I am a fan of Facebook memories. I'm nostalgic by nature and I enjoy scrolling through the reminders of what I was doing, where I was going and who I was with. Good or bad, I like to take stock of where I was then compared to where I am now. The post below is one that came up in my Facebook memories from one year ago and I thought it was worth sharing again. In a lot of ways, I am the same. And in some ways, I am so. very. different. The one big difference is that I don't even think twice about sharing my personal struggles with mental illness anymore (hence this blog dedicated to just that). I know how much it can help me and others to have these conversations openly. And (for me) that's all that matters.
Here is the post I wrote on June 8, 2018:
i drafted this two weeks ago — while i was having a particularly down day — and i never shared it... it’s been sitting as a draft because i convinced myself that the people who told me i shouldn’t ‘overshare’ my struggles with depression and anxiety were right.
but they weren’t right (for me).
and i have to do what’s right (for me), especially when i’m struggling... and it feels right (for me) to share it now:
i am, once again, going to get real about my mental health struggles.
after a series of down weeks, today was an exceptionally down day. and down days are especially difficult when you feel like you have to be ‘on’.
being ‘on’ on a good day is tiring for me. being ‘on’ when your anxiety is at its worst is completely effing exhausting — and can often result in confusing physical symptoms (and feeling like you just want to either ‘sleep it off’ or run away. to just keep driving...)
so here i am. my insecurities are through the roof. the irrational thoughts that always accompany my anxiety have gotten the best of me — they are loud. they are persistent. and i simply can’t drown them out.
i spend so much time wishing in vain that i wasn’t this way... being this way keeps me in my head and keeps me from so many things. it keeps me disconnected. it keeps me from fun and success. it keeps me stuck — stuck comparing myself to other people, stuck worrying (and making assumptions) about what other people think of me and stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy of not being or feeling like i am ‘enough’ (in my job, in my relationships, in my life).
i’m not going to stop sharing. because (for me) it’s helpful to share and to feel like (maybe) i am helping someone else by sharing too. and — if you can do nothing else when you’re having a particularly down day — it is so important to simply reach out. reach out in any way that works best (for you).
A lot can happen in one year, my friends. I am happy to say that, despite some serious ups and downs since June 2018, I have made some smart decisions (for me) that I am really proud of.
I trust that I am being honest with myself, I'm making a conscious effort to surround myself with the right people, and I know I'm headed in the right direction. 🖤
I’ve never openly talked about being bullied as a kid. I think part of the reason is because, at the time, I maybe didn’t see it as that. I don’t think we had that language when I was growing up. At least not in relation to the people in our day-to-day lives. It was more something that we saw on television. Nelson Muntz was a bully, for example. Not the kid who made fun of me at the bus stop.
I dreaded the bus as a kid. And all the way through to high school. When I think about being bullied growing up, I relate it almost exclusively to my experiences either at a bus stop or traveling on a bus to or from school. And honestly, just thinking about it makes my hands clammy. I always felt like an outsider at the bus stop. I wasn’t confident enough to strike up conversations at the beginning of the school year (you know, to establish important bus stop hierarchical relationships that would last for the remainder of the school year) and the kids who lived in my neighbourhood all their lives saw that as a weakness and pounced.
Not literally. The kind of bullying I experienced was never physical. And maybe that’s also why I never viewed it as bullying at the time. Nobody was stealing my lunch money or hitting me on the back of the head. I thought if it wasn't physical, it wasn't bullying. But it was... It was verbal. And it was awful.
Now that I've brought him up, Nelson Muntz wasn’t simply a bully character, he was a bully character who was meant to be funny. And that's dangerous. There may have been a storyline or two here and there where he learned his lesson or we found out that he had a heart, but for the most part, he went back to his default bullying behaviour and his antics were always designed to make people laugh.
What is that teaching kids about being mean? It hurts my heart just thinking about it.
(Disclaimer – I’m using the past tense here because it has been ages since I’ve watched The Simpsons and I am basing these statements on pure memory, not any sort of extensive research on Nelson’s character... Also, maybe, just maybe, Nelson Muntz has changed;).
I feel like the only show that addressed bullying in a meaningful way when I was growing up – and that I was watching – was the original Degrassi series (the one with Spike, Lucy and the Zit Remedy). That show was ahead of its time in addressing issues and I bet if I were to watch it today, it would still ring true. (Maybe it’s time to pull out those DVD box sets my friend Sara gifted me in university;).
But as much as I’m talking about being bullied in school, make no mistake – dealing with bullies doesn’t end there. I think this was another misconception of mine growing up. Bullies exist as adults too... It’s sad, but very true.
And that’s why it’s so important to have these conversations with kids. So they don’t carry this bullying behaviour into adulthood – into their workplaces, their personal lives, their homes. That’s why we wrote Hank’s T-Shirt. To add to the anti-bullying conversations that parents are (hopefully) having with their kids – the bullies, the bullied, and the ones who don’t even know what bullying is yet.
Because we live in a world where there is so much happening behind the scenes in people’s lives that we know nothing about, why wouldn’t we all choose to be kind? 🖤
This is what grief can look like.
First sunny Saturday in weeks. Wearing a t-shirt, drinking my tea on the deck. And feeling a deep pit in my stomach…
This photo was taken one month after my dog Hank died and the grief is so very real.
Just a day or two before my husband Joey and I made the difficult decision to put our little guy to sleep, the sun was shining – and the three of us got to spend a couple of hours out on our deck together. Hank and I both fell asleep under the sun that afternoon and I can’t describe how grateful I am that he got to enjoy one of his favourite things – sunbathing – one last time.
Fast forward one month and no amount of warmth or sunshine can take away the pain of him not being beside me.
I thought this whole grief thing would have gotten easier by now. I’ve lost loved ones before, so I thought I understood it. But I didn’t… I’ve never experienced loss like this. I’m in a whole new world and I’m learning how to stumble through as I go.
I’ll be honest: I did not realize how much Hank was actually a therapy dog to me. As someone who suffers with depression and anxiety, I knew he was a comfort to me during down or stressful times. But I never gave him full credit for the in-between times. The day-to-day, when just having him next to me meant that I didn’t even begin to let my thoughts take me where they wanted to go. He just calmed me through it without even trying.
And now, my thoughts have me paralyzed. The fear and dread that goes along with every decision I make – to get out of bed, to leave my house, to eat – is almost unbearable.
I am lost like I’ve never been lost before.
I feel like grief on it’s own is hard enough. But grief piled on top of a base of mental illness is seemingly impossible. When your thoughts aren’t linear or rational to begin with, the weight of grief can lead to a whole new level of darkness, loneliness and self-deprecation.
So I just have to blindly trust that what everyone is telling me is true… That it doesn’t matter how far along in my grief I think I should be. That I have to be patient. That I will be strong enough to get through this... in time.
I am not okay (and that’s okay).
So, I am committed to feeling my grief.
I am committed to being honest and doing what I have to do for myself and my mental health.
I am committed to taking baby steps each day, taking steps backward when I have to (whether I like it or not), and holding Hank in my heart for the rest of my life.
I know how much Hank would have loved being out on the deck in the sunshine with me on Saturday… and I would like to think that he was. 🖤
It’s the last day of mental health week, it’s Mother’s Day and I am sharing something deeply personal... I don’t expect everyone to understand this, but when you long to be a mother, you may view your relationship with your pets in a different way. My dog Hank was my best friend, he was a member of my family and – to me – he was like my little kid. Being a “dog mother” is possibly the only way I will ever know “motherhood”.
Don’t worry, I know rationally that it’s not the same. But I loved him in a deep and profound way... and I am grieving the loss of motherhood as I know it. I am grieving the same today as I was two weeks ago when he left us. I’ve slipped into a depression like I’ve never experienced before and I simply can’t see through it... yet.
Understand it or not, this little guy was like a furry, farting, snorting little son to me. He made my life a little brighter and I’m just not “myself” right now without him snuggled in beside me... assuring me that everything will be okay, like only he could. 🖤