When It Gets Dark Enough

More often than not in this space, even though I try to avoid it, I talk about serious things. I try to keep the mood light, but sometimes – okay most times – it just doesn’t work out that way.

Two days ago, one of my childhood heroes passed away. I’ve read that he took his own life. As his death has positively dominated both the airwaves and the Internet, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that I’m talking about Robin Williams.

I’m not usually one who gets caught up in death. This especially applies to the deaths of people I’m not close to, as is the case with celebrities. As I’ve mentioned before, when my grandmother died I was out of the province and didn’t even come home until I absolutely had to (which was for her funeral). I try not to think about death because I truly consider myself to be one of the most sensitive people on this planet. If I think about death and dying for too long I start sobbing and am never able to pull myself together afterwards. Sobbing equals headaches, and hurts, and sore, puffy eyes, which is why I try and distance myself from it.

Robin’s death has had a huge affect on me. Truthfully, and it sounds strange to me that I’d even thought of this, he was the one celebrity whose death I always knew would hit me hard. For some reason I’d asked myself that question before: “Who is the one celebrity who I’ll be really upset over when I hear they’ve died?” The answer was always, always Robin Williams. I’ve been a fan of his since he was Batty Koda in Fern Gully. I was eight years old when the film was released and I just adored Batty. He was so funny, so out-there, and so loveable, just like Robin himself.

My love of Robin and his work only expanded once I saw him as Peter Pan, the Genie, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Jack. As I grew older and his roles seemed to switch gears into more dramatic ones, I only loved him more. I loved him as Sean Maquire in Good Will Hunting, as Chris Nielsen in What Dreams May Come, and as Jakob in Jakob the Liar. While in university, I became obsessed with his standup routines. When I was living in England for a semester, far away from most civilization in a 11th century castle, his Live on Broadway kept me sane during my isolated downtime, if that makes any sense at all (truly, you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it).

But now he’s gone. The story so far paints the picture of an amazingly funny, but amazingly depressed man. He struggled with both drug and alcohol addiction. He’d had some stints in rehab over the years, most recently a month ago. From what I’ve read, he was found hanging from a belt in his closet after trying – and failing – to cut his wrists. He left no note to explain his actions.

I think what hurts the most is that Robin, a man most of us thought as happy-go-lucky, wasn’t. I hate to make assumptions, but to take one’s life one has to be deeply depressed. Happy people don’t kill themselves on a whim. I know this because I’ve been both – depressed and happy, cycling through these emotions for most of my life. Right now I’m happy and such happiness only amplifies my desire and will to be alive, but I know exactly what it’s like to feel the opposite. I know exactly how it feels to so strongly wish to be dead and to desire complete and utter oblivion.

Despite my current state of happiness, I would be a fool not to admit there is a sense of fear that dwells just below the surface of my skin, wondering when my depression will return. Originally I’d wrote “whether my depression will return”, but I deleted it. It’s not a question of whether – it will return. It always does.

I am all-too aware of how people view me in my daily life. Just this weekend a friend of mine mentioned when she turns thirty she’s going to cry for two weeks straight. My response was to tell her it really isn’t as bad as all that; that turning thirty is actually quite enjoyable (as in my experience, it has been). Another friend of ours piped up to say that of course, turning thirty was enjoyable for me – I’m married, have a good job, etc. From the outside, I must come across as having nailed down this thing called life, maybe I even have one that’s enviable to others, but I truly don’t feel that way. I try and live a simple existence because I know how fragile life can be, how quickly it can change and twist and turn.

If you’re a frequent reader of this space, you know all about the abuse I endured for two years of my life. What I rarely talk about is the afterwards. The fallout. The months of living alone, the trying to pick up the pieces, the nights of sleeplessness, the aggression and fear and anger I took out on my own body because the pain was in there and I had to get it out somehow. Things I never told even my mother or my best friend. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and making sure I was covered at all times so no one could see the bloodied cuts and scabs that crisscrossed my arms and shoulders because I knew no other way to release the pain than to cut it out of me.

At this time, though, no one saw how depressed I was. They thought that because I was free of my abuser, I was happy. Many times people told me it was nice to see me smiling more; laughing more. Many times they told me my attitude had taken a complete 180, when the reality couldn’t have been less true. On the outside I was happy. On the inside I was dying. In public I was a smiling, normal twenty-five year old. In private I was a mess, barely keeping myself together.

Things turned around when Dave and I began dating. I don’t like putting my happiness in the hands of anyone but myself, but he did help me recover, whether he intended to or not. He has never made me feel unsafe, afraid, stupid, or unloved. Since we’ve been together my depression returned for a short time (when I lost my job), but not nearly as bad as it had been in the past. I don’t expect it to never come back just because I now share a great life with a great man. Depression doesn’t give a shit if you’re married or single, a parent or not, employed or jobless. Look at Robin: from the outside his life seemed amazing, but obviously there was something extremely wrong. He might have seemed like the brightest of stars, but we tend to forget stars are unpredictable. Stars become supernovas. Robin’s star shined so bright it burned right out.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the old adage is true: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” Just because someone is smiling doesn’t mean they’re happy. Just because someone is laughing in front of you doesn’t mean they aren’t in tears the very second they’re alone. Depression is very real and very scary and the stigma around it must be shaken and quickly. If you’re feeling down and afraid and bleak, please talk to someone. Please reach out. Please don’t live your life in fear. Please don’t think that leaving this earth is the only option you have. I know it might not feel like it now, but there are beautiful things here in this life and you’ll never know just how close they might be if you leave it all behind. You might not believe it, but there are people who love you and who will miss you more than you know. I’m not saying the sadness won’t ever return because I’m almost one hundred percent sure it will, just try and remember it won’t last forever. I refuse to believe depression is a constant. Change is the truest thing I know.

There’s a saying that I clung to during my times of despair: When it gets dark enough, you can see stars. It helped me remember that even in the blackest of nights there is beauty and light shining eternally, and even when I felt down so deep I couldn’t see there would still be light to guide me, if only I’d look up.

So look up. Keep searching for the light, because it’s there. I promise you, it’s there – you only need to look up.

 

If you or someone you know is suicidal and needs help, I urge you to contact the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention to locate a crisis centre in your area. 

I Belong To Me

From my late teenage years to my early twenties I was obsessed with Cosmopolitan magazine. I never missed an issue and I saved all of them inside an old travellers trunk in my closet. When my collection and I finally parted ways, right before I left on my semester abroad during the winter of my third year of university, I swear I could’ve supplied an entire hospital’s worth of waiting rooms with reading material. I think I had roughly seventy magazines in my collection, all of which were put out with the recycling the day before I left.

After my return home, I kept reading Cosmo. I can’t remember whether or not I collected them, nor can I remember when I stopped buying them altogether. What I do remember is the last time I opened one: I was at the gym, right around my 25th birthday, and I needed something to read to get me through a particularly grueling treadmill workout. Since I used to enjoy Cosmo so much and my females-only gym was full of them I picked one up from the pile, revved up the treddy, and started reading.

To my surprise, I couldn’t even make it to the middle of the magazine before throwing it to the floor in dramatic disgust.

It was the same old Cosmo I’d always read and enjoyed, but something had changed. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but then I realized it was me. I’d changed. I wasn’t who I used to be. I was no longer a young woman desperate for tips on How to Please a Man! or What Look He Likes Best! I no longer cared what the male population of the world thought of me, nor did I believe it to be my responsibility to make a man happy. Maybe it was because, at the time, I was nearing the crux of my relationship with my abuser and there was an ever-present rage simmering under the surface of my skin, just waiting to turn into an angry boil, and there was nothing I wanted less than to discover the best tips and tricks to keep my man interested when what I really wanted was for him to disappear into oblivion.

That was five years ago. I haven’t picked up a Cosmo magazine since, but last year I subscribed to the digital edition of Women’s Health, thinking it would be more up my alley. As you know, I’m pretty fitness-oriented. I run, I eat well, I occasionally partake in strength training (I know, I know, I should do more of this). Surely Women’s Health would have more articles relevant to my interests, right?

Wrong.

Okay, sort-of wrong.

Women’s Health does have a predominant focus on fitness. Yes, it’s cover models are still usually well-known celebrities, but they’re normally displayed appearing fit and confident, not sexy and stuffed into a dress that’s more akin to a sausage casing. Each issue has a section called Scoop!, highlighting fitness, health, nurtrition, weight, and beauty – all areas of interest to me. It has a fashion section. It talks about vitamins and common women’s ailments and how to treat them. Women’s Health does indeed have more of the information I tend to look for in a lifestyle magazine, unlike Cosmo’s primary concentration on what women can do to better appeal to their romantic partners.

BUT!

Women’s Health is not just a magazine. Like most every brand these days it also has a Facebook group, to which I used to subscribe (key words in that sentence: used to). I unfollowed the group just yesterday. Why? Because, even though there’s no real focus on it in the magazine itself, the group does share articles more-or-less up the Cosmo reader’s alley, including, but not limited to: Deciding What To Do With Your Pubic HairMen’s Biggest Turn-Ons (and Turn-Offs!), and, my personal favourite, 13 Things You Should Never Say to a Naked Man. For a magazine meant to promote and focus on the health of women (it’s called Women’s Health, right?), it seems quite concerned instead with how men view us females, as well as what we should do to receive positive male attention.

Needless to say, I also won’t be renewing my magazine subscription next year.

The good news is that while some women seem to accept these types of posts without complaint, a lot of women who follow the group do complain. A lot, actually, and loudly. They don’t like being told how to please a man, nor should they. They are vocal in asking why the content has been posted. There are voices speaking up against this weird status quo of women only existing for male benefit and I feel extremely uplifted when I read their comments. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in thinking, “What the actual fuck does this have to do with my health?” because believe me, I existed for a loooong time trying to make men happy and guess what? It never made me happy. It was only when I stopped doing it that I found my own inner happiness and, after that, a healthy, well-rounded relationship with a man who loves and respects me and doesn’t give a shit what I look like or what I wear as long as I love and respect him back. Full-disclosure? The skin on my face currently looks like that of a thirteen-year-old instead of a thirty-year-old, and he still says I’m beautiful every night before I go to bed, sans makeup. That’s love, guys. Believe that. Believe me, I don’t put on my makeup every morning for his benefit or anyone else’s but mine.

This is getting long, as my posts are wont to do, but I just have to say this: I don’t only have a problem with magazines that try and make women feel like they need to do x to get y. I have a problem with anyone or anything that does. Women don’t need to do anything for anyone but themselves. Like I said, I don’t put on makeup for anyone else but me. I like eyeliner a lot because I like how big it makes my eyes look, but you know what? I like my face without it, too. I don’t wear pretty dresses or leggings as pants (don’t judge) because I want others to admire my toned legs, I wear them both because they’re so damn comfortable and honestly, pants with zippers and buttons fit me funny because of my never-ever-going-to-be-flat-because-it’s-not-in-my-DNA belly. I don’t owe my husband, my father, my brother, or any unknown man on my morning bus ride anything. Any man is entitled to look, but he better know I don’t do anything for him. I do it for me.

Somebody, somewhere, tell me that someday women will finally achieve full autonomy; that we will be confident and respected because we’re people. Tell me magazines will stop pushing the message that if I don’t know how or I’m not willing to learn what my husband/lover/boyfriend/whatever wants from me I’m less of a person somehow. Tell me shit like this will stop happening because I can’t take it anymore. [Insert deity of choice here] give me the strength and the wisdom to raise any potential daughter I might have to respect herself first above all others and know without a doubt her body is her own and not a prize to be claimed. Give me the strength and the wisdom to raise any potential son to know women do not exist solely for his pleasure and her respect must be earned and not taken, either through violence or by the whispering of sweet nothings in her ear.

It’s 2014. Hell, it’s almost 2015. Let’s move on, shall we?

Note: The title of this post was directly stolen from, yes, a Jessica Simpson tune. Whatever, I love her, haters to the left.

Adventure Time with Cyn & Dave: Wolfville, Nova Scotia

As mentioned in a previous post, I want to spend most of my weekends outside this summer, biking around the trails of my province (and others, if possible). I think it’s kind of ridiculous that I’ve traveled all over the world and yet never truly discovered the areas around my own home. So, with my newly-formulated plan in mind, Dave and I made a trip down to historic Wolfville yesterday.

If you’re unfamilar with the area, Wolfville is nestled in a part of Nova Scotia colloquially referred to as “the Valley”, inside the interior of the province. It’s a beautiful little town, home of Grande Pré and the epic tale of Evangeline and the Acadian Expulsion. Most of its homes, shops, and services are centered around a small-yet-bustling Main Street, flanked with buildings of both modern and old-world charm. As a university town, it’s filled with students and burgeoning culture.

Dave and I love Wolfville. After we got married two years ago we spent a couple of days at the absolutely gorgeous Blomidon Inn and explored the area, reveling in our newly-married status. The town holds a certain allure to us, so yesterday we gladly made the hour’s drive from Halifax to explore it a little more in depth via bicycle. Originally I’d planned to bike Blomidon Provincial Park, but a friend of mine advised me that there was a great trail in downtown Wolfville, so we changed our plans to cycle it instead.

That was mistake number one.

When we finally reached the trail, Dave & I were a little unsure of whether we were in the right place. We’d found a trail, which was already filled with people at 11:30 in the morning, but something just didn’t seem right. I called Katie and she advised we were exactly where we were supposed to be. As I spoke to her on the phone Dave explored the area, only to return to the car to report that biking was prohibited on the trail. We were pretty disappointed, having driven an hour only to be unable to do what we’d set out to.

I quickly decided we’d head up to Blomidon instead. It was my original plan anyway and I’d already emailed the park office to ensure biking was allowed there, so I knew we wouldn’t have any issues. It was a little farther out but we made the drive up in no time, pulling over to take in the breathtaking views along the way.

IMG_4275

I mean, really. Look at this.

We were feeling good, back on track, ready to ride. When we arrived, we parked the car in the bottom lot, close to the beach. The tide was out and I really wanted to explore a bit before unhooking our bikes, so Dave obliged me and we trekked down to the shore. It was totally worth it.

IMG_4281

The last time I’d visited Blomidon I was six years old. I have a photo of my brother, dad and I standing on these very same steps.

IMG_4283

We took a stroll along the ocean floor…

IMG_4284

…and found a waterfall, which brought out Dave’s inner Backstreet Boy…

IMG_4285

IMG_4286

…seriously, Quit Playing Games (With His Heart).

IMG_4288

#waterfallselfie

IMG_4294

IMG_4296

I want to live here.

Once we’d finished exploring the beach we made our way back up the stairs, ready to get our proverbial show on the proverbial road. Back at the car we suited up, donning our helmets and backpacks filled with sunscreen, water, and snacks. Our plan was to go 20K and then head back into town for lunch.

Mistake number two.

I got my bike off the rack and climbed on. As soon as I started peddling I noticed something didn’t sound or feel quite right. I got off immediately, looked down, and saw that my back tire was completely blown out. It was so flat it was coming off the rim. The problem we now faced was we were completely without access to an air pump. We were miles away from a gas station and had made our first rookie cyclist mistake: we hadn’t brought a manual pump with us.

I was so, so frustrated. Having no other options we racked the bikes once more, deciding to head back to Wolfville in search of lunch. By this point it was one ‘o’ clock and I was getting pretty hangry, but we took one more detour, heading to The Lookoff to recreate one of our honeymoon photos (which had sadly been eaten by a faulty SD card at the time we’d taken them).

IMG_4297

I mean really. How amazing is this view? IMG_4300

I can’t believe I’ve spent (almost) the past two years married to this dude! Lucky girl.

Once back in Wolfville we stopped in at The Naked Crepe. Just as the name suggests it’s a quaint little creperie, a new-ish addition to the town. It was recommended to me by a colleague who’d spent the last four years living in Wolfville as he’d attended Acadia University, and, as a lover of all things crepe, I convinced Dave (who’s definitely more of a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy), to check it out with me.

IMG_4302

Dave’s donair crepe.

IMG_4303

My Nicolette, filled with spinach, strawberries, slivered almonds, and melted Brie, drizzled with maple syrup.

I’m no food critic, but I have to say they were really tasty. Both were considered to be savoury crepes, which was a little different to me because I’m used to partaking in sweeter, more dessert-like varieties, but the maple syrup added that sweetness to mine and made it pretty phenomenal. The only complaint I have is that the service was a little spotty – we saw tables that had ordered after us be served first and Dave received his crepe about five minutes before I was served mine. Either way, I’d definitely recommend checking out The Naked Crepe if you have some time on your hands or are just in town for a day trip.

After lunch we headed down the block to Rainbow’s End, an awesome used goods shop, specializing in books, music, and movies. We’d discovered it during our honeymoon trip and, if you know anything about Dave and I, you’ll know we love used books, music, and movies. The prices at Rainbow’s End are excellent and the selection is astounding. We never leave empty handed.

IMG_4312

My Rainbow’s End haul.

After spending roughly a half-hour perusing the store, I’d worked up an appetite for ice cream. Another thing about Wolfville: there are signs advertising ice cream all over town. Clearly the subliminal messaging worked because there was no way we were leaving without it. We stopped at a little convenience store right on the outskirts of town where a young kid with a heavy hand served us up two amazingly-huge waffle cones of Grizzly Tracks and Moon Mist.

IMG_4304

IMG_4305

All-in-all it was a great little trip, even though we didn’t get to bike the area as we’d originally planned. Once we arrived back in Halifax we filled my tire at a service station and hit one of our local trails, hoping to at least get in a shorter ride before the close of the day, but I quickly found out my tire wasn’t only flat – it’s broken. I made it 3.5K before we had to turn back. It was the most difficult ride of my life, not only because of the flat tire, but also because my bike is a little too small for me. I’ve decided to purchase a new one, and I’ll be heading out momentarily to do just that.

If you’re in my area and looking for something to do this summer, I highly recommend checking out Wolfville. I promise you won’t be disappointed.