Hawaii honeymoon

The Messiness of Mental Health

I have a friend who talks about her “work” – the personal and emotional things we all have to work through and the deliberate way in which she works through it. Her work is messy, she says, in that when she’s going through something, it’s not a quiet, internal process. Those close to her know it. She talks about it openly and shares the physical side effects of her emotional stuff. She also explores a lot – different ways to get at the heart of the issue, alternative therapies, finding meaning in things most people wouldn’t even notice. She puts herself and her emotions and her struggles out into the world and gets a lot back in return.

I have been privy to some of her “work” over the last several months, and it has occurred to me on many occasions how much better she is at dealing with her crap than I am. As much as I have shared here, I otherwise keep my own “work” very quiet. It’s very internal, and I’ve realized it’s very shallow. I don’t think I do really deal with my crap, in fact. It gets in the way of my desire for everything to be ok.

messy drawing

But sometimes things aren’t ok. We all have stuff. And we all have different ways of dealing with that stuff, and some of us are better at it than others.

I think I used to be pretty good at it. I know I used to be much better about self-awareness. And I recall in the past letting emotions in that for many years now I have mostly tried to keep at bay.

When I revealed my latest struggle with some of the people I work with, the consistent comment was, “I had no idea.” I had no idea you were going through something, they said. I had no idea you were dealing with something shitty.

That’s because, over the last several years, I’ve become pretty damn good at hiding that shitty stuff in my day-to-day life. Which is not to say that it hasn’t spilled over in other unintended ways, but it’s certainly possible to have things appear completely fine when they’re not.

And that’s really the thing about mental health, isn’t it? For some people it’s messy. For others, it’s a tidy package that gets tucked away in a box with a closed lid and only opened when it’s convenient or, perhaps more accurately, when the box gets too full to stay properly closed.

This is not to say that I feel the need to put my mess on display, but I do need to mess it up a bit. I need to unpack that box for myself, and find out more about what’s in it.

I don’t entirely know what this “work” is going to look like for me, but that’s probably okay. I just know, more clearly than I’ve ever known before, that it’s time.

Self-actualization doesn’t just happen, you know.

It’s time.
I'm Blogging for Mental Health 2015.

The Line

I have (very) recently entered a new phase in my life. It feels like I am standing on a beach and I turn around to find that someone has drawn a line in the sand right behind me, and that side of the line represents before and this side of the line represents now. I am standing right on the other side of the line but there’s no going back. It’s not even a big line, but it’s a line. I didn’t really expect it to be drawn there, but there it is.

I did try to erase the line, sort of. After all, it’s just a line, freshly drawn and not very deep. If I fill in the hole, I thought, maybe the line won’t be there anymore.

But it doesn’t work like that.

I can’t explain what this is just yet. I’m not ready, and it’s not entirely about me. I am walking another line as well, one that’s between my desire (and probably need) to write about this and the reality that it’s not time. But please bear with me. It’s a significant, in fact life-changing, thing and I don’t know what to do. But I do need to put it out there as I work through it.

road curving out of sight

In one of her Dear Sugar columns, author Cheryl Strayed (when she was still writing anonymously) was asked, “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?”

Part of her answer included this:

“I talk to my partner and my friends. I make lists. I attempt to analyze the situation from the perspective of my ‘best self’ – the one that’s generous and reasonable and forgiving and loving and big-hearted and grateful. I think really hard about what I’ll wish I did a year from now. I map out the consequences of the various actions I could take. I ask what my motivations are, what my desires are, what my fears are, what I have to lose, and what I have to gain. I move toward the light, even if it’s a hard direction in which to move. I trust myself. I keep the faith. I mess up sometimes.”

That’s what I am trying to do.

I have had many people tell me I am strong and can handle this and am so loved and will be okay. Easy for them to say, I think. What I think is that this is just another thing I have to deal with that might sink me. It feels, on a daily (and in fact moment-to-moment) basis that I can’t do this. I am not equipped. I am clearly messed up and this is just another thing that will reveal that to be true.

I can do this, of course, and I will, but oh, it’s hard.

The irony (truth? beauty?) is that I’m mentally moving through the phases of this fairly quickly. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – the stages of this, at least for me, are pretty much exactly the stages of coping with dying. And just like those stages as identified by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, these stages are not linear. They are messy and they stop and start and sometimes one phase completely overwhelms the others and makes any feeling other than that anger or that depression seem absolutely, undeniably impossible to achieve. And then it retreats, even if only slightly, and something else can start to emerge.

I can’t recall exactly how I came across that particular Dear Sugar column, but like so many things that find their way to me when I need to see them it was an unassuming click on a passing link that led me down a path I didn’t know was there and didn’t know I needed to find until I was standing on it.

Since crossing that line a mere three weeks ago, I have had a few glimpses of my “best self” – the one that’s generous and reasonable and forgiving and loving and big-hearted and grateful – and I know she’s in there. At this stage she’s being drowned out more often than not by my not-best self – the one that’s angry and hurt and sad and scared and disappointed – but she’s in there.

It’s early, though. It’s early days on a very hard journey and I’m going to mess up sometimes, but I’m trying to keep the faith and continue on.

After all, it’s only a line.

footprints in the sand

A summertime emergency kit

You know what’s fun? Shopping for crayons. You know what’s especially fun? Shopping for crayons you don’t plan on letting your kids use.

Staples is doing a promotion with Visa Checkout and I was offered the chance to build a summertime emergency kit. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that when it comes to this whole parenting thing, I’m pretty much always game for an emergency kit that will make this gig easier.

I’m a little anxious about school ending for Connor. He does better when he’s busy and active and challenged, and I’m concerned about what our days might be like when he’s not at school all day. Or more specifically what my evenings might be like, because I already get him at his most excitable and there are times I can barely get through dinner without eyeing the garage and wondering if anyone would notice if I duct taped him to his chair. With some stuff to keep him occupied, and some activities we can do on weekends when our time together is more, shall we say, in need of help, I’m feeling a little better.

So I went shopping on the Staples website. For starters, when I searched “Crayola” I got a ton of results. I had no idea.

I bought art supplies and paper and craft kits and paint and finger-painting kits. (I know. Paint. The whole idea of an emergency kit making me a fantastic mom might have gone to my head.)

I bought sketchbooks and glue sticks and construction paper. I might also have bought the 64-pack of crayons with a built-in sharpener and I might not let the kids use it. (Oh, who am I kidding? Connor claimed that one right away.)

6 pack crayons

But I did get them a crayon meltdown art set, so maybe they won’t notice.

Connor loves it when boxes are delivered and loves opening them, especially when he can get his hands on the goods, so this is a hit already.

colouring

Ethan likes to make stuff. He also likes to write on things like walls and floors, so I’m hoping the plethora of paper options will keep him from causing an emergency of another sort (the kind involving a Magic Eraser and mama saying some bad words).

doing crafts

I like to colour, so I figure the contents of the emergency kit will set us up for some good summer days. And if the finger-painting goes sideways, well, at least there might be a Mother of the Year award in it for me. Even if it’s just the E for Effort category.

***

I shopped online at Staples.ca and bought the supplies using Visa Checkout and a Visa gift card that was given to me. I’ll admit to being a bit wary about how easy it would be to use, but I needn’t have been. It was super easy.

It’s not finicky like other pre-paid cards I’ve tried, and Visa Checkout makes it especially easy because you can create a single account sign-in that can be used across all devices (and no need to keep re-entering the card number or address either).

VISA CheckOut Button_4

Here’s a quick how-to for all you Canadians out there. There are just three steps on http://checkout.visa.com:

  • Step one: Create a username and password.
  • Step two: Enter your payment and shipping information. (You only have to do this once)
  • Step three: Look for the Visa Checkout button when you’re shopping online, enter your username and password, and go!

That’s it. Seriously. It’s secure and Visa’s Zero Liability policy applies in case of fraud.

You can use Visa Checkout at many of your favourite Canadian online stores, with many more joining each month. For a full list, visit https://checkout.visa.com/shopping.

And bonus! If you want to create your own summertime emergency kit, there’s a way to stock it extra full. From now through May 12, 2015, Canadians who use Visa Checkout on Staples.ca will receive $20 off when they spend $100! More info at http://www.staples.ca/VisaCheckout.

Giveaway

Want to start stocking up with a Visa gift card of your own? Enter to win one here. (Just promise to keep some unbroken crayons for me.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#RBCFirstHome Twitter chat

Just a quick post to tell you Canadians out there that RBC is hosting another Twitter chat for first home buyers on April 21 at 8:30 pm ET. I participated in one of these a few months ago to help promote it, because I remember buying our first house and how angst-inducing it was. RBC brings in a whole team, including a lawyer, realtor, builder, designer, mortgage expert and other experts to answer questions from nervous first-time home buyers and these chats are awesome. People asked such good questions and got great answers. Totally made me wish Twitter had been around when I was buying my first house.

In any case, if you want to join in you can ask your questions using #RBCFirstHome on April 21 at 8:30 pm ET. I’ll be there too!

RBC First Home Twitter chat April 21

Redemption

I never really wrote about the few days we spent in Radium, BC. Partly because I’m not really sure what to say about it and partly because it seemed ungrateful to whine about time away with my family in a lovely location with an almost ideal place to stay.

I love visiting the mountains. I love how they sit silently and provide a backdrop for whatever I might feel like pondering. I love how in my head they’re always covered in snow, even in the summer.

When we went to Radium the snow was in short supply, and that’s sort of where the problem started.

I went hoping to find the sort of place that has its own rhythm and order of existence, but when I got there I found that all the rhythms I’m used to had followed me – the morning rhythm that results in antsy kids if we don’t get out of the house soon enough and the lack-of-inspiration rhythm that still leaves me with a complete blank when the plans I had in mind fall through. I wasn’t confronted with much of anything except my usual frustration and the wish that the four of us could get our own rhythms more in sync.

When I was little we used to go through Radium on the way home from our cottage. At least I think that’s where we were going to and coming from. Nothing about my memories of that time fit with this experience over 30 years later. What I wanted to do was relive that experience of soaking in the hot springs and putting jammies on and feeling cozy and falling asleep in the car. I was even willing for it to be my kids falling asleep in the car instead of me.

I wanted to go and try some winter activities that have long appealed to me but that we haven’t really done, even with all our winter exploring here. I wanted to skate on the lake and go snowshoeing and possibly even ski for a day. But when we got there the lake wasn’t frozen and there was no snow on the ground and the hot springs weren’t at all like I remembered them. Still nice, but decidedly less relaxing with a hyper, impulsive six-year-old in tow.

It just wasn’t a good trip, you know?

In the end I think my feelings about the lack of inspiration that trip provided were more about my own (possibly unrealistic) high expectations and subsequent disappointment than anything to do with the place itself.

Luckily, I have found redemption.

Aerial view of Grande Rockies Resort

Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, we had a chance to visit Canmore. Another of my favourite places, Canmore is a truly lovely mountain town. It has a backdrop of snow-covered mountains and a pub I like and trains running through it.

So we went.

We stayed at a place I hadn’t been to before, in a nicely appointed two bedroom suite. Do you know how heavenly a two-bedroom suite is when travelling with kids? Of course you other parents do. You know that you can put the kids to bed (and not in the same room!) and not have to sit in the dark trying to be quiet. And that you can take advantage of the kitchen to feed your early risers some toast and cereal without having to change out of your pajamas and do something about your morning hair. And that you can make yourself a cup of tea whenever you damn well feel like it.

Two bedroom suite at Grande Rockies Resort

There was still no snow on the ground, but that was quite nice. We went out for lunch and for a bike ride and swam in the pool.

Indoor pool with waterslide

We floated in the indoor/outdoor hot tub at night and looked up at the stars.

Indoor-outdoor hot tub

I went for a run along the train tracks and wandered into a few stores and stopped for a drink at a coffee shop that I love and that reminds me of the time we went to a winter festival and went cross country skiing right down the middle of main street.

I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but I feel as though someone sensed my disappointment from our earlier trip and said, hey, I can fix that. 

And then did.

 

———-

We were offered a chance to stay at the Grande Rockies Resort in Canmore and said yes before we could check whether they were teasing us with mountains. (They weren’t.) It was a great place that we hadn’t been to before and it had everything we needed to make a really good weekend out of it. They offered us this great hospitality without any expectation that I’d write a post about it, but I did because we really did enjoy it and I’m grateful for the time and experience our stay allowed us to have. 

All photos copyright Grande Rockies Resort.