Showing posts from 2020

Waterton Wildflowers

The sheer number of wildflowers in Waterton is amazing and breathtaking. A tangle of purple flowers dance among bright orangey black eyed Susans and shades of yellow and white as far as the eye can see. No camera can justify how nuanced they are together in the Wild West wind.

Covid19 life—animal snuggles

If anyone has benefited from the stay at home COVID 19 time, it is certainly the animals. There is suddenly no shortage of hugs and snuggles. 

E-learning with Google Meets

Natalie doesn’t mind e-learning so far. Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons Natalie has google meets with her class where her teacher checks in on them—Tuesday’s are whole class meets and Thursdays are small group meets. I think the meets really help to build and maintain the relationship started in the classroom but would be super hard to build new relationships within if there wasn’t stuff to build from in the beginning. 

The daily grind

Things here at home feels ok with the kids--they are settled into a Spring Break kind of vibe, trying to not sleep in too late, to eat regularly scheduled meals and to find ways to keep busy at home (video games, painting, board games, etc)

But these are early days and, to be honest, as a person who was alone 90% of the time during the days for almost a year, things feel surreal with everyone home 100% of the time right now. There is a lot of anxiety around the totally unknown factors of this virus and even knowing if we are successfully "flattening the curve". Things change so quickly by the hour that each day feels like a year's worth of news.
That said, I am appreciative of the supportive communities around me--the gym 's online St Paddy's day get together, the Sexual Assault Centre's outreach through video conferencing our therapy sessions--have proven invaluable to making sure that the feelings of deep isolation and loneliness is stymied at least a littl…

A new normal

The most startling for the kids has been the closure of schools--potentially for the remainder of the school year! In an effort to maintain social distancing and to ensure kids dont become exposed to covid 19 in casual contact, the very difficult decision was made to close all k-12 schools, post secondaries, and daycare centres beginning immediately.

What does it mean? Apparently the schools are trying hard to put learning online for students to complete their curriculum but students are all to be passed forward to the next grade and all grade 12 students who were on track for graduation would still graduate. 
It is a shock to the system, late on a Sunday afternoon, to receive this information and we went out of a last restaurant dinner before it became unavailable to us. The kids were a mix of gladness for extra time off to complete annoyance that this was how school was going to end for the year. We will see what the daily grind looks like from here on out.

Flattening the Curve

As the news continues to pile up, there is a lot of discussion of this idea of "flattening the curve" and how we need to be socially responsible on a large scale for the interventions to be effective for everyone, so as not to overwhelm the health care system.

If I thought people were panic-buying before, it has reached new levels--grocery stores have bare shelves--bread, pasta, sauce, rice, soup, and of course, toilet paper, Even milk aisles have a pittance left. It is weird because the supply chains are not interrupted and stock is still coming in, but I suppose the notion of quarantine and shelter in place makes people nervous.

Chaos and Uncertainty

Two days later, March 11, everything has begun to escalate, with the Alberta government advising all Albertans to cancel travel internationally and to begin to warn people of the risk factors for covid19--symptoms ranging from fevers, cough, difficulty breathing, headaches and to ask people to be aware of passing it on to high risk groups (seniors over 70 and those with immunocompromised systems).

New words started to permeate our conversations: social distancing, quarantine, self-isolation. Social gatherings of more than 250 people or more requested, then demanded, to shut down. It was so odd to see, in real time, the shutdown of the NBA, the NHL, major league baseball.

The markets start tanking as the economy takes hit after hit--large scale layoffs begin to be apparent.

We were holding out for the Government of Canada but today it happened: no non-essential travel internationally. Our trip to Mexico officially cancelled because what if we werent even able to make it back home?

Thingadailies #whatever: Fear of the Unknown

We had begun hearing about the novel coronavirus out of Wuhan, China sometime in December, or early January. It felt remote and only vaguely unsettling since it was happening on the other side of the world. Of course, we were concerned about this new virus and how quickly it seemed to overtake the population there and how vigorously it was quarantined by the regimental government. But it wasn't anywhere close to mind.

Eventually it began to spread outside of the bounds of Wuhan, making it's way via travellers to other Asian countries (Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, etc) and becoming more frightening with the climb of infected and dying people. But it still wasn't top of mind.

March began with cheer and countdowns to vacation. As soon as the first case appeared in Edmonton on March 6th, things began to shift noticeably. When the spread began to effect countries such as Italy and Spain, the numbers took on a more pallid hue, and governments here began to pay closer attentio…

Thingadailies 6: Control Issues

The next thing I had to do was make a list of things I can control and things I do not have control over, I understand the function of the list--concrete things that I ought to know so that my mind doesn't keep turning the powerlessness I feel into recurring nightmares.

But there is a part of me that previous therapy has reminded me: that I often hang onto TOO many things/want to keep a tight rein on many "daytime" controls precisely because of my "night time" fears and this pushes me to the other extreme, which is also unhealthy.

And so what I actually need is BALANCE of my mindset/expectations and also of the obstacles/setbacks that pop up.

Mostly I have to learn to let go and be ENOUGH.

Thingadailies 5: Hurt People Struggle to See Themselves

My lack of/struggle with my identity often makes me feel out of control and child-like, when I wasnt permitted to exert a lot (any?) control over even minor things. I was dressed in boy-ish clothes and given a boy-ish nickname with a boy-ish haircut, in direct contrast with my older sister with the floral name, long hair and dresses. It seems like such an odd thing to be hung up on but to this day, wearing clothes that are floral or feminine gives me pause and I dont feel like they are appropriate for me. I have been making in-roads into my grey, black and blue wardrobe with yellows, pinks, corals and reds, but each purchase has to be made deliberately and with an eye to change, everything just outside my comfort zone.
My therapist asked me to complete a self portrait so I could try to figure out a bit more about my identity issues and how those manifest themselves in my nightmares. Ironically, on the same day, I received the gallery photos of my resilience photo shoot from way back …

Thingadailies 4: Unscalable

I never know how to respond when people ask how I am doing. Mostly, I shrug or shake my head to avoid saying "ok" or "fine", because I don't want to lie but I also don't think people care enough to know more. And they won't question further if the answer seems to be "I don't know". 
Sometimes I get angry inside because I want them to push further, to try harder to crack into the high walls I have built around myself. I want to see them knock once, and then again when I don't answer. I want them to insist on supporting me, even when I dont know how to let them in.
But that anger lapses quickly into sadness. Resignation, perhaps. I cant scale these walls either.

Thingadailies 3: Abandonment

I slept through most of today, while the warm winter sunshine poured over me. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t even fraught with dark thoughts or terrible nightmares, just an inexorable bleakness that I could only feel as heavy fatigue.

As in my paintings, it seemed to turn toward me and then, as weariness overtook me, turned away, darker and more foreboding than when it looked towards me. Abandonment.

The work I have set before me in therapy is to discover how to let go of the shards that keep cutting me down. To see a younger me, comforted and safe. To move forward from the past. I do not know how to do this.

Thingadailies 2: Fear of the Inexplicable

It has been a difficult couple of days, mostly because I feel quite discombobulated and disconnected from myself. I feel like I am on autopilot but going nowhere fast. I have tried the grounding techniques and even attended a yoga/recharge class to see if that would help but I am floating and hollow inside.
How do I fight this dragon who isn't fire and brimstone, isn't full of harsh words or endless darkness? The emptiness is unyielding and frightening; more scary then facing down the hallucinations or high pitched anxieties. Because who can love nothingness?

Thingadailies 1: Change

It has been safer to be gray or numb and it is true that what turns hard becomes rigid and is easily shattered. The last year of struggle with mental illness has challenged my coping mechanisms and "safe places" because it turns out that I am truly only harming myself and hiding from the pain instead of sorting it out and finding out the root.
Thingadailies is as good a reason as any for pushing myself beyond this static moment so I will keep on with the art therapy that painting has become. Part meditation, part mindfulness.
And so, the next step is to do more than simply survive. I need to know that the ending of one thing is not the end of all the things, but is simply opening the door to possibilities I had long since discounted as real. Like feeling happiness. Feeling grief. Feeling.

FUEL your Fire

I started a course through my gym called FUEL which focuses on "identifying personal values, missions, visions & goals, to pinpoint motivational triggers and barriers to change." In essence, it is the work of therapy put into guided action. We started with a discussion of what values I feel drawn to.
From the list given, I had three values aligned with "feeling" (courage, perseverance, forgiveness), which work to develop inner strength of character.  I felt like I had some components of these values but certainly have not learned how to keep to them all the time, nor how to identify when or where to push certain values and not others. "Feelers" struggle more with goal identification (ie. knowing the right goals, setting realistic strategies/timelines) and also struggle with emotional/mental boundaries.
My other four values aligned with "doing values" (compassion, encouragement, intentionality, and balance) which catalyze action and contribu…

Hard revelations

My SACE therapist called me out today for being combative and contrary. While this isnt the first time I have been told this, I guess it was startling to be told right off the bat by someone who I had only met once before. We probed why it was important to me to push back or negate the things people say and I think it relates to needing to "prove" myself. To feel the information I provide will lessen the chance of being misunderstood, as I often do. I guess I am striving to make connections but in pushing away I create disconnection.

We also discussed my coping methods--reading exercise, painting--and the fact that all of those gave me a sense of accomplishment and why did needing satisfaction or accomplishment seem necessary when I was coping with difficult emotions or situations? I wasn't aware how closely I tied surviving  with accomplishment--is there some legitimate connection here? Why is accomplishment even necessary for self-care anyway? In fact, self-care shoul…

“It feels like the whole world”

“It feels like the whole world”

I am feeling fragile, friends. And these words from Wil Wheaton made me feel vulnerable and seen.

Trying to overcome childhood trauma—even when those around me would say I didn’t have it so bad, that I wasn’t terribly abused or mistreated—feels like this. It is shattering and overwhelming and distressing.

I want what I can’t have: to go back in time and protect that little girl from feeling so alone. To have loving and supportive parents who didn’t terrify her or mess up her gender identity; to have someone protect me from the hitting or the pinching or being locked outside during mealtimes.

I go back to that empty well for love often, still, even as I take steps and set boundaries to protect my fragile and broken heart, but it is still empty and fractured. I don’t need pity, just understanding.

The Mindfulness of Art Therapy

When I started learning how to paint, I did so to reconnect with my Chinese heritage. I began with watercolours simply because it was easier to procure than the traditional ink and grindstone. I did eventually use those tools but I always gravitated back to watercolours.
I am not much of a creative painter, preferring to look at others' work and try to observe their brush strokes and colour gradients. Painting eventually became more of a meditative practice and it served as a good conduit for my own energy.
When I was hospitalized, one of the major components of my time was doing art therapy. It was soothing and helped me find some daily satisfaction and self-efficacy. When my fatigue became overwhelming, though, art was the first to drop by the wayside. 
I found my way back to it after more than 6 months of not painting, last week. In preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations for the Year of the Rat, I observed a dozen iterations of rat paintings before trying t…

On Mattering

I was afraid to go in, I won’t lie. All the worst case scenarios existed like a scrolling line, running through my head. But, I went anyway. And I spoke calmly about it my expectations and disappointments and they responded within seconds.
I was brought in, and immediately they went to work fixing what was left undone/flawed. I felt heard and understood; And everything was corrected.
I learned, then, that I didn’t have to fear the mistakes made, that I could be present and firm without being overbearing or rude in my request; I learned that my voice and my opinion mattered.

To Hear Clearly

I am often asked what I want to get out of things. And it is a hard question to answer since I am unclear about how to move myself forward in all ways. What do I want out of my fitness goals? Uh....I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. What do I want to get out of therapy? Uh....I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. Is that too lofty a goal? It is certainly not a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, or timely) goal and I don't know any component that would make it so.

I feel somewhat like I am groping through the dark for the light switch--not knowing what obstacles exist in front of me, not being able to discern how close or far away it may be, not even sure what shape or size the switch may be.

What I do know, however, is that I am in a dark place but I am not the darkness. And I know that once I reach that switch, I will know what it is.
And so, here I am. Looking. Reaching.

I started the next round of therapy yesterday. It is with the Sexual Assault Ce…

Deep Freeze

We have hit a deep freeze here and it means that, currently, we are the coldest place on the planet. At -47 in the windchill yesterday, I kept the small kids home for a snow day since my garage door was complaining about working in the cold and I had to push it up manually in order to get my vehicle out. 
It warmed up to -36C today so I sent them to school. N and I packed on our winter clothes--snowpants, hats, mittens, neckwarmers, heavy jackets., clumpy boots. The doorknob on the front door was frosted *on the inside* and the air cut our faces the minute we walked out. The snow made a satisfying squeak--the sound that only deep freezes produce--under our feet and we walked in slow motion, carrying us towards the school.
We could feel the cold suspend our breaths even before they left our mouths and noses, the moisture creating icicles inside of us. N held her neckwarmer to her cheeks, I snuggled my face down into my jacket. It didnt help my glasses from freezing onto my cheeks. 


I started my therapy session talking about my insecurity about speaking up about the way my hair dye job came out. I said that I felt conflicted about speaking up and that I felt partially responsible for not speaking up sooner and that I felt the door for that conversation must surely be closed. She disagreed that I should have spoken up sooner, since I had, of course, put myself willingly into the hands of people who were the "experts" and that I, the customer, didn't have that expertise to draw on. But that, regardless of anything else, I had the right to express dissatisfaction if things didn't work the way I had wanted them to. I HAD THE RIGHT TO BE UNHAPPY.

I went on to note that my parents have returned home now and I am experiencing an uptick of emotion since they now believe they can return to things the way they were before we "took a break" from contact. I felt pinned by their phone calls, FB posts/messages and upcoming gift giving. ANd when she…

The Promise of Fun

I decided awhile ago that I would like to dye my hair something unexpected--something ombre tones of blues, purples, mermaid hair, perhaps. I think that i was as much for a shock factor as it was to try to try on new identities. I have struggled with *knowing myself* for a long time and I felt sure that this would help.

I went into the salon with a picture in hand and an idea of how things would play out. I chose a reputable (see: expensive) place in the hopes that they had enough vision and experience to help to mold my desires into reality. I gave some instruction, and some allowance for their own abilities to come through.

All the way through the four hours I spent in the chair, I was reassured that it was going to be "fun" and "wasn't I excited?" and even a small critique that I didn't sound excited enough. (What is that level of excitement, anyway?) I told her pointedly that something depression didn't help, sounding excited being one of the casua…

Rising from Earthquakes

This time last year I was being registered in-patient on a psych ward. I was in a dark and terribly anxious place with many unknowns plaguing my waking and sleeping hours. I was sleeping between 17 and 20 hours per day and in the times I was awake, I felt disconnected and unaware of my own capacities. I couldn't follow a plot in a TV show or book, I struggled to make conversations. I began having nightmares of my prior abusive relationship and of my childhood. I was unable to discern voices that were in my head and voices in the room. I spent hours simply dissociated from life for a month in the hospital. I didn't socialize with other patients and I kept largely to myself. Mostly I was glad that I didnt have to worry about anything except getting myself to therapy sessions, for mealtimes, and to rest.

In the first set of therapy (Partial Psychiatric Hospitalization Program) after I was released, I learned about the basics of cognitive therapies and general ideas related to em…

Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward

"Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward"

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

-Gwendolyn Brooks

Feeling--in my feels and in my bones

I have begun to work with a therapist who specializes in sensorimotor psychotherapy--it has allowed me to explore the relationship between my somatic symptoms (such as numbness in my hands and feet, tense shoulders), and my trauma responses (night terrors, tightening of chest, racing heart). I can tell already that my awareness of myself has shifted my awareness of my emotions and processes. It makes me extremely tired but I feel ready to delve further.

Windswept into 2020

We came to Lake Minnewanka to skate but really what we did was stand on the lake and get blown across its surface by the fast and ferocious winds that whirled around the lake.

It was a lesson in patience, a lesson in resilience, a lesson in perseverance, and, mostly for me, a lesson in just letting go of control and allowing myself to get carried into the unknown.

Monster Hunts, Scream-E-Oke, and NYE

New Year's Eve was small and lacked excitement, not for lack of trying, but perhaps it was for the best. I overshot my boundaries by planning a big deal when I really wanted to go to bed early. Still, things could have been worse than a night of preschool monster hunting, and traditional post-midnight scream-e-oke. Cheers to the teenage years, friends.