Author Archives: cherylfolland

About cherylfolland

Cheryl graduated​ from Vancouver Island University in 2019 with a BA in Creative Writing. She is passionate about the marginalized and an advocate for those who fall between the cracks of religion and society. She loves books, music and good coffee.

Generosity and George the Cat

It has been a whirlwind of emotions since taking #GeorgeTheCat in for his annual check up. What began as a routine wellness exam (that we could barely afford) and a rabies vaccination (because we live on Vancouver Island and raccoons, rats, and bats are a thing) ended up being a financial crisis.

For anyone who doesn’t know, George the Cat was abandoned at the house we eventually purchased in the south end of Nanaimo in November 2017. When we took over possession, there was garbage, clothing, used needles, human feces, rat droppings, and much more in both the house and the garage where George had been sleeping.

Olivia and I spent all our free time hauling out industrial sized bins of debris, old appliances, flooring, a toilet that had rotted through the floor, and tents from squatters set up in the backyard. The modest money we had set aside for renovations was depleted within the first 30 days.

We began feeding George, then known only to us as The Cat, before we put an offer in on the house. He was left behind by the previous owners and had no food or clean water. We immediately purchased cat food that we kept in the car and went back daily to feed the cat. I honestly think he’s part of the reason we took the house.

After getting possession of the house October 31, 2017, we began the deconstruction. The Cat would come to the front and sniff whatever we were hauling out but never came close enough for a pet or a conversation. Until three week’s in, when we were sitting outside having a lunch break, he let Olivia pet him. Of course I was jealous, who wouldn’t be? This adorable chunky cat.

It took us a full year to get him to trust us enough to come indoors. Once we could, we took him to get flea medication and get a check up. That was last year. We discovered that he needed a broken tooth removed and deep dental clean. That bill cost 1700 total start to finish. At the time we figured that The Cat, who a neighbour advised us was named George and had been in the neighbourhood for at least 11 years, deserved to live a happy life and die of old age after being abandoned.

Flash forward to last week when our friendly neighbourhood vet advised us that a second tooth on the same side of George’s upper jaw was causing him pain, my heart felt like it was in my stomach. I have been off of work for over a year due to mental illness and had only begun a seasonal part-time job in effort to test my ability to go back to work. Olivia works a seasonal job that sees annual layoffs around December. There was no way we could afford another large veterinary bill.

We had a hard conversation that if we couldn’t come up with the money, we were going to have to surrender George the Cat to the SPCA in effort to get him the help he needed. George is now 14 years old. He’s bonded with Lottie, the kitten we adopted in August, and is indoors 95% of the time. He has lived at this house his entire life. George went from running and hiding under the bed at every noise, to actually playing and cuddling with us and his sister Lottie.

Olivia, George, and Lottie

The last thing we wanted to do was break up our family. We feared that George would die of heartbreak or stress if he couldn’t remain home with us, but we also knew there was absolutely no way to pay for his care. I had $1.51 in my account at the time, and Olivia had $150. Our credit cards are locked in a drawer while we pay them off. I’m making student loan payments to the tune of $400/month on top of regular life expenses. We use the food bank bi-weekly and when we do need new clothes, we shop exclusively at thrift stores. There was absolutely no wiggle room.

I felt weird about it, but knew I needed to try something. So I started a Facebook fundraiser for the cost of the procedure and George’s most recent vet bill. In less than 72 hours, from just eight donors, we had the entire bill fully funded. George the Cat gets to stay with his family. His surgery is booked for November 28th. As long as there are no complications, we have enough to cover the bill. I even put a down payment with half of the raised amount.

If you would like to contribute to the cost of aftercare, or keep up with George’s recovery, I’ll be posting updates to the fundraiser page here.

We are nowhere near finished the house, but it is comfortably liveable and safe for the cats. We are all warm, dry, and fed.

Thank you to everyone who helped us keep our grumpy old man cat at home with us.

revisiting the conversation

I’ve forgotten how to have an adult conversation. My time interacting with the queer faith community, and it’s haters, on social media has resulted in a writing style of hot takes. It’s created a vacuum where real conversation doesn’t come easy, if at all.

Recently, #Bethel posted their #Changed movement propaganda (and that is exactly what it is) and queer faith Twitter blew up. Instead of our normal shade throwing quick quips, we responded with actual conversation. #UnChanged and #ThisIsWhatOnceGayLooksLike started trending. #OnceGay was overtaken by affirming folks and theologians. The stories of resilience and healing poured out almost continuously for 48 hours.

Then something even more beautiful happened. Matthias Roberts and Kevin Garcia did something not only brave but necessary. Together, they coordinated 90 seconds of truth—a two part podcast named for and in response to Bethel’s misleading and damaging false testimony. In 90 seconds, people from all over the world were invited to share their stories of being LGBTQ+ and a person of faith:

“Last week, Bethel Church posted a message on their Instagram asking “Can a person leave homosexuality behind?” promoting their “Changed Movement” which shares stories of people who have “experienced freedom” from being LGBTQ+. Ex-gay theology rebranded.

90 Seconds of Truth is our response. Kevin Garcia and I joined forces and asked people on our social media channels to share 90-second stories with us of what their lives have been like since leaving toxic theology behind.”

Matthias Roberts, Queerology Podcast, 90 Seconds of Truth, part one, 2019.

The response from the community was huge.

These are so important. Hearing for hours (over the course of 2 episodes) from LGBTQ people who have deeper faith BECAUSE OF their orientation/gender rather than IN SPITE OF it? That’s the good stuff. #FaithfullyLGBT #90secondsoftruth #oncegay

@alisechaffins via Twitter

Have you heard of the #90SecondsOfTruth project with @matthiasroberts
and @theKevinGarcia_? There are so many beautiful stories of lgbt Christians coming to terms with a God who loves them. I wish the ones we’ve lost could have heard these stories.

@adhdoug via Twitter

Not only are there countless people of faith living stronger and healthier lives because they’ve embraced who God has made them to be, but there are entire organizations dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ folks, allies, and churches along the deconstruction and reconstruction process.

“We are deeply sadden by decision made by such an influential church as
to embrace a proven harmful theology as ex-gay theology. We join forces with other queer Christians to say that the love of God is inclusive. Change is possible, but sexual orientation and gender identity are part of God’s design and they are not required to be changed in order to be part of God’s love, salvation and Kingdom. 
Listen to the testimony of our siblings in Christ.”

The Reformation Project, Orlando. via Facebook.

This conversation is beautiful and it needs to be said. If you haven’t already listened to the stories, please do. Only by fully embracing who we were created to be can we live a vibrant life.

No one should die that way: a personal story of the opioid epidemic in Canada

Guest Post

Content warning: discussion of abuse, drug related death, attempted violence, trauma, mental health, loss. If you or anyone you know is in immediate crisis call 911. Those experiencing less immediate crisis can find help at Crisis Text Line.


Lys Morton is a Queer Canadian writer who is learning to call Vancouver Island home. A Creative Writing student at VIU, you can find his work and what he’s up to on Facebook at Lys Writes Now and Twitter @LysWritesNow.

Let’s talk about abuse, the opioid epidemic, overdose, and the general tone of comments you see around these topics.

June was an odd little month this year. I’m in this part of PTSD healing where my brain goes “dude, you’re doing so well, you’re so much calmer! Here… process this” and then dumps a bunch of memories that have been sitting in the repressed bank for some time. The start of June found me shifting through quite the collection of these memories, much of them centering around one individual. We’ll call him Jack.

Jack and I were in grades 7-10 together, and he is the guy that created the “glorious” moniker of She-Man. I don’t quite remember when he coined it, but I do remember it spreading like wildfire in the school. And the various times teachers accidentally called me that moniker because they heard it more in reference to me than my actual name. And when I started responding to it instead of my name.

Jack also has the privilege of being the guy that introduced me to “Saved Your Life: Boss Level.” Sounds harmless enough, right? Everyone and their dog played “Saved Your Life” during my teen years. Push someone and then immediately pull them back, shouting “saved your life!” It was the hip Tide Pod challenge in my days.

“Boss Level” was Jack pulling this stunt when I was near stairs, at the busy intersection where the city buses rolled through, beside the car lift in mechanics class, operating the burner in science class, and numerous other occasions. On average it was a daily occurrence. Jack’s face has more traumas tied to it, but I’m not exactly ready to FB post that stuff.

As I said, June found me shuffling through a lot of these memories, coming to terms with them and doing that whole healing thing. As I’m doing this work, I get a message from an acquaintance who knew both Jack and I. Simple message, quietly informing me that Jack had died from a fentanyl overdose that month. Now, wasn’t that news met with a roller coaster of emotions.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that there was a strange sense of relief at this news, which was then promptly followed by frustration. Because yeah, Jack put me through some horrible things, but that does not change one very key fact in this world.

No one should die that way.

It’s no secret that we are in the middle of a crisis. You see it on the news, on Netflix, strewn across social media. Since the beginning of 2016, Canada alone has lost over 10,300 people to opioid overdose. And over 90% over those deaths were accidental.

Like many large problems in our world, there is no simple answer to this particular crisis. There are numerous factors that come into play, countless flaws in systems that people fall through. There is no “on/off” switch to any part of this crisis.
But one single fact stands. No one should be dying from an overdose.

We have tools in this war; harm reduction strategies, safe consumption sites, naloxone training, legalization. But people are too wrapped up in their scorn to even contemplate these strategies.

I don’t care how many times Jack put my life in jeopardy, he did not deserve to lose his this way. Not when there are tools that could have saves him. And if he didn’t deserve this, no one did.

My friends have lost too many of their friends in this epidemic. The list should not be as long as it is. And then they have to deal with the comments of people who refuse to sit for a moment and contemplate the scale of this crisis. The faces of it.

Better writers than I have noted how similar the opioid epidemic is mirroring the AIDS epidemic that started back in 1981. The similarities in people’s scorn for those caught up in this battle. The front line workers screaming for support. The governments that only seem willing to shrug their shoulders at this war. As a queer guy, this scares me. To sit and watch this story play out once again. Because I’m in a community still healing from the generation that was lost to AIDS and to people’s apathy towards it. How long will it take communities to heal from this loss?

As I said, there is an odd sense of relief I feel knowing that Jack’s never going to be able to hurt me again. But that’s my thing to work through, because that initial fact still stands. He should not be another number in this war. We have the tools and ability to end this crisis.

Can we get some compassion going so we can stop this?

What no one told me about healthy weight loss

On April 24th, after having dangerously high blood pressure for the first time in my life, I quit smoking. I got real about avoiding the scale like it was a demon trying to steal my soul or a value statement about my life choices. I ordered a digital scale that determines body fat percentage, metabolic rate, metabolic age, and other body mass percentages.

I’ve been a large person all my life. Even at my fittest, I have always been a size 12 or better. For me, BMI is a liar. I have large hips and a large bust and I’m only 5′ 7″. So my BMI is always high. I stepped on that scale and was at 54% body fat. I was in shock.

I’m body positive. I don’t judge people for their size in anyway. I’m a firm believer that big is beautiful. I’m also a firm believer of being the best me that I am capable of being. I am capable of doing better, and so, if I want to live longer, I have to do better.

I ordered some cookbooks that are largely plant based as after MUCH research nourishment is the most important thing! It is commonly stated on fitness sites that weight management and active living is 20% what you do and 80% what you eat. I felt trapped. I thought to myself, “I don’t eat that bad.” Then I had a reality check, BAD and GOOD have no place in discussing food. Calories are calories. I had to stop believing some lies. There are only three…that’s right THREE macros that food falls into. Protein, fat, carbs. THE END.

What?? So veggies….yep carbs. Fruit…carbs. Pasta…carbs (but also protein). I had to get real about my disordered eating. I mostly ate high-fat-high-carb food. I blamed our income on my lack of good choices. Since removing boxed food from the pantry (again, because this is what I can do. Many people don’t have the ability or energy to do the things that I can), our grocery bill has gone DOWN from 150/week to about 70/80 a week.

Drinking water, water, water, water, water and switching to non-dairy milk has helped my body burn the fat it’s stored around my middle. Which brings me to what no one has told me. The loose flappy pancake tummy roll of doom.

My belly fat is shrinking and my cheek bones have started to make an appearance. For anyone interested, I only work out like 3 days a week for 35 to 55 minutes. It’s not like an intense regimen. But now, I have space under my stomach that it hard to care for. It’s not tightening fast and it’s messy and awkward. My workout gear won’t stay up but I don’t fit a smaller size yet. So I have to rub antiperspirant and powder in all sorts of places and have more than one shower a day.

As an owner of larger bust, my ONE sports bra had to be ordered from overseas and cost around 100 bucks. I only have one! And as I lose mass, it starts to rub. The chafing and need for medical creams and ointments is real.

We need to talk more openly about these things because they are painful emotionally and physically—and are common reasons people with the physical ability to exercise regularly will give up. My goal isn’t to be a specific size or body fat percentage…though I had to put that in my fitbit for stats purposes. My goal is to get back to the person who ran a 10km race 3 years ago in 1 hour 35 minutes. Right now, I can’t even run for 10 meters.

The other thing no one told me about weight loss is the guilt I would feel. I feel like I’m betraying the other big bodied people in my life. I often feel like I can’t talk openly about my journey because it’s considered diet culture or fat phobia. I want to be clear, I do not think fat is bad/ugly/wrong. I do think that diets and fads ARE bad/ugly/wrong. Learning what is good for your body, YOUR BODY not someone else’s, is not part of diet culture. Lets nourish our bodies, our souls, and our relationships.

When going back to bed doesn’t work: sometimes “sad” is code for something more.

I miss when I was little and going to bed for a while or taking a bath was enough to reset. I am realizing though, that it probably wasn’t. I’ve had (at least internalized) anxieties and phobias as long as I can remember.

I used to ask my mom bizarre questions when we were travelling about falling off the side of the highway to our death, or the moon crashing into earth and killing us. I used to turn off my bedroom lights and run to my bed—even until age 16.

I’ve always obsessed and replayed traumatic events in my mind and reacted in outbursts from fear that presented as anger.

Today was no different. There was a moment where I had a very real fear of being t-boned by a car that was travelling too fast as we were driving. When we got to the parking lot I instantly wanted to cry, but shoved it down. Then as we walked through the store I was increasingly irritable, and almost had a melt down at the checkout for “no reason”.

When we got into the car, the only way I could articulate how I was feeling was, “I’m sad. And I don’t like it.” 

I’ve been “sad” for a while. I don’t like it. I’m “working” on it. Reality is, most people with mental illnesses learn to manage but don’t “get better”. I’m having a hard time grappling with this idea. I take more naps than I ever did before, but wake exhausted and weepy most days.

I’ve restructured my nutrition to remove refined sugars and empty carbs and replaced all that crap with stuff that grows in dirt or on trees. I’ve noticed a difference for sure, but still feel incredibly sad most of the time.

Sad is the only way I can describe it concisely. I am on edge, on the verge of tears, suffer from headaches and stomach issues related to anxiety. I continually have muscle spasms from holding my neck, shoulders, and legs in tension without thinking about it. I have excessive jaw pain caused by a dental condition that is exacerbated by clenched teeth when I sleep.

I am often afraid to sleep because I relive traumas with incredible vividness that I “forgot” had happened. I feel disconnected when I remember something and share it with my partner and then feel guilt and shame for bringing it up when I see the hurt in her eyes. I know intellectually that she is hurting because I am hurting and she cannot fix it, but emotionally I feel like letting her in harms her in some way. So I tell her I’m sad instead of how bad the storm in my brain is.

It’s true what the majority of articles say about support being the number one factor in living with mental illness. Without the support of a few key friends and my loving partner, I wouldn’t be here. In a city, and likely a country, where mental health and addictions are treated by the same branch of government and share the same funding, those of us who are high-functioning fall through the cracks. People like me are aware of our illness in intense detail. We are emotionally detached, not in recovery, because it’s the only way to survive.

We go to the physician or emergency services and calmly tell them we’re at the end of ourselves only to be turned away. The most common advice I receive from healthcare professionals is to “practice self-compassion”. When will invisible illness be taken seriously? Why do people have to “have a plan” to be considered at risk for suicide? Is thinking about it more than daily not troubling enough?

It is not troubling enough to make my partner get out of bed because I heard a noise at 3am and think that someone is most definitely in my house trying to kill me? Is it not troubling enough that I either cannot sleep or sleep 15+ hours in a day? Is it not troubling enough that I feel like crying for literal months but cannot manage a tear? Is it not troubling enough that I get such anxiety when we arrive at events I used to love that we have to leave right then?

For now, I just tell people I’m sad. I’m hoping one day, that a doctor will listen enough to how that plays out in my life to actually do something about it. Until then, I’ll be with Olivia and my cat.