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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Starting Over – My First Christmas

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Starting Over – My First Christmas

A lot has gone since we last spoke on this blog, Amanda and I moved out of Discovery Ridge early in December and into a brand new house in Mahogany.  We’ve been here a few weeks now, and are slowly beginning to get settled in, we have a few more boxes of I don’t even know what left to sort through, but we’ll get there.  The home is beautiful, I couldn’t be happier with it.  We have a lot of work to do in the spring with the yard, a deck and a fence but I am looking forward to all of that.  One of my favorite things about the new house is the office space/2nd spare bedroom upstairs, it’s the one space in the home I am allowed full control of, and I love it!  For those who have read this blog in the past, you know that writing for me is sort of like a ritual, I need music, I need dim lights, I need incense, I need a lot of stars to align to be creative. In a one-bedroom condo, it was difficult to do all of that without being a nuance to someone else.  Now, with the extra space, I am able to get away and do my writing pow-wow more often.  It sounds stupid, but the new home has been much more conducive to my writing.      …I hope I just used that word properly; “conducive” has become my favorite word lately.  My mom will let me know if I used that incorrectly I am sure, haha.

I hope everyone is prepared, and excited for the holidays coming up in a couple of days.  I am a little bit of everything, excited, scared, nervous, sad, the whole works… once again.  Springtime, leading up to the anniversary of Jen’s passing, and December are usually the hardest times of the year for myself, and my family.  This will be our sixth Christmas, and New Year’s without her, and it will be my first real Christmas without Jen.  Scratch that.  Now that I write it out.  I’m petrified.  The year Jen passed away, my mom, Brody and I set out to Cuba last minute, I believe we left Christmas day.  It was the best thing we could have done, cause I didn’t have to see Christmas really at all.  We flew home on New Years day.  Again, it was great cause I didn’t have to see traditional new years back at home.  Years since I’ve been in Hawaii, with Amanda and her family, and last year with both of ours.   That was also great, because you were completely distracted from the holidays here at home.  If we flew out on Xmas day, Terrific, I missed it all again.  If we didn’t, well, it wasn’t as bad cause you were usually so busy preparing for a 2-week trip to Hawaii that you didn’t really notice it as much.  And, in Hawaii, sure we still celebrated Christmas, we had dinner, exchanged gifts, said Merry Christmas.  But we did so in our shorts and flip flops, in 28 degree weather, at a Hawaiian pub.  It wasn’t real.  The people around were doing the same thing, nothing really changed.  It was wake up, coffee, newspaper, breakfast, and beach and then onto some activity, everyone did the same thing there, you never really saw Christmas, so to me it wasn’t really Christmas, it didn’t feel like it at all, new years the same thing.  I was able to avoid it, year after year, and I truly felt as I woke up on January 3rd, or 4th, after the dust had settled, I felt like I had won.  I beat the holidays.  The 3-4 weeks before the holidays, just like the 3-4 weeks before May 7th, you work yourself up so much wondering what it’s going to be like, that you almost psyche yourself out, and that becomes the most difficult part.  When it’s over, and you’re still breathing, you’re still alive… you feel like you’ve won, like you just beat someone in a battle that took nearly a month.  You came out on top.  Christmas and New Years has always been the same thing, Usually around Jan. 3, Jan 4 once it’s all done, I don’t feel like I have to hide from the holidays anymore, I realize that I survived, and maybe, just maybe it wasn’t all that bad.  I feel completely victorious, as you would after winning an exhausting battle, even though the battle is with yourself.

Amanda always calls me the Grinch, jokingly because I am so anti-holidays.  The truth is, I do hate them.  Absolutely.  You would too.  You would hate any time of the year that is as difficult for me as the Christmas holidays, and the spring.  We used to always spend every Christmas together, whether in Victoria, or Vegreville.  Our families would be together, and it was awesome.  Christmas was always one of the few times a year I would be able to see my sister when she lived in Victoria.  I looked forward to Christmas so much.  I can remember our last Christmas break together vividly.  We were going to Joey’s in Sherwood Park for dinner, my mom, my brother, Jen, Abbey and myself.  We were meeting my aunt and uncle for dinner.  I can remember the entire drive to Sherwood Park, I remember the conversations, I remember what everyone was wearing, I remember the weather, I even remember the damn road conditions, I remember bits and pieces of the dinner conversation.  I remember exactly where we sat in Joey’s.  The exact table, and I remember where everyone sat.  What I don’t remember, was really ever saying Happy Holidays to anyone, or saying goodbye to my sister.  I had no idea that would be our last Christmas, I had no idea that would be the last time I would ever have the opportunity to hug my sister.  I had no idea.  It was.  I’ll never go to that Joey’s again.

This is why I hate the holidays.  I’m afraid of them, I want to skip them all together, if not at the very least completely avoid them.  As I mentioned before, I’ve done a bang up job of doing the latter.  But, this year… There is no escaping.  I am here.  I am stuck, I have nowhere to go, I have nothing to distract myself.  I am going to have to finally face the holidays, and it’s already been a struggle.  I can tell since the beginning of December, I’ve just started to become a bit more stand-offish, I’ve been distant, I’ve been tired, not really motivated.  Just feel like you’re in a complete slump.  And it’s not really helping a whole lot at home when we have a tall task of moving going on.  There have been days where I’ve just come home, and I’ve been completely content sitting on the couch with the hockey game on, and doing nothing, saying nothing.  I’m just completely lost in myself, the hockey game is on, but I’m not even watching it.  I want too.  And, I want to help unpack, or organize things, but I just for whatever reason.  I can’t.  A serious case of the holidays blue’s, if you will… I guess.

A few times I’ve drove to work, or to hockey, or to wherever, and I can see Christmas tree’s in the windows of homes, or families building snowmen, or Christmas decorations.  Usually, I’d think that this should make a person happy, excited, or at the least feel good.  For me, it’s as difficult as can be.  Right away I have flashbacks to our Christmas’ together, whether it’s dinner at Joey’s, or we’re all sitting around the tree in Victoria.  Then, I think ahead to what will happen in a week when I am still here, and It’s Christmas, how the hell is that going to go.  Probably not well.  Then, I begin to psyche myself out all over again.

This is why I hate Christmas, Amanda is right.  It’s not because I just don’t like it, it’s because it’s an extremely devastating time of year.  It’s just… hard.

I’ve been thinking for the last month, what the hell am I going to do when the clock strikes 12, and its December 25th.  Now what.  I thought, well, I’ll go somewhere; I’ll go for a drive.  Nope, I can’t do that, because I’ll see it.  I’ll see Christmas, I’ll see families enjoying it, as they damn well should, I just can’t anymore.   I thought, maybe I’ll just hang out, and just write all day, and watch movies, but then I thought nope, I can’t do that cause I’ll put myself right back into that slumping feeling where I am incapable of doing anything else.  I thought, well, I’ll just sleep, I’ll just play xBox, I’ll go skate at the outdoor rink… I have no fucking idea.  I have no idea what I am going to do.  I thought maybe, I’d drive to Vegreville for the day, and just spend the day with my family there… But, nope, that’s far away.  Really, I just tried to avoid Christmas with the family because of 350 Kms?  … This is how far I am starting to go to try and avoid the whole thing.  I don’t want to leave Amanda at home by herself all day on Xmas day, and I certainly don’t think I want the hoopla of Christmas.

I don’t want to take Christmas away from anyone else.  I believe it’s something every family should celebrate if you can, like I said, it was my favorite time of the year. I’ve just lost that now, and I try myself to keep it all to myself without effecting those around me, in my “Grinch” ways.  Like, Amanda for instance.  She loves Christmas, and I want her too.  She want’s to do the gifts, and the decorations, and everything else, which I great but I just don’t.   But, I keep it to myself.

So this year, Christmas for us will be on Boxing day.  We are going to celebrate it, just a day late.  I laughed at that kind of, thought that’s Jen’s way of compromising with me.  Telling me, Kid, you gotta go through this, but I’ll throw you a bone.  Do it on boxing day, not Christmas day.  Have Christmas Day at your own pace.  I don’t know if it’s her compromising with me, or having a laugh, but either way… I am hoping it helps.

On Boxing Day, my mom, niece, and my mom’s boyfriend Alan will come over for dinner, gifts, and… Christmas.  As too will my good friend Geoff, who has been through it all with me from day one of this year never ending grieving process.  I have to admit, In a weird way,  I am kind of looking forward to it.  I am looking forward to Jan 3 more than anything else, and the days to come after.  This entire blog, I shared with my counsellor, told her why Christmas is so difficult.  She mentioned that maybe this is one of the last steps in my grieving process, and the last barricade of an extremely challenging year.   Christmas was always such a special time for me, then I lost that, then I avoided every one of them.  Now this year, I have nowhere to go, but I’ve had all the years in-between to grieve, and to prepare.  I can’t hide from Christmas forever, so maybe this year, is the year I go through it, and I become victorious on Jan 3 when it’s all over, and from there it’s uphill, Christmas is the last thing I need to conquer.

Maybe I am just being too much of an optimist these days… but this year has not really been conducive to my life.

Bring it on holidays, I guess.

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