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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.

Last weekend I was in Montreal. I had arranged to go for work, and then for my family to join me, specifically so I could be there for Montreal Comiccon. I have never gone to a con outside my own city before, never even really considered it, but there was a draw I could not escape.

David Tennant, the tenth Doctor, would be there.

It was his first con in Canada and while it is possible that he will come back, and maybe even come to Ottawa someday, I decided it was worth the small expense to see him this time. For he is my Doctor. Everyone has their favourite, and Tennant is mine.

(Squee)

Now, this does not mean that I don’t like other regenerations. After Eccleston I was sure I would have trouble getting comfortable with Tennant (nope), and when Tennant left I was positive I would never like Matt Smith for the simple fact that he had replaced 10, but he grew on me. I am actually shocked at how much I like Capaldi. I find his humour pretty great. On my shelf of Whos I even found space for the War Doctor.

And now, just a few days after I met my favourite Doctor the show is making news – Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the first female Doctor.

We knew the announcement was coming. Capaldi had already said he would leave after this year’s Christmas special. Twitter was buzzing yesterday morning as people waited for the BBC to tell us, finally, who would be number 13. And I knew in the back of my mind that if it was another white man I would be disappointed. It would feel like a missed opportunity. There have been growing calls for a person of colour or a woman to take on the role. Names from Idris Elba to Tilda Swinton had been mentioned, although both of those actors might be too big for the show.

Finally they posted the video, a figure in dark clothing walking through a forest. A hand reaches out. A shot of part of the face. And it was a woman. It was a WOMAN!

I may have actually whooped for joy. I could not contain my excitement. Eventually there were tears. I didn’t know it mattered so much until I had it, there in front of me.

Of course there was backlash. Of course. White men who have had something that they’ve always had taken away from them. People saying that this destroys the show, that they won’t watch, that a female Doctor just can’t be.

And last night it occurred to me, very peacefully. If you think that having a female Doctor ruins the show for you, then you never understood the show in the first place. Of course the Doctor could be a woman. Of course a woman Doctor will have the same gravitas as a male one. She’s THE DOCTOR.

I’ve gone through this with so many things now – When Rey was the lead in the new Star Wars, when they made an all-female Ghostbusters. Why can’t you let us have something? Why? Why can’t women (and men!) be excited about these things without having idiots declare that it’s not fair or not right or whatever else they are butt hurt about.

Today I have my nails painted Tardis blue, I am wearing one of my Who shirts, I am ready and willing to buy all the 13 merch. Because when I told my daughter that the new Doctor was a woman she was excited too.

 

I have a very great desire right now to read all the things.

I have so many books on my shelf that I want to get to. Some have been sitting there for years and some are brand new.

I’m currently reading three books and I want to be reading more. I want to have read them. I want to dive in and experience them all. Now.

This is made more difficult by the fact that I am currently re-reading my favourite series, which consists of seven books. I actually mentioned this to a lady at Mill Street Books in Almonte – where I always, always find something to read, and usually something for the kid too – and she said that she never re-reads books, because there are just too many new books out there.

But I have found, in my life, that there are books I enjoy but will never read again – books that can only surprise you once – and there are books I hold onto as dear friends. There are books I want to read at different stages of my life, to see different perspectives on the characters and events.

I even have books that I may never read again, but they will forever stay on my shelves as fond memories.

Not just fiction either. Lately I have found that I have a great desire to study, to learn, to analyze. I’ve been reading memoirs and textbooks, biographies and essays. I want to know everything. Or at least as much as possible. I want to consider opinions. I want to read about experiences that are vastly different from my own. I want to know more history.

I want to have read things and remember them so that I can use that knowledge when I learn about even more stuff.

Perhaps it’s because I’m now in a place in my life when I know how much I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I have this small twinkle that might just grow into a full blown PhD application. Perhaps it’s because there is so much going on in the world that I want to gather all the information I can to form my own opinions, and be able to back them up. I want to be able to reference things. If I hadn’t slacked off in my first round of undergrad, I’d be ahead of the game at this point.

But then there is fiction. Glorious literature. I want to know stories and language and characterization. Not only because my brain craves it, but because I want to get better at it myself, and there is no better way than to read. Everything.

 

I experienced a little loss today, unexpectedly. I bought some carpenters pencils, excited to use them in some kind of creativity. I used to sketch all the time – my grandfather taught me. He taught me about the best paper, the best pencils, the best erasers. Never colour. Pure sketching that his father taught him.

And I knew when I bought them that they don’t fit into pencil sharpeners and the best way to sharpen them is with a pen knife. Which my grandfather used to always do for me.

Gramps carried – always – a Swiss Army Knife in his pocket. And when pencils needed sharpening he pulled it out and cut away at the wood. It left behind beautiful shapes and a perfect pencil tip for sketching.

And I never asked him to show me how.

Gramps turns 97 at the end of the month. He’s lost dexterity in his hands. When we moved him into the facility he’s in now I found that knife among other things in his desk and I had an immediate emotional reaction. This is a small thing so connected to my memory of my grandfather and something small he did for me.

I had a similar emotional reaction today when I realized that in order to use these pencils and practice the creativity he taught me to express, I will have to teach myself this small thing.

I was reading a long post last night about how keeping a journal can “change your life.”

I am a lifelong diarist. Since I could write, misspellings be damned, I have kept some sort of journal. Even when I blog, I usually have a notebook. Pen on paper is never quite matched by a keyboard. When I was in high school I would take one notebook with me everywhere and it was a mishmash of short stories, doodles, hockey scores and free-flowing thoughts. I still have them.

This article recommends journalling first thing in the morning – 30 minutes before you do anything else. It’s the best way to release all that your subconscious mind was working hard on while you slept, the author says.

I have heard of morning pages before. I know great writers force themselves to sit down for 10, 15, 30 minutes or until they have written a certain number of words every morning. I have wanted to do this, to unleash my creativity and get out the book I still feel is inside me. But morning pages has never been the thing for me. Now more than ever, really.

As the mother of a young child I very rarely get to decide what the first thing I do in the morning will be. She generally wants to chat for a bit, needs help with her breakfast, wants me to do her hair or to help her pick out her outfit. Then the dog needs to go out, and we need to get to the bus, which means I need to get dressed.

And then, once I have waved her off, I get my coffee and sit down to work, whatever I learned while asleep utterly lost, I guess.

There are suggestions that I wake up earlier than her, get my time in before she gets up. But the idea of waking up at 4:30 am is not that appetizing. Especially as I would then lose my evenings. I don’t even know how early I would have to go to bed to wake up and fell human at 4:30 am. I am and have always been a night owl. My brain really starts working around 10 or 11 pm. My ideal wake up time would be more like 9 am, maybe 10.

Even if I did wake up at 4:30 and try to make a morning person out of myself, the first thing I always want to do is tidy my desk, fill my coffee, read the news, make a to do list. I have great difficulty just diving in to what I need to do. First I need to prepare myself for the dive. Only when things are tidy, when I have an idea of what I need to get done, when the kid is occupied or out the door, when my coffee cup is filled, then I can start staring at the blank page.

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.

Family

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.

When I was a kid, I idolized my Gramps. Growing up in a house with a single mother and a sister, Gramps was my male role model. I knew that he loved us unconditionally, I knew that he would always support us in whatever ways he could. I wanted to be like him, I wanted to be with him, and so I wanted to learn to help him do the things he always did for us around the house.

He taught me to sketch, he taught me to build things, he taught me how to drive a car and change a tire. When I moved out he gifted me a toolbox with all the things I would need for the basic stuff. I could bang a nail, drill a hole, use a saw, put Ikea furniture together with no instructions necessary.

In our house, when I moved home after college, I did a lot of the heavy lifting.

I knew from my mother’s example and my grandfather’s teacher that a woman could take care of anything in her home that needed to be done. And I believed I could.

And then I moved in with Joe.

Suddenly it was easier for him to carry the heavy stuff. When we work together to build something he gets frustrated and my feelings get hurt, so I leave him to it. I still hang pictures, but if a hole need to be drilled, that’s not for me.

Now sometimes it feels as though I barely do anything at all around the house. Sometimes I cook, sometimes I clean, sometimes I put on a load of laundry. But I don’t mow the lawn or plunge the toilet. I only empty the dishwasher and take out the garbage if he’s away and I have to.

(I really hate emptying the dishwasher, I don’t know why).

Part of me wants to get out in our garden and rip out the dead plants and stupid paving stones. I want to build that shelf I saved on Pinterest. I want to get dirty and fix stuff that needs it. I want to have the energy and faith that I used to have when I knew I had to do things on my own.

I want to fight my way back to being the girl who knew that she could, because her Gramps showed her how.

Me and my Gramps in Peggy’s Cove, 1990, Sketching

 

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.

Everybody can succeed, all you need is to believe

May 15th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Canadiana | Personal - (Comments Off on Everybody can succeed, all you need is to believe)

It used to be that I would get home from school, get myself a snack and switch on the TV. In elementary school, especially after my sister started high school and we no longer got home at the same time, the TV was mine and I could choose what I wanted. And what I usually wanted was Degrassi reruns.

Last weekend was Ottawa Comic Con, my annual Mothers’ Day present to myself, and the cast of Degrassi was there. Specifically Joey Jeremiah, Caitlyn, Snake and Tessa, who do all have real names but that doesn’t really matter, because I grew up with Joey, Caitlyn, Snake and Tessa, etc.

(Though Snake always seemed like a really nice guy, and Spike was awesome, Lucy was always my favourite).

Degrassi covered all the topics a show for young people should in those days – pregnancy, abortion, teen suicide, HIV/AIDS, drug use, sexual assault, even small things that every teenager thinks that they’re dealing with all alone.

One of the things that has always struck me, thinking back on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High is that the actors looked like real kids, and the stories were stories no one else seemed to want to tell. The actors on the panel this weekend talked about the fact that grown ups would sometimes question the stories they were telling, but always let them tell those stories.

I cannot say how important that was to those of us growing up with the kids from Degrassi.

And yes, my generation’s Degrassi continues to be the best.

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