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.

 

Insomnia.

It’s at night when we’re alone with our own private, exhausted thoughts that we begin to over-think. Already we can’t sleep – we’re tossing and turning and restless for hours on end, awaiting morning or sleep, though the latter is obviously preferable. We can’t sleep because of these burdening thoughts. When we can’t sleep, we think more. When we can’t sleep more we get more stressed. When we get more stressed we begin to think again about the toll that over-thinking has taken over our lives. On and on it goes until in two long, painful work days, we have accomplished a mere 4-5 hours of sleep and even those precious few hours feel like an accomplishment. It’s a vicious cycle of frustration and increasing stress that creeps up like the sheets we cover ourselves with us when our eyes begin to close and we pray they stay that way for a whole restful night.

When I’m lying awake I think about work, and I think about love, and I think about life and where mine is going (or where it’s not going). I overthink small things and as I lay there mostly motionless, they grow bigger and bigger like a snowball, made of the snow that’s been falling all day and all night that I can see the pale grey-midnight glow of from the window I can still see light out of because no matter how tired I am, I still can’t sleep.

This week I’ve been thinking about priorities and wonder what mine are as I drift between sleeping and waking, burgeoning career to full-time career, location to location. And I wonder, what is my priority? What are my unfulfilled dreams? What does anything mean, really, when you’re out here and you’re devoting yourself to a job that you sometimes are terrified of and sometimes want to hide from, but at the end of the day, you can’t tear yourself away from or apart from, and don’t want to under any circumstances?

I don’t believe in prayer really, but if I did I would pray tonight for sleep. and answers. But mostly sleep. Rest. For the bags under my eyes to disappear. For other quietly unfulfilled whims.

The Right Record at the Right Time.

I hadn’t listened to Ryan Adams & the Cardinals’ album “Cardinology” in a really long time. I have mixed feelings about the album – there are some real gems but as a huge fan of Adams, I definitely think it’s one of the weaker efforts. After a day where I’ve been feeling a bit down and pensive, I really felt the need to put on something that would take me back to another place and time when I was feeling similarly. Sometimes music can give you answers and guidance and hope and faith that you didn’t know you could have until listening to something from your past.

“Cardinology” is a healing album; it’s an album that provides hope, quietly begs for mercy, and tries to advise listeners to relax, keep the faith, keep trying, and don’t give up on love. All the messages that I needed on a day like this.

The last time I immersed myself in this album, I was in the very very last stages of recovering from my very first heartbreak – one that took longer than it should have to stop hurting. The album came out about a year after the day I was so hurt I could scarcely get out of bed without that tinge of sadness that accompanies everything you do and think about as a broken person. In many ways, I kind of felt a bit… lost… this past week, this past month even. Unsure and doubtful and frustrated and ‘behind’ where I’d love to be, where I sometimes feel almost like I ‘should’ be… I returned to that safe place, this album that got me through another hard time of doubt and frustrations. And listening to Ryan Adams sing seemingly to me, “Go easy on yourself” and “Some of us are strong/But the rest of us are weak/So let us down but if you must/Let us down easy, lord” really helped me to put my worries, doubts, frustrations and life into perspective that I really really needed today.

Your favourite artists are confidantes who know what you’re going through, sympathize without judgment and when you look through their back catalogue, they can tell you exactly what you need to hear to feel better. I’m incredibly grateful for the gift an album from 2009, a year that was a transitioning and healing year for me, much like this one has been so far, has given me today. Music is wisdom.

Happiness, Edition 22.

I have to go back to work tomorrow. Mondays are such a blow sometimes. The fluctuation between doing absolutely nothing and being constantly mentally and physically ‘on’ five day a week takes some serious mental and emotional adjustments. And coffee. A TON of coffee.

This weekend I was in my hometown. I only have a small certain amount of time I can be with my parents before I feel like a lazy, regressive, dependent sloth and I need to go home. But I haven’t been back to my hometown since Christmas and right now unseasonable warmth and hectic indecision and stressful thoughts and feelings, plus my partner’s own stresses and busy schedule had us apart this weekend so I could drive out to the mountains.

I heard difficult news to swallow but also had some really nice meals and soaked in some sunshine and talked a lot with my mom about said-difficult news. And I almost shared more of my own difficulties but decided in the end, that it wasn’t the ‘right’ time. Sure enough, upon sharing tough news with my boyfriend he called me and cheered me up because he’s the best.

I am reminded of the Pixar film, “Inside Out” because I believe empathy and comfort during really tough times are the exact-right mixture of happy and sad that are necessary to get through things that aren’t so pleasant to swallow. Going home this weekend was a mix of good and bad feelings and good and bad times, but at the end of the day I feel refreshed having taken a break from the city, I suppose. I’ll go back to work this week with this idea of empathy stuck in my mind which I hope will make my days easier to handle too.