As a kid I was diagnosed with asthma. They do this thing where you have to breathe into a computer and it tells them how pathetic your lungs are.
And then it got better. I assume because I exercised more and lost weight in high school, the asthma went away. For years I lived inhaler free. And then everything started going downhill.
These days I need more inhaler more often than I would like, especially in the winter. The cold air hits my lungs and they refuse to work properly.
Earlier this week I went out in the evening and I was planning on walking home. When I left the relative safety of inside, I discovered that the temperature had dropped dramatically in the three hours I had been inside. My lungs immediately started reacting to the cold, and the further I walked the more panic set it.
And I felt like a complete fool. I swore at myself, at the cold, at my aching body, at the tears that formed in my eyes.
It hurts to know that I can’t just trust my body to work.
One of the fantastic things about my job is the opportunity to work for and with youth. When you get a group of engaged youth into a room together amazing things can happen.
After a full day of engagement this week, we had a performer come in, one Cody Coyote. Cody is a young Indigenous man who has taken the hardships of his own childhood and youth and turned it into music, and when he performs he breaks between songs to talk about the hard things we all face.
During his performance for us, he asked a room full of young people to raise their hand if they had a friend who had committed suicide.
A lot of hands went up. Way more hands than I was prepared for.
I am not shy about admitting that I was suicidal as a teen, but I never got to the place of attempting. Cody did, and he talks openly about it. I know of one friend from high school who didn’t make it to 34 and I don’t know why. I saw her not long before she died and we talked about what was going on, and what was happening next in our lives. It was the same strange way we would run into each other every now and again. Every time I think about her, I don’t understand.
And all of these hands went up.
I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. I know that I was in that place once. I know that it took a lot of work to get out. I know that it took a lot of work to believe that I should try to get out of it.
All of these kids raising their hands who think that maybe they could have said or done something, will wonder why all their lives. Maybe never realizing that there is no why. Not really. And if you haven’t been there, you just feel like someone left behind who could have said something or done something, no matter how many people tell you you’re wrong.
All you can do is be a friend, all a friend can do is be there, all an adult can do is listen. All we can do together is try. Build a community and try.
I was listening to What’s the T? – The Rupaul podcast, which I regularly enjoy in addition to my viewings of Drag Race recently. It was an older episode, but Michelle Visage was talking about taking her daughter to see Hamilton.
Her daughter ended up sobbing her way through the show because she has been going through a deep depression and Hamilton was her one thing – that thing that kept her going.
And I remember that one thing.
One thing that you hold on to a little too tight because it matters to you and nothing else does and it’s keeping you alive.
I think if you’ve been depresses and you’ve had suicidal thoughts you’ve felt that pull to that one thing. For me it’s been hockey, it’s been specific bands and specific albums. It’s been the musical Wicked.
When I was in high schools I told myself I wouldn’t die until I saw the Ottawa 67’s win the Memorial Cup, and by the time I did I was okay again.
When I was living in Northern Ontario I saw Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth perform on the Tonys and I told myself I had to see that show. And I took myself to Toronto for it.
When I was unemployed and living in Saskatchewan away from my new husband I listened to Keane’s Under the Iron Sea on repeat.
I don’t know why I always found that one thing, but I know to search for it. And I can tell others to search for it. One thing is not hard to find. When you can’t get excited about anything, you can find one thing.
A friend of mine posted a link to an article the other day on Facebook. The article itself is about a book and a new trend – the new form of decluttering – called Swedish Death Cleaning. This is the art of slowing riding yourself of things as years go by so that when you die there is not much junk left, just things that matter. And the people who matter understand why the things matter.
I am a purger. I get rid of things that are no longer of use, taking up too much space, things that don’t fit, things that aren’t ‘me’ anymore. I don’t hold on to much. I am not sentimental about most things. I believe that the things in my home that are important are understood by my husband and daughter – the dining room table that my grandfather built for my parents, that my father kept in their house until his death, a beautiful, sturdy table with memories all over it.
I have been a purger for most of my adult life, but I am perhaps more focused now after experiencing my own father’s death.
My father left behind a three-storey three bedroom house with an attic office completely and totally full of stuff. Not only was it full of stuff, that stuff was almost completely unorganized. His filing system consisted of throwing papers into a box until it was full and then starting a new box.
It was a running joke in the family – how messy my dad was – but I don’t know that any of us ever anticipated that he was also completely unprepared for death.
My father had five children and he had mentioned his will to all of us on some occasion or another. I knew that my brother – the oldest and only boy – would be the executor. What we didn’t realize was that the will was the only preparation he had made for his eventual demise.
The man was in his 80s.
The five of us were faced with a house full of stuff, a will that dated back to 1996, and no indication whatsoever of what of all that stuff was important.
We found a pair of candlesticks that none of us had seen before. We assumed they were a recent purchase. Our cousins from Denmark showed up and informed us that those were family heirlooms that had been in their mother’s possession before she died.
It took the five of us more than two weeks to clear out that house, even with occasional help from our partners. There were piles of trash, we rented a truck for all the donations, and we each took something that meant something to us. And I asked to please have the table.
I have no idea whether that table was just another piece of furniture to my dad, but to me it was something built by my grandfather as a gift to my parents, that we ate family meals at for years to come, and I wanted it in my home.
What is even better about this idea of death cleaning is that it forces you to talk to your family members about what you want.
Now, Joe and I have talked with each other about our wishes, and family members know what happens with the kid if we both meet our ends. My mother has her cremation planned and paid for, as does my grandfather. My father, on the other hand, left us no indication whatsoever. He mentioned his will repeatedly (despite failing to update it), but he never told a single one of us whether he wanted to be buried and where, whether he wanted a funeral and what kind.
We were flying by the seat of our pants, and so we decided to make it less about him and more about what we needed. What his partner of 15 years needed. If I could speak to him again I’d probably say something like “Dad, come one, you were 82.”
It’s been more than two years and I’m still in utter disbelief about how unprepared my father was for his sudden passing. I plan to be as prepared as possible for mine.
When I was a kid I didn’t hate going to the dentist. It was usually just fine. Until I had to get a retainer.
Actually, even then I didn’t really mind because I always wanted to be like my older sister. But I grew to hate my retainer, and when they told me they wanted to put braces on me as well as the retainer I said no.
I’m not sure if that’s when I stopped seeing that dentist, but that time did come. For a time I just stopped going, until I was 18 and I had a big, painful cavity that I could not ignore any more. That is when I went to an emergency dentist near my house who used her entire body weight to pull what turned out to be a baby tooth that had never fallen out. It was a horrible experience. She lectured me. It was painful. I’ve never forgotten.
And then my mother told me that she had found a new dentist. A woman she quite liked, and I should try her out too.
I like that dentist. I went to visit her regularly until I moved away for school, and when I came back she had retired and handed her practice over to a man who froze my jaw to fill a cavity and then walked away and left me sitting there for more than 30 minutes.
Seriously. I sat there staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out if I could just storm out, and whether I would be able to enunciate enough to explain the problem. I never wanted to go back to him, but I also ran out of insurance so I couldn’t go back either way.
When I was pregnant – and employed with dental coverage – I realized it was really time to go back. I waited until after birth, since I was scared that I would need treatment and would then have to weigh my options. I asked Facebook and Twitter for recommendations and made an appointment.
It’s been 7 years, 9 fillings, 5 root canals, 3 wisdom teeth removed and 2 crowns, and I love my dentist. She is kind, funny, gentle. She’s from Cape Breton for God’s sake. She is matter-of-fact about the treatments I need and very cautious when it comes to pain management.
She is such a good dentist that even my sister, who hates dentists more than I do, sees her on a regular basis and likes her. And now my kid gets to see her too, and likes her. My kid doesn’t stress about going to the dentist at all.
And a funny thing has happened since I started seeing a dentist I like. I have listened to her advice, I have gone for my regular cleanings and check-ups. I have started flossing like I have been told to for decades. The result of all of this? Clean check-ups. I had no cavities 6 months ago, no cavities today.
It’s almost as though the experts were right all along.
And with that, I share this classic. Gets me every time.
I took the puppy to get his haircut today, and before I dropped him off I took him on a bit of a walk around a park, down a path, because we were a bit early. I’m trying to take him for more walks. He’s getting old and he deserves it, and I deserve that time too.
As I was walking I was thinking, as one is wont to do when in quiet nature. I thought to myself ‘why don’t I do more of this?’ Why don’t I walk more often. Why don’t I walk for longer. It gives me the opportunity to think, to breathe. And I answered myself too – I’m scared.
I’m scared of getting hurt, I’m scared of over-heating. I’m scared of looking incapable, of making things worse. I’m scared of how I look to people.
And that’s just stupid. I thought I was over that. When I was a new mom and I caught myself singing to my little girl to keep her entertained in the grocery story I though I was over getting embarrassed by what other people might thing. I am more important, and what I demonstrate to her is more important.
I even try to act completely calm around all types of spiders and insects.
And so, if I am in control, how do I continue to let myself be ruled by these beliefs about myself and what I am capable of, even though I know that the only way to change anything is to go ahead and do the things?
Why do I let my brain get in the way? And why do I let me have the same fight with myself over and over again. Perhaps more importantly, how do I slough off this thinking and move forward, accepting fear as part of the journey and walking through it?
I can accomplish.
I know that I can, especially when I have to. I just need to convince me of that.
When I was 17 or 18 my father turned to me after a dinner at his house and asked me, point blank: “When was the last time you thought about killing yourself?”
I was shocked into just answering, honestly. It had been about a year before.
By the time he asked I was over that particular hump, but my depression has ebbed and flowed for years. The very, very worst was when I was in my early 20s, having graduated at or near the top of my class and managed to only one job – a terrible one that I left after just a few months when the paper shut down.
I felt as though I had made all the wrong choices and it was just going to keep going that way. I would collapse in tears, sleep all day, hope that somebody could offer me a better solution that just disappearing. But I’m still ebbing and flowing. It’s been much better and at its worst.
It does not surprise me that people like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington suffered from depression. There is a reason that I connected to their music. There is a reason that driving around with the windows down blasting Hybrid Theory and singing along made me feel better – like someone understood.
What surprises me is that they couldn’t beat it, in the end.
Because why me. Why could I fight back against that demon and these artists, these successful people, these respected people, couldn’t?
Does this mean that there are no answers, no solutions, no magic potion to make the darkness disappear. Does this mean that to be a great artist, you really do have to descend into that darkness? Can I never be my most creative self AND be taking the anti-depressants that keep me level?
And I drive myself crazy.
There are a lot of things that I haven’t been doing enough of lately. Blogging is one. Writing in general, really. But I have been reading a lot.
I haven’t been exercising, but I did spend a lot of the last week cleaning and doing home improvement projects. To celebrate Canada Day the whole family is doing a 5k and I feel ready, and excited for how excited the kid will be at the end.
I haven’t been at my best, but I’ve been working on it. Pushing myself a little bit, and listening when I push back.
There is a lot going on.
Joe was away for a week and while he was gone the kid and I planted a garden and painted our front door. We’re building a deck – well, we’re having a deck built for us, hopefully by the end of summer. And on that deck we will put a gorgeous cedar glider being purchased for us for our 10th wedding anniversary.
I don’t know how we’ve been married almost 10 years, but then I think about our 7-year-old who is almost finished Grade 1. I think about the five years we’ve been in this house together. I think about our puppy, who turns 12 this year and remains in good health.
This week I started re-reading one of my absolute favourite books of all time – The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. It is the first of the Nextian series, which is made up of seven books (and I think he’s done). I bought the first two books at the Chapters in Belleville while I was living there for college. I’ve re-read it multiple times, now I’ve had it for 14 years.
Time doesn’t make any sense to me at all any more. It seems like we’ve been married for a minute. That our daughter is still new to us, but has still always been a part of our lives.
All of this, and I still feel like I’m a kid myself. Until I spend some time with people in their 20s.
I’m am currently in a period of depression. I know this because everything seems hard and I get tired easily.
I want to want to clean the house but I don’t know where to start, so I haven’t.
I want to eat better, but preparing food is too much.
I want to focus on things for a long period of time without getting distracted. I want to read things and remember them.
I want to want to cook and bake and take care of my family, but instead they’re taking care of me.
There have been times when I’ve been able to push myself to do something – take the kid to the park, watch her play soccer, go out with friends. But everything is just a little bit hard and I always feel a bit tired or tentative.
I’m having to push myself to do more and more things – like shower in the morning, or leave the house to get a meal. Sometimes even picking a TV show to watch is so much harder than just sitting in the quiet.
Of course, when I do push myself and get outside, take my daughter to play, sit in the sun and the breeze, it’s glorious and much-needed.
But it can be so hard to remember what feels good – and also that I deserve to.
I am struggling. I’m am struggling to focus. I’m struggling to eat well. I’m struggling to deal with the knowledge that my struggles with confidence are probably related to my depression. I am struggling to give myself permission to do what I need.
The house is a bit of a mess, despite the fact that I’m home now and if I need a focus break from work I can and should do some tidying. I haven’t been exercising, despite the fact that I can go for walks around the neighbourhood with the dog when he needs to go out, up to the coffee shop with my laptop, or even on the treadmill where Joe set up a little desk for me. Hell, I could take my lunch hour at the gym, but I don’t.
I don’t remember the last time I did something fun and creative.
I’m biting my nails again. I’m not eating right.
Maybe it’s a reaction to finishing The West Wing and not having CJ’s support anymore. Maybe it’s an incredible fear of failing and being a disappointment.
I’m spending too much time scared. And waiting to start. I need to find my routine again. When I worked downtown in an office on the hill I had such a good routine. I have no recollection of developing that routine, I just knew what needed to get done first, and what would be good to do next, and then how the rest of my day should do.
I need to figure that out again. Except instead I’m floundering, unfocused, bouncing from one thing to the next.
But I have been doing one thing right: I have been taking my daughter to the park. I have been walking with her to the local splash pad. I have been surprising her with play. I have been inviting her friends along. That is one thing I have been doing well. We have been together. We danced in the rain.
There is that.