Mental Health – a postscript

My last post was pretty dark, and I am a bit sorry for that. I am more than a little tired, dealing with a prolonged period of anxiety wears on a person. When I wrote this, I felt a little bit like at the end of my rope. But there really is lots of rope left.

To anyone worried about what I wrote, I want you to know that I am really resilient and I will get through this. I have before, I know how this works.

This week I have received some lovely notes and phone calls and it really warms my heart. When you go through a tough time it is really wonderful to hear from friends who really care. Thanks for this!

I have wonderful support from my friends and family.My therapists are wonderful, I have a really great team.

The point of this post is not just to apologize, it is a hopeful message that even though mental health can be really tough, these conditions are treatable and if you stick with it you get better. I know the support system is not as comprehensive as it should be, but things are getting better.

I really think the fallout from the pandemic will prompt all of us to look at how we support people in mental and emotional distress. This is all so common and this really can happen to anyone.

My first post may not have offered much support for those who are struggling, but I hope this one does. Healing happens, you just need to trust in the process. You need to reach out and gather your community together.

This week, I realized that I have a good community. People care and they are now part of the healing process.

It is a challenge to put this story out there. I do this mainly because healing happens, even if it is really slow. If you are reading this and you are going through a tough time please know there is hope, healing and a community. Not everyone will understand, but some will.

Also, because of your struggles you can be there for someone else. This is important. Those who have gone through this are part of a special community. People in this community can be more empathetic, more supportive more aware of how this goes.

So, everyone take heart. We are complicated beings in a complex society still undergoing a global crisis. Take a moment and take a deep breath. Learn from difficulties and be ready to share what you are learning. And above all, be kind to yourself.

Thank-you to all those who have reached out – you are all very special.

The Next COVID Crisis – Mental Health

All my recent posts have been about music, but here I am taking a break.

There is an burgeoning crisis coming as a result of COVID and it will be just as painful and damaging. There is a mental health crisis as we begin to emerge from the global crisis. I really don’t think we will all survive this.

Here is an article that backs this up from the Mayo Clinic.

I am not writing this because I have a feeling about what will happen, this has happened to me. I am a casualty and there is no end in sight. This is a really tough road.

I have written about mental health in the past and it seems to help some people. For me, I have been going through moderate to severe anxiety since late June. It is certainly related to COVID because I have been really healthy for seven years. Now this is a big struggle and it is one I do with no discernable community. How is that possible? How does no one care?

Don’t get me wrong, I am fortunate to have a therapist and now a great resident psychiatrist. But the healing process is really slow – it always is.

Before the pandemic, I met up with one of my climbing buddies. He came to one of our fundraisers and I thought that was great. He looked gaunt and worried, but it was a big night and I didn’t pick up the signs. A few months later he committed suicide and I still wonder if I had really reached out to him I could have helped out in his desperate situation. People really can help people.

The big thing about mental health is that it is a silent killer. People love to send you caring notes on Facebook when you are sick with something they understand. When it comes to mental health, people are cruel. They want to distance themselves from the affliction as if they can actually can catch it. They won’t write you a nice note on Facebook. You are so on your own.

There are so few cases where I have talked about periods like this and have received a sympathetic response. This is really sad.

What is most important is for everyone to realize that there are now a lot of people suffering, most without the great support I have. They probably also don’t have a community of support – like me, because people are more scared about mental health than anything else. I have to say now, I have absolutely no sympathy for your discomfort. Try to take on a larger role. Try to see outside yourself.

I talked to my psychiatrist last week and she said the next pandemic will be a mental health one. Just like the first one, we are so unprepared for this. The victims are invisible, but they are right in front of you are they are suffering in noble silence.

Anxiety and depression are understandable reactions to a global pandemic. Those with anxiety as a predisposition are even more at risk of falling under this emotional wave. I have no idea how much longer this anxiety will go on, but I have to bear it. It would be so much easier if I knew anyone apart from my therapists and partner actually cared. We really suffer in total uncaring silence.

If you read this and you are in this situation you need to start busting down doors to get help. Don’t listen to GPs who say you’ll get over all this – fire them and move on (I did). Reach out any way you can and get help. Anxiety and depression are treatable, but it can be so much of an easier road if you have a community. Try to make your friends and family know that you are going through a rough time. If they don’t listen, you don’t need them. There are lots of people like you, but we really can’t stay silent. We deserve better than that.

I write with a certain amount of anger here. I am tired of people who just want comfort. I really hope, once I recover that I will never again be one of those people.

COVID Journal # 5 Breaking up is hard to do

Today has been an interesting day. Earlier I had an incredible conversation with a colleague of mine on how to teach online in the fall. I am still digesting this, but what struck me the most was the notion that when we teach online, the first thing we need to do is consider the emotional health of our audience.

We need to find new ways to draw everyone in, make sure in our isolated spaces that everyone is part of the conversation. This will mean, among other things, that I will need to have a one-on-one conversation with every student I work with in the fall. If I don’t do this I will lose them and it will be my fault.

Today’s conversation was an eye-opener to me. I don’t know if many of us have figured this out yet – apart from teachers who have been working through this since the middle of March.

For the rest of us, I don’t think we understand yet that most social media is unidirectional. It is designed for conversations between two people. Three becomes a crowd.

In the old pre-COVID days, conversations could become organic, especially when one or two people monopolized the conversation. In the classroom, you could redirect. In the living room, you could start a side conversation and effectively move things along. People could pick up on cues, they could usually use their social skills to sense the room.

Now, this isn’t happening. A few days ago I saw a tweet from someone who has become part of a podcast I used to really enjoy. They were asking for feedback on how the show was going. In the past, the music had been great, there had been room for many voices and lots of music suggestions.

The same show now has become a conversation between two, or maybe three people. It has lost the ability to be inclusive –  it is misreading the room. This is part of my response for feedback on the show:

The show now seems a little like a conversation for two or sometimes three people. It used to be more inclusive, more of a community – not any longer. Maybe this is what the pandemic has done.

Our current communication systems can’t allow for more than one or two voices. We haven’t figured out yet how to be inclusive and allow relationships to grow online. This will be a challenge for all of us.

This kind of pushback usually doesn’t turn out well, but after mulling this over for a few days, I felt I needed to write something. More than ever before, people need to reach out and build community.

What spurred me onto this was my last meeting with my book club. We have been meeting online since the pandemic and for me, this hasn’t worked out too well. We have been together for more than fifteen years, but I don’t know if we will survive the pandemic.

Tonight I sat through a conversation that was almost exclusively between three people. It was sad to be there. I had actually looked forward to our conversation, but there was no way to become part of what was going on. No one took the social cues, the conversation was not inclusive. I left the meeting abruptly, but I did tell the group that the conversation no longer worked.

As a group, we are not adept at creating a community online. The radio show I commented on has also lost its ability to do this. We seem now to only be able to connect in groups of two or three. More than that seems to be beyond us and our grasp of the current technology.

We can no longer retreat to the classroom or the livingroom to restore community. These options are out of reach for the foreseeable future. We will have to become much more mindful of the importance of inclusiveness in a world dominated by unidirectional communication.

I am breaking up with my book club. It is not their fault, but I need real community, real human relations. The challenge for the fall will be to make sure none of my students end up feeling as I did tonight. Everything I do will have to be about building community and trust with the imperfect tools we have at our disposal.

We all need to be doing this. We are responsible for building and sustaining important positive relationships. Look around you, think again, we need to do much better to sustain each other for the times to come.

Communities Move Mountains!

Incredible Friday night CLK Climb for Kids Fundraiser with fantastic music by The Teachers and the Moneyman, so many friends and supporters, terrific silent auction with a huge, surprise donation, lots of competition over beautiful homemade items, FATBOYS gift certificate and keg won by Wendy, motivational send-off by Canadian Olympic athlete Segun Makinde and NOW, over $28,000.00 raised for CLK kids. And we are not done!

Communities move mountains!

Heather Swail Climb for Kids

 

This is such a good line I need to quote Heather Swail a second time – Community Moves Mountains. Maybe this should become the byline for our project – Christie Lake Climb for Kids.

Part of the Family Team – Mairi, Liam and Colleen

We are now 44 days away from our second group trek. This time we are walking around the highest mountain in Europe – Mont Blanc. We will walk over 170 km and camp along the way. Our trek is rated as a level 4 or moderate/challenging by our trip coordinators Exodus Travels.

You are moderately fit and have an interest in remote or challenging environments. Some previous experience is required for activity based trips.

These ratings are a really good way to measure the amount of difficulty involved in a trek. By comparison, Mt. Kilimanjaro is a 6 and the ascent of Mont Blanc is considered an 8.

The bulk of our fundraising is now over except for a really great wine auction that goes until June 15.

By the way – we are happy to sell you a ticket if you want to help support us!

Our fundraising goal for this year is $30,000. Right now we are at $28,000 so I think we are going to make it. This means we will have raised over $60,000 for Christie Lake Kids programs in the past two years. And as Heather put it, we are not done!

This is the humbling power of community. When you come up with a good idea that supports innovative recreation programming for kids people gather around you.

Our last fundraiser at Fatboys here in the Byward Market brought together all sorts of wonderful people united by the desire to support something really important. The opening page of the Christie Lake webpage symbolizes what they do.

I am really struck by the approach they take with kids. They call it Transformative Recreation and what they really want to do is change the destiny for kids living below the poverty line here in Ottawa.

Transformative Recreation® (T-REC®) is our program model, guiding all of our efforts as we encourage our children and youth to build resiliency and realize success on their own terms. T-REC® is founded on a mixture of best practices in the field of social recreation, as well as the lessons of success derived from over 95 years of serving the Ottawa community. Our programs focus on developing physical, social and character skills, with the intent of developing four key outcomes:

Positive Peer & Adult Relationships

Self-Efficacy

Self-Regulation

Positive Future Outlook

The community that is coming together to support this work is truly wonderful. This includes our whole family who comes out to all the events, designs our Climb for Kids logos, contributes silent auction items and even acts as the coat check staff when needed. Community includes my oldest friend Bob Kennedy, whose band Teachers and the Moneyman played at our last event.

Teachers and the Moneyman

It includes lots of teachers from Heather’s School Vincent Massey and teachers from my last two schools, St. Greg’s and St. Anthony. It includes 24 businesses and two great bands who have supported and sponsored us throughout the year. It includes former trekkers who climbed with us last year in Peru.

A collage of some of our community supporters

Apart from the money we are raising for kids, I think the community-building is the most significant part of this experience. People are contributing their expertise and resources to help put us back on the mountain and as the project grows, the community widens.

Next week the group will gather again to hear from another amazing trekker Mike Baine who has done the Tour de Mont Blanc and has also trekked in Peru and to Everest Base Camp. He will talk to us about this trek and we will talk to the trekkers about how to prepare for the TMB. Meanwhile, we will continue to look at the figures to see when we break through the $30,000 barrier.

Our fundraising total on May 23. Now we are over $28,000

At the same time, we are actively working on preparations for Year III of Climb for Kids. We won’t announce this trip until Year II is over, but the planning is a continuous process that really only slackens when we are on the mountain.

Our Year II logo designed by Mairi McGuire

The community grows daily. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the largest group of supporters, the people who are helping us surpass $30,000 – all our donors. I know that I have at least 30 people who have contributed to my fundraising total. I am around $250 short of my personal goal of $2500 and I know that I am going to make it. Each trekker has a similar group supporting their efforts.

Community Moves Mountains, that is for sure. This is an experience that enriches the lives of everyone who gets involved. It is really great to spend lots of time on a project that brings life and hope to so many people. Thank-you to all the wonderful supporters out there and welcome to all those who will continue to join us in future days!

Climb for Kids group members at our last fundraiser

Building Stronger Communities – School Boards Should be More Involved

Last week there was a great announcement in our school neighbourhood. The City of Ottawa, Ottawa Community Housing and surprisingly, the French Public School Board of Eastern Ontario have joined together to develop a 7-acre piece of land right in the heart of Ottawa. The project will include affordable housing, a new French public school, single-family homes, and businesses to support the new community. The development has the potential to stretch into a 15-acre project if an additional piece of land adjacent to this section can be brought in.

The new development is called Gladstone Village and it has the potential to transform this neighbourhood in some really important ways. In my opinion, the most significant aspect will be the addition of good, affordable housing for families that live in this community.

I have worked in this community for three years as a principal of a local school and now as a community volunteer.

One of the saddest parts of my job as a principal was to say goodbye to families who could no longer afford to live in this wonderful community. Housing prices have been going up steadily in the area, forcing lower income families to move to other parts of the city that generally are not as well set up to offer important social services to these families.

Hopefully, with the building of Gladstone Villiage, this trend can be reversed.

What is especially gratifying is to see a public school board take an active role in the partnership that will construct the new village. This is unusual. School boards traditionally do not get overly involved in community development. As traditional institutions, they see their primary role as educators of children, not community developers.

The French Public Board is showing that things can change and school boards can take an active role in developing and enriching the communities that surround them. What school boards will find once they start looking to get more involved is that there are lots of organizations out there that would love to work with them.

While I was principal of St. Anthony School – close to the new village – we developed some incredible partnerships with organizations like the Aviva Community Fund, TD Friends of the Environment, (@TDFEF), Evergreen Canada, the City of Ottawa and the wonderful local Italian community. Together, these groups helped us to raise over $165,000.00 in less than two years to transform our dilapidated school yard.

the new yard – the shrubs, fencing, grass and stone paving are all part of the renovation 

Evergreen consulted all the students and developed the first plan for the yard. The Italian community got interested and held a huge fundraising dinner for the school – over 400 people attended and we made over $20,000 in one night. We entered the Aviva Community Fund competition and with the help of a huge on-line community, won $100,000. The Ottawa Community Foundation also made a very significant contribution allowing us to complete the renovation of the yard.

Along with Gladstone Village, this is a great example of partners coming together to reshape and build a new community.

Education institutions like our school and the Eastern Ontario French Public Board illustrate the importance of reaching out into the community to create something better for our families.

It is no longer acceptable to sit back and wait for the students to show up. This passive approach misses many opportunities to engage actively in the community.

We could have done more. We could have opened adult literacy classes for parents at night or during the day so that they could stay close to their children. We could have constructed a computer room with free wifi so that parents could access the internet – something many of them could not do from their homes. We could have offered space in our building for community agencies to connect more readily with the families they served.

All of these ideas were discussed and unfortunately, none were ever implemented.

That is too bad. This has to change.

School Boards need to start to realize that their buildings do not belong to them, they are community assets that need to be shared. The community can not be blocked out of these spaces, they need to be welcomed in. Education really needs to become public in a much wider sense. To ignore our larger public responsibility is to retreat back into the 19th century – we simply can’t do that.

Congratulations to the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario.

 

Many hands on the way to Kilimanjaro

Tomorrow we leave for Kilimanjaro. There are 30 climbers in the group and up to 70 others who will be guiding us up the mountain starting on Sunday.

Start at the Machame Gate (1,490 m/4,890 ft) where the group will register and begin climbing to Machame Camp (2,980 m/9,780 ft). Hiking time: 7 hours Distance: About 18 km Rainforest Zone

As I climb up Kilimanjaro, I will be thinking of the team we have all left behind, all those who raised money for us, supported us, cheered us on and said ‘yes’ to the entire experience.

In particular, I will be thinking and giving thanks to my wonderful wife, Heather. Without her love and support this venture would never have happened. Apart from running a really successful fundraiser, she has been with me every step of the way, right from the moment we decided that to do this properly, I had to retire at Christmas so I could focus on training for the climb. She has been my wonderful emotional support every day since this venture started. Retirement was a really good idea!

I will be thinking of my family and all the work and support they have given me throughout the fall and winter, right up to today when my son Liam spent an hour working with me to set up the right ESRI Story Maps to allow for live tracking during our climb.

Liam’s new map that will show Tweets from the mountain along with waypoints recorded by my InReach GPS. Liam’s map is best found at this link: http://arcg.is/2oaUoYc

Then there are so many people who have sent notes of encouragement and who have helped sustain an incredible fundraising campaign that is almost at $10,000 at this point – twice the amount I was expecting to make. What an incredible community of support.

The best thing I can do now is climb well. For Heather, my family and all of you who have helped so much. I am humbled and blessed to have such a beautiful community of support.

Dream Mountains gets ready for Mt. Kilimanjaro

arcgis-wolf-trail-with-route-outlined

We leave for Mt. Kilimanjaro in 31 days.

This has been a very intense experience on many levels.  First, the physical training has been incredible.  Stair climbing, now as many as 4200 stairs over a two-hour period has been gruelling.

mcguirp1s-2-15-h-trekking-move-clipular

Every second week we do a trek on the Wolf Trail – a good 2-hour hike up one of the ridges in the Gatineau near Ottawa.  Each of these treks is an opportunity to try out new equipment, new food types and most importantly, a chance to get to know the people you will be climbing with and depending on during the climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro – 5,888 metres (19,318 ft).

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Physical training aside, the next great challenge is raising money for the group we have been assigned to support throughout this entire journey.

For me, this is what makes the Dream Mountains experience unique.  It’s not about you and your own bucket list.  It’s more about the fundraising each of the group members is doing for a great collection of local and national charities.

Our current fundraising totals
Our current fundraising totals

I don’t think I would be doing this if it weren’t for the community connection that has been created between ourselves and the groups we are working to support.  What really would be the point?

For me, another important part of the preparation has been my attempts to explore various communication tools that will allow people to follow the climb while we are in Africa.  I have taken my inspiration for this part of the planning from Elia Saikaly who is a master at telling adventure stories using social media. There is no way I can do what he does during one of his expeditions, but I am doing what I can.

My main tool is one that Elia has used – the ESRI Story Map, a wonderful media tool that has allowed me to tell our story from our early training climbs right up to treks along Wolf Trail.  With incredible help from the ESRI team, I have been able to improve my story map and have learned how to add waypoints from my tracking tools – InReach and Suunto to the Wolf Trail base map.  I am really hoping that I will be able to add points during our climb to a 3D map of Kilimanjaro I have added to the story map.

our-canadian-kilimanjaro-journey-clipular-2

The money I am raising is going to Rec Link a group here in Ottawa that is doing so much to help the families and children I used to work with while I was principal at St. Anthony School.

 

our-canadian-kilimanjaro-journey-clipular It is such a privilege to be able to give back to a group that has done so my for our kids and I have the coordinator of Dream Mountains Shawn Dawson to thanks for this. Shawn is a truly selfless individual who has an incredible commitment to give back to the community while supporting over 20 novice climbers in our long journey to Kilimanjaro.  It is such a joy to work with someone who is so positive and supportive and is willing to give so much of himself for others – a very rare commodity in my experience.

Finally, none of this would be possible without the great group of family and friends who have supported my fundraising efforts. It has been truly humbling that so many people would donate so much to help me reach my funding goal.  At this point, I have raised more than $8000.00 for Rec Link and have received wonderful support from my wife and family – without them, this would never have happened.

 

I hope people follow us up the mountain.  I hope the technology works.  I hope we have all trained hard enough.  Whatever happens, this already has been a truly unique and wonderful experience and I am happy to part of this great group.

Great Projects call for Great Communities Blog Post # 10

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To make a big climb and a wonderful fundraising project work you need lots of help.  You also have to acknowledge the people who are making this happen – after a great night last night, I have lots to be thankful for.
Thanks to everyone who was able to come out to our fundraiser last night.  It was great to see so many good friends and I feel truly honoured to have your support.
Thanks to long distance travellers like Patti Walker (Oakville), Joe Ferracuti (Montreal) and Bob and Karen Kennedy (Brockville).
Thanks to all those who made this happen – Shawn Dawson – our fearless Dream Mountains leader, Jenny, the wonderful Fatboys manager, First Bass – the amazing band (who we want to hear again!), my wonderful family – Heather Swail – who worked so hard to make this happen, Liam McGuire, Mairi McGuire – our artist – Colleen McGuire and Claire Maultsaid.  Also, thanks to Dream Mountains members Virginia Gluska, Julie Baird and her husband who did so much to run the silent auction and 50/50 draw.  Also to Harry Binks, Augustina Dean and Byron Johnson who came out to our event.
What a community effort!!
We are now approaching the $7000.00 mark in our fundraising efforts for Rec Link and we will keep on going to see how we all can assist this great organization.  We will continue to take donations, so let’s see how much we can raise for Rec LINK!!
Many are asking how best to follow the climb so I am adding the sites I will be using here. If you know of anyone who wants to follow and is not getting these notes, please let me know and I will add them here.
The sites:
ESRI Story Map:  Our Canadian Kilimanjaro Journey http://arcg.is/2hwfHR3
Sutori Story Board: https://www.sutori.com/story/our-kilimanjaro-journey Our Kilimanjaro Journey
Kuula – a growing collection of 360-degree photos – many more to come!

My fundraising page:  http://bit.ly/2bKfFkk – all donations are tax deductible

Thanks again – this is a great venture and I am very happy to have all of you on board!!
Paul

Hello everyone!

Thanks to everyone who was able to come out to our fundraiser last night. It was great to see so many good friends and I feel truly honoured to have your support.

Thanks to long distance travellers like Patti Walker (Oakville), Joe Ferracuti (Montreal) and Bob and Karen Kennedy (Brockville).

Thanks to all those who made this happen – Shawn Dawson – our fearless Dream Mountains leader, Jenny, the wonderful Fatboys manager, First Bass – the amazing band (who we want to hear again!), my wonderful family – Heather Swail – who worked so hard to make this happen, Liam McGuire, Mairi McGuire – our artist – Colleen McGuire and Claire Maultsaid. Also, thanks to Dream Mountains members Virginia Gluska, Julie Baird and her husband who did so much to run the silent auction and 50/50 draw. Also to Harry Binks, Augustina Dean and Byron Johnson who came out to our event.

What a community effort!!

We are now approaching the $7000.00 mark in our fundraising efforts for Rec Link and we will keep on going to see how we all can assist this great organization. We will continue to take donations, so let’s see how much we can raise for Rec LINK!!

Many are asking how best to follow the climb so I am adding the sites I will be using here. If you know of anyone who wants to follow and is not getting these notes, please let me know and I will add them here.

The sites:

My Blog: https://paulmcguire1.com/

ESRI Story Map: Our Canadian Kilimanjaro Journey http://arcg.is/2hwfHR3

Sutori Story Board: https://www.sutori.com/story/our-kilimanjaro-journey Our Kilimanjaro Journey

Kuula – a growing collection of 360 degree photos – many more to come!

My fundraising page: http://bit.ly/2bKfFkk – all donations are tax deductible

Thanks again – this is a great venture and I am very happy to have all of you on board!!

Paul

https://kuula.co/share/7ft6s