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This Remembrance Day, remember all those that have given their lives and all that have physical and psychological injuries including those that have been sexually abused. I served in the Canadian Forces and was injured to the point where my great career was cut short. I am telling my story as a final part of my healing journey.
In 2007 I was a healthy unemployed 34 year old. The factory I worked at for 10 years was shut down and moved to Mexico. I had a wife and 3 kids to take care of and was struggling to meet my bills. One day a Canadian warship pulled alongside Windsor Ontario and it was opened for tours. I brought my little kids to the ship and we were all impressed. The sailor’s were also handing out flyers letting everyone know that the navy was hiring. After only a short conversation with my wife, I decided to apply. In January 2008 I was shipped off to basic training. I passed all the physical tests and ran with everyone without any problems. After basic, I was transferred to Victoria BC to begin 6 months of career training for the trade I chose. After the trade training, I was deployed with HMCS Winnipeg to the Gulf of Aden for 6 months on an anit-piracy operation. You may remember seeing the movie Captain Phillips. I was there for that incident in 2009. I remember hearing the distress calls over the radio as I worked in the operations room. The pirates got on the radio and said “you’re too late,” when we were trying to regain comms with the captain. After the Maersk Alabama was taken over our ship was sent away and the American navy stayed with it to negotiate.
While a ship is at sea, the garbage has to be processed and so there is a garbage processing room where all plastic is melted down to solid “pucks” and stored till we come ashore. All paper was shredded and mixed with water to create a slug. It was pumped overboard to be broken down in the ocean. All glass was smashed and sent to the bottom of the ocean and metal was also sent to the bottom. All of these items, plastic, paper, glass and metal were processed in the garbage processing room ( AKA the gash room) This room was only used when the ship was on long deployments. Short trips, less than a few weeks, we just stored away till we arrived back home. When we were on our 6 month deployment in the Gulf of Aden we used this gash room everyday. My department took care of the gash room and we all took turns working there. Most didn’t like working there because it was smelly and disgusting as you might imagine. It was full of mould and slime everywhere but I actually liked it because it was quiet and peaceful there, as we worked alone processing the trash. It got me away from a very stressful job in the operations room, so I volunteered to take other shipmates’ turns working there and they happily obliged. I worked in the gash room often during those 6 months and had no idea the damage my lungs would have incurred as a result of being exposed to excessive mould for so long. It was mouldy in there because of the high moisture and humidity as well, the air conditioning unit was also contaminated with mould and blew cold mouldy air in there to keep it cool. That same air conditioning unit also blew cold air into the operations room where I also worked. So I was exposed to mould all the time for those 6 months while deployed.
I never felt the effects of the mould exposure until after I returned from the deployment. A couple months after my ship came back, we went on a 5 KM base run. I made it to the first kilometre and could not breathe. I felt like I was going to die as I gasped for air for the next 4 KM. I walked the rest of the way and tried to get my breathing under control. This was the first time of many that I would have a major problem breathing after doing a small amount of exercise. I was also a ship’s firefighter and had to wear bunker gear with a mask and oxygen tank on my back. My first year on the ship we rarely did firefighting exercises but after we had a new captain come onboard, he decided we needed to do exercises often. The next 2 years were like hell as we did 4 sets of work ups. The new captain wanted to push the training on our ship to the max and he certainly did. During these “training” sessions called work ups, we only got 2 or 3 hours of broken sleep in a 24 hour period. I would be just getting to sleep and the bong bongs or alarm would go off. I had 6 minutes to get up to the flight deck dressed in my bunker gear ready for the emergency. I was not allowed to turn on the oxygen tank as it took too long to fill them after the exercise was over. It was considered valuable sleep time and so nobody used the oxygen as we would have had no sleep. As a result of not having my air on, but still having to wear my mask, I had an asthma attack after every exercise. Some were so severe that I really did think I was going to die as I gasped for air. Most of my asthma attacks I was in a dark, secluded place with a charged fire hose waiting for the drill to be over. I told the ship’s medical people about my respiratory issues and they told me to see my military doctor when we got ashore. Over those couple of years I was sent to the same military doctor and literally got a run around each time. I had many pulmonary function tests and they were fine because I was not doing any exercise, just sitting calmly in a chair and breathing into a machine. He kept saying “everything looks good”. I asked the military doctor if we could do an exercise induced asthma test and he always said that the military doesn’t test for that. I had one really bad asthma attack on the ship one day where I was losing consciousness. I broke the rule and turned on my oxygen tank to get air. I laid there in the bowels of the ship by myself for about a half hour slowly getting my lungs back until I made it back to the flight deck. I told my superiors what had happened and nothing was done. They told me to go see the military doctor when we arrived ashore. I told the military doctor of my many close calls with death including my most recent one and begged him to do something. He reluctantly gave me restrictions so that I didn’t have to wear a mask or do any more firefighting drills. He also let me control my own exercise routine so I wasn’t forced to run again. I was nearing the end of my first contract and could not continue like this so I asked the military doctor if he would approve a medical discharge. He said that it would be impossible as there was no proof that my respiratory problems were caused by my service. At that time in my life, I still had no idea what had caused this lung condition and felt like I was up against a 200 foot monster. I let my contract expire and couldn’t re-sign for the 25 year deal to continue with the navy due to my respiratory issues and received an honorable discharge in 2012 when my first contract was over.
Since then I had my own exercise induced asthma test done by my family doctor and was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. I was also diagnosed with complex P.T.S.D from my many near death experiences from my asthma attacks along with the frustrations of nobody listening to me for years. I continued to have these attacks for years and it never went away or got better. In October 2019 I was told by some good friends that I should call Veterans Affairs and see if there was something that could be done for me. I was taken in with lots of love and compassion and told about possible compensation for all my pain and suffering. It was at this time when I finally found out what had caused my respiratory problems. I did a simple search online for breathing problems on Canadian ships and was shocked to see many articles dating back to 2012, talking about a major mould problem on my old ship, HMCS Winnipeg. These articles detailed that the mould readings were highest in the garbage processing room, the operations room and the storage locker for the bunker gear on the flight deck. All 3 of these locations I was in everyday and it all made sense to me from then on. I am still working with Veterans Affairs about receiving acknowledgement and compensation for my respiratory problems. I put my pain and suffering application in for my respiratory problems nearly 2 years ago and hope that it is approved soon.
I also now know that if my situation was taken seriously, I would have been medically discharged and given a pension for life for my service related injuries.
Just a few months after I was accepted by Veterans Affairs and given a temporary monthly salary, the lock-downs started and everyone was to stay home. In the nearly 2 years that I have stayed home, I have been actively receiving help for my complex P.T.S.D from a wonderful psychologist from Bay Psychology. I also have found much help online with various other doctors who treat complex P.T.S.D. Before I came to Veterans Affairs, I was about to go into the woods and disappear from society. I was drinking everyday as well as consuming cannabis all day everyday to mask my symptoms and keep me calm. I was frustrated, depressed and angry from the way my military career ended. My marriage of 17 years also ended terribly in 2014 as a result of my P.T.S.D symptoms and cannabis use.
I no longer drink or use cannabis anymore. I quit those over a year ago now and don’t miss them at all. I am no longer depressed or frustrated and have so much to be thankful for. I learned through my Christian faith how forgiveness works to our benefit. When you hold on to resentment, it is the same as unforgiveness. Resentment is like a weight that holds you down, but when you forgive, then you are made free! I had to let go of all the resentment I felt for the military and how I was treated so unfairly. I wrote an article on this blog called Post Trauma Peace and it is full of all that I have learned about trauma and how I healed. So, psychologically, I am doing much better all because of staying home and healing at my own pace.
Physically, with regards to my lungs, my family doctor says they will not improve and more than likely they will get worse. I am still exempt from wearing masks and my doctor has recommended that I not return to work with the current mask mandate. I still have asthma attacks almost daily. Some small and some dangerously close to death. I wake most nights with an attack and have to take my rescue inhaler. Even if I sneeze more than 3 or 4 times I feel an attack coming and have to take my puffer. I have asthma attacks when I shovel in the winter or cut the grass in the summer. They can be quite scary as my lungs feel like I am only getting 25% of the air I normally get.
Below are 2 short videos. One is showing what an attack is like for me and the other is showing a short version of my story and supporting documents. The first video of my attack was something that I never recorded before. I just got done cutting the grass and could not breathe. The camera was sitting on the table so I picked it up and documented it for the first time. It is hard for me to watch this video as there is much stress going on inside and I feel every second of it when I watch.
Helpful Advice for Trauma Survivors
Sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, vulnerability, embarrassment, disappointment and frustration are the eight unpleasant feelings that prevent us from having a happier life according to Dr. Joan Rosenberg.
Whatever trauma you have been through, let me first congratulate you because you have made it through! All trauma is unique for each situation, however, the “after effects” are most, or all, of these unpleasant feelings. Holding on to them holds you back from happiness.
I know for me, I felt completely helpless and vulnerable, which led to me hiding away in my house. I became lazy and overweight. I ate whatever I wanted and drank beer everyday to deal with my sadness and shame. Many things about my trauma, and how it was handled, caused great disappointment, frustration and even anger.
This anger symptom was the first one I recognized and dealt with a few years ago. Simply put, anger is one letter away from danger! Over time, I have managed to change my life for the better by dealing with these unpleasant feelings in a productive way, rather than a destructive way. I eat healthy, non-processed food and drink fresh lemon water and do 22 push-ups a day. I have gone from 240 lbs down to 170 lbs. I used to wear a size 42 pant and am down to a size 32. My blood pressure was 166/111 and now it is down to 120/80. I am much happier now! Up until 2019, I was still holding onto disappointment and frustration from my military career. I was advised by a good friend to go see Veterans Affairs to see if they could help me. It was very difficult for me to be vulnerable and to ask for help, but I am glad that I did. Just as McDonald’s had terrible coffee and changed it to great coffee, so it is with Veterans Affairs. They had a reputation of not really caring and I thought it might be a waste of my time, but I was very wrong. I was met with love and compassion and I felt like my concerns were finally being addressed. This has allowed me to start to heal that part of my life. I realize it is not this way for everyone, but I had a good case manager.
If you’re like most trauma survivors and feel anxiety often, then listen closely:
You have two different nervous systems. One is called sympathetic and the other is parasympathetic. Parasympathetic is when you are calm and at peace, just like before you fall asleep. Your body heals while you sleep and when you are calm during the times you are awake. On the other hand, the sympathetic state kicks in when you see a bear with her cubs 10 feet away. Your heart rate and blood pressure go into survival mode and you are prevented from healing.
I spent years always anxious and worried, as a blood pressure of 166/111 would tell you, but over time I changed my habits and I have learned that the most important person to take care of in your life is YOU. In order to take care of yourself, you must deal with past negatives to make room for the positives.
This is indeed different for every person, depending on your circumstances, but for me, I found classical music, warm salt baths, being around positive people and nature to be most helpful. Whatever brings you to that place of calm and peace, should be your direction in life from now on. Also, deal with every unpleasant feeling or situation that comes along as positively as you can so you can quickly go back to your healing state of calm.
In 2016, I saw a statistic that said 22 military members take their life everyday and that shook me to the core. I had also heard of a group of former military personnel that do 22 push-ups a day to bring awareness, and also, in some weird way, to put our collective energy into combating this tragedy. This was the very beginning of my healing journey that has brought me this far.
If you are ever considering now or in the future to end your life for whatever reason, please understand that you have a real purpose for the life that you have been given. There are countless people, including myself, who have been at the bottom of a hopeless pit wanting to just die, but I am here to tell you that no matter how bad things get, they will always get better! I am living proof of that, so please never ever allow yourself to feel that way again. Keep breathing!
My definition of confidence is: the deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you face or pursue in life. I hope this article brings you understanding and confidence to handle whatever you face or pursue in your journey to peace.
I have all my shots and so do all my children. I am not anti-vaccination but I do have critical thinking skills and so does about 20%-30% of the population who have decided to not get the shot. This video presentation is full of truth that will help you make light of the situation over the last 18 months. It may be taken down soon because the truth is under attack as are the truth tellers. Anyone with ears to hear, let them hear… The main speaker is at 4:40
If you suffer from inflammation, depression, sleepless nights, heart problems, poor blood circulation or a long list of other health conditions then you may want to watch this informative short documentary. With spring here and summer on the horizon we are able to kick off our shoes and connect with the ground again. If you don’t have the time to watch this documentary right away then save it for later when you do. It will change your life and your health!
When I was a child growing up in the 70’s, I was never exposed to pornography. The porn at that time was in corner store magazines on the top shelf, far out of reach from all little children. Later on when VHS tapes became popular in the 80’s, you could find porn in stores that had their windows covered so you could not see in, and you couldn’t enter unless you were 19 years old. Then came the 90’s, in particular the late 90’s when the internet came to life with video. This is when everyone with an internet connection could view porn virtually anytime with their personal computer from the privacy of their own homes. When the cell phone became popular in the 2000’s, that made it possible to view porn anywhere in the world, at any time and without age restrictions. Pornography has become very accessible in most societies around the world, except for the middle eastern countries that have blocked it from their internet.
Once a child gets their own cell phone, it’s only a matter of time before curiosity takes over and they’re viewing porn for the first time. They can become addicted to watching it daily and their sexual habits can often be shaped by it. Most parents don’t have any clue that their child has started to watch porn because the child tends to hide it as they find it is a shameful thing. A good parent will monitor and control their children’s internet and cell phone usage to ‘try’ to prevent exposure from happening. It’s not right that children as young as 9-13 are exposed to porn. It has very negative effects on their lives when they are older in real relationships.
The negative effects on real relationships or marriages have been felt in many ways.
The divorce rate has been getting higher and higher and this has somewhat to do with porn usage that has become common in our society. Men tend to be the ones who view porn most of the time. This causes a lack of interest in his spouse as the porn actor satisfies all of his desires, while the spouse is left wondering what is wrong with her? Viewing porn has been compared to someone addicted to cocaine. It has the same effect on the nervous system and it is a high that satisfies only temporarily. Men who watch porn can become sexually warped and confused. What I mean by this is that men are exposed to women that are being humiliated, abused, or even raped on video, and they are taught to think that all women like to be treated like this. The Fifty Shades of Grey movies that came out added to this idea and has caused many women to be confused in their sexual desires. Since porn became popular, the traditional marriage bed has become very warped and perverted. Some feel there’s no such thing as “making love’ anymore! Also when you are married and you look at porn, you are lusting after someone else and that has a negative spiritual effect on your relationship as it is the same as adultery in the heart and adultery is not good!
I could go on and on over the negative ways porn has affected our society, but I am sure you get the point. If you are addicted to porn, then please understand that it is not having a good impact on your life. You need to realize that it is wrong and not normal. If you are married and stop using porn then I guarantee you will notice a big difference in your sexual relationship with your spouse and so will she!!! If you are not married and single, then you need to stop so that you become more interested in finding a real relationship. Most men that watch porn become lazy and not interested in putting in an effort to find a meaningful relationship or marriage. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the fact that porn is not good in God’s eyes. It is written in 1 John 2: 15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world or the things in the world then the love of the Father is not in them. For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world and the lust of it is passing away; but whoever does the will of God shall abide forever.
Lust has been confused with love in our day and age. Porn is nothing but lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes and it is toxic for our society. Please consider never viewing porn again for a much better life!
Some time ago, I was ruled by anger and frustration that I held onto inside of me until my Mom’s last words before dying were “don’t be so frustrated darling”. It bothered me that I was frustrated even up to the time my Mother was about to die and those were her last words to me. It also woke me up to the fact that I was letting negative emotions control my life and that’s when I decided to do something about it. I realized quickly that my frustration was rooted in resentment and unforgiveness from ways I was treated in the past by others. I understood that I needed to let go of the resentments and forgive those things that happened to me in the past in order to have a better future.
Emotions like frustration and anger tell us something is wrong and in that way they make good friends, if we can listen. A good friend will tell you something is not right and help you make it better. I can say that since I dealt with these negative emotions ruling me, my life has improved greatly! I have more peace and happiness in my life and that is far better than anger and frustration.
If you’re ruled by anger and frustration and want to have peace and happiness then look back at the root of your resentment from the past, forgive it and let it go! It’s that easy my friend.
If you are depressed or feeling hopeless considering ending your life then I am glad you found this post. I want to tell you that you are not alone feeling this way. Many years ago I was in a deep depression and felt like ending my life, but I didn’t, and that’s why I am able to write this post. I was able to find a wife and had three wonderful children. I found a rewarding career and made great friends for life. I traveled the world and learned about many cultures. All of which I couldn’t have done if I would have ended my life so long ago.
On the flip side, over the years I have been the recipient of the awful news that a friend took their life. It hurts so bad when you hear that someone you loved ended their life. The first thing you think about is why didn’t they say something, or why didn’t they reach out for help? These questions never go away.
Suicide is not a good option, it’s the worst! It leaves everyone around you wounded for life and more important it cuts off your wonderful life that is waiting to happen.
I care so deeply about this that I am putting myself out there as someone to talk with. So if you are interested in giving me a call to talk about your situation and how to get through it, then I am here for you. This is my home phone landline you can call anytime if you are thinking of ending your wonderful life 1-705-676-2221. My name is John and I am someone who cares. If for some reason I am not home with no answer and you want someone to connect with right away then please call this number 1-800-273-8255 for help.
As a former Canadian Navy sailor, I navigated 3 oceans and visited 13 countries. I became a Shell-Back after only my first 3 weeks at sea. The former Navy can appreciate that achievement.
I’ve been to countries that are so poor by our standards. Straw houses with dirt floors. But, out of the thousands of people that I’ve met; the poorest people of the world are indeed the happiest in my humble opinion. I have countless wonderful stories of utter kindness and generosity with families that were so excited to have a friendly Canadian sailor visit them. Even in countries that were not poor, like Australia. I was hugged with excitement from every Australian when they realized I was Canadian. Quite frankly, it was so good to be a Canadian sailor, that American sailors made it a habit to say they were Canadian in many ports.
Canada is truly admired by the whole world because we are glorious and free!
Our words are very powerful as you must know by now. If you don’t believe our words can bring life or death, then I recommend looking at the rice experiment or water memory studies for understanding on this topic.
Our words that are directed to God, like in our National Anthem, “God keep our land glorious and free”, are like a prayer we have recited daily since our national anthem was first sung. I dare say God has answered that request and has kept our land glorious and free all along up till now.
If you’re a Canadian Forces member or Veteran, then you have defended that glorious freedom and I want to say thank you on this 11-11-2020.
We’ve all worked in places where we had stress from high demands, low reward, unreasonable expectations, gossip and even political games that can get pretty nasty!
Some of us have had the privilege of working in an almost utopia of positive reinforcement by senior staff combined with a genuine caring for your over all well-being. Everyone is made to feel welcome and part of a team. It’s relaxed, stress free and you may even get excited about going to work to do the best job you can!
I am a fan of the T.V. series Undercover Boss, mostly because it’s shed a light on the subject of psychosocial aspects in the workplace. I like how the “boss” connects with the regular workers and listens to their concerns. The “boss” always addresses the concerns and even finds a way to reward peoples loyalty and dedication with great gifts.
So is it possible to achieve a happy, stress free workplace? YES, only if the boss is behind it 100%. Without that clear support from the top it wont have legs and eventually it will fade away.
If you build it, they will come!