It’s been a couple months since I have been able to write a blog. There are several reasons for this:
1. I battled a severe depression all of 2019 and into the summer of 2020, and because of actions by my family and my very dirty-playing MLA, Jeff Carr, I’m battling depression again. 2. Despite my own struggles with mental illness, I continued with the commitments I had made, which took from my own time for my own well-being. I’m a woman of my word. 3. I attempted suicide three times between December 2019, and July 1, 2020. 4. I received no support from my parents, and one of my brothers and his family, during a time I needed their support the most. 5. Mental Illness does not get any better without professional help. It has taken time for my medication to work and for me to be able to use the tools and resources I have learned about in therapy. 6. Lastly, I ran for office in our snap Provincial Election in New Brunswick on September 14th. I had only a couple of weeks to prepare, fund raise, and campaign. I came in second, despite all the setbacks, roadblocks, and deliberate attempts to hurt me and cause harm to my mental health. I’m thrilled with myself for what I accomplished in such a short period of time. I was in it to win it, but I was realistic at the same time. I used to compete in track and field. This election was like an 800m race, but the incumbent had a 400m head start. It is what it is. I’d like to say it was fair and democratic, and technically, it was by the books. We all know the difference. I’m okay with that knowledge…for now. A day of reckoning will come to those in power who abuse it, just ask the New Brunswick Liberals how that feels.
Me, I Rise Up From the Dead I Do It All the Time…hopefully
I have been hurt by people I love and by people I once trusted and dedicated my life to. I have risen above it. It wounded me, badly. It has taken me a year to heal from some of it. Some of the blows I received as of late are a little more fresh, and will take some time to process and work through them. Considering what has happened, I’m hanging in as best as I can. I’m blown away by the number of messages I get from people who are inspired by my ugly truths. It’s not pretty, but It’s me, and it’s always going to be straight-up truth, I never mince words. The only way healing can take place is when the truth sees the light of day, and is confronted head-on. I have been exposing truths for well over a year now. I’ve collaborated with other formidable women to form a coalition. We confront ugly truths. We know we live in a patriarchal society, and we are aware of and feel the inequality; in difference ways for each of us. I feel it everyday. I’ve been holding people to account for their ugly, cruel words. I spared Jody Carr for his cruel words for one reason only. I didn’t want people to accuse me of using it against Jeff in the election. This is because I’m an honest, decent person. After the stunt, an extremely below the belt hit by Jeff Carr, planting his sign on my parents lawn, and the fact that he has never responded to me as my MLA, I finally found out why. Thanks to Jody Carr. Time for accountability Jody and Jeff. Both of you have caused me harm to my mental health. Jeff Carr, I kept wondering why you were working my father into our conversations. You were trying to rub it in, but I didn’t find out until election day. You should know that that pain from you and my parents put suicidal thoughts in my head again. I barely made it through election day. I did, thanks to a friend. We both know it had nothing to do with the fact that I came in second. It incapacitated me for 2 days. I hope you fell bad, but sadly, all I can picture is a smile on your face knowing your little plan worked. It broke me. You’ve both succeeded in hurting me. congratulations. I know who you are. I was good friends with your father Basil. I spent a lot of time with him just prior to his death. This much I know for certain, he would be ashamed of how you have both treated me and the way you have spoken to me with such thoughtless actions and harmful words. Both of you should be ashamed of yourselves. I am ashamed of both of you. You think you are better than other people. You are not.
In a facebook post at the beginning of covid, Jody commented something to the effect of handing out fines to those not staying home. I, as well as another lady, comented. I told Jody he was an elitest or had an eliteist atttitude. He sent me a private message. This is what the esteemed, former cabinet minister, and now a laywer, had to say to me, when I was still struggling very hard with mental illness:
This is not a pleasant post. I’m pissed off. I’m hurt. I’m allowed to be. I will say this much. I am going to devote my time to people who appreciate me the way I am, who value my education, experience, and skill-sets, and who are supportive of me. I’m not going to be where I’m just tolerated and treated like I’m a fucking stranger. I’m going to go where my passion is celebrated, and not controlled, or ignored. I deserve better. My life depends on it.
I am doing well because I am an optimist. I am doing well because I have the tools I need to keep myself grounded and to remain in the present. I am doing well because I have a good support system. I am doing well because I am a fighter. I am a survivor. I can take the well-placed, sucker punch. It dazed me. It confused me. It hurt me, but again, I rise. I forgive. I focus on the good as much as possible. Covid 19 isolation has certainly challenged me at times, as it has so many others. Honestly, I’m very lucky I live in a remote spot and I didn’t have to come into contact with many people. We’ve had a few restrictions lifted to include what is referred to as “bubbles.” I didn’t have to think twice about who my first “bubble” was going to be; Dakota and Presley. Looking forward to a visit from Presley today for the first time in a long time. FaceTime is great, but there is nothing that beats the real thing in person. This little girl helps keep me grounded and focusing on the small, simple things that typical four year old’s are interested in. She reminds me constantly about the tolerance and acceptance we need to focus on for women of colour in New Brunswick.
My Gloves Are Up
I have had plenty of people underestimate me throughout my life. They underestimated me in many different areas in which I excel. Sometimes it takes longer for some to figure out than others. They are always inevitably surprised. I haven’t always won, but I have left my mark. I have left scars that are not easily hidden. My scars are also there for all to see. The difference is I don’t hide mine. I talk about them. It’s one of the best ways to heal from what is ailing my mind. There’s been a fire in my heart for a long time. It’s always burning, forcing me to constantly look for ways to improve myself and to look for ways that I can make a difference. When I give myself to something, I give my all. When I gave my very best to something and end up with a slap in the face, its time for a reality check. Though I will probably never know the “why’ for certain, I have my own suspicions. Disappointing actions from people who I thought very highly of, and expected better from, and was under the impression they were tolerant and supportive of me; evidently I was wrong. I swallowed the feeble excuses and well-rehearsed, explanations that I was fed. It took me a little longer to see things clearly in my most recent disappointment, because the Covid 19 crisis started to take it’s toll on my mental health along with many, many others. For me it was the unknown, and the lack of reassurance from those who were “in the know”, around me. I’m always going to be too much for some people. Their loss, not mine. The loss is burning in flames and the phoenix that emerges will have more fortitude, determination, and strength than before I got burned.
Full Speed Ahead
I took the hit I was given, and let it sink in. It hurt, there’s no denying it. It doesn’t anymore. Sometimes we need to gain a new perspective from those who are outside the circle and not involved. Sometimes new perspective is gained sitting in a room full of people you thought you could trust with your vulnerability, but, it turns out you couldn’t. That’s okay. It builds strength. It builds fortitude, It builds experience. I take these lessons with me with to each new endeavor that I undertake. For now, I’m spending the weekend with my granddaughter and I’m going to enjoy every single minute of it. It’s been so long. She brings everything into perspective. The gloves will be back on again on Monday. I never want a battle, but rest assured, I will never back down from one.
Our Peace and Serenity is Being Disturbed by Unimaginable Violence
A body was found in a dumpster in downtown Moncton recently. An angry man went on an unimaginable killing spree in Nova Scotia, taking with him not just human lives, but innocence forever lost by those left behind who are grieving and trying to make sense of the senseless. This is all taking place during the Covid 19 pandemic crisis. It is going to make it that much harder on the friends and loved ones of the deceased, because they won’t be able to gather together to mourn and grieve. This is heartbreaking. I hope somehow they find the love and comfort they need at this time to get through what’s sure to be extremely trying times ahead. Our hearts are with our neighbours, Nova Scotia.
It’s very hard to stay positive sometimes. Our lives are all different and we are all dealing with the stark reality that is Covid 19. I recently read an article on Facebook that stressed we are not all in the same boat. We are in different boats in the same storm because we can’t all get through this equally; not with the wealth disparity in New Brunswick. With every day that goes by that we don’t get to see our friends and loved ones, it gets that much more difficult, and the reality of this isolation sets in even harder. In light of recent traumatic events in the Maritimes, I’m sure it’s even much more difficult to focus on the positive. The thing is, where ever you are at emotionally in your head, that should determine what you need to do for you. If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the goings-on as of late, you might need to take a step back and refocus. As far as Covid 19 goes, we have reason to feel hopeful here in New Brunswick. A couple more weeks should have us a few more freedoms and fewer restrictions, as long as we keep doing what we need to do and STAY HOME.
Tie a knot and Hold On
I, like many others, have my good days and bad days during isolation. At times I feel so hopeful and though that feeling never leaves me, some days are harder to get through than others; not necessarily harder, but definitely longer. Some days I feel ambitious and accomplish many things, other days I feel the weight of being alone and laze about just passing the hours by, counting them down until a new day begins. Thankfully, new days bring new beginnings and I find my fire and my motivation to keep going. I bring myself back to taking small steps to get where I want to be, after isolation is over. I think this is very normal, I know I am not the only one who feels this way. We are going to have good days and bad days. Some people are having only bad days. My heart aches for those who are homeless or who do not have a good support system. I’d like to mention again, the Federal Government has set up a mental health help line directly related to Covid 19. If you should find yourself in a not-so-good-place, please reach out, to them or to someone else you can be safe with and whom you can trust. Just remember, if you are struggling, you are important, you matter, and please get help. Better days are coming. We are Canadians, we look out for one another.
There is Light at the end of the Tunnel
One of the most difficult things for me is not being able to see my kids or my granddaughter. We make the best of it with FaceTime, but it leaves more of a longing than satisfaction. I’m proud of my kids, my family, and most New Brunswicker’s for doing what we have to do to protect our most vulnerable. I’m very impressed when I am out and about for essentials, at how careful and how obedient everyone is with respect to social distancing. It’s very comforting to know that our small communities are doing their best to take of not only themselves and their family, but their communities as well. We all know what a resilient bunch New Brunswicker’s are, we don’t need anyone to tell us that. We know. With a few more weeks of isolation, we should see restrictions lifted. Premier Higgs has indicated a date of May 1st, 2020. I commend Premier Higgs for being an effective leader during this very difficult time for all of us. Are things going perfectly? No. Do I expect things to run perfectly? No. There are going to be mistakes made, there are going to be glitches, there is likely going to be some trepidation and confusion, but we will be okay. We are always going to be okay. We have each other, and we have a Federal and a Provincial government that are doing all they can do to ease the burden for our people. Thank you!
Worry Never Ends for Parents – Regardless of the age of the Child
We all have many worries, this is without a doubt hitting everyone we know pretty hard, Despite some rather negative things that happened to me recently, I still feel positive and I feel deep in my heart that things are going to work out. They always.do. My biggest worry now, is while my daughter is waiting for her lab to reopen at McGill, she is going to work in a Nursing Home in Montreal. I commend her for her compassion and her bravery, but as a mom, it’s going to make me worry just a little more. She’s smart and well-equipped with science, but the higher risk she’s going to be put under, will certainly weigh a little heavier on me in the near future.
Staying Home is Boring – Let’s face It
I know it as well as everyone else. Some days are better than others. It doesn’t matter how bored we get, or how much we miss our friends and loved ones, we need to remain vigilant for a little while longer. It’s so boring and there’s so little going on that I don’t have much to say, which is unusual for me. I just want to thank again all our first responders, our health professionals, and everyone out there working to make our lives seem semi-normal. We wouldn’t make it through this without your selfless giving and doing the right thing when called upon. We all owe you debts we will never be able to repay. Hang tight everyone. Stay home. Stay connected. Stay healthy. Stay well. – Love ya’ll Jen
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.
I had a really big blow. Big. Life-changing big. Painful big. Unexpected but somehow I feel like I shouldn’t be surprised. My instincts were right on the money I must say. My gut was telling me something but I wasn’t listening. I was processing in my mind what was not being said, but ever the optimist, I pushed it aside. Somehow I knew deep inside the blow was coming because my anxiety kicked into high gear, and my Doctor decided to up my anti-depressant. Good thing. My head just took too long to catch up with what my gut was already telling me. Nothing is normal. Nothing is as it should be. I just had a friend ask me, “how long do you think this “covid thing” is going to last.? I regurgitate the usual response I hear, “months probably, maybe longer. It could be a year or longer before we get back to normal; if we get back to normal.” Then it dawned on me, maybe this is our new normal? That is a depressing thought so I shove it down without flaming that fire. The “kick in the teeth” I just received made my defense mechanisms kick in. I am by myself in this world. No one looks out for me but me. I’m single – long time single. My parents and one of my brothers are ill. My brother is very ill, so all energy is focused towards helping him for some time now as he goes for dialysis three times a week in Saint John. My other brother and I live close to each other but we are worlds apart. Religion divides us, and patriarchy. My kids both live in other cities. My daughter lives in another province. I try not to bother them with my problems, they have enough. We all do right now. It’s not like I can go to the friends that I do have for support that I really need right now. I have to be alone, as does everyone else. I got angry, I lashed out, and then hurt set in. Well, the hurt was obviously there first but I like to convert it to anger, it seems easier to deal with initially. I do not recommend that process, it’s just the way I operate. It’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve had to stick up for myself, nobody else is going to do it. I know a sham when I see one. I know when I’m being fed a story. I’m able to read between the lines,and I pay attention to subtleties some others don’t notice. Communications is my gift, not just a job. So, in the face of adversity, I’m again calling on myself to look for the good. To see beyond the hurt and invite opportunity. I’m so thankful for technology right now, because the only thing that is getting me through this, is the ability to FaceTime and stay virtually connected. It’s not enough, but it will have to do for now. I know I am not alone. We are all facing adversity right now. All we can do is give it our best each day. Some days, we don’t have our best to give, but we keep trying. We keep holding on. We keep listening. We keeping reaching out. We keep holding on to the simple things in life that we often take for granted. A lesson I learned from my special Aunt Cyn. Her simple way of thinking and living would be the greatest lesson for any one during this difficult time. I’m grateful I had her in my life for as long as I did.
Tie a Knot and Hold On
I am always open about mental illness because I know that keeping it a secret only breeds shame. It has been used against me, a couple of different times. The people who feign support for mental illness and act or do things in a way that is contradictory of being supportive are dangerous people. People are dying because of COVID 19. The virus has taken their lives. There are definitely more to come. This pandemic is also going to take lives of people who never had the physical virus in the first place. This social isolation is horrible for anyone, but it is especially terrible for those who are struggling everyday, just trying to hold on to a reason to live. We are going to lose more people to suicide, it’s inevitable. The resources just are not there to help everyone, and the physical distancing is wreaking havoc on those who depend on face-to-face therapy and the physical contact with others to keep them here, living and holding onto hope. All I can say to anyone who is feeling this way, is just keep holding on. Better days are coming. Better weather is coming. Better opportunities are coming. Bad days and bad times never last for long. We will persevere. Hold on to hope and don’t give in to the fear.
Back on the Tracks Again
I had a really scary ride last year with a major depression. When it hit me, it felt like a brick in the face. Logically, I knew something was going on, but losing control of my ability to control my emotions and my thoughts, (the effects of depression) left me in a constant state of having my mind spinning around all the time. I couldn’t focus easily. I needed help. My ride ended with my train going right of the rails and into a full-blown train wreck. Luckily I survived, and I am still here for a reason. I recovered. I got help. I got medication. I got therapy. The combination of these things saved my life. Thankfully, I’m in a good place. I felt the claws of depression, brought on by anxiety about work, trying to dig into me. I felt my anxiety increasing, so I called my doctor right away. Despite the rather horrible news I was recently given, I still feel hopeful. I still feel like somehow things will work out for me. They always do, I make sure of it. Isolation will take it’s toll on me sometimes, but it will not get the best of me. Nothing and nobody will, I make sure of it. Peace and love my friends. Stay connected, stay safe, and stay home. Thanks for your continued support. If anyone has any thoughts to share, please feel free to do so, and leave a comment.
Guess who’s back? Like Eminem, when he announced his return to the music world, so will I announce the same to my ridiculously smaller, but no less faithful audience. I had to take a three month “hiatus”. I’m not sure that’s the proper word to describe my break from writing. It seems like a more fitting analogy would be something to the effect of “my train went completely off the rails”, and I had to get it back on track. Mental illness is a curious thing. I tried to put the brakes on depression all last year. Somehow I thought I could control it. I am smart aren’t I? I mean I know about this stuff don’t I? I majored in sociology. I took social psychology. I had plenty of counselling over the years. I thought the answers I already had in my head could help me. The one snag I didn’t consider was that I did not have control of my brain. I thought I did. I did not. I couldn’t stop my mind from spinning a million miles an hour, around and around. My already analytical mind was in hyper drive trying to keep up. My spiral to rock bottom was a sure thing. I was the only one who couldn’t see it coming until I crash landed. Nearly dying can profusely and profoundly change ones perspective. I am no different. My near death experience taught me many things: Be grateful for what I have. first and foremost, my life. I am still here for my kids and for my granddaughter. in the worst grips of depression I thought that they would be be better off without me. Even I can hardly fathom that right now. It’s like it was another person; technically it was. I don’t recognize that woman anymore.
Another important lesson I learned is to really look at the people around me, and see who really cared if I lived or died. It was admittedly humbling to realize the few people who were left standing by my side. These saints of human beings cared if I lived. They wanted me to. They saw me for who I really was. They cared enough to just listen. They didn’t judge. They stayed calm, even when I wasn’t. They talked calmly to me. They reassured me. They gave me a safe space to heal. They gave me permission to just be myself. They didn’t judge me when I shared the most heart-wrenching feelings with them. Some of them cried with me. Some of them saved me from myself. I’m grateful for everyone of them. I see these people and I will never forget them. They are in my heart forever. I also see those who harmed me. I see those who relish still, in the plummet I took into a desperately dangerous depression. I saw them crowding me, figuratively speaking, pressuring me to bend to their will, isolating me, removing my support. I saw them be terrible human beings completely lacking in empathy and education about mental illness. I know who the people are, who didn’t care if I lived or died. I see you. I will always see you. I see you for what you are, not what you pretend to be in front of others. I know what you are. We don’t need to pretend with each other. You’re only fooling yourselves. I am not fooled. I know. I see you.
What Being a Woman Means to Me.
With International Women’s Day swiftly approaching I started thinking of what a woman is, besides the obvious. The definition of a woman means many things to many different people, and that’s okay. The fact of the matter is, women can be whatever they want. We have been pressured for so many years, to act a certain way, to talk a certain way, to dress a certain way, to think a certain way, to work a certain way, to respond a certain way, to react a certain way, to raise children a certain way, to please our men a certain way, and to have sex a certain way. “Act like a lady” is something I heard whenever I misbehaved in front of my paternal grandmother, our family matriarch of many years. I didn’t even cover all of the bases. A real and very raw viral video featuring Cynthia Nixon reciting the “Be a lady they said” piece drew love and acknowledgement from practically every woman in North America. It resonated with so many of us for a good reason. It was bathed in absolute truths. Beautiful truths. Painful truths. Common truths. Unknown truths. Unacknowledged truths. It hit us at our very core, at least, I know it did for me. I thought I was living unapologetic in every area of my life. Anyone who knows me, or who has spent five minutes around me, knows intimately that I am a very blunt, straight forward, and very candid woman. I don’t mince words, and I get straight to the point. There’s nothing I haven’t talked about or admitted in my blogs or in my conversations with those who know me. Honestly, I have been mostly upfront about myself, except for one area. Sex. I like it. I love it. I want some more of it. Some of you might be singing those song lyrics in your head about now. The rest of you, I don’t know what to say, google it. Women are shamed for wanting sex. We are shamed for enjoying sex. Oh, it’s all fine if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, but if you are a single woman, it’s just not lady-like to go after sex; never mind having frequent, casual sexual encounters. There are plenty of creative names for women like me: slut, whore, man-eater. I could go on, but I think I’ve more than made my point. This is the final area of my life that I have not put on full display for one main reason. Society has told me and every other woman that is shameful for us to want to have sex, other than for reproductive purposes. Considering I’m in my 40’s, having sex for reproductive purposes are quite frankly not on the menu for me. So what is a girl to do, when she doesn’t want kids, but is single and in her sexual prime? There are a few options. I’ve tried the dating sites, but ending up with a psycho stalker is a roll of the dice. The few times I’ve tried it, it didn’t work out so well. I did end up meeting a couple folks who showed me a really good time. Wink wink. I have also had a terrible experience with someone whom I had met on a dating site. Didn’t work out so well for me that night. A hard lesson, very well learned. Hooking up with friends and such, is not really a good idea either. It’s hard to find someone who just wants to have sex, with no strings attached. Actually, I should correct myself. It’s hard to find a not-married someone who just wants to have sex, with no strings attached. My best option, usually ends up going to a bar, and picking up some unsuspecting individual, who in all likelihood, thought they were going to have to try a little harder for it, and not have it hit them straight in the face, so to speak. Surprise! Sex can be very empowering. It holds its own power. As a woman, I’ve learned to harness that power and to enjoy it. I allow myself to just be free. I don’t care what people think. I don’t care what people say. I live for myself, and to have fun while I still can. I am a fiery, passionate person, in every aspect of my life. I am not ashamed. I am powerful, and I know it. Not unlike a lot of men, women can also be overwhelmed by their own sexuality and it can run us into some unforeseen situations. We can also think with out wrong body part. I’ve been caught devouring someone with my eyes, someone whom I would have preferred not to have been caught by, luckily, I am able to laugh about it now, and can look this person in the eyes again. When our eyes locked, I immediately felt shame for being a sexual human being, and most especially because I am a woman, and society expects us not to feel those things, never mind think them. I am not ashamed. I’m okay with it. I’m more than okay with it. I enjoy myself immensely. Isn’t that what life is all about? The long and short of it is, do whatever makes you happy. Women should all stand up for each other, that also includes trans women. If we can’t support all women, we truly don’t support women. It’s okay to just be you. Be fancy, be frilly, be smart, be tough, be powerful, be sexy, be inquisitive, be weird, be reserved, but just be you! That’s what being a woman is in a nutshell; whatever the fuck she wants to be. That’s what I’ll be celebrating on International Women’s Day; the freedom to just be me, with no fucking apologies to anyone.
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.”
No one is born with confidence. It’s something that’s developped over time, with age and learned knowledge. It means believing in yourself, in your talents and abilities. It’s having a skill-set, and the wherewithal to apply it in everyday life. Unfortunately, confidence seems to be ever-elusive for too many women. Media, especially in western society, has dictitated the stereotypical notion of what a confident woman shoud look like; from hair length, style, cut, and colour, to what colour and how much make-up to wear, to what is considered a desirable height and weight, to how much muscle is too much to be still considered feminine. Then there’s the fake eyelashes, eyebrows, lips, eyecolour, haircolour, breast size, butt size, waist size, skin colour, and so on. The beauty industry has an eternal grip on the well-being of women. This industry has in recent years branched out; it has targeted the previously unknown and untapped revenue stream from the insecurity of men, with skin care and hair care regimens. As a lot of us have discovered as we age, physical beauty is a fleeting thing. In my youth, like a lot of young women, I relied heavily on my appearance and tied it directly to my self-worth. Fortunately, I was also an athlete, so I was able to build more confidence and self-esteem by competing fairly and squarely. Each win inspired a competative drive to want to win more. Each stinging loss taught me the value of needing more practice, finding the determination to work harder, swearing to myself to be more perseverant, and most imortantly, the ability to visualize that win. There are many factors that come into play for each individual when it comes to self-confidence. Education, a good support system, a balanced work-home life, good friends, good health, and financial security are just a few things that come to mind as traditional “recipies” to follow in order to have a fullfilling life. But what about the unkempt middle-aged guy who labours hard all day, has a big-beer-belly, sports the swagger of a MMA fighter, and has no problem approaching a woman that others might view as being beneath him? Where does his killer confidence come ? Why can’t a woman with a baby belly feel as confient? What is the dividing line? Why do men get more distinguished with wrinkles, age, and grey hair? Why is the same thing for women considered unbecoming? Why is is okay for men to be open and honest about sex and sexuality, but for women, it’s frowned upon, undignified even? The answers to these questions are going to vary from individual to individual because we don’t all value the same things. If we were luckly enough, and I was, we had parents who instilled the values we hold true to ourselves today. Of course, times change, but traditional values like honesty, dependability, and integrity, have not changed with time. They remain steadfast in many of us today.
I have found it especially difficult in certain situations, to remain true to myself and my beliefs. Not that I find being honest and forthright difficult, far from it, but it’s the inevitable conflict that arises when dealing with individuals who like to blur the lines between what is right and what is wrong. A friend of mind, a medical Dr., recently recounted to me, “in order to be successful in politics, you need to be okay with getting into bed with some bad men.” (side note: her statement also reflects the dismal fact that men still dominate most aspects of the political arena) Almost sounds fun, but it’s not. I’ve dealt with these people. I’m sure I’ll be dealing with them again, but from now on the blinders will be off, along with the rose-coloured glasses. I haven’t lost my voice, I’ve been channeling my efforts into healing myself and learning. I’m always learning. I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the past six months. I do not let any lesson go to waste; these lessons will be incorporated into my interactions whenever I’m dealing with ANYONE involved in politics.
I am fortunate enough to say that I have killer confidence. I own my flaws and my faults, I own my analytical and strategic abilities, I own my frustrations and anger, I own my beauty and my sensuality, I own my good communications skills and my strong work ethic. Like the plethora of women now shouting out all over the world, I too will be heard. I thought I belong to a group that embraced diversity, and promoted inclusion, but I was proven sadly wrong from too many individuals that held executive positions, so I now know better. I could have belonged; I did belong, as long as I towed the line, and didn’t offer up any other opinion. In other words, just sit there and look pretty, but don’t question. Just nod your head in agreement or prepare for a barage of subtle but very incidious ways and means that will be used to drive you out. They aren’t monsters though, don’t get me wrong, they will give you a chance to mend your ways, by sending some trusty delegates to “have a talk with you”, under the guise of being your friend; or they may have different delegates send you messages or call you. The long and short of it is, belonging to something means having a seat at the table and having your voice be heard, and not just heard, listened to. My voice was stomped on, discouraged, met with scowls, laughter, and judgement; in spite of this, I did use my voice, loudly and often. This is why I’m no longer affiliated with that association. They leaned on me, and leaned on me, knowing I was in a very anxious, upset state, fighting off a serious depression. I fought them off for 6 long months all by myself. They tried to kill my confidence, but they only temporarily succeeded. I dusted off my knees and bounced right back. I am just one woman with a torch, but this torch will always be lit, guiding the way for anyone that wants to join me, or follow behind. I am but one match, but I will make an enormous explosion.
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.
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.
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.”