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Imagery & Poetry

Today was a somewhat long day. I woke up and I had to take migraine medication. I also had an early counseling appointment. We are doing “imagery” or something. Anyways, it’s where you pick a “safe space” and imagine it whenever you want to relax. Today, my counselor suggested we do just the imagery exercise after I told her I had a headache. Before we started this, I had written a poem to help me relax and get whatever it was on my mind at the time… off my mind. I am sometimes not so great at writing poems and I end up just writing words. This time, I wanted to create an image to erase another image–a not so great image that I had. Creating this image helped me to relax and clear my mind. Just like this morning. It was so relaxing that when I opened up my one eye for a moment to scan the room, I noticed my counselor had fallen asleep *teehee* All I have to say is that, imagery, it works.

Here is the poem.

As I lie here, my mind drifts away
Like a message in the bottle
Deep into a clear blue sea
A million little pebbles
I can feel the sand beneath me
Sparkling like a million little stars
It’s warmth embracing my body
Gently crawling along the shore
I can hear the ocean’s waves
Gracefully rolling back
Back into the clear blue sea
A beach’s breeze playing with my hair
Letting strands tickle my cheeks
I lay there, smiling under the sun
Children playing, laughing, giggling
*splash splash splash*
A bird’s song can be heard
Just off into the distance, as distant as my mind
Like these pictures I had when I shut my eyes
Lying beneath him, breathless, motionless
These images naked and unseen.

You can ask what the poem is about or you can make an inference for your self.

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Giving Thanks!

Well today is a great day to be giving thanks! Some of you might think, “Yeah well today isn’t Thanksgiving.” You are very correct, but today IS my birthday. Today, I turn 25. Yeah, I kind of got all excited “slash” scared when my friend texted me last night “3.5 hours left of being 24.” I don’t think 25 is old but I certainly didn’t expect to be where I am today when I was 15 years old.

When I was 15, I had a life changing experience. A car accident. It changed me for the better. I used to be an extreme perfectionist. Like extreme. After the accident, I learned that it’s okay to get a “C” grade because it’s not the end of the world. I ended up winning 4 business awards and had the chance to speak at conferences and youth forums. I also thought when I was 15 that I would be married and have kids by the time I was 25 (ooooh 15 year old me cracks me up!)

Today, 10 years later, I am living in London ON and I work part-time and go to school full-time. I never thought I would be studying criminology and I never thought I would be working at a “small boutique law firm” as my boss puts it. But I am thankful.

Approximately 5 years ago (I get this time frame mixed up a lot and I don’t know why probably because those years were a bit hazy), I moved to London ON. I showed up at a door step with 6 bags and the guy I started working for joked with me, “What are you doing, moving here?” Yes, I said. He just looked at me and said, “Oh.”

It was a long time before I realized that I couldn’t be living the lifestyle I was living anymore. Well okay maybe not a long time, but to me it felt like a long time. Within about 9 months, I finally applied to college and got my own apartment (My address was NFA for a really long time–again what felt like a long time to me but probably not for others).

I am thankful for the decisions I made both good and bad. It was probably a bad idea for me to move to London ON on my own at 20 years old with no actual real employment or real place to live. It was actually pretty scary for me. But had I not made that “bad decision” I probably would have never made the decision to go to college. I now have my law clerk diploma (graduated with a 3.98 GPA HEEEEY!).

I am thankful for my family and the support they have given me in everything that I have done. I know that they didn’t approve of a lot of the decisions I made (the bad ones I must add), but they were always there for me. I am thankful for that.

I now, in approximately 5 years, learned more about myself and life in general than I would have had I not moved to London. It’s been a great journey with as many downs as there are ups but as I keep saying over and over to myself that I am so thankful for this journey. For my family. My friends. My experiences. My life.

So whether you celebrate thanksgiving or not, just remember to give thanks to all those in your life and pat yourself on your back 😉

Western Medicine versus Traditional Medicine

This past summer I had the opportunity to work on a research team. I learned quite a bit. There was a lot of things that I had learned about the research process and the time and effort that goes into such a thing. I remember I was asked my input on a particular document. I read it over and I realized that the one thing that was not included was “Traditional Medicine.”

Growing up, I had seen both my pediatrician and also a traditional healer. One day, I had this pain in my arm and did not know what it was from (okay, well actually it was from the tiny temporary tattoo that I put on over the weekend). I woke up in the middle of the night and told my mom that my arm hurt. She took a look at my arm and then decided to literally scrub off the tattoo–right then and there, I was told not to put on another temporary tattoo.

A couple of days later I woke up and my arm was swollen and red and we did not know what was wrong. I then went with my dad to go see a traditional healer. The healer gave me some medicine and sent me on my way. By the time I got home, it was worse. We called the traditional healer and he immediately told us what to do: Go to the hospital emergency and ask for this particular medication (I cannot remember what type of medication because I was just so scared at the site of my arm). The healer told us, “She is allergic to the glue in the tattoo and the medicine.” Who would have known?

By the time we go to the hospital, we were rushed into a bed and blood work was drawn, tests were done and then I was put up in the pediatric wing of the hospital; I stayed there for almost a week. I remember my mom asking my pediatrician when he saw me that this was the medication she needed and she kept trying to tell him I was allergic to the glue in the tattoo I had on my arm. The pediatrician didn’t listen. I continued to stay in the hospital. From those days that I stayed in the hospital, my mom continued to ask the pediatrician and the nurses for this medication and trying to tell them that this is what I was allergic to. Nobody listened. I had to wear this dressing over my arm and medicated cream was applied to my arm almost every 4 hours. I missed school, didn’t sleep very well and just hated being at the hospital.

At the end of my stay, the pediatrician walks in with his little clipboard and announces to my mom, “Well she is allergic to something but we don’t know what she is allergic to.” My mom looked at the doctor and said, “I told you so.” He gave me the medication she asked for and told her that I shouldn’t be wearing any more temporary tattoos.

The lesson I learned, some Western medicine practitioners will always view it self as the only option. Some of you might ask, well why would you go to a pediatrician if your traditional healer has all the answers? Our traditional healers are great but I also remember one day that I was told that “Sometimes we need outside help and it is okay to ask for help from those Western doctors.”

It is strange how the traditional side will tell us that it is okay to ask for help and even recommend us going to the hospital or to the specialist. But if an Aboriginal person chooses to go the traditional route they are ignored when it comes to trying to get the referral or the proper care from the Western side. When I was working on this team, I tried to tell them the importance of traditional healers. It wasn’t that they recognized that the healers existed, it was just that the importance of it all was not put in their “language.” In other words, it was not put in a research report. Then that one day as I was browsing the net, I found this report:

Assessing the Institutionalization of Traditional Aboriginal Medicine

Yes there are some downsides but the overall outcome of allowing better access to traditional healers and keeping that tradition alive is much greater than it is by not acknowledging it for Aboriginal people. When I read over this report, there was one thing that stuck out,

The issue of education and community outreach is important and complex. Health providers are not entirely cognizant of the healing methods and the effectiveness of traditional Aboriginal medicine (though there are exceptions). One clinical provider admitted to knowing nothing of the program upon arrival at Noojmowin and best described the encounter as ―mysterious. This despite a genuine interest of the clinician to learn and understand the program and only a year later became familiar with the program. This also relates to the issue of referrals—one cannot refer to something that is not understood. Outside of this example, there is some indication an informal separation between clinical and the traditional medicine exists evidenced by the ―silo comments. This is not entirely problematic since the program is functioning and communication does take place. Again, this is an issue that can be addressed more effectively. A possible option is the creation of a traditional healing ―handbook designed for clinical providers to serve as a basic reference for traditional healing. If this is pursued, it must be done in a way that ensures there is adequate education while at the same time protecting Indigenous knowledge.

This report only dealt with the health care providers that worked in the same building as the traditional healers. I think that if health care is being provided in such a culturally diverse country then at least one should not be afraid to go either the traditional route and/or the Westernized route and not be fearful to be ostracized or ignored by the more dominant group.

Traditional medicine is something that is very close to me and that I value as an Aboriginal person, but so is Western medicine. Because as the traditional healer said to me that day, “We sometimes need that extra help.”

Toastmasters: how it has helped me.

Sometimes when I meet people for the first time they ask me about who I am and one of the ways in which I acknowledge and share is that I am a brain injury survivor.

When I was 15 years old, I was hit by a car. I don’t know what happened (and sometimes I am a bit scared to wake up one day and remember it all). I only have the knowledge of what happened from what my parents or family has told me. The only parts I remember are waking up in Sault Ste Marie General Hospital for 2 seconds and then waking up in a hospital in Sudbury (not sure which one).

Living with a brain injury can be frustrating at times. A lot of people have this misconception that in order to have a brain injury that has any effect on an individual’s life is that it has to be completely destabilizing or disruptive to a person’s life. Well, let me tell you, any kind of brain injury is destabilizing and disruptive to a person’s life.

I remember coming back to Sault Ste Marie and having to go the Emergency room for frequent migraines (I mean daily migraines because of the brain injury) the nurses who remembered me would look at me and say, “Oh my god! I remember you. You are one lucky girl!” I didn’t know how lucky I was until I started volunteering at the brain injury association.

I began volunteering at the brain injury association in Sault Ste Marie. I was helping them build their website. When I would go in and do my hours, they were very understanding of my situation, and that being that I was a brain injury survivor. I would see other brain injury survivors who came in and some of them had to have 24 hour assistance or some of them even had distinctive speech impediments as a result of their brain injury.

Just because you can’t see a disability does not mean that it should be given any more or less treatment than someone who has a disability that you can notice.

I struggled with a lot of things like word recall, word recollection or trying to understand the words I was reading. Nobody could see this. Trying to converse with others who didn’t understand was frustrating too. I would talk with others and sometimes be frustrated with not being able to get the words out of my mouth; then by the end of the conversation, sometimes the other person would be frustrated too because they didn’t understand what I was trying to say. By the end of it, I would just tell them, “Let me write you an email.”

For some reason the written word is a lot easier than the spoken word. When I try to speak verbally, the words in my head are sort of like a marquee that doesn’t stop and when I see a word that I want to use, I sometimes I can’t get it out of my head. And it just keeps on going by… Sort of like this:

Oh look at us! We are the words that Naomi does not want to use! Going. Slowly. Through. Her. Brain.
Oh look at us! More words! Going faster! Woot Woot! Fast words are cool but useless!
Oh look at us! Fasterrrrrrr wordssssss! Yesssss… we rock socks off–Naomi’s socks off! Fast words rule the world (or at least Naomi’s brain!)

Then I decided one school year that I would join Toastmasters. I heard about this through a counsellor. She said it also builds confidence. My new found disabilities ate away at my confidence. I joined it in Fanshawe College and then again when I was in Toronto.

Toastmasters for me helped quite a bit. I mean, I do still struggle with word recall but not as much. Toastmasters taught me to think on my feet and soon enough, with confidence again.

I recommend to anyone! And not just those with a brain injury or a disability 🙂

Homelessness in London ON

Well today I had a very interesting day. Not because something unique happened either. It happens to me almost every day; however, I learned something new about the process of it all. And this post, I warn you now will be long and is two-fold in its purposes 😉

I catch the bus almost every day to downtown London ON which is the area considered down by Dundas and Richmond or Richmond street in general. I have to catch 2 buses in order to get to work and depending on which day I go to school, have to catch 2 buses to go to school. Anyways, this time I wasn’t in downtown London when this particular event happened to me but I wasn’t surprised because I recognized the man.

So it began, the man asked me for change. Wait no, he asked me if I had a bus ticket. I politely said no but I knew I had two dollars in my purse (I had the “tooney” so I could buy a coffee–that’s the most I carry on me and not because I get asked for change all the time but it’s all I ever need). I dug into my purse and I told him that I had two dollars. I knew that wasn’t enough for a bus ticket so when I watched him leave the bus stop area and walk towards the convenience store I wondered what he was going to get with two dollars.

He came back with a bottle of coke. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry but I had to buy a bottle of coke because it helps with the hunger.” I didn’t know what to think but I zipped open my bag and I asked him if wanted my lunch. I didn’t have much of a lunch but I am sure it was good enough for him. Raw almonds, an apple, and a bag of carrots. I don’t usually pack a big lunch because I usually either go straight home or to visit friends who usually more often than not share some of their lunch with me. He, of course, said “Yes!” I never saw a man so happy for something so simple: food.

He taught me two things (well, more like reinforced one more than taught me) but 1) I didn’t know that coke could cure hunger (or perhaps that’s all he could get with the two dollars because lord knows that I can’t buy a bottle pop with just two dollars when I do buy one) 2) He reinforced that I am thankful to be where I am today. Big time.

Unfortunately, this incident is not unique. Someone asking me for change, me giving what I can, and if I can giving some of my food or sharing some of my food. I’ve been there. Hungry. And no, I don’t mean after 6 hours of food hungry. I mean, trying to figure out how you are going to spend your three to five dollars to make it last the entire weekend or until you can make more money (and which being broke sometimes lasted for another 36 hours because you debated about what you were willing to do make some money–a scary thought for anyone).

I know that some of you reading this may find this hard to believe but yeah, I never thought I would be where I am today. Sure I was a straight A high school student, went through some hard times, couldn’t deal with it, fell off the track, discovered alcohol and drugs, but one day I woke up and felt that I needed to change. I moved to London ON. No home. No friends. No family. Saw the “flip-side” of London or the London that all my professors talk about in the classroom or that I overhear other kids talking during lecture…The dark side. I felt moving to London would help me. New scene.

It wasn’t exactly all peaches and cream. I experienced this level of hungry. I didn’t know where to go, who to turn to, where any sort of help was. It went on like that for about nine months or until after I applied to college–something that not every young person has the ability to take advantage of. I was able to get the scholarship (remember me, the ex-straight-A-high-school student), pay rent, sleep in a bed, and figure out where I could get food.

Let me tell you, it was rough. Some people say that’s student life. Maybe part of it is, but what about those people who are not students? What about those people who struggle to make ends meet working 2, 3, sometimes 4 jobs, all the while trying to support their family? What about the little guy?

When I read “Fiorito: Joy in struggle: Ms Taylor takes on the bankers” I couldn’t agree more with what was mentioned in her letter. Things mentioned like

  • “Workers, and the working poor, are in trouble.”
  • Or that, “she does not think it fair that a CEO at one time might have made 10 times the salary of the average worker…”
  • Meanwhile “…today a CEO might earn 200, or 300, or in some cases 500 times the average salary.”
  • Or that just because they “give money to youth, for water conservation, for First Nations…” how could they “…be satisfied about the First Nations.”
  • And even a better point, “if they want to give to the community, why don’t they raise wages for people who work in the bank.”

Yeah, the man Ms. Joy Taylor met with, the VP of the Bank and as mentioned in the article, had “no answer.” Being a First Nations person, I am used of not receiving a “no answer” or a “no reply” when trying to stand up against the injustice of other people, and I don’t just mean standing up for exclusively First Nations people. I at least help when I can or stand up for those who are marginalized like homeless people, both young and old, or for those face stigmatization, like living with a mental illness and not being able to receive the proper treatment and care. Anyway before I take away from the point that I believe Ms. Joy Taylor is trying to make about the problems with present-day Canadian society, I really liked how Ms. Taylor added at the end If people have three jobs and can’t make a living . . . anyway, I didn’t expect an answer.” I know that she didn’t get to meet with the CEO but I don’t want her letter writing efforts to go unnoticed. Early this morning, I made this petition titled “I support Joy Taylor’s letter to the Bank CEO,” and if you agree with some of the points she made in her letter and to the bank’s VP then I suggest you

  1. Sign it
  2. Share it
  3. And encourage as many others to sign it

This letter and her efforts will not go unnoticed!

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A Statistic

Seven years ago, I was a statistic. In my sociology notes, I recorded from the lecture that “Aboriginal women under the age 25 years” are considered one of the two groups that is more likely to experience domestic abuse (the other group were women in common law relationships).

It amazes that one ethnic group can outnumber any other group. To me, it raises a lot of questions. The most important question is, however, why?

On Monday February 14, at my school, there will be a presentation that is titled “Remember our Sisters, Stop the Violence.” This presentation, as taken directly from the event page on facebook, asks people to “Join us to commemorate, write letters and demand justice for our indigenous sisters, until the violence stops!” You can visit their facebook event page, HERE.

I planned on going to this event but can’t because of prior commitments. Because I am unable to go to the event, I felt that I needed to do something to remember my past. My past isn’t a part of me but it once was me. I was in an abusive relationship. I thought it was love, but after a year of counseling, I found out that love isn’t hitting or calling someone names. This counseling didn’t completely help me though. I went through a phases. I was confused, lost, depressed, angry, sad….

I went through a year and half of living in this abuse. When I told I tried to tell the police… I was shunned. They turned their backs on me. I was alone in this fight to protect myself.

Today, I am working towards being a better person. A better woman. Feeling like a person. Feeling like a woman again. I don’t want to be a statistic anymore.

I wrote a poem last night. This poem sort of describes my life in the relationship. The poem is kind of repetitive, but that’s how abuse works–it is a cycle that repeats itself.

There are no words to use
That can be used to describe to you
To help you understand
The level of the abuse
That it takes to destroy you
Emotional
Physical
Verbal
Sexual
Take your pick
There are no words to use
That can be used to describe to you
To help you understand
The level of the abuse
That it takes to destroy you
Name calling
Punching
Spitting
Silence
All those hits
There are no words to use
That can be used to describe to you
To help you understand
The level of the abuse
That it takes to destroy you
Because it is the abuse
That keeps you warm
That kisses you
That holds you
That dries your tears
That tells you, “Don’t worry honey,
I can make it all right again.”
Because it is this abuse
That destroys you.