An Almost Remembrance

There are many things I can say
about what I remember.
The rough sheets.
The large, round vanity mirror across the room.
The lace-trimmed curtains
that painted the light a cold blue
to set upon the bedroom walls.
The shoddy baseboard moulding,
separating and bloated with moisture.
The air, cold and cruel and always
smelling of damp pine needles.
The sounds of city life
not quite fifty feet from the door.
The scent of green tea and sticky rice
drifting in from the neighbouring suite.

I exhale heavily and close my eyes.
I am recounting facts again.
Tonight is about peeling back
a layer of skin and revealing what’s inside:
the guts along with the glory.
But I am hesitant,
unsure of what is too much too fast.
I’m still raw and unpolished,
and I don’t really understand
what details will set people’s teeth on edge.
I take a sip of wine
and hold it in my mouth,
letting the flavour coat my
tongue and cheeks.
I’m not as tipsy as I was last time.
Maybe the subject is too sobering.

Light peeks in
through the slatted window blinds
and I realize the chance
to prolong the inevitable.
For now, time is my ally.
I twist the lid back on the bottle
and fall into feather pillows
and cream linen sheets,
and am crooned to sleep
by my fuzzy best friend.

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Naked, Drunk, and Writing

When I was a kid it seemed so much easier to get words down on paper. I had impressed my fifth-grade teacher with sunsets described in brilliant hues and that had planted seeds of hope that one day I would be a writer. I carried a journal everywhere I went and scribbled notes about affectations and read the dictionary to broaden my vocabulary. Perplexity was my favourite word.

In grade nine I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, at the encouragement of my English and Humanities teacher. The workshops were forgettable and overpriced but I convinced myself that I was a real writer in a room full of other like minds. There was a poetry workshop in which the guest writer literally told us to look at random objects in the room – ceiling tiles, table legs, coffee-stained nylon carpeting – and compose a poem. My inner asshole scoffed at the joke of a class but I maintained a polite facade in the interest of feeling like an artist.

In my senior years of high school I took on the role of writer, editor, and copy editor for the student-run school newspaper. ‘Saders Ink: the brain child of the intellectual minority student populace. The publication was mostly a place for the honour roll students to bitch about socio-economic inequalities; thus, it was a flop of a project. It turned out the stoners didn’t care much about our political ramblings. Enthusiasm waned and the newspaper just… fell apart.

I didn’t write much after high school. Years passed and life did what life does best and eventually I accepted that I was never going to be a writer. I turned away from anything remotely related to the creative writing community out of self-preservation and focused on logic and fact and method. I was devoid of expression. I landed a job in accounting and clung to the comfort of the process like a life raft. I had never really made peace with my non-future as a writer, because you can’t really make peace with something that you avoid, and soon the wound began to ache in an almost imperceptible way. Like the way your ears pop when you change altitude, or the taste of yogourt that’s just started to turn. I knew something was wrong but I had no way to describe it.

Some years later I started attending group therapy sessions for female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Part two of the three-part group was to write your story as a survivor. I really struggled with the exercise; because I had not flexed my writing muscles in so long, I no longer knew how to describe or even identify my experience as a survivor.

I was emotionally stunted and it had begun to show in even simple social interactions. I could no longer carry on conversations because I simply could not find the words. I was loathe to let people in – as cliche as that sounds – because I didn’t know how to speak emotionally. I was adept at stating the facts of my life, “Hi, my name is Shannon, and I was beaten and molested as a child. How are you?” because I could always count on cold, hard facts. But I spoke about myself as an observer, and that kind of separation from your own experiences tends to turn people off.

Neil Gaiman’s advice to aspiring writers is to just write. He’s got the right idea, for sure. Since I first sat myself down and struggled with writing my first post on this blog, I feel that not only can I write, but I am a writer. I have noticed a marked improvement in the quality of verse with each instalment. I have also noticed one other perk: I feel more emotionally confident and expressive.

So, as I sip at the dregs of my merlot, its black cherry flavour dancing on the roof of my mouth, I form a resolution. A promise to myself and to my readers (because you are the ones inspiring tonight’s 4 A.M. wine-infused blog post) that I will break old habits or die trying. I’ve done my time in my self-constructed prison. 2015 is the year of candor. It is the year of memories. It is the year of ash and blood and graphite and wine. This is the year I stop being a victim of my past and I make it my bitch.

This is the year I am to be naked, drunk, and writing.

“If you wish to be more than a typist of words, you have no choice, you must extend awareness further than society wants it to go. You must travel in the mythic and living landscapes that lie outside of and beyond the statistical mentality. You must enter dark waters.” -Stephen Harrod Buhner

Modern Feminism / Amanda Palmer: “Real Feminists Don’t Gaze at Males”

Feminism is a touchy subject for me, mostly because of the state of modern first-world feminism. Last year the Ban Bossy campaign was launched – a PSA video with celebrities such as Beyonce, Jane Lynch, and Jennifer Garner claiming that they were oppressed by being called bossy, and that the word must be banned in true Orwellian fashion to preserve the delicate natures of other women.

It’s a little insulting to suggest that women are so weak that they cannot overcome the torture of name-calling. Further to that, the PSA’s logic turns on itself when one realizes that all these supposed oppressed-by-the-word-bossy women are in fact stars of international fame, with more influence on society than I will ever have. I guess I should have been called bossy on the playground at school more.

At about the same time this campaign was launched, the Iraqi parliament was considering passing a law that would legalize marital rape and child marriage for Shia population. I don’t recall seeing any multi-million dollar PSAs advocated by Beyonce decrying this outright violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

While partners of Ban Bossy (Citibank, Bank of America, JP Morgan & Chase and dozens of internationally branded corporations) were screaming that somebody please think of the children by banning a word, Shia girls were actually being oppressed and no one was doing shit about it.

Perhaps you’re growing to understand why I dislike being associated with the feminist movement.

Other heavy influences on my disdain for modern feminists are their disdain for the male gender, traditional gender roles (fuck you, I happen to like cooking, shaving, and wearing makeup), or anyone who disagrees with or has criticisms of their movement.

Amanda Palmer, punk-cabaret musician and major role model for me, posted the following after being called out for showing her husband affection in public. It perfectly encapsulates what I think real feminism should be, instead of the man-hating, gender role-defying, over-sensitive mass of bullshit that we’re left with today. Because feminism is about owning who you are without limitation or definition.

Continue reading Modern Feminism / Amanda Palmer: “Real Feminists Don’t Gaze at Males”

I’m Not Your Fucktoy: An Open Letter to the Asshole Ex Who Propositioned Me on V-day

Dear Asshole Ex,

You didn’t beat around the bush (pun intended) when you propositioned me:

“I’m stuck in the UK on a business trip and am having a pretty lonely valentine’s night. Finding myself fantasizing about you … Rekindle an old spark on the side? Our dirty little secret?”

For someone who fancies himself a writer, I am amazed at the lack of creativity in your pick-up technique. You must be taking tips from Paul Janka.

For someone who used to wine and dine with the best of them, I am disappointed you didn’t at least offer to buy me a hot meal first. Where’s the effort?

For someone who is an up-and-coming CEO who is used to getting his way, I’m amused by your inability to lock down a companion on this particular day of the year. It is my greatest pleasure to turn you down, without the faintest hint of guilt or empathy.

The old me would have hesitated to say no. The me that was hungry for attention and afraid of hurting a relationship with anyone who could potentially make me feel wanted, sexy, beautiful. Anyone who could make me feel necessary; because as a woman who was abused as a child, raped as an adult, and subsequently taught by society that I am nothing if I’m not pleasing a man, sex means I am needed. The old me was so warped that she may have replied coyly before suggesting a tryst when you got back in town. The old me would have done it, and her heart would have ached for a long time after, because there is no greater betrayal than that of oneself.

But things have changed for me: in my head, in my heart. I think it started the day that I tossed you aside in the first place. That was when I realized you were toying with my emotions. On reflection, I should have seen it sooner. You dangled the threat of your possible deportation in front of me for weeks – I suspect just to see the panic on my face confirming that I needed you. And when at last you revealed to me that you had been “kidding” and the threat of deportation wasn’t a concern, I was stunned. I went home and thought about it, then dumped your sorry ass for manipulating me (on Christmas Eve, for added punch). I realized that I was worthy of more than head games and that you were simply not worth my time.

I don’t imagine that you will learn your lesson any time soon. It’s clear that you assert yourself enough that people rarely stand up to you or point out your shortcomings. You get off on proving to people that you are much bigger than your stature would suggest and you take people apart just to see how they tick.

The old me might have felt sorry for you. The connection I have found with others is something I imagine you will never know. You will probably never allow yourself to be totally open and at the mercy of someone you love, which is a bittersweet gift that I wouldn’t sell for any amount. You will have a string of half-intentioned relationships lacking any semblance of passion. You will achieve much in business because of your lack of commitment to anything else; but, in the end, your work will consume you and you will be left with no one to share in the glory.

The old me is gone and the new me laughed uproariously at your joke of a proposition. Instead of pitying your botched efforts at romance, I got myself a Valentine’s present: I sipped at a big glass of merlot and watched a movie with someone who means far more to me than you can ever hope to mean to anyone. And at the end of the night, when I had settled in to bed and the wine and last-minute purchase chocolates had gone to my head, I masturbated furiously to the thought of men who are nothing like you.

This day of the year is only what you make it. Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day, friends.

Why Do We Seek Labels?

Beautifully written. I’d like some Tumblrettes to read this.

10 Cities/10 Years

It’s almost a daily occurrence now. On Facebook or Twitter, in an article or mind-numbing listicle, someone is discussing the traits, burdens and/or pleasures of being an introvert. Based on the unscientific sampling of my personal feed, 90% of the narcissistic self-promoters in the world are actually meek and shy introverts.

When us loners aren’t breathlessly talking about how weird it is that we prefer books to people (haha, I’m soooo crazy!), we’re posting the results of a Briggs Myers personality test (or some generic knockoff).

“I’m totally an INFP.”

“Well, I’m an ENFJ.”

“Oh, I could definitely see that. I guess that’s because I’m an ENTP.”

“I kind of figured all of you were CUNTs.”

And when we get bored with scientific classifications that mostly mean nothing, we fall back on the original sugar pill of personality labels: The Zodiac.

What’s Your Sign?

How is it that a…

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Why My Depression Doesn’t Scare Me as Much as it Used To

** Warning: this post contains mentions of self-harm.

Mind Over Mood. Full Catastrophe Living. The Courage to Heal. Healing from Depression. The PTSD Workbook. Those books adorn one particular shelf in my bookcase, nestled tightly between memoirs by survivors of sexual abuse. This is the collection of books I used to hide behind my mini-library of classics: the terrible tragedy concealed by Homer, Ovid, and Sophocles. I used to think of it as my Shame Shelf. Although the books were designed to be lifelines in long, dark nights, I saw them only as spectres of the past, whispering: you’re dirty, and broken, and can’t let go.

My biggest challenge used to be willing myself to get up out of bed in the morning. When you’re suffering from depression, you feel mentally and physically exhausted. Small tasks sap every ounce of energy and once Important Things That Absolutely Must Get Done are relegated to Things That I Might Do Next Thursday When I Have the Energy. The mere thought of activity of any kind feels oppressive. And decision fatigue? The definitely becomes a thing. So, when I would peel my eyes open in the morning, head pounding and throat dry from sixteen hours of sleep that still didn’t feel like enough, deciding whether I would initiate a day full of exhausting thoughts, decisions, and movements was sometimes too much. It became a daily war: to try and muddle through the fog, or to stay in the comfort of my nest?

I’ve done medications. I’ve been on most anti-depressants that you could list off the top of your head if you know anything about them. I’ve also been on a number of benzodiazepines (which I now blame for my rubbish short-term memory). I’m now on what I consider to be an effective combination of risperidone and escitalopram.

I’ve done therapy, too. I don’t know if it’s because the free and (relatively) accessible therapy options are on a tight budget with too many clients, but I found therapy to be largely useless. One-on-one sessions took 2+ years to land a spot in and were either too preachy (literally, there was too much talk about Higher Powers) or too New Age-y (keep your aura away from me, please). Group sessions often focused on things that weren’t important to me, and participants’ rants were permitted to go on too long by group leaders. It also felt like matchmaking wasn’t done very well – they should know not to put cynical, angry people like me in with cryers who don’t yet know how to identify their emotions. Group therapy is not very effective if not all participants are on the same approximate level.

I don’t know when things started getting easier but they did at some point. Slowly. Each small step of progress would take months – and often had to be revisited due to relapses. It took me two years to stop cutting, only to start again after two more years (and then stop again some time later); but, I haven’t done it in a long time and don’t think I will again. The constant anxiety when leaving the house has been replaced with comfort in knowing that I am just another face in the crowd, and that means no one has to know anything about me. The paralyzing anguish has turned into more of a dull ache at the back of my head that I only really notice when I’m being too still.

What I’m trying to say is, there is always hope. And I don’t mean that in a condescending, embossed-in-gold-leaf-on-twenty-dollar-card-stock way. Do not doubt for even a second that the journey from the hell of depression to stability is the hardest thing anyone can ever do. The moment you start expecting it to magically go away is the day you lose. Recovering is damn hard work; and, if you have chronic mental illness, it is a lifelong journey.

The thing to keep in mind is that not everyone can be measured on the same scale. Learn to take joy in the little victories (for instance, after a week of depression and complete disregard for nutrition, I made a healthy breakfast for myself this morning). Start collecting these little victories so they help stack up against the losses.

Surround yourself with friends. Even if you don’t think they want to hear about it. All it takes is saying, “I feel like crap,” and your loved ones will pay attention in a way that might shift your mood. And if the attention and love doesn’t help, that’s OK, too, because at least they will be there when you can’t help yourself anymore.

Those self-help books? Invest in one or two good ones with exercises and work through them slowly. The key to making it through depression is adopting coping strategies. The good self-help books teach you methods for dealing by conditioning you to practice them on a daily basis. That way, you’re not floundering when it gets bad.

If it’s necessary, keep your local crisis helpline number handy. Have it posted several places in your home to remind you it’s there. Make it a contact in your phone so that you don’t have to look it up when the need arises.

There. Is. Hope. Remember that when you feel like you can’t climb out of the pit, I have faith that you can. Sometimes it just takes a while.