More than eleven years ago, I suffered an emotional episode (they used to call it a nervous breakdown). At the time, I thought it was because of the termination of a relationship. Of course today I know better. When we don’t listen to those messages that we are receiving every day, the universe will send us louder and louder messages until we have no choice but to listen. This is part of that story:
In order to be able to share with you about my rebirth, I first need to share with you about my death. Like most deaths I imagine, it came very suddenly and without warning. I was going through the worst breakup I had ever experienced (up to that time) and I was heading back to work for my first shift after the Christmas holidays where we lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I was a federal employee and worked for Indian Affairs as a Capital Compliances Officer. I had a great boss but I did not enjoy the job because I wasn’t able to interact with the First Nation communities (which was what I thought I would be able to do on this job). I was fretting about going back to the job and leaving my youngest child so early in the morning. It was January 8, 2004 (this date represents the best of my ability to accurately determine the date) and I had to leave home by 7:30 am to get to work by 8 am (on the reserve) and so it was still dark. Now I am driving along Simpson Street and I was worrying about my daughter who was only ten at the time having to make her way to school down Algoma Street which had a lot of scary people walking on the street. I was worrying about her and frustrated with this job that took me away from her and not being able to give her a ride to school which is what I would be doing if I was home with her. I was also rehashing everything in my mind from my relationship breakup and questioning the Creator’s motives.
So I was getting more and more upset and my heart started pounding really fast. Now I am on Arthur Street and my heart was pounding so hard and so fast that I actually took my eyes off the road for a moment to look at my chest. This was of course not a logical response as I would not be able to see my heart but I was experiencing fear that I had not ever experienced before. Heart palpitations were not a new experience for me as I had suffered from these symptoms and depression most of my life. When I looked back up to the road, I was on the wrong side of the road (four lanes) on Arthur Street heading west (around Vickers Park). Well thankfully there were no vehicles on that side of the road at that time but I realized that what I really needed to do was to get myself to the hospital. Now at that time, McKellar Hospital was still open and literally just around the corner from where I was. But it took me twenty minutes to figure out where the hospital was, I was so disoriented. By the time I got through triage and they took my blood pressure it was something like: 255 over 205. This doesn’t seem possible but that’s what it was. Imagine what it was when I was still on the road?
I think at first the hospital thought I was having a heart attack. I was trying to tell the doctor “it’s not my physical heart that is the problem, it’s my emotional heart”. They had the social worker interview me and the doctor informed me that I was not going anywhere. They would be keeping me for observation in south ward 2 (which is the psyche ward). I had to make arrangements for my children or the local Aboriginal Child Welfare Agency would be apprehending my children (even though there were adult children to care for the younger ones). My five children at the time ranged in age between 10 and 22 and only three of them lived with me at that time. I had no choice but to call my father who was nearly 70 years old at the time and lived north of Sudbury (about a twelve hour drive) to come and take care of my children while I was in the hospital. I called my dad and he didn’t even hesitate, he said “I will pack my bag and leave in 20 minutes, do not worry about anything but you”. I can’t imagine the foul winter weather he must have experienced on his way to Thunder Bay from Sudbury at this time of the year and his concern for me. This was definitely not the first time I had experienced emotional trauma but it was the first time that I was hospitalized for it. Thankfully this arrangement appeased the Child Welfare Agency and they backed off indicating that they would need to interview my father once he was in town and check on my children.
This was a very scary time for me. I do not remember a lot about the hospital stay but I do remember that I felt dead inside. When I went outside for a cigarette (I have since realized the importance of tobacco in my life and use for ceremonial purposes now only) in the evening and I was looking up at the moon, I felt nothing! When I went outside in the morning for a cigarette and was watching and listening to the birdies, I felt nothing! I felt no connection to Spirit and no connection to our Mother Earth. This was extremely frightening for me. I had never felt so empty before. My children came to visit me in the hospital and I could tell that they were very worried about me too. Mama Bear has always taken care of everybody, what are we going to do now?
I was so grateful to my father for coming to care for my children and then caring for me. I was in the hospital for about five days and it was quite obvious afterwards that I was not going to be able to care for myself right away. Dad and I spent our days watching Seinfeld and other comedy shows, me on one couch and dad on the other. It was good therapy for me ~ laughing. My dad was like a fireman, always prepared, if one of the kids called and needed a ride, his boots were right there along with his coat and away he would go with his old van. My dad stayed for about three weeks and then he had to go home to take care of his household (there was a little bit of concern for freezing water pipes). I was sure sad and a little scared to see him go. He made sure that I could drive before he left and remember that it was such a foreign feeling for me to get in that truck of mine and drive.
I was off work ten months altogether that year. For the first time in my life, I had to give myself plenty of time to recover and heal! I realized after about three months, exactly how exhausted I was. Then I realized after ten months, how hard I was going to have to work to get myself emotionally stable. I wish I could tell you that it was easy and all roses from that point on but this would not be accurate. It was especially difficult for me to go out anywhere. The only thing that I made myself do every day was to go out into the yard (we were renting a house that had a fenced in yard) and feed the birds. I thought to myself, as long as I can do this every day, I should be okay. I had a minimal income of $786 per month at that time (combination of child tax credit and child support). I have no idea how we survived those ten months with no income (me and three children). So I made a deal with the universe, as long as the universe would send me enough money to keep food on the table, I would purchase bird seed and feed the birds. The universe agreed to my terms and to this day I am committed to feed the birds every day. There is always bird seed available, if it is getting low, then I know there are more resources coming!
My dad also shared with me at this difficult time that as long as I was taking care of Samantha, my youngest, everything else would fall into place. So I lived by these guidelines every day and some days that was all I could do. Some people refer to this as one day at a time or one hour at a time. In this very vulnerable state, I knew that I needed to seek therapy and instinctively I knew that I also needed to seek out spiritual teachings. It was time.
Shortly after my father left to go back home to Sudbury, I was out going for a short walk and something told me to go to the Anishnawbe Mushkiki facility (where we lived, we were right next door to an Aboriginal Health Access Centre that had traditional healing as one of their programs). I couldn’t figure out ‘what’ or ‘who’ was telling me to go to Mushkiki but the feeling telling me was so strong that I decided to listen. When I started to go up the stairs to the facility, there was a man waiting for me at the top (I later learned this was Kalvin Ottertail). He seemed annoyed with me that I had taken so long to get ‘there’. He indicated that they were waiting for me and hurry up to get inside. He ushered me to the cedar lodge inside the facility and I told him that I could not go in because I was on my moontime (there are some conductors who will not permit women to come to ceremony during their menstrual cycle because of teachings they received about a woman’s moontime). He said that there was a special chair in there for me and not to concern myself with that caution. I was completely blown away with the fact that this man was ‘waiting’ for me and I was being invited into the lodge. I do not remember what the messages were that day but certainly this magical experience has stayed with me a very long time.