I deleted Facebook

CW: Depression. Suicide.

Two weeks ago, I took a break from Facebook. I posted well in advance that I was taking a break from it for probably a month. My selfcontrol around social media, specifically Facebook and the comments (oh the comments) was exacerbating my current mental health slump. So I said enough and backed off. Three things happened.

1. (Almost) No One Cared

I posted something along the lines of this: I will be taking an indefinite break from Facebook due to serious mental health concerns. If you’d like my email or phone number to keep in touch, PM me before tomorrow.

Out of all my many contacts, across three pages and my personal profile only FIVE people responded. And of those five, three asked if I would still be on messenger.

I felt even more alone than I did when I was lost in the sea of comments, memes, and trending posts. Where were all my so called friends? People that I KNOW in person care about me, but beyond the odd like here and there, have been radio silent during my struggle.

2. Unsolicited Medical Advice

After being off of Facebook for two weeks, I shared on Twitter that I’ve been battling suidical ideation and depression for a while. I disclosed about my battle with weight gain and how to get my life back I needed drastic changes—including deleting Facebook.

Within minutes I had multiple messages filled with advice on diets, treatment, counselling, nutrition, wellness gimmicks, and many other unsolicited solutions.

Here’s why that’s harmful: to offer unsolicited advice assumes that the person hasn’t already done the work. It reinforces the “try harder” model of recovery that has been proven ineffective without a holistic approach. Fact is, I’ve been on this journey much longer than has been public and have a better grasp on what’s available in my city and for my needs than those who have been wall flowers in my life.

After a lengthy set of conversations over messenger, and Instagram, I was drained and cried out. I felt the need to defend my right to privacy of treatment even though I was being open about my struggle. Sharing where I am at is not the same as inviting advice.

I posted an update set to friends only with my email, and PM’d a few close friends my phone number and told people to contact me that way. This time, though no one emailed, six friends responded to by texting me.

3. Radio Silence

Though the constant input of information and outrage culture is gone, my phone and inbox are dead silent. I pulled away, and next to no one followed. The ones that did, are the ones that are in the same boat as me health wise. They have a lot going on in their personal and professional lives and cannot carry the burden of another unwell friend.

This concerns me a bit. Where the healthy people at? And are there any?

We tell folx to reach out, to share when they are struggling. We affirm over and over again that we are here for them. If you need anything, just let me know—we say. Yet here I am, and countless others are, shouting in every direction that we are not okay. We long for people to reach out at talk with us without the agenda of offering solutions. We want someone who will sit in the muck with us without the expecation of improvement. We want someone who will order skip the dishes to our house, or come over and do the dishes and leave, or bring a coffee without being asked, or just text us mundane stuff throughout the day so we feel connected.

What even is support?

Support looks different for different people. One thing it is absolutely not is “have you tried….”, “did you consider…..”, “eat/read/do/listen/ ……..”. It’s “hey I’m thinking of you”, a text of your pet or child doind something silly, a snail mail letter, a long rambling email, human connection—it’s the anticipation of a loved one’s physical and emotional needs and meeting them if you’re able—it’s love.

When someone is suicidal or depressed, they need unconditional solution free love. If it weren’t for the unconditional love of my partner and three friends, I wouldn’t be here.

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Mother’s Day: Gender and Trauma

There are many reasons why this day is hard for me. I know it’s difficult for others too. I see you and I support you.

For those of us who have difficult relationships with our mothers, this day can bring up a lot of past trauma, harmful thought patterns, and a general feeling of grief.

I struggle every year to find the right greeting card. I love my mother intensely and fiercely, but in my 33 years there has never existed a card that didn’t include some version of “thank you for everything” or “best mom ever” and those sentiments do not apply.

Don’t get me wrong, my mother is a tough cookie. She raised two kids on her own as a teen/young adult. She did so without support from her family, or our father, and without completing high school. She also raised two kids who have never been in any real kind of trouble and are living relatively successful lives.

At the same time, my mother did all of that while battling her own trauma and mental health issues in an age when mental health was not treated openly—if at all. She was misdiagnosed and then improperly treated until my mid-20s resulting in choas.

Compound that with my own story of infant loss at aged 18 and I quite literally HATE Mother’s Day.

The more I explore the nuances of gender, sex, and diversity, the more I realize how isolating these holidays are to so many people. If you or your parent is non-binary or trans how do you include them in a celebration that is primarily overrun by enforced pink floral gender stereotypes? What does “mother” even mean if separated from pink femininity?

Mothers are shapers of tiny humans and mentors of those same folks as they grow up. But, isn’t this what fathers and all parent types theoretically do? I get it. I’m not trying to take away from anything here. Mothers are a big deal.

So are all those other parents and childless parents that don’t fit into the pink and blue.

What are some non-gendered parent terms used in your home?

#BecauseofRHE

When I read the news yesterday morning that Rachel Held Evans had lost her fight in hospital against unexpected sudden illness, I was beyond shocked.

In one instant, I was angry, hurt, hopeless, tearful, afraid, and ultimately unable to express my profound loss. I didn’t know Rachel personally, but have had the privilege of interacting with her through social media and private online forums. Rachel existed and ministered in the margins. She was a beacon and a balm for LGBTQ people of faith to say the least.

She connected and championed us. She raised otherwise ignored voices to a place where they were not only heard but amplified. In doing so, a new community of questioners and faith-game changers was rising, is rising.

The single greatest thing we have #becauseofRHE is each other. Her legacy is us carrying on her work.

If you’ve ever been silenced by the voice that wonders if what you’ve got to say matters, the one that keeps you afraid to put yourself out there—I want you to look at the last 32 hours of tweets about Rachel’s impact.

She took a chance, giving voice to things and making space for things that most of us who are in a fog of loss were thinking and living daily. We can do it too. We MUST do it. The way we can honour her best is to carry on that work.

Your voice matters. You are the change the world needs. Our love is radical. Our family is international. We got this #becauseofRHE.

Still Gay, Still Christian

It’s been a few years since I came out publicly on social media. I was out in my close relationships and the local community, but I was terrified of losing all credibility in the circles of faith. I was scared of being found out and ultimately cast aside. You can find out about that journey here and here.

Since then, a few things have changed. I am now in a long-term committed relationship with a wonderful woman. We’ve been together for over a year and I’ve never been more at peace with myself or my sexuality.

I’ve had the privilege of mentoring youth and young adults who find themselves in the crossroads of having to choose between the faith of their family and the truth of who they are at the very core of their being.

There is a shift taking place within the church. Many denominations and theologians are reevaluating old proof texts with fresh eyes. More and more conservative-leaning church leaders are landing on the side of inclusion. Q Christian Network and Generous Space Ministries have many resources for anyone open to learn.

This past month I read Vicky Beeching’s Undivided and realized how similar our stories are. The rhetoric of sexuality being a choice or something a person can change (or should change) is damaging and people are literally dying because of it.

Though I’ve not found an affirming church in my remote location, I have found a community of Christians (mostly straight allies) who welcome me, love me, support me, and stand in a posture of defence and protection for those like me. If Jesus’ teaching are life-saving and God’s grace unconditional, then why are so many advocating hate and violence in his name?

I see you. I stand with you. You are not alone.

#SenseUsCanada – Poetry Project Needs You

I want to invite you in to the conversation that has reduced you to data on a page. I want to highlight your voice, your struggles, your successes, your failures, your life through collaborative digital poetry.

How to participate in #SenseUsCanada ?

Step One: Visit for the type of clips needed for this project. You may identify with one or many of the groups listed. Group identifiers have been chosen from real questions on the Canada Census forms relating to ethnicity, gender, income, age, and other information.

Step Two: Record a voice clip using your phone’s voice memo app or on your computer/tabelt. Clips should be no shorter than one minute and no longer than five minutes.

Step Three: Please do not include your name in the recording. Save your file with your first name or alias and the group it’s applicable to. For example: Cheryl_LGBTQ.mp3. Most softwares will automatically choose the file type.

Step Four: Copy and paste this text into the Contact Us form: “I (insert name) authorize Cheryl Folland to use my words for #SenseUsCanada understanding that they will be shared publically. I understand that my identity will not be shared unless I, myself do so, or I provide written consent anytime before or after publication.”*

Step Five: If you choose to participate, you will be sent a privacy form that outlines your protection in detail. Your story will NOT be added unless you agree to the privacy policy, which can be done digitally.

Who can participate?

The project is open to anyone living in Canada and is based on their experiences in Canada. Regardless of how long you’ve been here, if you are an international student, a landed immigrant, native to Canada, or a non-citizen of any other kind; you are invited to participate.

Can I speak in a language other than English?

Yes! You may. Be aware that the clips will be edited by an English only speaker and layered with other clips in various langauges. In other words, your story might not “make sense” if listening for it on its own—but it will enhance the overall track for that specific group by providing essential diversity.

At this time those living in other countries permanently are not invited to participate as the project is based off the Canadian Census Form.

Okay, Great. I’m in! What do I talk about?

Talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and the weird. What is a memory that sticks in your mind? What is a constant barrier you face that others might not know exists? What makes you Canadian?

Still stuck?

I’ll be in communication with contributors to guide them further in the process if they are unsure at any point.

I’m not sure I want to share my story, is there another way I can help?

Yes! Share this post with the hashtag #SenseUsCanada on social media and invite other Canadians to participate.

This is the chance to be more than a data point on a graph somewhere. We are real people, with real stories, that really matter!

*This is an important authorization. Privacy law in Canada is strict and I will never share your identity without express permission. For the purposes of the project, all segments will be presented as a collective voice per each group.