A couple days ago I had a hardcore anxiety attack--the first one I've had in a very long time--and I think I know why it happened.
I had planned a self care day on Friday. My body and mind have been feeling so taxed, and I thought it would be nice to try some new methods of healing. I booked an appointment with an acupuncturist at the yoga/acupuncture clinic down the road. I've never had acupuncture, but I heard that it's helpful in terms of healing from trauma as well as great for physical pain and sinusitis (all of which I've been trying to manage). I had a terrible sleep the night before and was feeling extremely ungrounded. I really wasn't feeling up to it, but I convinced myself to go to my appointment because it was going to be good for me.
On the walk down to my appointment, I felt scared, exhausted and overwhelmed, but I kept on walking. It was going to be good for me.
Upon entering the studio, I was welcomed by two friendly women who worked there. One took my payment, then explained the process. She asked me to take off my boots and hang up my jacket, then she poured me a cup of herbal tea. She asked if I could roll my jeans up over my knees and I said no, so she gave me an on-loan pair of yoga pants. That immediately took me out of any comfort zone that I was attempting to develop, but I thought I would just go along with it, get changed and try to ground myself. As I sat in the waiting area, sipping my tea and reading the pamphlets about community acupuncture, I began to feel completely out of place.
I knew that there would be others in the room because I read about it on the website, but being there at the studio, seeing others walking around barefoot in yoga pants seeming at peace, made me realize how far from that I was. On top of that, I kept hearing OMMMMMMMMMMMMM from the room behind me, and it was freaking me out. I wish that I were in a place where those sounds and those people could help me find peace and open up to a new way of being, but I felt completely closed off.
I tried hard to focus on my breathing and to keep drinking my tea, but I began to have a coughing fit. Then I started to feel extremely anxious about my coughing and became paranoid about how others would perceive me, and how my energy was quite the opposite of relaxing and was likely disturbing others who were trying to heal and enjoy their space.
My heart was racing and I felt like I couldn't breathe. My throat was closing up. I knew then that I had to leave. My mind was fighting me every step of the way as I retreated into the bathroom and changed back into my jeans, but I knew that I had to listen to my body and keep myself safe.
As I exited the bathroom, I was met by the kind woman from the front desk who said "and here is your new patient" to another woman. I said "I'm sorry, I have to go." Both of the women were empathetic when I explained what was happening, and the acupuncturist even mentioned how acupuncture can help with all of those things. But I just wasn't ready. I thanked them for their time and said that it just wasn't going to work for me today. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. The woman offered a refund, and as it was processing she asked if it was something they said or did that made me feel uncomfortable. I felt awful. They were quite wonderful, really. It was me. I explained that I was working on processing some trauma, and how I thought this would help me on my road to recovery, but I just wasn't ready. At this point I could barely talk because I couldn't breathe. The woman was so kind and even said that she was glad I trusted my intuition.
As soon as I walked around the corner outside, I burst into tears. I put my umbrella up even though the rain had stopped and used it as a shield. I cried all the way home. Cried and hyperventilated. I stopped on a street nearby and worked on catching my breath. I paused at the free library you see in the image above. The message on the door rang true. I need time to step away from things for a while. I need to allow space to grieve and to rest. The healing will be a process, but right now I just need to sit and listen to what my body is trying to tell me.
There will come a time when stepping out of my comfort zone will be essential to my recovery and quite necessary in terms of working toward my goals, but right now is not the time. It's hard to accept that, because we often want to better things immediately and make those big changes that will launch us into a new chapter, but I need to accept where I am right now and know that the time will come when I will be able to do all that. I need to trust that I can and will accomplish the things I desire to do in good time. For the past several months, and especially in the past few weeks, I've felt a pressure to get things done that I've never felt before. An urgency. But I have to trust that I will have the time I need. That it will be ok.
I recently started reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, and I think it's making me more aware of the messages my body is trying to send me. Trauma and painful emotions get stored in the body, and ignoring the signals will only make things worse. Clearly. I mean, I was literally just reading this book the night before my appointment, and still attempted to ignore the messages. But it's ok that I did. It's not as though I'm going to change overnight. It sure would be nice, though.
Two weeks ago I lost a true friend, and it feels much worse than I could have imagined. I thought I was prepared as I knew the day was growing near, but it turns out you just can't prepare for something like this.
Last August began with promise--Ben was going to be moving in to the suite downstairs at the end of the month, and we were all so excited for a new beginning and many pizza/movie nights in our future. But only days after he moved in, before the boxes were even unpacked, we received some startling news. He had been struggling with debilitating back pain for a while, and it reached a point where he knew it had to be looked at, so he took himself to the hospital. Ben had texted James late one night, saying that he was in emergency waiting to see a doctor. We were very concerned, but figured he would have a scan done and get some treatment, and everything would be ok. It wasn't like that at all.
The next morning, I woke up to a text from Ben, asking if James and I were awake and ready to take a phone call. He wanted to put us on speaker so we could all talk. I swear my heart stopped when I read the message, but I told him that we were ready, and we both sat on the couch, nervous as hell, waiting for my phone to ring. It happened almost immediately. He said that he had something to tell us, and that it was pretty heavy. He said that the doctor did a scan, and it showed that he had cancer. I must have blurted out something like OH MY GOD! James and I asked him what we were up against and he said "It's pretty bad, it's everywhere." I just bursted into tears as I typed that, probably because I tried so hard not to cry when he initially said it and now I feel like I have no reason not to cry. The three of us talked for a short while, and I promised that he would not go through this alone. I think I kept that promise.
Later that day, James and I went up to see him at the hospital. At that point, nothing seemed real. It was Ben, in a hospital bed, being hilarious as always, despite being in a tremendous amount of pain. It just felt like he was going to be ok. I think in the early goings, we didn't really know what was expected. We weren't sure what treatment options were available and if they were going to help him or not or to what degree. Over the course of the next 4 months, he tried everything. We watched him bravely face every goddamn thing that was thrown his way. He had radiation, immunotherapy, was on and off of the most potent painkillers available. We sat at his bedside while the nurses administered blood transfusions, we went for walks with him, watching him use all of his strength just to move down the hallway, or even just from one side of his room to another. He did not give up. And he did not stop being funny.
I remember sitting with his family and friends at various times at the hospital when Ben was completely out of it, and he would still look over at me and say something that made me laugh. He would still fist pound and give high fives, and still gave the best hugs. The nurses and doctors loved him because he was so genuine and funny and kind and grateful for everything, even when it would have been so easy to be angry about what was happening. Every time I walked into that hospital room, he would smile and say "HELLOOOOO!" I would often arrive after work around 8 at night, and even when he was exhausted his face would light up and he would be as present as possible so that we could visit. It was worth it to be at his side, as difficult as it was, because it was still Ben. Even when he didn't look the same, his spirit was fully visible and vibrant.
For a short while, the treatments were helping him. He suddenly had some energy and colour in his face, and even gained some weight back. At the time I did not know, but people with terminal cancer often get better before they get worse. Sometimes sudden improvement is a sign that the end is near. I say this because it might help others to know, should they ever be in a similar situation. Reality sure can suck balls, but it's better to be aware of the balls rather than just have them come at you out of nowhere. Having said that, here I sit alone in my house. A house that he spent a great deal of time in, and I feel like I was run over by a bus. My body hurts, my heart hurts. I knew that this was coming. I saw the balls, but I didn't know how big they were.
As I look around this space, I still see him everywhere. He probably sat in every single seat in this house. I picture him laying down on the ground, making friends with Beans, or sitting across from me when I've had too much to drink, offering a comforting smile. I can hear his laughter and it makes me sad. I know that one day it will make me happy, but I still haven't processed that fact that I am never going to see my dear friend again.
Two weeks ago Ben died in this house, downstairs in his suite, surrounded by his family who were there for him during the toughest of times. I remember months ago when things were getting worse, being afraid of the possibility of him dying in our house. I thought I couldn't handle it. I thought that it would be too hard, too painful. But in the end, I was so glad that he was here. That he was able to feel peace in his own home. A home that James and I set up for him, imagining that he would have some time to enjoy it. More time than he ended up having. The last time I saw Ben I didn't know it would be the last time. We said I love you to each other, as we always did, but I didn't know that it would be the last time I would say it. If I did know, I'm not sure that I would have done anything differently, which I guess isn't a bad thing. I just wish that I had more time.
The morning Ben left this world, James and I were preparing to go downstairs and visit him, but while we were getting ready, we received a message from his mom, saying that he was gone. I can't describe what I was feeling at that moment, but I know there was pain. And I cried. I wish that I had gone to see him the day before, which I thought about doing, but I just didn't know that I wouldn't have another opportunity. I couldn't have known that. You just never know.
As I sit here at the computer, I have a wonderful view of the tree in our front yard. We have a bird feeder on it. Feeding the birds, squirrels, rats, mice, and whatever creatures may come along has always meant so much to me. It meant a lot to Ben, too. In fact, one of his favourite things to do while approaching the end was to sit in bed and watch the birds eating the seed. James and Tia, our lovely neighbour who lives downstairs, set up some bird feeders in plain view so that Ben could see them each day and enjoy watching the creatures come to visit. He really loved it. In fact, that was one of the last things we talked about. We were looking out his window, watching James and Tia hang another bird feeder up, closer to the window. He told me that he loved watching the birds and the squirrels. It brought him joy. I remember sitting there with him, watching him blow kisses at James and Tia. Watching the smile on his face as Enya filled his room with beautiful relaxing music. He was content in that moment, and that made me happy.
The day he died, I sat in my room, looking out the window. I said "Ben, if you're out there, would you give me a sign?" Immediately after, a bird flew right by my window. I gasped, then cried. I know, some of you shitheads are thinking well, duh, it's pretty likely that a bird would fly by. Sure, you keep thinking what you want, but I took it as a sign. The universe showing me that, although I will never see him again in person, I will always feel his presence. I will always know that he's here. And how wonderful to associate my beautiful friend with birds and squirrels, because I see them and hear them every day. I will constantly be reminded of Ben. Lately, when I'm feeling overwhelmed with emotional and physical pain, I try to focus on the birds chirping. On being present. On being alive. Because, as cliche as it sounds, I don't know how long I have here, and it's time to start seeing things differently.
I promise that I will start living my life the way I want. I will do more things that I enjoy. I will spend more time with those I love, with people who are supportive and who bring a loving energy into my life. And, I promise to keep my distance from the people who are unsupportive and who bring a negative energy around, because I just cannot be bothered anymore. I don't care. I promise to start caring more about myself and to take better care of myself, because I deserve it. Ben would have wanted it that way. In fact, I'm going to start asking myself more, what would Ben do? What would Ben say about this? How would Ben feel about this? I want to honour his life through the way I live mine.
Now I will leave you with a message Ben sent me years ago, followed by one of his favourite songs. A song I've thought of often over the past 4 months or so, but haven't been able to listen to. Now I will listen, and remember.
You are awesome
I am proud of you
I believe in you
Knowing you gives me strength
You will find the answers you seek
You are like a force of nature
Once unleashed, you are unstoppable
Clear decisive action
Do not fear your awesome
Thank you for speaking from your heart with me
You have a profound effect when you express yourself
You are worthy
You are powerful
It is you at the centre
You are awesome
This was Ben's message to me, which he sent completely out of nowhere, but it was really his message to everyone. He was kind, he was gentle, he was generous, he was encouraging, he was grateful, and so much more. He was a wonderful friend, and I hope to carry his energy with me and share it with the world.
Hang in there, baby! Whoever you are, wherever you are.
I wasn't going to post anything this month, because it's been such a tough one, but then I decided that maybe that's exactly why I should. Because, as much as I'm a bit of a loner, I don't want to be alone. More importantly, I don't want you to be.
That's why I'm popping in for a short little post. To let you know that you're not alone in this. Whatever you are going through, I'm right there with you (creepy). Even when I'm not available as much, please know, dear friends, that you are in my thoughts and in my heart (barf).
There are times when I've wanted to reach out, but felt like I had nothing to give. No energy, no love, no light. And that was probably true on occasion. But I know that that stuff doesn't go away forever. Tough times don't destroy the person you are. They might cause you to disappear for awhile, which is perfectly ok, but it's important to know that everything and everyone will still be there when you're ready to emerge. That's all I've got for now. I know it's not much, and it's super cheesy, which is to be expected, but I just needed to say it.
Please remember to be kind, gentle and caring. To yourself first, always, and then to those around you.
Now I leave you with a smile and a song, and I dedicate this post to a very special friend. My good buddy, Ben, who is always kind, gentle and caring to everyone, even during the most difficult of times. Ben, you are brave and strong, and I am proud to call you my friend. Keep on truckin' ya hear?!
I know, I know.
Wow guys, it has been a loooooong time since I last posted anything on here. Shit's getting mouldy!
Some of you may be wondering where I've been or what's going on, so here's the deal. I've kind of been hiding out in a dark place. Things have been really heavy. I actually didn't realize how long my depression had a hold on me until I started writing this post and noticed when I published the last one. This may well be the longest depressive episode I've ever grappled with, and I'm still trying to figure out what brought it on, and also how I managed to survive.
The more I think about the latter, the more I feel in my heart that, once again, animals have saved my life. Don't get me wrong, I have some wonderful people in my life who have been here supporting me, making me laugh and making sure my basic needs have been met. But there have been some times when I couldn't choke back the tears, when I truly felt that I couldn't go on, and those were the times when a creature would appear. I just started crying thinking about it, because it seemed to happen right on cue, like the animal kingdom has sensed my desperation and lack of hope and have been lending a hand (or paw). It's quite remarkable, really, and I am so incredibly grateful.
Recently, I was gifted a set of Animal Spirits Knowledge Cards, and I thought it would be cool to pull out the cards that represent the animals I've been accompanied by the most during this difficult time. You might think this is cheesy, but cheesiness is a big part of my character, so I'm gonna let it rip. I actually think this stuff is fascinating, especially the First Nations symbolism, so I am listing some excerpts from the knowledge cards below, as well as my experiences with the creatures. Side note: there is no rat card, and I would have included that one if there was, because I love rodents and have seen a few rats lately, which has made me happy. I don't see rodents as often as I would like to, but when I do I squeal like a mouse and get super excited. I've had around 20 pet mice over the years and have many fond memories of them.
Butterfly: transformation, joy, lightness, rebirth. Butterflies are everywhere in the summertime, so it's not like this is such an incredible thing to see, but it's the timing that's been special. Whether I've been sitting on my front porch in tears or wandering the neighbourhood bewildered, they have fluttered into view and taken my mind to a better place.
Heron: life, feminine energy, renewal. In ancient Egypt, the heron was the first transformer of the human soul after death. It was seen in flight over the fields when the Nile began to flood and is associated with fertility and renewal of life. The blue heron is fairly common around here, as they are water birds and I live on an island, but lately I've been seeing them in flight all over the place. I'll suddenly feel prompted to look up at the sky and I will see a heron. I don't know why, but it's been a special feeling. I used to feed a blue heron and I think of him often.
Rabbit: power, abundance, heroism, seasons, cycle of life. Many Native American rabbit myths tell of the hare returning the sun to the sky and restoring warmth. Bunnies have been bouncing in and out of view often during the past few months. I usually catch them in passing, just for a second, but in that short amount of time my heart is full of warmth and joy.
Crow: renewal, transformation, magic, abundance. A First Nations legend tells of a white crow that warns the buffalo every time hunters approach, leading to his own hunger. The hunters capture the crow and throw him into a fire, but he escapes, emerging blackened by the flames. Black becomes his permanent colour. Going forward, the crow knows to focus on himself and stop warning the buffalo. There are many crows in my neighbourhood. I talk to them often, and they are not afraid to talk back. I've always thought they were a special bird, and I feel comforted seeing them when I'm on my walks.
Spider: protection, aid, wisdom. Southwest Native American peoples associate the spider with a grandmother spirit who lives underground and rises from her realm to offer advice, particularly before a dangerous undertaking. My views on these fascinating creatures have changed drastically from my mortification and disgust to intrigue and respect (I'm still scared of the big ones, though). Some of you may already know that I have a pet spider of sorts who lives in my bedroom. His name is Sweetie Petey, and we get along. We give each other space, for the most part, and I say hello and goodnight to him regularly.
Cat: independence, magic, abundance. From divinity to witchcraft, cats have symbolized just about everything, and they have always had a special place in my heart. I grew up with cats (Rebel, Priscilla and Pebbles) and currently enjoy the company of my fur baby, Beans. She jumps up on my bed when I'm feeling alone and shows me love, when she's not biting my ankles. Along with Beans, the neighbourhood cats constantly pay me visits and continue to brighten my days.
Deer: instinctual energy, independence, regeneration. Graceful, swift and elusive, the deer symbolizes nature's powers that are not easily subdued. A deer is also a symbol that summons individuals to a calling or journey. In the legend of King Arthur, a deer leads Sir Gawain into the woods to begin his adventures (shout out to all the other English majors out there). It is no secret that I adore deer. I spend a great deal of time with them, lately more so than ever. They are so majestic and gentle and I always feel at ease when I'm close to them. In times of heartache and despair they have been around and I consider them to be like family.
Ok, that was kind of a lot there, but hopefully some of you enjoyed reading about animal symbolism and how these creatures can be a powerful source of comfort when needed most. I will leave you with this image of a beautiful buck I spent time with this morning. I now know him as Jeffery, and he's a good boy.
As I work on pulling myself from the muck, I'm going to write more and post more on this blog, so hopefully you'll be hearing from me soon.
Thanks for tuning in!
It's Spring, dear readers! Things are blooming and transitioning and love is in the air! So why do I feel so fucking awkward and unsettled? I hope I'm not alone here. Actually, I hope I am because this really fucking sucks.
I'm currently in this weird state where it seems like everything's changing, yet everything stays the same. I think I may be having withdrawals from therapy. Yes, the sessions with my amazing therapist have ended as the nonprofit counselling office gives you a certain amount of sessions to help you on your way. While I am super grateful, I feel like I need more help...or do I?
Maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe I'm just too damn scared to realize that I actually have the skills to get myself through this, that I have what it takes to be ok. I can't believe that I just said that because let me tell you, my mind has been crafting another story. It's one of those boring old tales about how I'm not good enough and not strong enough and that I'm never going to be happy.
The thing is, even though I know that those nasty thoughts aren't the truth, sometimes it's almost easier to give up and just accept what's being said. At least it's something I'm used to. Change is hard. It's awkward and uncomfortable and scary as all hell, but it's necessary. I know this and yet I still want to hang the towel at the end of the hockey stick (shoutout to Roger Neilson, RIP).
But here's the thing about that towel. It became a major inspiration. I'm sure many of you know the story about Roger, then Canucks' head coach, hanging a white towel at the end of a stick to symbolize a surrender to the refs for the lopsided officiating, and the Canucks fans showing up to the next game waving white towels (yes, that's where it all began, but of course the terrible towel came first #Steelers). Long story short, the Canucks won that series against the Blackhawks and ended up reaching their first Stanley Cup Final. Sure, they got swept by the Islanders, but who's keeping score? The point is, surrender doesn't have to be a bad thing.
A statue of the late great Roger Neilson outside Roger's Arena in Vancouver
I was just getting emotional about the Canucks, then noticed Ryan Kesler's face on the flag in the image above. Haha. Bye, bitch! Anyway, back to the Canucks. There's a reason why they come to mind as I write this blog post. Earlier this month, Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired and it has me all broken up inside. I was upset when I heard the news, no question, but watching their final game was gutting. I fucking bawled. Like, ugly cried through the entire game. Snotted everywhere. I sobbed. I felt like a kid. A kid whose cat just died, and everyone is talking about how wonderful the cat was, but I'm like, COME BACK, KITTY!!!
Look at these goofy kids! I remember the day they were drafted so well. It was such a cool moment. The Sedins ended up being the best players we've ever had. I'm crying. I can't help it. I just keep crying. It's just so hard to accept but I have to accept it. I chatted with a friend and fellow Canucks fan about it, and he agreed that it was like watching a part of ourselves disintegrate before our eyes. It was quite painful, really. But it needed to happen. Watching that game and shedding those tears was like therapy in a sense. I was fully engaged with my emotions and wasn't trying to hold anything back. All of my feelings were flooding out. My fears, my heartache, my memories were running down my face with my mascara.
The Sedins' retirement was a stark reminder of the fact that things cannot stay the same. Life is fluid and we have to keep moving. People get older and their needs change as they go through the different stages of their lives, and then they die. We die. I swear I won't be so morbid in my next post. Actually, I probably will. Anyway, the day before the Sedins' last game, my friend's four year old daughter turned to me and said "Kenna, do you know that when you get really old you die?" I told her that I did know and that it's a good thing we're not really old, because that means we probably won't die anytime soon. But what I didn't tell her is that sometimes I feel really old. Like, old enough to die. But I think that's probably because I am just so run down and exhausted from fighting.
See, I'm going through a major period of transition in my life and I'm kinda stumbling around with a clunky heaviness as the whole process seems so unnatural. I feel actual physical pain from the whole thing, and I keep getting sick. I'm starting to realize something, though. Maybe these physical symptoms are rooted in my mental struggles. What if I just let go? What happens when you give in and just let whatever is be? What if I were to stop struggling altogether and surrender? That's a lot of what ifs, but maybe there's something there. Also, perhaps if we start being gentle and kind to ourselves and just let our feelings be--dare to sit with them for a while--we will begin to understand ourselves more. Maybe even love ourselves. Maybe if I treated myself with the tenderness and compassion of an inch worm on my fingernail I'd be better off.
Alright, things are getting corny over here, folks. But what if I'm right? What if I just sat here and cried a while longer? What would be the harm in that? I don't have plans tonight, anyway.
I wish you'd come back to me and sit by my side
We'd laugh and we'd play again, if only you'll try
I'm sure most of you are aware of the fact that I spend a great deal of time in cemeteries. I've always enjoyed walking around, reading books, writing in my journal and listening to music while on a cemetery bench. Or sometimes I just stroll in silence or sit and stare, often at nothing in particular. It's nice.
I am lucky enough to live about a five minute walk from one of Canada's oldest Victorian cemeteries, that happens to be right across from the ocean. Recently, I've decided to step up my cemetery game by going for a walk through Ross Bay every morning before work. It's a good way to ground myself before the work day begins, and also get some exercise. There's something about breathing in the fresh salty air while being within the grounds that makes me feel relaxed. And on those days when I'm feeling particularly alone, I always seem to discover that I'm not.
I never stop being amazed by the fact that, not only do birds, squirrels and raccoons take up residence in this wonderful place, but there's a family of deer that frequent this spot. Sometimes I'll see them eating or wandering, or resting under a tree, and on a couple occasions I've seen a doe feeding a fawn. It's quite magical, really. I swear that every time I stroll through Ross Bay I stumble upon something that fills my heart with joy. Something that keeps me going.
I used to mostly stick to the paths and walkways, but now I often find myself walking right through the graves. Not just between them, but right on them. Sometimes I stand on top and let my my feet sink in, and if the ground isn't wet, I'll sit down. For me, it's a means of getting closer. Getting to know the people who are buried here. I'm starting to learn their names and taking the time to read the inscriptions on their tombstones and plaques. My goal this year is to memorize the names of the people who rest in Ross Bay by spending time at each grave. I'm sure I could just look at a map and figure out where everyone is, but I would rather be more hands-on in my approach. I will certainly have to do some research as many of the inscriptions have not stood the test of time, but I look forward to it. It's a fun project to take on. One that means a lot to me.
Here is a snapshot from a morning in Ross Bay. Trees and shrubs used to line the edges so you couldn't see the ocean like this. I used to think that I would hate it if they were removed, but it turns out that I really like it. That seems strangely symbolic to me right now, removing what's blocking the way in order to see clearly. Alright, alright, I'll stop. Here's some King Diamond. Now go get some fresh air.
I never wanted to believe that someday we would have our own X-file, but here we are. A while back, at the beginning of summer, I did something scary. I sat down with my partner in crime of four years to talk about how things weren't working and how we needed to make a plan to move forward. Although he agreed and we had a very calm, mature conversation, it was still painful.
I've had my share of breakups and whatnot, but walking away from this is entirely different. I'll spare you the drawn out relationship recap and just say that things essentially changed directions. We had previously acknowledged it and made attempts at steering things back, but to no avail. It was about as exhausting as watching the Steelers try to slay the dragon in the AFC championship game last year, and equally difficult to accept.
You see, James is the Mulder to my Scully, but we had shifted into these weird roles and it began to feel more like Mulder and Scully in the "Arcadia" episode when they pretend to be husband and wife, only less funny.
It's like we were pretending to be a couple for so long, when in actuality we were just friends. Friends who slept in the same bed, rolled away from each other. And you know what, our friendship suffered too, because we'd been holding in so many feelings and weren't really being authentic. It's so easy to allow yourself to become resentful and bitter when things aren't what you want them to be. I mean, how could this not work? We both love and respect each other so much and enjoy each other's company, but we're not in love. Isn't that the way these relationship things end up eventually? I suppose it really doesn't matter if the answer is yes or no, because neither one of us was satisfied, and we both deserve better.
During this transitional time, we continue to live together as roommates, trying to be supportive, encouraging and respectful. But it's not easy. This holiday season has made things particularly emotional. Stockings with our names hang above the fireplace, Beans' in the middle. That's the other thing...it's not just us. Yes, a cat is different than a child, but at least things can be explained to a child. Beans has been adjusting to the fact that mommy and daddy sleep in different rooms now. She always begins the night with James, then sleeps the rest of the time on me. She's clearly trying to divide her attention evenly, which is both heartwarming and sad. I wish I could explain things to her. I also wish that I knew what was coming. Where Beans was going to end up. Unfortunately, I don't.
But I guess nobody really knows what's coming, right? And this scenario is not a tragedy. I live with my best friend, and most the time it's ok. It's expensive to live in Victoria, so we're taking advantage of what we have--a great affordable place in a fantastic neighbourhood, blocks away from the ocean and the most beautiful cemetery. I feel incredibly grateful for that. Sincerely. But then there's the part of me that knows that this is temporary, and that at any moment it's all going to change. This is not good for my anxiety.
My depression has also ramped up big time and my therapist suggests I try antidepressants for a while. I'm seriously considering it, though it's scary because I've never taken pharmaceuticals for these conditions. Also, I recently went back on The Pill for health reasons and it's been absolute fucking hell. But the thing is, I've been through hell before. I try to remind myself of that often, but sometimes a voice interrupts and says "You're such a loser. You never make anything work. You don't even know what you want to do with your life." Thankfully, I'm learning to interrupt that voice with the occasional FUCK OFF, and I've even started to interrupt with something I thought I'd never say...I've got what it takes.
That's the real me. But sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I buy into the idea that I can't do this. That I can't get through it and I've got nothing to look forward to. I have to believe that that's not true. That I'm not really stuck. That I can do this dance and will be fine, even if I'm just dancing with myself (cue Billy Idol). To anyone else who's stumbling, trying to find their footing, remember that you do have what it takes to keep going. There's so much good stuff ahead, even if you can't see it yet. I'm looking forward to celebrating with you, dear friends, and hopefully celebrating a Steelers Super Bowl win. Here we go!
It's officially Halloweekend, folks! I bet most of you are putting the finishing touches on your costumes, maybe going to a party, carving pumpkins, watching horror movies and Stranger Things, and probably checking to see how many boxes of Halloween candy you need to replace (I know I've been on a Reese's/Wonka diet all month). As for me, there will be pumpkin carving and horror movies for sure, but I'm not feeling the party scene. I think it's partly due to the fact that I've been sick all month, and also because I've never really been into the party scene anyway. But last year I hosted a spooky gathering: A Nightmare On Kipling St. I dressed up as body bagged Tina Gray and it was a lot of fun. I met some great people that night, plus I didn't have to go anywhere.
The year before that was a different story. Two years ago today, I received an upsetting phone call--the most upsetting call I've ever received in my entire life, actually. A teenage girl I'm very close with called to tell me that her mother had died, that she had taken her own life. Because it's personal, I will not discuss the details of that call, but I could probably recite it word-for-word. I also won't discuss much else about the tragedy as I feel it's not really my story to tell, but I will say that it absolutely crushed me and the spirit of the season. I mean, I never expected to attend a funeral the day before Halloween.
By the time Halloween day arrived, I felt kind of numb. My Agent Scully costume stayed in the closet and my Mulder stayed at my side, as a Mulder should. I think we carved pumpkins at some point, but I honestly don't remember. I also don't recall any of the movies we watched or the decorations we put up. What I do recall is that feeling. Like I was in the upside down or something. Only it wasn't scary, it was just sad. Overwhelmingly sad. A kind of sadness I had never experienced before. I thought that nothing could make me smile. Luckily, I was wrong.
When the sun went down, the streets began to fill with children clumsily shuffling and clunking around in incredible costumes. I didn't think I would even be able to open the door and greet the kids with candy, but when Mulder answered the door and I heard "TRICK-OR-TREAT" something clicked. I wanted to see. I wanted to be there, and I'm so glad that I was. I can't tell you what they were dressed up as because I don't really remember, I just remember that feeling. I don't even know how to describe it, but I wasn't in the upside down anymore. One thing stands out for me, and it still makes me smile. This kid who I think was dressed as a ninja waved at me when I answered the door, then took off his mask. It was a boy I knew and he was so excited to see me and show me who he was. He even yelled at his mother to come and say hi. It was good to see them. It was good to see all of them. My face hurt from smiling that night. I felt like myself again.
This is the first time I've shared anything about what happened two years ago, and I'm not entirely sure why that is, but something told me that this is the day to do so. I've been hearing a lot of people say that they're not in the Halloween spirit this year and I get it. Sometimes it just doesn't seem to happen. But I want you to know something. If you love this time of year, you always will. That spirit doesn't go anywhere, sometimes it just hides behind a creepy mask. Here's hoping the mask comes off so you can see who you really are. Remember, you can't kill the boogeyman.
Those of you who know me understand, at least to a degree, my fascination with true crime. For those of you who don't know me, let's just say that one of the last faces I see before I fall asleep is Ted Bundy's. The last face is Gillian Anderson's, but that's beside the point. Ok, also, I must say that Bundy's face is on the cover of a true crime book, I don't have a poster of him or some shit. I'm weird, but not that weird.
A few weeks back, I decided to check out the series Killer Kids, one that surprisingly I had never seen. It was recommended to me because it features a lot of local and Canadian cases. I watched the first 4 episodes, which were pretty disturbing, but it wasn't the subject matter alone that bothered me. The show had this terrible narrative that blatantly targeted heavy metal music and horror movies as the catalysts for the brutal crimes. At first I was taken aback. It actually felt like a flashback to the 80's or something. "Should we blacklist heavy metal?" Huh? For real?! "She enjoyed watching horror movies and smoking the occasional joint." "He would drink beers and listen to Ozzy Osbourne." Shit son, you're talking about me!
It's really too bad because I quite liked the content, including the often cheesy reenactments (I live for that shit). There was one case in particular that really caught my attention. In 1995, A 14-year-old brutally murdered a 7-year-old boy, and claimed to be influenced by Satan... and the movie Warlock. It sounds terrible, but I actually laughed when that came up. I watched that movie when I was a kid and wasn't prompted to skin a boy, boil the skin and drink the water. I was also super surprised that I don't remember hearing of the case before. Probably most shocking and disturbing, aside from the gruesome details, was the fact that this little psycho was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The defense team insisted that he was not criminally responsible and the judge agreed. Must be all those damn horror movies.
Chances are I won't be revisiting Killer Kids for quite some time, or maybe ever again, but it's not just because the show pissed me off, it's because some of the featured cases reminded me of a horrifying murder that happened close to where I live.
In March, 2010, 18-year-old Kimberly Proctor was viciously attacked, bound, raped, tortured for hours and eventually murdered by two teenage boys. I won't mention their names, just like I didn't mention the name of the little prick from the Warlock case, because I just don't feel like it. If you are curious, there is a ton of information available online. I'm also going to spare you the grisly details of this murder because they are absolutely sickening, and it's not the reason I wanted to mention this case. The reason I wanted to write about it is because my friend and I recently visited Kim at the cemetery. Neither one of us had ever met her, but we both felt that she seemed a lot like we did in high school--the way she looked, the crowd she hung around with, her love of animals. Her murder will probably haunt me forever.
That day in the cemetery, we visited the mausoleum, specifically to pay respects to a girl we did know, albeit not very well, who was also murdered. It was incredibly sad but, in a way, peaceful. We began looking around at other people's urns, photos and tributes. There was a great deal of sports memorabilia on display, which made me smile. Redwings flags, 49ers stickers, Habs mugs. I started picturing my Jerome Bettis autographed picture, my terrible towel, my photo of Trevor Linden from 1994. I bet those things would be displayed beside my urn, my picture. It warmed my heart to see what was important to these people who are no longer here--what made them happy and excited and proud--whether it be a picture of their kids or a hockey puck. I felt privileged to be able to look in on their memories. It was special.
I guess that might be why I felt pretty upset when I came across an ignorant, insensitive post on Twitter recently. Someone seemingly making light of a true crime tragedy.
The tweet had the above image with the comment "I relate to Michael." I recognized the image immediately as a clip of notorious club kid/killer, Michael Alig. In 1996, Alig murdered his roommate, Andre "Angel" Melendez, chopped up his body and threw it into the Hudson River. He also happened to brag about the crime afterwards. Now, I don't think the person who posted that picture and comment was legitimately trying to be an asshole. In fact, I doubt very much that she even knows who Michael Alig is, but when people comment on your tweet, saying that the guy is actually a killer, you might want to either take it down or admit that you didn't know. Coming from someone who deems herself "the real queen of horror," I was a little surprised that she didn't have a bit more knowledge on this horrific case. Perhaps she should change her title to "the reel queen of horror," because it seems that most of her knowledge is within the realm of horror movies. And that's totally fine. But horror doesn't just exist in the movies.
Victoria residents were once again reminded of that when the body of a missing 25-year-old woman was discovered a few days ago, on the grounds of S.J. Willis school. The very school where I wrote my English 12 final exam with a girl I knew who would years later be murdered herself. The investigation into the murder of Euarchol Wanichpan is ongoing, with little information available to the public as of yet, but the details that have surfaced are disturbing and heartbreaking. I hope investigators are able to catch the sicko(s) responsible for Wanichpan's death, and I also hope that someday an arrest will be made for the murder of Lindsay Buziak.
If you have any information about either case, please contact the police in Victoria, or Crime Stoppers at http://victoriacrimestoppers.ca/ or 1-800-222-8477 (1-800-222-TIPS). And if any of you are able to contribute to the Go Fund Me page that was created for Euarchol Wanichpan's family, here is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/49g9s2o
I know this post was heavy, but I just needed to get it out. Maybe I'll write about something a little lighter next time. Until then, I leave you with this image, and I dedicate this post to Kimberly, Euar, Lindsay, Angel and their families, and anyone else who has had a loved one tragically taken from them.
I have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters -George A. Romero
Losing George last week was pretty devastating, I must say, but revisiting his films and reading interviews really got me thinking about zombies, monsters, and scary shit in the context of my own life. You see, I'm in the process of walking through hell. It's been a long walk, and it's nowhere near over. It all began because I had developed a habit of running. Running away from everything, even myself.
When I was a kid, maybe 8 years old, I was winning a race, but faked an injury near the end to ensure that I would not win. I'm sure that seems really weird and maybe even stupid. The part that bothers me the most is that it hasn't stopped happening. Self-sabotage. I guess that's what it is, but it goes beyond that. It's about fear. Fear of failure and fear of success. I kind of remember being in that moment; I recall running pretty fast and having a fair lead, and all these people, mostly kids, screaming. I was supposed to run through this specific area at the end and panicked a bit because I couldn't seem to figure it out. I don't think it was all that hard, but I was so afraid of making a mistake. That's part of it, and the other part was me being super awkward about the idea of winning something. I had very little experience with success and I honestly think I was too overwhelmed to cope. In the end, I let a runner pass, then another, and I consciously decided to come in third. Third is respectable, and didn't really warrant as much attention. I want to give myself credit for finishing the race, and also not hate on my behaviour, but I still shake my head when it comes to mind and think what the fuck?!
I brought that race up in a recent counselling session and, frankly, my therapist didn't seem all that surprised. I suppose that's because she's been given a small window into my past and has somehow found a way to piece things together. I never learned how to handle success or failure, or really much of anything useful when I was a child, and it's not so easy to teach yourself that stuff as an adult. Having said that, it's not impossible. The scary part is that you have to stop running. You must turn around and face the monsters because they are not going anywhere. They will continue to pursue, just like in the movies, and if you want to survive you're going to have to fight. After all, what character in a horror movie actually escapes by running alone? What happens, though, when you turn around, baseball bat clenched in hand (or machete or whatever) in preparation for the bloody battle, and you just see yourself?
That image also surfaced in a counselling session. My therapist likes to use scary analogies due to my love of horror. She's the best. Anyway, she told me to picture myself running away as fast as I can from the scariest monster imaginable but I begin to grow tired and lose speed. Eventually it becomes apparent that I cannot outrun this monster, so I decide to turn around and fight. When I turn around, I realize that it's actually just me as a child. I'm a mess, covered in dirt and blood, and I'm crying. As easy as it is to get pissed off at the childhood me--to yell at her, even push her down and maybe run away again--that won't stop her from crying, from chasing, from needing my help. As difficult, annoying and painful as it is, the only way to make her go away is to show her some love. To reach out my hand and say come on, let's go. It'll be OK.
Because it will be. Sometimes we become so accustomed to the darkness that we forget there's light. We become so preoccupied with the monsters that we aren't able to see that often those monsters are just us. That's what I always loved about Romero's zombies, the fact that they were so interchangeable with the living, and sometimes not nearly as scary. The ending to Night of the Living Dead immediately comes to mind. George Romero once said that, "if you can change one thing, everything will change." I am currently going through some pretty big changes and feeling incredibly thrown and lost and uncertain and scared and a lot of other things, too. I wanted to share this in hopes that I can reach even one person who feels equally displaced and confused, to tell them that somehow everything will be alright. I suppose maybe I'm also writing this to tell myself the same thing. To convince myself that I will emerge from the darkness and that I will be able to recognize myself, even if the me I see is a child covered in dirt, blood and tears.
I dedicate this post to George, and to anyone else who's running, fighting or hiding. Remember that you are not alone, even if you're only in the company of monsters.
I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!