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


Self Esteem

Social Anxiety- A Self-Portrait in Texts

Me: Holy cow! I’m freakin’ vibrating from caffine overload! Lol!

Me: I am so sorry. I think I talked too much this morning and didn’t pay enough attention to you, your baby or (other friend). I was behaving selfishly and I’m really sorry.

Friend: Stop that! We enjoyed your visit. I didn’t respond to your message sooner because we are at ikea.

Me: No I wasn’t talking about u not responding, it didn’t take long anyway. I just keep playing the visit over in my head and realized how annoying I was being. Ahhh I hate anxiety. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have mentioned this. I’ve been really nervous lately and it’s fucking with my head. I’m sorry for being a freak and sorry for being sorry. Ok I need to chill out. Not sure why I’m not hitting delete rather than send.

It was really nice being there with you three. Just when I think I’m past ruminating and beating myself up it comes back and reminds me I still have a mental illness. Frustrating. I suppose I should appreciate that it happens with less frequency now. Thank you for understanding my crazy weirdness💜

Friend: Lol, all good my lovely. We were saying how nice it was to have you there this morning and how much we enjoyed your visit. So don’t worry at all. Never stop being you.

This is a text conversation I had after visiting with a friend, her baby and another friend from out of town. I think it’s a pretty good example of how social anxiety affects my life.

Fortunately the friend I was texting with has known me for more than 20 years and is familiar with my anxieties and pretty adept at helping me to dismiss unnecessary, repeating thoughts.

Here’s a little bit more about how this situation came to be:

I’m heading home after a nice visit with a huge smile on my face. There had been laughter and many old, inside jokes and stories, lots of catching up on each other’s lives, witty banter, genuine affection amongst ourselves, and a sense of ease together that only comes with long-standing, well-nourished, mutually appreciated relationships. It was an especially nice visit I’m thinking as I pull into my driveway.

I begin playing parts of the conversation from the morning back and I realize I forgot to ask about ongoing issue one of my friends was having at work. At first I’m starting to rationalize this oversight as we hadn’t seen each other in a while and there was a lot to catch up on. I’m able to tell myself I’ll be sure to ask about it next time we visit.

Next I realize how long I spent prattling on about some story about my husband. My friends were probably bored to tears. At this point my ability to rationalize away my subpar social skills begins to fizzle and I feel the familiar, but never comfortable, sensation of panic flip-flopping like a slippery fish in my belly.

Soon I am obsessively going over the entire visit with a fine toothed comb and analysing stupid jokes I made, things I now think I shouldn’t have said, other things I should have asked about and on and on and on.

I even begin to assess my mannerisms and actions; did I hug too hard or too long? did I gesticulate too wildly? was I warm enough or too familiar? did I stay too long or not long enough? Was I over-dressed or under-dressed? and on and on and on.

I consider possible consequences; they won’t invite me to visit again, I’ll lose two good friends, they’ll talk about what a crazy, selfish bitch I am, they must be mad at me, and on and on and on.

These thoughts and questions swirl round my mind and I’m rapping my knuckles against my temple to make it fucking stop. It doesn’t stop. I try distracting myself by painting but the thoughts keep interrupting.

I try reframing the situation and using my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills. I classify my thoughts; Mind-Reading-As in, I cannot predict if the others noticed my missteps or if they would even categorize them as such. Fortune Telling-As in, I’m predicting outcomes when I cannot know the future. Catastrophizing-As in, I’m making something small into a much bigger problem than it is.

Unfortunately I’ve never been able to make CBT work for me no matter how many times I write down my feelings, categorize and rate them. I know this type of therapy works for many but I’ve been trying to make it work for the past 10+ years and it’s yet to actually help.

Finally I decide to text my friend. Impractical as it is, this is what usually helps. I confront the situation and apologize for what I think I did wrong. As I mentioned before, my friend is familiar with my anxiety, sees it for what it is and easily calms my mind.

The frustrating part is, in other situations I can’t always go back and apologize, I generally haven’t done anything wrong anyway and I already apologize far too much as it is (I have anxiety about over-apologizing too. Lol!). Sometimes I just think things to death until it either goes away on it’s own for a while or until I’m having a full-blown panic attack and have to take medication.

If this is familiar behaviour to anyone out there I am truly sorry as nonsense like this is a waste of time and energy. Even if I actually had done something I needed to apologize for there’s no need to punish myself in this manner. Making the apology and meaning it is enough.

This is just one facet of how my social anxiety manifests but I thought it was a good example. If you’d like to share a comment, similar story or if you’ve got a coping technique that works for you I’d love to hear about it.



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.


Sage Advice From My Father For 2018

To kick off 2018, Here’s some amusing advice from my Dad to make dealing with others a little easier 😉

“It’s better to lower your expectations of others and be plesantly surprised, than to set your expectations too high and be diapointed.”

Happy New Year!


Don’t Wait, Access Services Now

If you’re feeling helpless, hopeless, alone, anxious, depressed, angry, or like you might hurt yourself or someone else do no not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to a mental healthcare provider.

I’m not saying to commit yourself tomorrow but do try shopping around to see what kind of assistance is available and what will suit you best. Just get the ball rolling.

Try calling a 24 hour distress line. That’s what they’re there for. You’re problems are in no way too inconsequential to be unworthy of help. Distress lines deal with panic and anxiety, depression, anger, delusions, and more all the time and if they feel you need further assistance or resources they’re usually able to offer info on the spot.

If you’ve often thought about talking to your doctor about ritualistic behaviours, like excessive hand washing, or checking and re-checking door locks but you keep putting it off because you don’t think it’s severe enough to mention, make an appointment now. You’re worth it. Look after your mental health as though it’s as important as any vital organ, because it is.

If you keep telling yourself your difficulties with flashbacks and nightmares about a trauma aren’t worth seeking help for, tell yourself to make you a priority and make an appointment to discuss your concerns.

If your worried the psychiatric world will ram drugs down your throat tell the doctor you want to try a drug free therapy before trying medication. Commit to helping yourself get help. Drugs are not the only option, nor are they always the best option. Everyone is different and that’s alright.

You are not alone. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Finding the strength to get help is something to be incredibly proud of.

If you’re concerned about monetary barriers discuss this with your regional mental health care provider. Many wonderful programs are often covered under provincial health or subsidized.

Try having a look here in canada;

Try starting here if you’re in the USA;

If you’re in a more rural location there are lots of interesting therapy options online. You should also be able to access a 24 hour distress line for the region or province.

Take control. Take care of you and remember, you won’t ever feel any better if you don’t bother trying. Fight for yourself with whatever bit of strength you’ve got left. Help is out there and you can begin to find your old self again.


Holiday stress – Hell Yes!

I felt sick yesterday. Couldn’t eat, just wanted to sleep. I thought it was the flu but I’m not so sure. In the evening I thought more and more about why I might be feeling ill and then it clicked.

I’m freaking out!

This time last year and the year before I’ve been holed up in the psych ward, suicidal but safe. This year I’ve been doing ok but no matter how positive I am I can’t help but recall flashbacks and fear going back there again.

I’m also slowly trying to get my house tidied up as my Awesome, super-lovable Mum-in-law is coming to stay for a bit. I’m really excited and I know she just wants to see us but I still want to make things special for her of course.

I’m trying to do some meal planning and feeling guilty I don’t do any of the baking I used to do before I fucked up my back. I want to make French-Canadian Toutiere (meat pie) as I have for many years like my Mom and my Grandmother but I’m cheating this year and not making pastry from scratch like I used to.

There are a lot of things I simply haven’t got the energy or mental wherewithal to do anymore and saying this at 38 because of mental illness and chronic pain is crushing no matter if I should be used to it by now or not😢 Lowering my expectations was never a goal I thought I’d make. Lol!

My social anxiety seems to have kicked into high gear lately which is super great because this is the time of year for visiting. Yeeeeeah!

Anyway, ignoring all these feelings and worries and then over thinking them sent me into a full panic attack last night. Luckily my husband was able to talk me down a bit and make me laugh. The anti-anxiety meds helped too😉

But good things are happening also, I visited a close friend and her adorable baby and we decorated cookies, and chatted, and played with the babe. It was really a nice way to spend an afternoon. I even tolerated the first Christmas music of the season.

Happy Greetings & Season’s Holiday!


The Point is Not to Please You, Dear Reader

I am forcing myself to write this blog entry. I just haven’t been able to get it together enough to string together even passable prose.

“I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to feel. At all,” is what my mind cries out to me lately. I feel paralysed. I’m afraid if I put it in writing my crazy will be naked and real, for all the world to see. Yikes!

For the last two years, right around now, I’ve fallen into deep, dark, grief-tinged depression with suicidal ideation and a side order of self harm.

Why does it happen now? My Mom’s birthday on Nov 21 (died 3.5 years ago) seems to send me reeling, circling the drain, sucked down with low self worth.

Following her birthday Christmas crap is everywhere reminding me just how much I miss her helping to lead the charge. It’s hard to cheerlead for something I don’t really believe in.

I just cherry pick stuffed stockings, shortbread, gift giving, dim sum downtown, spoiling my husband and Dad and wilfully ignoring much of the other Christmas nonsense and hullabaloo.

Even paring Christmas down to a very small size still eats away at me for no good reason. The last 2 years I’ve been admitted into the psych ward for a month or two before feeling safe and well enough to go home.

This year I have been feeling a lot better I think. I’m also really excited my Mother-in-law, whom I adore💜, is coming to stay with us and we havent had a Christmas together in about 10 years.

In spite of my better mood I do feel myself dipping lower into that deep, sad place. I keep my head above water though and I don’t go too far. I can still easily see the exit. So far I’ve just felt compelled to poke around in the dark here and there.

I haven’t been self-harming, although the thought has crossed my mind. I don’t know if it’s better to push all thoughts of my psych ward experiences down and away, try to unthink them, or if I should just calmly let them replay in the background while staying focused on right now simultaneously.

I feel like I just wrote a whole lot but said sweet fuck all. Sorry about that. The point was not to please you, dear reader, but just to practice the act of writing, prove to myself I still can.


To Toronto 4 Tori

(Written Oct 28th on the plane to Toronto)

And today’s the day I’m Toronto bound to make a long time dream come true. I’m headed to Toronto to see my favourite singer/song wtiter/piano prodigy/rock goddess, the indomitable Ms Tori Amos!

Me outside the venue before the show

When her latest album, Native Invader, dropped I decided now’s the time, I need to do this, the ultimate indulgence, I’m going to get tickets and I’m going to do this.

Tori is only playing a scant handful of concerts in Canada. No shows anywhere near where I live.

Thanks to a wondeeful friend who happens to live in Toronto I had someone to go with, and a place to stay. I swear this friend of mine is an everyday angel. Her kindness, generosity and warmth have made this dream of mine a once in a lifetime reality.

Even now as I sit on the plane, getting closer and closer, my heart skips a beat now and then and I’m shaking from head to toe. The reason for these bodily tics is simple – I’m terrified!

Here’s how it is in my head:

I’m going to see Tori fucking Amos! Holy cow! This is amazing!

But what if I have a panic attack and annoy my hostess with my scared neediness?

Should I really be doing this? I’m not a healthy person. My back is screaming at me. I’m beginning to ache everywhere. My ankle with the nerve damage has now joined the party and im not sure I can take much more of this.

Do I deserve this? What have I done to be worthy of such a luxury? I’m still on disability leave as my body and mind continue to plague me with problems.


💛I know this post is really late. I’ve been back a week now and the recovery has been rough. It was an amazing, strengthening experience and so much fun!

I will write more as soon as my body and brain are feeling a little less burnt out. I will recover soon and the trip was totally worth it😁💛


Is This Enough for #Metoo?

When the #metoo movement began in order to raise awareness about how many women and men have experienced sexual harassment or assault I debated whether or not to include myself. How much sexual harassment is enough? How much sexual assault is enough? Does sexual humiliation count?

Perhaps these blurry grey areas are part of the problem. I suppose I have several stories but this one keeps coming to mind. You can decide if it’s enough, if I can say, “#Metoo”.

Long before the age of cell phones and texting, when I was about 19, I headed to a bar downtown with a couple of girlfriends. While they kicked up their high heels on the packed dance floor I was on the sidelines avoiding the crowd and allowing myself to be chatted up by an older guy in his late 20s.

I felt witty and pretty and bright as we laughed together and talked all night. When the lights came on I couldn’t find my friends anywhere. I had no idea what to do when half an hour after close they were still AWOL.

The guy who’d been chatting me up helped me look for them. When we couldn’t find them he said he lived close by and kindly offered to let me use his phone. He even said he’d pay for my cab since I didn’t have enough cash to pay for a taxi alone.

We walked along the downtown streets, flirting all the way. Head thrown back with laughter I felt alive and attractive. He seemed kind and sincere so I let him lead the way.

We arrived at his place and his kisses kept me from calling home right away. I lost myself in his eyes and arms.

“Relax. I’ll pay your cab fare later. You can hold off on calling a while longer can’t you?”

I nodded and kissed him back, nerves fluttering deep in my chest. I really liked this guy. He laid me down on his living room floor and began tugging at my clothes. I tried to slow things down and he kept trying to speed them up.

Soon I began squirm beneath him. His weight bore down on me and the butterflys in my chest turned ice cold and I began to panic.

He suddenly pushed back from me, impatience and disgust now glowered at me where I’d so recently seen lust and longing.

“You’re a fucking virgin aren’t you?”

I nodded slowly. I was so embarrassed I wanted to sink into the floor. What had I been thinking as I’d followed him home like a lost puppy?

“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

Anger sparked in his eyes, now cold and black.

“What did you think we were coming here for?”

“I… I… I couldn’t find my friends. You said I could use your phone. You said you’d pay for my cab. I thought you liked me. I thought you wanted to get to know me.”

“Whatever. Get out.”

“But I need to get home.”

“That’s your problem not mine. Get out.”

Crying now, I stuttered, “Will you still get a taxi for me? I don’t have enough money to get home.”

“I’m not paying for anything you cock tease. Get out!”

Humiliation bubbled up and poured from my eyes, “can I at least use your phone?”

“Make it fast. Then get out.”

I called home. My parents and friends were there and relieved to hear from me. I stammered into the phone that I wanted to come home. They didn’t ask questions, just told me to take a cab and they’d pay.

As soon as the taxi was called I turned to the stranger I thought I was getting to know. He glared at me, all interest gone.

“Get out.”

“It’s 4am, I don’t feel safe waiting alone outside.”

“Too bad. Get out.”

I flowed out the door on a river of tears and waited alone, scared, tired, hurt and humiliated. I shivered and cried and wished I could just disappear.

Is this enough?

He didn’t rape me. I wasn’t brutalized.

Does this story count? Were my tears and humiliation enough?

I dodged a bullet didn’t I? Maybe I should shut up, count myself lucky? Shouldn’t I be grateful?

It’s not enough is it?

I’m not enough am I?

I can’t really say, “me too?” Can I?


Ashamed of Shame & laying blame

In grade 6 I got lucky and hit puberty early. For me, puberty brought on a generous helping of acne. It was great because nobody else seemed to have acne yet and because I was so far ahead of the game I got to hear all about it from the other kids.

My grade 6 school picture shows only a bit of acne but there was a whole lot of tears and face scrubbing leading up to this.

I was already a freak because I was constantly reading giant books, writing poetry and short stories, acting in school plays, and generally not trying to fit in. I was terrible at popular indoor sports like; volley ball, soccer, and floor hockey. I was always picked last and constantly ridiculed for playing poorly no matter how hard I tried. I frequently spent the better part of gym class crying in the change room.

The addition of acne brought on some next level shit in the bullying department. I became known as; Zit Farm, Zit Face, Pimple Face and pizza face. I was accused of rubbing grease on my face and told to lay off the chocolate and French fries.

Every day I would go home with a heavy heart and hurt feelings. I just wanted to curl up and cry or go to sleep and never have to face the kids at school again. I was so ashamed of myself because of my acne and couldn’t understand why I was the only one.

My Mom was horrified that I’d developed the angry red marks all over my face.

“I just don’t understand where these zits are coming from,” she’d say.

“I never had acne when I was growing up.9 Why do you have it? Don’t you wash your face?”

My Dad told her gently and repeatedly that he’d had acne so it was likely due to his genes. He even apologised to me but I still felt overwhelming shame about my face and just wished I could melt away for good.

My Mom made it her mission to rid me of my acne. She bought me various facial cleansers, skin buffs and wipes and spot treatments. She had the best intentions but I felt it hard to hold back tears when she’d pull me in close on a daily basis to get a better look at my skin, ask how I thought the latest miracle cure was working, inevitably mutter that we’d have to try something else and nudge me in the direction of the bathroom with orders to, “go scrub your face.”

As puberty progressed so too did the volcanoes that pushed up through my epidermis and eroded my visage. The kids at school got meaner and my Mom grew more frantic about my affliction. There was no where for me to hide. I longed to cover all mirrors and began to keep my head down, hoping no one would see me, wishing for a safe place.

My Mom kept leveling up from the drug store, to the cosmetics counter, and finally to endless doctors appointments to try bigger, badder, stronger cleansers, creams, toners, lotions, potions and pills.

It was bad enough that I couldn’t exchange my face for another. It was bad enough the kids at school kept tormenting me. It was bad enough my Mom accused me of not scrubbing my face enough, of not caring about my skin, of being ugly. It was bad enough, it was bad enough, it was more than enough and there was no escaping my face.

Mercifully by half way through grade 7 almost everyone’s skin was as bad as mine or worse so the kids stopped teasing. I managed to find a group of friend who thought my weirdness was cool and I finally began to fit in for not fitting in. I discovered make-up and fashion and my Mom eased up.

I still get the occasional pimple but age seemed to be the cure for my acne. I’m still extreamly self conscious though and my self esteem, on a good day, hovers somewhere between crap and shit.

I assume people won’t like me or they’ll mock me or I’ll say the wrong thing. I always say the wrong thing. I’m ashamed of my ugly face, and unwashed hair, and too thick thighs. I’m ashamed that I’m still ashamed of myself. Years of therapy and I still haven’t fixed me.

Most of all I’m embarrassed and ashamed of partially blaming my Mom for my low self esteem. She was just trying to help. She bent over backwards to find me help for my face. Even worse, she’s no longer here to defend herself. I’m speaking ill of the dead and I loved her with all my heart, I still love her with all my heart and I feel such shame for the blame that I feel.


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