Welcome

Hello!

I’m a mental health advocate determined to reduce stigma and influence policy change so brain health is treated quickly and effectively.

Navigating the site:

The Wellness Tab contains articles on maintaining health and wellness.

The Kate’s Journal Tab contains my personal blog. My hope is that by sharing my triumphs and struggles with depression and anxiety, alongside the professional work I do on the same site, I will help lessen the mental illness stigma.

The re-ID Tab contains a collection of articles I wrote for musician re-ID.

The TDTC2014 Tab contains articles about my experience at the Transforming Depression Through Connections conference, which brought together researchers, health care workers, people with lived experience, and politicians to discuss depression and PTSD.

The Eat Your Way Through Depression Tab contains information on my project to create a practical cooking guide for people with depression. A free ebook is available now.

Would you like me to write for your publication? Contact me through the form below, or at kate @ kateahendry .com with your needs. I will respond within 48 hours.

Thank you for visiting and I hope to connect with you soon!

name Kate

Feeling every feeling while triggered by sexual abuse news

I am on edge and again so, so triggered by all the Jian Ghomeshi news. I’m going to write out my feelings and feel every last uncomfortable one to hopefully get me through the night. See previous emotional cooperation committees here, here, and here.

Body:
My head is pounding so hard I think it might explode. I wish it would explode so I could stop feeling such pain. My heart is racing. My muscles are tense and it hurts to apply pressure to them. My skin feels like it is on fire. I want to rip it off my body. I feel so uncomfortable in my body. It is hard for me to breathe and swallow. I feel like there is a weight on my chest and on my neck. I feel ready to run, but paralyzed in my bed.

Anger:
I’m so fucking pissed off to be feeling this way again. I’m so mad at people who hurt other people. And fuck the majority of responses people had to the Jian news, especially on Sunday and Monday. I hate everyone who claims I or anyone else shouldn’t judge someone based on allegations. We all bloody judge people all the fucking time, but this case is different? I have to judge people and situations every day to make sure I feel safe, and if I feel outraged and manipulated by a person’s Facebook post, I’m damn well entitled to those feelings. I’m shocked so many people didn’t feel creeped out by what he wrote, and I’m angry at everyone who took his side immediately without thinking. I’m so disgusted the crazy ex-girlfriend explanation was so easy for so many people to swallow. And I’m full of rage that the idea that one woman was able to convince a group of women to join her in taking down an innocent person they knew and apparently was innocent so presumably they would have liked him sounded believable. Honestly. I’m speechless that scenario didn’t come across as incredibly unlikely to every single person who read it. What I’m most fuming about though is the idea that what a person says happened to them can’t be taken seriously until that person files a report with the police and/or has evidence and/or is found guilty by a jury. Fuck every single person who thinks that. I can’t even deal with that belief right now.

Fear:
I’m terrified for my safety. I’m so scared to be, well, to be alive. I’m afraid my very presence as a survivor is enough to get me killed. I’m afraid I will experience further abuse if I continue to mention I’ve been abused in the past. I’m afraid there aren’t people left who understand and respect boundaries. I’m afraid that when I tell people I no longer want them to be a part of my life and they continue to insert themselves in my life they will continue to persist until I am hurt. I am afraid to fall asleep. I’m afraid to continue writing. I’m afraid to feel the pain that seems to be etched into my skin and bones. I’m afraid to close my eyes and lose the fleeting sense of safety I still have in the present moment. I’m afraid that this is the reality of my life forever. I’m afraid that if it continues I will one day find myself without the strength to bear the terror any longer.

Shame:
I feel like such a shitty person right now. I’m so embarrassed I haven’t figured out how to deal with all my triggers yet. I’m horrified with myself that I continue to shut down and ignore messages/emails/phone calls when I get overwhelmed. It’s inexcusable that I continue to act in ways that inconveniences others while I deal with my own shit that isn’t even real or rational any more. I wish I could cut that part out of myself. I dread facing myself and everyone I brush off, ignore, react defensively to, or otherwise treat unkindly. How can I think well of myself at all when I’m just as much as an asshole as the people a fear?

Sadness:
I’m sad for the pain I’ve experienced and continue to experience in waves after the fact. I’m sad for everyone who has been violated and stripped of their dignity. I’m sad that people don’t understand how I feel and seem to invalidate my experience by questioning it. I’m sad this sadness grows in intensity after bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. I’m sad for other survivors of abuse, especially for those who do not have supportive resources and people at their fingertips. I’m sad for everyone who hasn’t been a survivor of abuse, and that there will continue to be survivors and victims of abuse. I’m sad I have lost so much zest for life. I’m sad the life I want seems to be out of reach.

Happiness:
I’m really happy for the friends and acquaintances I have who have voiced their support to Lucy and the other women who have shared their stories. I’m happy my mom drove me to Burlington and stayed to watch me give my speech on Tuesday. I’m thankful I have a bed to sleep in and a full stomach. I’m happy I have friends and family who continue to stick with me even when I’m difficult to be around. I’m happy I have my weekly writing group to look forward to. I’m happy I have people in my life who I believe would stand by me, support me, and believe me should I be abused in the future. I’m happy I have my cat Tabatha to continue pawing me and demanding attention to remind me that I am safely here at the end of October, 2014. I am happy I took the time and effort to continue writing and to get to this place of happiness and gratitude. I am happy the above feelings have lessened in intensity. I am happy I feel less tense now. I am grateful to have learned that allowing myself to fully feel everything I feel is the fastest way to feel safe and secure in myself. I feel optimistic that there is more good in this world than evil.

Body:
I am able to take deep breaths again. My head still hurts, but I don’t want to tear it off. I am tired and exhausted and I want to try to sleep. My stomach doesn’t have a tight knot it in and I don’t feel like vomiting. I can touch my skin without flinching or vividly remembering past hurts.

Public speaking while very depressed and anxious

Cutting the cake for the official launch of the Volunteer Program at Summit Housing and Outreach Programs, October 28th, 2014.
Cutting the cake for the official launch of the Volunteer Program at Summit Housing and Outreach Programs, October 28th, 2014.

Tonight was the official launch of the Volunteer Program at Summit Housing and Outreach Program, an organization I have been volunteering with for the past six months. I was asked to speak and share my experience as a volunteer.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity. I’m proud that stood in front of the group of people and shared a small part of my story, even though, as you’ll read, I was not in a very positive state of mind. And, if you will allow me to brag a little bit, I’m feeling pretty good that the room broke into applause twice during my speech and once after!

Here is my speech:

Hello. I’m Kate, and as you’ve heard I’ve been asked to speak because I am the volunteer leader of the writing group which meets weekly in Acton. I’ve been asked to give my testimonial and touch on the following 5 points: how I came to Summit, why I came, what I am doing for Summit as a volunteer, the difference it makes in my life, and finally the differences I see in the consumers.

Before I get to answering those questions, I need to let you know something. I am having a terrible day. I am in a terrible headspace right now. Yesterday, if I’m being honest with myself, I came close to requiring crisis intervention. As you will hear when I explain why I came to be a volunteer with Summit Housing, I have PTSD due to being raped 18 years ago. The current media storm surrounding the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, and particularly the astounding number of people who automatically took his version as truth and dismissed the women as crazy ex girlfriends, has sent me into a tailspin of terror and flashbacks. Irrational as it may be, I don’t feel safe right now.

I want to present an excellent speech. I want everyone in this room to be excited about the opportunities to create valuable volunteer programming. I want those of you who are here from the Trillium Foundation to feel honoured to have chosen such a worthy organization to grant money to. I want you to understand how vital the programs are so funds will continue in the future. I want you all to be so inspired by the volunteer work I am doing with Summit Housing that you come up with your own programing ideas. I want Sharon, our Volunteer Coordinator, to be so swamped with potential volunteers that she requires a committee to get everything up and running. I want every person in this room to feel so optimistic about the current quality programming and what is possible that everyone spreads the word to their networks of friends, family, coworkers. I want so much goodwill and action to take place after tonight that next year we celebrate that Summit has created programming which takes place in every Halton community on every day of the week.

But I’m afraid I won’t be able to deliver a speech tonight which invokes such positivity. So I’m asking for your help. Please look through my nervousness. Please imagine an excited tone in my voice. Please know that this subject is so important to me that I’m here despite the terror racing through my body. Last night I was in tears and barely able to speak. My mom suggested that maybe it would be best if I emailed my speech to someone who could read it instead. It was a very good suggestion, but I’ve been looking forward to this night. I was not going to let my mental illness take it away from me.

And so, with that preamble out of the way, here we go.

How I came to Summit

I was discussing with a friend the need for more resources and supports for people with mental illnesses in Acton. I had recently moved back to the town where I grew up, and I wanted to do something. She invited another of her friends into the conversation, who suggested I speak with his friend Lindsay. Lindsay was the Volunteer Coordinator for Summit Housing at the time. We spoke on the phone, and after discussing my history, skills, and goals, we decided I would start a writing group in Acton.

I think what is most important for you from this story is that it began with two friends talking. I encourage each and every one of you to openly discuss mental health issues, what needs to be done to improve the situation in our communities, and that you know of an organization which is looking for volunteers. Calling a friend of a friend is much easier and less intimidating that calling an organization out of the blue, especially when one has a mental illness.

Why I wanted to volunteer

As I mentioned, I have PTSD. And depression. When I was growing up in Acton I desperately needed mental health supports. As far as I was aware, there was nothing available for me in Acton. My mom drove me to see a psychiatrist first in Burlington, and later in Oakville. In between these visits, which mostly focused on medications, I was left to myself as my friends and family couldn’t comprehend what I was experiencing.

I wanted to do something so other people in Acton with mental illnesses felt accepted and understood. Writing is a tool I have found to be very helpful. I have been fortunate to learn writing techniques, and have developed some others on my own, and I wanted to share what I have learned.

So many people are experiencing pain from mental illnesses. Maybe you are. Maybe you have a friend or family member who needs more help. Volunteer programs can make a difference, particularly since people often have to either wait weeks if not months to receive treatment, or pay fees which can be prohibitive.

What I am doing for Summit as a volunteer

I lead what we call the writing group in Acton. It started the week after Easter this year, and was originally supposed to run for two months. This was because I didn’t know if I would be any good at running a group. I didn’t know if anyone would want to go to the group. I didn’t know if anyone would want to continue attending a group that I was leading. I didn’t want to commit to more than I was capable of. As the two month mark approached though, I didn’t want it to end, and neither did the other group members. So I asked if we could continue meeting. The group is currently ongoing.

Many, if not most, of the people who attend the writing group are not comfortable writing. I do my best to create a safe environment. I do not grade the writing, and in fact I do not require any writing to happen. We talk a lot in the group. I bring up writing techniques I have found helpful and explain how to write about the difficult emotions group members might be feeling. I ask new members to write out a list of things they can do if they are feeling overwhelmed, since writing often brings up overwhelming feelings.

I have found it’s best to go with the flow each week. Each week everyone checks in with how they are feeling and what’s going on in their life. Everyone has the opportunity to speak and be heard. I think the most important thing I provide with the writing group is a safe space where we all belong. When someone explains how difficult it is to get out of bed, other people understand. It is so important to feel accepted and this sense of belonging.

The difference it makes in my life

My experience as a volunteer group leader has been wonderful. My own mental well being has fluctuated since the group began last April. Some weeks, like this one, have been very difficult for me, Having the support of the other group members is really comforting. I’m reminded of what others have overcome and inspired to continue on my own healing journey.

It also helped to give me the confidence to apply for a part time job with the Acton newspaper. I hadn’t worked for over a year, so I was able to use this as recent work experience.

I would like to point out that I applied for a job and told them I volunteered as a leader of a mental health support group, with the understanding that mental illness is a part of my life. I got the job, and they are happy to have me.

The differences I see in the consumers

I can’t really go into details of what happens in the group, or how people have changed because I take the confidentiality of our group very seriously. I will say I have heard group members say they are happy to have the support of the group. I have heard people share remarkably personal stories, and then let us know they haven’t even shared that with their therapist. I’m honoured each time someone feels comfortable to speak or write about their life. And I believe that sharing our stories in a supportive environment makes it easier to bring up these stories with doctors, counselors, friends, family, and even with ourselves.

Thank you for letting me tell a bit of my story.

Mental health and the municipal elections

DSCN0436Last night at the Ward 1 (Acton) Councillors Debate for this month’s municipal election, I asked the 4 candidates in attendance this question:

“If elected, what will you do to increase the health of the people in both mind and body?”

That wording wasn’t clear enough, so I repeated the question. I was nervous to ask the question in front of a room full of people, but battled my anxiety to ask again:

“How would you improve both the physical and mental health of people living in Acton?”

The moderator had to rephrase the question again. I don’t want to make assumptions as to why the question was difficult to understand, so I will chalk that problem up to me not speaking loudly or clearly enough.

Here is my interpretation of the answers from the four gentlemen – Jon Hurst, Geoff Maltby, Mike O’Leary, and Robert Bedard.

  1. There are many facilities such as the arena, the indoor soccer field, the outdoor sports fields, and the swimming pool to increase one’s physical health. If we create happy families that will help people’s mental health.
  2. People who walk around downtown can’t be removed, and he doesn’t like the direction the town is heading in.
  3. The Town has a Trails and Cycling committee, and many people walk to improve their health. Unfortunately, Acton is the only urban centre in the region of Halton without a hospital or psychiatrist.
  4. There are many facilities for physical health, but the more important aspect to my question is the mental health side. We need to talk more openly about mental health to break the stigma. Last week there was a speaker in Acton talking about mental health, and while he unfortunately couldn’t attend, more events like it should take place

A day later I have many mixed emotions about the above answers. Shock, disgust, bewilderment, disdain, and anger are pulsing through me.  It is clear more education is required, so I’m going to take some time to explain my views on the mental health situation in Acton.

The facilities available for physical health in Acton were mentioned, but nobody spoke of the services available for mental health. The following organizations can all be accessed in Acton:

  • The North Halton Mental Health Clinic. Despite what we heard last night, Acton is served by two psychiatrists and two mental health nurses. These services are free of charge. Patients need to be referred by their family physician, although people without a family doctor can call the clinic directly. They are part of the Halton Region Health Department, .
  • Summit Housing and Outreach Programs. Summit provides affordable housing, and is one of several agencies in the region which provide support workers. They run groups, programs, events, and trips for people with mental health issues to meet each other and alleviate some of their symptoms. They are a non-profit charitable organization funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network.
  • STRIDE. Their “primary purpose is to serve the employment needs of individuals facing mental health and addiction issues”. They are  a non-profit, charitable program.
  • COAST. COAST stands for Crisis Outreach and Support Team. They can be contacted at 1-877-825-9011 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will work with people over the phone to create a safety plan. They also have a mobile unit who may visit a person in crisis to provide support and safety. This is run through a partnership between the Halton Region Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Halton Regional Police Service.

As for what Town Council can do to improve the mental health of the people of Acton and Halton Hills? Here are some ideas I’ve brainstormed this morning:

  • Create a Mental Health Committee
  • Meet with the organizations in the town and region to educate yourselves on what the needs are for better health
  • Update the Town of Halton Hills website to include a page listing mental health resources in town.
  • Adopt the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace for Town Hall.
    • Create a press release to share how you are prioritising the mental health of town employees
    • Challenge every place of employment in the town to join you in adopting ‘the Standard’
  • Work with the above listed agencies to provide subsidized recreation passes to their clients
  • Encourage people with mental illnesses to apply for the ActiVan if they need assistance to get to health services
  • Issue press releases during Mental Health Week, Mental Illness Awareness Week etc calling on all citizens to engage in dialogue to reduce stigma
  • Tell the federal government you want a National Suicide Prevention Fund as you do not want to lose any Halton Hills residents to suicide
  • Request additional psychiatric support, particularly for children and youth who must currently travel to Milton
  • Provide transportation to people who may need to travel to Milton or Oakville for treatment

Mental health is important, and impacts every area of our lives. The Mental Health Commission of Canada found mental illnesses “place a significant burden on Canada’s
economy with the annual economic impact of over $48.6 billion dollars in 2011 and with the present values of the cumulative cost over the next 30 years exceeding $2.5 trillion”. Read the entire report here.

As citizens, we must demand action, awareness, and an open dialogue on mental health issues from our elected officials. Please let them know this issue is important to you.

You need to do what you need to do

I have been busy like a bee. Sorry if it has taken men away from you.
I have been busy like a bee. Sorry if it has taken me away from you.

I took a leave of absence from blogging, and truthfully, from communicating at all with many people. It wasn’t personal, I didn’t have a massive breakdown and end up in the hospital, but I did go quiet. I have 10 Facebook messages I haven’t even opened. People have worried because of my silence. People have been hurt because I haven’t replied. People have been irritated if not angry with me. And for that I am very sorry. It was never personal. It wasn’t about you.

I’ve spent some time thinking about the behavioural consequences of having a mental illness, and the responsibility I have for my actions. I don’t want to act in a way that negatively affects others, but that is impossible. I want to be capable of doing everything I want to do, but that is impossible. I know impossible is a bad word in these times where we can do anything if we put our minds to it. The problem is my mind is broken.

Recently I was invited to a meeting where people concerned about the mental health services in Acton got together to share ideas on what we can do to make things better. I understood when I decided to go it was very likely I would take a role where I explained, based on my personal experience, what it is like to live with a serious mental illness. I understood this would be stressful for me, as I still expect negative backlash. An irrational fear to have with a group of people professed to wanting to make things better, but there nonetheless. It was a worthwhile stress for me, but I knew I would need to be careful not to overload myself before and after the meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, we were asked to stand to introduce ourselves. The first woman did not want to stand. Truly, no one wanted to stand. She did stand though after some grumbling. The next woman also stood as she introduced herself. I was next. I panicked, because it was difficult enough for me to be there. It was difficult enough to have the attention of this group on me. It was difficult enough to explain my role as someone living with mental illness. I made a split second decision not to stand, realizing that extra effort was likely enough to put me out of commission for the rest of the week. It may seem improbable, you might be thinking I’m exaggerating, but the reality of my life is that there is a limit to what I can do and still be able to function well.

I heard comments of “oh, we have a rebel” when I declared I would stay sitting. Those didn’t bother me, but it took all of my energy in that moment to introduce myself. My brain was on high alert looking out for danger, so I could not explain the importance of that decision when I made it. I could not, in the moment, explain that those of us with illnesses often have to rebel. We can’t always be polite. We can’t always be on our best behaviour. We can’t always do everything we want to do.

But it’s not all bad. While my summer was stressful for a variety of reasons, I have many reasons to be happy and grateful. Every Wednesday night I run a therapeutic writing group in Acton for the Summit Housing and Outreach Programs organization. As the group leader, my job is to be there for the other group members, but they have helped me just as much. At the end of October I will be speaking about my volunteer experience to launch Summit’s Volunteer program, an evening to which I am both nervously and excitedly looking forward.

I also started working as a part-time writing for Acton’s The New Tanner newspaper. I was terrified to apply, and quite honestly I am still nervous every time I interview someone new. But they are fears worth tackling. I love this job. I love when people get excited and look forward to seeing themselves in the upcoming paper. I love learning about my community. And I really do appreciate the opportunity to challenge these fears which frustrate me to no end. Although typing that, I hope I do challenge them to an end.

I’ve made improvements in my resiliency over the past 5 months, but that came at a cost. I sacrificed blogging, I sacrificed replying to emails and messages from my friends. Some of the silence was also due to depression and not wanting to admit all was not perfect. And then I didn’t reply because I felt guilty for being depressed and not having the energy or brain capacity to reply. I did not think my reason was a valid excuse. I don’t like that I can’t do everything. I don’t want to admit I’m not superhuman.

I am sorry. Next time, because I’m not so naïve to think there won’t be another period of my life where I shut down, next time I will try to send out a warning message or blog post. I will even write it here so all I have to do is copy and paste.

Hey,

I’m super overwhelmed at the moment and I need to take a step back to care for myself. If I don’t get back to you, please know that it’s not you, it’s me. I hope to take steps to get me quickly back on track. Those steps may include relaxing activities to distract my mind from destructive thoughts. If you see me out for a walk or bike ride, but I haven’t replied to your message, please don’t be offended. I need to do what I need to do in the limited hours and energy I have. I hope to get back to you soon. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for understanding.

Love you lots,
Kate

Abortion: Are respectful discussions possible?

After careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the main reason for this current depression I’m in is because I’m back to being terrified of standing out, of being noticed, of angering someone with my words. After more careful consideration, I’ve decided I still want to write. And I still want to write publicly and advocate for mental health. I can’t think of anything every person in the entire world agrees on, so I have to accept that some people will disagree with some of what I write. I have to accept that some people will get angry with what I write, and realize the chances of their anger resulting in violence against me is slim.

So with all that considered, I am going to write about one of the more contentious issues today. There will absolutely be people who disagree with what I write. There will probably be people angry with my opinions. I welcome your thoughts if you disagree with what follows in this post. I just ask that you reply with respect. If you agree with what I write and you want to voice your support, I also ask that you reply with respect to those who disagree.

Abortion.

What thoughts and feelings does that word bring up for you? For me, it brings up anger and sorrow, guilt and relief. I’ve had an abortion. It was the worst experience of my life. I would never have one again, and I would never advise someone to get one. I think it is a horrific procedure.

I got pregnant when I was 23. The pregnancy resulted from having sex with someone I thought I loved and had planned on marrying at one point. We weren’t, strictly speaking, a couple anymore. My self-esteem was at an all time low, in no small way due to him. I had tried to kill myself 5 months earlier. I didn’t think anyone could ever love me. I was a mess. Definitely not ideal motherhood conditions.

I was having a very bad day when I found out I was pregnant. I had to tell friends I couldn’t move in with them because I found out the man who raped me lived in their neighbourhood. They didn’t believe me and I lost our friendship over it. My cat, who was living with other friends, was coughing up blood and at the vet. I was nervous to meet my old manager to ask for my job back at the university. Why I decided that would be a good morning to take a pregnancy test in a mall bathroom stall is beyond me, but that is what I did, and that is where I found out a little human was quickly developing inside me.

I had half an hour before I was to meet my manager. I walked around the block a few times waiting for the restaurant to open. I cried, and then took a deep breath. It was now essential I got my job back. And choose the healthiest lunch possible.

To my surprise and relief, my manager wanted me to work for her again. She even wanted me to have a senior position with a pay increase. And, as an employee of student housing, I could live on campus at a reduced rate for the summer. Good. I had employment and (inexpensive) housing for the next four months.

Next I met my friend at the vet. My cat Tabatha was ok, but I needed to buy some medication for her from the pharmacy. “Perfect”, I thought. “I need to buy vitamins from the pharmacy. I need to give my baby the proper nutrients. I’ll look for folic acid”.

To be sure, I was terrified. I joked with my friends that night I needed a drink to deal with this, but under no circumstances would I drink alcohol. I had a tiny life growing in me, and I had to protect her/him. I was already in love with my child.

I’ve read about the different times parents fall in love with their children. Some are like me, and it hits us early. Some fall in love at birth. I don’t think one is better than the other, and I’m not sure we can control when it happens. But I suspect this may have something to do with the split between the pro-choice and pro-life factions. Before I became pregnant, I couldn’t understand why some people would continue with a pregnancy when they clearly weren’t at a stage in life to raise a child. After I became pregnant and loved the life inside me, I couldn’t understand how anyone would want death to come to someone I loved, or any of the other little humans growing inside their mothers.

My family who knew about my pregnancy didn’t want me to give birth. After initially agreeing to raise our baby together, the father had a change in heart. He didn’t think we should. He told me he didn’t trust himself to be a father. He told me he was attracted to young girls, and was afraid he would abuse either our child, or our child’s friends once they got to a certain age. He didn’t want our child to exist. He didn’t want me to give our child a life and a home with a different set of parents. It was us together (which wasn’t going to happen) or no baby at all.

As there are no laws in Canada about abortion, I should have been entitled to choice in the matter. But as someone who was ill and too weak to stand up for myself, I did not have a choice; I had to have an abortion. So I can understand the outrage of the thought of laws requiring women to give birth whether they want to or not. Women have been oppressed, ignored, and disrespected for most of history, and still in so many ways today. But I loved my child before it was born. He or she had her own DNA, and although in Canada not legally defined as a person, she was her own self. She was not just a part of my body. And I think she was entitled to the right of life.

But what about the threat of abuse from her father? I don’t think taking away a person’s chance at life is a good way to offer protection. I’d like to think my parents are happy they gave me life, even though I’ve experienced pain and abuse. As much as I want to die at times due to the ongoing PTSD symptoms I suffer because I was raped, I’m glad I wasn’t preemptively killed to spare me the pain. I hope, if given the chance, my parents wouldn’t choose to go back in time and take away my life.

(I should also mention, to be fair to the father and for those who know who I’m describing, he later told me it was all a lie. That he said those things to get me to have an abortion because he didn’t want to be with me. So, you can decide which is the lie, and whether or not he should be monitored around children and young teens.)

I mentioned I feel anger, sorrow, guilt, and relief. Anger at the people who couldn’t see my child as a child and encouraged me to have her killed. Sorrow at the loss of her life. Guilt because I didn’t stop what I knew was wrong. And relief. I’m relieved I’m not in that relationship anymore. I’m relieved I’ve been able to grow in self-respect. A friend told me recently he could not imagine I would date someone who didn’t respect me. I agree. But had I stayed in that relationship to raise a child together, I doubt that would be the case today. Abortion is complicated.

I don’t know what the solution is to get to a point where no one wants abortions to happen, all pregnancies are greeted with joy, and we don’t have to fight over the rights of a woman versus the rights of a fetus. The ideal, but unrealistic solution, of course, is for people to only have sex if they would be happy with it resulting in a child.

Can we take steps in that direction though? Can we, for instance, teach our children and young people to believe it is absolutely unthinkable to force sex on another person? Can we maybe instill a culture where denying or delaying our own pleasure is looked upon with admiration?

As someone who has been raped, I’m always uncomfortable with any discussion which assumes it is impossible for people to not have sex. I have higher expectations for myself. I’ve been in the position where I wanted to have sex, but the person I was with did not. I accepted his boundaries, and dealt with the frustrations of my unmet desires. I’ve also been in the position where I wanted to have sex, but didn’t want to risk getting pregnant. Neither did he. We didn’t have sex. It’s not an easy decision to make in the heat of the moment. I think we cheat ourselves out of a more fulfilling life by lowering the expectations we have for ourselves and assuming we can’t make hard choices. To remove the risk of being called a hypocrite, I will admit to having had sex without considering the consequences. This is why I think it is unrealistic to ask people to only have sex when they would welcome a child. It’s really a very difficult expectation to have.

Once I physically healed from the abortion, my former fiancé tried to have sex with me again. I cried and said no while he was on top of me, and fortunately he stopped. We never saw each other again after that day. I’m glad I finally said no, and I’m lucky that was the end of our relationship.

Not every woman who gets an abortion is in a toxic or abusive relationship, but I would like to see more support given to the women who are. A prescription for birth control pills did not help me out of a bad situation. Quite the opposite in fact. The ability to have “consequence-free” sex makes it easier to stay in a bad relationship. If I hadn’t found the abortion so horrific, I might still be with him, or someone equally disrespectful. It took me a long time to find my self-worth. At the very least they could give the contact numbers for women’s shelters and counseling groups to their patients.

One group which offers help to women with unexpected pregnancies is the Sisters of Life. While yes, they are a group of Catholic sisters (nuns), you don’t have to be Catholic or religious at all to receive their help. They are a group of women who deeply respect the women they serve. I respect them immensely as women who are doing something concrete and practical to help other women. Take a look at their website here.

I’d like to see a world where we actually respect one another. Where we can debate serious issues like this without resorting to name-calling. Where we can accept being rejected without calling the other person a bitch or an asshole. Where we can ask for what we want in relationships, and kindly end those where our needs aren’t being met. Where we consider how our actions impact others, and adjust our behaviour accordingly. Where we apologize when wrong. Where we use our strengths and powers responsibly.

I hope I haven’t offended you by sharing this part of my life. If I have, I hope I can still have your respect and count on a life without abuse or harassment, even with what you consider to be an offensive opinion.

Fear and depression get a rematch

I finally admitted to myself yesterday that I’m back to being quite depressed. I had to lean against the wall while taking a shower before kneeling and finally resting my head on the bathtub floor while the water flowed over me. I got out and curled up on the floor. “I need to do something about this,” I told myself.

This has been a five-week decline. I haven’t been in complete denial about it. But I haven’t been as proactive in protecting my mental health as I could have. Better late than never in making necessary changes,

I had a really good conversation with a friend yesterday. As I tried to explain what is going on in my head, he said it seems like I’m afraid of people. That pretty much sums up my brain when it takes a turn for the worse, and I’ve been living in hiding more and more these days. Sorry for all the birthdays I haven’t acknowledged on Facebook. It’s become one of the scarier places to hang out.

I had felt really good for months, and I thought I was finally on the forever good side of mental health. I started writing as if I could lead from the position of good health. And in this moment I can’t. My health is not in good shape. I’m actually quite ill.

I have it in me to lead from the trenches though.

I finished reading Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open, last night. I didn’t care about tennis before reading this book. I barely knew who Andre Agassi was, but from the first page it has changed my life. He documents his struggles with depression and injuries. I don’t want to give away his story, but I will say it inspires me to pick myself up and train for the life I know could be in my future.

I told myself I was writing my cook book for a future me if I became depressed again. I thought the book would be finished before I needed it, but maybe it’s best to write it from this perspective. Harder, but better.

Since the hardest part of this post will be hitting the publish button, I’m going to end it here and press the button before I think too much about it and left my fear take over. My intention is to write again soon with a more detailed plan on what I will do to ensure I spend more time in upright positions than lying down.

Is there still respect in the world?

no greater agonyI’ve been unable to write for a week. I’ve been unable to do much of anything except sleep. There is a lot happening in my life right now, and some of it is not pleasant, but my writer’s block has to do with one event in particular.

I’ve been afraid to write about it. But Maya Angelou was correct when she said, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. So I guess today is another day for facing fears. Which also means the writing will be crap. I’m fighting my brain big time to get this out, so style is de-prioritized.

A couple of weeks ago a new acquaintance started commenting on pictures I had on my Eat Your Way Through Depression Facebook Page in a way that made me uncomfortable and angry. Sex is a sensitive topic for me. I never want to hear someone tell me I’m sexy – it makes me want to gag. And I certainly don’t want to make eating to support mental health about sex.

I understand sex is a big part of our culture, I understand I’m considered a prude to many, but that’s the way I am. I told this person how I felt, asked him not to post similar comments in the future, and emphasized I am not attracted to him and we will never have a romantic relationship.

I consulted a group of friends during all this because it was overwhelming for me, and to make sure I wasn’t overreacting. The general consensus was if I made my feelings clear, he would understand and respect my wishes. No need to worry.

The reaction I got back was infuriating. He disregarded everything I said.

“…I can’t wrap my head around the idea of dating someone who has children my age, so it will not happen between you and me”

was countered with

“And yes, you could be a daughter; but, you are not. i gravitate to special people of any age and gender. Chhrono age doesnot matter to me a whole lot; since, i am way younger than 63 yrs”

“Comments like “you make clementines look sexy” and “you obviously know the way to a man’s heart” distract from that message. Under no circumstances do I want to promote the idea that a person should cook to get a romantic relationship”

was countered with

“I will respond to my food comments another time; but, food and love are pretty synonymous… hard to deal with one without including the other”

I was advised to let him know any further communication would be considered harassment and to then block him from Facebook/my life. I did just that, and he messaged me from a different Facebook account. Thankfully, that has been the last I’ve heard from him. His final message put the blame on me – I misunderstood him and should have let him explain himself over the phone.

He also chastised me for keeping that link open, as if I was supposed to know he has two Facebook accounts. This pissed me off almost more than everything else. It’s details like this which skew a story. I think of it as a Woody Allen tactic.

In the grand scheme of life, this was a tiny event and it ended well. I stood up for myself and my boundaries, and although not at first, those boundaries were respected.

I’m wary though. He wasn’t the first disrespectful person I’ve met, and I doubt he will be the last. Part of me wants to close up shop and hide away. That’s what I’ve been doing this week. If I stay inside I’ll never be treated like a silly little girl whose opinions don’t matter. I’ll never be looked at solely as a body for someone else’s use.

But silence is agony.

This incident brings to mind a few topics I could write about, such as

  • kindness not equaling flirtation
  • how to respectfully listen to and debate differing opinions
  • love not equaling sex

So, stay tuned for future blog posts.

To end this post, I want to emphasize how terrifying it is for me to write and publish this. I’m afraid there will be negative consequences for opening my mouth. I don’t think this person is dangerous, and still I’m scared.

The thing is, the agony of silence is worse than the consequences of speaking up. I – we – must remember that simple truth.