Dealing with the isolation of Covid life can get to the best of us. Many of us have legitimate worries and concerns that aren’t going to go away on their own. We have problems hanging over our heads, constant reminders that life still goes on, despite this new Covid reality. Our new normal is mentally taxing. It’s tough for the most positive person to stay positive all the time. It”s a mindset. It’s a way of thinking that directs your brain to look for the good, or the possibilities. The focus is always on moving forward, but enjoying each moment. These are some of the things I’ve been doing to help battle Covid depression.
1 Think outside the box – the one you are living in, and the one that’s in your head. Plain English? Get the F outside! Go for a walk, take your dog out; just get outside. Being outside can make you happier in under 30 minutes. It will help you sleep better, it can lower your blood pressure, and improve memory. It’s biggest advantage; it helps fight depression. It’s when I’m outside and listening to the birds and squirrels that I find myself smiling he most lately. I take my dog outside and throw him the ball. We spend a lot of time together. If you have a dog or a cat, you’re already ahead of the game.
2 Cut negative people out of your life – this may sound harsh but it’s an essential step to regaining or retaining peace of mind. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for or love the individual you don’t make time for, it just means you love yourself more. Our own peace of mind right now is more important than ever.
3 Stay Connected – It seemed like just yesterday everyone was complaining about social medial and how we all spend too much time investing in it. Right now it is a crucial tool to connections with friends and loved ones. It’s not the same, but it’s the best we can do for now.
4 Stay Informed – This is a crucial step. I’m not talking cruising YouTube for the latest conspiracy theory. I’m talking reading up and listening to what our experts are telling us to do. This is everything from staying home as much as possible, to using sanitizer, to social distancing when out and about. Respect this knowledge and these rules and we will persevere.
5 Be Grateful – What is brought to us we must deal with. This is life. A positive mind-set helps to look for opportunities for learning or for growth. Sometimes our best lessons have been the most painful. We all deal with trauma differently. We all deal with stress differently. We all deal with a crisis differently. It’s how we respond, to ourselves and to the world, that will make all the difference in how happy you can be.
6 Be Real – This almost seems counterproductive to trying to have a positive mind set. The thing is, it’s important to acknowledge and process what we are feeling. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel betrayed. It’s okay to feel whatever it is you are feeling. I guarantee you that you are not alone. All of us struggle with pain and insecurity. Living your truth, and being your authentic self, will release you from the many expectations that have been thrust upon you, by yourself and by others.
7 Stay busy – It’s a great time and great weather for spring cleaning. I Marie Kondo’d everything I possible could over the past couple weeks being at home. I’ve taken on some small, and not-so-small projects at home to keep me busy and occupied. Each task I accomplish gives me a sense of satisfaction and another thing to knock of the never ending to-do-list.The important thing is to keep cultivating our relationships, with our friends and with our loved ones. It’s our connections that keep us motivated and keep on holding on to hope for better times ahead.
When this story first broke, our immediate futures still seemed so bright and positive. Although there were Canadians affected, it was on the other side of the world. Even I wasn’t really worried in the beginning; I should’ve known better. I, like the rest of us, assumed our health authorities and our elected officials were going to take every precaution to protect our province and our public health. This situation brings to mind Education Minister, Dominic Cardy’s, vaccination bill. Our admin, Courtney L.Smith, a medicinal chemist and a 3rd year PhD pharmacology candidate at McGill University, wrote an open letter, not so long ago, to our MLA’s, providing fact-based, verifiable, scientific information, with references provided. We pleaded with them to listen to the expertise of the scientists, and the reliability of the research, rather than the understandably, gut-wrenching, anecdotal, stories of parents’ of children with an unexplained illness. One of the questions I specifically asked our elected MLA’s in that open letter was, “is it going to take a epidemic of mass proportions to get you to reaffirm you belief in hard science?”
Funny enough, that’s exactly what it took for our party leaders to work together for the welfare of our people. They are finally listening to the public health experts. It took COVID 19 to open their eyes. I hope they remain open as we face these uncertain times, and that they keep putting their party and personal agendas by the wayside when it comes to the safety and well-being of our public health. Listen to the experts. As it turns out, our future is uncertain. It always was. None of us know when we are going to “bite it”. COVID 19 is like a lottery, and I’m not a gambler. I just batted my own mind last year and won, so I like my chances, no mater what happens, I’m going to make it.
Hope is Always Stronger than Fear
I love seeing my fb friends posting positive and funny memes. We need the laughs, at least I know I do. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t getting to me. My naturally optimistic personality is being challenged by “what if”, and the “what am I going to do?”. I’m trying to let go of it and just live in the moment, the thing is, this is easier said than done sometimes. The bomb I’ve been waiting for since this virus hit New Brunswick, dropped today. I got sent home from work. I knew it was coming. I thought I was mentally prepared, but I found myself unable to control my emotions today. It got to me. COVID 19 didn’t get me, but the far-reaching ramifications of it did. The isolation from friends and family sucks, that’s all there is to it. Not being able to work, for an undetermined time, is very anxiety-provoking. Worrying about money is stressful. Worrying about how I’ll make ends meet is stressful. Worrying about how I will help my daughter, now stuck in Montreal is stressful. Worrying about my son, who is a single father to my granddaughter, living alone in a another city, is stressful. Life is not normal right now. It’s not fun. It’s not a comfortable feeling; something feels just off-kilter. I know I am not alone in my feelings. Sometimes I feel like we are in the eye of the storm and the worst is yet to come, but I truly believe if we follow what we are advised to do by the experts, we will persevere. We won’t only persevere, we will come out the other side much stronger. What I’m trying to say is, don’t be fooled by the either the humdrum or the constant barrage of positive posts you see constantly on fb. All these people have weak moments too, believe me. We all do…every single one of us. You are not alone. It’s better to spread love and hope than hate and fear. We are all trying our very best to survive, thriving will come soon enough. I chose to hold on to the positive. Now is the time to be strong, for myself and for others. I have my weak moments too, but I always bounce back. We can choose to be positive, we can choose to be kind. We can choose to think of others less fortunate. We can choose to do better.
I have been very open about my struggles with depression last year, for a couple of different reasons: 1. I’ve lost count of the people (men and women) who have reached out to me because they felt hopeful or inspired by my story. 2. I will hold accountable, the individuals who helped harm me, to ensure it never happens to another person ever again. 3. Keeping my struggles a secret only helps perpetuate the shame and stigma associated with mental illness. I refuse to be a part of that. I refuse to feel the shame. I refuse to feel less-than, which incidentally, a politician recently tried hard to make me feel. I own this! I am this! I kick the shit out of mental illness because I use the resources and tools provided to me by health professionals. My mind is vigilant, and very attuned to any similarities, feelings, or thoughts that might lead me down a road I never want to travel again. Since this virus has upset, not just my world, but the world around me, I found myself having to push out thoughts that weren’t conducive to my recovery. I also found myself wanting to pull back from everyone and everything. Now, most of you would say, that’s just what we need to do right now, and I agree. For me, that can be a slippery slope of isolation, and not the healthy kind. l pulled myself back in. I called my Dr and she subsequently decided to increase the dose of my antidepressant. Even though I didn’t feel like it, I called my loved ones. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to them, it’s that I felt the hook trying to bring me down. I will not withdraw into myself again. I didn’t. I fought it, and took the necessary steps to regain track of what I am meant to do, and where I am meant to be.
As I had briefly mentioned above, I had a conversation with a politician recently. It was a private conversation. We disagreed about something, no biggie. I made a comment, that I absolutely feel, by the literal definition, to be one hundred percent truth. I didn’t mean it offensively, I just meant it as a point of fact, which it is. I would not be afraid to divulge the entire conversation, but I have a feeling this individual would prefer it remain between us. I have two reasons for bringing this up. 1. It’s important for me to be upfront and honest all the time. I don’t hide what I say, or what I’ve ever said. I don’t have to put on airs or pretend to be somebody I’m not. I don’t have to impress anybody. I am blunt and straightforward always. I act the same way with everyone I meet and everyone I talk to. 2. This politician used very cruel words to try to make me feel bad about myself. They used the words, “Frig you”, “People a lot better than you”, “stupidity like yours”, “Frig you” x2, and “you have a lot of jealousy and bitterness”. These words don’t even remotely hurt my feelings, but they were meant to. I assure you, that most of you would be shocked to know who this person is. Some of you wouldn’t be. This individual seemed to be taken back by the fact that I “dared question them or that I dared to speak my truth to them”. I think a lot, if not most, of our politicians are that way; they plaster on a smile and say all the right things when they are out in public and in the media. Get them back in the vehicles, or behind closed doors, or in a private conversation, and this is where you are going to see the real person, hiding behind the persona of a nice politician. If this individual, or any other politician, or political operative, needs to be reminded who I am; I’m Jen Fucking Smith, and don’t ever forget it. Peace and love to all. Stay safe my friends.
“When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to push you aside, you will know we are here.”
It’s no big secret that I have been struggling for a few months. I only recognized the signs of my own depression in the middle of June this year. In hindsight, I can clearly see the signs I was exhibiting, which started sometime in January. I went down hill from there. I went downhill, because I wasn’t aware. I went downhill because, initially, the people around me either weren’t aware or they didn’t care. Either way, this is unacceptable. Whether it was from lack of education on how to treat someone with mental illness or whether actions were knowingly taken to undermine and cause further harm, the obligation is on the organization to implement the laws that govern the responsibilities which institutions are required to undertake and adhere to . This institution has a legal requirement not to discriminate, neither overtly nor non-overtly, against an individual with mental illness. When the very people and the institutions that are responsible for governing us, that write legislation, and approve funding, have zero awareness or empathy for their own people who are struggling with mental illness, where does that leave everyone else, given the prevalence of mental illness in New Brunswick? It leaves everyone out in the cold. It leaves them alone to struggle, to play Russian roulette with their lives. It leaves those who are struggling to function everyday, alone and afraid to reach out for help; it isn’t there anyways, so who are they reaching out to? It leaves out the families and friends of those who are suicidal, desperate to find help, compassion, and understanding. It leaves them out in the cold, with no one to reach out to for help. It isn’t there. Mental illness is not taken seriously by our elected officials. It’s an uncomfortable topic. People don’t like to talk about things that make them uncomfortable. We have people of all ages, all backgrounds, all socioeconomic statuses, and educational accomplishments, who complete suicide everyday. We all heard about the very tragic, public suicide in our province recently. We’ve all had a chance to hear other people’s stories, about the desperation felt by those struggling, and by the friends and the family members who are desperate to find them help, only to discover it isn’t there. My family has experienced two suicides in recent years; both beautiful women.One of them very young, with hardly an opportunity to experience life; the other, an educated, accomplished, woman, who had every reason to be proud of herself. My own depression has brought me to a surprising place on two different occasions. I had never before experienced what I have gone through in recent months. I couldn’t have fathomed it until I personally experienced it. I took all the necessary steps to recover. I did everything I could to pull myself out of the deep state I was in. It lasted…for a while. Another fall was inevitable. It was inevitable because I wasn’t being honest with myself. I wasn’t thinking of my own goals, my own passions, my own fire. I couldn’t work towards getting better because I was still feeling conflicted. I was still feeding the anger. I was pushing things I didn’t want to think about aside. I was unable to make a decision. I was being pulled in so many different directions, it made me struggle with my inability to see a clear path. It hit me, very suddenly, dead in the face, just the other day. When it did, an instant calmness and acceptance washed over me. The light finally came on, and I was able to make a decision. I felt at peace with it. I still do. I’m doing what’s best for me and channeling my sense of purpose into areas that ignite the inferno in my soul. I know what I need to focus on, and my intensity and passions will take me where I need to be, where I belong. I found the courage I had all along, it was just steamrolled out of me temporarily. It made me falter. It shook my confidence. It was like taking a bat to the knees. It brought me down, but I have been slowly crawling my way back up to a standing position, gloves up, chin protected. Sharing my vulnerability has given me so much strength. I faced my fears and chased down my demons, exposing all the things about myself that I perceived as weakness, I tossed these painful truths out at the world, and I felt immediate connections with others who reached out to me; some to offer strength and support, other’s to share their pain and struggles. Each one of these people, played a crucial part in keeping me here in this world, at a time when I didn’t feel worthy enough to be a part of it; they helped me see my story isn’t over yet.
“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”Steve Jobs
Mental Illness Affects More People Than You Might Think
The thing about depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, is they are much more prevalent than some might think. It dramatically increases in those over age forty. The fear of stigma and judgement usually keeps those who are suffering from asking for help. Tell your story. It might just be the lifeline someone else clings to that offers them a sliver of hope. You are not alone. Share your story. It will get better.
My life-long anxiety made me more vulnerable to the depression that hit me this summer. I experienced a dramatic shift in my thinking over the winter. People I had put blind faith in, and gave automatic trust to, were not deserving of it. Lesson learned. Always lessons to be learned, and I often learn them the hard way. I tried to hold on as long as I could considering the circumstances. I’ve had to forgive myself for feeling the failure of not being able to live up to the commitments that I had made. The reasons were twofold. First, there was the moral dilemma I was facing, the personal inner turmoil of knowing something had been done wrong, and my complicity by remaining in my position. Secondly, my mental health had reached a critical point, due to my anxiety and depression, exacerbated by the actions of others. I had no choice but to resign and to leave. To a person who feels a strong sense of loyalty, duty, and dedication, setting those principles by the wayside is extremely difficulty to do at the best of times; when caught in the unyielding grip of anxiety and depression, faced with alienation and isolation from those around you, it’s potentially deadly. I’ve had to forgive those who don’t think they’ve done me wrong. They don’t even know they’ve done others wrong. I can’t change that. I’ve had to forgive myself, for the anger and frustrations I expressed when I was ready to give up hope. I’m trying to forgive myself for my high expectations, of myself and of those around me, for harsh judgement of myself, and for turning my back on something I believed in, right to my very core. I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. There is nothing wrong with leaving a situation or leaving people when things don’t feel right to you anymore. If you can’t be your authentic self, and you can’t be honest or respected by those with whom you are associated, it’s time to move on. That isn’t to say that moving on is easy. It never is, for anyone. As always, I see things in others easier than I do in myself. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge and recognize my own short comings. I recently heard the phrase, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” I heard this from people who embody and exemplify principles like honour, and doing the right thing. It was at that exact moment that I knew wholeheartedly, I had done the right thing months ago. You owe it to yourself to be honest. It’s expected. There’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. I couldn’t in good conscience, as a human being, turn my head and look the other way. Doing the right thing often difficult. When I come to those many forks in the road, as we all must do, I may debate and struggle momentary on the cusp of a decision, I will instinctively weigh the cost or the benefits of my actions; inevitably I listen to my gut instinct, and to that mantra in my head, ingrained in my psyche since I was a child; my father’s voice, “there’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.” Do the right thing.That doesn’t always mean I get it right. Sometimes I get it wrong, but I always try, and I admit and own up to my mistakes. I am not perfect, I have much to learn. I also have much to offer. It took me way to long to realize this, but it’s something I will never allow myself to forget. I have many friends who keep reminding me. I can only live my truth, and spend my time and energy where it is best served, where my strengths are; with writing and fighting for women’s rightsand equality for all.
Coming Full Circle
Life is funny sometimes. I find it odd how lessons are delivered to me at times. Sometimes I don’t even realize it’s a lesson until I’ve had time to reflect. That’s life. Nobody has the handbook on how to live life perfectly, although lots of people think they have the formula figured out. The high volume of self-help books and how-to books confirm this. The truth is, nobody has everything figured out. We all stumble around sometimes, unsure of what to do, cruising along on autopilot, just putting the days in. Other times, we’re at a high altitude, reveling in the glory that is life. If we are lucky enough, we will find our calling, our purpose. It took me a long time to find my purpose. The traumas I experienced throughout my life, sidetracked my goals, and made my vision cloudy. It was when my kids moved out and went to university that I finally found the time, and the chance to delve into what would rapidly light my fire. My natural protective instincts led me to champion for women’s rights. At the time, I was already on board with the Liberals, but Brian Gallant’s stance with ammending the 84-20 regulation, was in my opinion, and many others, not enough. This inspired a call to action for me and for my daughter. We found ourselves protesting the Gallant government at the legislature for their failure not to extend public funding to private clinics.The following year, my support for the Liberals was cemented by Justin Trudeau’s declaration of support for women’s rights, among other policies that I was happy at the time to get on board with. The point is, women’s rights were what sparked my fire and drew me to the Liberal party. Somewhere along the line over the last four years, I lost sight of what inspired me in the first place; equality and social justice. Temporary people taught me permanent lessons. The time has come around again for me to invest in my own growth. See you in the ring…
When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.”
Life thew me a few curve balls this year. 2019 has been a challenge for me from the get-go. Some challenges were whipped at me, some were lobbed, but all came at me steadily. As issues arose, I did my best to knock them out of the park. Either way, I stayed in the game. I stayed in the fight. Yes, I eventually got knocked down, it happens to the best of us. I got sucker-punched by those I thought I could count on and trust; make no mistake, I can take a hit and get back up again. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t hurt. It hurt me really bad. It felt every cut very deeply. It may give those that tried hard to hurt me, some satisfaction to know that they at least partially succeeded, but that’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m healing. Like a lioness injured in a hunt on the Savannah, I had to run off and lick my wounds, alone. I had to get out of the game for a little while. Self-care is a priority for me right now. I had to remove all people and all ties that bound me to the association, from my life. I had to create a safe space. I had to reach out to and rely on my friends. I had to do things that made me happy, that made me feel whole. I started thinking about myself for a change instead of so many others. i have been putting my own needs first, and with each passing day, I allow the hurt to come, and feel it. I feel it and accept it, and put it in its proper place. I don’t try to suppress it and make it go away. Only an idiot would do that. I know that if I push this aside, it will only come back to knock me out later. This is simple psychology.
I’ve been in a weird spot lately. Everything that has been steady and consistent in my life has taken a new direction. My job, my friends, my political interests. Most importantly, how I decide to spend my time, who I decide to give my energy to, how invested I get, and who I am able to trust has changed dramatically over the past few months. I’ve been pressed to make a decision. It’s not like i’m in a hurry. I have been in the process of talking to as many people as possible and gathering as much information as possible. I like to make an informed decision. The thing is, all those years ago, when I felt the calling to join the Liberal party, and exhaust my efforts for my MP and the various MLA’s whom I supported, I didn’t have an exceptionally high level of trust then either. I keep asking myself, why I would allow things to get a bad as they did? Why was I so naive and trusting with people whom I should have known better than to give any trust to at all? It’s because I gave a little bit more of myself to these people with each day that passed. Each call bank I participated in, each day of action when we knocked on doors, each lawn sign I put up, each member I signed up personally, was done out of a deep belief and conviction. I allowed myself to be convinced that we were a solid team, that we were a big family, that we were friends, that we were doing something together to make a difference, that we had similar goals and aspirations for the people of New Brunswick. I thought that I was dealing with people that were honest and that had integrity. Don’t get me wrong, lots do; probably most of them. I had the misfortune of dealing with and choosing to believe in people I should’t have, because we wore the same political stripe. Most of the fault lies with me. I let myself get hoodwinked over the years. I saw things wearing red-tinted glasses. It was fun and it was fine as long as I agreed with everything, and didn’t question anyone. The moment I started veering off the beaten path, my days were numbered there. I knew it deep down. I was getting more audacious with each passing day, while simultaneously willing the turmoil in my mind to go away. As much as it hurt me, I know the loss is their’s, not mine to bear. This fiasco has forced me to look at myself and those around me differently. Nothing is inherently going to change about me, other than I’m going to listen more to my gut instinct, and my trust will never just be given away ever again in the political arena. From now on, my trust will be earned. I’m left with not having a home politically and not feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere else…yet. For now, I’m going to remain neutral. I know myself too well. I can’t party-jump because I need to know what exactly I’m jumping into. I need something that is a good fit for me. I need something to inspire me, something to grab hold and ignite my passion. As of today, I’m just not feeling it at all; so I wait. I keep talking and observing. I keep holding people to account that need to be. I continue to express my opinions, for what they are worth. I will continue to enjoy my life and live freely with no pretensions or worries about who I am. I know who I am, and what I have to offer. So do the multitudes of people who support me. I am lucky and I am grateful to every one of you. The day will come, in the not-so-distant-future, when I will meet face-to-face, those that intentionally tried to do me harm. They will feel the scorch of my fire; I will remind them that I am a force to be reckoned with. That day of reckoning is coming.
When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.
Those of you that follow my blog and my social media know that I struggled with things that happened between me and an association with which I am no longer affiliated. Things were said. Things that did not sit well with me. Things were done. Things that did not line up with what I believed to be right. People who I admired and respected, had suddenly cast themselves in a different light, a darker light. I became leery of those that I had put the most stock in. We may have once shared ideas and visions, but we do not share the same principles, nor do we share the same concept of what is right and what is wrong; mostly we do not agree on accepted practices how they treat their own people who disagree with them. Unfortunately, I have nobody to blame for that except me. I have very high expectations of myself, and that extends to those around me whom I hold in high esteem. The difference between me and some of those that wield power in this association is, I have a problem hurting people. I have a problem turning a blind eye and not saying something when I know wrong is being done to someone. Up until January, I had only seen the fun side of politics. The campaigns where I had found so much enthusiasm and hope, grabbed something in me and held on, even in the face of bitter defeat. The camaraderie and the team work, with everyone pitching in and making an effort to reach a collective goal. The shared grief and disappointment, when a candidate you had been exhaustively supporting, sees defeat at the polls. It’s all part of it, and I don’t regret a minute of the time I spent on campaigns that I have been a part of, and contributed to significantly. There are some memories I will always reflect on as a positive learning experience, others were learning experiences, but not the lessons I thought they’d be. My world got rocked, and not in a good way. My hands were tied, in some ways they still are. I went off lately.. a lot. I finally released the pent-up frustrations, and the bitter taste of blood in my mouth, from the blows I received from what I thought were my people. Obviously, I was wrong, my people would have never done that to me.
I feel I owe some an apology. My family and friends, who saw me struggle, but could do nothing but watch, stand behind me, and offer support when it was needed. To those that talked to me, and sent me messages, sometimes just to say hi and check up on me. All of you have seen me process and know the lengths I will go to in order to live up to what has been demanded of me all these years, trying to do the right thing. Granted, I may have missed the mark a few times, but that is typical of the steep learning curve called life. I missed the mark recently, and for that, I am sorry. The mind is a curious thing. I know my intelligence is a gift, and I have tried to use it to benefit myself and my children as best as I could. Challenging my mind has always been one of my favourite things to do, and I usually don’t take it for granted, until I was hit with a sudden and overwhelming depression recently; my mind betrayed me. It wasn’t working like it usually did. A part of it would think logically, and ground itself in fact-based knowledge, but a part of it was cloudy, and seemed just out of my reach. This is mental illness. It doesn’t matter how smart or educated you are, when it grips you, it’s powerful and consuming, despite relentless efforts to gain control. I am responsible for my actions and my words, of this I have no doubt. The efforts others went to, to deliberately isolate me, and “punish” me for not towing the line, were stressors that contributed significantly to the decline in my mental health. As they circled closer, my disbelief and distrust grew stronger; subsequently, so did my defiance. All I can say is that I was desperately hurting. I had to hold it in for months. I couldn’t talk to them about it because it pissed them off; I tried many times with many different people. I couldn’t question them, and even when I did, they hid behind legislation or feeble answers. I stuffed my hurt for months, feeling helpless and more hopeless with each day that passed with no resolution. Like a bomb, I was bound to go off. Eventually I did, and I did it with gusto. The recipient of my pent-up hurt and inevitable anger was the executive director of this association. I expressed my hurt, my frustration, and my struggle, openly and honestly, with my usual blunt candor. While it was mostly polite, I used a vulgar expression to communicate the helplessness I felt at the time. My honesty and forthrightness was not well received to say the least, but it did teach me a valuable lesson, or several of them: rich people who have lived a life of immense privilege do not like to be questioned or criticized, and have no idea what we “normal” people go through every day of our lives. They have literally no clue. It’s like growing up on different planets. I’ve had to rely on my own resourcefulness just to feed myself and my kids, just to survive. We were so poor when I was going to university, I couldn’t buy them any Christmas presents. I had to rely on the food bank to feed them a few times when they were little. I didn’t have friends in high places to call upon when life threw my a curve ball. I didn’t have my family’s wealth and power to bail me out of situations. I had to fight tooth and nail for everything I have had in my life. Nothing has come easy for me. When you’ve had to fight in the trenches for survival, you aren’t going to be relatable to someone that has lived a pampered life. That being said, while I was in the grip of depression, I was not able to think clearly, and I was rude to this person. I didn’t feel in control at the time, but I do now. As much as it pains me and humbles me, I apologize to him as well, for the onslaught of verbal frustrations that I thrust upon him. I can’t make him do the right thing, and frankly, I’m not interested in trying anymore. This is about personal accountability. This is for me as much as it is for him. If there is one thing I try to do, it’s own my shit and take responsibility for it. I am as upfront as anyone can get. I am going to continue to express my opinions and my feelings, but I will do it in a manner that is expected of me, and that I expect of myself. Throughout my “dive into the deep end”, if you will, I hurt people unintentionally. I didn’t realize just how powerful my words can be, and the collateral damage that they could cause. It’s not like I have a lot of experience with depression. I have only been there one other time in my life, when I was a teenager. I did not see the warning signs in myself. I had no idea I was going to plummet to such depths of despair, when faced with thoughtlessness and rejection from my social group. How could I when I’ve never really been there before? Of course, things became clearer after the fact. Hindsight is always 20/20. It wasn’t until I dug out my old sociology textbooks and delved in, that I remembered just how devastating being ostracized by your social group can be. The reason I had to dig out these old books was because I tried to make an appointment to get help, to get counselling, and I faced what other’s already knew; there is little to no help available. There are waiting lists. This help is over $100 per/hr. Those of us that live pay check to pay check can not afford such things. This is unacceptable. There are a staggering number of people that are suffering everyday, so close to the edge it would surprise you; it surprised me. When I was at my lowest recently, I felt suicidal. I can hardly believe it myself honestly. I have never in my life gone so far down a road that led to nowhere good. I feel shame about it, but I’m trying hard not to. It’s important to acknowledge and talk about it, for me and for others, to help bring awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness. Thankfully, that dark period didn’t last long, and I was able to bring myself back from the very edge. I won’t get into details about how close I came to ending it all, but if anyone needs to talk, I’m open to discussing it. Only someone that has been there is going to truly understand. I didn’t understand until I experienced it so deeply. I did what I had to do to survive, as always. I’m okay, and I always will be. I am a fighter, and I will harness that survivor’s instinct.
New Beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. My ownness and responsibility begins and ends with deciding to stay as long as I did. I stayed because we shared a lot of laughs and good times, amid the struggles and disappointments. I stayed because when I give my word, I mean it. I stayed because I believed in the ideology, I still do. I stayed because I identified, because I felt like I belonged to something that I thought would make things better for everyone. For the most part, I believe that is still the case. Unfortunately, as is usual with most of the decision makers and legislators, men and money are the driving force behind the secret agendas common folk know nothing about. The day is coming when that will change, not likely soon, but I can never give up hope. I will wait patiently for a day of reckoning. As I said before in my blog post, “Back in the Saddle Again”, “when you see the bright eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.” I am going to be standing at the front of this line, arm-in-arm with my sisters and others that have felt your sting, ready to take our rightful place along side you. Be ready.
Someone of the male persuasion recently told me that “time heals all wounds.” I don’t find it at all surprising that a man would suggest that this old adage were true. Typically speaking, men are not in touch with their feelings and they hardly know how to identify the deep feelings that they experience. It’s a foreign concept to a lot of them. Women, on the other hand, know the benefits of being in tune with our feelings, and the relief in expressing them. What this man, a man of privilege, doesn’t seem to understand, is that time makes unhealed wounds fester. I know of what I speak. I AM a woman who has experienced trauma. The only way I know how to deal with the conflicting feelings and anger I’m having a hard time letting go of is to talk about it. I can’t keep burying it, but I feel like my hands are tied. Tied to people that don’t like me, don’t like my candor, and don’t want me involved; people that wish I would just go away. They don’t know me. They don’t appreciate what I have to offer. They can’t grasp the fact that if I could only get something to bite my teeth into, I’d be the biggest advocate and the loudest defender; not to mention the exhaustive efforts I put in to physically meet my obligations. But, I’m stuck with feeling hurt, feeling pain, feeling betrayed, feeling fucked over to put it bluntly. I feel very angry. I feel frustrated. I feel confused sometimes, but mostly I feel angry. It is a comfortable emotion for me. It’s one I try to avoid as much as possible now that I’m older because it isn’t healthy to hold on to it. It is; however, perfectly normal and healthy to feel anger and to express it. Luckily for me, I’ve been able to dump some of my anger on whom it belongs, but maybe not so lucky for those on whom I unleashed. It is what it is, and they quite frankly deserved some of my wrath. Some people prefer to avoid dealing with feelings by burying them. This only serves to prolong the pain; postpones it, if you will. In the meantime, all the pain you’re forcing me and others to swallow, manifests itself in other ways. We become less patient, more defensive, less amiable, more angry, less agreeable, more distrusting, more frustrated, less accountable. This goes on and eventually, despite our best efforts, one day we blow. A pressure cooker can only hold so much before it overflows. We are that pressure cooker. You expect us to just bury everything, with zero explanation and accountability, and wait for time to heal our wounds. Let me tell you buddy boys, that is never going to happen. You are going to feel the explosive power of many of us that feel cheated, betrayed, and lied to by our own people. I will be at the front of this revolution if something isn’t done. It would be a different story if it were other people that did such things to us. We’d expect that. It wasn’t. It was our own people. People we should have been able to depend on to act fairly, to act with integrity, to act impartially, to be helpful, but most importantly to want to see each of us succeed. That did not happen. I have come to realize that you just don’t care…you just don’t care. You only care about yourselves and your own dirty, elite inner circle. I’ve expressed the difficulty I’ve had trying to move on with no explanation, and not talking about it. It’s hurting me, and you don’t care. It makes me wonder why I give so much of my time, effort, money, and energy into an organization that doesn’t care what I think, or how I feel. It doesn’t care about its own “little people.” We don’t matter. I keep taking cheap shots because I feel like I’ve been left to die with my hands tied together. I feel things getting shoved in my face and down my throat. It’s a “get on board or else”, kind of situation. I was even told I had to be excited about it no less. Excited!!! Think about that for a minute. They have expectations on me to be excited about what I consider to be an unfair situation, and very unbecoming of us. I’m going through the motions. I’m doing it. I just didn’t know how I’m going to keep doing it. I either must submit, and bow down to the will of a select few, or keep making waves of displeasure. They know they have no worries though. I could school each of them on what loyalty really looks like. They have no idea. They compromise key values to win at all costs. I don’t want to win if I can’t do it fairly. I like competition. I’m not afraid of it like some people are. They only like a sure thing, a sure win. Eliminate the competition before they even get in the game. Let me be very clear; I WILL NOT BE SO EASY TO GET RID OF, OR THREATEN, OR BRIBE, OR SILENCE. I am loyal because it is in my bones, not because it is forced on me. I am a fighter. I am as tenacious as a dog with a bone when I am determined, and I have never been more determined in my life. At this point, you are either with me, or you’re against me. I feel like the part of my identity that I was so previously proud of has been hijacked by other people. Get off your elitist high horses or I’m going to personally knock you down off them. Get in touch with real people; with the common folk. The people beneath your feet. Try to remember what the values we espouse really mean, what they always stood for, what they should always stand for. This isn’t a long post. It’s a shit or get off the pot post. Get on board with what the rest of us are feeling, and deal with it, give us the support we need and we will support you; or prepare for battle!!! The only other option is getting the hell rid of me already. Do us both the favour. It might buy you a little time, before some other person can finally find the balls to speak out. It might buy you the time you need to push your agenda through. Who knows? Maybe it will be good for both of us. God pity you if I meet you on opposing sides.
It’s been a little while since I felt like I was in the right head space to be able to blog. Technically, it wasn’t as much about the head space I was in, as much as it was NOT being able to write freely about what it is that has been troubling my mind as of late. Actually, I still can’t. My hands are tied, at least for the time being. It’s not like anyone tied them. I bound them myself with my unwavering loyalty and a sense of duty that I cannot shake. The words come to me so easily yet I find myself having to keep hitting that backspace bar routinely, because as I have often had to remind myself every time I tried to put pen to paper lately, “you can’t write that.” Let’s not forget what is important right now. There are dirty little secrets people don’t want spilled. Secrets that would cast them in a very negative light, not to mention the bad publicity that would soon follow. Tsk Tsk. No worries! Your secrets are safe with me. I like having aces up my sleeve! Being part of a team means being conscious of those around me and what their needs are. I respect my team. It’s for them that I am holding onto these shameful goings-on. The day and time will come when you will have to answer for these actions; if not from someone else, then definitely from me, when the time is right. I’m like an elephant; I NEVER forget.
It’s been a revealing time; a learning experience. I hardly remember feeling such harsh disappointment like I have felt in recent months, not only in some people who I previously held in the highest esteem, but mostly in the ideals and values that I thought we stood for. At the same time, I have felt such elation after having jumped every single hurdle or smashed apart each obstacle placed in my path. Things that were meant to wear me down instead gave me power. I may have, at times, had to slow down and catch my breath, but only temporarily, and never for long. Throughout the mental exhaustion, I never gave up. It’s just not in me to do that. I will fight for what I believe in until i take my last breath. There have been both good and bad experiences. I have learned that some people I thought were my friends, are not, but I have also made new friendships that have been built on blood, sweat, and tears while trying to achieve a common goal. These friendships are the best kind. I am grateful for all of them. I have seen people in positions of power, use their authority in the most sneaky, dirty, underhanded ways. These people use their power to crush those beneath them. What these people will find out, if they haven’t already, is, I am NOT so easy to crush. I am not intimidated. I never back down. I willingly accept the challenge. I will not go quietly or gently into the night, I will take some along with me for that ride. I mean, literally, I am a survivor! #metoo
I just want all of you to know that I deeply appreciate every word of encouragement, every message of support, and every kind gesture that so many of you sent my way. I even want to thank those that have taught me valuable lessons. I absorbed it all. There are no bad lessons. Just lessons well learned. I took one on the chin a few months ago, for something I believed in. I still believe in it or I wouldn’t be here. I just pulled my head out of the sand and chose to see the reality around me instead of the yarn that was being spun. It was like I was lost in the desert staring at a mirage. The image i was clinging to inevitably ebbed away. I’m staring back at a place that holds no sustenance, and if I don’t start moving I will slowly die waiting for it to come to me.
You may hurt me but you will never define who I am or what I stand for. Every struggle I have faced has made me stronger, smarter, and more resilient as a woman. I did not break. I will never break. I have the strength of too many women behind me to not carry on and move forward. I have many male friends and allies that I can count on to support me when I need it. I thank every one of you.
I know I may have taken some people by surprise, that’s why I’m a wild card. I can honestly say that it shouldn’t have come as a shock. I felt like I got backed into a corner. This requires a defensive play. I was not disillusioned. I knew what I was up against; patriarchy. Again, I was defeated by power, money, and an unfair system. That’s alright though. I learn something new every…single…time, and throw in my own spin just for fun. I accept all challenges head-on, and i am eagerly looking forward to the next one that comes my way.
Ladies, just remember we are as powerful, intelligent, and as calculating as any man on the planet. We are a force to be reckoned with, especially when we stick together. Remember that.
Suicide has affected my family on two separate occasions. It’s the people we would sometimes least expect that opt out. It’s important to pay attention to those around you. Isolation is one of the biggest factors of mental illness.
Somebody is always there at the other end of the phone, or computer; whatever is more comfortable.
What constitutes a strong woman? According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of strength varies according to the context in which it’s used. One can be physically strong, have mental fortitude, or even an unwavering conviction in a belief system. It can’t be narrowed down to just one singular definition, applicable only in a specific situation. Context is crucial. The same can be said for strong women.
Some mothers work 40 hours a week, only to return home and provide the care-taking responsibilities that have been assigned to them because of gender since birth; making supper, washing dishes, folding laundry, driving kids around to extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, recycling, and play dates. The list goes on and on. Plenty of women work 60 hours a week, serve on committees, play competitive sports, go to the gym and maybe volunteer at a youth camp. Then there are the women who suffer through emotional and/or physical abuse because they are not financially independent, and have likely driven people they love away in order to conceal the abuse. They walk on eggshells, trying to do the right thing so that they won’t get beat down, only to inevitably fail. They don’t fail themselves, they fail to meet the impossible expectations of the individual who wields complete physical and emotional control over them. These women often use themselves as a shield between the abuser and any children involved. There are so many women, in all walks of life, that are silently accepting their perceived fate in life. All of the women mentioned above possess a super human strength that only another woman would understand. On top of work and family responsibilities, women are most often the ones compelled to look after aging parents. I see this strength in every woman I know. We all have different circumstances in life, from income to belief systems, but we all share one thing in common; keeping it all together. Keeping everything running as smoothly as possible. We have to work harder to prove our worth, yet we are very often overlooked, despite the values we uphold and the skills we contribute. I am one of those strong women. I have been told this by many, but it is not something I need to be told. It’s nice to be acknowledged, but I know it. I feel it whenever something for which I feel very passionate about is raised or brought to my attention. Most frequently I feel my strength when no matter what life throws at me, I bounce back. I fall down every now and then, but I always stand up, brush off my knees, and challenge whatever is ahead of me. Life has been throwing me some curveballs lately. Most of these things I have no control over, which doesn’t help. One of the most difficult situations in life for me is when I can not be of any help to my kids. They are adults, and are accomplished in their own ways. My son’s neurological condition is a constant worry, ever present in the back of my mind. I am always mentally prepared to get a call about him having a seizure. Thankfully, it’s been a few years, and my mind has relaxed a bit, but a small part of me is reserved, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, to find that mental resiliency to be strong for my son. My daughter is away at school, shes very capable and healthy; fortunately, I don’t have to worry about her much. We only see each other a few times a year but we talk on the phone every day. When situations arise with her, I feel the powerlessness of the physical distance between us, and my inability to do anything to help her. The only thing I can do is listen and advise. The rest is up to her. This is a hard thing to do; to let go of your kids and let them live their lives. They make mistakes and learn from them. They celebrate when they’re triumphant. I can only observe and console or congratulate.
That Little Black Cloud
Besides unexpectedly losing a job a few weeks ago, I was recently in a motor vehicle accident. I relive the moments after impact often. I remember looking over at my dog, shaking like a leaf, sitting on the seat, realizing he must have made impact with the airbag, now billowing with smoke throughout the car. Thankfully nobody involved was seriously hurt but I think it’s fair to say we are all still feeling some pain from that collision.
I am optimistic by nature, so I tell myself “things can only look up from here.” The tip of the iceberg for me recently, is being told that my oldest brother, going through dialysis three times a week, may at some point need a kidney to survive. His best chances of finding a match is through an immediate family member. Health issues and age will make some unviable options. The weight of having to potentially make this decision at some point down the line is bearing down on me considerably. It’s not on the table yet but it’s up in the air. Somehow I keep finding the resiliency to stay in the fight, to be there for the people that need me, and honour the commitments I have made. I just keep going, relying on the strength and support of those around me. Most importantly, I find the strength within; to speak up, to speak out, and to follow up with action. I am no different than any other woman. Women are the glue that holds society together, of this there is no doubt.
I have no idea how I came about having “resting bitch face”, but I have it in spades. Apparently some of us “appear” to be more unapproachable than others.
It seems that I am one of those people. I have a critical, sceptical mind. My basic approach to life is to question everything: who, what, when, where, and why. Becoming knowledgeable and having the capacity to analyze and question things are second nature to me. I can be soft but I can be hard if I have to be.
I’ve had to make decisions that might seem ruthless to some people. Given the unfortunate circumstances that were thrust upon me at different times in my life, the fact that I am able to trust anyone and expose vulnerabilities is as surprising to me as it is to those that know me personally. Ever since that moment when I was first victimized as a child, a barrier of distrust was erected in me and it has embed certain personality traits in my brain that will probably be with me until the day I die. I have been in self-protection mode since I was about 8 years of age. That moment when innocence, wonder, curiosity, security, and safety were robbed from me, I was changed irrevocably in specific ways. As if being abused by my relative wasn’t enough, I had the added trauma of being further victimized by the crown prosecutor assigned to prosecute my grandfather. Even though he didn’t touch me physically, he did and said things that were way beyond wildly inappropriate from a grown man in a position of authority, to a victim of sexual abuse about to face her abuser in court. His actions cemented my feelings of distrust and low self-worth. These two men, both in positions of power, fostered my understandably unhealthy view of that gender for over half of my life. I was approached by law enforcement a few years after I had testified against my grandfather. They wanted to talk about that crown prosecutor. He had violated other girls as well. This is an example of one of those life tests I feel like I failed, as I wrote about in my previous blog post, “Walking through Fire.” I had so many difficulties in the years following the trial. I lost half of my family. I struggled with normal teenage issues, but with the added weight of guilt and shame. It led me down some scary roads. By the time these detectives came to see me about that crown prosecutor, I did not have the strength or fight in me to go through the horror of having to testify again or face further public scrutiny. I feel like I failed my younger self by not having the courage to hold this man accountable. A man who had disturbingly used his position of authority and power to abuse girls that had already been a victim of another. I told the detectives nothing happened and that he was nice to me. I just couldn’t go through it again. I just couldn’t, so I lied. Then I buried it. For years. I told no one for 30 years. I understand so intimately why women like Dr. Ford, who so bravely put herself out there years later to expose the truth about another man in a position of power, don’t report assaults to police. There are a staggering number of women who have experienced these violations that never report it. I get it. I lived it. #metoo
It’s been 30 years since I went through trial. Somehow along way I have ended up in a good place. This is in large part due to the work I have put into healing myself over the years. The tragedies I’ve been though and survived have made me stronger with each experience. I couldn’t have made it without support, from different people at different times. The people I go to first now for support are most often my children. They are both adults and successful in different ways.
My parents are also very much part of my support system. Besides my family, I have been fortunate enough to have female friends, at different periods of my life that have helped me heal my soul.
Without these people, I would not be as healed as I am. The very first female friend that I told about being abused gave me strength; strength to tell her and her mother. They were the first people that I confided in about the abuse I was suffering from at the hands of my grandfather. They encouraged me to report it. Without their initial support for me, I may not have taken the steps necessary to hold my abuser accountable. My friend came with me to court and supported me through what was one of the most difficult days in my life. Another of my close female friends supported me in the after math of that traumatic event. These two friends am I forever indebted to. Numerous women throughout my life have provided me with different measures of support. For these friendships, I am eternally grateful. They helped me find my worth. They supported me in my endeavours. Most importantly, they listened. They weren’t self absorbed. I learned so much from these women. I’ve even learned from the women that I thought were my good friends, but didn’t share the same values in friendship that I did. They couldn’t offer the same level of loyalty and respect. These are areas that I need reciprocated. I sill care about these women but I had to walk away because they were not as concerned about me, as much as they were concerned about themselves, and what men thought of them. It’s very sad for me as a woman, to see such low self-esteem in other women that rely on the attention of men to feel worthy. I am so thankful that I overcame similar feelings towards myself when I was much younger. There are numerous reasons I credit for this:
My family believed and supported me.
I have had a lot of professional counselling throughout the years.
I shared my pain with other women who had experienced abuse.
I focused on education and learning.
The last reason is crucial. Education provided me with a feeling of accomplishment as well as critical thinking skills. I’ve come to appreciate my abilities and knowledge more than anything else.
I became involved in politics about four years ago. I started out volunteering on a local Federal campaign. I was immediately bitten by the political bug. Women’s rights and equality were a large part of my involvement and remains so today. It was always an interest and a concern for me, but it became my passion. I knew grassroots efforts were needed in order for women to find their power in this world. I’ve worked and volunteered relentlessly. I knew I could help effect change. Giving up my time to volunteer has given me back more than I could ever ask for. It feels good to know that my efforts are helping to make a difference in my community, my province, and my country. It took me years to reclaim my power through many different avenues. Now that I have it, I will never relinquish it. I keep it by sharing my experiences with other women and drawing strength from each other.
Life is tough sometimes. It’s tough for everyone. Nobody has it really easy. I know people like to pretend that they have the best, most perfect and positive life, but we know that usually isn’t the case. We all have struggles and they are as varied and vast as individuals themselves. That isn’t to say that some don’t have it easier than others. Some of our friends and family post these fantastic life stories on social media that would make any one a little jealous. The reality is most people aren’t posting their pain, their shame, and their embarrassments. Who wants to expose those vulnerabilities? Me, that’s who. I have found strength in sharing my weaknesses and troubles with others that have had similar experiences. So many of us are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues but we’ve been shamed as a society to admit it.
I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with than others. When I was younger I felt more powerless against it. As I’ve aged I’ve learned how to cope and how to recognize the signs that I’m indulging in the insecurities that come with being anxious. A couple of different times in my life I have “gone off the deep end.” My mental resiliency has been tested on numerous occasions. I feel like I failed some of these life tests, mainly because I’m so hard on myself and have such high expectations of not only me, but everyone around me. My first serious test came after reporting my maternal grandfather for sexually abusing me when I was a child. The subsequent court cases that followed demanded a strength I didn’t know I had; to face the man that wounded me so deeply and irrevocably for the rest of my life. Even though he was found guilty, sent to prison, and lost an appeal, I always felt like there was something wrong with me. Somehow it was my fault. Even though I was just a kid, I couldn’t help but blame myself for not having the courage to stop it sooner. The ripple effect of that trial was losing contact with the maternal half of my family. We were ostracized by that part of the family for years, because my mother and father believed and supported me. My mother chose her daughter over her father, mother, siblings, and extended family. That’s the best mother anyone could ever ask for. It took me years to fully appreciate the loss she must have felt, and the sacrifice she made to support me. She is a remarkably strong woman that has probably never been properly acknowledged for her tenacity and unyielding love and support for her kids.
I staggered around in a shame-filled state for many years. I had a hard time dealing with the incredibly overpowering mental anguish I was suffering from. Despite being young and inexperienced at life, I could not allow myself any forgiveness for the serious character flaws that I thought I saw in myself during my youth. Now that I understand just how traumatic this event was, I am kinder to the memory my younger self. All the choices I made in the years after the abuse were normal, and typical of those that have been so seriously victimized. I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes that I’ve made, but more importantly, I have learned not to give any thought to those that refuse to see how I’ve grown or acknowledge the changes that I’ve made throughout the course of my life. I wasted far too much time in my life worrying about what people thought of me. In my head I was already rejected before I could give anyone a proper chance to get to know me. I just assumed people weren’t going to like me. I was loud, hyper, outspoken, boisterous, adventurous, and tough. Very tough. I come from a predominantly religious family, I felt like I was most likely viewed as something akin to the devil himself. The long and short of it is; life is way to short to worry about what people think. There will always be people that don’t like you, for whatever reason. That’s ok. We are survivors. We always have each other.
My life has not been the easiest of journeys. Some things were thrown at me over which I had no control. My children’s serious health issues tested my resiliency. As is typical of me, I kept things together during the crisis, and then fell apart after the threat was gone. The latest and greatest test of my will and strength as a women, was when my developmentally challenged aunt died of brain cancer. I sat with her in the hospital every day, until the moment she took her last breath. The lessons she taught me about enjoying the simple things in life are still with me.
I have made colossal mistakes throughout my life. I was challenged by low self-esteem, and a lack of pride in the skills and talents that I had. I didn’t see myself as having any talents. Getting an education and having the support of my family and friends have contributed to me having a greater sense of self. I have pride in my accomplishments. Like a lot of parents, I feel my two greatest accomplishments were raising well-adjusted kids, despite my struggles being a young mother. I was a thrill-seeking hothead for most of my life. I had no fear. I lived for daring adventure and brought my kids along with me on that ride. There was never a dull moment. If I were a parent of young children now, my common sense as a middle-aged person would have surely kicked in. Instead, I raised two young kids when I was in my early 20’s. As is typical of the youthful mind, I thought nothing would ever happen to me. It would happen to somebody else. I felt invincible. It was this fearlessness that enabled me to let my kids follow me jumping off a local bridge into the river below. It took us swimming through rapids so strong that it would suck you down, twirl you around, and spit you back out again metres away. It led us to jumping a fence to pet a bear caged behind a steel fence. Crazy things to do, but I, nor my now fully grown children, have any regrets.
I have walked though the fire, but I did not come out the other side unscathed. Some scars never fully heal. Somehow I managed to raise university educated kids. My son has full custody of his young daughter. A girl born into a family of strong, dominant, confidant women. My daughter, a PhD candidate, is a scientist, blazing a trail for girls coming behind her from our small community in rural New Brunswick.
Life is tough sometimes, but like Dolly Parton said so eloquently, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
People that preach constant positivity bug me. I wish I lived in that fairytale land where everything comes up roses. I don’t. I live in reality. Life is great, and then it isn’t. Attitude is important and it will carry us through the tough times if we embrace a positive outlook, but let’s face it; it’s ok to acknowledge sadness or deep disappointment. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to not be on all the time. My late grandmother was our family matriarch. She was a teacher. She was a lady. She was a hard worker at a time when when women didn’t go out to work often, especially in farmland communities in rural New Brunswick, where she ended up settling with my grandfather.
She grew up poor but lived in the city so unlike many women of her generation, she was educated. She was also a very devout Christian. This is where we butted heads. I have so much to thank her for though; primarily for my love of English and the gift of good communication skills that she bestowed upon me. The thing is, she placed crazy high expectations on the women in our family; sometimes unintentionally, but the end result was the same for each of us. We put immense pressure on ourselves to perform at a very high standard. When we fail to meet these impossible standards 100% of the time, anxiety issues arise. Questions and self-doubt creep in. Mental illness found its way into our family psyche and embedded itself into our brains. It proved to be too much for my grandmother’s daughter, and ended with her suicide a number of years ago. My aunt was a beautiful, accomplished nurse and mother. She had every reason to be proud of herself and her life. A classic example of someone that appeared to have it all, only to have it end so tragically. It seems to be a common theme. “She was always laughing,” is the thing I hear most often.
I never wanted to show any vulnerability in my life. My natural instinct is to show no weakness. My age and experience have taught me to see the beauty in being vulnerable and the magic that happens when that vulnerability is shared. The women that have reached out to me to share their own traumatic experiences have helped me grow through mine. I’ve been learning to let go of my own ridiculously high expectations and be easier on myself.
There have been some key incidents in my life that have defined me. I’m a child sexual abuse survivor. This changed how I saw myself from the moment my innocence was stolen, as well as acutely changing my view of the world around me and the people in it. I keenly understand why women hold onto their pain and don’t confront their abusers. Things don’t work our well either way. It took me years to get to a place where I’m ok with who I am and what has happened to me. I went through the proper channels of accountability and felt the relief when he was found guilty of abusing me. I was believed. I was vindicated. It didn’t make anything better though. I was a young woman struggling with usual issues of teenage angst compounded by the weight of guilt and shame that I felt.
I became the strongest woman I could be. I would never allow myself to be victimized by a man again. I was a hard ass and I owned it. I still do. The school of hard knocks has hardened me in one hand but softened me in another. It gave me the strength to cope through my young daughter’s heart failure and subsequent surgery in the early 90’s. It led me through the trying times spent by my son’s hospital bed when he was a teenager; his brain being ravaged with seizures. Waiting anxiously while he was on life support, not knowing if he would live or die.
This inner strength allowed me to hold the hands of two of my loved ones as they took their last breaths and death welcomed them. I am a woman. I am a survivor. I am resilient. I handle whatever is thrown at me with a ferocity befitting of a mother lion guarding her cub. Sometimes I get down. Not often and never for long. I aim to thrive but some days I just survive. The world today is not for the feint of heart. As women, we need to work a little harder, a little longer, and be a little stronger to take our place in this world, because power only comes to those who seize it.