Letters To My Friends

Hello!

We are back! Finally, after about a month of trying to catch up with life I am back and ready to write and share some more stories. I have been thinking about what I wanted my first post back to be and I was reminiscing this past week about the friendships in my life that have changed my life and helped me become the person I am today. To me there is no other bond like the bond of friendship, it lasts years, goes through so many ups and downs and life altering moments that it’s on the same level as a romantic relationship but without the romance. Which I guess is why it’s called a friend-ship and not a relation-ship. Either way, friendships are as vital to our survival on this Earth as any other relationship. Our lives are marked and documented by the people in our lives we call friends. Every single important moment in my life I can remember the people who stood by me, the people that I chose to stand by me, my friends. My life wouldn’t be what it is today without my friends. So I would like to spend this post paying tribute to them and the significance they have had to me and my life thus far.

Now I will be the first to say that I am the world’s biggest loner, I don’t have many friends and I am not ashamed to say so. I am not a person who needs a massive group of friends, I prefer to surround myself with a select few that have really had an impact on me and my world. To me, friendships are one of the most important relationships we make in our lives, they are like extended family, the family we get to choose. Our friends are the ones who are always there when some other aspect of our lives aren’t going to plan, when we have issues with our family or our romantic relationships, our friends are the first people we turn to. For me, there have been four people who have completely altered my universe the moment they stepped into it, they are the friends I hold dearest to my heart and who have been there through so many ups and downs that there aren’t enough words in the world to describe their significance to me. Some of these friends are still a vital part of my life today and some have come and gone but the impression they left is still ever so significant.

The first friend I would like to share with you is my blog partner, my partner in crime, my right hand man, my soul sister from another mister and that is of course, Steph. Steph and I first met in high school, actually on the first day of high school I believe. I thought she was literally the coolest person ever and I desperately wanted to be her friend, there was something about her that I found inspiring and I looked up to her in a way. Steph is one of those friends you always dream of having, she is loyal to the bone and always has your back no matter what. She inspires those around her with her positivity and joy, it literally vibrates off her. If you ever need advice or a kind word, Steph is the one you turn to. She always knows exactly what to say, which is a rare quality to find in someone. She is also the most grounded person I have ever met, being around her helps me feel grounded when I feel like life has knocked me off my feet. Beyond all that, Steph is fiercely herself, something I always envied in her. From the day I met her she has always known who she is and what she wants and she goes for those things with such determination it’s incredibly inspiring to watch. Our friendship hasn’t always been unicorns and rainbows, we have had our moments of difficulty but we always manage to work through them because we know that our friendship is more important than any conflict or difference in opinion. We both have been there to witness each other’s moments of success, moments of growth and moments of struggle. There is nothing more powerful than having someone there that you can share all these moments with and know that through the good, the bad and the really ugly they will always be there to support and love you. It makes going through this life a lot easier and there is nobody in this world quite like Steph in that regard. She pushes you to dig deeper and to think beyond convention. She inspires you to fight for yourself, to find the things in this life that make you happy and to fight for your dreams no matter how big and impossible they may seem. She teaches you that forgiveness is the single most important quality to have in life. And one smile from her makes you believe that joy and magic still exist in this harsh world. She is one of those rare friends that comes along only once in your life and shows you what the meaning of true friendship is.

The second person I would like to share with you is SHB (I won’t write their real name just to protect their anonymity). I also met SHB in the beginning of high school and I’ve always believed that we were destined to be friends. I truly believe that some people are meant to come into your life, that some relationships are pre-destined and this was truly one of those things. We clicked from the moment we met and I have never met someone who truly understands me without me ever needing to explain myself. It is rare to find a friend who knows you better than you could ever know yourself, that is SHB. I also believe that some people come into your life to challenge you, to force you to do better and be better and SHB has been that for me. Not only does he understand me unlike any other person, but he pushes me to try harder, to be better and when I am around him he creates this bubble of safety where you feel completely comfortable being yourself. His friendship is unconditional, which is the purest form of friendship I have ever encountered.  He is also a beautiful person on the inside, I have never met a human being more selfless, more kind, more understanding and supportive, and beyond patient and forgiving. He is truly one of a kind and a remarkably special person. And as I sit here writing this, I can honestly say I am a better person for knowing him and that he has been there through some of the toughest moments in my life simply as a means of support and there is no friendship in the world more powerful than that. He has taught me that true friendship goes beyond the hanging out, the conversations and the “good times”, it’s about being the person someone can lean on when life pushes you down and being the source of light and hope when life gets dark. It’s about being a source of unconditional support, understanding and love that can only be found in your closest of friends. SHB is that and so much more. I also have immense pride in the fact that we have defied the notion that a man and a woman can’t be friends, and more than that that we can’t have deep, meaningful friendships. It gives me pride to show the world that you can be friends with a man and have it be one of the single most important friendships in your life.

The third person I would like to share with you is KP, now KP and I had a unique beginning in that I actually do not remember at all the moment we met and officially became friends. It was literally like one day we weren’t and the next we were the closest of friends, like we had been in each other’s lives our entire lives. We met half way through high school and had known of each other through mutual friends before that moment but had never actually became friends (it’s a little bit backwards but just go with it). The first thing you need to know about KP is that she is fiercely independent and probably the most responsible/grown up out of all of us. She is the definition of #girlboss goals. KP is probably one of the strongest, most determined, ambitious, hilarious, sassy and sweetest souls I have ever met. She is that friend that serves it to you straight but with love and kindness. A rare combination but one that is incredibly powerful. She is definitely one of those friends that inspires to do better and reach farther and work harder. More than that though, she is one of the best listeners and advice givers ever, she has this ability to hear you, like really hear you and knows exactly what to say to make all of life’s woes seem simple and surmountable. From the day we met we just clicked, and like with SHB, it was like we were pre-destined to be friends and soul sisters. KP is my person (basically she’s the Cristina to my Meredith, the Yang to my Grey), the person I go to whenever I need someone to lean on and vent to. We could talk for hours about absolutely nothing and have it be the best conversation ever. And when we talk about things that really matter, her kindness and compassion and realness are unlike anything else. No matter how much time we spend apart, when we come back together it’s like no time has passed at all, the mark of a true and real friendship. KP has taught me that some friends are just meant to be in your life and when that happens, you don’t question it. She has shown me that there is nothing more powerful and important than having a friend who has your back, who you can turn to and have them give it to you straight without fear of hurting your feelings. KP is also one of the most inspiring people with her fearless determination to live life fully and her unfailing optimism, just being around her you can’t help but have that rub off on you. She has shown me what a true soul sister is, from day one we just understood each other like we had known each other our whole lives (literally sisters from different misters) and nothing is more compelling than having someone who just gets you.

The fourth and final person I would like to share with you is JB, this person is no longer a part of my life but the friendship we shared for the time we had was so significant and so special that it has left a lasting mark on my heart and soul and it would seem unfair to not give it the recognition it deserves. Our friendship near the end was complicated and messy, and sometimes really ugly, and given the opportunity I would have done things differently. But as life doesn’t give do-overs, I have to settle with the memories we shared before the chaos. My friendship with JB was a unique one and to a lot of people didn’t really make sense but it was so special and one I will treasure until my last day on this Earth. The connection I shared with JB was beyond the description of words, our friendship was my safe haven and he was my rock. Our friendship was so unique that we could barely go a day without speaking to each other, we would talk all day every day about everything and nothing all at the same time. He was someone who truly knew who I was and accepted every bit of me, it was an acceptance and an understanding that went beyond anything I have ever experienced or will ever experience. Every single memory I shared with him is a cherished memory and something I hope to never forget. Writing about our friendship is both heart wrenchingly difficult and really doesn’t seem to do it justice. Although the complications, the chaos, the messiness and the ugliness all lie with me, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss him and the connection we shared. The end of our friendship taught me that some good things must come to an end but it doesn’t take away from the importance and significance of that relationship. That although that person may no longer be a part of your life, you can still take the memories and the lessons you learnt with you. Our friendship taught me that life happens, that people and circumstances change and that’s okay, that some friendships only come into your life only for a brief period of time to teach you something about yourself and about life. Looking back now, our friendship was what it needed to be and even though I wish I could do some things over, I will take it for what it was. No animosity, no bitterness, no hard feelings. Just complete gratitude and appreciation for what it was and for who he was. And if he ever reads this, I hope he knows that.

You are probably wondering why I have introduced you to four people who you don’t know and probably don’t really care to know, but there was a point to all of that sappy rambling. All of us have these people in our lives, the people we call our friends, and the relationships we have built with them have had a lasting impact on who we are. If you need to know who I am, just look at my friends. These people are every bit a part of me in some small and significant way. I wouldn’t be who I am today without these incredible people who have chosen me as their friend. As I said in the beginning of this post, the relationships we build with our friends are in my opinion, one of the single most important relationships you will ever build. Our friends, over time become embedded into the fibres of who we are and who we become, they literally become family. They become the family that we choose, the family that we need, they fill the spaces that our biological families can’t fill. Our friends challenge us in ways that our family cannot, through them we learn things about ourselves, whether good or bad and from it we grow. I believe the strongest incentive for growth and evolution comes from our friends and the relationships we form with them. Growth comes from the lessons they teach about ourselves and they are the ones who help us to see ourselves as we truly are. They are the ones who show us what it means to love unconditionally, they don’t have to be a part of our lives, they choose to be and nothing is more unconditional than that. So I challenge you to read the stories of my friends, to find something in our stories that inspires you. Then go out there into the world and tell your friends how much they mean to you and tell them how important they are in your life. Put in the time and the effort to build those friendships, I promise you you won’t be sorry if you do. Because at the end of the day, your friends are the ones who will be there to pick you back up when life slaps you down, the ones who see your imperfections and choose you despite them, the ones who will make you smile and laugh when life seems unbearable and the ones who will show you that there is still light and hope in a world that sometimes feels too dark. They are the ones who will always show you who you truly are and believe in you even when you can’t. Nothing is more special that that.

To all my friends, I love you and I hope you know how much you have meant to me and my life.

Much Love,

-Melanie

Just Some Thoughts…

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Lately, I’ve found it difficult to find things to say and things to write about so I’ve decided to write what is on my mind and in my heart and hope that someone somewhere takes something from this. If not, that’s cool too. So here it is.

My deepest wish for this life is to say something and to write something of meaning, something that will have an impact, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

My deepest wish is to live in a world where judgment is left to criminal trials, where we are evolved enough and educated enough that judgment is inferior to us. I crave the moment where society can accept people as they are without labels, boundaries, restrictions, explanations or definitions. I yearn for the moment where people can just exist without fear of being persecuted for how they choose to do so.

My deepest wish is to live in a society where everyone is treated equal, where everyone is afforded the same rights and privileges and freedoms and respect and right to love. I pray for the time where we can choose who we love and have that be celebrated. I pray for the time where people of colour can walk down the streets and feel safe and respected. I pray for the time where women are treated as equals and aren’t judged based on their physical appearance, their bodies or their opinions.

My deepest wish is to live in a world where hatred is no longer answered with hatred and violence is no longer answered with violence. I hope for a world where love is the first answer, where kindness is a reflex and acceptance an instinct. Where conflict is resolved with an intelligent, peaceful conversation and not with weapons.

My deepest wish is to live in a world where light always overcomes the darkness, where the good always shines brighter than the bad, and where understanding always leads to acceptance.

It is devastating to realize that we live in a time where all of these things need to be mentioned, that we needed to be reminded of these simple yet incredibly powerful facts. We all hold the power to make a change. It is within all of us to make this change and it all starts with being open to it. So the next time you want to judge another being, take a second and think before you speak. Are you really judging this person or are you projecting onto them something within yourself that you don’t like? If the latter is true, take a breath and respond to that person with kindness, with compassion, with understanding and acceptance that they too may be having a difficult time. This simple act saves the world from so much negativity and hate. By being open to taking responsibility for your actions and the way you respond to situations and to other people who you may not understand can literally be the difference between life and death. When we make the choice to answer with love, with open hearts and open minds, with kindness, with respect, with compassion, with the understanding that we are all the same, we are all souls on this Earth having the same human experience and accepting that there are things in this world that are different and weird and that is okay. It’s time that we as a species evolve beyond judgment and beyond hate, we are better than that and we can definitely do better than that. We are not brought into this world with hate, we are taught to hate. We are all brought into this world with the instinct to love and it’s time we tap back into that instinct.

Remember that.

Much love and peace,

-M

 

 

Why Weight?: on health and self-love

Today, I want to talk about something that’s kind of personal. I actually don’t really want to talk about it, but that’s the challenge of this blog. I’ve got to write something! Not only that, but I have to write something with the goal of challenging myself and challenging the assumptions I make about myself and about how I fit into certain moulds.

I want to push the notion that nobody cares what I’m struggling with. I’m full of first world problems, and sometimes I am ashamed of them because compared to what other people (some of my friends, even) are dealing with, they’re minuscule. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t problems. I’m not suffering from anything, but I struggle with some things; it’s a very deliberate word choice, and I think it makes a difference in contextualizing what I’m going through.

I’ll start not quite at the beginning, but in the middle. In my first year of University I started using the school’s mental health services because I was having trouble making decisions: I couldn’t even choose what to have for breakfast some days, let alone decide whether I would stay in Montreal or move to Florida for the summer. I did NOT like the first counsellor I saw. She was intimidating. It didn’t last long. But she said one thing – very emphatically, might I add – that has stuck with me in a weird way. She didn’t diagnose me with anything (not that I expected her to) but she did tell me that I hated myself. Self-loathing, self-hatred; I don’t remember exactly how she said it, but I was shocked. Was that ever alarming to hear coming out of someone else’s mouth! But…she wasn’t wrong.

I think there are certain things that I’ve disliked about myself consistently since I was a kid, and one of them is my body. I was big, and then I was little, and then I started getting bigger and bigger again. Recently, I hit the 200lbs mark, and I thought, “This is it! If I’m going to change something, it’s going to be now!” In the past year I’ve tried passively recording my food, I’ve tried eating more vegetables, but mostly I just felt sorry for myself as my weight crept up and up.

My little footsies stepping on the scale

Surprisingly, it’s relatively easy to tell all of you, dear readers, that I hit the big 2-0-0. But here’s the part that’s hard for me to say: at the end of May, I joined Weight Watchers. Again. For the second time officially and maybe the fourth unofficially. And I’m only 25. In my first week I lost 7lbs, and I thought of it as my body screaming, “About fucking time!” Now I’m seeing the number on the scale steadily go down, which is encouraging, but the most rewarding thing is that I’m starting to feel a little bit more in control. I don’t feel like I’m on a diet; I feel equipped with more knowledge about how much I can eat of certain things. In the past few weeks I have had French fries, I’ve had popcorn, I’ve had alcohol, pizza, and burgers – just not as much of those things as I was having before.

There’s a great tool that comes when you join the Weight Watchers app called “Connect”: it’s basically a Weight Watchers social media. Everyone there is so supportive of one another, even though they only “know” each other online. The posts that I’ve made have received very encouraging replies, and I’ve tried to leave kind messages to other people. It’s so important to connect with people who are going through the same thing as you and can relate to your experience. Of course, I have my real support system – my parents, my partner – but my virtual one is pretty great, too. And when it’s so hard to come out and say, “I’m doing Weight Watchers” in real life (or even over the blog, like I’m doing now) having the Connect group has made getting support a lot easier.

The strange thing to me is how easy it is to reveal how much I weigh(ed), and how, in contrast, I feel so much shame surrounding  the fact that I’m doing something about it. In the past couple of years I’ve tried to beat people to the punch, regularly making not-so-funny quips about my own weight to let other people know I knew what they were thinking – even though they probably weren’t judging me as harshly as I was judging myself. Still, I resisted changing my lifestyle: “I enjoy this food too much,” “I don’t eat that badly,” “I’m too young to have to watch what I eat”… the most convincing one was, “I’ve done this before, and I’m afraid to become obsessive about losing weight again.” There was something matter-of-fact about my weight, but there is something weirdly shameful about acting on it and about self-care. Taking care of yourself can feel like a very selfish act. My efforts to be healthier will affect my friends and my partner, and that’s hard for me: I won’t want to indulge as much in restaurants or bars, I may ask friends to go for a walk instead of for coffee, and I will probably need to plan my days a little more carefully. I want so badly to please others all the time, but I need to focus on the fact that I’m doing this for me. This is for my own health and happiness, and the people I love (who truly love me back) will respect and embrace that.

I’m sure you all have diet and exercise hacks that have made it easier for you to achieve a happy, healthy and balanced life. If you’d like, I invite you to share some of your tips and tricks in the comments. Melanie and I hope that this can be a place where people can be supportive of each other, and we are all part of that mission!

Whatever you’re going through, even if it seems small compared to other people’s struggles…you got this.

Sending love and healthy vibes out to you all,

Stephanie

Love Will Always Win, Remember That

I sit here trying to find the words to express the tumultuous emotions I feel right now and the reality is is that there are no words. There are no words to express or explain or make sense of the things happening in our world. There are no words to express the emotions you feel when another human being chooses to kill another human being over something so human like loving someone who just happens to be of the same sex. There are no words to explain or make sense of something so senseless. I sit here and all I feel is fear and sadness and anger and confusion, I ask myself how did we get here? How did we as human beings get here? To the point where it’s acceptable to kill one another, to judge one another, to condemn another being for choosing to love? It makes no sense to me. It will never make any sense to me. I sit here debating whether writing this is a good idea, whether it will do any good, hoping it won’t make things worse. But, as I sit here I realize that there is a power in words, there is a power in expression and I feel like this is an important message to share. If you don’t feel the same way or aren’t interested in what I am writing about then I ask you kindly to not read this and to move on to something that does interest you.

Today is a hard day for me. It’s a hard day for anyone who has felt like an outsider, who felt like they never belonged because they were different. Whether it be ethnicity, gender, religion, weight/body shape, sexual orientation or simply because you don’t fit the mould that society has deemed acceptable and appropriate. It’s a hard day when you wake up to hear that someone (yet again) has chosen to take innocent lives. When I woke up this morning and heard about what happened in Orlando when a man walked into a gay club and killed innocent souls who were simply living and being, it broke my heart and made me question the state of humanity. It seems like everyday you turn on the news to hear of more senseless killings whether it be in a school, on the street, in a church, in the City of Love and countless other places that have long been forgotten. It devastates me that this is what we have come to and I’ve debated for some time whether I should write about these acts that keep on happening, and shamefully out of fear I’ve avoided expressing myself. Today though, something was different, this event for whatever reason, affected me so deeply I felt I had no choice but to say something. At the core of all of these events that have happened over the past decade lies this idea of judgment. We as human beings have allowed ourselves to become judgment machines. We are all guilty of it. We see something or hear something that we don’t quite understand and we immediately jump to judging it without even trying to learn about it or understand it. I’ve definitely been guilty of it. However, it’s how we to choose to act and react to this judgment that defines us. We can choose to stay ignorant, naive and close minded. We can choose to stay angry and react in a violent and senseless manner. Or we can rise above it. We can choose to educate ourselves, we can choose to open our minds and our hearts. We can choose to place ourselves in other people’s shoes and try to understand where they may be coming from. We can choose to react with love, compassion, kindness and with understanding. What many don’t understand is that there is a power in love, a power that is much greater than the hate that these individuals choose to express. The world will not remember these people who react with hate, they will remember those who were innocent, those who were loved and who were love personified.

My greatest wish for this world is that we as a human race can evolve to a place where judgment is beneath us. Where people who are different, who are weird are accepted and considered acceptable and more than that “normal”. I yearn for the day when we no longer have to label ourselves so that people who don’t understand us can finally understand us. I pray for the day when we no longer react to things we don’t understand with violence but with conversation, with awareness, with love and most of all with understanding and respect. I pray for all the beautiful souls who have left this Earth too soon because someone deemed it their right to take a life. I pray that these souls find peace wherever they may be. More than that, I pray that we as a human race can rise above, that we don’t allow these hateful people to leave us with fear in our hearts but rather leave a love in our hearts that is so strong that nothing can break us. To anyone out there who is weird, or different, or simply a human being who is trying to thrive in this life, I want you to know that your life is worth something, that you are worthy and that no matter who tries to break you, always keep love in your heart. Nothing can break you if you have love and compassion. There is nothing more powerful than that.

With so much love and pride for the weird, the different and the undefinable,

-Melanie

Be You, Wait Who?

Just be yourself. This saying or mantra or string of words has been bouncing around in my head for awhile now. Just be you. But what does that even me if you don’t exactly know who you are? I’ve always been envious of people who have a strong sense of self, who know who they are and what they like and dislike and who know the direction they want their life to take. We all know those people who have such a strong sense of self that it makes you question and wonder about yourself. To be honest, I’ve never really known who I was and I’ve always felt like an outsider, like I’ve never really fit in with anyone or anything. I’ve always been the ugly ducking or weirdo sort of bouncing on the perimeter of belonging and knowing thy self. I’ve had moments where I felt I was on the verge of figuring this complicated being known as myself out, but with no such luck or success. I’ve spent years trying to fit in and I did so by assimilating, by observing the people around me and becoming these people. I’ve been everybody else except myself. I believed that by becoming these other people I would somehow magically, like a poof of pink smoke, discover who I was and life would be dandy. Of course, we all know that life doesn’t work like that and it takes work, time and an ounce or two of patience to figure it (or you) out.

I remember back in high school, I was so desperate to fit in and to be liked that I became this entirely different person and in the process, lost who I was (to an extent). When I tell people about my experience in high school they all tell me, well that is what being in high school is like. But is it really? I remember one day coming home, it was a rough day and I had been picked apart by a couple of mean girls and guys and I told myself, no more. It was that day that I started to change myself to become like the “pretty” girls. I grew out my hair, started straightening it like the others girls, I started to wear my makeup the same way and my “sense of style” was identical to all the girls around me. I was literally a high school robot, going through the motions just to fit in. The same thing happened in college, I was desperate to fit in so I would watch (not in a creepy way, hopefully) the “cool” girls and try to be like them in hopes that maybe I would finally find my place. Obviously neither were successful. Now, looking back at those experiences and memories I constantly ask myself why? I always believed that I had this strong sense of self and it was until recently that I realized that that “strong sense of self” wasn’t real. It was and has always been tied to me wanting to be someone else instead of taking the time to get to know myself. I think deep down I’m scared to be myself, to get to know myself because what if that girl is strange and unconventional, what if it isolates me even more and I never truly find my place in this world. I think that is what we all fear, always feeling alone and like we never belong, which is why we become other people. I don’t know how many girls I see who try to be like the Kardashians or like the supermodels of this generation. It saddens me to see so many lost souls who are so afraid to be themselves that they try to be other people instead of just embracing themselves and their weird quirks (that sadness extends to myself as well). When I finally realized the fear that I had been hiding deep inside my subconscious (because I didn’t want to deal with it) that is when I slowly started opening up to the idea of just saying, fuck it, I’m going to be me. So I cut off my hair.

I used to judge people who had unconventional hair, whether it be shaved or dyed some unique and bright colour. I used to judge mostly out of jealousy because I always wished and hoped I would have the balls to do something so risky because that would mean I knew who I was and I was secure enough in that knowledge to do something like that. For me, hair is always the measure of someone’s security and acceptance of themselves. I know you are being you and no one else when you are fearless with your hair. It’s weird but it’s true. When I started my road to self-discovery (excuse the cheesiness), the first thing I knew I had to do was cut off my hair. I had been so attached to it and defined myself by it because it was the one thing that made me “fit” in. So I sniped it all off and it was the most liberating thing I could have ever done. That was the first step to figuring out who I was. I felt comfortable, at ease and dare I say it, confident with short hair. It was me. My long hair was hiding my face and hiding who I really was. Who cares if no one else has short hair, it’s me and that is all that is important. Since that moment, I have spent time getting to know and understand what I really like and isn’t influenced by some outside source. I am no longer ashamed of wearing glasses and having a big nose (most of the time, I still have insecure moments but that’s called being human). Those aspects are me and are what make me unique. I’ve discovered that I love books and I love to read. I’ve rediscovered my passion for writing and sharing stories. I’ve embraced my feminine side and now allow myself to show it. I used to be afraid to be feminine for whatever reason, I guess I didn’t want to look silly in a dress and brightly coloured lipstick. I know these things may seem small and insignificant but for me they are the small stepping stones to finding myself. There is still a long road ahead of me but I am slowly figuring out and understanding the power of just being yourself.

There is a power in embracing your quirks and weirdness, it makes you confident and genuine. It allows you to make real connections with yourself and with the important people in your life. There are  days when I still feel like an outsider but the more I get to know myself the more I feel like I belong. Part of the reason why I wanted to start this blog was to create a community of people who may or may not know who they are but have a place to go where they can read and share their story and feel like they belong. I wanted to create a place where weirdness is embraced and accepted. I wanted everyone to feel like they can be themselves and belong to something. I hope one day we can live in a world where being yourself is the norm with no judgments, I feel like we have made progress in that direction but there is so much more to be done. If I can contribute by being myself and being okay with it and embracing and accepting others sans judgment then that may be a tiny step forward towards that goal. If you take anything from this post, take this, just be yourself (even if you don’t know who that is yet, do something that makes you feel good in your skin and makes you feel like you) because you are amazing and beautiful and enough. You don’t need to be anybody else but yourself, life is too short for that. And if you feel like you won’t belong or are too weird, just say fuck it and do it anyway.

Much love and weirdness,

-M

PS: Thank you for all the support and kindness after my last post. It means the world to have been able to share part of my story with you all.

Happy May long weekend!

Happy May long weekend, dear readers!

For those of you who are from elsewhere and don’t know, Canadians have a long weekend this weekend for Victoria Day. We don’t use it to celebrate Queen Victoria –long dead – but rather most of us use it as an excuse to be drunk for three days, take a trip up north, or get our gardens in tip-top shape for summer. Everyone gets excited because it signals the end of a long winter and the beginning of hot days!

Of course, some of us aren’t so lucky to take advantage of the extended weekend, and I extend my deepest sympathies to anyone who works in retail. I’m lucky to have generous coworkers who took my Sunday shift off my hands, and now I’m free to spend all weekend at bae’s cottage (I solemnly swear to never call him that again) and write you all a leisurely letter. So far, I’ve spent my weekend reading, planning a course, eating good food, watching the water, and (I can’t help myself) watching Game of Thrones. I’m simultaneously keeping up with the current season and watching from the beginning; I’m almost at season 3, and I can’t shut up about it!

I feel great and I’m really enjoying my long weekend, but I can never decide if I’m taking too much time off, or just the right amount. I’m naturally a very slooooow person, and I could do one task in a day and feel relatively accomplished. Even on days when I’m busy, I can’t decide if it’s a normal amount of busy or if it’s only busy for me that would be considered a slow day by others. It freaks me out when people say a run or yoga class can be one’s “me-time” for the day, because to me, that’s work!

I’m constantly comparing myself to other people as a marker of my success and progress, which unpleasant and kind of dangerous to my self-esteem. I’m sure I’m not alone in that bad habit, but I won’t ask you all to raise your hands. I keep trying to remind myself that as long as I get all my shit done in due time, then I’m a-okay. Of course, it’s a process to accepting myself. It can be so hard to just accept where you’re at without casting a shadow on the way you feel or the things you do. I’m realizing lately that self-acceptance is more than just skin deep. Of course, you need to respect your body, but you also need to accept your values and personality and not pick yourself apart every day.

Wishful thinking, right? But a goal worth working toward. It’s so hard, and so important, to be nice to ourselves. For now, I’m more than content to sit here at the lake, writing this, and thinking about my life with a little smile on my face. I’m loved, I love, and eventually I’ll find a rhythm of life that really works for me. It may take seventy years, but what’s life if not a series of trial, error, and successes?

Are you a busy person? A sloth-type like me? How do you make it all work? Share your secrets in the comments!

Let’s Talk Mental Health

Hello beautiful people!

I sit here contemplating how I want to go about this, I have so much to say about mental health and yet, I don’t even know where to start with it and with my story.  I find myself stuck in my head, obsessing about the words and sentence structure, obsessing about how this will be received and worrying about how inspirational the message will be. As I sit here obsessing it dawns on me that this is my anxiety talking to me, one of my “symptoms” if we want to call it that, is this obsessive thinking pattern where I worry and overthink every little thing. As you can imagine, that gets exhausting really quick and this happens every single day from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. There isn’t a moment that goes by where I am not thinking, my mind is constantly working at full speed, like a hamster running on a wheel. That is literally how I describe it to people who don’t understand, it’s like my brain is a hamster and it’s running on a wheel chasing a piece of untouchable food, the food being my fears and the thoughts I obsess over. So with that said, I am choosing to talk about my anxiety and my depression for several reasons, I feel like it’s time to come clean about it, I have hidden so much of my struggles from anyone who knows me out of shame, embarrassment and guilt. I still struggle every single day with acceptance, accepting that this is how I am and how I will always be. So here is me coming clean, my name is Melanie, I am 25 years old and I have been dealing with anxiety and depression for most of my life. I am choosing to tell my story because I truly believe that the more people talk it about, the less of a stigma there will be. I know that a lot of people are now coming forward and bravely telling the world their story but there is still work to be done and progress to be had and if I can do anything to help, you best believe I will. I still get people who question me about my anxiety/depression and who doubt me. I feel like if we could just have an open conversation about it then maybe these people can have insight into what it truly feels like to go through this every single day. That is my biggest wish, if I can just open one person’s eyes to the reality of all of this, to get them to not necessarily agree but to at least understand then I feel like my mission is complete. And if I can offer my story in support of another human being going through something similar then that is more than I could ever possibly ask for. So here goes.

My story started when I was really young, I don’t remember much from my childhood but I have been told that that is where it really started. I only became aware of things changing when I turned 16, that is when I had my first real depression moment. I remember coming home after handing in this massive project that I had been working on for over a year and sitting on my bed, sobbing for what seemed like no reason at all. I remember feeling like I was being enveloped by this cloud of sadness and hopelessness. I was surrounded by this darkness and it felt like no light would ever enter again. I used to describe it as being stuck in this deep, dark hole and you’re screaming for someone to help you but no one can hear or see you. One thing people forget about depression is that it is extremely isolating and an extremely lonely place to inhabit. I never really spoke about it to anyone out of shame and guilt, I didn’t feel justified in my feelings. There was absolutely no reason for me to be feeling such intense sadness and anger, yet here I was sitting on my bed night after night basically crying myself to sleep. This went on throughout the rest of high school and well into college. There were days where it was extremely difficult to get myself out of bed, and I now understand that the only reason I got out was because of the anxiety. At the time the anxiety was mild enough that I didn’t really notice it, it paled in comparison to the depression but the fear of getting in trouble for missing class or failing classes got me out of bed every single day. I remember reading a quote from a therapist who explained to her patient that having anxiety and depression is like having a constant war going on in your head, which couldn’t be a more accurate description. With the depression, you no longer care about anything, everything seems like a hopeless endeavour and all you want to do is lay in bed and watch Netflix all day. But then the anxiety rears it’s ugly head and you get this surge of adrenaline from all the worrying, stressing and fear based thinking that sitting still seems like the worst possible idea so you get out of bed. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because they balance each other out, if one pulls you too much one way then the other pulls you back so you never truly succumb to either side you kind of just float somewhere in the middle.

The depression got worse after I had reconstructed jaw surgery when I was 18, the trauma of the surgery alone almost made me crazy but having to deal with my whole face changing and putting on so much weight post-surgery made the cloud of darkness even darker. It completely changed who I was as a person, I no longer had the ability or the energy to be the person I used to be. It was exhausting to have to smile and laugh and pretend like everything was perfect. At this point, I was still hiding all of this, I wanted to remain the sweet, perfect child and if I admitted to the darkness I would no longer be that perfect being anymore. Over time though, that facade started to slip and family members started to notice that I wasn’t who I used to be, it became more and more difficult to pretend like my life was a happy one. Then an important friendship in my life slowly began to crumble then completely exploded, and this person was my rock, they were the one person I always thought I could count on. Then suddenly I blinked and that person was no longer there, it made me question a lot of things and made me question myself. It was an uncomfortable place to be in mentally and I will admit that it still plagues me to this day. I will also admit that there were times where the darkness got so intense that I questioned my place and purpose here on this Earth. I no longer felt like I had any worth here anymore, that my being here was meaningless. Thankfully, by the grace of whatever higher Being there may be up there that quickly passed. When University finally rolled around, my anxiety had finally made it’s grand entrance into my life and completely took control over it. The first day of Uni was a day from hell, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep that night I swore that I was going to have a heart attack and a stroke simultaneously. I don’t even really remember much from that day because I was so anxious and in my head that all I could think about was just surviving the day. Every day after that for four years was me just trying to survive the day, to just get through it without having a complete melt down. The anxiety slowly started to seep into every inch of my life, taking public transportation became a struggle, my grades started to take a massive nose dive because I just couldn’t focus on anything and every time I entered a classroom I would have a massive panic attack and have to leave. It came to a point where leaving the house became a struggle and a huge ordeal. For me, my anxiety presents itself as obsessive overthinking/worrying to the point where I feel like my head might literally just detach itself from my body because it is just sick of being overworked. The overthinking eventually leads to crazy insomnia, sweating, a racing heart that eventually turns into palpitations, intense nausea and shaking, and a, literally, paralyzing fear of the unknown. It’s a joy, I know. Anxiety has stolen a lot of moments and experiences from me, things that I may never get the opportunity to experience again. It is a debilitating and overwhelming struggle. It is literally chaos that touches every part of your being and your life.

It got to the point where my life no longer felt like MY life anymore, it was my life being controlled completely by anxiety. Every decision and choice was governed by the anxiety. I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, it would kill me. So I made the choice to leave school. To remove myself from a situation that sadly was making the anxiety a million times worse. Now, this decision was an excruciating one because school is all I have ever known and it is all that I assumed I was good at. I had been doing it for so long that I didn’t know anything different. But I left anyway and it was the best decision I could have made. Today, my anxiety and my depression aren’t nearly as bad as they were 6 months ago, every day is different, some days I feel really good and happy (a word I haven’t used or felt in a REALLY long time) and some days it’s still a struggle to do anything productive. I will say though, that over the past 6 or so months I have come to understand and learn a few things about anxiety/depression and myself. I have come to understand that every day will be different but as a long as I am doing the best I can on that day then that is okay and that is enough. I have come to understand that within every dark moment there is a silver lining and a lesson to be learnt. Every time I make it through the darkness, I understand more and more the power that lies in being strong for yourself, the power in true kindness and compassion for yourself that can later be payed forward to someone else who maybe hasn’t found the courage yet to tell their story. Most of all, I have come to understand that having a mental illness doesn’t change your worth as a human being. Yes, you may have things beyond your control but it doesn’t make your time here any less valuable or precious. We all have our purposes here on Earth and they are all vital and important, and that doesn’t change just because your mind doesn’t want to always cooperate. Having gone through the struggles I have has led me to this beautiful moment here on this blog where I get to share my story with you guys and hopefully inspire someone somewhere. If that isn’t a silver lining and a worthy purpose, than I don’t know what is.

Much love and kindness,

– Melanie

PS: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my story. I hope that whoever takes the time to read this will be inspired to share their story or even just their support for someone they know who may be suffering from a mental illness. Remember, in the words of Cinderella, have courage and be kind, nothing is more powerful nor more magical than kindness.