Sunday, December 1, 2013

And Just Like That, It's Over

When I started this blog over two and a half years ago, I never expected it to become as big as it did, reaching several hundred thousand views. I didn't expect it to end up meaning so much to me, or to be so important to my ability to heal from Dave's death. I feel like I've poured every possible emotion into this blog. I've shed many tears in the 500 posts I've published here, and I've had some laughs too. I've shared my life with my readers, but the time has come to hang up my keyboard and bring it all to a gentle end.

There are many things that brought me to this decision, but perhaps the simplest answer is that I don't need it anymore. There was a time when my mental health hinged on how often I blogged; when the writing was therapeutic and necessary. I used it to cope so that I could avoid going back on antidepressants. It was an outlet that I needed, but it's finished serving its purpose.

After Dave died, I wanted to be really open with everyone about everything. I thought that if I had witnesses to my grief, I would feel held accountable for my life and wouldn't be tempted to end it. This worked. By making everything so public, I didn't feel so alone and the quietness that filled the condo in place of Dave wasn't so suffocating. I had something to focus on and I had people who cared; people who said my posts helped them in some way. It made it all just a little more bearable. Thank you, dear readers, for being there for me whether you knew it or not.

As time has gone by, and bit by bit I've healed from the loss, I find myself with less to write about. I'm not in the dark place I once was, at least not for the same reasons. I'm not consumed in every waking moment by the loss of Dave. I no longer feel sorry for myself. I've accepted my life as it is, and I love my life and everybody in it. To a large extent, I'm done grieving. The days of me mourning him have passed and I find myself wanting to stand in the sun with big expectations for the future. The sadness I once felt is no longer a permanent fixture taking up my life, and I never could get used to writing happy things.

For a while, I wanted so badly to be known. Before Dave died, I hadn't been single for longer than a week since I was 15 years old, and was used to always having that special someone there to confide everything in. Suddenly that was gone and I was truly alone for the first time in my adult life. I opened myself up and poured myself out all over this blog, and I did it so that people would know me. In doing so, I ended up distancing myself from real human interactions. I was uncomfortable being alone, but I was also scared to open up to someone directly, so I opened up to everybody, in a very pseudo-social way. At the time, I thought it was good enough, and if someone approached me in hopes of making a personal, real life connection, I'd refer them to the blog, as an extension of myself, effectively pushing them away. It was a great way to let people into my world while keeping them far enough away so I couldn't be hurt. These days, I'm learning to be more comfortable in my solitude. If I'm going to connect with someone, I'd rather it be on a warm human level than a cold digital one. I'm not so afraid anymore.

I have terrible self esteem over some things, and figured I would never really be worth much to another person, so I might as well dump all my personal stuff, good and bad, onto the blog. If someone could "know" me before they really got to know me, maybe I wouldn't disappoint them. At least, that's what I thought. But, when it really came down to it, I became even more self conscious, worrying that I could never live up to the pretty words I wrote. Everything I publish on this blog takes an hour or two to finish and uses carefully chosen words to convey whatever emotion, or to communicate whatever idea. I simply can't live up to that in person. Now, I'm seeing things differently and I'm seeing the value in moderating my mind.

So I've reached a point where I no longer want to be known. I don't want to broadcast my life and my feelings so publicly anymore. I no longer strive for attention for the words, sentences and paragraphs I pore over and post here. It's acted as a sort of emotional armor over the last few years, but it's become almost toxic at this point. Now, I'd rather be hurt by a real connection with another human being than hide behind these little bulletproof portholes of safety, where I stare out from between the words I write hoping that someone out there "gets" me.

I'm always changing. I'm always trying to learn from my mistakes and evolve into a better person because of them. At this stage in my life, part of that positive change has to come from saying goodbye to the blog, and to many other facets of this online "persona" which has become a caricature of the real me. I feel ready and it feels right. I no longer need a place to bleed my heart out over death and loss and life and love. At least, not in a public way. I need a fresh start, where I can find happiness in my reality with new people and real experiences.

And just like that... it's over.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Untold Story of a Young Girl Named Wendy

9 years ago, my psychologist told me I should tell this story. I became so upset and so defensive that I stopped going to see her. It's a story that should never be told, and a story that should never be heard. I've never told it. Not in its entirety. It's too much burden to put on one person. I used to tell people closest to me little bits and pieces of it, and it would make them cry, and sometimes their tears would be enough to cause their exit from my life. Eventually, I stopped talking about it at all and became purposely vague about my childhood if anybody asked. People get uncomfortable when you ask them to hold your pain, and then sometimes those people go away. 

So, why tell it now? I have a lot of reasons. This has been a long time coming. For years, I've wanted to get this out of my system and off my chest, and I made the decision to finally do it earlier this year. I started writing this post on September 21st, and it will be posted on November 28th, which is an anniversary of sorts. I hope that the writing of this post will help free my mind so I can finally say goodbye to my past.  

I've never revealed as much about myself as I have on this blog and even here, I've never really touched on what happened in my childhood. It's the reason I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the reason I stay up so late at night. At every turn; at every crossroads; it all comes down to this story. I want so badly to let it go. To get it all out, the way I've gotten out my feelings on other subjects like love and death. I need this wound to finally heal, so it can stop affecting my life.

So, why on the blog? Well... telling someone my story face to face is terrifying. I don't want to see that horrible look in their eyes or feel their pity. I don't want to burden someone by telling them if they don't want to know. I don't want anybody to feel responsible for consoling me or giving me advice. In fact, I don't want consolation or comfort at all. By posting it on the blog, you have the choice to read it or not. If you do read it, you can stop there. I'll never know who reads it and who doesn't. I don't expect a response or a reaction. I'm posting this here because if some people can identify with parts of my story, maybe knowing that someone else has been there will help you feel not so alone. This is really scary for me. Hell, even as I type these words I'm not sure if I'll finish this post, and if I do, if I'll have the courage to publish it. There are some people who are going to be really mad that I'm finally opening up about this, and others that I might completely alienate myself from. But... I just want to get it out. I need to, if I want to leave it all behind and move forward with a fresh, clean slate. I need to tell my final story. An untold story of a young girl named Wendy...

I've felt anger. I've felt pure, unfiltered hatred. I've felt shame and I've felt sorrow. I've felt terrified and I've begged for my life. I've wanted to kill, and I've wanted to die. I felt all of these things before my 7th birthday.

My father was a Bad Man. That's been the extent of my description of my childhood up until this point. "He wasn't a good guy", I'd say to anyone who asked. But that could mean so many things. A "Bad Man" could be an alcoholic, or a dead beat dad. "Wasn't a good guy", could describe any man who lacks a strong moral compass. A father like that would be a dream compared to what I had.

His name was Terry Malcolm Ganong. He began seeing my mother when she was 15 and he was 28. She became pregnant with me at 16 and gave birth to me at 17 in Athabasca, Alberta. My mom's family lived in Ontario, and my Father's family in New Brunswick. A while after I was born, we moved to New Brunswick, and lived in a house in the middle of nowhere. I remember it being a big house... maybe 100 years old. The furnishings and flooring and wallpaper seemed to have come from the 60s or 70s. It was cold and creaky and damp. There was an electric fence in the back yard that I sometimes touched because it felt weird. In the wintertime, the house was heated by a wood burning stove. I remember standing close to it in the crisp winter mornings trying to warm up.

I remember him being an angry man. With him behind the wheel and me sitting in the back seat of the car, my mom in the passenger seat, he would begin punching the roof of the car with his fist suddenly, threatening to kill us all by driving off a bridge, or into oncoming traffic. I don't remember there being any instigation. He would just snap. It would come on so quickly as to give you emotional whip lash. One minute, happy driving; the next, rage.

Sometimes he would punch more than the roof of the car. He would hurt my mom, and even  though they thought I never saw or that I didn't know, I did. He used to hit me all the time. He'd slap me in the face or hit me in the head. Sometimes he'd hit me hard enough in the back that it would knock the wind out of me. It got worse and worse as time went on but it always seemed like a big secret that I was ashamed of happening. I remember feeling confused, but assuming this was somehow normal. 

I remember starving. My mom was given very little money for food and wasn't allowed to work. My father had the only vehicle and was gone with it most of the day while he went to work as a carpenter. So we were stranded in the middle of nowhere in a house with no food. My mom did the best she could with the money she did get, which was usually barely enough for milk and potatoes to last a week. I felt hungry a lot of the time and remember sharp pains in my bloated and swollen abdomen. Sometimes my father would come home with ice cream or some other tasty treat. He would sit in his car and eat it, taunting us and asking us if we wish we could have some. We did. But, he never shared.

Perhaps the most difficult of all... he molested me. He abused me sexually from the time I was 3 years old and onward. It feels so weird actually typing those words out. Words I've avoided for most of my life. Words that catch in my throat when I try to say them out loud. He molested me. Half of you just clicked away. Some of you may already be crying. I know I am. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Now I can't breathe. Like most things, it was infrequent at first, but became more prevalent and more severe as time went on. I remember feeling scared and confused. I remember wishing he was dead; wishing I was dead. I remember feeling completely detached from my body but especially my genitalia, to the point where I would wet the bed or pee in my pants rather than willingly expose myself, even in the bathroom. I felt so much shame.

The first time my father threatened my life, I was probably 3 years old. It was just following one of the first times he abused me sexually. He sat me on the table in the kitchen and he took a knife from the drawer. He held it to my neck and to my belly and he told me that if I ever told anybody what he'd done, he would use that knife to kill my mom and to kill my sister in front of me, and then he would gut me and kill me.  I never said a word.

Following another incident, he threatened me similarly, only with a gun to my head. The metal was cold against my skin. He said he would kill my mom and my little sister while I slept. I stopped sleeping. I would stay up all night, thinking I could protect them if my father tried to kill them. I felt I had to watch out for my family, and that's a lot of responsibility on your shoulders as a 3 year old little girl. To this day, I don't feel right going to sleep unless I know everyone I love is awake again, and safe. It's a silly thing to carry on, because I know he can't hurt them now, but I guess old habits die hard. I still feel like I have to protect people all the time.

I remember him threatening to smother my sister, when she was a baby. He would pick up a pillow and talk about how easy it would be to smother the life out of her. He used to really like to strangle us. All of us. It started out just my mom he'd strangle, but then he started to strangle me sometimes to the point where I couldn't breathe, but he'd always stop and start laughing when I started to choke.

As I got older, abuse became worse and more frequent. I escaped by reading a lot. I was very smart little girl, and I think that's because I internalized in order to escape. I had an incredible imagination that helped me go to other places while abuse was taking place. If I didn't cooperate, he would beat me. Threats continued, and my mom had no idea it was going on. She thought that he was only hurting her, but that we, her children, were safe. I saw a lot of what happened between them, and it hurt worse to see my mom in pain than it did when I was his victim.

I remember him screaming. All the time, screaming. Items being thrown. My mother crying in the kitchen. Why is he so angry? He punched everything. I fantasized about death, about killing him. I fantasized about killing myself. My father thought Charles Manson was a pretty awesome guy, and that the family murdered in Amityville "had it coming". My father was not above punching my pregnant mother in the stomach when my little sister was in there. 

I remember killing a toad in the driveway behind my father's car and stuffing gravel into its mouth until it was bloated and lumpy with rocks. I don't know why that memory is so prominent. I guess maybe I just really wanted to kill something, and the toad was an extension of my father. 

It wasn't only my father who was cruel. Being in New Brunswick, we were surrounded with a lot of his family. His mother (technically my grandmother, but I never though of her as one), Rita, was cruel to me when I was a child. I hated having anything on my hands, and would freak out if there was any dirt on them. She took black permanent marker and drew on my hand, then laughed as I freaked out and my mom frantically tried to clean it off. I recall another incident, where she took my favorite stuffed animal (Fred, who has been discussed on the blog before) and threatened to throw him in the wood burning stove, and again, laughed when I cried, thinking my best friend and the only one I told my secrets to was about to be burned.

There were some good times, too. I had a friend named Jonathan who lived close that I played with frequently. His mother and my mother were friends as well. His little sister was friends with my little sister. We would play outside, play video games, and it was great. He was a really good friend and a nice escape from what was going on at home. There was a little old lady who lived near us who used to let me go over to her house and help her pick fresh peas. She was a very kind woman. 

I remember being so happy to start school. Any time spent in a place where my father wasn't, was a good time. One day during story time, my mom showed up to pull me out of school. I remember being upset because I hated missing story time. but once I got into the van (which belonged to a friend of my mom's), I was told that we were "leaving Daddy". To this, I replied with an enthusiastic "Oh goody!". My dad was at work, and I remember everyone being panicked and frantic about being gone before he came home and discovered we'd left.  

A few months prior to the day we left, a second sister of mine was born. I was 6 and she was just starting her life. To this day, I'm so thankful that we left when we did, so she never had to experience our father. He never held her. Not even once. He was so upset that she wasn't a boy, that he left the delivery room the day she was born. On this day, when we were getting ready to leave, I remember moments of panic, because my father's sister had my baby sister and wouldn't give her to my mom so that we could leave. I'm told that the sister's husband stepped in and made her hand over my little sister. He was known simply as "Big John", and I often wonder what became of him.

I remember being in a women's shelter in New Brunswick. We'd left with just the clothes on our backs and I think maybe some photos. I don't remember how long we stayed in the shelter, but I remember it was beautiful. There were other kids whose dads were mean too. We had all the food we could eat. Everybody wanted to hug me and nobody threatened to hurt me or my family.

From there, we got on a train to head out West to be closer to my grandparents (My mom's parents), who were in Saskatchewan at that point. A policeman told my mom that if we hadn't left when we did, we would have been killed. The train ride was fun. Some very generous people heard our story and paid for us to have a cabin with beds all to ourselves on the train. They bought us some Babar books. At this point, I still hadn't told anyone my secrets.

We stayed at another women's shelter when we arrived in Saskatchewan. Everyone was so nice. It was cramped, and we had to share a room with another family, but it was nice not to have to listen to screaming all the time. I played with some of the other kids, who told me their stories. A lot of them had the same wish: "I hope mommy doesn't go back to daddy", which made me afraid that my own mom would change her mind and take us back there.

At some point, while staying in the shelter, I told my mom the secrets that my father made me keep. I've never seen her so sad. She stopped eating for a long time and I could tell, even at 6, that she was hurting really badly knowing that I had been hurt really badly.

For a long time, I didn't want to talk to anybody at all.

But everyone wanted me to talk. Everyone wanted to know the details of my secrets. They all told me they would make sure I was never hurt that way again. When I didn't want to talk, they made me draw pictures, many of which are still in a dusty box in a closet, along with the typed report from the child services worker. They made me play with dolls. They asked me all sorts of questions that I felt ashamed to answer out loud so I simply wrote them down. Everyone thought my father would go to jail. But, because it was his word against ours, he didn't. There were no witnesses. I do remember hearing that he was in jail for 3 months at some point, for some reason, and was beaten up by other inmates when they found out what he did to us. 

Eventually we moved in with my grandparents and left the women's shelter behind. I started to hear all sorts of scary stories about my father. We heard of how he'd stalked my mom's friend after we left, skulking around her yard in the dark with an axe. What scared me most of all, was hearing about how he knew I'd told my secret and was denying everything. I remember hearing some of the local teenagers had retaliated, spray painting "PERVERT" on his driveway.

I remember when my mom had to go back to New Brunswick to fight for custody of us. My father called in a bomb threat to the court house to delay it. Eventually my mom came home with full custody, and my father was not allowed visitation, but would be allowed to send gifts or birthday cards through a lawyer if he chose to. He never did. 

My father hired a private investigator to find us. He wanted to kill us for leaving and for telling my secrets. We lived in hiding, under police protection for many years. Every school (and I moved around to several different ones) had to be briefed on our situation. All of the bills were under a fake name. A fake paper trail was created, showing we'd gone to Alberta. The police did everything they could to keep him away but I guess they didn't have enough to arrest him.

But despite all efforts, he always found us anyway. One time, I'd stayed home sick from school. It was lucky I did, because that day, he showed up at the school during recess and was showing photos of me and my sister to the other kids, asking them if they knew where we lived. Luckily, I was a loner and none of the kids knew much about me. We lived right across the street from the school. My father then went into the school, into the principal's office, and tried to find information about us by intimidating the secretary. She didn't tell him anything, and so he waited outside, and after school he tried to run the secretary off the road in his car.

We had to move again and again. He kept finding us. At a moment's notice, we'd have to pack everything and move in the middle of the night. We lived in fear, with blinds or curtains always drawn tightly shut. Any time I saw a man who looked even a little bit like him, I would have anxiety attacks. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I would frequently have flashbacks of him hurting me, or seeing him hurt my mom. I didn't like going to public bathrooms, and so I continued to wet myself and develop urinary tract infections caused by me holding it for extended lengths of time until I was 9 or 10. Kids at school made fun of me for smelling like urine and being just generally weird and quiet. I had a nervous habit of licking my lips, which developed into a rash around my mouth that was very painful.

I used to see a child psychologist named Kim Wilson. He was amazing, and when everything was falling apart for my family, he was helping us pick up the pieces. He helped me understand that what my father did was not my fault, and he was the first adult other than my own mother who told me he believed me. He believed me. My father's family, such as my grandmother, kept calling us liars and said that my mom must be telling us what to say because there was no way he'd hurt us. They must have known a different man than we did.

Over the years, the close calls slowed down and we ended up being able to stay in the same home without having to relocate from him finding us. It was the first home I ever felt at home in. 

Like everybody else, my high school years were tough. I wore baggy clothes because I never felt comfortable sexualizing my body. It took a long time before I trusted a man enough to have a sexual relationship, but I'm happy to say I'm very healthy in that respect now. I used art and music as a way to escape and to cope. I was a very angry teenager. I lashed out a lot and was very suicidal for a number of years. I participated in self harm and although I never got involved with hard drugs, I started smoking at 14 and got into a lot of trouble in school for being anti-authority and just a general weirdo. I remember keeping a dead mouse in a jar of water in my locker and being fascinated by the way it got all bloated and blue and green while shedding its fur and skin off in big chunks. 

My mom had boyfriends, but I never had a stable father figure in my life. All I ever saw were negative examples of what men can be. It amazes me every day that that didn't cloud my judgement of men forever. I'm not bitter towards men at all. I don't have a female superiority complex. I have some lingering, likely related issues when it comes to relationships, but I'm getting better. I have loved and been loved by men who were wonderful, and none of my relationships have been abusive. But, I digress.

Growing up through my teen years, we didn't hear about my father as much. Every year or so we'd get word that he was still looking for us. He ended up moving to Alberta at some point, (I'm assuming because he thought we were there) and we heard stories of him getting drunk in bars and then assaulting random strangers unprovoked because "If your wife and kids left you, you'd be like this too!". The photos he had of us that he'd show around to try and find us were 10 years outdated. He didn't know what we looked like anymore. What a beautiful feeling.

I graduated high school with an award in art and it wasn't long before I was out in the work force and building a life for myself. Our home, the first one I'd ever felt at home in, burned down right before I was going to move in with my boyfriend, and I lost everything, which ended up leading to a bit of a nervous break down in my late teens/early twenties. This was when I started seeing the psychologist I mentioned at the beginning of this post. She was the one who told me to tell this story. I had to take 3 months off from work, was put on antidepressants, and was seeing the psychologist a few times a week. I was very suicidal and was hurting myself nearly every day. It was a very dark point in my life, which centered around feelings from my past coming up. After a year or so, I seemed to level out again.

Four years ago today, I received a message on Facebook from a man who said he was my cousin. I read his message on my phone before I even got out of bed. It said that my father had died. He had died. It was mantle cell lymphoma, a very rare cancer. If I wanted to, they could fly me out for the funeral.

To this day, I feel a little shame over how I reacted to the news of his death. It started with excitement "He's dead!", I proclaimed, running down the stairs to tell everyone, barely choking back tears of relief and wearing a smile. This was followed by a healthy dose of skepticism. What if this was just a ploy to find us? We let our guard down, and he finds us again. He will finally kill us. There was a link to an online obituary, with a phone number. I called it. It was the funeral home. I asked a single question:
"Hi. Is there a funeral to be held for Terry Malcolm Ganong?"
The woman who answered said, "Yes. Would you like to send condolences?"
"No. I just wanted to make sure that mother fucker was dead."

It was true.

I was free. That nagging voice in the back of my head that told me to be afraid; that told me he was going to find me and kill me; it was silenced for the first time in my life. I remember falling to my knees.

I was contacted by a number of family members from my father's side. Suddenly, all these family members, many I never knew existed were connecting with us. Some had heard of why we left, some hadn't. Some blamed us for leaving, some didn't. If any of them were to stay in my life, it was important to me that they believed me. It was all happening so quickly.

It didn't come as a surprise that the man who claimed to "love us" so much did not leave anything for us in his will. He left everything to his sisters, from what we heard. One of those sisters, Cathy, came forward and told us she wanted to do "what was right". That Terry had told her on his death bed that he wanted "his girls" to have this sum of money from his will. We were raised in poverty, largely because my father kept all of his assets in his mother's name, so that we received only the bare minimum in child support, so even from the beginning, this seemed so unlike him. However, feeling like we had nothing left to fear in life and really nothing to lose, we decided to put a little trust in her. She flew out from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan to visit us and to give us this money. She wanted to see us in person after not seeing us for nearly 20 years. 

When Cathy arrived at the airport, she hugged us all with tears in her eyes. A truly gifted actress. After about a week, the question of this money that she supposedly had for us still hadn't come up. It wasn't until she was leaving that the real reason for her visit was revealed. She wanted two things from me. This apparent money that started out as a gift for us and "Terry's Dying Wish", had quickly became a dirty bribe under "Cathy's Lies and Manipulation". First, she wanted me to agree that my father loved me and was a Good Man. Secondly, she wanted me to have a relationship with Rita (his mother). Needless to say, we never did see that money. There was no way I was going to do either of those things, even for $100,000. A final "fuck you" from my father, I suppose.

It's probably better off. Even though I was going to look at that money as some small consolation for a childhood I missed out on, I'd rather have nothing from him. 

As quickly as my relationships with all these new family members began, they ended. I felt wrong to have trusted Cathy to begin with. Some of the others may have been trustworthy, but to me it wasn't worth risking any more of my time or my happiness to separate the good from the bad; the trustworthy from the liars. As far as I was concerned, that whole family is fucked. I keep in touch with a very select few, but even then I am very guarded. 

Today marks the 4 year anniversary of the day Terry Malcolm Ganong died. He is not missed, but despised. Today marks the 4 year anniversary of the first day I finally felt free from him. My family met freedom that day. A fear that lingered in my mind for the entirety of my life finally blinked out. The man who abused me and my family finally got what he deserved. I no longer have to hold my breath in life. I no longer have to seal myself away; to hide from a very real monster in my closet. I don't have to keep these heavy secrets on my back anymore. In a lot of ways, I didn't really start living until he died. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

If You Walk Away, I'll Walk Away

I'm no stranger to losing things before their expiration date. From the extremely premature loss of my childhood to becoming a widow at 25, I've gotten used to having to survive things that most people don't. When those I open up to hear just a few stories taken from the book of my life, they all call me the same thing: a Strong Woman.

But what does that mean, to be a strong woman? Surely we're all strong when we need to be. When faced with death, don't we all choose life? I've done what I've had to do, and I deserve no badge of honour for that. In life, there are no high scores for suffering. It is not something to be celebrated.

Because of this, I've got a pile of emotional baggage that could rival Mount Everest with its height, and the Pacific Ocean with its depth. Trying to form any meaningful connection with another person becomes challenging within that scope. It's a lot to carry.

Every loss in my life has given me a higher understanding of my own emotions, and has made those emotions more intense. I think too much about the possibilities of what is, was, or could be. I'm too logical in every aspect of my life except for love, where I somehow still believe in silly ideas like Destiny and Serendipity, Loyalty and Devotion. And maybe that's the problem.

Since Dave died, I've made it a point to push people away, for fear of the eventual loss of them from my life. "Take it easy, love nothing" became a motto I held near and dear.  Life carried on that way for a long time. I was heartless. When you meet someone who makes you want to open up, it's not always an easy decision and it's not always who you expected. As much as you might try to fight it or deny it, eventually your heart succumbs to what you see behind their eyes and how they make you feel. The physical becomes emotional and you can no longer keep your feelings to yourself. Then, you're left there open and vulnerable and hoping they catch your heart as it falls; hoping for some level of mutuality. And you know what? Sometimes there is none. And sometimes that's okay.

You can't unsay something, and feelings are not a faucet you can simply turn off, I've learned. You take the risk. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't, often the only thing that can be done is to walk away. That is the worst part. It's like losing your winning lottery ticket; your one in a million. You fucked it up and it's all your fault. You promised you would keep your feelings in check, but you couldn't. Alas, you should never expect someone to burden themselves with your misplaced feelings if they don't feel the same. So if they walk away, you walk away. It will only hurt worse if you look back.

I used to victimize myself, whenever someone would decide I no longer had a place in their life. I'd be offended and I'd be hurt and I'd feel betrayed. But now? Now, I feel none of those things. I'm an irreparably damaged individual who, despite healing gracefully from many of her wounds, still bears the scars of a life lived at an incredible volume. Now when someone leaves, I just think to myself, "It's no wonder". I'm a lot to take on. And so I have to say goodbye to something beautiful and pure. Something I fell in love with not by choice, but because of those rare and incredible qualities I saw inside. Right now I'm anything but a strong woman. Though I doubt you'll read this: I'll miss you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Love Yourself, You're Beautiful - Part 1

I look around me and all I see are beautiful women. All a lot of them see are their flaws. An endless race to nip this and tuck that. It's a race that can never be won, because for every woman you might think is perfect, she might look in the mirror at the end of the day and hate what she sees.

If perfection is beauty, I want no part of it.

My best friend visibly cringes every time she tries on clothing in a store. She will look amazing but won't buy a clothing item because of some perceived flaw or insecurity. She's her own worst enemy and as much as everyone around her tells her she's beautiful, she doesn't quite seem to grasp it as a reality.

It's not men who make us feel this way. I've known men who are attracted to fat women or thin women, or women with large or small breasts. Black hair, blonde hair, red hair, green hair, it doesn't matter. I've known men who don't seem to give a single shit about my stretch marks or my less than ideal figure. In my experience it's rare to see a man trashing a woman's appearance. No, it's not men. It's us. We do it to each other. Women hating on other women. It happens all the time, and I am sick of seeing it.

I see it on message boards and in the comments section of any social media website I've ever been on. Women tearing other women down. It's always confused me. Maybe it's because of my long history as a portrait artist, or the fact I was raised not to allow physical beauty to dictate my self worth, but I think everyone is beautiful. For every stereotypically "beautiful" woman I see presented in social media, there are at least a hundred comments, usually from women, cutting down what she's wearing by calling her a slut or a whore, or finding some flaw in her appearance and ripping her to shreds for it.

Take the new Miley Cyrus music video for Wrecking Ball. Honestly, I was never a fan of Miley Cyrus prior to that music video (despite my previous hair cut), but now I respect the hell out of her. It's a good song, and I understood the video. It was powerful. Yet, here she is getting torn apart about it because of how she chose to express herself. I watched my Facebook Newsfeed blow up with women posting the video and ripping into Miley about what a "skank" she is and how ugly she looks. Why? The typical excuse is that she's providing a "bad influence" for young women. I think the opposite is true. Miley is a strong, intelligent and confident woman who is comfortable with her body and with her sexuality. If I had a daughter, those are qualities I'd hope she'd grow up to possess.

I like to think I'm fairly comfortable in my own skin. I don't obsess over jiggly bellies or saggy boobs or cellulite or double chins. My body is what it is, and I love it and take care of it. But of course, like everyone, I have my moments of insecurity as well. This is a very new realization, but I find my confidence dips along with my depression lows and I start looking for some form of physical validation. I might put a ton of makeup on and hope someone compliments me that day, or I might try to boost my confidence by taking a hundred fucking selfies at just the right angle and in just the right light to look a little bit closer to what I think my own personal ideal should be. I never realized just how ridiculous that is before now. I know it's unhealthy, and I'm trying to stop.

We all just need to love ourselves more. I know how cliché it is, trust me, but don't compare yourself with others. Don't dwell on your perceived flaws. Focus on being healthy in mind and in body rather than punishing yourself. Celebrate your differences rather than trying to hide them. For a number of years now, I've made it my goal to compliment at least one person every day. Not only does it bring smiles to the faces of other people, but it makes me feel really good too. As human beings we deal with enough stress and hate and anger in the world without getting extra from ourselves. You are beautiful. Be kind to yourself.

P.S. I know this post has been completely dominated by the female perspective on this. I know men have the exact same problems with insecurities and confidence, but as I'm not male I didn't feel qualified to comment. I know my readership is mostly female, but if any men read this, I hope you love yourself, or soon learn to.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2 Years

Two years. That's a long time. 730 days, 17,520 hours, 1,051,200 minutes, 63,072,000 seconds. That's how long it's been since I last saw Dave alive. In the moments after finding him, when I wanted nothing more than to kill myself so I wouldn't have to feel that pain anymore, a single second seemed like torture. I couldn't breathe. My heart beat so hard it hurt inside my chest. My throat hurt from screaming. Every muscle in my body was a rock. I thought I would cry forever, and every second was absolute torture.

But... soon those terrifying seconds built up and became minutes. Those horrible minutes accumulated into the first hour. Those hours became days, and every day seemed a little bit easier than the last. After the first week, I felt like I'd survived. I started to eat again, and I was able to sleep for a few hours at a time. It's been a long and incredibly difficult road that hasn't been without its bumps and bruises along the way. Now, I've put 730 days of distance between myself and that tragic day. It might seem strange to be proud of that fact, but I am. I survived.

"Whoever you are, and however you see yourself, all I know for certain is that when I'm with you its the most complete and at peace I feel in my entire week." -Dave, in a text message early in our relationship.
Dave and I on vacation in San Diego
I still miss him. I miss the way he smelled, the way he whispered those words, "Love you, babe", the way he looked at me like I was the only woman on earth, the way he laughed, the way he cried, the way he told a story, the way he got ready for work in the morning, the way he left the black jellybeans for me, the way he smiled, the way he encouraged me, how he made me laugh. I miss the way he could always make me feel like I was important to him. He never let me forget for one second how much he loved and appreciated me. He never let me forget that he needed me; that I made him happy. He told me I was beautiful even when I was fat and pregnant and felt at my least desirable. I miss the way we would lay together on the bed, and he would play me music on his mandolin or guitar. Yes, I still miss him.

Our son Darwin was just 3 weeks old when his father died. Though it's awful that he will never know his father and what a great man he was, part of me is glad that he will never have to feel the loss. He doesn't know what he's missing, so he doesn't have to feel that pain. It's going to be hard at times, like when he goes through puberty or experiences his first heartbreak; those moments when a boy needs his father to teach and guide him. Sadly, Dave will miss all of the 'firsts' that every father looks forward to, and Darwin will miss the opportunity to know his father.

I miss Dave, and all that he was to me, but I've said my goodbyes. There are times in life when you should hold on, and times when you should let go. I've let him go. He lives on in our son, Darwin, and in the memories I hold dear in my heart. He's forever part of my story, and I will carry those memories with me as I create new stories and work towards finding my happiness again.

I miss you, Love.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Anniversaries. A life, a death, and a love. All in one month.

It's crazy what a time of year can do to your mood. As arbitrary as a date on a calendar can seem, the wrong anniversary can trigger something inside you that you'd rather have left alone. Though you may want to ignore such things and carry on with life, it isn't always possible.

It's September 1st, and so the beginning of the most difficult month of the year for me. It's the month I wish I could skip. There's too much emotion to deal with; unavoidable head stuff that's been creeping on my mind's horizon for the last six weeks or so. I've been dreading it, and everything it means to me. I've been trying to avoid it by distracting myself, but realize my attempts have been pathetic.

September is home to the anniversary of my birth, the anniversary of Dave's death, and what would have been the anniversary of our love.

September 10th will mark the 2 year anniversary of the day Dave died. The worst day. The day I found his lifeless body on our couch, when our child was just 3 weeks old. That day my life changed forever and I'm still trying to heal and grow from it. It's been a treacherous road that I've no choice but to travel. I'll be visiting him today at his place on the hill.

Ten days later, on September 20th, I'll turn 28 years old. I'll have officially made it to an age that Dave never got to see. He was 27. I've not been able to celebrate a birthday since he died, and this year should be no different. I feel guilty, somehow.

September 16th would be the anniversary of the day we fell in love. The day our text message romance became something real; something tangible. We had something beautiful and I remember every second of that day. We connected on a level I'd never seen before and haven't seen since.

Two years ago, September fucked me up. I've been fucked up ever since and as much as I've tried to grasp for normalcy; for positivity, and as far as I've come emotionally, this month makes me feel like it's happening all over again. All those feelings come rushing back and I find myself staring into a sickeningly dark loop of negativity where the light at the end of the tunnel has blinked out and all I can do is scream in the dark and hope October comes early.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Depression: Hitting a Wall and Heading Out

I usually don't like talking about my chronic depression. Hundreds of thousands of people deal with it every day: I'm not special, and it's not an excuse. It's not something to be proud of and it's not a badge of honor or a reason for sympathy. It's a mental disorder. It's the reason I can't sleep, or sleep too much. It's the reason why sometimes I can't feel anything with my heart. It's what makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning. It's why I often can't enjoy anything. It's why, when nobody's looking, my facial expression is stagnant. It's the reason I feel like I'm drowning every single day. It's why I've destroyed things I love or pushed people away.

And, it's been really bad lately.

For the last two months, I've been feeling like I'm barely keeping my head above water. As someone who deals with depression without taking medication (perhaps stupidly) I've been trying everything I know to shake it and feel okay again. I've written numerous blog posts, I've gone hiking in the great outdoors, I've watched a lot of comedy videos, I've spent more time with friends, I've taken up new hobbies, I've tried to read more, I've tried to quit writing, I've tried faking happiness hoping it would catch on, I threw Darwin a birthday party, I've tried helping others, and I've tried focusing on happy memories. Nothing has worked.

I've been feeling insecure and I've been feeling scared. I've been feeling worthless and insignificant, despite friends assuring me otherwise. I've been questioning whether or not I am capable of reaching my goals with school, or whether I'll just fail before fading into the background of some sad story everyone tries to forget about.

In the back of my mind I know why. The date looms on a colourful calendar in my kitchen. It's the type of anniversary you dread rather than celebrate, and it's coming up very soon. 2012 wasn't easy during this time of year either.

I have nobody I can talk to about it, because nobody understands. They'll brush it off and tell me how strong and inspirational I am, hoping it will lift me up, but instead I'll feel falsely accused. I want to fall apart with somebody who won't stop the pieces from hitting the ground. I want to tell someone my life story without them crying for me and remarking at how well I turned out despite everything. I want to be allowed to be broken for a while

I'm leaving the city for a few weeks. I'm going to visit family in Kindersley. I'm going to the farm, where the sky is bigger and life is simpler. Maybe I'll clear my head.