Rest in Peace, Chester Bennington.

I haven’t written in a while, because a lack of work and an influx of relaxation spells a decrease in inspiration to write.

I just wanted to quickly touch base about Chester Bennington’s sudden death.

It breaks my heart that there are people out there who suffer so greatly, that they feel removing themselves from lives they’ve built is their only out from the terrible debilitating pain they feel every day. Successful people, perhaps in the eyes of the every-person, ‘should’ be happy – they have everything, right? Money, success, a chance to do what they love every day and be paid handsomely for it – but the reality of depression is that if you are not happy, you are not happy, and that is that.

I have not been truly ‘depressed’ and pretending I have been is an insult to people everywhere who suffer from actual depressiion. But I have some problems with the way I see myself and how I come across to others. I have a problem internalizing painful things that have happened in my life – so often, they’re road blocks I can’t let go of. I think about them every day. I miss the past. I can’t reclaim or do anything about the past except try my best to move forward from it and erase the ghosts that are there. I will openly admit to being dumped with a high five by the first person I was ever in love with, suffering abuse as a child, failing several times at career searches and being horrible with money – a very lethal combination that has consistently gotten me in trouble and caused stress, been sexually assaulted on a Tinder date just prior to meeting my extremely loving, wonderful boyfriend and being bullied in high school for my race, my weight, my clothes, my taste in music, and anything else you can imagine. All of these things have messed me up quite a bit. I don’t consider myself someone with a mental illness (again, doing so demeans and diminishes the experiences of those who actually live with mental illness). But I’ve been through stuff.

What gets you through difficult times is whatever you choose to get you through. The support of family and friends is number 1 but it is often not enough, especially if the people who will make you feel better are far away. What has gotten me through my own struggles, has always been music. Music and writing, together or separately. Evidently, I don’t always write. But music is my constant. It is to me, what religious faith is to others.

I find it saddening that someone like Bennington, 41, has chosen to end his life early, particularly because the messages in his songs (I am most familiar with Hybrid Theory) resonate so much with people of all ages, particularly young people, who may have contemplated ending theirs. As adults, we often laugh at the angsty music we listened to as kids – I’ve in the past, made fun of Hybrid Theory and albums like it because of their dated nu-metal sound and overwrought messages and lyrics. But as a teenager, those albums are your life. They demand repeated listens because you have an outlet for the emotions you feel so deeply but are barred from expressing because of this notion that it is uncool, un-invincible, to let out what you’re feeling and truly be who you are through open doors.

Chester Bennington is a figure in music that we always took for granted would be there, that people my age have fond memories of, and who has gotten many through their own troubled times and crushing blows and depression. His was the kind of music that helped people found light because of its darkness. While yes, some of what they have done was a bit cheesy and dated and dramatic, but teenagers need that kind of music. They always have, and they always will.

So rest peacefully, Chester Bennington. And know you, nor almost anyone else on this earth, are not, and never will be alone in the world.

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#BellLetsTalk

Life is hard. Life with mental illness is harder. Talking about mental illness, engaging those who are struggling without judgment, is going to make a hard life just a little bit easier a burden to carry on one’s shoulders.

I just wanted to give thanks to Bell Mobility for opening up the conversation and having those from all over the world contributing to mental wellness, helping to open up conversations.

I’m not going to tell you a story of how mentally unwell I am. I have had bouts of deep-rooted confidence issues – because I’m a survivor of abuse, because I was bullied so intensely growing up and was isolated from my peers. It takes me ages to get over things like breakups, falling-outs and the feeling of making a mistake. I’m hard on myself. I look in the mirror and don’t think I’m pretty. I binge eat or don’t eat. Life is hard. Do I have mental illness? Not that I’ve been diagnosed with. But I can, in just a small way, relate to the inward struggles of those who do. Sometimes, life is just a bit harder than it normally is. That’s life, but it doesn’t mean struggles of any kind should be trivialized or minimized. Yes, it’s life. But sometimes it helps to talk about it.

Let’s carry the momentum of #BellLetsTalk day year-round – lets’s focus on mental wellness and de-stigmatizing mental illness every day. Don’t let people you care about, or anyone really, walk through their challenges alone.

What I Would Want My Children to Know About Consent.

If I have children (God forbid I do, as I fear for my abilities and capabilities as a parent every time I stop to entertain the thought) I would want them to know that I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, and sexual assault – the latter, twice – once at the hand of a close friend and ex-boyfriend.

I would want them to know that I at first, felt like in some uncertain terms these things were my fault. That I was confused about them, that I was unsure of how it was ‘supposed to feel’ to be “raped” — that I always told myself this narrative that being “raped” happens in back alleys at the hands of total strangers grabbing you on a sidewalk somewhere, or that afterwards you feel completely ripped to shreds from the inside out and you go to the hospital and do the whole rape kit thing and so on. And I would want them to know that for these reasons, all of the assault I’ve been privy to didn’t “feel” the way I thought assault would feel. I was mostly numb to it after it happened. I carried on with my day, or days, as though my life was totally normal and I was the same as everyone else who this hadn’t happened to, and that for these reasons I thought to myself, “well.. I couldn’t have been raped or abused; or if I was, it wasn’t as bad as other people’s experiences so I don’t have a right to say anything about them.”

I would want them to know this simple thing about sexual assault and sexual molestation, at any age, by someone of any gender: if you believe it to be rape, it is rape. If you did not consent to what happened to you, and/or you were too young to consent, then you didn’t consent. And that your own personal feelings and way of dealing with that are yours and yours alone and nobody is allowed to tell you things like “you should have told on them” or “you should have been more devastated” or worse, “you didn’t say no so it wasn’t rape” or “you can’t really be raped by someone you know or invited over to your house.”

I would want my children to know that sadly, assault and abuse are more common than we’d like to think; that I know several people in my life who have dealt with the repercussions and pain and numbness and self-hatred that they’ve brought on, internalized, thought about as as a result of their own experiences with rape. Those “1 in 5” or whatever numbered statistics are true — it is true that this is a very common thing. It goes unreported because as we know now, the law does not protect or often believe survivors of assault; it goes un-talked about because for many, these conversations are still taboo and they’re still difficult to swallow and they force people to re-live their traumas over again. But is it true? Absolutely. Once you speak about your assault, others will too; countless others. Go on Twitter after a highly publicized unfair case where a rapist got off scot-free. And you will see thousands of men and women voicing not just support and solidarity, but voicing “this happened to me too”… many, for the first time. I want my children to know that those stories are painful and brutal and speak to injustice in our society, but they are true and should and deserve to be believed, and supported.

I want my children to know that if anything happens to them they should tell someone but if they don’t they shouldn’t beat themselves up about it because I never told. I never told on anyone who has abused me. One of them is dead. He went to his grave with a daughter that still looks to him as the greatest father and best friend a little girl ever had. And I could have changed an entire family and the course of an old man’s life by ‘telling’. And I wish I had. But at the same time, if I had I would then make victims of a widow and a daughter and a son who had no part in, or control over, what their father did, not just to me, but other little local girls too. Is that fair? No, it’s not. And so I am now more at ease with the decision I made than I ever have been and I’m not angry about it anymore. But as victims, do we have a duty to tell? No. We’re victims and we only know how we feel and what we feel we need to protect ourselves and protect our own reputations, lives, families, and emotional well-being. I want my children to know I’m here for them but at the same time, if they don’t want me to be they should come to their own decisions about the right time to tell me something in time.

And finally, on sexual assault and abuse I would want my children to know that at any point, the best thing to do is say no. Children say no all the time: to their teachers, their parents, to their friends. And if there was ever the best time to say no, it would be when someone is doing something that you don’t like or want in or on or around your body. Saying no to someone who cares for you will not make them hate you; and saying no to someone who you don’t know doesn’t matter because who gives a shit what they think, you don’t owe them a thing. But saying no once and feeling weird about in the moment could save your life and in some strange way, theirs too.

Consent is not an easy thing to talk about; if you don’t say no but believe you were raped anyways, will anyone believe you were ‘raped’? And if you didn’t say no does that make the assault your fault? What kind of people do you trust with your body? What kind of people can rape you? I would want my children to know that this is complicated and there are no simple answers but in time, if this happens to you or a friend, it is important to note that how you feel is the subjective but ultimate truth.

We’re having the “rape culture” converstion. Again.

This year, there has been so many conversations about ‘rape culture’; Jian Ghomeshi’s victims, verdicts of trials, women creating extraordinarily brave open letters to their rapists, run ramped on the internet. Survivor bravery is at its peak, as are memes and gifs and statuses and shares that support victim bravery, whether we know the victims or not. That is the good news.

The “bad news” of all of this is that despite all of this, we are STILL talking about rape culture. We are still lambasting media outlets and misogynistic judges and bystanders who applaud athletic effort over shunning abhorrent, disgusting behaviour of star athletes who rape — and care more about their feelings than that of those they have violated and victimized to the point where they must re-piece their lives, their agency, their sexual freedom and freedom to go to parties with the assumption that ‘nothing will happen.’ Despite positive steps in the right direction, here we are, again, collectively appalled by the results of a sexual assault trial; 6 months for being caught red-handed assaulting an unconscious woman. Because any more than that might have a significantly negative impact on the poor young rapist. And we wonder collectively why more women don’t speak up and stand up to their rapists: why? Because they are forced to be publicly scrutinized, judged, and most importantly, forced to re-live that moment again but this time, in front of everyone including lawyers and judges who clearly don’t give a shit what they have to say. Because the poor young student star athlete is suffering due to his remorseful actions (which he refuses, in the case of Brock Turner, to even acknowledge).

Because the reality of all of this is this: many people say one thing, and do another. They pretend to be male feminists, but they are still at parties taking advantage of women who won’t consent. They say they support and believe survivors, but they shun and isolate friends who have been assaulted and talk shit about them behind their back. They post memes with good intentions but then go on their merry way, ignoring anything that looks suspect at a bar because they don’t want to get involved. Because as long as there are vulnerable people, there will be people who want to take advantage of them and all of these good intentions is all for nothing because at the end of the day, rapists win in court and all the good intentions and combative posting and vehement sharing of posts like Turner’s victim’s powerful open letter to her attacker do nothing. We need to do more. We need to be better. We need to not only acknowledge and empathize with victims, but do more to fight for them, support them, listen to them, ask the right questions, make them feel validated and welcomed and most importantly of all, ‘NORMAL’. Whatever that normal looks like to the survivor.

Words I will never forget are from a former friend who once said to me in faux-concern that “[my] friends all agree that [I] need help” and that she “hopes [I] figure [my] shit out” or I will lose everyone I love. These words haunt me. When I think of them, I think of rape culture. Not from men who assault, but from women whose passive aggressiveness and their ability to attempt to use your own assault to fling back to you in your face, all the shitty things you’ve done and all your own fears of being alone or abnormal or isolated. Sometimes we assume all women and most men do their part to actively combat rape culture because they post positive messages and claim to believe survivors. And then behind closed doors they send a former best friend a private email like this and reveal that they might as well be assaulting girls and women too. This might sound harsh, but as a survivor of sexual assault, that’s how words like that feel: like a dagger in your back, like re-living your attack, by being reminded of how you often feel — as though you are nothing and nobody and it’s your fault that you were victimized.

“Rape culture” is oft-considered a buzz word that doesn’t really mean much because it means so many things. Like many areas of approaching the conversation about sexual assault, it’s best to ask victims how they see and feel and understand this supposed ‘culture’; to me, it is simply this:

Rape culture is the lack of actual support for victims. 

Rape culture is about hypocrisy, people who neglect to truly educate themselves about what survivors go through not just immediately after their assaults but possibly for months, years, decades after; rape culture is claiming to someone’s face that you believe them then going behind their back and gossiping about your “rape” to their friends; rape culture is men who take advantage of vulnerable men and women; rape culture is a lack of actively taking a stance on an individual, global or local scale against sexual assault; rape culture is claiming that women lie to entrap men; rape culture is not listening to the word “no”, and/or not understanding that rape culture is not just about ‘no means no’, but also and importantly, about ‘yes means yes’. Rape culture is isolating victims because you don’t understand them, rather than being supportive in your efforts to try to. Rape culture is acknowledging that the crime of penetration isn’t just about a penis in a vagina – it can be touching, groping, fingering, dry humping or unwanted oral sex but the feelings of the victim can still be the same regardless; all sexual assault is wrong and horrendous, no matter how the public perceives your experiences with assault and measuring it by comparing it to others’ assaults.

If you don’t support survivors, you support rape culture. It’s for this reason, rape culture still persists to this day. And why we all sit here angrily wondering how someone caught RED-HANDED can be sentenced to 6 months in prison. Why someone’s athletic career is prominently featured in an article about the crime they were convicted of. We don’t do enough to believe and support victims. We’re catty, we’re apathetic, we naturally exclude or fear what we don’t understand. We are sometimes people who take advantage of others And when we continue to stoop down to the lowest common denomination of what it means to be human, that’s when we continue a cycle of rape and assault.

 

Happiness Challenge, Day 2.

I was thinking today about Shane Koyczan’s great, amazing, ubiquitous-in-all-high-schools poem, “To This Day”. The poem is specifically about bullies and anti-bullying. But there’s a line in there that has always stood out to me which feels very apt today. I needed this as a reminder. Things are going well. Things are good. But when one part of what I do is good, sometimes others fall by the wayside. This serves as a reminder of how sometimes, this is worthwhile.

there’s something inside you
that made you keep trying
despite everyone who told you to quit

Fifteen Things I’m Glad I Did This Year.

This was a big year for me in many ways. Sometimes I felt like I was backing up into a corner and other times I felt like I was bursting through double doors. Here are the best things I did, the best decisions I made, and the best memories I’ll keep from 2015.

  1. Going to Sasquatch again was one of the best decisions I made this year; with my new career life, that American May long weekend isn’t the best time for me to go away anymore, if I’m even able to. So sadly, this may have been the last time I might be able to head to Sasquatch, or any festival for the matter. There’s something that happens at festivals – we get to be young gain and we get to experience a life of what I refer to as ‘peaceful anarchy’ – the idea that everyone gets to collate and join metaphorial (and sometimes literal) hands but outside the confines of society. It’s a magical place full of amazing music. I’ll really miss festival life, especially in the Gorge. But this year’s festival was wonderful and to go back again and live those experiences again was something extraordinarily well worth it for me heading into the final year of my twenties.
  2. I was incredibly grateful to move back to Alberta this year as well, for reasons that were right for me, and incredibly practical, and also incredibly fortunate. What I found in terms of a passion for the love of my life and the career I’ve been waiting for was back here; and to stay in a city I loved without those things felt at the time, like a foolish sacrifice to make for what was best for my life in the long run. I made a difficult choice. Time will tell if this will all pay off, but it was the best thing I could have done and I’m so  much happier now with the certainties of what brought me back here in the first place.
  3. I lost a few really important people in my life this year who felt like belittling me for whatever reasons they had. Who ousted who is a question I ask myself too. But despite how said-ousted people argue the situation, I made the decisions to walk away from these people in the end. Hanging on and hanging on with the hope that the people you used to know who have changed into ugly, selfish and mean versions of the people you knew once, to revert back to who they were, is a pointless and frustrating endeavor. I’m not going to pretend it was easy for me to let go of any of this. I’m not going to pretend either that I was happy and felt nothing doing it. But again…. sometimes what we don’t necessarily want is actually what is for the best. So with that said, FUCK those people. FUCK THEM. What I’m doing for me now and the people I’m doing it with are better for me than the people I thought I knew. And fuck me too, for not knowing better sooner.
  4. Following a positivity movement right here on this blog over the month of July 2014, I reached out to the ex. My first love. And what I got in return was the assumption that I was doing so to rekindle some sort of flame (I wasn’t. I was actually just trying to make peace with former ‘enemies’). Following the move on the part of my partner and I to become “Facebook official” I noticed through a mutual friend that First Love had blocked me. Sigh. Facebook is interesting. It is a series of sophisticated communication that allows us to present ourselves how we want, to who we want. It allows us to be dialed into our friends, family and acquaintances any time we want. It allows us access to pertinent and crucial, and frankly, useless information, from our phone and our workplace and our PCs whenever. I hear people talk about its frivolity but really, blocking is a statement. And it’s quite a very large one at that. But having said that, what I am grateful for is to see something very important about First Love: that he is a sad, petulant, egotistical little child. I will never understand any of the bullshit he put me through in the past, and I don’t care to understand any of the stupid bullshit he’s trying to put me through in the present.
  5. While this is not one thing, it is a million little things but since my shot at my current career, I have found it important to note that I have really worked hard at becoming more assertive in 2015. I showed solid assertiveness in standing up for my prick of a landlord after a really unpleasant standoff I had with him just before I moved out. I show something resembling assertiveness that I have in my job every single day. It’s something that, when I first started this whole career I never, ever thought I could do and I do surprisingly decently mot days. I’m not some masterful guru of assertiveness but I do my best and my best now is better than my best two years ago and beyond, so that’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.
  6. I’m so glad that I saw Wilco again this year. Despite that it’s no secret how much I LOVE Wilco, I’ve only seen them in concert four times, including this one in 2015. It was like a nice break from everything that was garbage about the few months prior to my move. I was able to stand front row-centre for the show and watch my favourite band melt my face off and remember how good it feels to be young and unencumbered and independent living in a world-class city and hanging out with awesome people doing what I love to do.
  7. I’m not an athlete by any means, but this year I put those insecurities aside and tried rowing in an eight-man rowing class. I was HORRIBLE at it. HORRIBLE. But the scenery was beautiful, I made minute connections with friendly people, and I learned a little tiny bit of a new skill. With more practice I might have been a lot better than I was, but the environment and timing were not right for me in the end. But still, I’m glad to have tried.
  8. This year, I spent a great deal of time (and money) consistently travelling to and from the city I lived in and the city where my long distance partner lives. Being apart was painful and getting such little time was even more painful; furthermore, the suffering of not knowing when or how we would be closer again prior to me taking a job closer to him was incredibly stressful and frustrating. The world was topsy turvy and difficult and pricey for the first half-year of our long distance relationship. And what I learned from that is, just how important it is to be around the people you’re insanely in love with as much as possible. Home really is a person and not a place.
  9. I’m so glad I never quit searching for what I thought might make me the happiest and most secure. As I move forward in my career I find that sometimes I feel like crying on a daily basis, or tearing my hair out, or walking away and never coming back. I am overwhelmed and tired and burnt out and often incredibly frustrated. But — never bored. And never checked out. And never with the urge to quit. After searching for the better part of a year, I DID find what I was looking for. I don’t know if it’s all I dreamed of but I never quit. And that’s what’s important.
  10. I’m glad that this year I didn’t succumb to the negative feelings I have about myself. I learned that when you have love and a purpose, your looks and the shallow views of an ugly and misogynistic society are second to everything else that’s important. I’m not where I would like to be in terms of body image and physical health. But what would have been a spear to my heart and self-esteem in the past, is now a mere inconvenience.
  11. I live in an incredibly small and concentrated right-wing conservative riding in my town. And I never really saw the purpose in voting, as for these reasons I didn’t think the party I vote for would win in my riding, so what’s the point? Having said that, I’m so glad I voted in the federal election; as a Canadian citizen, I have a right to vote for the party of my choice regardless of the riding and what kind of educator would I be if I forewent the civic duty of voting? In addition this election is HISTORIC and I was pleased to be a part of seeing a generational and image turnaround of my country.
  12. Ever since I left my advising career, I’ve always wondered how life would be if I went back into that line of work. I did, briefly, in Vancouver; in a different capacity, with slightly different duties, and in a very different working environment. I hated it. I was bored and under-appreciated and I felt like all the work I’d put into doing something more was wasted going back to Square One. I was glad I had this opportunity so I had a clear vision of what I wanted, and what I didn’t want.

  13. Only recently did I come to the conclusion that I didn’t want to live as an empty shell of a human being in this black hole of a complete lack of confidence. After years of suffering through crippling self-criticism and low self-esteem, I have learned that I can’t do it alone. I have started getting real help for that,  and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.
  14. After learning more about “self regulation”, I have come to find that I have happy places I venture to as well when I feel lost and lonely. I have been baking more and now that I have people to bake for, it’s been a great way for me to make people happy and clear my head.
  15. The world can be a rotten place. But when you can shield yourself by loving the shit out of someone else and have them love you back the same way you can get through the tough times – yours and the world’s – through the constant reminder that no, it’s not all bad. I’m glad I allowed my walls to come down with the person I love the most and allow them to help me through the darker and drearier parts of this year. My partner and I both saw a lot of strife and personal tragedies this year and towards the end of the year things became smoother and clearer. I’m glad I had the support and love of him to help me be the best I could be this year.

To anyone reading this: I hope you too, can take the time to articulate fifteen wonderful things that happened to you in 2015 and that you have an enjoyable end of the year.

Tough Decisions.

I consider myself to be overall, kind of a broken person. I’m like the Barbie you ripped the head off accidentally and when you put her head back on her neck was shorter and she never looked quite ‘right’ ever again. I have good days and good weeks, and bad weeks, and really bad days where my world and all its nightmares and problems weave a tight cage around my being until I can’t really focus on anything except getting out and realizing, in that moment, I can’t. Then I go to sleep and wake up and have coffee and go to work and it’s all better after that. Until the next cage comes and entraps me. And the whole cycle repeats itself.

I don’t want it to anymore. The kind of confidence failures and personal hells I go through aren’t worth just sitting back for anymore. I’m ready to make a decision I didn’t think I could make and seek help for what has been a very difficult and hard-to-manage part of my life. I have finally gotten in touch with a therapist, and I don’t know how helpful this will be for me but I would like to try and sort out the back end of my life, since I’ve sorted out the front end. I want to be proud of myself and confident, inside and outside.

I’m nervous, and happy, and excited, and at peace. All I want in life is to move forward.