It’s Okay If You’re Not Always Okay

Time for some real talk again my friends

“How are you?” “Good thanks”, and then you move on to business. We are so used to these greetings and formalities that we don’t really think twice about it. Occasionally someone might hint at things not being quite perfect by saying “I’m fine” or “okay” but the one on the receiving end usually doesn’t properly digest that and simply carries on anyways.

We are expected to generally be okay. People also don’t care to hear anything less than that, getting into the uncomfortable parts of life makes them well… uncomfortable. Those less than savoury parts of life people would prefer to swipe past like an ad on your social media feed.

Speaking of social media, what do we usually see? The happy places, times, the highlights and exceptional pieces of others lives. The glamour, the dreamy vacation spots we wish we could all afford, or the beauty that seems unattainable (well let’s be honest, it is– it only exists with digital touch ups and who can honestly afford to make their looks their primary focus with personal trainers/chefs and stylists). We regularly are bombarded with this propaganda, and anything less than that seems dreary and depressing.

If we want to open up and share, it can sound like to others as if we were a mess. A mess that needs to be cleaned up. Grab the broom and dust pan and let’s collect those bits we don’t want to see and throw them in the bin.

Smiling faces, perfectly put together with no hint of weakness. The characters that “put it on” or “lay it on thick” make me feel sick sometimes. Nobody can have it all together, and definitely not all the time. Show me something REAL. Don’t go on and on about everything going great in your life and everything that’s wonderful about you.

Sometimes it feels like you’re shoe shopping (I am not a shoe person for the record), and all the stores don’t carry your size. “Sorry there’s nothing for you here”. You just need something to strap on your feet for protection, but there’s nowhere for you. A place where you can be recognized and accepted with your needs (yes I realize this is a real problem for some because not all petite or tall shops cater to everyone).

It doesn’t mean that someone is falling apart if they need to express themselves and it doesn’t mean they’re crazy or to be pitied. These are real moments and facts in life and they come and go just as the exceptional moments do. Why is it so difficult to find those people who can just let their posture relax, sigh and say “yes, I get it. I feel that way too sometimes”.

This blog has carried some heavy subjects, sprinkled with lighter material as well. The reason is, if someone is feeling not okay, you’re not alone. It’s okay, and you can still be a success in life through those tough times. They pass. They also pass quicker when you have support.

If you find a blog that feels heavier, I’m okay. Maybe not all the time, and even if I’m not okay- I will be. I know that. I didn’t always know that, but with some time and support I learned that.

Wherever you are on your journey, just know it’s okay to not feel okay. Others have been there and survived. There will be beautiful days again where you’ll be so glad you stayed and fought a little harder.

With some support, we will find those good days come a little quicker… and either way, they will come

INFJ: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

When you start to feel not as rare anymore

The infamous, INFJ… declared as among the most rare of personalities, with ability to intuit and absorb the feelings of others. Guided by a gut feeling, sense of inner purpose and the power to act. Personalities may not mean much to you, and honestly that’s not a bad thing. What letters label a person, do not ultimately define someone as good or bad, gifted or not, or what have you. It’s what you do that matters.

What is an INFJ anyway? It’s a personality type, from the Myers Briggs typology test. The letters stand for: I-introverted, N-intuitive (two I’s next to each other just doesn’t make sense), F-feeling, and J- for judging. Curious what type you are? Here’s a link: Free Personality Test

This is a topic of great interest to me for some twelve years now. I ferociously devour whatever reading I can on the subject. Partly because of bias, I am an infj. However, some things I say may surprise you.

1. I don’t believe INFJS are as rare as they say they are. I’m inclined to distrust how the data is recovered, and to put full faith that the percentages they feed me are fact. In my life I have moved countless times, to other cities and countries. In my volunteer communities I have immersed myself into each place and being me… I love to get to know people and dig down deep so I get to nitty gritty- including personality talk. With that said, I have met in person more than ten other INFJs. I can’t say the same for other types. It seems I continue to meet a disproportionate amount of INFJ’s, who I know are not mistyped as some might argue.

2. Intuition is not a super power. For one thing, not all gut feelings are true. A lot of them are but not all. I’ve been surprised, to learn the motive or reason behind someone’s mood or action has been different than I imagined. Intuition is far from fool proof.

Additionally, it’s not as if those moments of being correct benefit you or others in some great way the majority of the time. Just because you sense someone might regret a decision later, and maybe even warn them, doesn’t mean they will listen to you and be happier for it. People will generally do what they want to do anyways. So you’re left with this sadness wishing you hadn’t seen the writing on the wall. I also don’t enjoy knowing and feeling when someone is upset or doesn’t choose to like me. I wish I could be oblivious like some, march to my own beat and carry on. Even if someone changes their opinion of me after, it’s hard for me to erase the memory of the moods I felt from them of strong dislike. I hold on to those and distrust that person, further pushing them away. It’s a hilarious dance. I observe the seemingly carefree way of those who don’t pick up on those cues, who have an easier way with people as a result, and they don’t lay awake dissecting all these interactions and moods days or years later.

3. INFJs don’t necessarily make the best of friends. I have met some INFJS who hurt me immensely. We were able to become fast friends and dive in deep into each others lives but maybe too deep. Complicated in nature, through many twists and turns in emotion I came away from door slams in my face wondering how I got there in the first place.

From the sounds of this article you would think I was the most jaded judger of my own “kind” or “type”. Not so! While I am cautious now as I meet other infj’s, I do have some great ones in my life as well. I think perhaps my experiences have helped me see a more balanced perspective on all the clout INFJs are given, as some rare beautiful unicorn… to another flawed personality with their own foibles. In fact, I appreciate now more the other types.

I’m not looking for more INFJs in my life. I don’t seek to find this kindred spirit, or reach an epiphany moment of belonging. I find the more time I spend with others unlike myself, who have strengths in other areas, balances me out more and challenges me to grow beyond my definable box. Perhaps then these letters don’t really define me, but I define me.

If you’re still curious what an INFJ is you can get an overview here.

Mommie Dearest

This article may contain a trigger.

Have you ever seen the movie? I have, my mom had my sister and I on the weekends, and for a small blip in time (maybe it lasted a few months if that) we had instituted an “old movie Friday”. This was one of the films she chose.

It’s an eerie movie, with a dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter to say the least. Based on a true story. However, this blog is not a movie review. This is a real story.

I actually tried to watch the film later, as I love old classics, but I couldn’t. It was a trigger for me. Now having grown up, I could see elements of that distorted dysfunction in the relationship I had with my own mother.

This is not an isolated story, because sadly I have met a lot of young women like myself who’ve grown up with mothers like my own. Picture the kind of mom who pushes away the affections of her little girl, refuses to treat her based on some warrant that she’s less deserving, for treating her daughter as a source of competition, never good enough, but don’t dare become better. You can’t win. Your feelings are over dramatic, your recollections- flawed. She’s the perfect mother, who never did wrong and you’re the problem, the child who refuses to see all the good she’s done for you. “Ungrateful”. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard this said about me; it’s actually probably one of the nicer remarks she’s made.

She’s the kind of woman who is charming, gracious, and lovable in any party. She may have lavished you with an expensive gift, but it always came at a cost. Didn’t you see that string attached? These “gifts” meant you are indebted. There are no serious failings or flaws of her own; your acceptance of any “gift” affirmed that.

“I took you to Disney world… so what if I drank too much. I only lost it on you one time.”

One time?

Not so charming for me. I was told how grateful I should be to have been born with her looks, except, what a pity my eyes were green and not blue, like hers. This is the same woman who accosted me because of my looks in the bathroom at home, because of the way my stepdad would look at me. She accused me of flirting, for asking for inappropriate attention as he tried to help with my math homework. At 14, with not a flirty bone in my body, my mother did this. She was a competitive teenager attacking a peer in the school washroom, except this was my mother with me at home. I felt dirty and disgusted. Was I a bad person?

I wasn’t allowed to be taller, or more shapely. She would stand next to me, and have an outsider compare us. “She isn’t taller than me, we are the same.” I was the reason she got lip injections because mine were a little fuller than hers (I’m a white girl with no lips to speak of but her aging lips had thinned just slightly more so she had to one up me).

I was at the centre of why we had to leave home. I called her out on her behaviour. She was drinking at work while working on clients, drinking and driving, and losing her ability to function at work or home. My sister, the baby, called her out on it daily. The one time I did, we wouldn’t hear the end of it. She screamed the whole way home, lecturing me, and at home, continued to do so until she had her hands wrapped around my neck to shake me. I sat there quietly, no response the whole way. I had poked the bear and had to tread lightly.

That night, she held a knife to her chest demanding to die. In a dramatic scene, of course, and my stepdad was left using all his force to pull it away from her. Is what I’m seeing real? The veins straining in her arms as she pulled the knife closer to her chest, my stepdads strained face trying to win this tug of war. Would she actually do it in front of all of us? Was she demanding attention? I stood on the balcony, questioning myself and my life. Contemplating jumping, through heavy tears blurring my vision. It took four large police officers to carry my mom out of the home, one for every limb as she flailed and screamed. Sadly, this would not be the only time I saw my mother make such an exit.

Children’s Aid Society took note, and we never went home again. I was 16. This was one night, and a few side notes. Not the full story, just a window, a peek into our relationship and the kind of woman she was and is.

In fact, have you ever felt that someone just disliked you but you couldn’t pinpoint why? You tried hard to show different aspects of yourself they might like, or to connect on some level… and even if there’s a small glimpse of hope, it always seems to fall flat? What if that was the relationship you had with with your own mother, the one who’s supposed to be biologically programmed to love you. “Yes I love your sister more, everyone has a favourite.” . I think the only praise I ever received was when it seemed to benefit her, a bragging right for herself.

I was angry, and hateful after leaving home. I hated that I’d been tainted and damaged for life; trust issues and baggage that would inevitably make my life more complicated and difficult. With time, I saw that these experiences would deepen my empathy for others. The silver lining, my ability to connect on levels with others who experienced trauma. This would not have been possible if not for my own journey. I was even able to see why toxic people, such as my mom, carry these traits, and I learned to feel sadness for her own unfair story that lead to the messes she created. That’s another story.

PTSD Support

Is post traumatic stress limited to veterans?

Warning: this article may contain a trigger

Remember the feeling of a comforting, all encompassing hug from a good friend… Maybe you were able to share, shed some tears, and feel loved and supported from someone else. It’s not easy to open ourselves up to vulnerability, but how good that support feels after.

There are some experiences not easily shared and rightly so. Some are too personal, too painful, and not every listener is the best choice of a confidant. Friends, counsellors, mentors, and religious leaders may be among some of the choice few you feel comfortable to share with. It’s difficult to step up to the plate and ask for help and to share when you’ve experienced the kind of trauma that interrupts your ability to enjoy life as you should.

Do you ever see your friends just look so peaceful, so at ease and relaxed and wish you would be able to have that same uncomplicated joy for life? To have those deep belly aching laughs… to experience love and openness with someone? You are not alone!

In my research I was surprised to find that most people will experience some form of trauma in their life but not all will experience ptsd, actually the majority will not. Most, experience stress shortly after but are able to heal and move on within months. For the unfortunate others, ptsd can be experienced years after, even through a lifetime.

What can cause ptsd? While most people associate it with war veterans there are many other causes. Some other traumatic experiences may include but are not limited to: assault, natural disasters, accidents, intimate partner violence, loss, harassment, medical injuries or illnesses, neglect, bullying, kidnapping, etc.

What might be signs that what you experienced could be PTSD? Flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of people/places or really anything related to the trauma, hyper vigilance, inability to concentrate, insomnia, aggression, and negative mood changes. These could be symptoms related to other problems as well so it would be best to talk to a healthcare professional if you think this may be what you are experiencing.

Nobody can invalidate your trauma because we are all different. My grandmother once expressed frustration that she doesn’t understand how people don’t just get on with their life, and move on. She had a very tough life herself, and while she experienced trauma, she did not develop ptsd as a result. That doesn’t make a person better or stronger for coming out of trauma seemingly unscathed or less afflicted than someone with ptsd might feel. Really, anyone who’s survived trauma is strong, regardless of how they handle it. In fact, all of us can learn to cope and still have successful lives. How?

Get some help! Therapy, while not as easy to come by now in a worldwide pandemic… can be really beneficial. Some seem to swear by cognitive behavioural therapy, but do your research and try one form and if it doesn’t work try another. Your government may provide help for victims of trauma to receive adequate support even financially to afford therapy. There’s online therapy being widely used now, you can access safely from home and is vastly more affordable than in person visits.

Everyone may experience varying degrees of these symptoms, maybe you won’t have them all. For myself, as a child I would express the trauma through play sometimes which is common for children. I have developed insomnia, flashbacks and avoidance. There’s a certain person I panic at the thought of coming into contact with. After experiencing another trauma, a neighbour punched the glass in my window (I know it’s awful but I’m ok), I froze. I packed up my things, drove away, and screamed. I panicked. In those moments of trigger, having a distraction helps. Ones around you can learn to lend support by simple things like placing an ice cube in your hand- it’s a grounding technique. When it subsides, for myself it’s easy to slip back into panic so a distraction helps. Even a call from a friend who can make you laugh.

I’m sharing this because I just know that a lot of articles on ptsd carry facts and no personal experiences. I always appreciate a more human touch to things, because it makes me feel like I’m in one of those sharing moments with a friend, like a warm hug and I’m not alone. Let this be a little support in the form of a blog.

Some topics I write about may not be pleasant but I keep them included as part of this blog because many people experience unpleasant lives. It’s not fair, but it happens. For those of you who understand, I’m sorry. For those of you who don’t, I envy you. If you or someone you love is struggling, I hope this helps.

What I Learned from My Husband, an ISFP

Disclaimer: not everyone with certain letters or leanings is identical… so you may know someone or be someone of this type and have a different experience. I fully believe everyone is still a fingerprint, just some of us lean towards certain behaviours and maybe build off a similar foundation but have free will to create whatever we choose off of it.

ISFP is a personality type, from Carl Jung and Isabel Myers-Briggs typology test. (Introverted- Sensing- Feeling- Perceiving)

Pierre, my wonderful husband, as an introvert- is on my level. Except unlike me, he’s not awkward around new people. He’s easy, funny and relaxed. So he’s well liked by many, but loved by only the few in his inner circle. I can’t help but think of “The Office”, where Will Ferrel took over as manager briefly and created an “inner circle”, or sort of boys club that drove the women crazy when I say ‘inner circle’.

ISFP’s have been described as artists. When you take a look at some famous ISFP’s you see what I mean. Take Barbara Streisand, Prince, David Bowie or Justin Timberlake for instance. Pierre is very talented in so many ways (like those famous ISFP’s)… musically, artistically (sketching), and in his trades (again working with his hands creating, doing drywall, flooring, framing, roofing, etc). Yet, he doesn’t seek to climb ladders and get to the top at all costs. He has this humble way of putting his head down and going to work. He will never put down another’s work to prove he’s better (I can’t tell you how many competitive people I’ve seen do this to my husband, and he puts up with it all quietly and gracefully with no retaliation). Some prefer to get ahead, people pleasing, and shmoozing- but not Pierre. I really appreciate that, even if he ends up with the shorter end of the deal he has this beautiful sense of integrity.

He’s so peaceful. He loves peace and harmony as if it were a well designed room, aesthetically and visually appealing, where you can relax as everything is in its place and as it should be… to him, that’s what peace and harmony do. He makes me better in this sense because of my strong sense of justice, I always struggle with the need to correct people and teach them lessons but he holds me back many times and thankfully so. Only later, when the red flames of this passionate mood subside do I realize his wisdom and gratefulness washes over me for the fire was put out before it had a chance to set a forest ablaze, lol.

I appreciate how he lives in the moment, he’s always very present with me and he pulls me out to enjoy the simple pleasures in life that require a level of presence. He loves the outdoors, and so we hike, we road bike (yes- we dress like Tour de France wannabes), we kayak, run (he gives me tips and pointers because he’s so connected to the body and so fascinated with how it should work and run, so I don’t hurt myself in the process), and stretch at the end of the day. It’s so calming and healing for all the overworked muscles, and a good time to slow down the mind.

He has a level of depth that he doesn’t reveal to just anyone. I have come across some snobs in my life who genuinely believed they were gifted with this superior quality of intuition and would prefer my company to Pierre’s because of it. I hate that. Pierre has a gift of lightheartedness which pulls me out of my seriousness and overthinking, but he also knows when it’s appropriate to take the time to dive in deep with me and search all intellect. This jovial disposition has a lot of people sadly underestimate his depth, and abilities.

I appreciate so much his go with the flow nature as it is something I do not posses. I wish I could have a break from my rigidity more often, but I suppose we make a nice balance that way; I create more structure when needed and he helps me to let loose and let the plans drop and cancel if they may. Although I must admit that it takes me a good while to adjust to changed or cancelled plans, it upsets the order and plan for how the day “should” have gone in my mind.

While not a perfect man, he is my perfect man. I appreciate his kindness, gentleness, and lust for life. His mom, who will forever adore him as the baby… recounts to me often of how she would find him in his crib each morning, gurgling and smiling, awake and joyful for each day. Such a precious little boy, and a precious man to me. When you’re like me, and absorb so easily the attitudes and emotions of people around you- you want to be around someone like my husband. It’s incredibly calming just being in his presence.

Aren’t we thankful for variety? I’m so glad the world is not full of carbon copies of myself or even of husband. Variety makes the world go round and I love experiencing everyone’s unique intricacies and experiences. The qualities described above may not be what you’re drawn to in someone either, but that’s okay because Pierre is my husband and not yours haha. I’m not sharing either!

Curious to learn more about ISFP’s? Read here.

All I want is a Cabin in the Middle of Nowhere

Cabin life, and everything in between

Well hello there, to catch you up on the real goings on in the exciting life of Nadia Liisa I bring you tales of journeys across highways of no mans land, and destruction made by these two wiry little arms. Yes, this lady has been referenced by Super Grover lines- and if you don’t know who that is, you have missed out on all of childhood itself. Ok, let’s get real.

This past month has been incredibly busy for my husband and I. We successfully moved provinces! Moving, might I add, is one of the biggest stresses a person goes through in their life (in mine, I have had more than my fair share- 17 homes before I was 16 and I’m embarrassed to tell you the current number). We had a new work opportunity and we are excited to try this new chapter.

My husband and I work at home repairs, in other words we renovate! There’s lots of work to be done here and this family cottage needs to be updated to properly market this ideal location to a higher end client. Views, and luxuries I don’t dare dream of affording- it’s the simple life for me.

We are tearing up parquet flooring (which is way harder than I originally imagined). I’ve only removed carpet, which is strenuous enough once the carpet and underlay come off and you’re left scraping glue for an eternity and then some. This parquet is coming off tiny piece by piece, a lot of back breaking work and sweat. I’ve torn up two layers of linoleum in the kitchen (yes- glued right on top of each other) and I removed the cabinets. I was quite pleased with myself once I removed the supporting screws, and the trim, I ripped those babies out myself.

Okay okay, I’ll stop with the boring details of demolition.

Side note: it’s a great way to relieve stress and aggression haha

Surrounded by trees and maple leaves carpeting the floor all around us, and breathing in a full crisp autumn smell, so fresh and unadulterated by smog or asphalt… I hear the call of a small red squirrel alarming others of my presence (they are quite territorial but oh so cute). I turn to the west and and see the lake, the waves crashing in on the rocks and I’m in heaven. What more could a person ask for?

In my many moves I have experienced both country and city life. My parents were divorced and so time spent with my dad (who held sole custody) were spent running across fields of green, climbing trees and sitting down by the creek. On the weekends we were with our mom in suburbia land where all the modern conveniences were at our finger tips.

As I’ve grown older through my short years, I’ve come to discover how much I dislike sound. The sound of others. For any who’ve had the pleasure of living in a basement apartment, you understand. Every creak in the floor, moving of the chairs, any song or dance, a midnight trip to the kitchen for a snack. I hate it all. I hate the neighbours on either side of the fence, smoking and polluting my air, I hate their music and parties past hours where I’d rather not be bothered.

I am an old crotchety woman in a younger body. I need my peace and quiet. I yearn for it. I yearn for the fields, I don’t even ask for a waterfront estate. Just give me trees.

How long must I build for someone else’s pleasure? When will it be my turn? Until that day comes, I will be waiting, eagerly and excitedly for the wide open spaces. I will say adieu to the sounds and irritations of city life. Give me squirrels over people.

Am I right? Am I alone? Actually I’d prefer to be alone, haha. Happy Tuesday!

Staying Active Through Chronic Pain & Mental Health

Staying active when you are struggling with mental health is a huge challenge. Struggling already implies a sort of internal wrestling, and now I’m suggesting you physically struggle as well? It seems like too much, doesn’t it?

There’s a vicious cycle that happens here. You don’t feel good enough to push yourself to get up and move, but the stagnancy also contributes to poor mental health. When we don’t stay active, we simply don’t feel good. Whether it’s because we’re not getting enough endorphins or we suffer from a poor body image as a result.

How do we get motivated? How do we change this pattern of behaviour? With effort.

After my burn out, I began to suffer with chronic pain. Also, after developing anxiety I already had an increased heart rate from little to no activity so the thought of increasing it through exercise felt terrible. I had to ease into it little by little.

My doctor was encouraging me to stay active. My boyfriend at the time was a triathlete- intimidating, no? I wanted to sit in my hole, and I would start after I felt better… but feeling better would never come unless I got up and started.

Studies show we can make a new habit in three weeks. We can reprogram ourselves! My sister downloaded for me some Pilates workouts that were less intensive, that incorporated stretching which I needed so badly as well as gradual strength training. I struggle with running because I suffer from shin splints but if I balanced my routine to include different forms of exercise I could balance where my pain would come from and avoid overworking the same muscle groups. Cycling also became part of the routine, for some active cardio when my shins were done.

It took lots of encouraging for me to get out there and do it. I am so happy that I did though. My body now craves it. If I don’t exercise for a few days, I feel the effects mentally and I feel in my body an urge to move.

Making it fun helps! I created a workout list of songs that I really love that keep me motivated. One helpful thing for me, is I always loved to dance. Music keeps me motivated so using music has a dual effect of changing my mood with an upbeat song, and keeping me motivated to keep pushing through the workout.

Nobody will start running X amount of kilometres or miles right off the bat. Start slow. Walk, and then run. I would make a goal to run to a certain tree, and then after take a walk break. Or cycle hard during the chorus of a song, and then ease off.

Gradually we can start to increase how much we take on when our body is ready. When my body was ready I started to incorporate more of a cross training sort of exercise but in 30 minute increments that didn’t feel too intimidating…. all from home too, so I didn’t have to deal with the uncomfortable gym atmosphere.

Mentally, emotionally and physically I started to feel better about myself. The struggle is always there but it’s improved so much. I’ve found my chronic pain has subsided more too, as my mood improves.

Try picking three days during a week where you can fit 30 minutes of exercise in. What makes you happy? Will a music list help? A certain kind of exercise (dance, sport, you name it)? I’m so thankful I did.

There’s an extra added bonus as well, if you can get outside. Nature has a calming effect on us. For me, especially during this pandemic where every time we are out we see masks, high stress (have you noticed people are less friendly in grocery stores and more “me first” than before?), etc…. I find when I’m on a nature trail, or somewhere where I can see trees, water, or farm animals down country roads it makes me smile. It reminds me of better times, and seeing the calm in nature helps ground me and resets my mind.

We all know the benefits of exercise: better sleep, mobility, taking care of our bodies, building better muscle and bones (helpful when you work in carpentry too, like myself), lowers depression, and prolongs our life! We also know about how our body releases endorphins with increased activity that benefits our mood…. so what holds us back?

Ourselves. What can help? Reasonable goals. Try baby steps, maybe start with a walk. Once you get the routine going you can consider increasing the activity. Maybe finding a buddy, who can socially distance outside with you on a walk or run. Being accountable to someone else helps.

Anything that can help us survive, make us a little happier, and healthier is worth a shot.

Inside Toxic Shame and Guilt

As I sit here in the cool night air, listening to the waves crash in on the rocks, and the crackling of a fire in front of me as I warm myself… I feel my heart beating a little extra. I feel nervous, of what?

I’m not sure. In my heart I feel a sense of guilt over how much time I’ve wasted in the day. I spent hours on zoom teaching so I can’t say I accomplished nothing, I had a productive call with my grandma, I reached out to help my sister today. Yet I feel the overwhelming weight of my list of things tucked away in my mind that I really ought to do.

There are so many friends right now going through a hard time. I feel like we are all taking turns. Some are struggling through tough times in their marriage, others through cancer, financial troubles, hospitalization for break downs, you name it! What I love to do, is take the time to make cards. My favourite thing is blank cards and envelopes and designing my own customized messages in calligraphy in black ink. I’ve neglected this for too long and the list of people who could use a boost is growing.

I sit here, anxious and yet uninspired to move myself to do anything about it. I need a certain emotional energy to rise within me. I also have run out of these cards and have some regular designed cards I purchased but it kills me a little inside to use a store bought one (what a card snob I’ve become).

I feel guilty. I have always felt a disproportionate amount of guilt. I live and breathe guilt.

Let me take you back to one memory. I was four years old and I had gone to a yard sale with my dad and younger sister. I was wearing a pink jacket, I remember my shoulder length hair cut with bangs. I remember tables lined up along the driveway full of little goodies. One of these little goodies caught my attention, a plastic food set. Not just any set, it was a pretend box from McDonalds and inside were little plastic chicken nuggets. I had never seen something so fantastic in my young age and I wanted it. I picked it up, and placed it behind my back as I turned to walk away as my dad was asking us to leave, and I slyly maneuvered it in front of me as I headed into the car. I stole.

The strange part is, I could have asked my dad for money but I didn’t even try. I had this craving to take it and I imagined how I could do it on my own terms. I shake my head in disbelief now how I learned this on my own. My parents or brothers never showed me, even though I detailed how my brother (brothers) would steal- that’s not something I ever learned from anyone. It came too natural.

Years later at the tender age of six and living in a basement apartment with my dad and sister, my dad offered to go to the corner store to pick us each a chocolate bar as a treat. I was excited as I anticipated his arrival with my treat. When he came home, a sinking, overwhelming feeling of guilt engulfed me. I remembered the time I stole. I was no longer worthy of a treat.

I sat on the stairs with my chocolate bar next to me, and hung my head in deep shame. My heart and mind tormented me with my sins. Why was I so bad? Then my dad came to find me and I mustered up the courage to tell him a secret I had been holding on to for two years now. I cried and he held me and told me it was okay.

This pattern continued but for new reasons. I chastised myself for bad thoughts and actions I had done at school and would write sorry notes to my dad. I never detailed why I was sorry but just poured out my sincerest apologies. He showed these notes to my teacher and they tried to sit down and talk to me, I think they thought something more sinister was taking place.

As a teenager, I broke a young mans heart. I couldn’t love him and I didn’t want to, I was too young but he was perfect in so many senses but I just didn’t feel what I needed to. I thought it meant I was incapable of feeling love and I had ruined the one chance at something true. I refused to date, or entertain anyone else for years…. YEARS.

I was punishing myself for being unable to love. For breaking someone else’s heart so cruelly… for ruining his chance at love and happiness. Now, I know this isn’t true but that doesn’t change the past now.

I was punishing myself

I run my life by guilt. The things I should do to be a good person. I can’t revel in any good I do because my mind reminds me of all the bad I’ve done, and all the good I could have done but didn’t do.

I sat down with a counsellor years ago and we challenged this thinking pattern. I know it’s unreasonable. I’m not bad. Yet, here is that guilty feeling nagging me again.

Here’s my honest struggle. Does this sound like toxic shame? A broken inner child? In any case, this is me. Maybe I’m not alone.

Wishing You Every Happiness

WARNING: This article may contain a trigger

I don’t know why but there’s a strong feeling I have that I should write someone else’s story. Someone I love very much, whom I wish I knew better, who’s life I’ve watched from the sidelines… I’m cheering him on and I’m not sure he knows.

Who is it?

This is for my older brother Jesse. I have mentioned before that I have a large, and unconventional family. Jesse is my half brother, one of my many half siblings. My mom had him as a teenager, actually he’s her second child… more to that another time!

My mom left my brother when he was very young in the hands of his father. Those two are cut from the same cloth, identical. The only problem was that his father was a drug dealer. Well, let’s be honest- it’s not the only problem.

Having a child was an easy cover up for the kind of business he was doing on the streets. Nobody suspected any funny business from a young father with his son. Unfortunately he had to witness a lot and be in the wrong kind of company from such an early age.

My mom had left to pursue greener pastures. She moved to a bigger city some 17 hours away, she tried stripping, even being an extra in a movie. She was being pushed to use her looks for more, for a film career but as she said herself she didn’t have the focus. She was more concerned with the party lifestyle.

Why she came back home, I don’t know. What I do know is that’s when she met my father. The two of them, as I’ve mentioned before were like oil and water. Both from families with alcoholic fathers, both with strong tempers and undiagnosed mental health disorders.

My brother then became absorbed in this lifestyle. Trying to readjust to life with his mom, and then my dad, who was abusive towards him. My dad has a strong contempt for my brother. However strong your feelings for a child or person’s attitude, behaviour or personality is no excuse to ever harm that person.

When he was 14 he began to really act out. I can only imagine the teenage angst and aggression he would have built up over these short few years. He ran away from home. There was a ‘Wanted’ ad I found my mom had clipped out of the newspaper and kept of him from that time. He was stealing, out of control, and in and out of Youth Detention centres.

When he was 17 he found out he was going to become a father to a little boy. My mom was so furious. There is one night I remember from this time. My sister and I were in our bedroom watching tv and the fighting was extreme outside our door but we waited for the storm to pass and distracted ourselves with what was on the screen.

After, the house was eerily quiet. I crept out from behind the bedroom door and looked in aw of the scene before me. Blood trickled through the hallways, and in the washroom on the sink and mirror and I followed the trail to the front door where my brother would have exited. My mother or brother was nowhere to be seen.

What had happened was not as shocking as what my little eyes might have imagined. My mom has broken my brothers nose. She can get physical when she’s mad, and even though she’s a beautiful and slender woman- she is fierce and powerful.

From here on out my brother would pass in and out of my life. I would watch from the sidelines as he became a father, and tried to make it work even though he was ill prepared (as any teenager would be!). He would be in and out of apartments, and in between would come and live with us for periods of time.

One of those times I made a cutting remark to him. I can’t remember why or what provoked it but I did. I can’t even remember exactly what it was, something to do with the kind of example he was setting for his son. He was already emotionally riled up from fighting with my mom and so he looked at me and her and grabbed as many of these unidentifiable pills as he could and downed them.

My mom then turned to me in anger, that it was now my duty to check on him every half hour to see that he was okay and would survive the night. Dutifully I stayed awake on the computer and every half hour I would creep down the stairs to the basement and shake his shoulders until his eyes would open and I could see he was… still alive? I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be looking for but his life was now placed in my 16 year old hands. By 5:30 am I decided it was time for me to go to bed and take the risk hoping he would still wake up later.

During his life, he had a good friend pass away from alcohol, he has been stabbed (his lung was punctured, but he came out ok), he’s been attacked by a pit bull (remember- their jaws lock)… and one time was hit over the head with a crow bar from his own father.

I called him as soon as I found out, even though we never called or ever talked about anything serious really. I just loved him. Earlier I had bought him a Nirvana t-shirt and it’s so funny but this small gesture changed his relationship with me, I could see his surprise in realizing I did care and that I had thought of him personally. In the altercation with his dad, he told me over the phone, that his t-shirt had been ripped and that he was sorry… As if my biggest concern was the shirt.

I have watched him struggle his way up through life. He has suffered more harm and trauma than I ever have and he continues to battle through some tough situations. It makes me thankful that although my life wasn’t perfect, it’s a good reminder it could have been much much worse and yet I feel guilty and privileged that I was able to come away with less battle scars than he.

I have tried to reach out with no replies. The last time I saw him was two years ago when I went back home for a visit and he came to see me. He was shaking, almost as if he was coming off something. I felt love, and sadness as we smiled and hugged.

Is there someone out there that you wish you could reach out to? Is there someone you’re wishing you could tell them how you feel but can’t seem to? A situation you wish you could change or make better? Well, you’re not alone.

The Do’s and Dont’s of Depression

Depressed? Isn’t that just a fancy word for feeling bummed out?

-Dwight K. Schrute

Have you heard one of the following: “Just snap out of it!” “”You’re imagining things” “It could be worse”. “You’re thinking about yourself too much”. Maybe something along those lines? Maybe it made you feel like your feelings were being dismissed… that there was something wrong with you, and you must be self-absorbed.

Some people, while well-intentioned say the wrong things to someone who’s suffering, not for lack of care, but just because they don’t understand. It reminds me of something I witnessed happen when I was in my early twenties. One of the women I worked with, Carol, had just lost her husband. They’d been together several decades… she was older than my mom, but we had become close. Another workmate, trying to sympathize said: “When I lost my grandma, it was so hard. I can imagine the pain you must be going through.” After she left, Carol turned to me to vent. “Your grandma?! That’s not the same at all!” I could feel her anger and I just listened, trying to take in these lessons. I had never experienced a loss like that and she knew I had no wisdom to offer, all I did was listen.

Actually, listening alone can mean so much to someone going through depression. A wise proverb explains that when we are in pain, our words can be like “wild talk”. Sometimes we need to let it out, no matter how crazy it sounds. Just having someone listen can make you feel loved and a little less alone, even if they don’t understand. Someone trying to understand can mean just as much.

A lot of young people suffer from depression, it’s not limited to young people but the cases are getting higher and higher among all ages and backgrounds. There’s various contributing factors to that, such as hormones, stress (divorce, bullying), chemical imbalance, and that’s just to name a few! I was one. I suffered the most between ages 12 through 24.

I remember trying to describe that it just felt like I had been stabbed. Except it was an internal wound, that didn’t heal, it felt like I was bleeding from within. So much pain in my heart, and the dark cloud that would never leave my side. The pain was too much, too all-consuming. I dreamed of death, getting sick, getting hit by a car. Somehow the idea of hurting myself lessened the pain I was feeling on the inside.

In our minds, it’s easy to feel like nobody cares. We can actually push people away in the process, in a sense trying to prove to ourselves that they really don’t care. Another proverb says that the one who isolates seeks his own selfish desires and he rejects all practical wisdom. What does that mean? From my experience, when you are alone in a toxic mind too much, our thoughts tend to work in a circular pattern where nothing is ever solved and things go round and round. I could actually feel like my head was literally spinning. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, to challenge those thought patterns and remind me, you are loved! You are worthwhile! Life is still worthwhile!

While listening to these thoughts of mine. One friend told me I was self-concerned. I felt so hurt. It’s true I did think a lot about myself, my own woes and life. And it is true that there is always someone out there worse off than we are.

Another friend expressed that if we just focused on other people more, depression could be completely eradicated. Imagine that! So simple. Said the person with no personal experience with depression. It doesn’t mean that those giving these comments mean to hurt, it’s just difficult for people to try to understand. Like people without kids trying to give advice on how to raise children. It seldom goes over well.

I do agree that giving to other people makes us happier. It feels really good when I take the time to write a card to someone I know has just been through something terrible. Or I think of the times I listened to someone else in pain when I really didn’t want to at the time, I was overwhelmed with my own problems, but then for that brief window my heart was moved with empathy and distracted from my own issues for a moment. It felt really good to have invested time and energy to help talk someone else off the edge!

While this may be helpful, it can not and will not erase depression. There are plenty of therapies and medical treatments that can not solve or fix the problem. They can help though.

If you have been made to feel guilty for having depression, or have been told anything insensitive, I’m sorry. The greatest likelihood is that whoever said these things meant well, and does not truly understand.

If you have been the friend who wishes you could now stick your foot in your mouth, forgive yourself. Next time try to listen and be there for your friend.

My own experience with depression, is likely different than yours or your close friend or family’s. That’s why it’s a good idea to listen to each one and try to never ever offer a bandaid solution. If it really was so easy, we wouldn’t be seeing the numbers in depression and suicide go up every year.

My own eldest sister committed suicide over ten years ago now. These problems are very real and like it or not, these are realities we face with our friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates, all throughout our communities. These issues touch us all and the more empathy we can learn (your pain in my heart), the better.