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August 13, 2014 / kristicolleen

Suicide is not painless.

As I walked past a coworker’s desk today, this newspaper headline caught my eye. “That’s an odd way of describing suicide”, I thought to myself, “but maybe he’s talking about Robin Williams’ last actual performance?” So I started to read it. I got through the first column and put it down, angry and disgusted. 

“Robin Williams killed himself Monday, and I would like to believe that before he did it, he went through one last funny little monologue in his head about killing yourself on a Monday.

Maybe he wove a spell of threads and ideas about Stormy Monday or how the Geldof family didn’t like Mondays either or how — here’s the point — Tuesday’s just the same. And faced with that, he killed himself.

It’s impossible to believe that, no matter how depressed or addicted or stressed or whatever he was, his magnificent, improvising mind ever failed to rise to the challenge of the material, even if it was his own death at his own hand.”

This is not a well-written article. It’s not clever, or witty, or astute. It’s insensitive, uninformed, and irresponsible. The writer’s (and I use that term loosely) next line is “I didn’t know Robin Williams”, and I didn’t either, but I can guarantee you he was not making jokes in his last moments. 

I didn’t know him, and I don’t know what he was thinking, but I’ve got a few good guesses. People don’t kill themselves on a whim. It’s not a goof. It’s not something they decide to do just because they had a bad day. 

Suicide is something people do because they believe they’ve run out of options. They want the pain to go away and everything else they’ve tried hasn’t worked, and it all feels hopeless. Suicide is what people do when they believe they’ve hit rock bottom. When they feel completely lost, alone, and they just want the hurting to stop. 

Robin Williams was 63 years old. He had been very public about his battles with depression and addiction; something he had struggled with for many, many years. I can only imagine what he was feeling in those last moments. After all that he had been through, after all the years of therapy, programs, medication, etc, to finally realize he couldn’t do it anymore. He was likely terrified. Possibly he felt guilty for what he thought was “giving up”, or for leaving his family. He was probably feeling a lot of sadness and pain. He must have been feeling about a million different emotions, but I guarantee his mind was not thinking about how “funny” it was that he was killing himself on a Monday. He probably didn’t even know or care what day it was. 

I don’t know for sure what he was thinking. Nobody does. But I know how I felt when I wanted to kill myself. I know how I felt when I stood in a phone booth at 3 in the morning during a rainstorm, trying to convince my mother, who lived thousands of miles away, to come get me because I couldn’t take care of myself anymore and I was scared of what I would do. I know how I felt when I told my brother I wanted to kill myself and he called the police and they interviewed me for over an hour and asked how I planned to do it. I know how I felt when I stood on the bank of the Petitcodiac River and cried because I didn’t have the courage to jump in and drown myself. I know how I felt when I told myself if things weren’t better in a year, then I would kill myself. I know how I felt when that year passed, and I sat in the front seat of my friend’s car and told him my plan. 

I’m a fairly funny person (though you wouldn’t know it from my blog), and not once during any of those times did I come up with any jokes. Laughter was the last thing on my mind. I don’t think I would have even been capable of smiling. 

There’s nothing funny about suicide. Think about the worst you’ve ever felt. The most saddest and hopeless time you’ve ever experienced. For someone to want to end their life, they’d be sadder than you could even imagine. 

Robin Williams’ death has affected so many of us. I’ve seen dozens of blog posts much better written than this one is, about depression, suicide, and how Robin Williams touched so many lives. If anything good has come out of this tragedy, it’s that people are coming together. They’re sharing their stories, and I don’t know about you, but I am feeling a bit less alone. And perhaps someone else out there is, too.

Today I feel okay. Tomorrow probably won’t be bad either. But the feelings of hopelessness will come back, for a while, as they always do. But I’m not alone, and neither are you. And neither was he. It’s such a great shame that he couldn’t see that.

His death is heartbreaking. It’s tragic. It’s scary. It’s a reminder that none of us are immune; that depression doesn’t discriminate. It’s proof that success does not equal happiness.

But you know what it’s not, Paul Sullivan? It’s not even a little bit funny.  

 

July 27, 2014 / kristicolleen

Once Upon A Pride – Halifax 2014

Earlier this week I was looking after my favourite 7 year old. As he was getting ready for bed, he was waving around a rainbow flag. He turned to me and said “This is so people know it’s okay to be different.” I told him he was right, and very smart, and because I didn’t know how much more his parents had talked to him, I didn’t say anything else. But, as he turned around to put the flag up on his toy shelf, he said “Sometimes boys marry boys, and sometimes girls marry girls, and I don’t care. It’s cool.” He then shrugged and went to brush his teeth.

I was so proud of him in that moment, and of his parents. To him, being gay is no big deal. It’s just a thing that exists, and at the moment, doesn’t affect him. He hasn’t been taught to hate, and he never will.

Yesterday was the Halifax Pride Parade, and as I stood on the street taking photos, I noticed a lot of children were watching, too. I briefly wondered how much they knew about what they were seeing when it occurred to me: Children shouldn’t be taught about homosexuality. It should just be something they’re used to. Something that exists in every day life and isn’t hidden from them. I found myself wondering if we’d ever get to see a world where we don’t have to teach kids that being gay is okay, but instead have to teach them that in the past, some people thought it wasn’t.

Below are the photos I took of the parade, and as you can see, it was an event full of love, fun, and great vibes. Whoever said Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth has never been to a Pride Parade.

(Feel free to share this post around, and if you see someone you recognize, let them know!)

If you’re interested, here’s last year’s post. 

July 2, 2014 / kristicolleen

My true love strong and free

I love Canada. Like, REALLY love it. Yes, it can be disappointing at times, but as someone I know used to say “just because I’m mad at you, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving you”.

Canada is the greatest country on Earth. Now, I’ve only been to 2 other countries, but I feel pretty confident in my statement. It’s big, beautiful, exciting, interesting, and a billion other words that I’ve actually heard people use to describe me. Oh, right, this isn’t about me. It’s about Canada. The country I love. And if you’re reading it, it’s probably the country you love, too.

Canada Day is my favourite holiday. I thought long and hard about this, and I originally decided that Christmas was my favourite holiday, but I’ve changed my mind. Canada Day is fun like Christmas, but the weather is (usually) nicer, and you don’t have to stress out over what to get Canada for a present. Canada is simply happy to just have a party. Canada’s nice like that.

I’ve seen a lot of Americans on Twitter ask how we celebrate Canada Day, and my answer is basically “Like the 4th of July, but politer”. We have fireworks, parades, BBQs, and a seemingly endless supply of flags.

For me, I celebrated by touring one of our Navy’s ships with my friend Denton (seen below rescuing a little girl’s balloon), eating poutine and beavertails (among other things), watching fireworks, and also watching America lose at soccer (sorry about that one, guys).

The only thing Christmas has over Canada Day is Boxing Day. The day after the holiday when you can relax, sleep in, eat leftovers, and recover from the festivities the day before. So, a plea to whomever runs in the next federal election: Give us a Canada Boxing Day. Please. Do it for your country.

Pictures can describe the fun better than I can, so below are just some of the photos I took yesterday in Halifax. If you look closely, maybe you’re in one of them!

June 3, 2014 / kristicolleen

Enduring

We humans can endure a lot of pain if we know eventually we won’t hurt anymore. Okay, well, maybe there are some physical pains we can’t survive, but I’m not a doctor, and Grey’s Anatomy hasn’t been on in a while, so let’s just assume I’m right.

We can get through the flu and feeling like we’re going to die on our bathroom floor, because we know that in a day or so, we’ll feel better. We can get through a break up, because we know eventually we’ll get over the person who broke our heart, or we’ll find someone new who makes us feel good again. We can even get through grief. That one’s a little trickier, and will always hurt a little, but eventually, after some time, it does get easier.

We can get through sitting in the cold while our children play soccer, because we know in an hour the game will end and we can run to the car and turn on the heat. We can get through that movie our girlfriend or boyfriend really wants to see, because we know in 120 minutes, it’ll be over (plus, there’s popcorn).

I have dentophobia, and the only way I can get through a visit with my dentist without freaking out is to have him tell me approximately how long he thinks everything will take. If I know how long I can expect to be in pain or discomfort, it makes it easier to get through.

What I’m saying is that when we know eventually our pain will come to an end, we can suck it up and get through anything.

But what about depression? Low self esteem? The feeling that you’ll never, ever be happy?

I wish I had a crystal ball that I could look into and see the future. If it told me that one day I’d no longer feel a deep sadness, that I’d feel loved, and confident, and worth something, and that I wouldn’t feel so alone, I think I’d be able to handle it a lot better. I’d think “Oh, okay, I’m going to get through this for sure. Things will eventually be different, so I just gotta stick it out and get through the worst and then it’ll all be okay”.

Of course, that could backfire, though, because what if I looked in that crystal ball and it told me this was it? That this was the happiest I was ever going to feel, and it was never going to get any better. Would there be a point in continuing? Would I have to just learn to live with the pain? Would I want to?

The hopeful part of me feels like I don’t need that crystal ball. I feel like eventually all these things I’ve been working on; all these changes I’ve made, will eventually cause something to click and things will start to get better. I’m not even expecting actual happiness. For now, I’d settle for just feeling normal (whatever that means).

But when will that happen? I don’t want to waste my life being sad. What if things aren’t going to get better until, say, 9 years from now? I don’t want to look back when I’m 40 and think about how I spent half my life being miserable. Worse, what if I don’t feel any different until I’m 60? Or 70?

I want to feel different now. I’ve wasted enough time. Things have hurt for too long. I’ve done the enduring thing, and now I’m ready for it to be over. I’ve proven a million times over that I can get through anything, so when does it end?

Depression sucks. People will tell those of us who have it to “try to appreciate what we have”, or “smile, and think positive”, and a million other things you’d see on a refrigerator magnet. We’ve heard them all. We know you mean well, but trust us, they don’t work. We’ve tried. We’re experts on trying. So we endure. We wait, and we hope that eventually something will change. That we’ll start to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and be able to relax. But it’s a long tunnel.

I don’t want to spend my life underground. I want the stairs to the surface, and I want them now.

But at least I believe the tunnel has an end, and that’s how I get through it.

And in the meantime, I have a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy to catch up on.  

May 25, 2014 / kristicolleen

#YESALLWOMEN

I’ve kept this story mostly to myself for a long time. I can think of 2, maybe 3 people I’ve told it to, because it felt far too personal, and brought up a lot of feelings I wasn’t ready to face. But, given the events of this past weekend out of UCSB, and the events that just seem to keep happening all around the world, I felt like maybe it was time to share it. So, here goes:

When I was in my early 20s, I lived in a 2 bedroom house with 2 other women, and I worked the graveyard shift as a baker at a coffee shop. Yes, probably the one you’re thinking of. One morning, my roommates asked me if they could throw a party that evening. I had just finished 5 night shifts in a row, and was incredibly tired, and knowing I was about to have a night off, planned to stay awake so I could sleep like a regular human that night. I wanted to say no. I hated parties on a good day, especially when they were happening in my house, and the idea of having to entertain a bunch of loud, drunken strangers while being dead on my feet held no appeal for me whatsoever. But I said yes. I wanted to keep harmony in the house, and I figured I could be social for an hour or so, and then quietly sneak away to my bed, and nobody would even notice. 

I was wrong. 

By the time evening rolled around, and people started arriving, I was barely awake. I was the kind of tired that made “What’s your name?” seem like an advanced algebra question. I was the kind of tired that meant when someone asked “Where’s your boyfriend tonight?”, I actually forgot for a minute that I even had a boyfriend. 

At one point, I was leaning against the kitchen sink, drinking a glass of water, when a fairly attractive man I had never met before (let’s call him Carl), came up and started chatting with me. From what I can remember, I was friendly, pleasant, and probably even a little flirty. But I was also really, really tired. So I told him that. I told him it was nice to meet him, and on any other day I would love to stay and talk to him, but that I needed sleep before I decided to curl up and nap under the kitchen table. 

When I got to my room, I didn’t even bother turning on the lights or getting undressed. I did have the forethought to lock my bedroom door, but forgot to check to see if the door leading to my ensuite bathroom, which also had a door leading out to the living room, was locked. Instead, I just climbed into bed and was asleep within seconds. 

Some time later (I’m not entirely sure how long), the door leading to the bathroom opened, and Carl came into my bedroom. I heard him ask me if I was awake, and since I was the kind of awake where technically I could hear him, but wasn’t sure if I was dreaming him, or even what year it was, I just mumbled something. That must have sounded like “Sure, come on in” to Carl, because he did. 

He lied down next to me on the bed, and said he just wanted a quiet place to get away for a bit, and maybe to chat with me, too. Again, I mumbled something. This must have sounded like “Please kiss me” to Carl, because he did. 

I didn’t kiss back. I didn’t even open my eyes. I was barely even awake. 

I heard him unzip his jeans. 

I felt him unzip mine. 

I felt his penis when he took my hand and started stroking himself with it. 

I felt his hand when he stuck it in my underwear and started stroking me. 

I was awake then. I was terrified. I was frozen.

This continued for a few minutes (it was hard to tell how long, but felt like forever), until my bedroom door opened, and another man stuck his head in. My mind told me two things: “Oh, god, this is so embarrassing.”, and “Now this man will make Carl stop”. 

Instead, he only said “Carl, finish up what you’re doing. We’re leaving.”, and then he closed the door and left. 

Carl took his hand out of my pants, zipped up his, kissed me on the lips, said “It was great meeting you”, and left. 

I did nothing but get up and lock the door behind him. I then sat in the dark and listened to the party happening on the other side of the door. 

I never saw Carl again. 

But it didn’t end there. 

I told my boyfriend what had happened, and instead of getting angry, and demanding to know every little detail about Carl and how to find him, he instead got angry at me and said he “knew how I was”, and that I probably gave him the wrong idea by flirting with him. 

He didn’t stay my boyfriend much longer. 

For a long time I tried to forget that night. I told myself “He didn’t rape me. Nothing really even happened. Worse things happen to women all the time. It’s not a big deal.”

But it is a big deal. And I haven’t been able to forget it. 

Carl sexually assaulted me, and had his friend not walked in, I can only assume he would have raped me, too. And not only did he not think anything was wrong with that, but my own boyfriend didn’t think so, either. The even sadder thing is that there are hundreds, thousands, millions of women with stories like mine, or even worse. 

Some may say “You should have locked the door”, or “You should have told him no, instead of mumbling”, and for a long time I thought that myself. But it wasn’t my fault. I said goodnight to Carl, and that should have been the end of it. Everything after that was because he felt entitled, and he didn’t really care about my feelings at all. He thought what he was doing was okay. 

And there are still men who feel that way. And it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better. We’re taught not to walk alone at night. We’re taught to defend ourselves. We’re taught to ignore harassment on the streets. We’re taught that men can’t be trusted. 

And sadly, until men are taught to keep their hands, penises, and misogynistic thoughts to themselves, they can’t. 

If you disagree with me, check out the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter. If you still disagree with me, then maybe you’re part of the problem. 

I now have some truly amazing, women-loving, respectful, decent men in my life, and men like Carl, and Elliot Rodgers, and countless others, make me so incredibly grateful for them. I won’t forget that. But hopefully, someday soon, things will change, and I’ll be able to forget Carl.

But until then, I will always double check the locks. 

April 6, 2014 / kristicolleen

100,000

100k

I have written 100,000 tweets.

One hundred thousand.

At maximum 140 characters apiece, that’s…..well, someone smarter than me can do the math, but that’s a lot of characters.

The average novel (if you can call a novel average) is about 50,000 words. If each of my tweets was only one word, that would still be two novels.

My tweets are definitely not just one word, though. Come on, people. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that brevity is not really my thing. No, like the Native Americans and the buffalo (or so I was taught in History class), I like to use every part of a tweet.

That’s a joke. Please don’t start a hashtag to get my blog canceled.

So, if my tweets are more than one word; hell, probably more than, say, 15 words, that’s like….well, a lot of novels. Again, I’m not good with math.

I’ve been tweeting for 5 years. I actually did the math on that, and that’s roughly 55 tweets PER DAY. This is why you should never do math. It could show you things you don’t want to know about yourself.

The #1 item on my bucket list is to write a book (okay, I don’t actually have a bucket list, but if I did, that would be on the top of it). I tell myself that one day I will do it, if I ever find the motivation and energy. Writing takes discipline. It takes time. It takes thought. “I can’t write a book”, I tell myself, “I wouldn’t know what to say”.

However, apparently 55 times a day I know what to say. Or at least, I think I know what to say. Whether my followers agree with me is something you’d have to ask them.

I joined Twitter in 2009, about 3 weeks after my husband left me. I was sad, I was scared, and I was lonely. I had heard that people on Twitter might have some experience with that. I also knew that I was about to move all the way across the country, and I’d have to find some way to meet people. And, over the next 5 years, I did. I really, really did. I have met so many people that pretty much any time anyone asks me how <insert name of friend here> and I met, the answer is almost always “Twitter”.

The 3 people I call my best friends? I met them on Twitter. The last two guys I dated? Met them on Twitter, too. The last two jobs I’ve had were a result of meeting someone on Twitter. The first one turned out to be a nightmare, but it did allow me the freedom to spend every other weekend in Halifax with, you guessed it, people I met on Twitter. When I finally decided to move here, I moved in with two people I met as a result of Twitter.

I’ve met a lot of great people online. I’ve also met a lot of not-so-great people, but they’ve only made me appreciate the good ones more.

Twitter helped me discover that I’m funny. In fact, a few years ago I created an alternate Twitter account that I had hoped to keep anonymous, so I could post passive-aggressive comments about my ex-boyfriend, but it ended up getting too popular, and eventually everyone figured out it was me. And then it got fun. I started to embrace my sense of humour. I started keeping up more with current events, just so I could have something to make jokes about. I had a few tweets acquire thousands of retweets, and was even shown on CNN, TWICE. After 2 years, I had 8,000 followers, and had “met” some really great people from all around the world. One of whom I actually consider a personal friend, even though he lives in California, thinks all Canadians are part polar bear, and we have never met.

And then, during a particularly vulnerable period in my life, 2 years ago, a man told me I should delete my account. Because I liked him in a stupid girly way, and I never make good decisions when it comes to men, I did it. I deleted the account. And shortly after, he deleted me from his life, so yeah, I remind you that I don’t always make the best decisions. I regret deleting the account, and I tried to rebuild it again, but it didn’t go anywhere. It’s gone.

I learned how to combine that persona with my “real life” persona, though, and I started to better understand who I actually am. I started really trying to figure myself out, and finally started dealing with the thing I had been denying most of my life: my mental illness.

Twitter has been amazing for my mental health. There are millions of users talking about it, posting resources, sharing stories, and even, like me, cracking jokes. If you feel like you have nobody to talk to, go to Twitter.com and type #mentalhealth into the search box. You’ll find people to talk to. You’ll find websites to visit. You’ll even find podcasts to listen to. And, if you’re like me, you’ll start to understand why you feel the way you do, and realize that you’re not suffering alone, and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

I still use Twitter to tell jokes, but I also use it to talk about current events, get the news, keep up with my friends, post photos, and of course, talk about my cat, Rory. Rory is not the cat I had when I started tweeting, though. Rory is new. 5 months ago, I lost my best friend of 20 years, my cat Sebastian. We had been through so much together, and I knew I was never going to be able to get through losing her alone. And I didn’t have to. My friends, and Twitter, were amazing. And on the days where it still hurts like hell, they continue to be supportive. I don’t think I could ever really express how much that has meant to me.

So, some people say I tweet too much. Some people say “It’s just Twitter. It doesn’t matter.” Some people say that social media actually makes us anti-social. As you can guess, I disagree with all of that. Twitter isn’t some mindless, useless entity. I mean, sure, there are a lot of accounts run by bots, or actual people with the personality of a bot, but there are also some wonderful, intelligent, hilarious, talented, and interesting people on there, with real lives, real feelings, and real opinions. Those are the people I follow, and who follow me. To you it might be just be a website, but to me, it’s like a coffee shop full of my favourite people.

So, I’ve written 100,000 tweets. Perhaps in another 5 years, I’ll be writing about having written 200,000.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll be writing about having finished writing a book.

But first, I need to go tweet about this blog post.

February 13, 2014 / kristicolleen

My Olympic Family

Calgary '88

I love the Olympics. I consider myself an Olympics “junkie”. I love the competitions, the camaraderie, the humanity, and the culture. I want to see all the events and hear all the stories. I know a lot of you like the Olympics, but I love them. And I think it’s because they make me think of my family.

I’ve written a bit about my family here, so I think you all know by now that we weren’t exactly the Brady Bunch. In fact, we didn’t even like each other, and the years we were forced to live together felt a lot like biding time until our prison sentence was over. They aren’t in my life now, and I do as much as I can to avoid even thinking about them.

But, as in most things, it wasn’t all bad. I even have some fond memories of our time together. Most of those memories, however, involve sports. We were a big sports family. Maybe it’s because it gave us reasons to not be home, but all of us were involved in multiple sports. For me it was figure skating, volleyball, horseback riding, soccer, track & field, biathlon, and even hockey, for a bit. But the sport that stuck was downhill skiing. The whole family got involved, and all of us even worked at our local ski hill at some point throughout the decade or so we all lived together. My mother, my oldest brother, and I even became ski instructors. I was, at the age of 11, the youngest ski instructor that hill had ever had (it helped that I always looked much older than I actually was, and we weren’t allowed to tell clients my actual age until I turned 16).

Ski School Staff

Skiing became my escape from my life. In the winter it became my life. I practically lived at the ski hill, and I probably would have if I didn’t have to go to school. There were more than a few times I was at the hill when I should have been at school. When I wasn’t teaching lessons, or off skiing with friends or by myself, I was taking lessons from the various coaches that I became acquainted with in my years there. I was never going to be an Olympian, and that was never my goal, but I loved the sport and I wanted to try EVERYTHING. I tried downhill racing, and it was terrifying. I love flying down the hill at high speed, but definitely not at the speeds those guys go. I tried aerials, and I was really good at them, until it came time to land. Let’s just say it was a good thing I was wearing a helmet. I learned how to do moguls, and the smaller jumps, and was fairly decent, but I had no desire to compete. It was all just fun for me. A way to make friends, see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, keep in shape, make some money,  and get out of my house.

Since my entire family was a ski family, we’d see each other around the mountain, but we didn’t interact too much. It was a big mountain.

But then, every 4 years, the Winter Olympics would be on, and like magic, the games brought us all together. We’d become obsessed with them. We’d eat all our meals in front of the TV, watching events or watching highlights of events. We had friendly rivalries (I was a huge Kurt Browning fan, while Dad preferred Elvis Stojko). I wanted to be Kristi Yamaguchi, and not just because we shared a first name. We’d all high five each other whenever Canada won a medal. We’d stand together in our tiny living room whenever the national anthem played. We learned the names of all our favourite athletes, and learned as much about them as we could. We’d have hockey tournaments against the neighbours on our skating pond and fight over who got to be Team Canada. This was before the internet, so we’d all eat breakfast together and share results we’d read in the daily paper.

We’d travel up to the ski hill together, listening to the games on the radio. We’d eat lunch together and catch up on what some of us might have missed throughout the day.

Every 4 years, for 2 weeks, we became friends. We had something in common. We were a team. We were a family.

A lot of time has passed, and my family is no longer a part of my life at all. I haven’t spoken to my Dad in almost 10 years. I hardly even think about him (except when I dream about him, or curse him for my PTSD), and I certainly don’t miss him.

But now, as I sit here watching the 2014 Olympics by myself, I wonder if my family is watching them, too. And I wonder, when Dad hears Kurt Browning providing commentary during the figure skating events, if he thinks of me, as I’m thinking of him. I wonder if my brothers are watching the mogul events and having the same “I could totally do that” thoughts that I’m having. I wonder if they, too, stand and sing Oh Canada when it plays.

We’ll never watch the Olympics together again, but I will never stop being a fan. And even though many memories of my family are painful and sad, the Olympics will always remind me that every 4 years, we liked each other a little bit. The Olympics made us a family.

And that is why I love them.

 

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