‘And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me. He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me’

I thought being a teenager was the hardest part of having a parent with mental illness

The fighting, the lack of understanding, the fear and the unpredictability

It wasn’t though

I’m 38 years old and the hardest part is right now

When he’s 74 years old and he’s too scared to leave the house

Too scared to drive

Too scared to be home alone

Too scared to go anywhere

It’s hearing the fear in his voice when he asks you to call him bc he’s going to be alone for a few hours

It’s seeing the anxiety manifest in his body movements and in the tightness of his face and wringing of his hands

It’s the pleading in his voice to go to the hospital where he hopes they’ll find something, that is not anxiety

It’s hearing and seeing him lash out in anger because he’s frustrated and helpless in his life

It’s knowing that he’s missing out on life because of this thing he’s battled for over 40 years

It’s coming home after seeing him

And crying uncontrollably

Because you still can’t help him

You still can’t save him

You still feel like the scared kid who’s home alone with him when he’s having a panic attack and you don’t know what to do

You still feel like the teenager whose angry and pissed off at a world that lets this happen to anyone

It’s knowing another day will go by and he won’t have conquered his anxiety

His illness wins again

It seems like it always fucking wins

And I’m afraid that mine will too…

Damaged Goods

Once upon a time

There lived a young woman who’s heart was growing on the outside

You may have heard similar stories of babies born like this

But this young lady’s story was unique

You see, she was born with her heart perfectly intact and enclosed inside her body

But when she was 7 years old, her dad left her and her mom for good

She cried herself to sleep

Every night for a month

She missed him terribly

One morning she woke up and felt a lump under her pjs

It felt like it was moving!

She ran to her moms room

Her mom jumped out of bed and ran to her side

She saw the lump moving with her own eyes

It looked like it had a heart beat

She tore off the young girls shirt

And there her heart sat

Exposed and thumping away

Doctors and hospitals and so many tests

Nobody knew what was going on

All tests showed that the girl was perfectly healthy

Her heart was strong

Except for the strange occurrence of her heart being on the outside

As the young girl began to grow into a teenager

Her heart grew with her

When she experienced emotional pain

Like when another birthday passed, with no word from her dad

Her heart throbbed and little cracks started to form at the edges

Every time it beat, she felt a searing pain and a small rip would appear

It would go away for awhile

And then something else would happen

Like the time she saw her mom crying in the kitchen

Her heart would scream its pain so loud she couldn’t sleep

And her heart ripped apart a little more

It was really bad when she turned 18 and started having panic attacks

She was so worried that her heart would completely rip apart and she would die

And her mom would be all alone

She would wake up in a sweat

Crying and her raw red heart ripping in all the wrong places

This young woman and her mom decided to try to follow the advice of a new doctor

Who recommended that every time a rip would appear

The girl or her mom should get a sewing needle and some thread made out of twine and simply sew it up

This reminded the girl of a time when her cabbage patch lost her arm and her dad sewed her back up

Good as new but with a little scar that showed someone had loved her enough to fix her

They were shocked that this seemed to help

Every time something bad would happen

Her heart would rip a little more

And she or her mom would rush to get their needle and thread

And sew it a little more

Soon, her heart looked like battered war-torn soldiers clothing

All stitched together with black twine

Crissing and crossing all over her heart and in a hundred different directions

She felt even more fragile than she ever had

The only thing keeping her intact

Were haphazardly sewn together stitches

She felt like these stitches were somehow holding her whole life together

To keep her from falling apart any further

She wondered what would be the ultimate thing that would finally pull the stitches apart and leave her heart in pieces

She knew she was damaged goods

Maybe she always had been

Broken, cracked and irreparable

Too damaged to be helped

Like the cabbage patch doll who, after her dad left, suffered too many rips and tears to be put back together

There just wasn’t enough of her heart left to piece together

So she did the only thing she could

She hid the needle and thread and found her dad’s phone number

She sat on her bed and called him up

He picked up and she felt like maybe everything would be okay

She spoke to him for a minute or two

He sounded rushed and annoyed

Suddenly she heard yelling in the background

It sounded like a young boy

He was calling for his dad, telling him dinner was ready

She felt the familiar twinge of her heart ripping apart

Her father told her he was busy and said he would call her some other time and hung up

She sat back and let her heart fall apart

One last time

Later that day her mom found her laying on her perfectly made bed

Her eyes open and lifeless with her broken and bruised

Damaged heart

The Great In-Between

I hate the period of the ‘in between’

It can be anything

Transitioning from jobs, schools, homes etc

To me it’s a period of unrest

A feeling of general unease takes over me

I feel unsettled

As if my feet are not firmly grounded

And I’m at great risk of just floating away

Never to be heard from again

Or maybe spotted somewhere over the Pacific

Aimless and untethered

The ‘in between’ is the start of the unknown

The anticipatory anxiety of what comes next is excruciating

My frazzled mind jumping from one thought to another

And none of them with happy outcomes

I long for this period to be over so that I may feel the firm ground beneath me once again

So that I’m rooted

In place

And somehow finding comfort in being unmovable

Sturdy

Stable

Like a 100 year old tree with roots spread so far apart and deeply ingrained in the earth

I should like that

Very much

After all a 100 year old tree can’t just up and fly away

Not without a serious fight

Hope and all that could have been

What is hope?

When I read the following definition,

‘The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best’

It sounds far too subjective

A feeling

Wanting

Turn out for the best

If this was a gambling game

Who would take odds

Based on nothing more than feelings

Feelings impacted by beliefs, moods, opinions

And with an outcome that could turn out to be any which way

No guarantees

I don’t know

Maybe I’m too skeptical

Too cynical

Jaded

For hope

Or maybe

Hope is too vague

Too unrealistic

Too wishy-washy

For the likes of me

As hard as defining hope is,

Even harder is picturing it

What does hope look like?

I tried conjuring images of different things

Nothing exemplified what hope stands for

It all seemed too cheesy

Blue skies

Green pastures

None of which inspire

Feelings of hope

I guess if I try hard enough

I would say hope looks something like…

Eyes closed

Jaw slack

Relaxed posture

No tension in her body or features

Like she’s found peace

Or at least

Knows it’s coming to her

Calm

Serene

Confident

In knowing

That hope is tangible

And what she has hoped for more anything

Is hers for the taking

Maybe

One day

I will be able to close my eyes

And in a moment

Feel the tension leave my body

My breaths full

And Effortless

The racing thoughts fading away

The dull heaviness of depression being lifted

I wonder who that woman will be?

When everything weighing her down

Is finally gone

And it’s just her

The her that might have been

If life hadn’t turned her into someone else….

It’s never too late

A year and a half ago I only had an appreciation for Art other people created.

I always had creative urges within me.

To do something with hair, make up, my room, my body…To just see art around me.

And then when I needed it most

The ability to create art came to me

I was 37 years old

This wasn’t the way I thought my life would turn out.

I thought I’d be an old cool social worker working with disadvantaged youth…

then life happened…

Maybe through art I’ll find a way to become okay with that.

Maybe this is all part of the story of my life…

Some days are just like that…

I guess this has become like a journal for me

I write here and I don’t care who reads it

Or who doesn’t

It’s cathartic

In ways that I can’t even express

So Dear Diary,

I had a bad day

Maybe a bad few days

After increasing my dose with the gabapentin

It had a really sedating effect on me

I take a lot of other meds so it seems with the increase

I was just being knocked out

So I’m back on the one pill

Still in pain

So I’m not sure where that leaves me

I called the clinic to inquire about a lesser dose

So we’ll see

I also had my monthly labwork

It’s for both Lemtrada

And for my low platelets

The nurse came to the condo again

It didn’t go well

A vein blew

If you have a blown vein, it means that the vein has ruptured and is leaking blood. It happens when a nurse or other healthcare professional attempts to insert a needle into a vein, and things don’t go quite right.

Healthline.com

I’m in a lot of pain

My left hand

My right arm

Today life is hard

Tonight I just want to close my eyes

And hope that when I dream

There is no pain

No fear

No regret

I woke up thinking about my nonna

I don’t know why…

So I’d like to share with you a little about my nonna Concetta

She wore black for like 50 years after my grandfather passed away

She used to have really long hair

I remember being a kid and watching her in wonderment comb it and then put in a bun

She never wore it down so I felt like I had gotten a peak behind the wall

She took care of me during the school week

My cousins and I would go home for lunch and she’d be always be ready for us

It’s funny to me now

But back then she never missed a lunch

She always sat with us

She didn’t eat

I don’t know when she ate her lunch

But during our lunch time as we spoke to each other in English

She sat with us

Just being with us

I remember once my cousin was telling a story and said the word ‘stupid’ to describe someone

And she backhanded him lightening fast

Because she thought he had called her stupid

I remember hiding a grin and a laugh

One time my cousins and I took our time returning after school

We approached with a big group of friends

She was waiting on the veranda

Yelling and screaming in Italian

Putting her hand in between her teeth

I can’t explain it

It’s an Italian thing

Anyway

My cousin was so embarrassed in front of his non Italian friends

That he told everyone our nonna was a witch and had just put a spell on everyone

When no one was around she would sit on the couch and play cards on her lap

But as soon as someone showed up at the door

She’d sweep the evidence under the couch cushion

I don’t know why she didn’t want to be caught playing cards

But it always bothered me

Maybe she felt she’d be judged

I don’t know

As I got older I didn’t see her as much

I didn’t speak to her as much when I did see her

Embarrassed by my broken Italian that I had once spoken well

I’d say the usual greeting and whatnot

But didn’t really talk to her like I once had

We’d go visit her and my cousins would be there

We would sit at the table and laugh and tell stories in English

Reminiscing

And she would sit there

Like old times

Just smiling

Being with us

She got sick and older and frail

I went to the hospital to visit her

It was late at night

My cousin left to get us something from Tim’s

My nonna looked scared

I got up and went by her bed

She looked up at me and I whispered

‘Ti amo tanto Nonna’

She smiled weakly

Eventually she got better

She went home

I visited again

I got a text from my cousin

Saying la nonna had died

It actually autocorrected to the nonna had died

That stood out then

Like she was the only one

She passed away at home

I went to see her one last time

I went to her room

Where she laid in her bed

She looked so small

So frail

So unlike the strong woman I’d looked up to my whole life

There was so much I wanted to say

So much I wanted to thank her for

Time had run out

But it didn’t matter

She knew

I just didn’t realize no words were needed for her to understand

She always did

Ti amo tante e per sempre

‘…how blue the sky appears…blue enough to bruise a heart.’ Sanober Khan

Every time I scan my body for a bruise or petechiae

For the rest of my life

I’ll revert back to this past summer

And the disdain

I felt for my body

For betraying me

Yet again

I thought we’d come to an agreement after I lost my fucking mind in January 2019

I thought we were cool

Ready to coexist

Always together

Anxiety

Panic

Depression

MS

All of it

We were going to get through it all

But those damn blood bruises

A warning sign that my body wasn’t holding up its end of the bargain

Now even though I’m in some sort of remission

I scan my body

Hoping to not see those blotches on my skin

But when I do

Like this evening

I’m suddenly back to Florida in August

Angry

Afraid

Alone

With a body that was turning on me

A body that didn’t feel like mine anymore

I can’t help but miss the days when a stumble was just a misstep

And a bruise

Was just a fucking bruise

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

‘Change Is The Only Constant In Life’

The streets were empty, grey and tragic

It was early morning

Raining gently

After everything had happened…

The shops and houses were in ruins

She could see the inside, the guts of what remained

Wondering mindlessly downtown

What was once such a bustling metropolis

Now deserted

Except for her

She wasn’t sure what she was doing

Why she was even here

She had walked here

After everything…

She thought what was once the heart of this city would hold some answers for her

On what was next

But seeing it like this

Empty and desolate

Only made her think that nothing would ever be the same again

She continued walking

Stepping over large cracks and tattered remains

She made her way to what had been her favourite place

An oasis in the city

Once upon a time anyway…

To read, to listen to music, to people watch

Now it was just a blank canvas

She stood in the middle

Where a fountain had been

She circled around

Examining everything from that formerly central spot

It was quiet and sort of peaceful actually

It was never peaceful

Even back when she would sit around on the benches

There had always been a low level hum of noise

Of a city on the verge of erupting

Now there was just…nothing

A thought occurred to her

She quite enjoyed the nothingness

After so much chaos, it was a balm for her shattered nerves

She headed to where the grass had once been

Laid down across scorched earth

Put her hands behind her head

Felt the gentle pitter patter of rain on her skin

Looked up into the wide endless sky

The clouds were clearing

She peered upwards

Fixated on a spot where a brilliant blue began to spread

She closed her eyes

She felt a change in the air

A shift within herself

Somehow she knew

This was just the beginning

And then in what surely must have been the first time in months

She smiled…