Honesty about creativity, art, mental illness, grief, feminism, human rights and chronic pain with a healthy dose of sarcasm



The Baby Question

“Why haven’t you had kids yet?”

Something I didn’t understand until I got a little bit of age on me is how uncomfortable this type of question can be. Once a woman reaches a certain age (25ish), whether her biological clock ticks or not is moot as, everyone from acquaintances to relatives will make sure she knows she’s born to birth and she best get on with it.

Consider this for a moment; what are women in movies usually haunted by or hallucinating about? I’d say babies. Some chick will start hearing a baby crying or laughing and it’ll turn out her unborn child, or her abortion is haunting her. This is standard narrative for the role of women on film. In books, the second the young mistress doth barfith one knows she’s in a family way. Just food for thought.

In reality there are many barriers to baby-making that are incredibly sensitive and personal such as, careers, fertility problems, general health issues, lack of a partner, marriage problems, genetics and genuinely not wanting children, to name a few. It’s important to be respectful and understand what goes on in another woman’s womb is really none of your freakin’ business.

I once had an older gentleman I barely knew tell me he felt it’s best for women to have babies well before they’re aged 25 or 30 at the latest otherwise, “they’re far too old.” He then asked how old I was and when I said 34 he shook his head doubtfully and said I’d better get on with it because I’d left it way to long.

When I was younger I asked women about babies with nothing but good intent. I meant it as a compliment, as in, you’d be a great Mom. Time has taught me great Mother’s don’t always give birth and some women have given birth and aren’t great Moms.

To me, Mother’s are women who care deeply for others, who nurture talent and encourage without expecting anything in return. Mother’s are role models but not perfect by any means. Being able to laugh at missteps and foibles is an incredibly important trait for a Mother to have. Also, giving advice isn’t as important as listening, further, understanding advice won’t always be followed and mistakes will be made is key. Helping a young woman rise from the ashes is far more important than scolding her for what she did wrong.

My Mom fell into the Great Mother catagory. She died 4 years ago and this profound loss, while often a traumatizing pit of sadness, has taught me I have many Mothers in my life. So many women have stepped in and shown me what strength truly means, offered me guidance and unconditional love. They’re my bonus Mom’s and everyday angels and I’m incredibly lucky to have as many as I do.

My Mother-in-law was kind enough to arrive in a week before my Mom’s funeral. She helped me write endless lists and knock everything off all the while ensuring I took care and rested so as not to cause a pain flare up. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I’ve thanked her enough for this.

I’m also fortunate enough to have a step-Mother-in-law who is a great feminist role model who compliments my intellect and encourages me to move forward even when I’m feeling lost and as though, because of my chronic illnesses, I’ve lost my chance to be anything useful at all. I cannot thank her enough for giving me these little boosts here and there, gently forcing me to remember my self worth.

My two Aunts have been so kind and caring, offering me a shoulder to cry on and wonderful insights and stories about my Mom throughout her life. We’ve grown a lot closer since my Mom died and, recognizing how fleeting life is, we make sure to say, I love you, often and appreciate the gifts each of us offer.

There are also several of my Mom’s close friends who’ve continually been there for me. With these women there’s that wonderful feeling that no time has passed even if it’s been ages since we’ve talked. We’re just able to pick up where we left off and carry on. This type of friendship is so special and I’m incredibly pleased to have those pseudo Mom’s in my life. Furthermore, the Mother’s of a few of my close friends are also incredibly warm and caring surrogate Moms to me.

It’s been a great pleasure to watch many of my friends and one of my sisters-in-law becoming mother’s and I get the bonus of doting on their kids and spoiling them whenever possible. I hope to someday earn pseudo Mom status to all of them whenever they need it.

I’ll be so thrilled should I end up having children in the future, but I like to think I am maturing into the type of person who is a stand-in Mom or second-Mom to a number of lovely young people I’ve come to know. I don’t wish to infringe on any decisions made by the actual parents but I’m there to offer support and love whenever needed.

I’ve overheard new parents say things such as, “I didn’t really understand love until I had a child of my own.” I like to think this isn’t true for me. I love the people in my life with all my heart and all my soul. I am fiercely protective should I feel one of these people is being attacked, short-changed, or bullied. It’s clear the “Mama-Bear” behaviour so often referred to is alive and well within me, no labour required (see what I did there?).

The next time you wonder why a woman hasn’t had children I urge you to compliment her on something you admire about her instead. You may be speaking to someone who’s never given birth but is a mother to many. Look at Oprah and Ellen for examples of prominent women with no children who absolutely are exemplary Mom’s to so many. I bet you can think of many women you know who have earned the status of Mom one way or another, be sure to treasure this gift.

In this modern age where, hopefully, we’re smashing the patriarchy for breakfast and moving towards a society of gender equality, I think we should examine what it means to be a “Mother” and modify the definition accordingly.

Please Note: Men are awesome too. I am incredibly lucky in that department as well but that’s another blog for another time. I promise.



Mental Health Super Hero Begins

Sally Semi-Colon helps her first soul and discovers her power to emit epic empathy. Johanna’s cried an ocean when Sally finds her and helps her begrin to heal.

This is the first test frame I’ve developed for my mental health super hero, Sally Semi-Colon. She follows the credo that one’s life sentence can continue with a semi-colon, even after or in spite of dark depression, attempted suicide, or any other mental heath struggle, rather than end with a period.hhb

More information about the Semi-Colon movement can be found in the documentary film regarding high school sexual assault and the devastating mental health impact available on Netflix, Audrey and Daisy. There is also a book called Project Semi-Colon featuring,”essays and photos from the Suicide Awareness Organization that has helped millions, as well as plenty more information on line.

After watching Wonder Woman recently I was struck, once again, by something that’s bothered me for a loooooong time. There is a severe shortage of comic books, films and graphic novels featuring female super heros but no shortage of real world super women.

I understand I am not working for Marvel or DC and the characters I’m working on may or may not be going anywhere but that’s ok. I just feel like it’s therapeutic for me to try to create a Group of female super heros who might begin to fill in the giant gaps in the female super hero world.

What do you consider your own super power to be?


Mental Health Super Hero

I’m pleased to present my latest creation, Sally Semi Colon!

“What are her super powers,” You ask. She’s gifted with acute senses of empathy, understanding, kindness, love, advanced active listening skills, a great sense of humour, and a light for the darkness.

She can offer reliable therapy on a moments notice and is familiar with all forms of treatment conventional and non. She can offer up tough love if needed or tell when it’s time to relax and recommend self care.

She even carries an endless supply of self care items like; face masks, good books, great music, a selection of herbal teas, word games, art supplies, journals with pretty pens, nail polish, and other sundry.

Sally is a mental health maven bent on battling mental illness, stereotypes, stigmas, and assholes who don’t understand!

More to come…

Panic Attack Drawing

After deciding to take a crack at using the drawing prompt #fear from #sketchbookskool on Instagram today I thought of what makes me fearful and immediately thought of panic attacks. Thus I decided to try and draw what a panic attack feels like to me. Here’s how my drawing turned out…


Psych Ward Humour

The psych ward can be a little scary at times and is often fraught with emotions running high. In order to keep some semblance of normalcy one must keep a sense of humour. Here are a couple of amusing incidents I recall from my time spent as an inpatient.

In order to protect the identities of those involved I’ll be using gender neutral pronouns such as them and they. I will not provide any names nor physical descriptions.

Please understand these stories aren’t meant to make a mockery of psychiatric patients. I am simply trying to highlight the fact there is light and levity to be found even during the darkest of times.

One day I was invited by another patient to join in a lesson they’d be offering on tantric kissing. The patient pointed to the ring on my left hand and said this lesson would be especially important for me to attend as a married woman. I politely declined the offer but couldn’t help chuckling as I walked away wondering what teaching techniques were planned.

In another situation an apple was left on the coffee table in the common area. A patient asked if it belonged to anyone. I said it was without an owner and they were welcome to it.

The patient recoiled at my suggestion and said, “no way! It could belong to a woman and you know how Eve tricked Adam into eating an apple in Eden. I’m not going to let that happen to me.”

“Yeah, the women are always trying to lead men into temptation!” another patient chimed in.

In another situation it was brought to my attention the best way to dispose of a body would be to throw it out concealed within a Christmas tree.

My absolute favourite moment happened one day when I finally was feeling well enough to draw a little bit. Another patient, who was very withdrawn with constant delusions, approached me and peaked over at the sketch I’d just started. For the first time in the week I’d been there I saw a sense of lucid clarity as my gaze was met.

“That’s a really ugly drawing!” the patient declared then nodded at me and withdrew again, striding away speaking to unseen partners in conversation.

I couldn’t help but laugh as I’d been hoping the patient would start to have more moments of clarity. I just didn’t expect my unfinished art would be the thing to draw out the lucidity!


Grieving Dramatic Life Changes

When I first realized the pain in my ankle would, likely, never go away I did my best to grit my teeth and continue my job as curling pro/manager. Then I injured my back and still kept trying to swim up stream and not give up the dream job I had.

Laying to rest the function of my ankle and trying to make peace with the long incision scar and ongoing nerve pain. The adorable slippers help make me feel a little better😉

It broke my heart every day I wasn’t able to play the game I so love and care about. I also found myself having to avoid other high-impact excercise I had enjoyed previously such as, running, skiing, dance, boxercise, and step aerobics because the impact caused dramatic flare ups and I risked further injury. 

In order to invest the energy I still had into my job I had to spend more and more spare time in isolated recovery mode. I consoled myself with the fact I could still teach, I could still help others enjoy the game of curling.

I bounced on and off of disability a few times, always striving to claw my way back onto the ice. There were days I could scarcely stand, days where I struggled to walk, days where the pain screamed at me so loudly I couldn’t even think.

Eventually my performance at work reached a point where no matter how much I wanted to be the reliable, contientious, creative, perfectionist I used to be I couldn’t keep up and it was time to go back onto disability… this time for an indefinite period.

Doctors have told me it’s counterproductive for me to think of ever going back to curling as the sport only agrivates my injuries. I’ve been told, if I’m patient, I might be lucky enough for my back injury to worsen enough in the next 5 to ten years that surgery may then be helpful. Yippee!

I’m not writing about my lousy prognosis to gain pity (we all have our trials and heartaches) or to ask for any advice. I want to explain how it feels to grieve something in life aside from another human.

I didn’t understand for a long time why my heart ached so badly and why every time my thoughts drifted to my prognosis I wanted to somehow, simutanously, scream and cry and rage and close my eyes and never wake up. 

During my first in-patient psychiatric stay a very kind, and very smart nurse clued me in to the fact that grief isn’t solely reserved for the dead. She showed me books and articles outlining how we can also grieve loss of a marriage, a career, a friendship, health and wellbeing, a pet, independence, and many more personal heart breaks.

I finally began to understand exactly what I had lost and why it hurt so much. I feel as though, to this day, I grieve my Health and my career to some degree each day just as I continually grieve the death of my Mom. How much I grieve on any given day depends on what the world throws at me.

When I see an article about my former curling colleagues that reminds me of what I’m missing or I try to plan a holiday and remember all the travel contingencies I must plan for or around I my have more acute feelings of grief regarding my career and my health.

To cope with these feelings I have learned to get creative. I think of getting stronger both mentally and physically so I might peruse a new and exciting career that I find just as satisfying. In fact, writing this blog is part of my copeing strategy as well as a way to test if writing is something I wish to persue as part of my future. 

I also get creative with travel plans, specifically building in long rest periods, and usually travelling with a companion to take care of decision-making or driving, for example, if I get too tired or develop brain-fog from elevated pain levels.

If you suffer from chronic pain or any other dramatic loss and have experienced the grief that often goes along with it I’d love to hear your stories and coping strategies. Building community understanding is in itself a coping strategy. I don’t know about you but I could sure use, and would love to contribute all the strength I can to helping others and myself.


Daily Drawing 

I’ve been doing my best to create one finished drawing a day or, at the bare minimum, to spend at least ten to thirty minutes a day practicing drawing or painting.

This is my strange concept of the day.


My Experience with Ruminating

I am 12 years old and competing in my first national curling championship. My team is getting ready to play the New Brunswick team and I am excited. They’re a really fun team and I’ve been looking forward to this game for days.

Ten minutes prior to going on the ice I’m all dressed up in my curling kit and stretching out. My coach and the other, older, 3 players approach me and ask me to sit this game out so our 5th player can have a chance to play a game.

I instantly deflate and mention how I’ve been looking forward to the game and that I’m all geared up to go. I ask if it could be a different game I sit out. They all say, “no, this is the only one that will work.”

They add comments like; “I’d do it if I could but I can’t. I have to play.”

I’m near tears, I feel like I’m being ambushed and guilted at the last minute. I decide to hold my ground and play. Bad decision.

My teammates won’t talk to me. They cross to the other side of the ice if I try to stand near them. I feel wretched. I am in tears for most of the game even after my teammates are told to stop shunning me. 

I feel as though my soul is bursting with guilt. I should have let the 5th play. What kind of selfish asshole am I? 

This is a story that haunts me frequently. Is rattles round, and round my adult mind and I want beat myself senseless for this wrongdoing I did at age 12. 

This happened 25 fucking years ago and I’m still coming back to it over and over. It’s a bizarre form of mental self flagellation. There are days when I ruminate about this and other things so obsessively I cry hysterically because I’m so disappointed in myself.

The child in me imagines what would have happened had I not been so selfish. I want to take that time back and fix it. I deserved to be shunned.

The adult in me sees the difficult position I was put in. I was asked no more than 10 minutes before the game. I was already in the zone. We should have decided as a team which game I would sit out prior to the event. Then I’d have been prepared. Also, I was only 12! My teammates were 14, 17, and 19. Perhaps I didn’t deserve to be shunned. Alas, this rational assessment rarely does anything to cut out the guilt.

It seems when I’m mentally tired thoughts such as the above gain repetitive status. Like a tv stuck on one channel and forever repeating the same short story endlessly. No escape. I simply cannot seem to let these thoughts go.

Often if I do manage to let a thought go I find something else to dwell on. I even have guilt from grade one I occasionally go back to! 

Admittedly I’m poor company when I’m heavily ruminating. I vasilate between being distant and unable to focus socially and asking questions about what I’m ruminating about for reassurance. The reassurance only lasts so long before I’m back to the same self-induced, navel-gazing bloodbath I started with.

Sometimes I ruminate about several of my transgressions in rotation. This allows me to beat myself up relentlessly for a number of wrongs I’ve done.

How do I snap myself out of this type of thinking. Sometime’s painting works or another distraction complex enough to take up extra space in my mind like puzzles or brain teasers.

Often I’ll write about the situation bothering me and force myself to read it with older and wiser? eyes. This allows me to also write out the parts I did correctly and what I would change if I could.

Sometimes to cope, I’ll apologize for something I did years ago. Often the person I apologize to has no idea what I’m talking about as they’ve long moved on.

Sometimes, despite trying to use my coping skills, I still manage to slip from ruminating into a panic attack and eventually I resort to anti-anxiety meds. I then must try not to feel guilty for being so weak that I had to take meds – even though I’d never think of anyone else as weak for taking meds when needed.

Ruminating is an afliction I’ve long dealt with. Forever second guessing myself, forever, finding things to punish myself for. It’s part of my mental illness and part of me. I do my best not to slip into the past too often. I try to stay present, be mindful, but sometimes these thoughts of past wrongdoings sneak in and OCCUPY my mind like it’s Wall Street in 2011.




So, after a two month stay in the hospital for severe depression and what turned out to be a severly low hemoglobin count I’ve been at home for more than a month. I’m feeling better about my life in general. In fact, most days, the prospect of getting out of bed doesn’t feel so overwhelming I suspect my head will explode.

Yeah me!

I think I’m actually on the mend. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friends and family who’ve been supportive and caring in so many wonderful ways during this difficult time. I also owe heaps of thanks to the many kind and patient Dr’s and Nurses and hospital staff.

I’ve been doing well at keeping my expectations realistic. I’ve been spending a lot of time indulging in long-lost rituals of self-care, and self-love. And I’ve been trying to function in a manner that gives love back into my community. 

But I’m not on top of it all yet. I could easily make a list pages and pages long of gratitude I owe and people I haven’t reconnected with and visits postponed and how I CANNOT EVEN FIND THE STRENGTH TO CONSISTENTLY CONTRIBUTE TO THIS BLOG OF MINE!

Now, as my heart pounds with panic and my brain feels like a hampster on a wheel going full speed towards… what?

This is where I must give my head a shake and go back to being that self-loving, gratitude-having, nurturing person I was at the top of this page.

So, I will publish this little snapshot of how I’m doing a month and a bit after release from the psychiatric ward and I will say to myself, “This, all of this, is better than it was and that is enough for now.”


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