When I was 17 my sister and I went over to my father’s house for dinner – as we often did in those days – and as we sat in the living room my father turned to me and said “when was the last time you thought about suicide?”
And I was so stunned by the question that I answered truthfully. It had been the year before.
When I was 16 I decided that I would kill myself, but I wanted to see the Ottawa 67’s win a Memorial Cup first.
To this day I don’t know how he knew. Maybe he had talked to my mother, maybe he had dealt with students and saw in me what he saw in them. I don’t know how he knew, but he asked, and I answered, and he made me tell me mother and then I had to tell my family doctor and then I got medicated.
And by the time the 67’s did win the Memorial Cup when I was 18 I didn’t want to die any more. (If you wonder why I have a Hockey Canada logo tattooed on my back, it’s because hockey meant a lot in my life. It saved my life).
I have, however, wanted to die since. I’d guess three or four times in the ensuing 18 years. Stressors, being on the wrong medication, other triggers.
I remember vividly when I started dating Joe I was not on anti-depressants. We went out one night, he dropped me at home, and as I closed the door the annoying, lying voice in my head said to me ‘Well, that’s the last time I’ll ever see him.’
And so I went back on the medication, and then I told him, crying, assuming that he’d cut and run because I am so screwed up. But he didn’t.
(Surprise – he never has. Not even when I tried to give him back his engagement ring so he could lead a happier life without me. Not even when I had such bad PPD that I was scared to leave the house with the baby).
Right now I am in a bad place. Things have not been going smoothly recently and my mental health has suffered. I have slipped. But I don’t want to die. Not even a little. You see, I have this amazing little girl and she’s going to grow up and be great and I want to see that.
The good news is that in the second half of my life I have learned all of my signs and symbols that tell me I’m going down a bad road. And since I learned them, Joe knows them too. I can list them off, he can see them. Right now they’re waving at me from across the street.
But I can’t stay in bed all day, the kid has to get to the school bus and there’s work to be done. People are counting on me. I can’t not eat, Joe cooks dinner and sits me down at the table. And at the beginning and end of everyday there is this little girl who smiles and hugs me and tells me she loves me, and I would do anything for her. Even if that’s just pushing through the muck.
Am I still here because one night at dinner my father decided to ask me when was the last time I had considered suicide? I don’t know. But maybe.
For the past few years I’ve been doing the whole three word thing at the end of December or beginning of January to get myself ready for the new year ahead. I chosen three words and then rarely, if ever, looked back at them. Because you make plans and God laughs, as the saying goes. Life swoops the rug out from under me and who I am at the beginning of the year has little to do with who I am at the end.
This year I didn’t. I thought about it. I tried to figure out what those words would be. What means something? What am I striving for? But the ideas didn’t come. There are so many things that I want for myself. So many things I want from myself.
So I skipped it.
But now I know.
Now I know what this year is going to be about. In the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, this year I will Rise Up.
I will face my challenges head on. I will face the world and fight the good fit. I will Rise Up like the nasty woman that I am. Because there is no sitting down.
I’m going to stop throwing away my shot, as it were. Since I really want to belabour the point.
This seems like a good year to Rise Up, doesn’t it. And not just because we’re going to see Hamilton in May. There is a lot at stake and I’m willing to throw my hat in – if you need me to march, sign, subscribe, donate I’ll do what I can.
And when you need self care, I have an adorable puppy:
You see, I turn 36 this year, and the older I get the more I realize: fuck this shit. Seriously. I’m looking out for me and the people I care about (and also fundamental human rights).
All of this to say, we had a mental health presentation at work today and I learned that there are ‘zones’ of health and I am currently full on red zone. This means that things can only improve from here. Except that is actually up to me.
So I’m taking steps, and I shall rise again. Oh, I shall.
Seven years ago I was finally introduced to the most important person in my life.
Back then she needed me for absolutely everything, and now she barely needs me for anything. Except that she knows she needs me, which I don’t think will every go away. So that’s lucky.
The love I feel for her can still bring me to tears. I didn’t ever know that was a thing before. That just watching another person live could bring you to tears because you are so deeply connected to them. Even when you hate them you love them. Even when you want them to go away you want to be with them.
I want nothing more than for her to know she is loved and she is protected. That she is smart and strong and full to the brim with possibility.
All of the best parts of me, and all of the best parts of her Daddy, and every bit her own person – more and more every day. She fascinates me. Even when I’m confused or angry, I’m fascinated.
She gives the best hugs.
Seven years ago I met my favourite person in the word, and she is so much my everything. I don’t know what I ever would have done without her.
I have been struggling with a simple question lately. What do I want?
What do I want to be? What do I want to do for a living? The answer always shrinks down to what am I capable of, really. What can I actually do. My brain convinces me that there is little I can ask for – despite all evidence to the contrary.
What do I want?
All I want is for my daughter to be happy. To be healthy. To see me happy and healthy. To be better at seeing herself.
What do I want?
I want to talk to my dad. I want to ask his opinion and get a response. The kind he always used to give. It wasn’t always easy to hear but it was often right.
I want to feel well rested for just one day. I want to see in me what others so clearly see.
I want someone to give me a glimpse just five years down the road so that I have an inkling that I will have answers. I want more than confusion and doubt.
I want to feel good about the things I’ve actually accomplished. I want to sit back and have a little fun. I want there to be moments when the hard work and worry fades away.
So, now, when.
I watched the Golden Globes this weekend for the same reason I usually watch awards shows, because I find them entertaining. I like going to see movies and I like watching great TV and I like to see actors and writers and directors and other creative people get awarded and give speeches while wearing pretty clothes.
I like the speeches because sometimes one of the winners will say something profound and important. Like Tracee Ellis Ross and Meryl Streep did at the Globes.
But as wonderful as Meryl’s speech was (though I’d argue that rich white people aren’t the most vilified…) I saw people filling Twitter with complaints that she would get political at an event meant to celebrate the arts.
I am fascinated by this segment of the populations that believes arts and politics are apparently separate. I would say that very little inspires great art like political outrage. Decades of great art have demonstrated this.
And something tells me we are headed for four years of great production. It is the one thing I’m looking forward to – the artists writing us out of the darkness and reminding us what fighting means.
I have been very lucky in my life to know a lot of great women. I have been particularly lucky in my adult life to meet a lot of passionate women. I have had the chance to watch them grow and build something for themselves. I know a lot of entrepreneurial women who found their perfect thing that they love doing and are good at.
Sometimes it feels as though everyone I know has figured out what to do with their passion and I’m just here, trying to stay passionate.
I feel it coming on every afternoon since we got back from our trip. At some point, four or five o’clock, no matter what we’ve been doing the rest of the day, I begin to find the company of others unbearable.
Even today, even when I spent the entire afternoon out, by myself, completely relaxed.
Even when I started the day off well. Even when I’ve had enough sleep.
It’s like a collision between my depression and low blood sugar.
And I hate everything about.
I go upstairs, I separate myself in quiet. I get annoyed, easily frustrated. Unfair. I sit and wonder what the hell is wrong with me.
Normal people don’t feel this way. Normal people don’t crash in the middle of the day. Normal people don’t have to escape from their family for fear of lashing out.
Normal people don’t wake up ready to dance and spend their afternoon waiting to explode.
In 2017 I need to change. Me. My brain needs re-jigging. My body. My life a bit too.
So many things not worth thinking about or getting upset over. Wasted energy, brain power. Wasted stress. Wasted time. Wasted health.
Mood swings and exhaustion and tears.
So 2017 and I have some figuring out to do.
Perhaps in the future 2017 will be known as the year Amy stopped letting shit get to her. No more of this getting so stressed out I’m in physical pain. Especially because I’m scared of the reactions of people that have nothing to do with me.
I’m turning 36 this year. I’m old enough to know better and also too old to deal with some of this shit. Also old enough to know that I don’t have to. I can have standards for the way I’m treated and I can enforce them.
Good enough, smart enough, strong enough, skilled enough, etc.
Because at 35, almost 36 I have a better grasp of what’s actually important.