An 11 year olds grief

As a parent I am always trying to protect my daughter from the world. It is not because I want her to be oblivious to the way the world works, but rather I want to make sure she can have a childhood. I was naive to think we would make it until she was through her teenage years without a big event that directly effects her life.

She was so stoic when Justin passed away.  I could see this person that was not an 11 year old at all, but a grown person that felt like she had to help others. There were moments where I saw the little girl, like when she held my hand and looked into my eyes with tears in hers and said “mommy I promise I won’t ever do this”. As a parent its a defeating feeling to know that this is something you can’t protect them from.

I feel I have done her a disservice though, because grief takes me over and it comes spilling out over everything in my life. While we have constantly been talking to her and checking in on her, I think she believes she needs to be strong for me. She was seeing the counselor at school and we keep reminding her that we would be able to get her into someone now to have her speak with. She keeps just saying she is ok.

She has been having a tough time sleeping, at first we chalked it up to a pre teen just trying to stay up all night playing video games, but I started to get concerned. This last week one night where I had to stay up to get ready for an over night shift (I always try to stay up as late as possible the night before), I asked her to come out of her room and sit next to me on the couch. When she sits next to me she always instinctively finds the spot where she fits perfectly into the crook of my arm and I can kiss the top of her head.

I asked if she was having trouble sleeping for any reason, she burst into tears and said “I just miss him so much.” My heart shattered into a million pieces again. She talked openly about closing her eyes and only being able to see him without life left in him. She said she doesn’t want to sleep until she is so tired she has no choice but to sleep.

There is something so wrong in having to hold your child while she sobs and wonders what she could have done differently to let Justin know he was loved. I said to her people love people in there own way. I asked her if she remembered when Justin said he was happy she was coming to his school so that he could look after her and make sure that no one ever bullied her. I asked if she remembered when we told her that Justin was transgender and wanted to be called Justin and it was something she took without questioning and was so accepting. She said she did. I said that was him showing you how much he loved you, and you showing him how much you loved him without strings attached.

I so much don’t want this pain for her. I don’t want it for anyone. Somehow though it has stolen some of her innocence and I know there is nothing I can do to change that. She writes about him in her summer journal and she has drawings of him she has done hanging all over her room.

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I feel like she lost so much more than any of us did, in all of this.

There will be professional counseling in our future. In the mean time, I will check in with her in every quiet moment, remind her that her dad and I are here for her. I lost my courageous brave nephew to these bullies, I won’t lose my sweet daughter to them.

She won’t ever be the same without him, and there is nothing I can change about that.

Creating your own Perfect Storm

July is this beast of a month for me. I struggle, I fall, and then I just pray I get back up again.

July 31st, 2010 was a turning point in my life, I didn’t know it then, but I definitely know it now. My sister Tiffanie passed away suddenly at the age of 27. Her death took a toll on me, and it is not something I have ever recovered from.

July 28th, 2012, my cousin Greg passed away suddenly, and even though it had been many years since I saw him he was apart of my child hood that I remembered very fondly.

July 6th, 2015, my Grandpa Stan passed away after a long struggle with MS. He was such a big part of my life growing up, and the way he made any person feel like they were the most important person in the world is something this world is in desperate need of right now.

I usually start in June building myself up, getting ready to face the month. I go out more, I enjoy the sun, I spend time doing things that I love, and spending time with people that make me laugh. This June I didn’t get to do that, instead I spent the month reeling at the loss of my awesome nephew. My defenses are down and I am brewing the perfect storm for a mental break down.

My anxiety is at about a 9 almost every single day. My Depression is holding steady around a 5 or 6, most days, but I have seen a few days that spike to 10. Those days where my anxiety is a 9 and my depression is a 10, are the worst days to be around me. I get angry for no reason, I cry at everything, I can’t keep my breathing even, I don’t sleep, and I constantly berate myself for being me.

With all of these things happening, I convince myself that no one likes me, not even my co workers whom I spend the most time with in my daily life. I feel like I am a burden on my husband and I push him away. I stop going out. I go days without sleeping, then sleep for days on end. Doing anything feels like too much work. My house becomes a pit of disarray, then I struggle because I want the house to be cleaned, and I feel like I should be able to do it myself, but I can’t because it gets too out of control. I constantly worry about my daughter, and how I hope she isn’t anything like me. I lock myself in the bathroom, and cry in the shower. My inner dialog is always about something I should be doing more of. I should be losing more weight, I should be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend. I should be happy because I have so many things others don’t. I am constantly telling myself how awful I am.

As this perfect storm brews, I am trying to hold it back with all the coping mechanisms I have learned. Being overly cheerful and speaking love into the world is one of those things. Hearing positive reinforcement from my husband (which he is awesome at!). Spending time with our little family, and with my friends. Actively making myself go out to be with friends or with the family. Writing lists of things I am thankful for. Deep breathing, and reminding myself that I have a 100% success rate of getting through tough times. Resting when I feel overwhelmed. Focusing on one task at a time. Writing.

This is reality for me. This is reality for a lot of people that suffer with mental illness. I just want to remind anyone that is reading this that has a perfect storm brewing in them, that you are not alone. If you need to share my umbrella, I will share it with you. Tough times don’t get to win, tough people do.

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