Yeah, you. I know i haven’t addressed you directly in a while, but i’ve been dealing with some stuff.There’s a shocker, eh? Not so much, i know, but here’s the thing: i still worry what other people think of me. Much less, mind you, but sometimes still too much and at the wrong times.
And that line can be pretty tough to figure out.
Also, i’m not sure in this case that i have.
So, you may actually be sick and tired of hearing about “my struggles with mental illness”. Blahblahblahdeblahblah.
I’m gonna risk it, because getting the kind of better i want to be, is inherently risky. Sometimes people don’t get it, sometimes they misunderstand entirely, and sometimes MissusH, they just. don’t. like you.
So, i’m writing to you on the assumption that a couple of you are going to fall into those last 3 categories… And it’s not gonna kill me.
It may seem to some that being mentally ill is all i talk about. That’s fair. It’s just that i’ve always been this way, and i didn’t know what-in-the-actual-FUCK?! was wrong with me until around 10yrs ago. And for some of you who’ve known me a lot longer than that, i may have seemed relatively okay, just maybe a little odd. You may have given some passing thought to my unmet potential. But my brain has alwaysalwaysalways worked this way, it’s just that i was able to manage reasonably well enough to get by. Then my mom died, and i slipped. Then i had kids, and i slipped further. I fell in love, and slipped even further. And then i lost weight and tumbled all the way down the rabbit hole.
The diagnoses came fairly quickly and easily after that, and i was so exposed and vulnerable, i couldn’t deny them anymore. Yes, it was terrifying (no exaggeration), but it was also such a massive relief like i had never, ever experienced in my entire life up until that point. My life was a winding top that hadn’t yet been released. I had lived my life trying to hold all my shit together, and i’d wound myself tighter and tighter until i was barely functional (and by barely i mean not really).
And to continue the metaphor would be wholly appropriate, because baby, i spun. I went spinning wildly, and everywhere – to which anyone who’s known me over the last 10yrs can attest… Ah, don’t though, plzkthx. Heh. I’ve stopped spinning, but i am wicked unsteady on my feet. I still stumble and totter and weave, and occasionally do a hard lipstand.
I want to live a functional and authentic life, as happily and freely as i’m able.
To that end, i think about life, the universe, and everything. And i think out loud.
If you weren’t reading this – it would still be here. So, you may as well. You know, if you wanna.
I’ve been very focused for the last few years, on curating my life. Not to live in an echo chamber -i grew up in one of those- but to create an atmosphere which is most conducive to growth and beauty. On one hand, it’s involved breaking down walls and busting down doors that were built around me, limiting my access to information and knowledge. I found the forbidden fruit, i ate it, and it’s my favourite. I don’t live in a little, dim shack anymore – i live in the goddamned garden. And i tend to that Tree diligently, that it might continue to bear the fruit that i love so much. So far, that has mostly involved a lot of weeding.
I’ve been pruning people. It’s been one of the most difficult, most scary, and most rewarding things i’ve ever done in my life. Once i knew what was “wrong” with me, i had to look at why, and then once i knew why, i could figure out who i am and what i want and where i want to go. How i get there has mostly involved just removing obstacles. People, whether they mean to be or not, are in my way. They’re weeds, trying to choke the life outta my Tree. And just… NO. If you’re gonna be a weed in my garden, you’ve gotta go.
Familiarity went first. I left the place i knew and went to a place i didn’t know. It made it easier to remove people that had to go. It took me a long, clumsy, awkward and painful time to do it – but i did, and am, doing it. Family had to go first. They thought they knew me. Heck, i thought they knew me too. They didn’t, not at all. And to be fair, how could they, when i didn’t even know myself? I have neither the wish nor the intent to go into any detail, just suffice to say, we were never really family in the first place, and the time has passed for us to be associated with one another. It’s only a source of deep sorrow and pain for me, so it’s been a very healthy and self-loving decision on my part to walk away.
My mother’s death saved my life. She was the most toxic relationship that has ended. Not her choice and not mine, but life’s. She raised me to be a certain kinda way, and i don’t know if anything other than her death could have stopped her from achieving that. Once i acknowledged the relief and release that her passing gave me, i was given my first serious chance at being who and what i want to be. The end of our relationship made change seem suddenly possible for me. It became the benchmark for assessing the pros and cons of my continued relationships with others. Life plopped a gimme into my lap, but the other ones would be up to me. (Don’t get nervous now, i’m ending relationships by walking away. Life has no feelings – i have all of them.)
I think i couldn’t see myself through my own eyes. I was raised to be obedient… subservient even. I was raised to be a reflection of other people’s desires of what i should and should not be. I was raised not to think for myself, but instead to sing out the words and ideas and beliefs that had been forcefully vomited into my brain without my permission. Not once in all of my childhood was i asked what i thought about anything, and the only time i was asked what i felt, it was understood implicitly that i was only being asked to confirm what they thought i should be feeling. Looking back now, i see a group of nodding heads, calmed and comforted by the lack of dissension. It never occurred to me to have an opinion different than my family’s… I didn’t know i could, let alone that i DID.
When i say “family” i mostly mean my mother, and to a lesser extent, my father and stepfather. My mother’s family never had much to do with her, save her parents, and she didn’t much care for any of them, including her parents. My stepfather is living and i have no wish to libel him or his family, only to say that i’m content for things to be as they are. For the loss of my siblings, i hold pain, regret, and some responsibility, but again, i am content. I fear the damage done to all of us by our upbringing is too great for us to overcome. Maybe some day, but not today.
Since pruning my life of family my garden has become more vibrant and beautiful. There are colours and smells and tastes that please me and comfort me and inspire me to work harder and create a yet more incredible space. I’ve rid my life of things that limit its fertility and capacity for growth.
I was told that other people were mentally inferior to us.
I grew up with an epithet for everyone who wasn’t us.*
I was raised to believe that everyone who didn’t believe what we believed would be eternally tortured when they died.
I wasn’t allowed to watch any programs that seemed “gay”, like Laverne and Shirley, SOAP, and Perfect Strangers.
I could bring a black man home, as long as we didn’t make babies.
I was asked to stop bringing my First Nations friends around.
I was threatened with shunning if i ever brought a Mexican home.
Minutes after viewing my mother’s body, i was told i was going to hell because i had a girlfriend.
My mother would have disowned me for my Mohawk son.
Those are just a few things by way of illustration. Life plucked the strangleweed outta my growing space, giving me a chance to get rid of the rest of it. I’ve been able to root out racism, bigotry, misogyny, misandry, homophobia, transphobia, and religion. My life, my garden, my tree, they’re all MINE, and the more it reflects who i am, and who i want to be, the more reluctant i become to have anything here that isn’t also beautiful and pleasing to me. I’m unwilling to please anyone at the expense of myself.
So, that’s where i’m at today. Coming to the end of my mourning period, i think. Trying not to feel bad about it, and also trying not to feel bad about not feeling terribly bad about it.
Gonna go walk the dogs.
Love and Peace,
*I want to make it clear that i heard the epithets, i didn’t use them.