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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Venuta

Why I'm Doing This...

I have been trying to write a blog about the amazing Outward Bound Alumni weekend I participated in at the end of June, but, I am still working on that so in the meantime this is the next blog post.

I have woken in the middle of the night- thanks a bit too hormonal interference being a “mature women of a certain age”, and part of it is panic. At those wee hours in the morning the logical part of your brain is asleep- thus the panic.

I have been battling with plantar fasciitis, and in fact have taken the last week off of training, and pretty much everything else. Both my body, and my mind needed some down time. But that does not stop the 3:00 am murmurings.

So I have been thinking about why I am doing this, and I have mentioned a bit before, but now I figured is a good time to get down to more of the story.

Back in 2004, I had been in serious therapy for 3 years with my psychiatrist. He had mentioned that winter that he would be going on a six week solo canoe trip. I was jealous and envious as I had always wanted to canoe, and then in the deepest recesses of my mind, I remembered a presentation Outward Bound did in my school when I was thirteen years old. That was 38 years previously. I was 45 years old, but my psychiatrist was 68 years old, so maybe it was not too late for me.

I did a bit of research, found out about the Women of Courage programs and asked for an application.

I received the application, and it sat on my table for a month or two, as I was sure that I would not be accepted. Growing up the way I did I was taught I was not worthy, and also, I was living with a mental illness, so I figured that was a huge strike against me.

In 2003 I had been correctly diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I was also living with Complex P.T.S.D. and depression and anxiety issues.

That January of 2005, with a cast on my leg and fractured ankle- I had slipped on the sidewalk in the snow and ended up with a plate and 7 pins in my ankle- I started filling out the forms.

Then there was a section for my psychiatrist to fill out. So we sat together and went through it and he had to be honest and mention my mental illness and challenges. He actually got emotional and said “they are asking the right questions” as he knew the benefits of being out in nature but had seen many of his clients denied in other outdoor programs because they lived with a mental illness or mental health challenge.

I also knew I had to be honest about it all, including the hospitalizations.

I had been brought up in a household of lies, secrets and deceptions, and I knew to move forward I needed to tell the truth. So I did. I had no problem mentioning my fractured ankle, in the cast that would in time heal before the program start in July.

I was more emotional when I mentioned /wrote about my mental health history, convinced that it would be a game changer.

So, all the forms were filled out and I sent them off, I waited. In time I heard back and Outward Bound to set up a phone call for myself, and a separate one with my psychiatrist. I was still convinced I would not be accepted. And now that I think of it, it took a huge amount of courage for me to even apply. Not because I was sure I would not be able to go, but because I dared risk something much more precious and fragile. I dared to Hope.

Phone calls done, forms filled out, and the cast came off. I was wearing an air cast, and my leg and ankle were getting stronger each day, and in time I was back golfing and dragon boating.

Then I received an Outward Bound envelope in the mail !!! Did I dare open it? Well I had to, and to my utter surprise and shock I was accepted into the program.

Many of you, especially those that know me, may think, “Well of course” But actually it's not that simple.

In 2005, the world, and professionals were not very accepting of Dissociative Identity Disorder. (There is still a lot of resistance but it is a bit better). I was very fortunate to have knowledgeable and caring professionals in my life, but that was not the norm.

While being hospitalized I had been told I was “acting this way for attention” that I “Just needed to pray harder” that this condition “Is not real and it's all made up” Society believed Hollywood's versions over the truth, and folks were afraid to even ask questions let alone acknowledge the condition.

But NOT Outward Bound Canada. They asked more questions, wanted to know what this was all about and what it would look like, how they could support me, did I have any concerns, etc. I made up and sent them a support plan on how they could best support me, and as you can see, I have never looked back.

It also had not gone unnoticed by me, or anyone else for that matter, that it was after that first course that I started my mental health advocacy work.

And that is one of the many reasons I love Outward Bound Canada, and why I am doing this. They have supported me and given me many opportunities to grow, to challenge myself and to become stronger on my mental health and healing journey. They had accepted me for who I was, and where I was at, and this has allowed me to grow and become healthier in ways I could never imagine.

Outward Bound has always known the benefits of being in nature, with a supportive group, one can develop, resiliency, strength and discover that a person is much stronger mentally and physically than one believed. Outward Bound Canada knows there is no separation between mind and body. As my psychiatrist said all those years ago “They get it”

And, here they are again, giving me and supporting me with this amazing opportunity. I mean seriously, never in my life did I ever imagined I would ever be saying to anyone, “In 3 weeks I will be flying to Geneva.” I mean, seriously.

I also know, that will I come home from that course, a stronger, and better person than I was when I started.

As I wrote in a quick email I sent a friend a couple weeks ago. "I will be trekking in some of the most beautiful places in the world, with a group of amazing and supportive people. I know I will be sore, and my feet and the planter fascinates will be letting me know its there, and probably screaming at me, but I will continue because I want to raise funds and bring awareness to these amazing programs, I want to bring others Hope."

“I look back and think of the me that was sitting at the kitchen table, filling out that form. That cast on my leg, helped heal my fractured ankle. Outward Bound helped heal my fractured soul.

That is why I am doing this.

Thanks again for joining me on this journey, and please stay tuned


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