Your Move, Chief

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Maybe this is too late.  Maybe this isn’t even relevant anymore.  But, last week we lost one of the finest individuals to grace this planet.  No, not just because he was a phenomenal actor, but because he battled for so long, to bring everyone else joy and laughter despite his own misery, and emptiness, despite his own mental obstruction. He was gifted, courageous, and beyond brave.

Upon hearing the news of Robin passing away, I was upbeat, driving home from engagement photos, and on the radio, as DJ whoever began playing his next techno beat, and the beats of this terrible song faded in, DJ whoever let us know that an icon had passed. But, that was all. Into the techno trance the song went. Instantly, I felt sick. I loved Robin Williams. First thing that came to my mind, was… Is this guy talking about the same Robin Williams that played Mrs. Doubtfire? Like… Patch Adams – Robin Williams? Surely, He’d have done more than just say “oh hey by the way folks before we get to this song…” But, after searching my mind for a few minutes for another Robin Williams, I came to the unfortunate conclusion. Yes. It was… Patch Adams. Typically though, as part of my own constant fight with mental illness, I feel nothing. That’s my usual reaction. Nothing. Emptiness. Even amongst the most tragic events. I don’t usually feel an overwhelming amount of sadness, or despair. I don’t…. usually feel anything. Empty. I try too, but I can’t for anymore than a moment.  But, I felt sad. Abnormally sad, I just had a bad feeling.  I felt connected.  Moments later, I got home… and I think I had already convinced myself I knew how Mr. Williams had passed. I turned on the TV, and it was confirmed. Suicide. My heart sunk, and my stomach twisted immediately. I don’t know how I knew. It just hit me close to home, right away. I just knew.  I felt it.

As sad as it were for me to learn about the news of Mr. Williams, I am not on a personal level with Mr. Williams, therefore, I couldn’t allow myself to be overtaken by the news. I can’t try and feel the same pain that his family and friends feel, I don’t want too. I’ve felt that. But, the hardest part for me in moving on from this one quickly, and not allowing myself to feel anything more than a few moments of sadness was… the rest of us.

I’m not one to follow along to celebrities’ personal troubles. I always believe they are humans alike the rest of us, they just happen to be good at their jobs, and the rest of us care way too much about what they’re doing, and put them under these encapsulated microscopes, and we wait for them to struggle, we wait for bad things to happen to them, and we pounce, we have opinions, comments, we have all the answers to the lives of these robots. As if that’s what they are.

As par for the course, when a celebrity struggles, fights, battles anything. It becomes a global issue for a mere 72 hours. Whether it’s racism, poverty, drugs, crime, physical health, and… Mental health. It’s unfortunate that all of the problems that plague our society are only really discussed at the “trending” level, when one of these robots we hold on a mile-high pedestal is identified with of these issues. Though, I notice this often, I am easily able to just shut off twitter, facebook, TV, radio…etc, and I don’t need to really associate myself with the opinons, and views of “us”… But, this time, I associated myself too close to the matter, and let it get to me.  It was too close to home.

Shortly after learning about the passing of Robin Williams, I posted this…

Devastated by the news of Robin Williams. Too close to home for me. An unfortunate reminder that we can all be victim to mental illnesses. No matter how rich, or how famous, we’re all just human. #RIP Robin Williams.

The response was tremendous, reassuring, almost like people understood this time.  I’ve been talking about mental illness through my social media feeds for a few years now, and I do it without any hesitation now, but I still often am thinking about what other people might be thinking when I do write the stuff.  But, Maybe, just hopefully we’ve had this discussion enough times that we have finally figured it out. We have finally learned that mental illness is real. It is real, it is happening, and it is happening to any kind of person, regardless of pedestal, fame, fortune and power. It does not discriminate, in any way, shape or form. And, Robin Williams is a sad, and unfortunate reminder of this. After posting this, and seeing the responses, I felt better, I felt like maybe we are actually making progress towards accepting mental illnesses, and accepting those who fight this as… normal.

A few days had come and gone, and for whatever reason, I just stayed off of social media. It’s almost as if I knew I was being naïve, and it was too good to be true, so I was avoiding what I was afraid I’d see, and what I knew I’d see.  We have not made any progress. Then, all in the same day, I was no longer able to avoid reality, and avoid society.

Around the same time, my mom had sent me a note that had passed along to her from one of my blogs readers, and she then mentioned to me one of these internet trolls had wrote something absurd about depression, mental illness and suicide being a choice. I just couldn’t fathom it.  Really? Someone could say that?  Really?  I didn’t even really respond, because I didn’t allow myself to believe it. My mom mentioned that she had tried to make this ignoramus aware of their own idiocy.   I remember then, debating with myself. Do I want to read what that troll wrote, and join my mom in letting her know my opinions too, or just leave it because it’ll drive me crazy, and ruin my day.  I went with the latter, but then I opened up my facebook page, and couldn’t believe the comments I saw. Albeit, from an individual that I, and many others hold in quite low esteem, but there behold comments like

“I am sick of the media responses about Robin Williams, he made a choice”

And then equally sized morons commenting

“He had all the fame, fortune, money he could imagine, how could he be sad”

“This isn’t the real Robin Williams we know “

“He made a choice, lets quit talking about him, and talk about the real Robin Williams we know!”

… Are you fucking kidding me? Are you seriously that stupid, and that ignorant? I immediately, had completely lost my faith, once again in our people. Again, the host of these comments, and this discussion is not someone I would trust to tell me the difference between grass and snow, but still, all the more reason he shouldn’t be commenting on these types of issues. I skimmed through the comments at the time, and those four I just typed stick out in my mind like a sore thumb, an engrained image. Nauseating,

  • What choice did he make? To live with an illness that he tried to tolerate, manage and fight for so long that it ultimately became intolerable?
  • Right, So famous people aren’t susceptible to mental illness, just all the other illnesses, they can’t be depressed, or have bi-polar disorder. Not Robin. Not Kurt. Not Wade Belak? Rick Rypien? Derek Boogard?
  • This is the one that really gets me. Who is the Robin Williams that we all know? Is it Patch Adams? Mrs. Doubtfire? Is it Sean Maguire? Those are the Robin Williams we’ve seen, that’s the Robin Williams we’ve come to know. Him in his professional life. Not his personal life. We don’t know the real Robin Williams, this is part of the problem.
  • Again, the problem. Let’s never quit talking about him, his legacy, or his demise. Maybe that will stop the next one.

You haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about

It amazes me that people can be so ignorant, and so oblivious to these things. These people that are writing these comments, are the exact reason that people like myself, or people like my sister, or Robin, or Kurt Cobain couldn’t feel like they had the power, or strength to talk about their mental illness. These are the people that make the rest of us feel trapped, feel powerless. These are the people contributing to the stigma that perceives mental illness as negative and shameful, something that isn’t real, something made up. The reason these illnesses get so intolerable that, suicide becomes the only thing left, are these people.  It doesn’t take many of them to eliminate any chance of a platform allowing us to comfortably talk about mental health issues.  If only Robin Williams, or Jen could talk about their fight without any fear or repercussion like these internet trolls, maybe they wouldn’t have felt so entrapped, felt so isolated, so scared, they wouldn’t have felt their illness was so intolerable, and then they’d still be hear making both of us laugh today.   But, instead we attack Robin Williams daughter Zelda on twitter, because we can. Because, we can hide behind our keyboards under our fictional internet name,  and our poor grammar, because it allows us a platform to say the cruelest of things without any worry of repercussion. it’s easy, and nothing will come of it. This is where we put our energy, instead of constructively talking about how we can make mental illness an acceptable illness, like anything else… and understand it is not a choice.

No one chooses to struggle with depression. I don’t remember a morning in my life where I decided I wanted to be depressed, I don’t remember a morning in my life where I thought about my afternoon, and thought, ya, around 2:00 after I have lunch, I’ll try kill myself, because I feel sad today.  This isn’t how it works. It’s not a choice, and it’s not just a shitty day where things aren’t going right, so you decide to mop around at home. It’s not just a crappy week at work.

It’s feeling absolutely nothing, feeling empty, it’s not feeling sad, it’s not feeling happy, it’s not feeling real. It’s failure, it’s feeling complete failure regardless of accomplishments, it’s anxiety, it’s denial, it’s worrying, it’s fear, it’s feeling minute, it’s irrelevance. It’s not a choice. It’s “you’re always afraid to take the first step, because all you see is every negative thing ten miles down the road” It’s real.

 

It’s not a choice

&

 

It’s not your fault

Rest in Peace Robin Williams.  Say hi to Jen for me.

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A Nasty, Nasty Lesson From Mother Nature.

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Honey! I’m Home!!!

Damn, that fucking feels good to say.

For those of you that missed it…  I guess, well, I don’t know where to start with you.  But, I hope your summers have been less dramatic & eventful than ours have been.

June 19th… I was sitting in my chair I always lounge in, Amanda on the couch & we were watching some TV show.  Meanwhile, Calgary was under complete torrential downpour like nothing I have ever seen.  While scanning twitter, and the news stations, I continued to read about this massive storm we were being hit with. Unconcerned as always having lived in Calgary long enough to know it’s summer and this is our every day. Storm warning. Storm warning.  I can remember reading a tweet from someone to CTV Weather Man – Paul Dunphy that said something along the lines of “Are we going to be okay in Calgary?”  Well…  My arrogant self had a blast with this one!  I think I replied something slightly abrasive along the lines of OMG NO! ANOTHER SUPERSTORM I THINK WE ARE COMPLETELY DOOMED! BOOM!…

… I thought I was being sarcastic at the time, and she was being a tad overzealous about another storm.

Well, fast-forward about 12 hours. At work I see on Twitter suddenly my community of Discovery Ridge is to be immediately evacuated.  Umm. Pardon?  No one really saw of what was about to come…coming. Evidently.  And it didn’t sink into to me immediately what was going on either.  I called my girlfriend who was at home, and she was completely blindsided by this as well. “I just took Kona out, it’s dry, we’re fine, it’s sunny here” … I’m more confused now! So, I got up from my desk at work and oddly somewhat boasted about us being evacuated, thought, hey cool maybe I get to go home early this Thursday.  Still, completely ignorant to what was truly about to occur.

So, I sauntered out of the office a few conversations later, headed home and sent a few sarcastic snaps to my friends about being evacuated. Chalk about reason for mother nature to completely fuck me. You’d think maybe this was the end of my ignorance?

Nope.  

Got home, and it was weird. There was a mile long line of cars heading into our community, but as I was already 20 minutes past evacuation time, I thought I was above all the other people racing home to get their shit and prepare for the Armageddon that I went right to the lights in the straight lane, turned on the left light, and vroom off I went.  See ya Lexus. Down the hill in Discovery Ridge, people were walking their dogs, laughing, stopping to chat with friends, others were in a complete fucking frenzy to get stuff jammed into their Mercedes.  I was still pretty cool.  I saw nothing to fret about.  Despite ravishing flood warnings.  However, As many Calgarians can likely attest too… This became a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” story. Every day nearly, every summer is “severe thunderstorm warning” “tornado watch” … etc. And, of course it’s never more then a storm.  Why should this be any different?  Other than I guess all surrounding communities had already been flooded, and this happened 8 years previous.  But… Nonetheless.  Parked the F150 underground. Take the elevator up. Come home. Turn on the TV. Make a few more jokes about this evacuation, and then declare that I’m content until I am told by someone “official” at our door we have to go.  As if the radio, social media and disgruntled megaphone warnings weren’t enough. Well, a pizza, a beer or 2, and a couple cycles of sportscenter later… My life completely changed.  Forever.

“YOU HAVE 5 MINUTES TO GET YOUR STUFF AND GET OUT OF HERE NOW! THE PARKADES ARE ALREADY FLOODING, THE PARKADE ACROSS IS ALREADY FLOODED 8 FEET”

Ummm… Fuck. I haven’t even really packed anything.  Shit.

Thankfully, Amanda as always was completely ready to go for this and had everything including the animals set up for instant departure. Not me. I had 5 minutes.  Fortunately, I am guy so it was ok. I made it down the stairs in time.  Got into my truck. And poof. Yep. The manhole cover had just popped off and water started coming in.

We made it out.  And I couldn’t believe the scene.  Water. Mud. Muddy Water. People. People Crying. Mobs of People. Cameras. Phones. Screaming. Ambulance. Police. Semi’s. Industrial Trucks. Security. Firemen. Vehicles. Water. Mud. Muddy Water… Devastation.

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… What is happening?  I had to park, get out and try and take in what was happening.  Guards were blocking the flooded parkade so people didn’t try going in. And you could just hear the water roaring, and I mean roaring. Combined with people screaming, and people crying. It was really incomprehensible what was happening.  I never want to hear those sounds again.

It took my about a half an hour to actually get out of Discovery Ridge.  If anyone has ever been fortunate enough to make it into Discovery Ridge, consider yourself a lucky one. It’s one of the most beautiful residential communities in the world. I can guarantee. Rarely do you ever see more then 5-6 cars moving at once. You see more bikes, more kids, families walking, and more dogs. It’s a very small, very active community. Well, There may have been 500 vehicles in Discovery Ridge when I finally left. People leaving and just parking along the street watching from the top of the hill. People from nearby coming in just to see what all the fuss is about. It was unbelievable.  And still. Some people remained calm. Some in small groups, laughing, almost normal.  Others looked afraid. Others completely hysterical. Others, like myself looked empty. Stund. Dumbfounded. 

We decided to drive back home to Vegreville and spend the weekend with family as we were told minimum 72 hours.  I didn’t think it’d be much more then this if even 72 hours. I can remember saying to a few buddies, ah yea 72 I think is just worst case.  Again. My arrogance. Strike 6? I drove the entire way home to Veg. 400-Ish KMs. Stayed with my Mom & Brother.  And still, it hadn’t really hit me what was going on.  By this point numerous communities were evacuated and the flood had ravished further, and devastated more.  I started to see the clippings on the news, and I grew sick. Nauseous. It was the feeling you get in your stomach when you’re just completely hung-over, and/or completely starving.  I almost threw up numerous times.  But, alike my normal self. I try to put up this stoic guard to show that I am doing fine.

…. I went to bed. Cried. I was scared. I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen. It didn’t seem real. I mean, a flood? Can this much damage happen from a flood? We’re on the fourth floor? We should be home soon right?

… I’m fine.

Fast-forward a few days. I stayed at one of my best friend’s parents place in Edmonton with his brother.  They were just completely awesome about taking me in. Just like my mom and brother were back home.  Fed me a great meal, gave me a great big bed to sleep in.  I’ve probably stayed over at the Cote’s house 2,000 times though growing up.  So this was nothing out of the norm for them other than the circumstances. (Thank you Kelly, Dean & Tarin) … Brett… Starbucks next time.

Nonetheless.  Sunday morning I woke up and saw that the community of Discovery Ridge had been restored of power & water.  Woooohoooo!! Off I went home. 8am. Going home! I knew this wouldn’t be so bad. 

I got home… I was wrong.  The parkades were still completely flooded. Garbage everywhere. The smell. Ugh. Can’t even explain.

A few days went by. My mom’s boyfriend (still ew) came with his vac trucks and started sucking out water at 11:30 on the Sunday night and he then his team must have went 40+ hours on their own helping us get back home. It was amazing. No one told him to come and do this. No one even really came and thanked him, or spoke to him from a condo management level.  The residents of Wedgewoods were phenomenal. Filled him up with cases and cases of beer, more and more food. It was pretty cool to see. But, nothing from our supposed leaders.  Beforehand, I tried to register him as a volunteer and no one would reply, or get back to me. Understandable that they were likely completely swamped with other areas.  But, our condo building kind of became lost in the shuffle for a few days.  Thankfully Alan and his team came out to do what they did.  And, still they’ve received no recognition.  All the updates from the alderman, condo board, and property managers say it was the group they hired to remove the water.  No. It wasn’t. But, anyway. Thank you Alan & RVI Vac Trucks.

A few days turned into a few more days and we still had no place to really go, and no answers. We snuck a few nights into our condo anyway. Despite no water nor power. We just had nowhere to go. Hotels were completely booked. Finally we got into one. They had ONE room left for ONE night. The disability room. Almost felt bad taking it… But, we had no choice.  Then, finally a friend of mine and his dad were beyond gracious enough to let us stay at their condo for the time he was gone on holidays till we left on our own.  10 days or so.  Man, oh Man was this heroic move in our journey from someone. So we hauled all our stuff down 4 stories and moved up another 4 into another condo for the next 10+ days. Started over buying groceries, as we had to completely scratch our fridge contents.

So many things happened over those next 10 days.  We had finally felt somewhat stable again.  I became angry & resentful towards Calgary and those trying to help. The mayor. The alderman. The workers. The property management. The condo board. I felt like we were completely forgotten about. We got very scarce updates. We had few questions answered. And, when I did challenge them on facebook where we were directed too… My comments, though never abrasive, foul or anything of the like were deleted, without answer. I was blocked.  This just further enraged me.  But, after being told at a high rise meeting couple weeks later it would be minimum 2 months till we got home.  I gave it up.  There was no point wasting my time & energy anymore trying to blame someone. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that this was happening. Could some people have communicated a little bit better? Probably. But such is life. It didn’t make sense for me to waste 2 months of energy trying to criticize those who were of higher power.

I left it alone. I accepted it. It was an amazing feeling actually. Typically, I am just unable to let things slide and accept it for what it is. But this I did. And, I was fine with it.  The 2 weeks prior I felt probably every emotion possible.  From arrogance too complete anger too just sadness, disappointment and frustration. Exhaustion.

After I finally accepted what was happening for what it was and there was little I was going to do to fix anything.  I was happy. I could go about my day. Still to this day… I wonder why I can’t just do this with my fucking self all the time and the things going on inside my damn head.  But anyway.

It was so nice to have a place to stay. A place to wake up in the same bed, brush your teeth with real tap water instead of a co-op bottle, and then turn the lights on.  You really take these things for granted in your own home.  Bottle water to brush your teeth and the flashlight app to find your way is no way to live.  It was just amazing having a stable place to rest our heads for the week and a bit till we left on our own holidays.  Thank you so much Hayduk family.

After staying there for a couple weeks.  Amanda & I were off on our own holidays.  Perfect timing. Just as the third week of our displacement started. We were gone to Abbotsford-Victoria-Seattle-Vancouver-Penticton for 10 days. What an absolutely amazing trip.  As this blog is already some kind of length. I’ll save this recap for another day. But, what a trip and what timing.

A couple days in, We were in Victoria.  I was saying goodnight to my grandma and had an email come in from our property management company stating we had gained conditional acceptance to our place.  Though, it was as most reports very vague. Very vague. In a couple days, more emails came and we were told we had a place to go home with water/power and air quality was restored despite no parkades & no elevators for some time.  Fine with me.

We could go home when we got home. What a relief. It was almost too good to be true, and I didn’t believe it. I mean, I had accepted 2 months. In my mind we were 2 months. Minimum. And I had accepted that.  And, parts of me think. In my own world. I just needed to do that. I needed to accept it for what it was. And then in a couple weeks. We were back. A nasty lesson from Mother Nature & her friends. But one I have forever learned.

By the time our holidays were done. We returned home on the 31st day of having no home. 31 days. 13 beds during our time being displaced (plus a bit of holidays ya ya) and when we got home I immediately moved everything in my truck back up the stairs. It was a horrible workout to have at 11:30 pm.  We were home. Amanda turned on the breakers, and we flicked on the lights and boom. We were back.  Her & I celebrated like we had just won the Stanley Cup in Overtime.  And, let me tell you.  It was easily one of the single most joyous moments of my entire life.  We had home. We were back. 31 days. & I was finally able to sleep in my own bed.

You really take for granted your own home.  I know now that I did. Just the little things. The smell. The comfort. Then, when it’s all ripped away from you.  It hurts. I’ll never be able to explain to you what it’s like to lose your sense of home unless you’ve truly experienced it.  But, it was hard.

I always laugh at these cheesy adages… But, now having been homeless for 31 days and unsure of any return time for much of it.

Home truly is where the heart is.

In 31 days of being flooded and being displaced. I learned so much more about myself. I think I grew up ten-fold in just those 31 days. Another traumatic life experience for me to learn some more from!                                                      I’m good for a while I think

But actually… I learned to accept things. This whole flood started with me being completely arrogant on the eve of. Making fun of people, till the joke was really on us.  In between I felt every single emotion one could possibly feel, and in only a couple long weeks.  Above all, I learned to accept things. Life isn’t always going to be the way I want it. I can’t control everything, especially the stuff around me that is out of my control.  My depression, I can try and control it.  Sometimes I think I do. Sometimes I think I have accepted that I may suffer from these things in my head forever.  But, other times.  I don’t think I have accepted that and I completely break down.  But this though is different.  The feeling of just accepting what was for what is was amazing.  The change for me emotionally that occurred after that, was unbelievable. It’s almost weird, funny maybe looking back at that single moment when I just said… You know what? 2 months. Fuck it. What am I going to do? I need to waste more time and energy on being there for my family, and finding options for us. Not trying to blame the aldermen. It changed me. It changed my entire experience. It’s the first time I have ever truly accepted something like that.

It was a nasty, nasty lesson to learn from Mother Nature. Though, one I needed.  Maybe in my own world, and my individual perspective, it’s her joke on me now after I called her bluff every time she stormed on us before and never quite took the lady serious.

Now Please.

On behalf of my city, the surrounding towns and myself. 

I’d like to call a truce. 

Please… No More. 

In Closing:

As terrible as my 31 days were, and my story in Discovery Ridge along with the experiences we went through and will continue to go through as we restore normalcy around here.  Still we live in a construction site, and need to sign in/sign out every time we go. 1500+ people have no parking so in a tiny community like so you can just imagine that problem.  Plus, no elevators makes things challenging and exhausting at times, especially on grocery day. 

However, the flood was much, much worse in others areas and affected so many more people. People lost family members. People completely lost their homes, their vehicles, and belongings.  We consider ourselves lucky at the end of the day.

 

If you haven’t already, or would like too, please donate anything you can to the Red Cross Flood Relief.  Trust me.  It will go a long way.

 

Thanks!

 http://www.redcross.ca/donate/donate-online/donate-to-the-alberta-floods