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.

Advertisements

Do You Regret Coming Out?

From the archives, originally posted in 2016.

In light of the recent headlines with Colton Haynes officially coming out, I’ve had many people ask me if I regret it at all in my own journey.

What I can say is that I entirely echo Colton’s words that “acting 24 hours a day is exhausting”. What I regret is the time I spent living in fear of being discovered, disowned and discarded. What I’ve found is that most people in my life are embracing me and even celebrating my courage.

I’ve yet to meet a member of the LGBTQ community that regrets coming out. Regret is far often more attached to HOW it happened than being out in the open. Not everyone is as lucky as me. They don’t get to choose when and how they come out. Countless youth are outed by peers or parents far before they’re ready for different reasons. Many are outed within the faith community when coming out to someone in trust and “did you hear about?” becomes a “prayer request.”

Being out to friends and family and being out to the public are also different things–which Colton touches on in his article linked above.

For me, it’s deep and personal. I needed to come to terms with myself and grieve the ways I had acted and hurt myself and others while hiding from the truth. I needed to face the friends that I had shoved out of my life and force myself to ask hard questions.

I needed to choose what was more important to me–what I know about myself or what others expected of a Christian. Talking with my mom, we both laughed at the idea that I ever tried to NOT be bisexual. The first person I was ever in love with was my next door neighbour Melissa.

We were about 8-ish and spent every waking moment of the summer together. It was the kind of puppy love that parents encourage between a boy and a girl as “cute” and “normal”–but it wasn’t until I was a grown up looking back that I saw it for what it was.

Praise the Lord my mother never shamed me for that relationship or a few I had in my teens. In our family, who you love had more to do with how they treat you and others than their gender, race or religion.

What did coming out mean for you?

Family Portrait: chapbook sneak peek​

I’m getting excited about this project. To give you a small taste of what I’ve been working on, I thought I’d share the introduction to Family Portrait with you.

“Not much by way of content has changed over the past thirteen years in my poetry. I’m driven to explore familial trauma through the written word both in fiction and non-fiction. Poetry offers a nuanced way to zero in on specific language. This close-up examination of moments allows an honesty and an intimacy that is not readily available in a journalistic account of events or a fictional narrative. 

When I began to seriously consider poetry, my work was posted to a personal blog. It was confessional in style and written for no one in particular—but I knew it must be shared. Before the internet became widely accessible, my poems existed in volumes of written journals or were housed on 3.5 disks. My mother still has a stack of those old 3.5’s in her desk as sentimental paper-weights alongside a hand-bound collection of poems from my original blog.

Even in those early works, I explored themes of familial relationships, identity, longing, and spirituality. I often incorporated scenes from real life, with dialogue and identifiable characters, into musing and metaphors grounded most in colours and textures. 

 My current projects speak both to a broader audience and on behalf of marginalized voices. Over the past four years of exploration, themes of childhood trauma, queer identity, womanhood, and mental illness come together in free verse, experimental form, and nuevo-formal tradition. 

To me the fight is not content versus form, but the poem shapes into what it needs to be. Fixed form can shape an idea into a striking image by way of control. A poem about something as mundane as a vanilla scented candle can be as profound as a poem about infant loss—it all comes down to moments crafted to allow readers insights otherwise unavailable. 

This collection is comprised mainly of free form and free verse. Fixed form causes me to self-edit content that I’m vulnerable about before it ends on the page. I prefer to use fixedform for nature themes or humorous work.

 I’ve titled it Family Portrait as my two favourite pieces “Father” and “Mother” are the heart the rest of my story flows from. Both are inspired by conversations. My mother raised my older brother and I on her own from age 20. She and my father separated when I was two years old, and later divorced when I was eight. The last time I saw my father was Christmas Eve 1990. He promised to be there in the morning when we woke up. After my brother and I had gone to bed our parents had an undisclosed conflict and we never saw our father again. 

We grew up transient. We moved a lot. By age 18 I had attended 23 schools. We were poor, on welfare, and had no longterm attachments outside of my maternal grandmother Helen. Our childhood was steeped in drugs and risky behaviour.

27 years later, I received a message on Facebook from a man with a made up name. Though he appeared very aged (for a man of 56 he looked more in his 70’s) and clearly unhealthy (I could see the grey of his skin and the toothless smile he gave in his profile picture—of him and his cat), I recognized my father and my heart cried “Daddy.”

I try to write most about the underneath of it all. I pay attention to the interaction between reality and the interpretation of reality. With “To Hold a Candle” I wanted to look at how consumption as an attitude has real consequences to the world around me. A candle is an object without thought or feeling. The consumption of an object, that by nature is designed to be consumed, is something we think little of as we interact with the world daily. But what if the candle did have sentience? What if it wanted a life of comfort enriched with literature and antiques? 

How can I explore the underneath of relationships in my life? Is there a way poetry can convey truths and emotions that are difficult to pin down much less say aloud in conversation? I believe that poetics allow writers the space to create images in place of, or in conjunction with, complex and sometimes troubling topics. Poetry gives us permission to explore the taboo and the traumatic in a place of protected vulnerability. Word-craft becomes simultaneously an outlet and a sanctuary for our shadows and light.”

Wind

a gentle breeze

morphs into a tempest

where trees once

danced and bowed before a

dormant power

they dig their roots in deeper

anchored—they sway drunk

on the wind’s power, unable

to stand upright

a lonely boat rests in the

harbour at the complete mercy

of a wild master. Wind

shows up when and how

it wants, breathing life

into old sails. Nothing was ever

conquered by sea without its permission

a multitude of stagnant days wait

for perfect conditions

Wind goes where and when

it wants, wild, ruthless and free. It kisses

the faces of lovers and uproots

the strongest trees

nothing is unknown, untouched

by wind’s eyeless gaze

it can freeze a thousand oceans or

ignite the fiercest blaze

Wind is love unsettled

it is love untamed, it’s a fiery

passionate lover and a gently

warm embrace. It’s frigid

and consuming, touching

everything in sight

it keeps the fires burning

between lovers

in the deepest darkest night

the earth’s breath kissing, moving

over the surface of the sea

the power of my love, the wind, at

the very core of me.

let me steer your ship

as I churn the seas

let me dance in the forest

among your greenery

let the leaves cry out in jubilation

at the thought of me

the brilliance of an arid power

found in their revelry

by breath will fan their desire

as wind caresses skin

I am taken in

What I didn’t know was missing

Sitting, rather, laying on top of my patchwork quilt yesterday, I said, “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.”

I’ve always been an independent person. I was the strong-willed child that knew what she wanted, the edgy teen who didn’t take flack from anyone, and the travelling idealist looking for a place to put roots down—in her own time.

Over the past few years, I’ve begun to do just that. I’ve met more amazing people since moving to Vancouver Island than I was prepared for. I’ve had the privilege of working with non-profits and social justice warriors to invest in the community and better the lives of lose less fortunate. I went back to school to pursue my passion, became established in the local writing community, started working full-time for the first time ever, and have a strong support network.

I was happily single. Free for adventures, late night talks, random road trips, and content with it.

Then, I was happily single and crushing hard on someone.

For all my bravery, moving to other countries with my clothes on my back, coming out as bisexual in a Christian church (subsequently losing what felt like everything), and coming back from nothing countless times—it was the single most terrifying experience to put myself out there.

I’ve had a history of barking up the wrong tree. People are beautiful. In my life, I’ve known some rare gems. They don’t see their potential, their impact on others, or their sheer brilliance. As an observer with my heart on my sleeve, I notice those individuals with the capacity for great love right away. I sat on it for a long while. I thought, this will pass and then I can carry on with my plans of graduating and work towards publishing.

Then, my good frenemy tequila intervened and I sent that notorious drunk text. Now, thank GOD drunk Cheryl isn’t an idiot. I didn’t say anything regrettable. It was literal liquid courage. I told her that I liked her.

What happened between now and then can only be explained as a miracle. Like, finally all the good karma I’ve sown is coming back to me. I didn’t know I needed to feel safe like I am with her. I didn’t know that I needed to feel beautiful even when my hair is standing straight up and I’ve got last night’s glitter and camping dust stuck to my face. I didn’t know that I needed someone to hold my hand while my heart broke for the pain of a loved one.

It’s funny how you don’t know what you’re missing until you have it.