Thawing out

At first, the flat feeling that comes after a depressive episode is a relief from the crushing feelings of sadness. I wouldn’t even call the flatness a feeling since feeling flat is essentially a lack of any full feelings at all.

I still have them, those things called feelings but mine are muted and unpredictable. I have to remind myself to put on a brave face most of the time and at least pretend to be happy for the sake of everyone else around me. Yesterday, which was Mother’s Day, a celebratory event, was rather torturous for me and it’s not because anything bad happened. It was a lovely day, beautiful weather at a fabulous brunch buffet with my family. But all I could think was “try to look happy, or at least try not to look so emotionless.” Having to constantly monitor my facial expressions and appropriate responses to conversation is exhausting. The day seemed like it was never going to end. Today, someone asked me how the food was and I couldn’t even say if I enjoyed it or not. I think my taste buds, along with my emotions have packed up and left the building.

My moments of just feeling normal again are unpredictable. Some days are good, others are not. I never know what the outcome of activities are going to be. Things that once made me feel good are not guaranteed to make me feel anything at all anymore. Going for a walk down by the lake and taking some pictures which was once a sure thing for me, now produces only a hint of what used to be there – it’s right there in front of me but just out of my reach.

I do still care enough to maintain. My job keeps me busy and I like it, so I know I am still capable of some positive emotions. I just wish it would happen more often and outside of work.

I have started to see a therapist who told me that this emotional flatness is a part of depression and it might take me some time to thaw out, so to speak.

Just last week the east side of the lake was still covered with sheets of ice and chunks of snow on the shoreline. This week the ice is gone, the snow has melted and the water is wide open. Hopefully with consistent self-care, plenty of patience and a lot less of being so damn hard on myself, I might start to thaw out too soon.

photo (4)

Follow me on Instagram: @bearheartwoman

 

How quickly I forget

I talked myself into going for a walk tonight because I was bored. Boredom tends to lead to over thinking, which leads to worry, which leads to anxiety, which leads to…well, you know how that goes.

I’m sure glad I forced myself out the door because it was a beautiful sunset tonight.

I think I remember why I love this little piece of Northern Ontario…

photo 2 photo 3

 

All photos were taken and edited by me on my iPhone 5.

Follow me on Instagram: @bearheartwoman

The bear comes out of hibernation

The snow and ice have melted and the local falls are roaring

The snow and ice have melted and the local falls are roaring

Depression is a difficult thing to live with and keep under control. Managing my mood is part of my daily maintenance that I have to keep ahead of. Sometimes it’s hard to wear all those hats of who I am – mother, daughter, community member, social worker, social justice advocate, writer…depressive.

I have written before about my struggles with S.A.D. but I have recently come to realize that my depression has so much more to it than just the season. I suppose moving back to where I grew up has made me see that and although it has been hard to face, I think it is better for me to deal with it and work on my personal healing in my home community.

I went through a pretty dark depressive episode this winter. I haven’t felt that way in years and it scared me. Depression is something that has haunted me since my early twenties and I think there has always been a part of me that has feared the darkness overcoming me again. I’m feeling better now, but I realize that taking care of myself has to be my top priority.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I feel like I am coming out of the other side of the depression tunnel and things are looking up. I love my new job. It took some time to find my niche and fit in, but now I am feeling comfortable and I have some great ideas and projects to work on. One of the most exciting things about my job is that I have an opportunity to write for the community newsletter and I’m hoping to get an agency blog started. It’s not a big deal really, but it’s something that makes me feel good and well, I’m a writer at heart so any chance to share my writing is welcome.

Moving my family out of the city to a small town has been harder than I thought it would be. But all in all, everything is good. The kids are happy, I have a job that I love and the long winter is finally over. Spring has arrived.

I’m looking forward to doing some spring cleaning and finding happiness in the simplicity of daily life.

Follow me on Instagram: @bearheartwoman

The monsters under the bed

20131023-115627.jpg

Every day I wonder if I made the right decision by moving back home. Yes, there are many wonderful, new and positive things happening in the community, but there are also the same old negative and unhealthy habits that I left so I could get away from them.

​In my last blog post, I spoke of lateral violence and the poison that this behavior injects into the community. Coming home after being away for so many years means having to face that monster all over again. It’s disheartening to see that it hasn’t changed much. Coming home also means having to face personal monsters (family dysfunction) and the historical roots of oppression that have had long lingering effects on generations of families in the Aboriginal population.

​Indian Residential schools, political battles, racism, ignorance, apathy, denial and in-fighting are all ugly things I can’t avoid anymore, especially now that I am living and working in such a small community. Living in Toronto, it was easy for me to go to work, do my job and then leave, disappear into the city and go home.

​It’s not like that here and I feel that I stick out like a sore thumb. That is just one of many reasons why I have doubts about my decision. Do I really want to deal with all this stuff all over again? Do I really want to expose my children to all the things that made me leave in the first place?

​If I’m going to be really honest, I would have to say that no, I don’t want to deal with it all over again. But I’m a different person now than I was when I left. I have skills, I have experience, I have something to contribute and something to say and I don’t want to let my old fear and my doubts silence the Voice I fought so hard to reclaim.

​The fact is that I chose to come back here because I felt compelled to do so and I firmly believe that this is where I am meant to be, right here, right now. All the negative stuff might still be here and the monsters are lingering under my bed and in the closets, but I’m a stronger person than I was before and better equipped to look those monsters in the eye and scare them off for good.

I’m all grown up now.

An antidote for Lateral Violence

photo (2)

I have been away from my home community for several years. I have had the opportunity to see and do a lot of things. I have travelled and lived abroad, and I have worked in the urban Aboriginal community for a long time and learned a lot of things I probably would have never known had I not left my home.

Returning home, I have eyes that see clearer and wider and I think I can recognize certain things that other community members might not see because they are so enmeshed in…well, the community.

I’ve had my share of gossip and back stabbing. I not only experienced it here where I grew up, but also in my workplace where I almost let the lateral violence destroy me. If you don’t know the term, please check out this link for a quick description on what it is. This behaviour occurs in other groups of people as well, but for this purpose, I am focusing on the Aboriginal population.

In short, lateral violence is basically when a historically oppressed group of people start to act out rage, anger and frustration on each other.  This shows up as gossip, blaming, shaming and back stabbing. It contributes to marriage breakdowns, loss of jobs, alcoholism and drug addiction, just to name a few. This in turn, keeps each other down and perpetuates a vicious cycle of mental, emotional and spiritual violence.

One of the sad things that I have learned since moving back home is that lateral violence is a way of life up here. I won’t say everyone, but a lot of people have never known any other way of relating to others except to tease, blame, shame and gossip about those they don’t like or are jealous of. Even my children have experienced this behavior from other children in the community. This in particular really angers me as we always hear our elders say that our children are our future, so shouldn’t we be teaching them about being open and honest and acting with empathy and integrity?

I have also encountered this since moving back home. It’s a fine line to tread between doing the right thing and unknowingly participating in this invisible poison. It seems like an uphill battle to try and undo the damage that has been done.

I’m not perfect either and I don’t know all the answers. I do know that it takes more than one person and more than just ignoring it to put a stop to it. Already I have had to confront someone who was whispering untruths about me behind my back. I did my best to be straight up but not mean about it. It was scary but I’m glad I did it when I first caught wind of it. I expect a much different outcome in my relationship with this person now that I confronted it head on. I hope the outcome is positive.

It doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but I think confronting it in a good way makes a profound difference. The damage done by lateral violence can’t be changed overnight especially when most people don’t see what it is because they are right in the thick of it. Those of us that do see it and know the difference, will humbly continue to do the powerful work of pointing it out and saying so.

A sense of belonging

photo (1)

I just started my fourth week of my new job and so far I can say that I love it. I can’t get into too much details, but basically my work mandate is Violence Against Women which embodies individual counseling, advocacy and educational group programs. Our mandate is for Aboriginal/First Nations women, however we are inclusive and our services are open to all women who need it.

Besides my new job, there have been a few blips on my radar with our move and the kids getting used to our new lives away from the city, but all in all it’s going really well.

It’s kind of weird being back home. When I first left here several years ago, I walked out of my parents house with two bags and the clothes on my back vowing to never come back to live. I felt even more strongly about this after I had my own kids, thinking that raising them off the reserve was better for them. In many ways, this was the best choice for my children and for me. I love my home, however if you know anything about the history of colonization and First Nations in Canada, you will know that life on a native reserve can be fraught with trauma and heartbreak. I certainly experienced this growing up here and what parent doesn’t want to protect their children from that?

photo (3)

But I think I have let my own personal trauma cloud my vision for many years, and now after being away from here for so long, I have returned and I see things differently. Yes, there are some problems, but I think we are fortunate because my First Nation community is not isolated (which I think has a lot to do with problems like alcoholism and drug addiction), we have a huge land base, economically things are on the upswing and our leadership is modern and progressive. I am proud of where I am from and it feels like the right place for me to be right now. I think I have something of value to contribute.

Basically, what I am saying is that things have changed for the better and are continuing to evolve into bigger and better things. I feel hopeful and optimistic.

I have attended some community functions and it feels good to be back. It’s also good to be amongst my huge extended family, and it’s great to see my kids experience the outdoors the way I did when I was a child.

I enjoy and need my family, and for the first time in my life I realize that not only do I also enjoy and need my community around me, but that my community might actually need me too…

photo

All photos are my own, taken and edited on my iPhone5. Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/bearheartwoman

Full moon reflections

Faithful orbit...

Faithful orbit…

I have not done any writing in a long time. Now that I have started my new job and my kids are in school, I need make some time for writing again. I’m kind of lost without it.

Our big move is in process and we are getting used to our new life out of the city. We have all had some little blips to deal with. We were all happy and excited about the move in the beginning, but now that we are getting used to our new routines, job, school and friends (or lack of), reality sets in and some challenges have come up.

At the moment, it’s mostly my son who is having a hard time adjusting. He was doing great at first but now he is having a difficult time at school. It mainly has to do with the fact that he has no one to play with at recess and he is bored and lonely. The last two days he has cried about not wanting to go to school. Obviously this is very concerning for me, so I sent a note to his teacher this morning. I haven’t heard from her yet so I can only hope that he gave it to her and that she was able to address the situation. No parent wants to see their child cry because they have no friends.

My daughter is doing better. She had a situation over the weekend with someone who she thought was her friend. Honestly, I was cautious with this child from the beginning and her behavior last weekend confirmed my suspicions. I know this is harsh to say about a child, but for some very complicated reasons, she is not to be trusted. But since we live in the same community, they get on the school bus together and are in the same class, my daughter has to learn how to deal with her in a good way so there won’t be problems at school. My girl is very emotionally mature,intelligent and empathetic. I am confident that she will learn this tough lesson. It’s hard enough for adults to deal with this let alone an eleven year old child. Once again I am reminded of the bitter life lesson of keeping your friends close, but keeping your enemies closer. It’s not nice but sometimes that’s the way it is.

I have to keep reminding myself of all the positive reasons for why I made the decision to move up here. Changes, even really really good ones are not without some wrinkles to iron out.

Perhaps it is this full moon that is playing tricks on us and magnifying all of our emotions…