What I wish you knew

Once upon a time I saw a medium

Who told me that someone very close to me has been living their entire life with one foot in the grave

I thought to myself then as I still do now

That it was the most perfect way to describe this person

As a loved one of this person

It’s frustrating and maddening that they can’t shake it off

And see the love around them

Now as a person who can relate all too well

It’s frustrating for a different reason

The people around don’t understand

They don’t understand why that one foot stays firmly planted in the grave

They don’t see how hard it is to keep the other foot out of that fucking grave

They don’t get the difficulty making it through one day is, one function, one more appointment

I wish they knew…

It’s like constantly treading water to keep my head above it

My limbs feel exhausted

My brain keeps wondering when it’s an acceptable time to admit defeat and give up

My heart feels hollow

There’s a bone weary tiredness that permeates throughout every cell in my body and into my brain

I can go to sleep sometimes and sleep for hours

Wake up and feel like it’s never enough

Or I can lie in bed staring at the ceiling

Thinking that if I wished hard enough

I could make this all go away

I’m 36 years old

I can’t even remember a time before this

That’s fucked up

I mean

Surely I know there was one

I just can’t for the life of me picture myself in it

The present is like living in a post apocalyptic world

Where everything is bleak, tarnished and there is no hope

I can say for certain

This is not an enjoyable place to be

Living this way is not only exhausting

It’s also like having a flu you can’t shake off

No matter how many medications you’ve tried and doctors you’ve seen

Yet, even with the desire to feel better

The flu rages on

When you can’t remember a before

And you can’t see a future

The world becomes very narrow

It becomes the perfect setting for a dystopian society in a novel

Of which, one may want to read about

But no one wants to actually live in

It feels like I’ve become the main character in this novel

Searching for a way out

Up against opponents like doctors, employers, insurers

Trying to find allies

Unsure of who you can really trust

Like every good story

There’s a time constraint

I start to fear that I’m running out of time

I’ve read so many books where someone who needs help

Gets saved by a hero

In some form

I know that my story is different

There is no one coming to save the day

It’s just me

Still trying to find some way to fully live in this world

With both my feet firmly planted on the ground beneath me

‘I Am Not A Teacher, But An Awakener.’ – Robert Frost

Not everyone can remember the exact moment when they had their first life changing moment

I can

I was in grade two

We were gathered around on the floor waiting to meet our new teacher

Everyone was excited and nervous

A little background:

I’d gone to the same school since Junior Kindergarten

It was a Catholic elementary school

With predominantly Italian-Canadian kids like me

The teachers were mostly Italian descent as well

They were all what you’d picture elementary school teachers to look and dress like

I liked my teachers enough

I liked school enough

And then Art walked in

Right into my grade two classroom

I knew things wouldn’t be the same

My jaw dropped, along with pretty much all the other kids

It was a woman with platinum blonde crimped hair and she wore a sorta green taffeta Victorian style dress

She had thick black eyeliner and red lip stick and pointy boots

I had never seen something so beautiful before

While the other kids were murmuring to each other that she they thought she looked kinda weird

I just sat there

And thought ‘I want to be just like her when I grow up’

I was lucky enough to have Ms. T as my teacher, 3 times over the years

She was so artistic and creative

And I loved the creative writing prompts she would give us

Where I could write whatever I wanted

We would read in front of the class

Which undoubtedly gave me the confidence that I still have today, to enjoy public speaking (somewhat of a rarity for anxiety-sufferers)

I can’t even count how many times she told me how much she believed in me, even standing up for me, when it was appropriate

Me

A little girl, then a 10 year old brat and lastly a weird 12 year old unsure of her place in the world

She would often see me standing waiting for the bus after school

And would drive me home

I absolutely loved those moments

When I felt I had a special connection with her that the other kids didn’t have

I looked forward to seeing her yellow Jeep driving down the street towards me

I’d sit in the front passenger seat and chat

I left the Jeep positively glowing

Even now when I look back on my memories, it comes with a sort of magic

Which is fitting since I was sure she was a witch with her clothes, shoes and makeup

But not the scary kinda witch that kids are often afraid of

No, Ms. T was the good witch

The one that carried a little bit of magic in her Victorian lace pockets

The magic that made me love learning and writing

Sprinkling just enough of it for me to feel so at ease and happy in her presence

When I got into high school

I was already expressing myself differently

Dying my hair

And wearing all black

Later painting my eyes black

And so on

Life had shifted so dramatically

Where I once loved to learn with an amazing teacher

Now I was often being kicked out of class for not wearing the uniform to the various teachers liking

I hated English classes almost more than any

I had two different teachers

That would pick on me mercilessly in front of the entire class

About my make up

About my hair

About my jewellery

About me

I wish I could tell you it didn’t bother me

But it had a profound effect on me

I started to hate school and resent these teachers

Most authority figures too

In the dreaded math class where I struggled the most

I was kicked out so often that I got frustrated and annoyed

I remember saying to the teacher and later to the Vice Principal

That it just didn’t make any sense

To kick me out of a class that I’d needed the most help with

I grew disenfranchised and apathetic to learning

I skipped school a lot

What was the point, I’d probably get kicked out for a uniform infraction or another

I’d see other girls often not even in uniform, and they’d make it through, completely unscathed

Over the years I’d still run into Ms. T and she always made me feel just as special as that kid who got rides in her Jeep

I couldn’t understand how she could be in the same profession as these other teachers who seemed to care more about deterring young women from figuring out who they were than of any real learning

In grade eleven, there was a new Principal and she hated me on sight

There was a meeting held

I think my father came

I can’t remember much of it

I hated school

I didn’t want to leave my friends

But I couldn’t keep doing this

The meeting had a lot to do with the school urging me to change my ‘look’

Or face the consequences

Not change my behaviour

Just the way I looked

I’d been told by my family numerous times

That it would be so much easier if I could just change

I knew they were trying to help what was becoming a horrible situation

I just couldn’t do it

I remember once my best friend and I swapped outfits as a joke

She wore my ripped shorts and flannel with a band tee and I wore her neatly pressed button up blouse with dressy shorts

I felt like my skin was crawling

I don’t know how else to explain it

I felt fake

I felt like everyone could see me without my clothes on

To have changed my outward appearance was simply not an option for me

I left the school

I went to an alternative public school

Which was the polar opposite of what I was used to

In every imaginable way

I still stood out, it just wasn’t a big deal

I wish I could say I was able to get back what I’d lost

That love of learning

But by this point I just wanted to graduate and never look back

I missed my friends most of whom I’d known since elementary school

I missed being around kids of the same culture I’d grown up in

It was kinda a culture shock

I remember urging my parents not to attend graduation

Fearful of how much they would stand out in a sea of waspy parents

Ironic right?

Sure I was lucky enough to have awesome teachers once again

Even one who let me focus my entire Independent Studies in Anarchy as a political ‘structure’

I still smile at that

Unfortunately, I never enjoyed school the way I had previously

I look back at my life of the years

Of course I think maybe it would have been easier if I’d somehow chosen on a different path

But it just never felt like a choice

Truthfully, I cannot imagine it any other way

I don’t think I really even want to

And I’m certain that Ms. T walked into my classroom and changed the trajectory of my life in the best way possible

I hope she knows for that, I will always be grateful

Through the difficulties, through it all

I can unequivocally say that the one thing I’m completely comfortable in, is my own skin and who I am as an individual

Which so many people, never seem to achieve

More-so, I’m confident in who I am

I owe it to Ms. T

After all, she steered me clear of becoming anything but boring

‘Sippin on Chemical Cocktails. Alive to the Universe. Dead to the World.’ Allen Ginsberg

Welcome to today

A toxic wasteland

Once upon a time, beautiful skies now covered in thick layers of smog

Politicians waxing poetic about illegal aliens, poverty and guns

People lining up with arms outstretched hoping to get a handful of something

Plastic celebrities famous for nothing more than their celebdom, and no one will care in a hundred years

Youth huddled in groups with silence stretched out between them the only sound the tap tap tapping of their fingers on their phones

Children losing their chance at an idyllic childhood to YouTube or Snapchat or or or

Crying babies born brought into a world that gives them no other choice but to cry from the beginning

Adults consumed with the need to consume more of everything

The elderly forgotten and dismissed as foolish because they don’t know how to exist in this crazy messed up universe we’ve created

People all around walking so aimlessly, more intrigued with their handheld devices than the meteor showers of chaos happening all around them

Roads and lanes and cities and towns bursting at the seams with people and need and urgency for hope

Losing sight of what’s important

Even with reminders from the enlightened that we’re destroying the earth, humanity, kindness and losing everything pure in this world

Put down your phone

Look around

Blink

And

Before you know it

It’s already gone

And

You can’t remember a time

Before

Maybe, just maybe…

I’ve started Project Taper Paxil on Sunday

I worked myself into a frenzy anticipating what might happen

I took an extra Ativan to get some peace

I saw my doctor yesterday and he reminded me that I could have put off starting Project Taper Paxil for another week

But I didn’t

Evidence to support the theory that I’m stronger than I think

The doctor mused that it’s been a tough year for me

I guess it has, hasn’t it?

I can pretty much unequivocally say this is not where I thought I would be at this point of my life

At 36 years old

I had hoped for something very different

And that’s even with several revisions

But what do you do when that path leads you to a dead end?

If you’re like me,

You might spend too much time retracing your footsteps over and over again

Trying to figure out how you got it so damn wrong

Did you miss a turn?

Did something lead you astray?

Or were you just unlucky enough to end up on that path to nowhere?

If you’re like me,

You don’t have answers to any of those questions

But you just can’t fathom starting all over again

Finding a new path to walk

Wishing that this new path will be the right one

Hoping that it won’t become another dead end

But

Maybe this time you won’t care about the destination

But

Maybe this time you’ll be content with the journey

And

Maybe this time it will be exactly what you needed all along

And

Maybe, just maybe

You’ll be happy

At last

Day 1 of 3 Quote Challenge

Thanks to the lovely Alyssa for her nomination. She has similar struggles as I do but yet seems to handle the challenges with a grace most could only dream to possess. Read more at Alyssa’s blog

I imagine anyone who knows me knows how much I love words, lyrics, poems, books etc and I could seriously cover my entire body in the quotes that have made me feel something and not regret one line.

My first quote is attributed to Robert Frost.

Excuse the bubble bath on the last word. 😬

What I love about this quote is that it says so much without revealing a single thing. You can feel how much the author has been through. How much life has thrown at him. And that at the end of the day, the thing you can really take away from life’s alleged lessons, is that it continues. The world keeps spinning, people keep moving. There’s something so comforting in that knowledge.

I’d like to nominate the following three bloggers to take part in the quote challenge:

Steve who motivates and inspires me to continue to write. He’s even written a book! Check out Steve’s blog

Second blogger nomination is Caz. Caz is supportive, encouraging and knows too well the struggles of a warrior. She writes about real life. Read her blog at Caz’s blog

Last but certainly not least is Jay-lyn, whose writing conjures up powerful images and is a fellow warr;or. Read her words at Jay-lyn’s blog.

Worlds Worst Employee

Chronic absenteeism

Those words keep repeating in my head

Sick days

Can’t get out of bed days

Anxious days

On and on

I can’t even use Multiple Sclerosis as an excuse

It started way before that

Somewhere in between my first real job in the industry and getting married

There were so many bad days

I wish I could say I know why it all happened

I didn’t know then and I don’t know now

It’s embarrassing when a supervisor calls you into their office to talk about your frequent absences and not the quality of your work

I can’t remember what I disclosed then

I was naive and thought people in positions of power cared

Especially in a field such as mine

But chronic absenteeism isn’t forgivable even in the best circumstances

I found that out quickly

I had a boss once who understood me

I can’t say enough about her

She didn’t judge me or make me feel less than

But then she was replaced

And when she moved on, she left a note for the next person in charge advising them to overlook the absences because in her words I was ‘worth it’

It got worse after I was diagnosed with MS

The chronic absenteeism, that is

I had a few supervisors that tried to understand

Or maybe they just overlooked it because they too thought I was ‘worth it’

That’s my wish

But I don’t know and can’t speculate on the why

There were some uncomfortable conversations where I hung my head with guilt and embarrassment weeping from my pores and tried to explain my life

In words that didn’t sound like excuses

Even though I’m sure that’s how they sounded

I know they did

Because my own ears heard it that way as well

Here I am now

10 years post finding out struggling with mental illness isn’t a valid reason for missing work

5 years post learning that adding MS to that equation doesn’t add up to stellar employee record

Decades after my father stopped working for similar reasons

Now at 36 years old I’ve built up a track record that includes words like ‘chronic absenteeism’ coupled with sentences like ‘when she’s there, man she’s good’

Where does that leave me?

With an ultimatum of having my doctor evaluate me and my frequent absences and ask for a modified work schedule which would likely lead to my relocation to another program (if possible)

Or quitting/going on long term disability like my father did so many years before me

Tackling the latter; quitting would leave me in a precarious financial situation

Going on long term disability would mean I’m off of work at 36 years old with a brain that doesn’t do well left to its own devices

Trust me, I’ve seen what it did to my father

The alternative is going to my doctor with forms and chronic absenteeism on my tongue

And that would leave me in a state of limbo

Where my fate is left in the hands of an employer that I have lost all faith in

For them to decide if they can accommodate me

Really for them to decide if I’m worth accommodating

Or to find another program to stick me in

Like a dirty little secret

Where the powers that be will dump me onto the unsuspecting supervisor

I wonder what their track record included for them to have gotten stuck with the likes of me;

The Worlds Worst Employee

When it rains, it pours. Oh the irony

Letter from HR to my union. My notes in italicized bold type

‘Please note, Angela has since put in a request for a medical leave of absence, beginning May 1, 2018 for one or two months. We will need to address this request separately.

(And yet here it is)

1. What is your specific concern with regards to staffing the program?

This program is designed to provide in classroom support for the students and the staff. That requires that a staff person is available for the entirety of the time in class for the days on which class is scheduled. In other words our employee schedule is depending on the school calendar and timelines. In short, 5 days a week/for any days the school is open. Holiday, vacation and other time off are to be scheduled in accordance with the school calendar, as outlined in our Policies and Procedures.

When an employee is unable to attend class 5 days a week, employer has an on call roster of employees that can fill in on short notice, however, this backup process is intended to manage one off absences, not a continuous number of them.

In Angela’s case, as you will see, her absenteeism has resulted in a significant drain on our on call roster resources.

(There has been no coverage for the bulk of this year so how could their possibly be a drain on resources?)

2. What particularly has the impact been on the program on account of Angela’s absences?

The impact of Angela’s significant absenteeism has been many. On the front end there has been the impact as described above on the drain on our limited on call resources to fill the day in the event of an absence. Secondly, the point of the program is to provide on-site support to the staff at the school and to support and provide monitoring to the students in the program. Absenteeism means that the on-site support to the staff and the student support and monitoring don’t happen, leaving the on-site staff with more to manage, when coverage is not available, putting a strain on school resources as well.

Additionally, as the Counsellor for this program, Angela is expected to develop a rapport and relationship with the students and their family on-site in the school environment. If she is not able to be in class regularly it is difficult to establish, develop and maintain solid relationships. Finally, we have been approached by the school and program supervisors, clearly indicating that her absenteeism has been a strain in their staff and the program and cannot continue.

If employer cannot manage the situation, we could potentially be at risk of losing the program, and the funding, resulting in layoffs.

(I’ve been repeatedly told by my direct supervisor and collaterals that my ability to build rapport and engagement with these youth is superior bar none. That seems very contradictory given the above statements. Furthermore could it be that school admin is upset as a result of being notified about my absences when they have never been in the past?)

4. You’ve remarked on Angela’s level of absence from work over the past two years, yet there has been no acknowledgment from you of the fact that she was on a modified work schedule during most of that time; please substantiate these statements you have made with detailed analysis of absences for the last two years, as we would like to see a comprehensive listing please.

I have appended a summary of Angela’s attendance records for 2016, 2017, and 2018, plus some brief notes on her reduced work for 2015.

You will note that even when on an accommodated reduced hours work schedule, which we acknowledged, Angela has demonstrated that she has not been able to attend work for 5 days a week with any consistency, such as to address the issues that have arisen as a result of the significant amount of time off.

I trust this provides sufficient background and information to understand our position requesting medical as it relates to Angela’s ability to attend work 5 days a week to meet the requirements of the program.

(‘Even while on a accommodated work schedule Angela has demonstrated that she has not been able to attend work for 5 days a week’ . Does anyone else see the pure ridiculousness of this comment? As that would have been the point of needing the accommodation no???)

 

I look forward to your response and the medical that has been requested.’

What an awesome and unusual way to hit me while I’m down. 👍🏼

And I feel super supported not at all stressed, embarrassed and I definitely don’t feel like this is contributing to my extraordinarily shitty health at the moment!! Thanks!

I want to dance in the rain

I don’t want to be that person above that sits impatiently waiting for the huge storm to pass

With tired eyes and a listless body

I don’t want to be the person that misses out on the feelings of being alive you only get while dancing in the rain

With a heavy heart and a restless soul

I don’t want to be the person that sits and sits wondering when the storm will end

I do want to be the person that makes the best of what the storm is offering

I do want to be the person that can revel in magic of the strongest storms

I do want to be the person that can revel in the beauty of the sun coming out after a dark storm

But what do you do when your body and your mind and your soul are all operating at different levels of abilities?

Your body wants to sleep

Your mind wants to give up

And your soul vacillates between wanting to run and wanting to steal someone else’s happiness

Some days my body can’t go on

And I have to call in sick from life

And I have to sleep

And I have to hope that rest will be what my body is needing

Some days my mind’s suffering is so strong

And I need to escape from life

And I need to sleep

And I need to hope that I either won’t wake up or that I’ll wake up whole again? For the first time?

My favourite are the days when my soul is screaming the loudest that it can’t be ignored and I have no choice in the matter

And I just live

And I just laugh

And I just love

So fully

So heartily

So fucking strongly

That I hope it will be enough to keep me going

On the days when my body and my mind are all I can listen to

And I can’t remember what the rain drops felt like cooling my skin as I danced and danced under the magical stormy sky

I want to box it up

With tape and bubble wrap

And beautiful hopefulness

I can replace my broken heart with it

I can replace my damaged mind with it

And I can live the way my soul wants me to

Never simply waiting for the storm to pass

Always dancing to the chaos of the rain drops

The only way me soul expects me to…

A typical sick day in the life of a youth worker

I woke up after being text messaged and called by one of the youths in the class.

I’m half asleep and he hears it in my voice and asks if he woke me up. When I answer in the affirmative he asks if I’ll be at school.

When I say no he gets sucky that I won’t be at school today.

I tell him I’m glad he’s going to school though and I futilely try to explain that I’m sick but he’s already telling me the reason for his phone call.

There’s bad shit brewing between one of the boys and the only girl in the class.

My sleepy brain can only comprehend the words picture, Snapchat, cops, arrest. I sit up now but the kid’s taxi has come to take him to school.

Of course I’m wide awake now, so I attempt some damage control with a member of my team in the classroom.

It’s like a potential war zone in there and we gotta be prepared for catastrophes at any minute.

Okay he’s been forewarned, I feel better about my absence.

I can’t get back to sleep now because all I keep thinking is what the hell was that kid talking about this morning?

Wait did he say cops?

Shit I think he may have mentioned something about a charge.

I head downstairs I need coffee stat.

I finally hear back from the kid who fills me in on the entire story and all the gory details.

I won’t share, you’d thank me if you knew what I was leaving out.

The kid is talking to me from the class phone but he’s in the hallway. Even from home I tell him to lower his voice so he doesn’t get into trouble.

As he fills me in detail by excruciating detail I’m already planning how the problem solving will go.

I need to get in touch with my team. We gotta be preemptive in this. Gotta get ahead of the chaos.

Before I let him go, I make sure he’s got food at home.

He does but he gets distracted because the bell between classes has rung and he starts talking about all the cute shorties in the halls.

I remind him that I’m his youth worker not his homeboy.

He laughs and says he knows but I’m his closest (albeit) only youth worker.

He keeps talking about the shorty at the locker so I ask if he’s still trying to win back his girl, he doesn’t see the connection.

I tell him I’ll see him tomorrow.

I call my team one by one to fill them in.

Unlike you all, they aren’t exempt from hearing all the details.

I don’t even stumble over my words when I give them the inside scoop. They like me aren’t surprised by where this story has gone.

We predicted this outcome but no one really listened.

We tell each other that tomorrow we will detail with it all.

We work out a bit of game plan.

We hang up telling each other that tomorrow we will be there.

That we will do what we have to do to get through the morning classes and our afternoon meeting.

I hang up and I start thinking about my job and this little team of mine. And how we are all so isolated from our respective coworkers.

No one else really gets it like my team does.

It’s like some kind of platoon back from the war, you tell people the shit you’ve seen but they just don’t get it.

But your little team, well there’s a mutual understanding that if we don’t laugh at some of the shit that goes on, we’d go mad.

So anyway this triad of mine, they’ve got my back and me, theirs. And tomorrow we’ll suit up to face another day in a contained classroom with these kids that sometimes love us, sometimes hate us and sometimes just want us to shut the fuck up so they can go home.

And those sentiments, I am quite sure we have each muttered to ourselves on any given day.

Another day, another💲

The fire and the damage done

My life has been compartmentalized into three sections

Before anxiety

During anxiety

And after anxiety

Before anxiety I was 17 years old

Naive to the world in so many ways

And somehow also much wiser than I should have had any right to be

Before anxiety doesn’t feel like a long period of time

And I can’t help but look back upon with a wistfulness

Because I did not know then how bad it would get

During anxiety was a vast period of time where days and months have blended together to give me only a drug addled memory of what it was like

I remember fear and ambulances and hospitals

And the overwhelming sense of dread that things would never be good again

I remember wanting so desperately for there to be a reprieve

From the thoughts racing in my brain

Chasing away my sleep and my appetite

And it never came

Until it did

I fought my way back

So hard

Until it became

After anxiety

I can’t even remember the moment where I realized I could go out without needing to be extra medicated

I feel like I should remember that

I should remember the exact moment that I didn’t need to clutch a bottle of water in my hand to face the world

I want to remember the exact second in time that I stopped having to counter every anxious thought that popped into my brain

The best I can remember

Is that it happened

And somehow

The last thought before bed wasn’t about having a panic attack

And the first thought upon waking wasn’t about having a panic attack

I feel like maybe if I remembered those moments in time

I wouldn’t have taken it for granted

And maybe just maybe

I wouldn’t be where I am right now

Triggered by a situation outside of my control

Feeling like once again the world is a scary dark place

That I need to protect myself from

Because that’s it really

That’s the thought that I cannot talk myself out of

I can’t provide evidence to counter that thought

Yes of course there is good in the world too

I know that

The yin and yang and all that

But that doesn’t change that fact that I am afraid of how the world will fuck with me

And why?

Because I have solid evidence that reminds me I am right to be fearful

To feel the need to protect myself

To feel the unnerving desire to flee

And I’m afraid that no amount of good will ever change that

Just because you put salve on after the burn

Doesn’t mean you can’t remember the excruciating pain that the burn caused you

Doesn’t mean you don’t still have the scars where the blisters bubbled up angry and red

It doesn’t mean you can go back to what it was like before the fire changed you

Marked you as it’s victim

Sure you can cover it up

Pretend it didn’t happen

Or maybe you wear it proudly

Tough as nails like you’re nobody’s victim

But the next time there’s a fire and those flames flicker a little too close

Instantaneously you are transported back to the moment

When the flames claimed you

And you cannot help

But to take a step back

You won’t let yourself get burned again

Not this time