Brown