Happy birthday – the kids are alright.

Happy birthday Jason,

This year we celebrated your day in typical birthday style; with your favourite food (meat!) and a round of “Happy Birthday Dad” before diving into cake. As always, we talked about you lots (do your ears burn in the afterlife?) and shared funny memories, most of which have been told millions of times but never cease to grow old.

I’m sure you had no idea that your birthday is the day after World Suicide Prevention Day and that you took your life during Mental Health Week.  I mean it’s not like you were following suicide survivors or mental health experts on Twitter – Hell neither was I back then.  But regardless, I have no doubt that you would find some twisted humour in this irony and find comfort that they are another reassurance that I couldn’t forget these dates if I tried.

The last message I received from you was asking me to tell the kids that their cat had found his way home (apparently he had wondered off during their visit with you – I’m guessing too many love squeezes from little kids).  I’m not going to lie, I rolled my eyes at your insistence. It was a busy week. I was trying to wrap my head around your recent behaviour and this seemed pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But now, looking back, I’m glad I attested that the message had been passed along and they were relieved at the news.

You loved our kids, first and foremost. I know that. They know that. And if nothing else, these anniversaries are a natural opportunity for me to continue to reassure them of your love. The week before you died you told me I was a good mom and that you knew I would always take great care of them.  I told you that they needed you too but I’m not sure you heard me…

Since your death I’ve been angry, sad and terrified that you left this parenting thing all up to me. You should be here too –  sorting out the hockey season, meeting new teachers, dealing with (pre) teen complexities and just watching them grow with me. Despite our separation, I never wanted to do this alone. Lucky for me (and our kids), we have found an amazing tribe and feel less alone than ever before.

For the longest time after your death, the kids and I just clung to each other to keep safe. I hadn’t realized how much so until recently.  It was a necessary part of our grieving and sometimes we still cling. But slowly, we’ve opened ourselves up. We’re working through our grief, we’ve survived more disappointment and fall-outs and now, we are regaining our trust in the world.  Things are good.

So this year for your birthday I just want you to know that the kids are alright.  They’re strong, creative, inquisitive individuals who hold a love for this world deep in their hearts. They are a perfect blend of both of us (obviously they are most like you when they drive me crazy and say things that make me roll my eyes). We talk about you often, not just on special dates. They miss you terribly but we’re doing good.

Happy birthday, Hoop.

love,
e

 

#TeamAdventurers
Twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7
Instagram: @pixiepaperdoll

 

Addendum:  

For those of you who have been following our journey for the past 3 years or those who have just discovered us today, thanks for your time.  While my intent was never to be a mental health advocate (I write for my own head clearing), I am always incredibly honoured and humbled when people reach out to me with their own stories of how mental health has touched their lives and how in turn,  my writing has affected them.
While I am happy to start a conversation and to help assure you that YOU are not alone, I am also not a mental health expert.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, please know that there is professional support available.
For those of you living in Ontario, contact The Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600.

Dear Jerk.

Happy Birthday Jason

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Stigma Fighters

#BellLetsTalk Day

In the Words of Bob Dylan, “Play it Fu**ing Loud!”

The Black Dog

#BellLetstalk Day (2016)

Happy Birthday Jason!

Approaching Doomsday

Three Years…

Advertisements

Three Years…

Dear Hoop,

This coming Saturday marks three years since your death. Three years of replaying every last conversation we had. Three years of seeing you through my rearview mirror as you buckled up the kids and said good-bye for the last time. Three years of watching you live and breathe in our kids. Three years of questioning your actions. Three years of living with my guilt.

But this year I had decided to ignore the anniversary. I’ve moved on (didn’t you get the memo?). I am happy. I have an amazing life.  I am so fucking balanced that acrobats and accountants are wondering how I do it. (stop laughing, it’s true..mostly.)

Yet somehow you have managed to slip into my subconscious.  Despite my best efforts, you have snuck past my mental roadblocks and have invaded my dreams. For weeks now I’ve been tormented with the most horrendous nightmares that I’ve decided to just stop sleeping all together (The local coffee shops can thank you for the influx in sales).  I won’t go into the gory details (’cause obviously you already know them) but for real… STOP IT!!!!

And I’m not the only one feeling you this week.  Sunday was like all of us were PMSing on steroids.  Even Lucy was hissing at everyone that walked past her.  We didn’t have to mention your name or reveal the impending date but it was there.

Last night at dinner I was casually talking about our upcoming weekend plans when Moxie looked me straight up and said, “but what about Daddy-Day?”

God dammit.

Oh right, D-Day. You remembered.

Deep breath. That’s okay, I do better when I’m not in the elephant’s shadow anyway.

Me: Of course we can do something to remember Dad. Let’s think about some options. But in the meantime, do either of you want to talk about it or do you have any questions?

Her: Well I learned a lot about depression when I wrote my speech and I know that there are lots of kinds of depression so I’m just wondering… what kind of depression did Dad have? I mean.. he didn’t seem depressed?

Me: You mean he didn’t seem sad?

Her: yeah.. how is that depression? Wasn’t he really happy?

*Insert an hour of me rambling on about how you WERE so happy when you were with them and how much you loved playing with them and how all of that happiness was so very real….despite the fact that underneath, you suffered from depression.  Sweet Jesus, I really wish you’d left me a guidebook or at least an FAQ list of how to answer their top 5 questions.

So we made a rough plan to do something to remember you on Sunday (’cause sorry, it’s not all about you and our Saturday is already scheduled).  It will probably involve food.  And it will probably involve some sort of activity where we share stories and send messages to you.  And it may involve some sort of exorcism to get you outta my subconscious.  But we will take some time to remember you.

And rest assured. you continue to be missed. every day. no matter what date it is.

 

xo

e

Twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7
Instagram: @pixiepaperdoll
#TeamAdventurers

 

Important Resources (because although I can speak about my own personal experience, I am NOT an expert):

If you are currently supporting a loved one with mental illness, please, seek out expert support.  Find support for your loved one and for yourself.

If YOU are considering suicide at this time, please, I urge you to call a crisis line in your area.

 

related previously posted:

Dear Jerk.

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Stigma Fighters

Approaching Doomsday

Unicorns – by Moxie

 

 

 

 

Hurrah! At last I’m 40!

*Preface: As I write this, I feel all of my 40 years. I took off on my bike to find a quiet place to write and my knees are super achy from my (very rare these days) morning run + 3 days of gardening (yes, I was delighted to spend my May long weekend at home playing in dirt and plants).  Also, I had to choose a place to write that was close enough to home that I could get back for when, inevitably, I have to pee (I’m partly blaming childbirth on this one!)

40.

A new Decade.

I like the sound of that.

It’s not that my 30s were terrible. There were some definite highlights:

I gave birth to my 2nd child, Moxie and have immensely enjoyed spending this past decade with her and her older brother, Rain. 

I traveled. I had developed the desire to travel (alone) when I was 26 and spent almost 3 months with my backpack throughout Guatemala, Honduras and Belize.  In my 30s, I explored more of the region in Costa Rica (10 day adventure tour) and Nicaragua (a week of scuba diving on my favourite place in the world, Little Corn Island).  I embarked on a supa-dupa-triple-fun solo road trip throughout the Maritimes and landed in Fredericton at my besties Beth and Joe’s wedding.  Speaking of road-trips, I drove the kids from Mississauga across Canada to Vancouver Island and then down to Seattle.  We met up with great friends and a family along the way.  (Kim, Dottie, Tim, Joel, Andrew, Leanne, Carmanah, Tuna, guard dogs, chickens, and Jill – thanks for opening your homes and hearts to us) It was a trip of a lifetime!

I distinctly remember turning 30 (which I guess I should, it’s only been 10 years..and 40’s not *that* old..). I was 7 months pregnant and living a life that fit me like a beautiful wool turtleneck. It looked so perfect from the outside but inside it felt uncomfortable and constricting. It didn’t fit and it was unraveling.

Two years later, I was a single mom. I had made a decision to leave 95% of all my friends and belongings so that I could start again. 

If my previous life had been a sweater, this new phase was like running around topless. It felt free and terrifying and yet I was suddenly quite comfortable in my own skin.

I had no idea what I was doing and I made a ridiculous amount of mistakes (daily).

But I was doing it. On my own. With my kids. We were a team. We were Team Adventurers!

Just as things were becoming familiar and comfortable, we lost their father to suicide. This shifted all of our journeys in life. It still does. 

Last year, I started dating K and we quickly decided to join families in Peterborough. The kids and I needed a change and I liked the idea of what Peterborough had to offer as a small, artsy community (confession: The first time I ever visited Peterborough was when K and I signed our lease. I tend to move through life on gut feelings.)  So I quit my job and we rented a gorgeous house near the water within walking distance to downtown and easily adapted to our new surroundings.

We all felt completely at home in Ptbo, but combining families is apparently more difficult that I had thought and by the end of 2015, I was a single mom again.  Only this time, I was in a new community, had no job, and was recovering from open hernia surgery.

This is when I start running around looking for that sweater again.

Thankfully, I didn’t find it.  

And thankfully, I am surrounded by amazing friends and family (old and new). You all deserve gold stars in supportive friendmanship.

Since then, I have gained employment (though my contract is up next month, if anyone has any leads…), purchased our home (thanks for your help Mom and Dad), and started dating K again. .. only slower.

The kids are thriving and I am in love with showing them small community ways of life (I was raised in a community of 2,600 so Ptbo is more in line with my roots).

Life is good.

This is exactly how I want to start my 40s.

Now I feel like I should offer some sort of old age wisdom…… Or is that what you do when you turn 50?

Let me share some of the things I’ve learned (the hard way), particularly in my 30s.

  • Break up with word “should”. Do not believe that you should have to act, think, feel, dress a certain way. If that sweater doesn’t fit, take it off. And don’t get caught up in what should or shouldn’t happen. Trust me, they happen.  Or they don’t. That’s just it.
  • You are only responsible for your own happiness. Be kind. Be respectful. Be responsible for your actions. But don’t obsess over the happiness of others. You are not responsible for the happiness of your friends, colleagues, random people you meet on the street, your family and not even your kids. Happiness is an inside gig and they will have to figure it out on their own. Just as you will have to do the same. Do what makes you happy.
  • Enjoy your own company. Yearn for it. Make it a priority. Make friends with the voice inside your head. She’s pretty dang cool. And this voice will stay with you and keep you company for the rest of your days.

Music break!

“If I get old I’m living easy

Find a nice old country home.

Let the land do what she wants to

Leave her wild and overgrown.

And when I’m sure my days are numbered,

Find a nice place in the fields.

And thank that little voice inside my head

For such great company.”

~Elliott Brood, If I get Old

  • Be real with yourself.  Life is not perfect nor does it have to look that way. It’s messy and gorgeous and sometimes a lot of the time, it’s really fucking hard. Experience every emotion unapologetically. And don’t trust people who are always telling you to smile.
  • Lastly, make goals. And as cheese bread as it sounds, write them down. This is where I struggle. I can think of hundreds of things I want to do but putting it to paper scares the bejeebers out of me. I used to think that it was because I had commitment issues. (I even wrote about them: http://commuterlit.com/2012/05/monday-the-empty-space/) And maybe that’s partly true. I have also blamed my limited attention span – squirrel!! But I think I’m most afraid of fucking up. What if I never get to check it off the list? What if I fail? I mean, I guess I could write new/revised goals…but what would my journal think??  *Sigh… My goal for my 40s is to write down my goals.

So that’s it – thanks for being part of my new decade celebration – let’s go for a drink sometime! But for now….. I have to pee!!!

xoxoxo,

e

@pixiepaperdoll7

Unicorns – by Moxie

On Monday morning, first day of March Break, I was in the bathtub getting ready for the day when Moxie (my 9 year old) came in and sat on the floor beside me.

“Mom, I wrote this thing a while ago but just decided that I wanted to share it with you,”

In my head I was thinking that I needed to rush through my bath so that I could get ready for work and get her and her brother packed up and off to the bus station so they could spend the week with their grandparents. But instead of putting her off I said, “Sure Moxie, I’d love to hear what what you wrote.”

and thank goodness because this is what I got:

“Many people don’t believe in unicorns. They say there is no evidence so they are not real. I personally believe in this majestic beast, but real or not, they are a sign of hope. My family has had a difficult past but even so, the hope that lies in us is much stronger than the grief inside us.”  ~ Moxie Hooper (age 9)

wow.

Needless to say that as soon as she mentioned our ‘difficult past’ (what a diplomatic way to say her Dad took his life), I was incredibly thankful that the steam from the bath disguised my teary eyes.

I asked her if I could share this on the Team Adventurers blog and she agreed (as long as I fixed the spelling) .

There is not much I need nor want to add to this other than,

you should always:

  • believe in majestic beasts and,
  • never lose faith

because “the hope that lies in us is much stronger than the grief inside us.”

 

xo,

e

(and Moxie)

#TeamAdventurers

 

#BellLetstalk Day (2016)

It’s #BellLetsTalk Day (2016) and instead of writing another full post about how mental health has impacted our family, I’ll let my previous writing speak for itself.

Regardless of whether you become involved in this campaign, I do encourage everyone to keep talking about mental health.  I wish I had insisted on more of those conversations. As difficult as they would have been, they would have been easier than the conversations I’ve had to have with Rain and Moxie since Jason’s death. Not to mention the conversations I’ve had to have with myself.

Stigma Fighters – my story

Dear Jerk

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Happy Birthday Jason

Happy Birthday Jason (2015)

The Black Dog

In the words of Bob Dylan, Play it Fu**ing Loud!

Hoop’s Memorial Hockey Game

My Life with (and without) kids. Before and After.

#BellLetsTalk Day (2015)

Fantastic (Canadian) videos in support of mental health awareness:

Amelia Curran – You Are Not Alone

Brian Byrne – I miss you most – The Arizona Project

Keep talking. You are not alone.

xo,

e

#TeamAdventurers

@pixiepaperdoll7

 

Happy Birthday Jason!

Today is your 44th birthday and to celebrate we had meat and cake for dinner (as per very specific requests). No fancy party hats or horns like last year but I did give a gift to all of us: a Rhodonite stone. Rain saw them at the store a couple weeks ago. (He has recently become interested in stones and gems).

“Their purpose is emotional healing. We should get one.”

“Do you think our emotions need healed?”

“Yeah.. you know.. ‘cause of Dad…”

So now we can start keeping our Rhodonite stones near our hearts as another step in our healing journey.

IMG_9942

It’s ironic that your birthday falls just one day after World Suicide Prevention Day. As if I don’t think enough about you, and suicide, and all the ways I might have been able to tried so hard to prevent it.

But I guess I’m stuck with you and these thoughts of you.

And because I’m stuck with you, you are also stuck with me (sucker!). And I am going to continue to talk to you each and every day (that should be sufficient punishment). Of course the bright side is that I am talking more than yelling at you these days (you’re welcome.)

And I have stopped (um okay, I’ve decreased) blaming you for everything that goes wrong in our lives. Yes, of course I realize that when I’m late getting the kids out the door in the morning, it’s probably not your fault. But that doesn’t mean I won’t mutter your name under my breath with clenched fists in classic “Newman” style.

Lately you have become less of a mortal enemy and more of a weird imaginary friend that I don’t really like.

I do miss talking to you about Rain and Moxie. A lot. Despite our MANY challenges, we always united for them. The kids and I are incredibly blessed to have such an amazing community of friends and family who love and care for them. But you were the only person on earth who loved them like I do. There is so much about them and their lives that only you would understand. The week before you died, you told me that you knew that I was a good mom and that I would always take great care of Rain and Moxie. I told you that they also needed you. They need(ed) their Dad. I meant that. What I didn’t say is that I needed you too.

These days, I’ve decided that your role in the afterlife is to protect us. (Big. Fucking. Job.)

You are our guardian angel with a studded dog collar, ever-changing facial hair and a drink in your hand.

We were never overly conventional.

When things go sidewise, I expect you to be there. When the kids have taken off on their bikes for too long and I’m getting worried or when I hear a crash from the basement where they are playing, my first internal thought is:

For fuck’s sake Jason, the very least you can do is deal with this.

It’s oddly comforting to believe that you are still out there somewhere, co-parenting along with me. You agree with me a lot more in the spirit world and for the most part I do appreciate your silence.

So Happy Birthday Hoop.

Cheers to you and rest up: because we will probably be keeping you very busy.

xo,

e

@pixiepaperdoll7

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Rhodonite

Rhodonite

Happy Birthday Hoop

Happy Birthday Hoop

The Black Dog

The other day, I unsuspectedly chose a book off a library shelf which had appeared on a recommendation list from a good friend.

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt.

I read just enough of the inside cover to find out that Mr. Chartwell was a dog. Interesting. I was expecting a cute animal persona, as was the character in “Come Thou Tortoise.” by Jessica Grant. 

But polar opposite to the likeable tortoise,

Mr. Chartwell is an asshole.

Winston Churchill famously described his depression as the Black Dog and the premise of this book is that there really was a black dog. His name was Black Pat Chartwell, and he was a six-foot-seven talking dog who walked on his hind legs.

Many reviewers have tsked Rebecca for making light of a serious disease. But for me, it turned something that has been so abstract and untouchable into something I could begin to understand. It personified depression into a big, messy, smelly black dog.

I loathed Black Pat Chartwell and throughout the book, I felt his heaviness press down on me. Yet, under his strangely seductive spell, I couldn’t get enough of him. I devoured it in two days. (one of the many perks of retirement mixed with day camp).

Just after finishing the book, I opened a letter I had received in the mail. It was from the Lighthouse, program for grieving children. They had written me to thank me again for our participation in their program this past year and wish us luck in our new endeavors in Peterborough.

“You have two incredible, deep thinking and warm hearted children, and clearly you are to thank for the amazing and resilient people that they are becoming.”

(*please pass the tissues..)

I very often think about their dad and his depression. I am plagued by all the ways I might have been able to help.. and all the ways I did try to help. Had he felt the enormous and unyielding weight of this massive black dog? How the hell do you save someone from an invisible giant dog that refuses to go away?

Fuck you Mr. Chartwell

I’ll leave you with the song, Little Black Submarine by the Black Keys. Jason used to sing it with the kids and, at their amusement, they would mis-sing the words as “oh can of beans” (you’ll hear it). I used this song in a playlist I made for the kids and some of his close friends and family. I since discovered that it was written about depression. I’ve learned to (awkwardly) play it on the guitar. I like the company it keeps me during bouts of insomnia. Maybe one day I’ll play it for you.

So many people are talking, singing and writing about depression. Stop the stigma. Keep talking. Keep singing. Keep writing. We are not alone.

To all of you fighting this black dog, submarine or just an asshole disease; Keep fighting and don’t let the weight suffocate you.

peace and love,

e

@pixiepaperdoll7