Perennial

Plant me, 
watch me grow. 
Water me, 
nourish my soul
with
love and tenderness. 
Let my leaves and
petals fall;
I am meant to wither
from time to 
time. 
Give me your
blessing,
allow me to 
be reborn.
I will always 
push through the
constraints of 
the gardens of life.
Shine your sun

onto me, 
as I sprout through
the tightly packed
earth formed
by my mind.
Be patient with me, 
I need time to 
come home. 
But I promise, 
I always will. 

Survivor’s Lament

They told her
run, run, run,
but not too fast,
you should
let them chase you.

They urge her to 
quiet, quiet, quiet,
tell no one of 
this battle.

She wanted to
go, go, go,
anywhere other than
where they were,
and to hold onto
her innocence.

All they do is
take, take, take,
everything from
the ones they catch.

But frozen she
stood, stood, stood,
her brain unable
to tell her lips.

She longed to
scream, scream, scream,
but she could not
find the words.

They looked at her and
laughed, laughed, laughed,
her lament providing
them with a sitcom’s
worth of humor.

Eventually they
lost, lost, lost,
interest in her
and walked away.

They left her there to
melt, melt, melt,
away with her memories
of her ordeal. 

She finally
screamed, screamed, screamed,
but she
knew, knew, knew,
that it was in
vain, vain, vain, 
because it was her word against their’s
and who would they
believe, believe, believe?

Where is the Light on Men’s Mental Health?

“Be a man.”
“Men don’t cry.”
“Men are strong.”
“A man does what he must- in spite of personal consequences.”

Why do we tell men that feelings are these awful things and that crying is bad? Why do we teach young boys to shut their feelings out and ignore them in the spirit of “being a man”? We live in a world that values braun and bravery over sensitivity and emotional intelligence and it is an extremely harmful way of thinking.

The world has made great strides with regards to the conversations surrounding mental health, but I believe that there is still a long way to go, especially when it comes to men’s mental health. We have come a long way in terms of our thinking surrounding mental health, it is not always looked at as a weakness or something made up. But there are still some really negative thoughts and voices out there in the world.

Something I have noticed is the drastic differences in the ways women’s and men’s mental health are looked at. Women are typically seen as fragile, or delicate (I don’t agree with this but that’s for another time and place), and it’s almost like these stereotypes make it easier for people to hear about women living with mental illnesses.  Men are typically seen as strong, brave, and without emotions. They grow up being told to “be a man” and that “men don’t cry.” What kind of people does this breed? This teaches young men that their feelings and emotions are things to push away and that they are bad. This teaches young men that they have nowhere to go to ask for help if they need it because they will be seen as weak, or scared. It’s stereotypes like these that seem to make it difficult for people to understand that men can and do struggle with mental illnesses.

Why do we send children into the world thinking that they will be looked down upon or seen as less than for reaching out for help? Why do we do this and then wonder why they encounter problems?

This is something that I struggle to grasp. Mental illness does not discriminate when it comes to the people it affects, men and women can and do both suffer from all mental illnesses- and we know this. We have been shown the statistics, and we have heard people speak out. So why do we continue to perpetuate stereotypes that encourage men to hide their problems in secret?

In recent years, there has been an onslaught of women of notoriety coming forward with their stories of living with mental illness. While there have been a few men of similar statuses to share their own stories, there seems to be a far smaller amount. Where is the voice for men’s mental health? Where is the voice telling men that feelings are okay and that it’s okay to cry or ask for help? Where is the voice telling them that those stereotypes, and those moulds they were told to fit into are wrong? Where is the voice telling them that their feelings are valid and that they are just as worthy of support as anyone else and that if they reach out for support it doesn’t make them less of a man?

I don’t know where the voice is that can give us an updated definition of a man, but for the world’s sake, I hope we find it soon.

The Queen of the Castle

I sat in my tower, 
way up high
and I watched the scene
with a smile on my face. 

I watched the bridges 
of our past
go up in flames. 

I smiled because
even though you lit
the matches and started 
the fires all those
years ago, 
I threw gas on our fucking 
bridges, and I was happy
to watch them burn
worse than the hell
they were made of.

The D Word

I want to talk about depression. 

I was first told I had depression when I was around the age of sixteen; this was not news to me. By the age of sixteen I was (thankfully) about two years free of self harm but I would be lying if I said that my life had gotten significantly easier. I was living with my mind being in a constant overdrive of feelings. I was experiencing these intense emotions that I just could not understand. I have memories of crying fora seemingly endless amount of time and having no idea what was making me so upset. When my family doctor listened to things I was telling her and them presented me with depression, I was not surprised, but I was scared. I didn’t tell my parents she had said this to me. I didn’t think I could. I was scared that it wouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone: friends, family, teachers, or coaches. I was worried that people would think I just wanted attention, or that they would think I was just weak.

That was six years ago. I wish I could say that things have gotten better for me; sometimes it really feels like they have and at other times I feel like I’m worse off than when I started.

Depression, at its core, is a chemical imbalance of the brain. It has been proven that depending on the levels of certain chemicals your brain produces can have a huge effect on someone’s likelihood to develop depression. Now this is not to say that there are not other factors that play into someone developing depression; there are likely going to be emotional factors, environmental factors, certain circumstances or perhaps even genetics. All of this to say- having depression does not make someone weak. I (now) personally think it’s quite the opposite.

Within the past twelve months, my depression has unfortunately been extremely present in my life and I’ve encountered some stuff that just bothers me. Considering depression affects over 5% of the Canadian population aged fifteen and older, I thought I’d share these things in hopes that someone takes them to heart and avoids some potentially awkward interactions.

  1. Just because I live with depression does not mean that I do not have other feelings. What I mean by this is that let’s say I (a person living with depression) get hurt or offended by something, it does not mean in any way that it is because of my depression. Now for a drastic comparison take someone with a cold/sore throat and let’s say someone punches them in the throat and says that it only hurt because they have a cold? Does that make sense? No. So if you do or say something to me and I get hurt or offended and I try and explain that to you, please do not say that it’s “just your depression acting up.” What I interpret that as is someone saying to me that my feelings are not actually valid and that were I not a person living with depression, the thing that someone did to offend me wouldn’t matter.
  2. Depression is not all that I am. I get that people like to talk to me about my mental health, in fact I love being open about it and doing my part to create conversation surrounding mental health. However, I like it to be remembered that there is so much more to me than just my diagnosis. I’m a social service worker, a daughter, a sister, a proud cat mama, a writer, a fiancé, a graduate and so many other things. So next time you’re telling me a story about someone else you may have met who also lives with depression and refer to them as “someone like you,” please just take a beat, and reconsider your wording.
  3. Please stop suggesting ways for me to feel better. Look I appreciate it when people try to help me. But the amount of times I have had people tell me that exercise is going to magically cure my depression is so frustrating. I have an academic and professional background in social work, I’ve read the studies and understand them. I know that physical activity can sometimes be a huge help for people living with depression. But what I also know is that when I am at my lowest points of depression, I have little to no energy and the last thing on my mind is exercising. The thing that is hard for people to grasp is just how debilitating depression can be and that a lot of the suggested remedies are the very things that depression makes it hard for me to do. If you know someone living with depression and they come to you for advice, that’s one thing. But giving unsolicited advice is ridiculous. Unless you’re a doctor of some sort, if I haven’t asked for it, maybe I don’t want your advice.
  4. Understand that taking medication is acceptable. I’m sure you’ve all seen that picture on Facebook- a split screen image where the top has a picture of a gorgeous forest and says “This is an antidepressant” and the bottom image is of some pills and says “This is shit.” I have so many issues with this image that it would take me countless pages to describe. Depression is so much more than just being sad, for me it is sometimes the inability to get out of bed, the inability to properly take care of myself in so many ways. Getting out into a forest would do nothing for me when I am in those states. Medication helps with what depression is at its core- a chemical imbalance. Please do not belittle someone for taking medication for an illness; you wouldn’t say that to someone receiving treatment for a physical illness and this is no different. Someone taking medication is trying to get better and trying to recover and it is a hard enough road without those kinds of comments. (See image below for reference.)Anti

All this being said, remember that depression does not look the same in everyone. If you want to be the best possible friend/loved one/partner/supporter etc., to someone living with depression, the best thing to do is to ask them what they need from you and really listen. Understand that sometimes they may not know what they need because navigating a chemically imbalanced brain is hard and that’s okay. Be an open ear for them and do your best to be what they need; they’ll thank you for it one day.

First Ruined Second

Her first love
was not real
or true.

He threw words
at her,
they cut her
deeper than knives.

Her first love
broke her
in ways that
no one saw.

By the time
she found a love
that was real and
true,
she did not believe
she was deserving.

She basked in
the glow of
the fire of
their love
and she grew to
think she deserved it.

But every now
and then,
she remembers
that first, fake love
and wonders if the
other show will ever drop.

20/20

They told us
that if the boys
were mean to us

it meant they liked us. 

So from a when I was
a small flower not yet bloomed
I equated lust
and love to desire

and meanness. 

The first time 
he called me stupid,
and yelled in my face

I thought it was love. 

The first time 
he told me that I
was worthless

I accepted it as normal. 

When he called 
me fat
I thought it was normal
and I made myself believe 

he meant it in a good way.

When he threw
things and got angry
and scared me,

I thought it was because he cared about me.

When he tore
me down
to bits of nothingness and
ripped my petals off of me

I told myself that he was mean because he loved me.

If they had told me
that boys being mean
to girls
was wrong,
and that true love
lets you bloom to your
full flowery potential

maybe I would have walked away sooner.

Vice

First comes the burn;
painful but not too much
& welcomed. 

Then comes the high;
what the cravings are
made of. 

It is followed by a pang of remorse;
wondering if it
is really worth it. 

that doesn’t last long.

Next is the thrill of the hunt;
grasping at air,
searching for even a shred of hope. 

Despair ensues as it crashes in;
it feels like drowning,
all consuming.

Last is the downward spiral;
it all falls apart,
and you question every last bit of it… before the cycle starts anew.