The End was Really the Beginning 

23. What was the meaning behind 23? In that dream I had when I was 16, I died at 23. It stuck with me. I really believed that was it, it was my expiration date. I was going to die in a horrible car crash. But here I am at 30 knowing. Living, breathing, talking and obviously typing. 

What did it mean? Why did I have it? Why am I still here? Does it have to do with Joe? Joe did die at 23, but that’s not the reason. 

Let me tell you.

I got pregnant at 23. My 23rd year of life would be the last year that I lived for myself. One hour and eleven minutes into my 24th year I brought Ryker into this world. I gave birth to the best part of me on my 24th birthday. My life would never be the same after that. 

He came into this world a whole 7 lbs. on the nose. How can 7 lbs. change ones life so drastically? The love that you have for your child is something that you can’t explain to someone that hasn’t had one. You would give anything for that tiny being. You would give your heart for them if that meant you would die and they would live happily. You pour everything into this child. You feed them something your body made just for them. You give up sleep. You often forget to feed yourself. You give up your diginity. You put yourself through so much pain. The pain of birth, the pain you feel the first time they bleed, the pain and frustration that comes with the terrible two’s and terrendous three’s. But within all the struggle you still love this being infinitely. You give up the clothes off your back to buy for them. You will do anything for them. 

Parenthood isn’t all rainbows and lollipops. We are very similar. Which in turn means we argue a lot. We are both very stubborn. He has learnt the art of sarcasm. He’s a picky eater, like his father, which often ends up with him eating some type of boring Italian food. He’s got an attitude of a 75 year old man. Very wise and stuck in his way. Sometimes I count down to bedtime because the whining wears me down. 

Being a parent, you often feel like your failing. If you get an epidural or c-section, you feel like you failed. When your breastmilk is taking too long to come in, your failing at feeding your child. When they are taking too long to gain weight, your failing. When they gain to much weight, your failing, When they aren’t rolling over on time or sitting up, your failing. When they aren’t walking by a year, your failing. If they aren’t saying enough words or sentences, your failing. If they curse, don’t use their manners, can’t count to ten, don’t know their body parts, can’t read, can’t ride a bike without training wheels, can’t tie their shoes or do up their zippers, blah-di-blah-blah-blah…your failing. It’s never ending. 

So lets all be happy failures together! If you feed your child, provide a roof over their head, give them clothes, but most importantly provide them with love, your doing something right. It doesn’t matter if sometimes we feed them a ‘happy meal’ and they have underwear on their head, wearing a cape and a sock on their junk (let’s just hope your at home when they decide to do so). Life isn’t perfect. Our children aren’t going to perfect. I don’t know a single person that is perfect. 

As parents, we should focus less on what we are doing wrong and just have fun. Swing on the swings, climb the monkey bars, go fishing, go camping, fall down, encourage our children to go out of their comfort zone by going out of ours. Look silly. Splash in puddles. Get messy. Do cartwheels. Maybe not jump on trampolines moms, you might pee your pants. Let our kids take risks, and get up from them. Teach them how to open doors for their elders, put their dishes in the sink, push in their chairs, be respectful, stand up for themselves, and let them be individuals! Let them be sad, let them get angry, give consequences so they understand that all actions have a reaction. 

On my 24th birthday I became a different person. I learned how to love without reason. I learnt how healing a hug can be. I learnt that patience really is a virtue, especially when your child spends 15 minutes pooping and requires you to stand there talking to him. I learnt how good sleep really does feel. And how 5 minutes of a child crying in pain can feel like days. I learnt how helpless you can truly feel, when there’s nothing you can do to make that little being feel better. I learnt how your world can really change in the beat of a heart. The end of my 23rd year was really the beginning of my life. 


1 step forward…

For two days I felt like bailing.  I couldn’t sleep. I went over my power point, oh probably about 632 times. I thought of every excuse to tell Chris I couldn’t do it. Laid in bed practicing every line, switching the order if slides.  Thank gosh for the Google slides app. 

Here I am, someone who deals with social anxiety, going to my FIRST highschool to present to students about mental health and how to end the stigma around it. The place where it all started. The place where MY mental illness completely debilitated me. And I volunteer to speak there. Courageous or freaking ridiculous idea? 

I pondered that thought over and over and over again. I felt like I was digging myself a hole. When my alarm went off though, I put on my big girl panties and got my arse outta bed. I got Ryker ready. I showered. And made myself presentable. I’ve always believed that when you look Good, you feel good! And when you feel good, you rock whatever comes at you. 

I left early because I have an obsession with being early. My mother was always late for everything. Still is! I swear she will be late for her funeral. Funny enough, she drowned when she was 3 and had to be recessatated, so I guess she’s already late for her funeral (wink wink, nudge nudge). Anyways, I stopped at Tim Hortons to grab myself a coffee and a bagel, as I forgot to feed myself. I decided to treat myself to a maple bagel with butter. I drive off and realized my sweet, delicious, savoury maple bagel to find out it has herb and garlic cream cheese on it. That’s It! It’s a damn sign! I need to turn around! I can’t do this! Totally going to bomb it! Felt like I was going to vomit. I held it in and stopped at the next timmies and returned the bagel. And continued on my way. 

I showed up at the school. So strange being there. I listened to ‘now for plan A‘ by the Tragically Hip then got out. I walked up to the front doors and walked up to the office. Before waking in the doors I saw Chris’ smile and was greeted with a hug. A familiar face! I could breathe a little easier. I got signed in and walked down the halls. I looked at the coloured lockers and got flash backs. I could picture where math class was, science, history, art, geography, and the dreaded english. I could clearly remember the words that, we will refer to as Mr. G, spoke clearly to me. 

We made it down the hall and into the classroom where I learnt Spanish. Funny how we recall so unimportant things. There were all different students. Students with all different stories. And they took time out of their lunch to listen to me. Listen to me speak. It all hit me. They all have a story and I, all 5’4 and 3/4’s could change their story. Or their friends story. I could be the reason they sit down and lend an ear to someone for five minutes. Those 5 minutes could change everything. 

Chris ever so nicely introduced me and a little of my background. I stood up there with a smile on my face and talked about mental illness. I referred to Rykers quote about cancer and washing it away. I asked the students how many of them has lived with a mental illness. I talked about different types of mental illnesses. I asked what mental illness looks like then showed a slide of pictures of Joe. Of his smiling face. And how you don’t see ot coming until it’s too late. I spoke about him, Ryker, and my nieces and nephews being my motivation. I spoke about mental health terms used incorrectly and the effect that has. I spoke about coping methods and I asked how WE can make a change towards ending the stigma. 

The entire time I spoke I noticed a girl, with beautiful blue hair. Her eyes connected with mine the entire presentation. She nodded. She smiled. We made a connection. My mission was complete. 

I finished up my presentation and said my goodbyes. I felt amazing! I did it. I powered through. I only shuddered 3 times. I did it. I breathed. I survived. And I know I touched at least one person in that room. I drove home in a total euphoric state. 

Tomorrow is Joe’s birthday. He would be 34 years old. This presentation, me reaching out and educating the young minds, is my gift to him. 

Touchy Subject Matter

I was laying in bed with wee man last night (my son Ryker) and we were having our typical bed time conversations. Bed time seems to be the time where all of his thoughts about the day come splurging out of his mouth. He talked about the Terry Fox run and I made it an educational opportunity, but of course.

 I asked him what he was taught and he in turn told me that “Terry Fox was some guy with one leg who ran across the universe to raise money”. I was impressed of how much he retained. I gently told him that it wasn’t the universe but Canada. Then asked him if he knows what he raised the money for and he comes back with “to have a lot of money”. With a slight chuckle I asked if he knew how he lost his leg and again a typical Ryker response “because he stepped on a chainsaw!” I couldn’t hold it in and laughed. “Chainsaws are dangerous but, he lost it because of cancer” I informed him. Ryker paused then asked me what cancer was. I felt my heart hit my stomach as it’s a tough one. How do you explain to a 6 year old what cancer is? So I took a breath and told him, our bodies are filled with billions of cells, sometimes those cells  decide to have a little party in our body and and take over. They are bad little cells and make people sick. Without skipping a beat he says “so why don’t people with cancer just take a bath and wash away the cells?” So I told how the cells are usually inside the body and can’t be washed off with soap. Again in quick timing he says “so why don’t people just gargle and spit them out?” The mind of a 6 year old. How I envy it! 

Why can’t we just wash things away? Most adults comprehend what cancer is to an extent. Most people I know have had someone affected by cancer. Some have fought it. Some have lost the battle against it. And Some, like a beloved person in my life, will always live with it! (my dear friends blog). So if we can’t just wash cancer away, then why do people believe that mental illness can be washed away? 

If “just washing away” a mental illness was possible, would suicide exist? FUCK NO! When loosing a loved one to suicide, as much as we want to blame the person, we have to understand it was a battle that was lost. It has taken me ten years to get to that mind set. A rough ten years. Don’t get me wrong I still get upset, more like heartbroken, in the absence of his presence, but it was a battle that was lost. 

The feeling of loosing someone due to it will always leave you with questions. Why would he do that? Did he not think of how if would affect his loved ones? Why wasn’t I there for him more? Why didn’t he tell me? 

I remember the day Joe left us clear as day. My boyfriend at the time brought me for a walk into the backyard and told me. I screamed and cried. I fell to the ground. Completely incapable of controlling myself. I was in denial. The rest of the night is a blur. I remember calling my teacher who was my rock at the time and telling her I wouldn’t be coming to school for the next week. And I remember drinking until I couldn’t feel. And continued to do for the next 2 years. I remember bits and pieces of the funeral and the celebration of life. I remember the heartache for his parents. 

Joe was my person. He was my best friend. I told him everything. I loved him with everything in my being. But I never told him how I felt. He was my everything and I never wanted to loose that. So I didn’t tell him. If I did, would it of changed the outcome? Something that travels through my mind every now and again. The answer in my heart though is no. He suffered. He suffered so much that he took matters into his own hands. He didn’t ask for help. Instead would offer it. 

If he had help, would it of made a difference? Well. My mission. It was assigned to me  in a class to make a change in our community. So many people suffer from mental illness. I will be going into schools in simcoe county and speaking, reaching out to the young minds who are suffering. Letting them know they are not alone. And offering assistance in any way that I can. If I can save one life, I can save their friends a and family a life time of heartache and questions. 

MY anxiety 

After a morning of complete chaos I stopped at the gas station and put the last of my money into the tank. There was no “pay-at-the-pump” option so I had to put on my big girl panties and walk in to pay the gentleman. I placed my fake ass smile on my face and greeted him with a “Good morning! And how are you today?”. His response has stuck with me for the past 5 years. He glanced out the window and smiled from ear-to-ear. “The sky isn’t falling, so today is a good day!” He said with his smile still across his face. I stopped. My mind stopped. I took a breath and told him “your right!” I got in my car and for the rest of my 40 minute drive I repeated what he said. 

What is anxiety? What does it look like? Why do you get it? Why are you depressed? A million thoughts go through my head on a daily. Some days are much better than others. I’ve had several people tell me their thoughts on anxiety. “Theres no such thing!” “Stop thinking about it”, “why are you so anxious?”, “stop being depresed”, “just ignore it”. 

There are no real reasons behind my anxiety. My anxiety doesn’t look the same every time. Most times I feel like crawling into my bed, in my flannel pajamas and robe, hidden under neath my douvet.  My headphones in my ears ignoring the fact everyone exists. But in reality my anxiety looks like me getting out of my bed, taking an extra big breath, placing my feet on the floor. I walk to the kitchen and turn on the kettle, make sure there’s coffee. I got to the bathroom then sit on the couch and wait for the kettle to boil. I make a coffee. I breathe. I drink my coffee and pray no-one tries to converse with me. I wake up my son. “Good morning sunshine!” Is how I greet his cute little face. I put on a smile and pretend I feel okay. My morning continues with lunch being made, teeth being brushed, clothes on the kid, dress my self (not caring what I wear but being dressed is a step in the right direction) and off to the bus stop we go. I kiss my kid goodbye and hope that his day goes by smoothly. He signs “I love you” and off he goes. I worry. 

I worry about him at school. I hope he’s okay. I hope his teacher is nice. I hope he’s not chewing on his shirt too much. I think about him all day. I worry his teacher thinks I’m a bad parent when I can’t get his homework done. But my life continues. I push forward. 

Now don’t get me wrong, anxiety can completely debilitating.  Some days I know I’m “not myself”. And sometimes that seems to last for weeks on end. Sometimes getting out of bed just isn’t that easy, but I do it. Sometimes greeting my son with a smile isn’t easy, but I do it.  Some days the thought of leaving my house makes my whole body tremble, but I step out the door. And most times I feel as if I can’t breathe, but I am. 

I do it because I have to. I’ve let anxiety rule my life before. I’ve hid in my bed and stayed there for days on end. I’ve starved my self in fear of getting fat. I’ve gone for days without showering. I’ve hidden myself away from society because it was easier that way. 

So how do I function every day? I remind myself that the sky isn’t falling, so today is a good day. 

Where to begin…

Well, how about a little background? I grew up the simcoe county. Several different locations. The place I often refer to as home though is between Baxter and Thornton. I have two younger sisters. I grew up with a 50 acre property behind us that we had permission to explore and we often did just that. We would wake up in the morning, eat breaky, and take off as soon as possible into the woods for hours on end. Typically until we got hungry.  

I was an extremely smart child. Often referred to as an old soul. I absolutely dreaded school. Grade school I flew through, other than English. I always “just passed” English but teachers never paid attention to it until I was 19. Highschool on the other hand was a completely different story. I was dealing with my parents divorce, an @$$ of a father and what was diagnosed as ‘severe social anxiety’. 

I had a hard time getting out of bed, nevermind leaving my house to deal with a bunch of kids whom were not nearly as mature as myself. I was always mature, but when my parents divorced my maturity level increased infinitely. I was no longer just the big sister, I was the counselor, the maid, the chef, and a student. I dropped out of school at 15. Moved out. Moved back home. Went to a different school. Got suspended for spiking my Mohawk. Dropped out again. Went to another school until I was 18 then registered at the BLC. 

In February of 2006 I tackled my first day at the BLC. I was finally with a bunch of students who were like minded. We all had stories. Most lived much differently than your average 18 year old. We wanted to be there because we wanted to do something with our lives. Our stories made us. They made us strong, yet vulnerable  many of us covered in a hard coating. Yet sweet on the inside. We gave our teachers headaches and may have caused a marker or two to be thrown. But we were there. We had a purpose. And most importantly teachers who believed in us. 

My first English class I failed, with a whopping 49%. OUCH! And math a 97%. Next semester I tackled English again. Here we go again. But this time I had a different teacher. First day she asked everyone to write a paragraph. So she could see our writing level. Gulp. Well I put my pen on the paper and I wrote. I handed it in. And the end of the day roles around my teacher pulls  me aside. She gently talks to me about my writing. I knew it was sh*t. She asked me if I’ve ever been diagnosed with dyslexia. Nope. Always just been the smart kid who couldn’t write a paragraph for her life. This teacher took the time out of her day after every class for what seemed like forever, and helped me write. She figured out what worked for me. I passed that class with an 80%. First time in my life I had passed with anything english wise above a ‘c’. It was a festivus miracle. Not a really, it was a teacher who recognized a problem and helped me through my struggles. My whole outlook on life changed after that teacher. 

Fast forward to 10 years down the road. I know ten years… seems and feels like a hell of a long time. And I’ve re-entered the BLC’s doors. Back in English. With kids (no offense) almost half my age. I’m the single mom to a fabulous rad little boy who rules my world. Working as a PSW, attending classes in English and challenging change in society at night . Pushing my way through. Attempting to get assignments in on time. And occasionally reminding myself to “just breathe” as I often seem to forget to do just that!