Don’t worry

My new mantra that is pinned to the wall of my cubicle at work…

don't worry

I think it’s brilliant. I should set it up as a screensaver on my phone for quick access when I’m stuck on a crowded subway train, up to my earlobes in anxiety and on the verge of a meltdown.

Petting kitty cats when I get home helps ease the anxiety levels too though. Their gentle purrs somehow makes me feel like everything is going to be ok. Too bad I can’t bring them to work with me…

The Big Melt(down)

It’s been awhile since I have updated here. My life has been hectic in recent months and today it finally seems like I might have the time to sit down and have a good rest.

A lot is going on in my life at the moment…

Today I am 41 years old. I woke up this morning to Happy Birthday messages all over my Facebook. The truth is that I completely forgot about my birthday until I checked my phone this morning, which makes it official…I am old enough to not give a shit about my birthday! Yay!

Yesterday I started a new job in a familiar place. Two weeks ago my family and two very nervous cats moved into a new apartment in the city. Seven weeks ago my kids and I packed one bag each of clothing, dropped the cats off at my parents and drove 4 hours south to Toronto to stay with my husband in a hotel room for an undetermined amount of time and start over…again. Eight weeks ago I handed in my resignation for reasons I can’t talk about here.

Today I am sitting in downtown Toronto in my previous place of work, with a new job on my old team. My kids have adjusted to their new schools and being back in the city. There were lots of tears at first and it wasn’t easy, but they are happy again. Our new apartment is fabulous and HUGE and I am looking forward to hosting a dinner party for our friends. The cats were completely freaked out from the move but I can report that they are now happy and comfortable in the new pad. Actually, I was pretty freaked out by the whole thing too, but I am doing much, much better now. (Purrrrrrr)

This past year has been a long and hard journey. I am not sure why I had to go through it or what kind of lessons I can take from it. I am sure there are many gems of wisdom to gain from the experience but for now I am feeling incredibly grateful that my family and I made it through in one piece and everything has worked out better than I ever hoped for.

Depression still lurks around the corners and threatens to slip in through the cracks under my doorway. I have random anxiety attacks which have been difficult but I am learning to manage them. Despite it, I think I am doing much better than I was earlier this year. At least I don’t feel like a cardboard cut out of myself anymore and I got my feelings back. The problem is, my feelings are BIG and all over the place and I have zero control over them. Crying in public has never been my thing and now I have random outbursts of emotion which is the worst nightmare for a super self-control freak like myself. Yes, I get the lesson here. Putting a lid on your emotions is really, really bad for you. I just wish I can at least wait until I get home to cry over nothing.

But, I am doing better. The desire to write is a good sign of my old self and I look forward to sitting down and putting words together again. I can’t say that I am completely back to normal but honestly, I don’t think I will ever be the same again. Perhaps that is a good thing.

It was a hard year and the past two months have been a roller coaster off all kinds of emotions. The good news is that I am actually feeling real, full emotions again. They may not all be pretty and some of them are downright ugly, but in the midst of the big meltdown of every emotion that ever existed, I am feeling something that is vaguely familiar to me. I think it’s called Happiness.

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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.

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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…

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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

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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

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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.