Knowing is half the battle.

I’m not really what most people would consider to be a sensitive person. Being a Chef all these years, you learn to develop a pretty thick skin.

I’m the kind of person who let’s most comments go, unless they are legitimately hurtful the first time around.  Most of the time they don’t get to me at first and I say nothing. Which is my downfall because the minute I become fed up about something or someone (usually several someone’s’) saying the same thing over and over again I get fed up and fast.It’s usually only then that I say something and someone somewhere will always take offense to it somehow even if it has nothing to do with them. This is a whole other situation unto itself.   I am a person too, I also have feelings and just because someone doesn’t agree with my way of thinking doesn’t give them the right to trash talk me either.

So where do you draw the line? Do you speak up the first time when it’s not a big deal and appear to be someone who complains/the person who cries wolf and come across as a victim?  Or do you wait and see and eventually become so fed up that you can’t take it anymore? Are you one of those people who comments on everything and people call you a ‘know it all’ behind your back?

I’ve noticed that there is an increase of both on some of the online forums I frequent in the past 36 hours.

There are a lot of things that get said, lots of phrases and idioms’ that target certain demographics, races, religions, genders, diseases, mental health issues and more. Most things we say without thinking about consequences to another person or party. I am not a fan of censorship. I just had a long conversation with my fiance about this, whereupon I basically said that I can’t be responsible for someone else getting hurt/upset or offended if I am making vague and blanket statements. If they want to somehow attribute it to them or make it about them without proof that it is in fact directly at them specifically, there really is nothing I can do.

I almost never make blanket statements about people in general. There very well may have been one person that was ‘the tipping point’ whereupon I become so enraged that I need to say something (in a general sense) and while I know that I am being petty and most likely and asshole, I generally also don’t think that people would assume that it was about them. This is happening more and more… It’s really starting to get on my nerves.

For example, I was having a one on one conversation about someone and it was pretty heavy and personal. We got around to the sensitive subject of the way this person looks. They had said that there was nothing that could be done to change it, whereupon I had said well surgery was an option, are you not interested in doing that anymore? I had only mentioned it because at one point, it was ‘on the table’ as an option but it was something that I never mentioned because I figured that it should happen, I would be privy to it. I didn’t say it to imply that I thought that this person actually needed the surgery (I still don’t feel that they do). It was not perceived that way and a whole lot of ugliness ensued in a very public way.

All because someone thought (rather incorrectly) that I thought that something was wrong with them and they needed to fix it. I felt like shit for that because I know all too well what it’s like to be treated differently because you don’t fit in or look like the majority. That particular incident really hit me to the core and broke my heart. The mere thought of thinking that I was capable of being a bully and making someone feel that way made me feel really, really small.

However when I say things like: “Spread it likes its herpes’/herpes is the glitter of the craft world, I’m a grammar Nazi, this makes me OCD flare up, or when I say something along the lines of I try really hard to respect and/or accommodate other people’s religion, traditions, opinions, (I really do!) however sometimes I can not accommodate them. My failure to do so does NOT mean I am being disrespectful intentionally and if you/anyone feels that way (about me), you can kiss my ass.”

Those aren’t directed at anyone. They’re just things that I say. I’m not a hateful person.  

The whole herpes thing came up today in a group that I belong to. It’s used as a punch line quite a bit. Then someone pointed out that they themselves have herpes (the STD version), which was contacted as a result of assault. So at first they let the comments roll off, however today it was enough and something was finally said. It forced me to look at things I say a little differently.

Same thing when someone mentioned that they were dyslexic and were hurt by the amount of people that said that they wouldn’t date someone who had terrible grammar or can’t spell. It made them feel embarrassed and ashamed because they couldn’t read properly as an adult and that was their secret shame.

Well damn.

That never, ever crossed my mind since dyslexia isn’t something that often get’s talked about. They made me think though and I promptly felt like an asshole because I totally take it for granted that I can read fluidly and used to devour books.

As for OCD- I have OCD and humor for me is something that I use as a coping mechanism. OCD can be so very crippling and unless you truly know what it feels like to have it, then no, you don’t have the right to joke around about it.

Religion is something that I rarely, if ever discuss with anyone. I have gotten ‘condemned’ because I am tattooed, I shoot woman in ‘provocative’ ways (I shoot boudoir) and several other things. I have gotten my share of nasty messages about this. Hence forth my status message that one time. I had had enough that day. Its one thing for someone I know to say something like that (which, for the record does NOT make it OK), it’s just that much more insulting/irritating/annoying to have strangers comment on it because they know nothing about me.

Traditions/superstitions fascinate me. I’m partially Irish and they are notoriously known for being superstitious. My father was a very, very superstitious man, to the point that it was almost embarrassing (sorry dad!).  My fiance and I were talking about that the other day because he’s Italian and they have their share as well. I referred to them as traditions and he said it wasn’t so much that, but superstitions. This makes a lot of sense to the Irish person in me.

Traditions I can take them or leave them personally, as in I am mostly indifferent. Sometimes I find them to be charming (they usually are) and sometimes I feel that they’re a little dated and not necessarily applicable to the here and now or they don’t apply to me or my life or the vision I have set forth. Which I feel does not make me a bad person. I am who I am and I have my own set of beliefs so it’s a little unrealistic to expect anyone to accommodate every single one of them because someone might get upset. After all, you can’t please everyone all of them time. However saying that I’m disrespectful for feeling this way is really not OK. It’s not a deliberate intention and if someone get’s hurt about it, then yeah I might feel bad about it because I don’t set out to hurt people but that doesn’t make me a bad person either.

The same thing applies with depression/mental illness. I have depression and an anxiety disorder. Some days it’s crippling. Do you have any idea what it’s like to have to make a phone call but the mere thought of doing so paralyzes you with a completely unprecedented fear? To wake up in the morning and feel so hollow and empty that you would rather be dead than get out of bed and try and face the day? Yet the term depression get’s tossed around a lot. Usually it’s not a matter of said person being depressed, they’re usually just sad. Anxiety is usually just nervousness of feeling anxious for the moment. Anxiety disorders are nothing like that.

So while I will not censor myself or the things that I say, I will think twice about being a little more sensitive to the people who usually bear the brunt of social stigmas.

A very wise person once said:”We can’t know things until we know them. We have so much to learn from on another. Why not take those things and help them shape us into even better versions of ourselves?” -Good point




Full circle…

I am a firm believer in the saying that everything happens for a reason.  Ergo when something happens that affects my life on a rather grand scale I search (sometimes long and hard) for a reason.  Because I feel entitled to know why.  I want to know.  I need to understand.  I’m a fairly logical person, most of the time I can find rationale and reasoning behind just about damn near everything.  Most of the time.

Then Jason died.  So did I.  In a metaphorical sense that is.  I’ve lost scores of others before him.  Except I knew why and as much as loosing some of those people hurt, it made sense.  Cancer being the biggest culprit, suicide is fast becoming a close second.  It all started in 2005/06.  Candy who was an online friend and a wonderful woman lost her battle to cancer.  That was the first friend I had lost to death and it was hard.  She was generous and kind and one hell of a tenacious fighter.  Then came Josh, whom I knew from a body modification “community” couldn’t seem to get over the loss of the woman he loved.  He gave himself 27 days exactly.  Then he hung himself in his best friends yard.  Scott will likely forever be haunted by that image for eternity.  That was the first real “encounter” I’ve had with suicide.  Then my grandmother died, which was a relief.  Sounds crass, however my poor nan had been suffering for years, as in too damn long.  She didn’t deserve that.

Then in 2009 Jason died and my world as I knew it was blown to pieces.  Everything pretty much fell apart at that point.  I was numb, in shock and just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Jason was my rock, he was the only person in my life that I was 100% honest with.  The unabashed, UN-varnished truth.  He just got it and me.  No explanation or justification needed with him.  His death and my grandfather’s hurt me the most.  However when I lost my grandfather I had an explanation for that.  He passed from cancer and looking back on it now, that too was a blessing.  Jason however chose to play God and ended his own life.  Jason was an addict, suffered from an anxiety disorder and was bi-polar.  He was also a victim of the American health care system.  In hindsight, it doesn’t really matter what health care system you’re a part of, none of them really know how to deal with mental illness.  The emotional fallout, the guilt, the PTSD, the burning need to know why haunted me for a really, really long time.  I got up, I went to work and somehow managed to get through the day.  I don’t know how I did that and looking back on it now, the memories are vague.  Then one day, I came to the realization that Jason’s death and the others before him didn’t hurt anymore.  I had developed an understanding of mental illness.  I had also seen the dark side of mental hell where all that you love and all that matters to you simply doesn’t.  Tempted by the thought of ending it, because it seemed so easy, so simple and it would finally be over.  No more pain, no more sadness.  Nothing.

Or so we like to think.  However do any of use really know what’s on “the other side”?  No of course not.  Some believe in heaven & hell or a version of such or nothing at all.  Who are we to say?  No one really knows.  Although I like to think that there’s life after death, there’s a few people who have some explaining to do 😉  In any case, I forged ahead.  I threw myself into my work, damn near drove myself into the ground and accomplished quite a few positive things.  I gave grief the finger and decided that I wanted my life back and I wanted it back now.  So there it was, I figured that I had a handle on it all.

I was wrong.  So very, very wrong.

So grief I had pretty much parted ways.  I came to terms with the fact that those I have loved and lost aren’t coming back and it was OK to be sad about it once in a while.  I wasn’t saddened by that break up to say the least.  However the depression that I had largely ignored reared it’s ugly head and I knew that I was far from OK.  I blamed winter.  SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is more common then people think and while I generally have that much under control because I know what it is, the root cause of it and how to offset it for the most part, you team that up with atypical depression and residual grief well that’s essentially a lethal cocktail of mental illness right there.  One that I thought I could ignore and it would go away.  I thought to myself: It’s January, before you know it spring will be here, you’ll be out of this apartment that you have come to hate sooner as opposed to later, you have an awesome job that you love and all these things to convince myself that it would be OK.  All the while ignoring that voice in the back of my head that said :”Stop being a stubborn, prideful, fool.  Go and get some help before you destroy yourself and others”.  That’s irony for you.  I’m the one with a foundation that is working hard to dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness, encouraging people to get the help that they need before they meet a permanent demise and blah blah blah.

Then Andrew died, also by suicide on January 25th 2011.  When Andrew died, I also found out that another person I had known from high school had died by his own hand (in 2009).  Then I shut down.  Nothing I did made anything better, there was no refuge, and I lost my ability to cry.  That in and of itself was rather disturbing.  Tears aren’t something I indulge in very often, although I do find that there is a certain amount of catharsis in tears.  All the suggestions I was spewing forth to help others combat their depression held zero appeal to me.  I had no motivation, no desire to do much of anything.  Pretending to be happy and well adjusted became my new full time job.  All the while hoping that I didn’t loose the one that actually paid my rent.  I had the occasional moment where I was genuinely happy, however when I wasn’t, things got ugly.  I for the most part, managed to hide it from everyone.  No matter the situation or the circumstance, I struggled to find something positive.  Anything that would take away from the darkness that hovered so close to the point that at times I felt suffocated.  I’ve always been the one to see the bright side of any given situation and I’m happy that’s one thing that hasn’t been taken away from me.  I feel that’s a valuable quality to have.  Then something happened.  It wasn’t anything major in retrospect, but it was enough.  It started as a slow decline.  A Dr’s appointment gone horribly wrong, insurmountable stress from the possible what-if’s and maybe’s and could have, should have and didn’t.  Suffice to say, my head was almost like a snow globe that had been shaken to death by someone.  Too many thoughts, insecurities that I thought were dead and buried came to life all over again (when they really, truly shouldn’t have because those moments are over and there’s nothing to do but move on), and on it went.  Then someone I had plans with had forgotten by no true fault of their own and I know that now.  However at the time, my self realization and rationale ceased to exist and to put it simply I lost it on someone who didn’t nearly deserve it.

They said they didn’t recognize me and sadly I didn’t recognize myself either.  Then I was at a loss, lost in the fucked up mess that had become my head.  Which could have largely been avoided had I not been too proud to ask for help sooner.  It’s not his fault, his intentions were (to my knowledge) not nefarious or mean.  Just simple, human error.  Nothing more, nothing less.  None of us are perfect, although we often strive for perfection.  Some of us more then others.  Yet, he found it within himself to forgive me.  I however had to find it within myself, to forgive myself.  As I said to him once: “You know how I know you’re a good person?  Because you make me want to be a better person.” I meant it then and I still mean it now.

That happened on a Wed.  That Saturday, he called to bring me soup (again) because I (along with him) was recovering from a major flu/cold thing that had pretty much infected a third of Montreal.  So I took that opportunity to at least partially address what went down that fateful Wed and as hard as I tried not to fall apart as in not cry (I rarely cry in front of others, it is in fact such a rare occurrence I have actually been accused on numerous occasions of not being able to do so).  I’m pretty private when it comes to my feelings and after being a Chef all these years, it doesn’t go over well to show weakness in any way shape or form.  It’s a hardcore industry to be in.  Even more so if you’re a woman (lucky me).  Then it happened.  I turned away mid conversation and said this that and the other thing and after I uttered “I don’t need this” it happened.  I started crying and couldn’t stop.  It was at that moment, standing there in my fuzzy robe, with bed head, standing barefoot in a puddle of water from his shoes, clinging to him for dear life, drenching the front of his shirt with my tears saying “I’m sorry” over and over again that I had had enough.  Then he said to me “You have an awful lot going on up here don’t you?” as he tapped me on the forehead and all I could do was nod.

Because I do.  Some of which I can’t do anything about, some of which I can.  I cried on and off for most of the day.  That was actually a welcome change from not being able to cry at all.  It was like the emotional equivalent of a volcanic eruption.  It seemed to me at least that it was long overdue.  As I lying in bed later that day, I was recalling the chain of events that had come about and the conversation I had with him earlier that day.  More so when he said are you that much of a control freak that you need to know how everything is going to turn out (or something to that effect) and then out of no where in a moment that I can’t even begin to explain, the (short version) of the serenity prayer came into my head.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

To say I had an epiphany of sorts is putting it lightly.  I’m not claiming to have found God or anything of the sort.  It was just as if a light bulb went off in my mind and everything made sense.  It was at that moment that I had decided that I could not and would not do this one my own.  Because sometimes you just can’t make it on your own and that’s OK.  After all misery loves company, so I set out to find some.  Company that is.

So I turned to my old friend Google and did a search for 12 step programs dealing with depression.  Google didn’t disappoint, although some of the support I sought out did.  Terribly so.  Turns out 12 step programs just aren’t my deal.  I think they’re great, I know a lot of people who are involved in them and it’s rather beneficial to them.  I however needed something a little more then what they had to offer for my particular situation.

I actually found it.

was skeptical at first.  Their website offered generic information, however it was enough to at least grab my interest.  As luck would have it, there were meetings in Montreal that were also in English (score!).  They were also in the evening, so no conflicts with my work schedule (score!).  It was also easily accessible by Metro (score again!) and close to my house.  So I thought, either I am extremely lucky or this is just too good to be true.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  So I took down the number, had it for a few days.  Finally worked up enough nerve to make the call.  Left a message, didn’t hear anything back until the next day (whereupon I had pretty much given up at this point, I had no patience mostly due to anxiety).  Then a kind and understanding gentlemen returned my call and assured me that what they do isn’t religion based, political or preachy (score again!) it is based on cognitive behavioral therapy.  Which the logical person in me prefers.  It’s taking learned behavior that’s negative and learning how to deal with it in a positive light.  Dealing with horrendous situations in a more productive, logical, positive manner essentially.  This is what I wanted, it was also what I needed.  I like logic, I like answers and I like doing things in a productive fashion.  This made me feel a little better, I committed to going that night.  I was determined to make that step that day, not waiting until the next opportunity lest I back out.  After all they say that first step you take is the longest stride.

So there I was, at said location.  Debating.  Did I want to do this?  I hate strangers, I had become rather anti-social in the past little while.  I hung out outside for a bit having an internal debate in my mind.  Then I opened the door, found where I was supposed to go and forged ahead.

It was by and large the best thing I ever could have done for myself.

I felt comfortable right off the bat.  My earlier anxiety had dissipated leaving a flood tsunami like force of relief in it’s wake.  I was there.  I made the call, got to the place, walked in the door and was welcomed with open arms.  I figured at this point, what have I got to loose?  So I stayed.  I owned up, I opened up and no one there tried to fix me.  All they said was good for you for acknowledging that you need to fix you.  And I do and I will.  One minute, one hour, one day at a time.  I wish that I had done this before, however I choose not to.  Sadly it took what went down that Wed night to make me hit rock bottom, perhaps that’s what I needed to happen?  In any case, everything happens for a reason and while I am far from proud of how I acted that night I’m going to choose to believe that incident was the final catalyst that pushed me over the edge in a good and positive way.

Am I going to be OK?  I don’t know, but I hope so.  All I can do is try.  Therefore I shall.

OSIS & books

I feel like I’ve given birth and ran a marathon simultaneously.  Pete told me on the evening of the 18th to take a break.  Break?  Quel est ce mot pause, il parle de?  So I checked out Merriam & Webster’s definition of the word break and I’m still not sure what he’s getting at?  Does he want me to break someone’s arm?  Perhaps his?  Perhaps his face?

Not that I would, he’s too cute.  Although I have thought about it 😉

Anyway moving along…  I wrote a book as you all know and after some major hurdles, mishaps, yelling, screaming, trips in the rain and making my visa bleed…  It’s here!  My publisher is nothing short of awesome!  She went above and beyond my expectations and my book looks wonderful.  I haven’t had time to actually sit down and absorb the fact that I am in fact an author.  It’s still really hard for me to believe.    *note to self, if you ever write another one, don’t give yourself the most tightest deadline known to man!* I’m going to re-design her website for her, I’m good like that.  I’m going to post a video about my book soon, since it’s far more interesting then writing about it.  Then you can buy one!

No seriously,  everyone should own one!  Except printing is limited to a mere 43 copies so only a few people will be privileged enough to own a signed and numbered copy.  Because I’m special like that!  It’s also for charity, so karma points kids!  Think about karma!

So yeah I wrote a book and in midst of writing said book I was busy fund-raising for  IAMAlive more so for moi to help offset the $250.00 (USD) training costs.  Through the generosity of  a few of my friends and a scholarship I was able to start training.  Said training, offered in conjunction with Eastern Washington University, more specifically the QPR institute leads to 30 university credits, 40 hours of accreditation and most importantly Online Suicide Intervention Specialist certification.  That very generous scholarship did however come with a couple strings.  One of them being that I had to complete my training by no later then December 1st.  The upside to that is if I’m one of the first 100 people to complete it, then I will be recognized as one of the founding volunteers.  Which is pretty awesome!  I don’t know if that applies to me or not so I’m not going to get too excited or say much about it until then.

It was a long hard road to get my book out on time and throw in university at the same time.  Completing this course, while exuberant for me on one level, left me and still has me quite sad  on another.  During the gatekeeper portion of my training, there’s a video in it that says something to the effect of:” If you have lost someone you love to suicide, we acknowledge your loss and give our sympathy to you.  However don’t feel too bad if you couldn’t save them, because you didn’t have the proper training!”

Really?   I know you didn’t just say that you arrogant bastard!

Everyday hero’s aren’t always Dr’s or police officers or whatever.  Sometimes when a person has given up all hope, it’s amazing what kind words from a person can do.  Kevin H, who is one of the survivors  of the Golden Gate bridge recalls how all he wanted was for someone to care that day he choose to jump.  After being passed by two bridge workers and a police officer oblivious to his tears a woman had stopped him and he thought to himself, finally someone cares!  Turns out she was a tourist who only wanted her picture taken.  Who knows what would have happened had she had stopped and said hey, is everything OK?  Long story short, it’s amazing how much a small token of caring can make a world of difference.  You can read Kevin’s story here, it’s nothing short of amazing.

I’ve sat through hours of lectures, read a couple books on the subject through the course of my training.  One of them being Suicide the forever decision.  Which you can download or read online.  It’s not a long read, nor full of technical jargon that the average person can’t understand.  Everyone should read it, even if they’re not nor have ever been suicidal.

Jason’s picture hangs on my wall right above my desk.  I just need to glance up and there he is.  Which turned out to be a good thing as I sat there and listened to my prof drone on and on and I was trying not to fall asleep and fighting the urge to say screw it; then I would look up and remind myself of the number one reason why I’m doing this.

I’m doing it for him.

I’m doing it in the hopes that I can spare another family the pain and soul sucking heartache of loosing a loved one to suicide.  Part of me will always wonder if this was in place years ago if it would have made a difference, if I had in fact had this training previously could I have saved him?

I’ll never know the answer to that and because of that I try hard not to dwell on it.  Although I know myself well enough to know that part of me, in the back of my mind will always wonder if it would have made a difference.  Don’t ever be afraid to reach out and help someone, even if it’s a complete stranger.  You just might be the one person that makes all the difference, simply by caring.