Speak Love

18 days ago my 13 year old nephew, Justin took his own life. The way those words hurt to say or to write, rip through my heart and leave me in a dazed state. He had these sparkly eyes and this laugh that would make you laugh in spite of yourself. I keep expecting any day that he will come up those steps saying “Aunt Steph, you know what happened?”, or be sending his an uncle a text starting at 4pm “What’s for dinner?”. No one will ever replace him, and that part of my heart is just for him.

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Walking through extreme grief, you start to look inward for things you need to speak out about.

Bullying took my nephew away from me. He was the 2nd of 3 kids that have taken their life on the island I live on, because they were bullied for being different from the norm. I am different from the norm myself, but I am old enough to know that you can walk away from those that speak out against you. These kids feel like they can’t walk away or that they are walking alone in this journey.

First instinct is to blame the bullies. They do hold some of the blame, but it goes deeper than that. These bullies are being raised by parents. Maybe these parents don’t believe their child could say these hurtful things, or do these things that hurt people to the core of who they are. Maybe these parents do know, and they feel lost in the world, not sure where to turn.

In a world full of hate everywhere, its our responsibility as humans to speak love. We sensationalize hate, as a society we are failing each other, and the next generation. Turning on the TV every day to see another shooting at a school or everything that is wrong in the world is depressing. The heaviness of this hate is falling on the youngest in the world, and they can’t process the complexity of these emotions without support from us.

This must be a concentrated effort by all. It should be the most important fight in our life. As Parents, Educators, Mental Health Professionals, and Human Beings we need to combat this hate that is filling the schools and minds of our young people. The hardest part of this is admitting we are doing it wrong. Every time we say “I hate..” or any version of that phrase we are putting negativity out into the world. We need to recognize what this is doing to our youth. This is teaching them hate.

So my challenge to anyone that might be reading this. For your part in this concentrated effort to stop bullying and letting these kids know they are not alone, is just simply to start making the beauty and good in the world more important than hate. Really speak with an extreme amount of love so we can change the tide, and make no mistake about it, we CAN change the tide of hate speak. Every water drop coming together will make a flood. Love each other. Love those that are different than you, try to understand their differences, respect them, and let the way they see the world become part of who you are.

For my part, I am going to continue the fight for transgender rights that my nephew started. I am going to demand that we have a place for these kids (the bullied and the bullies) to get the help they need, this means continue my fight for mental health services. I will tell my daughter every day things that I love about her, about the world, about our life together. I will let her know she is not alone, I will give her options for people to speak with. I will do anything to protect her and all children.

How will you make a difference? How will you speak love into the world instead of hate?

 

January Writing Challenge: bunch of days missed

I find that writing re charges my soul. It lets me get out these thoughts that sometimes keep me awake for days at a time.

The temperature outside right now with wind chill is -15 C (5 F for my American family/friends). I am snuggled up inside a warm house rocking my olaf the snowman slippers. With a nice cup of hot tea and a soft throw blanket wrapped around me. It feels dream like in so many ways.

I am currently trying for a day of rest, I have been non stop for a while now and I am starting to feel it, and my house is starting to feel it too. Today I plan to rest, but I might have to fold laundry, and clean the bathroom, and vacuum…There isn’t such a thing as a day of rest for a working mother and wife.

I am a normal person, living a normal life, who has been extremely blessed.

Winter is a difficult time for me for many reasons, the holidays start out and make me feel like I am missing something. A deep hole that has been there since my sister passed away aches for the whole month of December with her birthday and how much she loved Christmas. Then I think back to the Christmas’ we had with my grandparents, and how some of those memories are the best memories I hold close to my heart, then the hole my Grandpa Stan left starts to ache and then the hole that my Grandpa Don left starts to ache too. With all this heart ache it makes me want to speed right through the holidays, not stopping to enjoy anything just trying to get passed it. Then I see my daughters face light up as the tree goes up, when she gets to buy presents for others, and when she gets the exact thing she wanted for Christmas. Then I remember that her spirit and her brightness can fill some of the holes that have been created.

I think its a very human instinct to want to hold onto the past because there are so many good memories that live there, but slowly we have to remember that the moments we are in now are going to become past memories too.

The days become shorter, and I find myself going to work when its dark and coming home when its dark. Either way I am missing the sun. The sun recharges me and holds my depression at bay.

Now the truth, working all the hours I have been working, from 12 hour days to 12 hour nights, I haven’t been looking after my mental health very well. My medication schedule is completely messed up, some days I am forgetting to take them for days on end, which is causing me to go into withdrawal. Withdrawal is this horrible place where my body starts to ache from top to bottom, my head spins constantly, tears come really easily, and I feel like I can’t take much more.

I haven’t been saying no to shifts because the money is nice. However, I am not being careful enough and feel like I am dropping into a black hole that is not going to be easy for me to get out of. That drop has a lot of impact on my family too.

It is far too easy to forget that depression is always there waiting to pounce. It’s easy to get into a routine of just pushing myself and pushing myself. Then it comes like a shadow and takes hold. The key to all of this though is that I realize this now, and now I can work to erase the effects I have been ignoring, and I know the tools I can use. The sun will come out tomorrow, and Ill be happy to see it.

If you or a friend suffer with depression, please remember to reach out to someone. This time of year is very tough, and having a support person is necessary! Don’t let your illness run your life, but also don’t forget that it is there or try to ignore it. Living a healthy life includes your mental health as well.

January Writing Challenge: Day 1 & 2

I am a day late starting this challenge. I had thought of writing on a more consistent basis because it helps me to get the words out so they don’t cling to my subconscious in a vicious manner, sometimes trying to destroy my good thoughts or to distract from the happiness I am trying to live in, in the moment.

Surely writing a page a day won’t be too difficult, even if it is utter nonsense that no one else cares about, I am committed to getting it out of my head and onto the page.

These long winter days play havoc on my mind, and my depression. Add to that a schedule at work of 12 hour shifts all over the place and 60+ hour work weeks and I have become a huge ball of emotions. I don’t see my husband enough, I don’t see my daughter enough, nor do I see my friends enough. I feel the time I do spend with any of them is not quality time because I am not myself, I feel over tired most days. The long dark days pull at my psyche telling me to hibernate until the long days of summer are here again.

The holidays are and honestly will always be hard for me. I have this push and pull in my heart. This push to make the holidays the best with my little family and make our own traditions. Then there is the pull wanting me to retreat into memories of past holidays, that usually make me feel like I am missing so many important things. I hate missing the holidays with my nephews and my niece because my sisters and I said we would always spend the holidays together with our kids. I know these hopes and dreams that you have when you are a small child shouldn’t hold you in an emotional prison when you are older, but when my sister died, I feel so locked into these things. Each year that I am not able to stick to this agreement we made before we were even old enough to start thinking about our own kids , I feel like I fall farther and farther away from my family.

I put this pressure on myself, that no one else puts on me, and then it puts me into this tailspin of over thinking, and feeling like I am not doing enough. The thing is…I am the only one even thinking about these things. No one else is worrying about this, or feeling guilty about not spending holidays with me. Everyone around me, and my other family is perfectly content with how it is working out. I just need to come to terms with this and move on, why can’t I manage to do this?

I was speaking with a friend tonight about my daughter too. My daughter is a smart, funny, beautiful soul. She cares deeply and hurts deeply. I am afraid she is like me in that way. Since moving to the new school this year I see her blossoming more into this person that I know she is going to be for the rest of her life. She is wonderful, and she is learning something new every day. She LIKES to read now, she likes to draw and write and is very creative. Then why do I worry about her constantly? She has a few great friends and they do get together quite often, but I am afraid she isn’t going to be a very social person. Which she is perfectly content with her life and who she is. Why do I worry about these things? I was always a social butterfly, but Trev was like Maddie is, he is a very likable guy and everyone loves him. I sometimes think that in the quiet my mind just likes to make me think that things can’t possibly be that good, so I must self sabotage.

It is a constant struggle to keep my mind on a positive road, but I do try every single day to not travel down the path of negativity. Sometimes life is hard, but my life is no where near as hard as a lot of people have it. I have to let the bad stuff roll off, and let the good things fill my mind and heart. It’s just exhausting having to remind myself of this every single darn day. Here we are though. New Year, 2017, I vow to make it a more positive year from the inside out.

The world is a contradiction

I supremely dislike drawing judgement on anyone, especially when I don’t know their life, their circumstances, or the demons they fight on a regular basis.

It seems that is what our world is built on right now though is judgement. Some of the examples I have witnessed:

“We shouldn’t let those refugees into our country, we have enough homeless on the streets of our own.” So, my question is this, what are you doing to help with the homeless situation of those around you then? If this is one of your strong convictions and you stand behind it as a point of contention then surely you are doing everything you can to make sure that all the homeless people in your own country are being looked after, even in a small way, because your point becomes invalid as you drive right by homeless people never giving a second thought to them except for to use them as a pawn in a game you are trying to win.

“I can’t stand the racism in this country (any country) and don’t understand how it continues this day in age.” Which, by the way is my stance on the subject. If you say these things though and then continue to say racist things yourself, tell racist jokes, or call people down for their lifestyle or the way they live because of their race. Racism continues this day in age because people refuse to give up their belief that they aren’t the issue. I have taught my child that people are not inherently different no matter the color of their skin, their abilities, their beliefs, but I also live it myself.

“I refuse to pay for others to get healthcare, welfare, etc.” This one I hear A LOT from different people. What happens though when its someone you love that needs these services? Do you want others to be helping them to live a decent life and get the help they need that for whatever reason they are not capable of getting at that time, or are you going to be able to bank roll all their medical procedures, housing, bills, etc. for them by yourself?

Of course the biggest contradiction in the world right now is the American Election. It’s a hot button issue that really is making the world stare in disbelief at what is going on. This is the part you want to stop reading if you are a huge Trump supporter and get angry easily. You have been warned.

Trump wants to make America Great Again, implying that America was great at a determined time in the past (I am an American living in Canada.) my question to this is when was America great last? A time of reference would be great. Is it when immigration laws were not as strict as they are now? Is it when the economy was so horrible and the bottom was dropping out? Or is it like way back when slaves were still allowed? or maybe all the way back to the beginning when everyone was an immigrant to the US? If any of these apply then everything coming out of his mouth about how he is going to make it great again is a contradiction of his own slogan.

The one that gets me the most right now and the one I am seriously the most curious about. “Why are you voting for Trump?” “Because Hillary is a thief, liar, breaks the law” “No but why are you voting for Trump, what does he stand for that you stand for too?”

Is it because he likes to talk badly about women? A list of offensive comments towards women can be found here with their sources.

Is it because he like to make fun of people with disabilities? Video of him doing just that.

Is it that he wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out? He contradicts himself. 

How can these things just be forgotten? How can any of these things be explained away?

The biggest thing of all for me is that he has never had any political experience. When did this become something you just sweep under the rug?

Would you want someone doing surgery on you that isn’t even a Dr.? Would you pay someone thousands of dollars to build you a home if they had never picked up a hammer?

In the same vein though, your reason for voting for Hillary Clinton or any of the other candidates should not be because “its better then Trump”. Find the candidate that speaks what you believe. Don’t cop out and vote for someone because the other one is worse.

In the end we have to do something to change the way the world is going, because its becoming scary to even let my 11 year old go to the park on her own.

Everyone should have beliefs (no not my beliefs their own!), things they proudly stand behind, issues that they fight for, and also respect people. Don’t be a contradiction, the world is full of them and it is just breeding hate with no real answers.

Ch-Ch-Changes

When you have anxiety and depression, changes always feel like a big wrecking ball coming at you. Over the last few years I feel like I have been dodging wrecking balls for a long time. I wish I could say with each one it got easier, and I just learned to go with the flow, but…there is just something in my brain that can not stop.

I worry, I analyze, I become a huge baby. Sometimes I am not sure how my husband puts up with me. Through it all he just stands tall, and helps lead me back to the path of sanity. If he is exhausted for doing it, he doesn’t show it. He is always steadfast and if I stay too long in my thoughts, he pulls me out of the way of the wrecking ball.

This is not just true with bad changes, but with good changes as well. Which I think is where most people get confused by my strange behavior. It is a learning process and so far has been the hardest hurdle to overcome. I am learning though.

I always doubt my strength, and question what I should be doing and what I shouldn’t be doing. I always worry about what my actions or thoughts are going to do to those around me. It might sound strange but being selfish is really hard for me. I am learning about this too though.

I have a great new job, I love the people that I am working with. it has been a change because I am working over night shifts. So I have had to learn it is ok to sleep when I need to sleep, and not feel guilty about it. I am spending less time online, and more time with my family which has been great.

So through every hard change that I have conquered I learn a little bit more about myself and how much I can handle. I have learned that life is what you make it when you feel like all is lost, or you don’t know which direction to choose.

Life isn’t a straight line, its swirls, it twirls, it circles back, it moves forward. That is life, learning to go with the flow of what is coming.

I gotta say I have a great life too! Great family, great friends, great job, and so many more adventures to come along!

Friendship as an Adult

I find everything about friendship as an Adult difficult. It’s not that I have trouble making friends, I think I do alright in that department. It’s just that making a deep connection with people is difficult because of my anxiety I am constantly feeling like I am out of place or that I am not good enough.

I see pictures online, tv commercials, movies, etc. Where friends gather and drink wine together laughing. I have friends that get together with their girlfriends once a week for a pizza night. I want that! Is that realistic?

I constantly ponder why I can’t seem to make deep connections like this with more then one person. Is it me? thats always the first question that comes to mind. Is it because I was not born and raised here? Friends I have back in California from when I was in middle school I can completely imagine us getting together for wine and laughing for hours. Thats not feasible for me though being that I live 3000 miles away.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t need millions of friends. I just want a small group that is my tribe. My YAYA sisterhood! People to go out to dinner with, to go to a movie with, to sit around laughing into the wee morning hours.

I don’t know if I am past the point in my life where I can have this or not. I don’t even really know how to go about it. It feels a lot like dating, and its been quite a few years since I did any of that.

I don’t know if its a pipe dream or if things like this can happen. I think my deep desire for this also stems from not having any family near. If I lived in California, my sister would be my best friend, the kids would be together all the time, and I would be near my friends from High School who I love and adore.

I didn’t realize at the age of 35 I would feel like this awkward teenager standing in a cafeteria wondering which table to sit at.

The way of the world, and my place in it.

A lot of things brought me here to write today. The state of the world, it being 6 years since my sister passed away, my best friend moving away, and I watched “The curious case of Benjamin Button”.

The last line of the movie always gets to me. “Some people, were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people, dance.”

I guess we don’t ever really know what exactly we were born for until it comes to the end. Maybe we aren’t just born for one purpose but for many, but some things will define us. I wonder how people will define me at the end of my life? Maybe its that each person you meet in your life will define you as something different.

I believe all things happen for a reason, and all people are put into our life for a reason. It is because I believe these things that I know the story of my sisters life came to an end. She was defined, she served her purpose for her life story, and she has taught me more about loving, living, and laughing in life in the past 6 years since she has passed away then I ever thought possible. If I had to define her, I would say she was born to be the strength we all needed to grow up, the perfect person to bring us our own bit of heaven, Nevaeh, and to teach us that life doesn’t always have a tomorrow.

The way things are in the world, with negative media on every screen, it is hard to dream ahead because it seems so scary. There are wars, there is murder, there is senseless acts of violence, and there is so much hatred. I won’t let that define who I am as a person though. I won’t be afraid to live my life and to keep spreading joy and love into the world. I will smile at strangers, I will say hello and how are you, I will give hugs, and encouragement and I will believe that I can make a difference. In doing these things a little bit of the ugliness in the world will be killed, and hopefully I will teach my daughter that you don’t stop trying, or fighting for a better tomorrow. You do what you can and even the small things matter. I will always be educated but I will not be fearful for more then a fleeting moment.

With all that has changed in my life recently in a rapid amount of time. I think that I am holding up fairly well. I can see clearly how all these life events are defining who I am, and helping me to become stronger. My best friend moving away (she moved 5 hours away) has taught me that relationships will change, and those definitions will change as well. She has set off on a journey to define her life, change her life, and better herself. I won’t and wouldn’t ever stand in her way. She has taught me about life, and will continue to do so as I see her journey un-fold. Our friendship will weather the storm, but it will never be the same as what it was before. Distance between people changes relationships, not in a bad way, but in a necessary way.

The emotions that all of these things have stirred up inside me are clearly defined though. I miss my whole family and the distance between us still remains like a big open sore that won’t heal even after 13 years of living in Canada, it almost feels like this loop where I am constantly having to choose again and again. Somedays I long for those Sunday mornings that my Dad would make us all waffles and my sisters and I would play with our barbies and life was simple because I didn’t know much of the world then. I didn’t know loss, I didn’t know responsibility, and I could just be.

I know I need to stop thinking of my life as what was, and what is, and just think of it as this blessing I have been given.

I know every day I am working on defining the person I am, and the person I will be.

 

2016 Is upon us

Dear Friends and Family,

I want you to know that 2015 was an awesome year for me. Filled with ups and downs. It was a year of phenomenal growth for me, graduating from 1 course, and starting another one. Having a job that I love, with more doors opening on the horizon. Having my mental health balanced more then it has been in a long while.

Losing my grandfather was one of the worst things that happened. It is hard to imagine not seeing him again in this lifetime. Although I know that he lived a long full life, when he passed away he knew that he was loved and cherished. I know he is rejoicing with my sister in Heaven, and sending whispers to earth for Grandma to keep going strong.

I am always constantly learning who I am, where I fit in, and trying to let go of the past hurts. In 2015 I found a new serenity in my life. I let go of the way I thought things should be, and embraced the way things are now. I realized that I can’t stop and wait for life or people in my life to catch up. That I must keep marching forward and fulfilling my life goals.

I am learning that the person I am is ok. I don’t have to change for anyone, I don’t have to chase after people that don’t care, and that I can just be. Other people’s hurt and pain is not my hurt and pain. I have to protect my own feelings, and project the happiness I want in my life and in my daughters life.

I have had an endless amount of support from those that surround me. I am so thankful for the friends and family I have. Without them none of this would be possible for me. I want to thank each and every one of you that calmed me down, told me that things were going to be ok, and held my hand as I walked through some difficult times.

So for 2016 I am walking in strong, with a resolve to keep my happiness a top priority so that I may be able to sprinkle that happiness all over those that I love.

Thank you for loving me!

Steph

All we need is time

It has been forever since I have written in this blog. I have been in school and spend a lot of time studying and focusing my mind on that.

On this cold November night there are notes of snow in the air, and my house is filled with the aroma of spaghetti eaten for dinner. There are clicks of little toes walking on the laminate floors, and laughter of my daughter playing online games with her friends.

There is everything I need in this house, but not everything I want. The things I want though can’t be bought with money, they just take time.

In our daily life we try to speed time up, or make it slow down. We use time to measure memories, and how much work we have done. We use time to forget the things that hurt, and time to put value in the choices we have made. Time is like a currency that you trade, for money, for moments spent with friends, for laughter with family, and for recharging your body.

Some time I would like to trap in a bottle. All the time spent with my sister Tiffanie, I’d like to keep it on a shelf so that it doesn’t slip away from my memory. Time spent with my grandfather, one of the strongest, most courageous men I have ever known I would put that in a bottle too. The time that Maddie is this young, that would go in a glittery bottle.

Sometimes I am so very conflicted by time. I want it to stop so I don’t miss out on anymore of the lives of my niece and nephews. Other times I want it to go fast so that I don’t live in the pain of grief. I always need more time to accomplish my life or less time so that I don’t dwell.

My depression and anxiety don’t like to play well with time either. These dark days of winter make it dreary inside my head.Too much time to think makes me wish that I could understand things deeper and trust in others more.

There is one thing for sure, time marches on, and I keep running behind it to catch up.

2015 is fast approaching..

A new year always makes me panic a little inside. It kind of forces the mind to evaluate what was done in the last year. It makes you consider if you did everything you could have, or should have. Of course how does a person judge this? I try to bring myself back to the focus that it was another year that I have made it through. It was up and down, it was deep deep downs, and some really high ups.

It depends on how I am viewing the information given, if I am viewing the past year through the depression glasses, I see a year filled with a lot of hardships. It was one of the worst years finically for my husband and I since we have been married. We saw close calls on a lot of things, and have had to dig ourselves out of the hole far too many times this year. I saw the crash of my online selling career, and the struggle to try to find a job has been exceedingly difficult. A lot of rejection, and you are over qualified calls. Over all if I view it from my cynical point of view I feel like I lost a year to faults of my own, and that I didn’t try hard enough to overcome them for my family. I felt like a burden on more then one occasion, my anxiety and depression do not act nice on a good day, during these downs it has manifested into something of a monster that wants to eat all my happy thoughts.

If I look at it through my rose colored glasses I see a different perspective. Our marriage was challenged with financial hardships but we came out on top. I have the best partner, he is my best friend, my confidant, and my biggest cheerleader. Our daughter is thriving and growing into such a polite, wonderful young woman. It is like magic, truly, as it unfolds before your eyes and knowing that I had a part in that is amazing. Through all of the challenges we have faced, I have pushed myself hard and I am still standing. I am stronger then I ever give myself credit for definitely. I have had so many precious people stand up this year and become angels to my family and I. Getting much needed love and encouragement from every corner of the world makes life so much sweeter.

The truth of the matter is though, no matter which glasses I am wearing, life happened. What was supposed to take place did, and I came out the other end with a stronger will to do better and grow more.

Highlights of 2014 for me:

*Joining and taking part in the Cape Breton Anxiety and Depression support group. I have gained so many new friends from all walks of life, that really and truly can understand what it is like to walk in my shoes. They teach me new things every day, and it feels like we are building something that is going to be bigger and better then any of us ever expected.

*Traveling cross country with one of my best friends Jen. It was an adventure, some of it was really painful, but now that I look back on it all I can remember is the things to laugh about!

*Growing closer with Kristy and her mother Eileen, they have truly become part of the family. It is nice to have a house filled with laughter for the holidays.

*Becoming an Auntie again to my handsome nephew Landyn 🙂

*Getting accepted to school and getting funding to not only pay for my tuition but a living allowance to supplement our income while I am in school.

I don’t make new years resolutions, that puts too much pressure on me and makes my brain want to freak out. i just vow that 2015 I am going to be the best me, I can be. I will continue to challenge myself, grow, and discover myself.

Above all else, I choose to be happy. I CHOOSE it!