Personal Favourite: ‘A journey toward recovery: From the inside out’ by Dale Walsh

IMG_2364-220x165I’m going to take a breather for a few weeks from posting on Recovery Stories so I can take a break and then focus on some Sharing Culture work. Remember, there’s plenty of content on the website for you to look at, including over 700 blogs and plenty of Recovery Stories, articles, etc.

I thought I’d leave you with one of my favourite blogs, A journey toward recovery: From the inside out by Dale Walsh.

The Problem
“For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic.

I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

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Relationships, Connection and Healing from Trauma

UnknownI’m reading an excellent book at the moment, which I can strongly recommend to you. If you’re working in the trauma field, then The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And other Stories From a Child Psychiatrists Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz is an essential read.

The book really gives you a feel for how our understanding of childhood trauma and its healing has moved along over the years. Bruce Perry is a real leader in this field and I feel blessed to have learnt of both Bruce’s and Bessel van der Kolk’s work in the past year. Thank you Judy and Carlie Atkinson.

Here’s a little section from the book:

‘Trauma and our responses to it cannot be understood outside the context of human relationships… The most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections. And this is especially true for children…’

‘Because humans are inescapably social beings, the worst catastrophes that can befall us inevitably involve relational loss.

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Part 4)

3702998I recently wrote three blogs about my other initiative Sharing Culture – which is focused on the healing of Indigenous people – and what we are trying to do [Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3]. It is time to continue with another part, which will focus on our activities over the past 18 months.

Progress To Date
The first development was the Sharing Culture website, launched in late-2013. We set out with the aim of developing a small website focusing on historical trauma, healing and culture, primarily using the voices of Indigenous people (which is why you see so many quotes) within an organised framework. We wanted our audience to gain a basic understanding of key issues relating to Indigenous healing.

The information (written and film) I provided was obtained from web pages, books, science papers and personal communications. A considerable amount of research, reading and watching of films was involved in bringing this content together. In addition to this content, I included Stories, both of individuals (e.g. Professor Judy Atkinson) and initiatives (e.g. the Native American Wellbriety Movement).

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Parts 2 and 3)

42115582. Working towards solutions with Sharing Culture
We developed Sharing Culture as a way to help tackle historical trauma (and its consequences) and facilitate Indigenous healing.

Sharing Culture is a grassroots initiative based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness. We use a strengths-based, solution-focused approach that celebrates success and fosters positivity, acceptance and cultural pride.

We recognise that self-determinism is a central foundation of healing – solutions must come from Indigenous communities. At the same time, non-Indigenous people can contribute to this healing process in a variety of ways.

One major way that Sharing Culture will facilitate this healing process is to generate high quality educational content and Stories about Indigenous healing and the healing of trauma, and distribute it in the most effective manner to as wide an audience as possible.

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Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People (Part 1)

3702998“Indigenous people possess a gift. This is a gift of healing, strong relationships and a deep connection to land, from a culture that has flourished over many thousands of years.” David Clark and Michael Liu

1. Nature of the Problems
As a result of the historical experiences of colonisation (and associated violence and control), forcible removal of children, and loss of culture and land, Indigenous people of Australia (and other countries) have suffered a trauma that has been passed unwittingly down through the generations.

The consequences of this historical, or intergenerational, trauma include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and abuse, self-harm and suicide.

Today, the impact of historical trauma is exacerbated by economic and social disadvantage, experiences of racism and paternalism, and ongoing grief resulting from multiple bereavements. It is exacerbated by closing down of remote Indigenous communities, destruction of Indigenous sacred sites, and turning over of Indigenous land to the mining industry.  

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‘From Trauma to Transformative Recovery’ by Bill White

Trauma to Transformation ImageAnother wonderful blog from Bill White, recently posted on his excellent website.

Between 1986 and 2003, I served as the evaluator of an innovative approach to the treatment of addicted women with histories of neglect or abuse of their children.

Project SAFE eventually expanded from four pilot sites to more than 20 Illinois communities using a model that integrated addiction treatment, child welfare, mental health, and domestic violence services.  This project garnered considerable professional and public attention, including being profiled within Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary, Moyers on Addiction:  Close to Home.

My subsequent writings on recovery management and recovery-oriented systems of care were profoundly influenced by the more than 15 years I spent interviewing the women served by Project SAFE and the Project SAFE outreach workers, therapists, parenting trainers, and child protection case workers.  This blog offers a few reflections on what was learned within this project about the role of trauma in addiction and addiction recovery.

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‘Cultural Genocide Survivor Walking The Red Road’ by Wayne William Snellgrove

a07bb170c4a36161aa1f8f4859c19794_LI can’t begin to appreciate what it must have been like to have been removed from my mother at a very young age and be brought up in a culture I knew was not my own. This happened to so many Indigenous people in Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand and other colonized nations.

When I read stories like the one below,  I know I am doing the right thing with my life, trying to help Indigenous people through Sharing Culture. I marvel at the healing that is illustrated in stories like the one below. I know that we must pass on such stories, so many other people can be inspired to Walking the Red Road. That they can take their own journey of healing.

Here is the story of Wayne William Snellgrove, which appeared on the I Love Ancestry website.  

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Dreambuilding in Napranum

Napranum-Aboriginal-Community-4-450x337Some of you will know that I am also running the Sharing Culture initiative. Sharing Culture aims to help Indigenous people heal from historical trauma and its consequences. These consequences include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, self-harm and suicide.

Here is a blog I put up today which will describe one of my projects:

‘”The Elders taught us that to treat the sick trees you must treat the whole forest – you must create a healing forest. If not, the trees will just keep getting sick again… It means that we must actively heal the community and its institutions at the same time an individual works on his or her own healing from alcohol or drugs or other unwell behaviors.” Don Coyhis, Native American Leader & Founder of the Wellbriety Movement

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process, as well as from successful Indigenous healing initiatives. Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by current systems of care.

Society must also pay attention to, and implement, findings from scientific research that demonstrate key principles that underlie healing. For example, research has shown that self-determination is the foundation of healing and recovery from adversities like trauma, mental health problems and addiction.

Sadly, however, governments and systems of care still act in a paternalistic and controlling manner towards Indigenous people. They see themselves as the agents of change for Indigenous people, even though evidence shows that this approach does not work. It further disempowers people.

As a result of these problems, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should. This is a human rights issue that needs addressing urgently.

Sharing Culture involves the development of an educational resource that shows how healing occurs at an individual, family and community level. As part of this initiative, we are collaborating with highly respected people who have developed key Indigenous healing initiatives. We intend to create high quality content about these initiatives that will be disseminated to a wide audience via a multi-platform approach, i.e. internet, documentary film, iBooks, newspapers, etc.

We aim to inspire and educate our audience, create advocacy campaigns, and help the people we collaborate with develop their projects further (many receive minimal funding). We need to learn from, and facilitate the work of, people with successful healing initiatives.

Today, I would like to announce the first of our Healing Journey collaborative projects. This project involves the development of an easy-to-access, internet-based educational and advocacy resource based on lived experience that will inspire and educate people about community healing.

This resource will focus on the remarkable transformation – at an economic, social and spiritual level – that has been occurring in the Cape York Indigenous community of Napranum, a transformation catalysed by Annalise Jennings of Dynamic Exchange.

Dreambuilding in Napranum will comprise film, audio, text and animation that highlights: (1) healing stories and principles; (2) the evidence for transformation; (3) community events and culture; (4) personal reflections on what facilitates change, and (5) how to address practical issues when facilitating community change. We will also link to other internet-based content that enhances understanding of community healing.

Dreambuilding in Napranum will show what can be achieved when Indigenous people are empowered, connected and given the opportunity for self-determination, key elements underlying healing.

Our audience will gain important insights into how Indigenous people overcome great adversity. We will celebrate what Napranum has achieved and ensure that their successes are shared with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world.

We are in the very early stages of this project. Annalise and I have been talking for some time about linking up. I recently uploaded ten pages of content about Annalise’s work in Napranum using content that is already available online.

Last week, Annalise visited Napranum and the community agreed to participate in the project. I am planning the filming that Mike and I will do in Napranum on the basis of my interviews with Annalise. However, this project is dependent on us raising funding, so I have a busy period ahead.

Here are two testimonials for the project:

“Napranum people have always known where they wanted to go. They have always had great vision and direction. What is different about what is happening now, is someone is willing to walk alongside them to help make their dreams happen. It is a story that needs to be told. It is a story that needs to be repeated in other places, by other people. A story of people doing things together. It was in Napranum many years ago, a woman said: ‘Sometimes, when we look at the problems, they seem like a large mountain. But we can move that mountain, one rock at a time.’ Napranum and Tjunundi people of old Mapoon can teach us many things.” Professor Judy Atkinson & Dr Carlie Atkinson

“Every now and then something happens that is so indisputable and powerful that its impact and implications cannot be ignored. The transformation of Napranum is one of those somethings. Communicating the Napranum story should be an urgent priority so that many people, at all levels of decision making, can understand its message and become part of the healing solution.” Professor Tim Carey

You can find out more about Annalise’s work with Napranum here. We’ll both be blogging about this project as time moves on.

Learn the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

One of the world’s foremost psychiatrists specializing in PTSD, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk visits Big Think to discuss the history of the disorder, its varying effects on sufferers of all ages, and forms of treatment that can “help people to come back to life.”

To understand PTSD, says Dr. van der Kolk, you have to understand the nature of trauma and the ways in which traumatic triggers can vaporize anyone’s joie de vivre.

20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 2

P4061087-220x1646. The Healing Ritual of Storytelling
Storytelling is a healing ritual amongst Indigenous people.

In a culturally safe environment (e.g. healing circle), Indigenous people can share experiences by telling their Story (which is often a trauma Story), help each other come to terms with the emotional pain caused by what has happened to them in their past, and make sense of their personal story in relationship to the collective, communal Story.

7. Pride in Surviving Colonisation
Learning history from an Indigenous perspective, illustrating how conditions for social and psychological discontent have developed, helps Indigenous people understand why they have problems.

It also shows them that they retain the necessary agency to change their lives for the better. It helps them deal with shame and blame, factors that impact negatively on social and emotional wellbeing.

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20 Ways To Facilitate Indigenous Healing, Part 1

2007_0118walpole01151-220x164Some of you will know I also run the Sharing Culture website, which focuses on Indigenous healing. Today, I thought I would upload the same blog onto both websites. My action reflects the importance I attach to this area.

Society has the knowledge to facilitate Indigenous healing. This knowledge comes from individuals who have overcome great adversity and undergone a healing process (the lived solution); successful Indigenous healing initiatives, and scientific research demonstrating key principles underlying healing.

Sadly, however, this knowledge is neither disseminated well, nor implemented enough by government and health care, social welfare and criminal justice systems. As a result, society is not helping Indigenous people improve their health and wellbeing to the level it should.

In this and forthcoming blogs, I shall briefly describe 20 ways to facilitate Indigenous healing. Here are the first five.

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‘7 Steps to Creating a Healing Affirmation’ by Douglas Bloch

Depression counselor and survivor Douglas Bloch talks about seven steps you can follow to create your own healing affirmation. Douglas’s Healing channel on Youtube is an excellent resource.

‘Healing From Trauma: Owning Your Self’ by Bessel van der Kolk

UnknownThe Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the healing of trauma. Here’s a short excerpt:

‘Nobody can “treat” a war, or abuse, or rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event, for that matter; what has happened cannot be undone.

But what can be dealt with are the imprints of the trauma on body, mind and soul: the crushing sensations in your chest that you may label as anxiety or depression; the fear of losing control; always being on alert for danger or rejection; the self-loathing; the nightmares and flashbacks; the fog that keeps you from staying on task and engaging fully in what you are doing; being unable to fully open your heart to another human being.

Trauma robs you of the feeling that you are in charge of yourself, of what I will call self-leadership in the chapters to come.

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‘I Am “Pro-Healing”’ by Hilary Bryant

“Yoga helped me explore and reconnect with the body I’d abandoned and abused for years. My pain and sadness had me living exclusively in my mind, my body nothing more than a battleground for my inner wars.

Through yoga and meditation, I slowly began to love myself again, learning to treat myself with care and respect. I felt a greater sense of self-awareness, and a sense of connection to something greater.

This was a drastic contrast to the days when I felt as if god had forgotten about me, or like I was a mistake not meant for this world.”

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‘2015 – The Year of Reinventing the Wellbriety Movement’ by Don Coyhis

5de8955239fe8af6972c6889e71ffa26Don Coyhis posted this powerful message on the White Bison website recently. As some of you know, I think very highly of Don and the amazing Native American Wellbriety Movement.

‘As some of you know, I had a stroke on May 11, 2014, Mothers Day. Given the reality of the event, we made some choices and decisions regarding White Bison and the Wellbriety Movement.

We hired Carlos Rivera as the Executive Director, promoted Kateri Coyhis as the Director of the Wellbriety Training Institute, and I moved to Chairman of the Board to provide support to the new White Bison team.

Thanks to the prayers of so many, my recovery was touched by a miracle.   I had excellent therapists and moved from a wheelchair, to a walker, threw away the cane in August and was back to 90% recovery by September and have continued to recover since then.

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‘The Importance of Hope in Healing From Depression’ by Douglas Bloch

In this video, author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch talks about how hope can be your best ally when recovering from depression. Please check out Douglas’s website and book on healing from depression, which are top-quality resources.

Merry Xmas… and some words of Native American wisdom

IMG_0142I’m going to take some time off, so this is my last blog until the New Year. I’d therefore like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and relaxing Christmas break and all the best for 2015.

I hope you’ve found this website of some value. If you haven’t already done so, you might like to visit my other website, Sharing Culture, which is a part of an initiative focused on Indigenous healing I have developed with filmmaker Michael Liu.

I’d like to end this year with some pearls of wisdom written by Don Coyhis on the basis of what he was told be a Native American Elder in New Mexico:

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Classic Blog: ‘Family Stories, Secrets and Survival’ by Dr. Judith Landau

This talk will provide you with insights into intergenerational trauma and how addiction arises as a coping response. It will show you a way forward to recovery and healing, through Story. Understanding the past can help us deal with the present and help create a better future.

Judith, thank you for this wonderful talk! Here is the Youtube intro:

‘Dr. Judith Landau tells the story of trauma and recovery through generations and gives clues along the way for healthier families.

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‘Healing is in Our Stories’ by Deron Drumm

ddrummHere’s an excellent article by Deron Drumm about the importance of Stories in helping people recover and change the mental health system which appeared on Mad in America.

“It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.” Iyanla Vanzant

I have spent a lot of time talking to politicians, media members and those working in the mental health system about the failings of the current method of viewing and treating emotional distress. I have come to the conversations armed with stats and outcomes about the bio-medical paradigm.

I have found that the people I speak with do not doubt the facts conveyed. They seem to agree that the current state of affairs is not good. The difference is that I think the tragic outcomes demonstrate the failure of the current system. The folks I talk to tend to think things are so bad because “mental illness is just that serious.”

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Gabor Maté: When The Body Says No – Mind/Body Unity and the Stress-Disease Connection

‘Stress is ubiquitous these days – it plays a role in the workplace, in the home, and virtually everywhere that people interact. It can take a heavy toll unless it is recognized and managed effectively and insightfully.

Western medicine, in theory and practice, tends to treat mind and body as separate entities. This separation, which has always gone against ancient human wisdom, has now been demonstrated by modern science to be not only artificial, but false. The brain and body systems that process emotions are intimately connected with the hormonal apparatus, the nervous system, and in particular the immune system.

Emotional stress, especially of the hidden kind that people are not aware of, undermines immunity, disrupts the body’s physiological milieu and can prepare the ground for disease. There is strong evidence to suggest that in nearly all chronic conditions, from cancer, ALS, or multiple sclerosis to autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or Alzheimer’s, hidden stress is a major predisposing factor.

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