The PTSD Brain in Action; The Party That Wasn’t


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Last night I attended a volunteer and donor appreciation event. Simple enough, right? Go out, talk to folks, eat, drink, laugh, be merry. It used to be easy. My sister Nat wrote about a similar experience in her post: Just a Dinner Party, I’m going to use her format to show you the interior storm happening that you don’t see and can’t hear, but perhaps when you finish reading, you will now have an understanding of it.

Logical Brain — This will be a fun night, you’ve been to this in previous years and you meet new people and share lots of hugs with all your favourite PFLAG Moms. And there is nothing in the world that beats a PFLAG Mom hug!!

PTSD Brain — Eww, people. And why does the roomie continually slam doors and drawers, raised by wolves? Can we please buy some rubber bumpers to put an end to this once and for all? Why not just have your eardrums removed and you won’t have to listen to it any longer.

Logical Brain — Pick the next thing in the closet and wear that today – remember comfort, will be standing for 2-3 hours. OMG, all my favourite people in one room!

PTSD Brain — I could stay home and catch up on podcasts and all those movies I downloaded from Netflix. It’s starting to build up and if I stay home, I can put a big dent in it. Besides… Eww, people.

Logical Brain — Hop in the shower, and get dressed, and let’s go to Starbucks… coffee is a good thing and maybe you’ll find a downloadable version of Nat’s documentary. Oh boy, PFLAG Mom hugs, you know how much you LOVE PFLAG Mom hugs!!

PTSD Brain — Eww, people. Don’t bother with your hearing aids, you need new ones anyway, and all they do is make noisy places louder. Maybe it’s time to consider earplugs. I hope there’s a place I can see the door just in case. But 3 hours? Can you just drop in and leave?

Logical Brain — Okay, at the bus stop and finally, here comes a bus, will be there soon.

PTSD Brain — I hate transit, because, eww, people. Why is there always some fuckwit with an oversized backpack or bag who slams into the side of my head every time the bus moves… just as bad, if not worse than the bloody subway. Remember the GO train on Monday? All those seats used for bags and such because people didn’t want them to get wet on the floor. Yeah, eww, people. You can’t ride the subway unless you get off at every stop for a breather. See, this is why I stay home, it’s just easier. Can we please hurry up and get to my stop… I can’t wait to get off this damn bus!

Logical Brain — Okay, we’re here, early is even better, maybe we can lend a hand with setup.

PTSD Brain — Door is there, coats are there, how many steps from coats to door… can this room be any smaller? See? People don’t read signs, big sign, private function until 8:30 and people just wander in anyway. Damn, there’s no wall behind me anywhere, I hate having my back to the room and, eww… people.

Logical Brain — Pull it together chickie, time to generate some happy and chat with folks.

PTSD Brain — It’s getting too crowded in here, I need to get out, the walls are closing in.

Logical Brain — Pop outside for a quick smoke, take a breather and enjoy the quiet. (Get off my ass, I gave up sex, smoking is all I have left.)

PTSD Brain — What time is it? How much longer? Maybe I should have brought my hearing aids anyway, I can’t hear sweet bugger all inside. The louder it gets, the louder people get, to the point they are yelling and … okay, start scanning the room, gotta be a quiet corner… no, can’t find one. Dammit. Check phone, only 40 minutes in… can we go home now? Shit, hyper-vigilant plus plus plus now.

Logical Brain — Just paste on a smile and power through it like before.

PTSD Brain — Eyes are starting to sting, I can’t let this happen here. Nothing more embarrassing than crying in front of people. Let’s go, can’t hold on to the mask, need space and peace. Can’t hang on to the mask, can feel my nose start to run, go get coat and leave quickly, not lasting until the party ends this year and beyond. Shit, I hate this so much.

Logical Brain — Go! You’re about to meltdown and cry in front of too many people… get out!!

PTSD Brain — Dammit, where is my coat… oh, it was moved to another rack… geeze! I need to leave, don’t put it on here, just go straight to the door and put it on when you get down the street a bit. I can just feel the eyes rolling as I make my escape. I’m so tired of this, and there’s no warning, some days fine, other days, feel like it’s 7 years ago. I’m dying of embarrassment on the inside. Finally get to bus stop and can’t hold back any longer, start crying. Dammit, shut it down, you’re being stared at by some street junkie… man, I’ve smelt some horrid things in my time, but this boy reeks so bad, maybe I can say my eyes are watering from the stench. Pull it together until you get home… just put on a dead expression and stay there. Don’t talk to anyone, if you do, it’s going to all come spilling out. Just get home as fast as you can. This sucks so bad, I used to love being out and talking to people, making new connections, sharing a laugh. I used to.

Logical Brain — You have Complex-PTSD and affiliated mental illnesses. You’re going to be managing this for the rest of your life.

PTSD Brain — Thanks for the reminder, leave me alone, I want things the way they used to be. Enough of the logic, I hate you. This used to be easy, and there’s no warning, sometimes things are good, sometimes things are horrendous. I fucking hate this every single time it happens. Will I ever be repaired?

Logical Brain — Yes, I miss the way things were too.

Love forever and a million days more to my Sis, Nat, for everything, simply everything. Much of what I do these days is possible because of her input and inspiration. Including borrowing her format to give you an idea of what is happening on the inside at times. People think these things play out over extended time periods. No. This was literally a few minutes of my day, stitched together into a teachable moment.

And even in the midst of it, there were moments that touched my heart and soul when friends reached out. Thank you Heather, for picking up on it right away. Courtney, I owe you many hugs when I see you in May, make sure you collect them please. Kim, as ever, you just get it, thanks for the hugs, send some to Tiff for me as well, please.

To one friend, thank you. As I thought, even more than a decade later, there are still days when it all goes to shit for both of us. We will have much to compare notes on in the coming weeks, and again this summer when you observe one of my moments of behaving like a professor (glasses, whiskers and all, Professor Kitty ready for action! LOL). I owe you one, and I’ve got you.

Ashley, you always seem to have the perfect thing at hand at the right time to do whatever is necessary. Definitely joined at the mind sister… and we still have our writer’s jam session and movie night to plan.

Cathy, you are most definitely a soul sister. And that gift from you on Monday was squeezed, hugged, and cried on last night… it’s like you were here to handle things… bigger hugs than Monday’s are owed, you really have touched my heart and soul, sister.

So, before you roll your eyes when one of us has to make a quick exit, pause, feel, experience, and for once; understand. I’d gladly trade it all away to be able to function as I used to without always running a mental checklist before saying yes to a party or event. Even with all the progress made, and the high-functioning status, a combination of auditory and sensory triggers can be tripped in sequence and you have to make a beeline for the door, and last night the noise levels plus crowded room combined to set off a perfect storm in my mind.

And yet, despite all this, like my fellow mental health warriors (and I wish this club was shrinking instead of growing), I remain Proud, Tough, Strong, Determined.

Much love is sent to all of you today. I’ve got you.

Christine 💙💙


My Favourite Reads, an Upcoming Event, and a Note


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Before you ask, no, I was not kidnapped by a UFO and taken off for whatever.

I have been busy in the classroom, lecturing at universities and colleges, and dropping by to do a quick chat/teach a concept in a few courses at another professional college. Before I head back to the classroom again at the start of next week I wanted to pass along a few things for you to check out.

On my favourite reads list for the past few weeks, do yourselves a huge favour and drop by for a read at:

Medic Becoming Ineffable– this author’s work will make you think, inspire you, and I find I’m sitting there hanging over their shoulder as they describe a scene in front of them. Life from the viewpoint of a first responder. Should be on your regular reads list!

Thoughts After Therapy– I look forward to new posts by the author of this blog. As someone who battles C-PTSD on a daily basis, I can completely identify with the author and the daily life experiences shared with their reader. Another for your regular reads list!

Paramedic Nat’s Mental Health Journey – I am, I admit, a bit biased, because Nat is my chosen kid sister (we say we’re joined at the mind and at the soul). Nat is one of the people featured in a CBC Documentary airing this weekend, After The Sirens, you can find it online on the CBC website.

For those of you in the Twitterverse, I would very much recommend following a few of my favourite inspirational people there:

@ParamedicNat1 – Nat’s a multi-bestselling author, whose first book, Save-My-Life School really set the conversation off on mental health, PTSD, and first responders, and is about to launch on her Spring Speaking Tour across Canada.

@melanie_korach – founder of the StarfishClub, a totally inspiring teacher who is on a steady quest to give her students more

@holisticff – Chicago firefighter who is leading the charge to end the stigma around mental health and PTSD in Chicago and elsewhere.

@courttee – Co-founder of March for Mental Health Toronto #MFMHTO and a team member of #SickNotWeak a real champion for ending the stigma around mental health and getting the access to resources for those who require them.

@CathyBawden844 – Cathy is an Inspector with the Durham Region Police Service, currently leading their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion unit. Some truly inspiring material she shares regularly, definitely worth following.

For those of you in the Toronto area, you do not want to miss this event!! I was a marcher last year, and it’s even bigger and better this year (and in warmer weather too!). Meet up at Nathan Philips Square in Toronto, in front of the new city hall for noon. Don’t be late, you will not want to miss a minute of this year’s event, with 4 rock your socks guest speakers who will definitely leave you touched, moved, and inspired!

As anyone who battles mental illness on a daily basis can tell you, we are most of the time a continuous work in process. Post-traumatic growth is possible (which I will go into at length in another post), but it takes a great deal of work and investment of time on your own behalf.

Much of that time is also spent on educating people around you, it is the one way that we will finally end the stigma around mental health, and one day bring an understanding to all about what many of us deal with (depends on the study, but I work with the 1 in 4 statistic in my lectures).

I am a teacher. I will always be a teacher, until the moment I draw my last breath. I like to leave behind some new piece of information wherever I go, hopefully inspiring people to go and do some research and read more on that item. Sometimes it is a piece of language to look at, or perhaps an ASL or BSL sign from my past education that will inspire a look deeper into that area.

So, let me set this up for you. On Friday, I had included this graphic in a social media post (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter):

You know the scene, you’re somewhere out in public, say, sitting in Starbucks with your coffee for example. You happen to glance up and unexpectedly make eye contact with another person, and they instinctively return a smile in your direction. Knowing me, I’ll tend to look down and blush about 10 different shades of red (it’s on the scale of coyness/bashfulness). But, in that moment, that smile just lifted your spirits, it made your day, you will carry on with a smile of your own because somebody smiled at you when you made eye contact with them.

So appropriate for the material I was posting at that time, it described perfectly how I always experience each person mentioned in the post.

Now, let’s look at what happened today. Somebody apparently did not get the point of this graphic, described their discomfort with people who don’t maintain eye contact in a conversation. In reply to a group of mental health warriors. My private messages suddenly got very busy. I could not let it lie there like that, so I pointed out that people with PTSD/C-PTSD are hyper-vigilant, and as I do, are constantly watching and listening to our environment to ensure our own safety, therefore intermittent eye contact. I had discussed this as well in this post: My Mind’s Daily Journey with C-PTSD.

Here’s where the hole was dug deeper. Dismissing entirely what I had just opened up about with “oh I have that too, but…” I had to sit on my hands and leave it there, because it was obvious that I was going to go nowhere with that conversation, and yet again, the experiences of someone who lives with that hyper-vigilance stance all of the time when out in pubic had been dismissed, diminished, downplayed completely. I had wanted to say, no, read it again and understand, I’m explaining to you why at times somebody may have difficulty maintaining eye contact with you. There are also similarities for some folks on the autism spectrum about eye contact, friends/students have educated me about that point in recent years. This was entirely brushed aside/dismissed though and it then becomes a teachable moment for me to explore here.

I was reading an article recently, where the author described how she realized she had been downplaying or entirely dismissing the grief of a friend who had suffered a death of someone near and dear to them. The part I made note of was when she noticed how when she didn’t interrupt, downplay the issue, but sat and simply listened, she not only learned a great deal, but noticed an entirely different reaction from the other person in that conversation. Ask an Empath (hello! *waving*) how we listen at an entirely deeper level than most people do. This is why it is up for discussion here, because there was no listening occurring had I attempted to explain further; the dismissal had been made, end of discussion.

How could this have been handled better? Perhaps with something as simple as, “Oh, I never thought of that before,” and left the point there as an educational piece. That leaves the door open for further conversation and education to take place. I find I have the same frustrations with people who use mental illness as some throwaway item in their thoughtless prattle. How many times have I grit my teeth when some twit has said, “oh, that’s SO OCD!” It’s right up there with other such language as “oh, that’s SO GAY!” You’re probably familiar with the types who also claim medical conditions, but when you question them, they’ve never seen a doctor, but they know they have it, they read something online (and they will now use it to dominate every situation/conversation with it).

The lesson to be learned: when an activist, advocate, or mental health warrior, takes the time to stop and either reveal a piece of their lives, or pass along a bit of education/information, listen and learn before you dismiss, diminish, or downplay with one of those, “oh, but I have that too, only worse,” when you do not understand what living with the condition is like and what is being attempted to be explained. You’ll save someone like me from grinding my teeth more than I already do in my sleep, okay?

As always kittens, remember to LOVE each other INTENSELY.

Christine ❤️❤️

Cuarenta y Nueve, 49 for 49


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This past weekend, I had a note from my friend, my family member, my Sisbro, Joie Lamar, “Hey Sis, want to meet up for lunch on Monday? I have received a few more Contributor copies of Cuarenta y Nueve, and I’ll have your book and Danielle’s book to give to you.” Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, hell yeah, I would not miss this for the world!

Many of us will vividly remember the events on the morning of 12 June 2016. I described much of it in the piece I wrote for the book. Joie had a vision, a work created by 49 artist-contributors, one for each of the souls violently ripped from this existence that evening at Pulse Nightclub. Late 2016/early 2017, the call went out. First to a core group, and we all knew people who would be magnificent for this project, and in what seemed the blink of an eye, we had 49 ready to represent 49.

And yet, ‘project’ seems to be inadequate in describing 49 hearts, beating as one, an artistic tribute to our 49 family members lost… because witnessing this unfold throughout the intervening time has been truly inspiring to watch.

And, of course, doing some encouragement along the way, especially when confronted with that fallback line from some folks, “But, I can’t write/sing/create… I’m not any good at that!”

They don’t know what they are up against when dealing with this City Mom! I have recently had a similar conversation with a friend of mine whom I love to the ends of the universe and back. She has convinced herself that she doesn’t know how to write, can’t create, etc. I said to her, let me tell you the inside secret about writing honey… the person who sits down to read your arrangement of words and pages, they literally have the same request your kids did every night when you were putting them to bed, “Tell me a story, please!” I write in the same conversational style that I would if we were sitting across the table in Starbucks having coffee, or having lunch and sharing stories of our recent activities. And she went home and created a right proper kick-ass piece of writing that got raves in her writing class, and I was right chuffed to hear the result!

I have used a similar approach when teaching as well. Reduce it to basics, and one step at a time, you see you can do it with ease, and before you realize, you have perfected that concept and let’s expand on the next item. In my world, nothing breaks my heart more than hearing from people who have a lifetime’s experience of hearing “you can’t,” instead of “you can,” because it greatly reduces the realm of possibility that they could be living into and growing beyond.

I remember doing a national news interview the day following the Pulse massacre. I’m told I come up with some quotable items when I’m speaking from the heart and not from some prepared script as many fall back on, as I saw after the interview aired on CBC’s The National that evening (and as friends picked out above).

These are just some of the events from June 2016, you can read more in this post that I published last year on the first anniversary of the massacre where I discussed some of the events from that Sunday and the week that followed.

So… imagine my excitement!! I have written for many publications or have been interviewed for others over the years, but this was my first time being part of a real physical book! And of course, I checked out the two contributions, one from my bestie Danielle (I thought it was important to have the voice of an LGBTQ police officer in the book), and my own. The pictures give you an idea of what the two-page spread looks like, but if you want to read the words, you’ll have to buy a copy of the book (sorry, not sorry).

And, you do not want to miss the outstanding work of all 49 artist-contributors in this book! I have read it through cover to cover a couple of times since returning home on Monday, and I am beyond honoured to have been asked to be a part of such an amazing group of artists.

Now, the only payment the 49 artists receive for our contribution… you see it above, we received a copy of the 1st edition hardcover print run (SOLD OUT!!). 100% of the proceeds from the sales of Cuarenta y Nueve are donated in perpetuity to Pride School Atlanta and GLAAD. It is our hope that through education – understanding, acceptance, and love, will become the way we always interact with our fellow humans.

We continue to say their names, their 49 chairs remain empty at our family table.

And a reminder that we are all HUMAN, the only label that really matters.

You can purchase your copy of the 2nd edition hardcover of Cuarenta y Nueve at Blurb

And, the softcover edition of Cuarenta y Nueve is available at Amazon.

I am truly proud of this book and the collection of artists I am among within its covers.

And yes, I have at least one, perhaps two, books coming within the next year or so. (Or I’ll get “the look” from my kid sister!)

Raising the rainbow flag on top of Toronto Police Headquarters for the first time in their 183 year history, 1 June 2017.

My Suit of Armour and the Masks I Wear


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This post is soemthing that my sister Natalie asked me to write for her. Discuss my mental suit of armour, plus my masks, why I have them, and how I use them. I am dedicating this piece to Nat (love you always Sis!!) and our mutual friend, Laurie M (who will discover something new when she finishes reading this).

Grab some snacks and fizzy water, settle in, and let me share a story with you kittens. A good deal of my writing is about a topic or teachable moment that has triggered a thought in my mind, and I can sit down and knock out 3,500 words in an hour or two, give it a quick edit for anything glaring, and publish it. Perhaps by the time you reach the end of this, you may see why it has taken 3 weeks to write this. Sometimes something new will be distinguished for me in my writing, and I’ll stop and examine it and see what the root of it is/was. This collection of words has, at times, been quite challenging to assemble, but, I must keep moving forward, I made a promise to write this.

If you have read a post I wrote last year, Self-Isolation, a few things will be familiar to you. Much of this is new material that I have not discussed prior to today. Another reason this one took a while and was difficult to lay out… because you are getting a look behind the mask, behind the curtain, and honestly, it’s more than a little uncomfortable to reveal the parts long hidden. The quote in the graphic above, keep that in mind, by the end you will see just how thoroughly applicable it really is.

If we were meeting for the very first time today, I can tell you what you would see and experience. You would be dealing with the humour mask, it’s the main component of the mental suit of armour. It’s the one thing people usually pick up on right away, and I get comments like, “OMG, she’s hilarious!” or “she’s funny and blunt as hell!” You get the idea. What a friend once referred to as my “rough as a badger’s arse persona”. I call it my cantankerous, crass, caustic, comical curmudgeon self, just crustier as I’ve gotten older. A longtime friend refers to this as my CBS exterior – Classy, Brassy, and Sassy. You’re familiar with the typical gallows humour of first responders (which I so thoroughly understand!), my humour runs about 3-4 shades darker than that. It means that some days, Nat and I will be howling with laughter at something we’ve shared with each other, but dare not let anyone else hear even the slightest whisper of. Humour is a coping mechanism. It’s also how I keep a safe distance between you and me; not that you are any kind of immediate physical threat, but, welcome to my C-PTSD brain in action. It is in that state of hyper-vigilance where it operates the majority of the time, that it says, you cannot let someone get too close, you know what’s happened before when you have. Is it true? Highly unlikely, but, you learn to deal with how it functions. It wasn’t always easy to manage that armour/sense of dark humour. While taking part in a documentary in 2015, during the one on one filming session, the senior producer said, “I know your sense of humour protects you from the world, but for the next 3 hours, I need you to not hide behind it.” Honestly, it was the longest 3 hours I can recall, and they did not get all that much usable footage. Without that line of defence, the dark humour, it’s difficult to speak of past experiences and not become overly emotional or go totally mute/at a loss for words. Those are the times it gets in the way.

Why a mask, you ask? It’s the face you present to the world. That moment when you are showing “everything is fine” while inside your mind, it’s completely the opposite. Some wit once described it as ‘you smile, and inside your boot, your sock has slid down.’ That feeling when you have just laddered your tights before you have to stand up and speak (my fallback, go without, or have a spare pair in my purse just in case, because shit happens). Think about what you see on social media, everybody looks like they are having the perfect life, perfect friends, perfect partner, etc., when reality is nothing like that. Reality is waking up, rolling over, snuggling up to who is beside you, and you suddenly get the worst case of gas, or sulphuric morning breath from the depths of hell. Getting up from a sound sleep to answer somebody pounding on the door, to later realize, you carried on an entire conversation with your hair going in multiple directions (I have done that more that a few times, so I could sympathize when it happened to a treasured friend). My profile picture? That’s the result of 90 minutes in the chair of a highly talented make-up artist (and one of my “kids” that I am eternally proud of). I let her design the look and do whatever she wanted to. Want reality? See me when I take that first look in the bathroom mirror, and discover that Medusa showed up overnight!

Some people think it means that you have to constantly be handled with kid gloves. Give me a break! It means that in that constant stream of information and conversation that takes place internally, I alone, am responsible for managing my space and comfort level. Only someone else who deals with it would understand the dance that is happening at any given time. It’s how any time Nat and I are at some event, we know when to take the other to a silent place to rebalance. Another reason for that mental suit of armour, masks, safe space, is that over the years, those who said they would be there, when the chips are down are nowhere to be found. Once it has occurred enough times, it becomes your standard base of operation. Is it always the case? No, but you’ve been conditioned to it being your own reality. It is not what’s so, it’s just what is. But at some level, you just know, in a crisis you’re flying solo kid. You fear letting somebody get that close. Remember fear? False Evidence Appearing Real. In instances when your anxiety is triggered, I can usually guarantee that FEAR is driving it.

You will have heard much about “fight or flight response”, as a part of managing anxiety and what PTSD does to your brain. After reading much material in recent years, researchers have said there are now four stages to anxiety. Fight, flight, freeze, collapse. Allow me to illustrate for you. I’m sitting in a long and increasingly more heated meeting. People are coming and going from the room constantly to use the facilities. The closer on the door is set incorrectly, and the door closes with a thundering bang every damn time. Along with other things, I deal with sound sensitivity (Misophonia). Typically, not having my hearing aids in is enough to manage it, but this one night it wasn’t cutting it at all. And the discussion at the table is rising in temperature. I know my anxiety is about to become uncontrollable, and as much as I am mentally shouting at myself, DON’T MOVE!, every time that door slams, I noticeably and physically flinch (for the two people who are actually paying attention and not in a heated discussion). As the volume continues to rise in the room, I’ve already passed fight, I’ve made an attempt to rein in the tempers. Flight is not possible, I’m stuck on this floor until we are finished. Freeze is where I’ll be hanging out. If you are watching, my head has dropped, I’m fidgeting with anything at hand, there is zero eye contact with anyone, and I’ve gone completely silent and am on the verge of the final stage, collapse. Collapse will be where dissociation (in my case, depersonalization) occurs, and I’m losing track of time and no memories are being retained. If you lift my head, I will look directly at you, and not see you. I’ve stepped away, I’m literally not there, I’m watching it from elsewhere, it’s not happening to me. It can be possible to hide the early stages under a mask, but freeze is really obvious, as is collapse.

If we were able to see the full truth, there are many more of us out there operating behind a mask to hide the reality, than we had thought possible. My sense of humour is the mental suit of armour, it’s meant to keep things from getting past the defences, the rough persona is that envelope that holds people at arm’s length, because heaven forbid they get too close and see the real me, that messy arrangement of damaged goods. The various masks hide what is happening mentally and emotionally (and in a few cases, physically). The masks are particularly useful for hiding/disguising episodes of high anxiety or depression (the two associated mental health issues that are pretty much always handed out with your PTSD/C-PTSD diagnosis). And once you have put your mask in place, you have that constant worry that it might slip and somebody may get a look at what is really going on with you in that moment. It has happened more than a few times. I’ll give you some examples from my own experience.

This past week, it was taking every part of me to get up out of bed, get in the shower, get dressed and go out and handle the standard month-end errands. Thank heavens for a chat/pep talk with Nat that morning, got up and went through the motions and launched myself out the door, mask firmly fixed in place to appear as emotionless as possible. I could get through the next few hours as long as I didn’t have to get into any in depth conversation about anything beyond the weather. That secret hope, when you’re traveling between stops in your itinerary, whatever you do, don’t look at anyone, they may want to have a conversation, and that’s bordering on impossible today. Depression level: 3 with one foot on the edge of 4. Almost finished, just have to make it to the bus stop and you’re almost home, keep looking down. I glanced up to check the timer on the crossing signal to see how long until the light changed, and spotted my BFF out for a stroll with the trauma dog she is training with. Thrilled to pieces to see her, have not seen her since before the holidays, and I have absolutely no speech functions ready to use. I am so into my internal conversation and buried deep in my head, I’m scrambling to focus on her words, while hoping like hell that the mask doesn’t slip. Can’t fool the dog, she’s doing as trained and is pressed right up against me, literally leaning in. Thankfully the mask is holding, they don’t pick up that my anxiety is red-lining in that moment and they make the dog move away and sit. Light changes, and I think it was starting to dawn on her, my friend gives me a tiny nudge toward the road, and I’m off across the street to catch the bus I can see coming a few blocks away. Stare at my hands throughout the bus trip south towards home. Once home send her a note to clean it up. Some days bite, ya know?

Over the Christmas-New Year’s holidays. For some reason, it was really rough this time around. Thought I had plans in place, but no communication and the expected person was a no show. Ah… see, again. Don’t let people get close, you will always end up disappointed. Depression level: solidly in 4, but safe. Treasured friend reaches out and we exchange a few messages. She’s an Empath as well, and quite obviously picked up something, and reached out in love. In horror, I realize, that the mask has slipped almost entirely off and she’s seen what’s behind it. Damn! Shove it back into place, with a forced smile, and verbally stiff-armed her with a version of all is good here, nothing going on at all. The mask slipped, the defences were zero, and I damn near got caught, so I thought for a brief moment. I actually did get caught, she saw it, but let it go in the moment. Nat and I had a long chat a day or so after, and she said, you need to clean that up with her. I did. I still owe her a massive hug to go with it. Soon, I hope, I can accomplish that when we next meet for coffee, and I can remind her that I honestly do adore her big-hearted nature.

This one will be where you see reality and logic solidly at work to keep both the mask firmly affixed and the armour properly positioned to ensure there are no gaps (turns out I missed a few spots that day). Without going into way too much detail (and they honestly don’t deserve that much space), we were about to have a historic moment happen that coming Monday in Toronto, but also in cities from coast to coast. A truly history-making moment. And with progress, comes an abundance of hate, particularly from those who may have to cede some of their endless loop tale of woe and self-imposed misery. The online attacks began before I had even left the radio studio to walk home. It came in waves throughout that day and over the entire weekend. Hit every single last C-PTSD trigger, and it was like riding a roller coaster of emotions all weekend long. This triggered the insomnia that I am still dealing with 3+ months later. It was a brutal weekend, and every time it seemed like things were settling down, the same instigators would throw more fuel on the fire online. It had escaped notice locally, but was being watched in other areas, and by Sunday, people were actually picking up the phone and calling to check in, while wondering why nothing was being said or done in town. Just like being back in school all over again. When triggered, the trauma or traumas associated with it from the past come up and are replayed continually in your mind. It’s like being in a waking nightmare that you are looking to escape from and cannot.

Then the morning of the event. Depression level – 4, safety is questionable to completely non-existent. I had been asked to arrive a few hours before the scheduled start to handle any photos and an interview for that day’s service news video. I’m sitting in the lobby waiting, and Danielle walks by. She moved towards me to give me a hug, and I backed up a few steps. She asked how I was doing (no mask in place yet, and I know I was showing every trigger episode from the weekend, let’s be honest, I looked really rough). I finally had to bring the reality and logic part to the fore. I said, “please, don’t be nice, I cannot handle nice. I’m barely holding it together right now. I’m doing my best to get myself to a place where I can function throughout this and get back home again without losing it completely.” I had cancelled a speaking engagement I had been booked for after this event concluded… if I can barely get through this, how the hell am I going to hang on through delivering an hour long talk? By this point I am literally gluing a mask in place and hoping I don’t have to interact with anyone being nice before the glue sets and I can be concealed behind the fake smile and underneath the sense of humour/suit of armour. Normally, I would be able to speak at something like this, knowing ahead of time the main points I wanted to cover. I couldn’t even manage that. I went with something pre-written that I had on my iPad, just in case, and this was the case it was needed. And then I stumbled on a phrase. I know from my experiences in media, I really suck working from a script. Like I needed more proof today! Weather and traffic were not in alignment and Nat and Kim were delayed getting into the city. Once the formal portion was completed and pictures were taken, everybody was shuffled off indoors for the reception, I had to do a stand-up with the media present. Two saving graces in this moment, my BFF is over the right shoulder of the media, and my friend Meaghan is just to the left. If I turn my head to look at her, she will step in and wrap things up.

Then dealing with the issues in the post-event reception. People who were there to circulate and have conversations could not, they were tied up by a few who had their own agenda to run, the purpose of their presence be damned, they wanted the spotlight and took it. Whatever. Finally get a text that Nat and Kim are about to walk through the front door. I grabbed our friend Pete and said, come with me, we have to fetch the family! We step into the elevator and I let out this long emotional sigh. “You struggling today kid?” he asked. “Yup.” Can’t say more, can feel the tears about to spill and I cannot let this happen right now, have got to tighten that mask and hold it together. Nat and I took one look at each other on the elevator ride up and we instantly both knew we were not up to this but had put our masks on and would power through it anyway. We walk into the reception together, Nat turns and looks me in the eyes and whispers, wow, there is a lot of hate in this room. Yup, two Empaths who are literally joined at the hip mentally since we first met, and we both knew it. Drop our coats, take a few photos, and we both needed the moment we had just then. We never even realized until 5 or 6 hours later when Kim sent us both the photo she had quietly taken of us, just being our whole selves with each other. Nat added the caption, and every person who has viewed it has had the same reaction, “If that is not love, then I don’t know what is,” or some phrasing similar to that. Here’s the picture:

It also shows something else. If you look at it, we are both without any masks in that moment, there is no suit of armour for either of us, we are just completely with each other in the moment, and all the energy that went back and forth between us was truly amazing. That’s who we’ve always been with each other. It was damn cold that day, that’s why all the wool hats and gear. And when we sat down, we were in constant physical contact, and we had both fixed our masks in place again. We would discuss it in great detail some time after, what was going on for both of us, but we had to be there for each other that day. She’s my sister and I love her beyond words, I would do anything for her. Nat is one of those rare trusted people who sees me without masks, armour, filters… just the raw, bruised, battered, damaged woman underneath the dark humour and sassy exterior.

I’ll give you one more example of what happens when something gets beyond the mask. I was having a conversation with someone via a messaging app, and I was just venting a year’s worth of frustrations, anger, upset, and being peeved about the lack of progress and all the things that fell by the wayside that were planned to be done the previous year. Sidetracked by general fuckwittery. It came to a screeching halt with one question they asked, “Is this a mental health thing?” Let me tell you where I was in the moment that happened. I’m 12, a massively drunk relative has hold of me to keep her balance with a handful of my hair, and she has just backhanded me across the face for the umpteenth time during that outburst (Mom was at work, she would have lost her temper in an epic fashion had she witnessed that). In the blink of an eye, I went from 54 in the present, right back to 12 and under attack. Is it reality, no, but it’s what happened in that moment. The trust built over years, instantly erased. By the end of that conversation, I was so stiff I had to go stand under the shower to loosen up. Okay, you’re flying solo right now, it’s self-preservation time. Put on a mask to get through the next meeting and some official duties the weekend following, then resigned from that role. I discussed it with a friend and fellow author, and he agreed, it’s past the time for you to go, he said.

I was asked during a recent lecture, if I thought being so open about my mental health, my “warrior” status, what I battle daily, and the hope to reach someone who needs to know that they are not alone by my openly discussing it… has it had a personal cost? Yes, it has and it will continue to have a personal cost. But, it is a price I am prepared to pay to finally put an end to the stigma around mental health. To see first responders and affiliated jobs and their family members receive the support they should have received long ago for occupational stress injuries leading to PTSD and more. The personal cost showed up in that comment, “is this a mental health thing?” Yes, there has been a high personal cost. But, there have been amazing moments too. Like, Laurie introducing Nat and I, without realizing what would happen from bringing two activists and advocates together. That hug photo, I sent it to Laurie with a note, “You are responsible for causing this.” Laurie is finding out by reading this collection of words, that she is more than a friend now, she is our chosen sister, along with an abundance of love we both send her way. You are joining quite the family, and you’ll love Katherine as much as we both do too, she’s a totally adorkable kid sister. 💙💙

Certainly you didn’t think I would let you go without at least one bit of humour. I have a graphic that I sometimes use in my lectures, and it says, “Sometimes I question my sanity, but the unicorn in the kitchen told me I’m fine.” 😂😂

I hope this look behind my masks and beneath my armour has at least been educational. It is not the same for everybody, but it is my reality. All there is to do with this now is to simply understand.

Okay Nat, I wrote what you asked me to, you owe me a cookie and a hug Sis! ❤️❤️

Remember to LOVE each other INTENSELY.


A Note Received, Causing Many Smiles


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Every now and then kittens, I sit and ponder, is what I am doing currently reaching those who need to hear that they are not alone? There are famous voices, media personalities, instant name recognition, well-known advocates, and when they speak they draw a big audience. I could always go and do something else, write about other things, look for new interests. It’s never fun when I’m in my head and talking to myself!

Then, I am reminded of past experiences. I shared a few of these stories with treasured friends recently, and I won’t go into as much detail here as I did with them, but these are those lives that mattered. One was a young person who I mentored for a few years to help get a pet project off the ground and grow the audience for it. He asked me once, “Why me? Of all the people you meet, what was it about me that had you invest that much time?” I’m familiar with such questions. I told him, “Because Honey, when I met you, I saw myself. I saw myself at that age and knew the struggles you had been through. I knew you before I met you, that’s why.” He is still doing the most amazing things, has really come into his true self, and for a young person so wracked by anxiety from years of constant vile and vicious bullying in all forms, had me crying tears of joy the day he stood in an arena and told his story to 7,000 people. I will be eternally proud of him and all that he does, including his work as an ambassador for a kids assistance organization. One of my many “kids”.

Or another, who speaking to a packed room of 400 people at a feature event, told them her story. I’ve shared pieces of it in my lectures before, but have never told all of it, it’s been her story to tell first, and I would not say a word of this until she had publicly. Well, this was her night to do just that. I was seated with other media, I was covering the event for a magazine I wrote for, and you could have heard a pin drop as she spoke. She told the story of how we met, and how if things were not busy, and we were not each rushing off to do something else, we would spend a bit of time and chat. Again, I knew her before she realized it. I had sensed (that Empath thing!) where she was at and what was going on and was picking up on her language/choice of words. She had questions, I knew, and I had the answers, and I encouraged her to not be shy, but to ask anything she wanted, and I would do my best to answer it as fully as I could. And then came the very revealing piece, she told the audience that she had been in a very dark place at that time, and was on the verge of suicide, and had entertained the idea more than a few times… but our chats were what showed her that she was not alone, she wasn’t the only one, there are more of us than she thought. By this time, my best friend’s wife is squeezing the life out of my left hand, and a friend behind me has her hand on my shoulder, and then the final line came, “Christine took an interest in me, and she saved my life. Thank you.” The room erupted in applause, I’m on the verge of tears and fighting hard not to let it show, I’m getting hugs from all sides, and I had to fight the urge to go and give her a hug in front of 400 people. I get a tweet from my best friend and work partner Danielle, who was at the back of the room, “that’s why you have such an important voice”. People came up after the event concluded, and to a person all of them started with the same words, “I never knew…” to which I replied, “You wouldn’t know, I don’t talk about these things, I just do them.” She is another of my “kids” (I have hundreds from over the years). One more life still with us. It is why I do what I do.

And then this afternoon, I received this note, and I’ve been smiling away to myself ever since. Shared this with my kid sister Natalie, and a few treasured friends:

Hey Christine, just wanted to let you know about a little gathering I have started about PTSD as well as other mental health issues. The reason you got an invite? You know your shit when it comes to mental health lol! Well done you 🙂 If you decide to have a look at our little after party, I would be honoured if you would please post as much of your message as you feel conformable with. Just so you know, I’m already a HUGE fan of your work. 🙂 Once again, thank you so much for all you do for people. My only hope is more people find your message. Stay classy.

Any time I have spent recently wondering, is anybody listening, is that person who needs to hear/read this getting it – doubts erased! It is amazing what can happen when somebody reaches out and says thank you for what you do.

In the words of my correspondent, Stay classy! And don’t forget kittens, to LOVE each other INTENSELY.

Christine ❤️❤️

Reading Lecture Feedback


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I had mentioned previously about sharing some of the feedback received from lectures, talks, seminars, that I do so enjoy reading afterward. It provides the opportunity to see how successful the time with them was, providing my Step 1 – Education, and seeing, did I manage to bring the whole room to Step 2 – Understanding. It’s a bonus when I see those who progressed to Step 3 – Acceptance. And, on those rare occasions, there will be one person in the room who will reach Step 4 – Love, also the point in which, for me, they have realized that labels do not matter, we all have the same one assigned – HUMAN.

The main question to be answered for me is, “Did I make a difference in at least one life today?”

Our typical view of a lecture hall as we’re starting to setup before the students start arriving.

I still remember the first time Danielle and I delivered one of these guest lectures. She had called me the day prior, was I available the following afternoon? Yes, free for what? Guest lecture, Ryerson University, 4th year Criminology class, 150 students. Okay, I’m game, what do I need to know/prepare? I’ll give you the details at Starbucks, meet me there 45 minutes before class time.

We met, discussed a brief outline of what we were going to do, enjoyed our coffee and waited for things to get under way. I hadn’t been out to do a talk for some time, let alone a full 3 hour lecture, but, the subject material I know better than anyone else, my own personal story. Of course, since that first time, that lecture has changed much, there is a proper slide presentation to go with it, much information and material to pass along, and we have a rhythm in how we do things, how we play off each other (that’s always a favourite with the students), and we regularly have guests who come to see us do our work. At the start we did not do anonymous feedback from the people in attendance, but, as we became regular visiting guest lecturers, it was something our professor added, and the three of us will get together over lunch or dinner and read through the feedback. What I’m looking for is what hit home, what was so-so, what didn’t sink in, and what should we do differently next time. And there have been some that have touched me deep in my soul, reach in and give your heart a squeeze type emotions expressed on a page. Those are the ones who I carry with me every time I get up in a lecture hall/classroom/meeting room to do this.

The first time was interesting, quite the experience, actually enjoyed it and was looking forward to repeating the experience again. A few weeks later, I met our professor for lunch, and we were discussing what happened at our first ever guest lecture for her. She mentioned that the students were raving about how much they enjoyed that lecture, they hoped we would be back again, and similar comments. Professor Allspach asked me, how much preparation did it take for me to get up and do that lecture. I shocked her when I said I literally received the topic with my coffee in the half hour before class. I’ve said during a lecture, look, I have 50+ years worth of material in my mental files… I’m just picking them as I see what fits in best with how the conversation is proceeding. I have my key points, the rest is go with the flow/stream of consciousness. Yes, I can talk, and fill 3 hours or longer easily.

I use that quote as a slide during the first portion of the lecture. It’s why I still stand up there and lay it all out there for the students. Here’s why this quote strikes home every time… very first lecture, Q&A session is complete, class wraps up, we stay to chat one on one with students, as sometimes they have questions they want to ask that they are not comfortable asking in front of 150 classmates. We had 3 or 4 each, and the first few were general inquiries, did I know where they could go and volunteer their time in the community to make a difference, that sort of general thing. Then the last in my line, and they looked rather bashful, and said they had just one question, “Can I give you a hug?” Oh hell yeah, I never turn down hugs!! If you have ever had the experience of what you think will be a simple hug, but it turns into something significant, and there is so much energy released in that moment that it takes a minute or two, you’ll understand why it stayed with me long after. I inquired at our post-lecture lunch about this one student. Ahh, our professor said, I have had that student in my classes every year they have been here. When you shared your story, you were telling their story too. Almost word for word. About being a survivor, about being a warrior, about being out there because there remains work to be done. We both had a good laugh when she said her student had described me as “ballsy as fuck!” Until that class, this one person had thought that what they had survived, they were the only one, nobody else had fought back from it, could not discuss it because of the stigma and shame attached to it.

That student was my one.

By getting up there and sharing my story, I never knew that this one person needed the light, warmth, and raging courage. There was no flashing sign above their head. But, that hug spoke volumes.

Every time we returned to Ryerson, I always inquired about this student with our professor. She said, her student really took off after that lecture, they suddenly had confidence like not seen before, and they really took on life. So, imagine my thrill, to discover that in one of our guest lectures last year, this student was back in the room to see us deliver a new lecture. In the interim, they began living their life, and now are a rocking writer, journalist, activist, and more! When somebody asks, why do you do this, that one person is why. Could it happen again? I’m fairly sure it has. Sometimes the feedback they submit is not just the standard rote recital of what we discussed, they write a letter and open up. Those are the ones that I treasure always.

If you’re sitting comfortably, have your fizzy water and biscuits at hand, let’s dig in shall we? (The code is so I know place, randomly assigned student number, semester, and year)

RU14S2016: “I felt that it really touched home for me to hear of real life tragedies falling in the LGBTQ community. As a member myself it really bothers me that in a country like Canada, in the year 2016, there is still this lack of tolerance and acceptance going on because there is no awareness for these issues. I also got emotional talking to the speakers directly after the presentation was done. We really need to celebrate human beings and not criticize others differences. We already deserve the same chance at life, opportunities and love. Coming from the west end of the Greater Toronto Area, I’ve realized that in a busier city like Toronto, there is more apparent violence up front than what I was used to seeing back where I grew up. That’s why I hope to see the future continuation of these conversations between people because without advocacy for it, there is no change or progress.”

RU15S2016: “Last week’s presentation was incredible. I was very moved by Christine’s speech and her story she shared with us. I found myself in tears after class ended and I had time to reflect on what was discussed. I have never known much about the LGBTQ community, but their presentation made me want to learn more. I love having people come and discuss things they have experienced first hand. It gives a sense of validation that yes, these things do happen and this is how bad it is. Both speakers were tremendous. Thank you for having them come in!”

RU16S2016: “Last week’s guest lecturers were really informative and I did learn a lot of things that I would have not known about the LGBT community. I’m quite amazed by Christine’s story, living in Toronto with such a large diverse LGBT community I would not think there would be high forms of discrimination. Danielle’s story is somewhat of a victory story as she represents in a respectable manner (as a police officer) the voices of those that are silenced or not taken seriously.”

For that lecture series, we also showed them the Global Television documentary 16X9 – The Fight for Trans Rights.

RU1A2016: “Dear Kristine, Just wanted to say thanks so much for sharing your amazing story with us. I feel lucky to have met you. You are truly an inspiration to us all. Keep doing what you’re doing.” (I framed that letter, that was the first time somebody had written to us in the feedback.)

RU2A2016: “Last week’s lecture was incredibly inspiring. The strength and courage that you both have to share your stores was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Danielle, you seem to be so funny and I love that you can make those jokes to lighten the mood on a topic that means so much to a lot of people. Christine, I literally do not know where to start. The way you spoke about being a mom for your community touched my heart and at the end of the lecture I almost felt like a daughter. Your braveness is inspiring to no end. I’m so grateful that you both took the time and take the time to talk about the LGBTQ community especially when there is still so much unnecessary stigma about it. It was a wonderful lecture and I hope you both continue changing lives.”

RU3A2016: “To Danielle and Christine, Thank you both from the bottom of my heart for coming into my class at Ryerson and sharing your stories. It takes strength and courage to share such personal information. I truly believe that we learn from the life experience of others and I’m sure you have been a voice for those who cannot be advocating for rights and what you believe in truly can make someone vulnerable, but I don’t see it as that. I see bravery, courage and confidence. Thank you for being that voice for my community. Lots of love.”

RU4A2016: “Thank you for coming into my class and taking the time to share your story. You don’t have to do any of this, but you choose to be brave and courageous and stand up for your beliefs. You are paving the way to a better world and you are a role model and inspiration to all. I will never forget your story, it has opened my eyes.”

RU5A2016: “I was very impressed with your presentation. I was even more impressed with the strength and courage each one of you possesses. I think the raw and uncensored methods you used allowed for a deeper, more personal connection with the topic. I am thankful you shared your experiences with us. I am a strong believer that education is the way to end ignorance and stigma. I am glad you all are working so hard to do that. Thank you for sharing and educating us on a topic that affects so many lives.”

RU25A2016: “I was very happy to know that the Toronto Police Service has taken the initiative to empower the LGBTQ community, allowing them a “professional” voice, which in my opinion, just naturally provides more legitimacy to an issue (because that is just how our society is set up). I genuinely admire Christine, not only because she is hilarious and dope as hell, but because she is so strong, and talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Overall, I truly enjoyed the presentation and was able to learn a handful of information, but the most valuable lesson was that I can be a part of the change, regardless of whether I am a part of the LGBTQ or not. Thanks for coming!!”

RU76A2016: “Danielle and Christine were both inspirational and educated me on things that I had no knowledge of. It’s amazing how far you have both come and that you were both able to fight for both your equality and stand strong in who you both are as women. It was nice to hear about both your roles in the LGBT community and how you have made a voice within the community. Thank you for your amazing presentation!”

VST2A2016: “Christine is such an inspiring soul. Coming from a very conservative and traditional background, it’s not every day I am exposed to such bravery and different viewpoints. Although I came pretty late and couldn’t hear her entire story, I could feel the inspiration and positivity flowing through the room and expressions of gratitude on everyone’s faces. I love hearing about personal stories so it was an intriguing environment for me.”

RU2S2017: “I really liked that there were stories from personal experience. This really helped me to understand the issues the LGBTQ community faces. This, partnered with statistics and information, also conveyed information really well. I liked that a police officer gave a positive reflection of police work, it changed the way I viewed the police, especially because the police are reflected so negatively in the media. I also appreciated the emphasis on community-oriented policing.”

RU3S2017: “I really enjoyed Christine & Danielle’s presentation. They were so inspiring — being able to share their stories (especially when they were so personal) was truly a heroic thing. They inspired me to stand up and be the hero I have the potential to be, especially when it comes to helping out the LGBTQ community. Their strength and determination is so powerful and can really change the world for the better. THANK YOU!!”

RU13S2017: “I learned that despite the amazing work of Danielle and Christine, there is still a lot of work to be done between the LGBTQ community and the police to improve their relationship. I appreciate their honestly and bravery for sharing their stories and being able to live their truth every day despite all the hate going on in the world.”

RU25S2017: “I really enjoyed the presentation overall because of the insights the two speakers shared about the transgender community. Although I knew a little bit about the abuse and hardships trans people face, hearing it first hand was an eye-opener and heartbreaking. At the end of the day, LGBTQ individuals are humans. It doesn’t matter what is on the outside, we are all the same on the inside and both speakers reminded me of this. Furthermore, being an out gay police officer cannot be easy, but Danielle’s courage is admirable and I believe we need more people like her in our system. I also learned I should not classify anyone automatically as either a man or a woman, boy or girl, him or her, because I should not assume anyone’s gender.”

RU32S2017: “The stories were inspiring and eye-opening. Interaction with the students was great. Christine was hilarious. Both Christine and Danielle were very passionate about talking to students.”

RU1A2017: “I really appreciated having been given a presentation on bridging the gap between the Toronto Police and the LGBTQAI+ community. As a young person who doesn’t quite identify as straight, I can understand (to a certain extent, of course) the terrible oppression that is often invisible to the oppressive eye. Even though Christine went through hardships, she was confident enough to share her story with us, which gives immense strength to those who feel as though they have none, like myself. I never could have realised how important it would be to see members of an authoritative institution validate my sexuality, but it is giving me enough strength to reconsider coming out to my parents. I know now that there will always be a support group to fall back on. Thank you.”

RU6A2017: “Christine – You have a truly inspirational story. It was a pleasure to listen to you. You brought up so many systemic issues that our generation isn’t really aware of. You would have a great career in motivational speaking. Danielle – You are doing an amazing job training other police. You truly are making a difference!”

RU27A2017: “I found it very interesting about both of Christine’s & Danielle’s life stories – how they contrast and still they are still best of friends. It made me more aware of what is happening between the LGBTQ community and the police force, since I am thinking of going into the police force. I’d like to be as much aware as they are and not like the others that are stubborn and not accepting. I’m glad that there are such being as Danielle & Christine in the police force.” [Did I get hired and didn’t know it?]

RU32A2017: “Danielle & Christine – Thank you both for taking the time out of your schedule to speak with our class. As a fourth year student, I have had my fair share of guest speakers, however, I have never been so attentive as I was, listening to your personal stories. I thought I knew the struggles of the gay & transgender communities, however, after hearing Christine’s heartfelt words & honesty about her life struggles, I couldn’t believe how little I truly knew or understood. This was the most honest & educating presentation & I could not be more grateful to have attended. Thank you both for your bravery!”

RU35A2017: “I found Christine’s story to be so incredibly inspiring. She opened my eyes to the extreme hardship of being transgender and all of the problems a transgender person faces in today’s society. I have met people throughout my life with similar life stories, but, each of those people let their challenges break them. Christine persevered, she didn’t let all of her difficulties destroy her. To me, Christine represents true strength and resilience… and hope. She shocked me with her words, especially when she spoke of her experiences, that was when I started to tear up. It was also nice to hear that the Chief of Police is as accepting as he is, I was unsure of that. Thank you Danielle and Christine for showing that it is possible to find light in even the darkest of places. Much love and admiration for the two of you.”

So kittens, when we are asked why we do what we do, why stand there and bare your soul and your mind and emotions to 150 students… the feedback we receive, and those who reach out to us much later for a conversation… that’s why. Because when I get up and discuss mental health, it is one way to end the stigma. Because if you want to understand our lives, the best way is to hear it directly from us. Because we take what we learn from our experiences over the four years we have been lecturing together, and we apply it in all the areas we work. And for those who ask, Danielle and I have worked hard for the past 6 years, and I wouldn’t change one second of it. We’ve seen the change happening, and there remains a great deal of work to be done. And if we have to do it one at a time, we will. This matters.

As always, be well, stay safe, and remember to LOVE each other INTENSELY.

Christine ❤️❤️

The Pivot Questionnaire, Answered


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At the end of a previous post, Close Eyes, Begin Nightmares, I mentioned answering this questionnaire for a US-based show a few years ago, at the conclusion of 3 1/2 hours of live to tape conversation. Some of you, via various methods, were curious as to how I would answer it, so here is the questionnaire again, with my answers following each question:

The questionnaire concept was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot, after the Proust Questionnaire. The 10 questions are:

  • 1. What is your favorite word? Love
  • 2. What is your least favorite word? Should
  • 3. What turns you on? Holding hands
  • 4. What turns you off? Prejudice
  • 5. What sound or noise do you love? Laughter
  • 6. What sound or noise do you hate? Fighting or arguing
  • 7. What is your favorite curse word? Fuck
  • 8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Orchestra Conductor
  • 9. What profession would you not like to do? Coroner
  • 10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? You made a difference, you were a role model, you saved lives, I am proud of you.

So, for those of you who were curious as to how I answered the questionnaire, now you know. But, shhh, don’t tell the students in my lectures next month, I’m going to use this questionnaire to prove a point, before we wrap up with my favourite part, “The Hero Exercise”.

I’m curious now kittens. How would you answer the 10 questions? Let me know in the comments below, and I shall look forward to reading your thoughts! ❤️❤️

Close Eyes, Begin Nightmares


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I enjoy teaching, it is one of those things, along with writing, that inspires me and brings joy. It is why it seems cruel that the joy comes with a price. Take my hand while we stroll together and take a look at this.

I had been looking forward to Tuesday’s training seminar, our first one just before the Christmas break last year had received rave reviews, and another new class of recruits awaited us. I was going to meet up with my bestie and co-presenter, we haven’t really had much time to talk this year and I anticipated having a chance to catch up beforehand. Yes, I’m a right proper mother hen at times, I am concerned about the load on her these days and whether or not she is dangerously close to the burnout cliff. I’ve driven off that cliff a few times in my previous working life, and it’s not pretty, especially when you repeat the experience and the recovery takes much longer than before.

We were travelling from different areas of the city, me from home, she was coming in from the Yorkdale office, and I thought it should be a smooth trip up on the subway, it’s not rush hour. Oh, if only. Get down into the station, look up at the next train display, see 15 minutes instead of the usual 2 or 3. Ahhh… trouble in the system somewhere, oh joy. As the time ticks by, I send her a text, “subway FUBAR, will be delayed.” (I should add a definition, I have a long list of acronyms and I toss them out there without thinking… fubar – f**ked up beyond all recognition.) When the train finally arrives, it’s sardine can time, and the platform was starting to get too crowded for my comfort. Time to put my CBT training to use. I’ve often said, forget that walk a mile in my shoes nonsense, try spending a day in my head… in this case, the ongoing conversation to get myself through the trip up to where I had to be.

We met up, I had already picked up our visitor passes so we could run out for a coffee/tea/sandwich and just zip upstairs when we got back. So, we’re basically cramming 7 weeks of catching up into 10 minutes… we are used to it after working together for the past 6 years, we talk fast, communicate with speed, and we have our own verbal shorthand that we have developed.

We have a quickie get-together with the person in charge, checking future dates for training and such, quick catch up, and then he mentioned, they had rave reviews from their first recruits class, and they especially were looking forward to me repeating last year’s talk.

Mentally, I said DAMN! and sighed, head in hands. Externally, smile and nod and go with the flow. Oh well, set aside the new format, bring forth the old one mentally and prepare. Meanwhile, thinking to myself, can I edit this on the fly to cut out the more traumatic bits?

I think, at times, people believe that it’s a heavily scripted thing that we do. I have news for you, it isn’t. It’s more freestyle than you realize. I have had people sit in all three lectures we have delivered in a week, and then mention in their feedback that it was not exactly the same each time. Yeah… I’d be bored silly if it was like that, so would my co-presenter. The one thing that Danielle and I have is an innate ability to play off of each other throughout 3-8 hours (depending on the length of the lecture/class/seminar), and our friendship outside of work means we will cause much hilarity in the room when we verbally bat something back and forth between us. The slides/graphics/photos that I use in the lecture, they serve as a reminder of things I should talk about at that point, but with 55 years worth of material to choose from, it’s not always the same words, or in the same order each time. We have our favourite lines/sayings (typically the laugh breaks for the room to lighten the load a bit, it’s some heavy material we cover at times), and some of these are stories we have told many times, so there is a pace to it that comes from experience, but, we engage in a conversation, not just stand there and talk at people.

And, there are days that my high-functioning status may fool people (I’m skilled with a multitude of masks to hide from you what is really going on, you see what I want you to see, unless you are one of those few who have seen me have a full-blown meltdown which means you have a level of trust from me that not many will). People think, ah, survivor, warrior, can face anything and keep going. Oh, that might be how it looks to you, but it’s not reality. And yet, admitting the reality means letting people get closer than my usual comfort levels allow. In a lecture setting, I can show more than usual, because I’m out to find the one in the room who is in the same place and let them know, hey, you’re not alone, me too, got your back.

While delivering some new material, I’m still looking at it from multiple angles. Nope, they specifically want the old material, so strap in lady, dig it up and press play and run it again for the room. What I noticed looking back on it, I was talking to some space in the air, not really eye to eye with the recruits. But, we get through the class, people seem to respond well to today’s session, will wait to hear the feedback.

I managed to make it home before the energy crash occurred. Whenever I’m telling my own story, my experiences, what led up to C-PTSD and life with it on a daily basis, along with all the associated issues that go with it, within an hour of the end of class, my energy hits absolute zero, but only when, I have found, they want to know all the causes, the details, etc.

Discover more fuckwittery in the mail to be dealt with, and as is typical, the person who needs to address it is not in today, can you leave a message in their voicemail. Sure, whatever, my anxiety and stress levels are already off the charts with your latest comedy of errors, let’s give it another nudge over the red line.

Stretch out with my cat, think I’ll listen to some podcasts and relax and occupy my mind with something else. Ah, the best laid plans. The body demanded sleep, particularly after battling insomnia since late last November. I must have done one of those head meets pillow, gone.

Close eyes, begin nightmares. This time it was a particular heavy serving of horrors and terrors. It’s not flashbacks lately, but as the graphic above mentions, it’s pulling out the emotions from those moments, dishing up some gawdawful visions of hell from some corner of my mind (wish I could find it and erase it), and serve it up on a loop, non-stop, until I snapped awake and sat up sweating up a storm, gasping for breath, and my cat sitting on the bedside table looking at me wide-eyed. I used to wake my ex up from a sound sleep some nights, as in those moments I would be grinding my teeth loudly.

Oh what I would give to be able to completely turn off my mind at night so that I could sleep peacefully. I have lost count of the times that somebody has said, just give it up and get over it. Tell you what cleverarse, let’s trade, you take it on for a week and then we’ll go for coffee and you tell me how you could just give it up and get over it.

I do know that next time they request the old format, it’s entirely within my rights to say no, there is a new format now, I’ll give you that one, the old one has been permanently retired. I know I’m going to have to deliver bits of the old format in March, it’s what they are expecting, but that has to absolutely be the last time.

I have good things to occupy my time the rest of this week, some editing work for a very talented friend. She creates the most amazing things that touch, move, and inspire people. I always enjoy reading through her creations (all the editing that is ever required is nitpicking a comma on occasion). Definitely my happy place, and sharing that Empath link, I swear some days she knows me better than I do.

But, will there be more sleep tonight? No. It may not be the events from the past, a variation on a theme, but, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to go back and revisit any of it again.

As for lecturing/teaching, I still enjoy it, give me a topic in advance and let me run with it on the day of. I’ve lectured on healthcare, health policy, history, bridge building, community cohesiveness, mental health/illness/injury, PTSD and first responders, Complex PTSD, and more. Never a twitch. The problem occurs, when I have to dig up my own story for the students with details of the traumas that led to my eventual diagnosis of C-PTSD. People have heard the stories, but, they’ve only heard about 5-10% of the whole. There are things from the past that I will never discuss, there will never be an opening or safe space for it. And if I do go beyond that limit, you will know that it is with someone who I trust completely with my life (I can count them on my fingers).

Not sure what it is, have discussed this at length with one professor I have worked with for a few years now, and we both think we are seeing the cause and effect of those subjected to a steady stream of reality television, TMZ, gossip, tabloids, antisocial media, and more. The unblinking, unthinking, unfeeling masses, who, quite surprisingly, when writing feedback for a lecture, get quite pissy because they want the gory details and didn’t get any. It’s something that my kid sister Nat and I discussed at length last summer, when we both were on the verge of totally throwing in the towel on these talks and lectures. We can deliver the same material, but leave out the root causes, the trauma talk, and still discuss at length the after-effects of living through it.

A few years ago, I did a live to tape interview for a show, 3 1/2 hours which was edited and broadcast over two 90 minute episodes. Toward the end of our time together, the host asked me the Pivot Questionnaire. Some of you may have seen it on episodes of Inside The Actors Studio.

The questionnaire concept was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot, after the Proust Questionnaire. The 10 questions are:

  • 1. What is your favorite word?
  • 2. What is your least favourite word?
  • 3. What turns you on?
  • 4. What turns you off?
  • 5. What sound or noise do you love?
  • 6. What sound or noise do you hate?
  • 7. What is your favorite curse word?
  • 8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  • 9. What profession would you not like to do?
  • 10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

I have often revisited question 10. I have not mentioned it before in lectures and talks, but will be adding it to the lectures this year. I’m considering asking someone in the lecture hall to join me at the front, and I’ll ask them these 10 questions (there is a teachable moment in it, because I will share my answers after they finish, showing how much people have in common in the room and they will be surprised – it will precede the final moment, “the hero exercise”). I remember question 10 was the one that I got emotional with the answer, and paused to wipe away tears. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? You made a difference, you were a role model, you saved lives, I am proud of you.

Be well kittens, stay safe. Thank you for engaging in the conversation.

YOU are a role model, and I am proud of you! ❤️❤️

Today’s Must Read


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We are all programmed people with potential
— Read on

This post, quite simply, describes this so perfectly/eloquently. Most definitely worth your time to read.

As I have mentioned previously, the world occurs in language, whether inside your mind, or created externally in the world around you. And there are those people, that every time they open their mouth, will hit every trauma trigger of those around them, and they seem to quite enjoy doing just that. Some think they are being rather witty, and those of us on the receiving end have taken every word to heart as proof that we are damaged goods.

It it always a good thing to think before speaking. Do not cause unnecessary harm, unless you’re a person who enjoys that type of thing (we have a group of them locally, we refer to them as the four horse riders of the apocalypse).

And do yourself a favour, when you finish reading that post, subscribe to that blog, the author creates amazing work.

An Unexpected Thrill


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I have been updating projects and various writing work in progress over this long weekend, and today was tackling the About the Author page on this blog. It was 3 years old and quite out of date, and definitely needed some personality and some of my typical CBS Broad style (That’s Classy, Brassy, and Sassy, for those of you playing along at home).

The updated page was posted to my standard social media even though I’ve been taking an extended sabbatical from the online world lately. I did receive some lovely feedback during the day, which tells me I added the right amount of personality, humour, and sass to that page.

Funnily enough, I have been working on a piece about delivering the last version of a lecture in October of last year, and reviewing the feedback over the past 4 years as a visiting lecturer. It’s a good review for me, prior to teaching a training seminar tomorrow afternoon, and a reminder for those days when I don’t want to get out of bed, why I continue to go out there and do this.

I have just one goal each time, to reach that one person in the room, that one life, that one who is questioning if anyone out there could ever understand what is going on for them, getting past the stigma and shame associated with the concern, to make a connection. Then they hear from this comical curmudgeon, and something clicks, and when I’m reading through the anonymous feedback a few weeks after, that’s the one who opens up and that touches me deeply. I have one personal letter that was included in the standard feedback from a lecture in 2016, and I kept it, framed it, it’s my regular reminder of why I do what I do.

Today, an unexpected thrill, I received this note from an out of town friend:

Your open and honest messages are remarkable. Recently I can tell you they have helped a young friend I have who has been struggling. Your words helped her realize that there was no shame in her struggle and she deserved to do what she needed to do for herself. So add another soul to all the others that you have reached.

I read through that a few times, and then replied that if she ever wants, her friend can contact me directly… I always have time for a fellow warrior who is in the battle every day. It has become quite the peer support system we have built through the online world… I like to think it is a good use of the technology versus what it has become in many less than stellar cases.

And I’m still surprised. I wasn’t in front of a lecture hall, classroom, auditorium, boardroom, meeting room… I was just being me, and sharing my story through my writing.

I have mentioned this previously… updated numbers show that 1 in 4 of us will experience issues around mental health/illness/injury in our lifetimes. If it is not us, it will be someone we care a great deal about. The stigma is killing people. We need to eliminate it completely, and the best way we have is to talk about it, to discuss it, to share our experiences.

Here’s my main message… YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Reach out, we’re here, we will listen, we will share with you, we’ll talk.

And I’m thinking to myself, how cool is that? I reached my one person 24 hours before the class started!

Be well and stay safe kittens. ❤️❤️