‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep…’

I don’t know if humans are really equipped to face their own mortality

It’s just such a foreign concept

It’s the opposite of what we know

We breathe without thinking

It’s automatic

To think of our own deaths

Seems just wrong

With MS I don’t really have to think about it

It’s a lot of things

But it’s not fatal

When I was diagnosed with ITP (rare blood disorder) this past summer

It seemed surreal

I could die if I got cut

If I fell

The slightest thing would mean I could bleed to death

I remember when I was still unsure what was going on

Feeling certain that I was gonna die

It was scary and unknown

Clearly

I survived

But every time I find a bruise…

Every time I get my bloodwork done

I’m faced with that same thought

Have my platelets have dropped dangerously low?

It’s sort of become a scary new reality

And not entirely unknown

However this whole COVID-19 is different

I knew I was at a heightened risk

I’m immuno compromised

I have two autoimmune diseases and a rare blood disorder

Plus the treatment I underwent for my MS weakened my immune system

Seems like the odds are stacked against me

So I’ve been practicing self isolation since March 15

I won’t lie

I’ve been scared

I keep hearing about the people dying have preexisting heath conditions

As if that makes it more palatable

Like it makes it ok

I got an email from my super amazing hematologist

She reaffirmed what I already sorta knew

I’m at an increased risk for infection

Because of the MS related treatment and ITP

Now I’m scared all over again

I’m doing the best I can

Not leaving home

Taking care of myself and my sanity

But I can’t help but feel afraid

What if this time I don’t escape death?

What if this time it catches up to me?

What if

What if

What if

I know I can’t live my life based on what ifs

But I can’t pretend they don’t exist either

So I’m caught in this weird limbo

Between focusing on what’s happening right now

This tv show

This art piece

This blog

And

The world of what ifs

What if I catch this virus?

What if death catches me?

I’m not ready to face death

I’m not ready to face the mere thought of death

‘I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.’

Kid, I hope you’ve finally found some peace

I started working with youth in 2008

Up until that point

I sort of dabbled in working with different populations

At a youth shelter, I found my place

It just felt right

Since then

I had worked exclusively with youth

Mostly homeless and/or at risk youth

Eventually I worked out of Mississauga as an outreach worker

Anyway

I have this thing that I do

I read the paper in the mornings or at night

If a headline catches my eye

That something happened in one of the areas that I worked in

I read it

Sometimes it’s about a young person who was a victim of crime

Or a perpetrator

Sometimes it’s about no one I know

Today

It was about someone I think I may have known

His name immediately caught my eye

And while it was spelled incorrectly

His age adds up to who I remembered

He was killed in a violet crime

He was of no fixed address

It all adds up

But all I keep thinking about

Are his vivid blue eyes

And the protective way he took care of his little brother

Sure I remember other things

Like taking him to court and working through his anger with him

Being upset that he got arrested again

Or something else

But I remember more about the long stretches his mother would leave him and his little brother home alone to fend for themselves

While she went to Florida with her boyfriend

With no food in the house

Under the guise that his grandma was watching them

I remember his dysfunctional mother calling me

Alternating between crying and yelling at me

That she couldn’t handle him

Wanted him to move out

I remember when I had two clients scheduled for court on the same day and time

So I figured I’d just drive them both home

No biggie

Until they told me to drop them off at the same location and went off together

If it’s you that was in the paper

If it’s you whose life was snuffed out far too early and much too violently

I’m sorry I couldn’t have done more to help you

I’m sorry that I couldn’t prepare you better for what was coming next

I’m sorry that life treated you unfairly from the beginning

I’m just sorry

And I promise to remember you

With your vivid blue eyes

And the way you wanted to protect your little brother

Rest In Peace, kid

You deserve to finally have some peace

The Perfect Storm

I’ve been thinking a lot lately

Thinking about people…society

Thinking about being a ‘sick person’

About having a mental illness

I struggled long before my MS diagnosis

I struggled for years because of anxiety and depression

Even with treatment, I still struggled

Like MS, there is no cure for my mental illness

There is no quick fix

Even the medical treatments for both come with explicit warnings and precautions

So it seems like there a lot of similarities

Except for one major difference between my mental health and MS:

The way society perceives both

While many people don’t understand or really know what MS is all about

There is more empathy for people with MS than there is for mental heath sufferers

People seem to acknowledge that nobody would choose to have MS

However with mental health, people place a huge amount of responsibility on the individuals shoulders

Especially with mood disorders like mine

‘Snap out of it’

‘Be positive’

‘Exercise..it’ll make you feel better’

I’m sure I could fill countless pages with similar pieces of unsolicited advice

Not just from friends and family

But also from the medical field

It’s almost funny how after I found out about the MS

There was a certain credibility that I was awarded

My mental illness wasn’t enough to warrant unbiased compassion

But MS…

That’s different

Or maybe it’s the combination

Like your mom’s handwritten recipe for human compassion

While I’m grateful it’s awarded me more understanding in some avenues of my life

Something about it also strikes me

It must mean that I’ve become something like the perfect storm

The time the internet turned against me..

So I nonchalantly commented on a Vice Canada article about whether or not Don Cherry should be fired for his xenophobic comments.

My comment was solely on the story and agreed that Don Cherry has gotten away with this behaviour for too long and should be fired.

The amount of hate I got was a little startling.

I’m a lot older than the typical person who gets cyber bullied so I’m a little removed from this sort of thing.

People immediately went after me

They went after my appearance firstly.

They stereotyped me for my hair colour.

They called me fat.

Said I was dumb, stupid and so much more.

Instantly, I wanted to hit back.

After all, that’s what you do when you’ve been attacked.

But I quickly learned it was getting me nowhere other than infuriated.

I deleted my comment.

Not because I don’t stand by it (because I do)

Not because I can’t handle the criticism (because I can)

But because this war behind a computer or a phone or whatever

Is not one I can win.

That anyone can win.

People become so brave they will literally say anything or do anything.

Frankly, it makes me afraid of the world we live in.

How scary is it when you can’t even risk speaking your opinion for fear of retribution?

This speaks to something so much bigger than internet trolls out for blood.

This is a not a liberated society.

This is totalitarian.

If you dare to step out of line you risk facing the wrath of the legions of people willing to do and say whatever it takes to make their mark.

While I can handle the criticisms, I can’t handle the anger and anxiety that explodes inside of me as a result of such an encounter.

I was so angry at the words they were tossing around.

Not because I’m hurt by them but because someone else might be.

Some teenager might be reading along in agreement and see the inflamed ego it caused and the hurled insults and bullying that ensued.

They might not have the self security to hold strong to their own beliefs.

And that is the biggest tragedy of all.

‘Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do And I’m not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two’ The Tragically Hip

Scared is different from panic

Panic is unwarranted

Panic is your body misinterpreting signals

Panic is reading everything as danger

Scared is a reminder of what we have to lose

Scared is a prayer on our lips

Scared is being alive

It’s okay to be scared

Sometimes it’s even expected

Sometimes I struggle to sort out in my mind what is ‘normal’ fear and what is my panic disorder

Yesterday I felt my heart beat fast and I felt panicked

Surely it meant something was wrong

Maybe I was bleeding in my brain

Maybe I was going to feel the way I did last week

Maybe I would receive bad news

Today is different

Today I am scared that my blood levels won’t improve

Today I am scared that this could turn into something worse

Today I am scared to miss out on anymore of my life

And tomorrow

Is another day

That I can’t be afraid of

Just yet

‘At Times, Our Own Light Goes Out And Is Rekindled By A Spark From Another Person.’ Albert Schweitzer

Dear David (from Gerstein Crisis Centre)

It’s taken me four days to finally be able to compose this letter.

Not because I didn’t care to but because I became too emotional whenever I thought about your kindness towards me during my short stay at Gerstein.

You were the first person during my ordeal who did not see someone who was ‘weak’ and ‘needy’ but instead you saw someone who was tired of fighting so hard.

Someone who just needed a safe place to land.

You gave me that.

From the very minute I stood in front of the office doors as a crying hot mess, until we had talked long enough for me to enter a sleep-like.

state.

You threw me a lifeline.

You listened.

You talked.

You joked.

You laughed.

You related.

You made me feel heard and understood, and there are not simply enough words in the English language to convey my complete gratitude towards you for that.

So from one panic attack sufferer to another…

In words I know you’ll understand best.

I’ll just say:

I’d lay down in the snow with you, until your panic attack passes. 😊

Forever grateful,

Angela

PS if anyone knows him or how to get in touch with him let me know