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On Drugs: Part IV

[read time: 8 minutes] 
[trigger warning: drug & alcohol abuse]

I was honest with myself. I had already hit my rock bottom, I felt, and still continued to drink. I was deep in the throes of addiction and I KNEW it, but I could not admit it. Still. Even after ten years of living this shit, I could not face myself in the mirror and honestly tell myself I had a problem. I also, after ten years of living this shit, still could not simply stop. As much as I wanted to, as much as I begged myself to. I couldn’t stop. 

I took my honest answers from my honest questions and formulated a plan. In late 2015, I began to dream, over and over, that I was back at university. I mean literal night dreams; not daydreams. 

I could not get those dreams out of my head. They began to permeate my consciousness. I thought to myself: wouldn’t it be neat if you actually went back to school to finish what you started? 

I told my mom. She loved the idea. My parents have always supported me from day one. I decided to go back to university – at age 30, nine years after I had dropped out. 

When I found out I actually got in to university – again – I dropped to my knees in gratitude and wonder. I did it, I said to myself. I did it. 

I was slated to begin September 2016. 

So, going into 2016, still drinking, knowing that 30 loomed over the horizon, AND that in September I would begin university again, I had to quit. I knew I would not be successful in my studies if I still drank and carried on the way I was. 

Then, I made a fateful decision that would forever change my life and my view of drinking: I went to an AA meeting. 

I cried and cried throughout the whole meeting. (Indeed, that meeting’s host told me later on that he couldn’t even look at me.) I had no idea I was an alcoholic until that moment – despite being told so by numerous people leading up to that point. 

I discovered, for the first time, that to truly be a successful human and overcome my addiction, I had to become sober. It was true: alcohol had a hold over me. There was nothing I could do about it but completely stop. 

I worked with a sponsor. I worked some of the program. (I will make a post about the problems with AA later. All you need to know now is that it helped me become sober.) I went to meetings. I met new people. I worked the Big Book. 

My first meeting was late January 2016. I made it one week before messing up and drinking again. I went back. I relapsed. I went back. I relapsed again. I went back again, and relapsed again during Easter weekend 2016. On March 25, 2016, I drank all night. Despite being completely wasted on two bottles of wine, I drove to the liquor store to get more. I had my drug dealer come drop off coke at 2am. I partied by myself all night, culminating in me taking selfies of myself at 4 in the morning, alone in my condo with headphones on, covered in oil paint from some project I was attempting to do, to make sure I had a record of all the FUN I was having and thus a reason why I did not have to quit drinking and drugs. 

When I finally woke up some time on the 26th, I felt wretched. I was so disappointed in myself – why couldn’t I stop? I cried in my bed all afternoon and crawled out to the kitchen for food some time in the evening. When I saw my art supplies strewn all over the kitchen counters, I remembered about the selfies. 

The face that looked back at me from my phone was horrifying. My lips were stained a clotted red from wine. Black eye makeup smeared my cheeks. My hair was a mess; my face was oily. 

But the thing that haunted me the most was my eyes – they were unfocused, looking at something beyond my phone. Half-closed, it was as if my pupils had wandered in different directions. 

I had no idea I looked like this. I quickly deleted all said selfies and promptly felt like shit for the rest of the night. But – that was it. I went back to AA, admitted my mistake once again. Once again, I was in recovery mode. 

Then something happened. My days being sober began to add up. I went two weeks sober instead of just one. I soon collected my one month chip, then, before I knew it, I was six months sober and beginning university again. 

To this day, I have not drank since. I celebrate six years of sobriety today, on 26 March, 2022. 

I felt good enough to go back to my job in May 2016. The very first day I was back, a guy on my team who spread rumours around the office that I got into a car accident because I was drunk (untrue) called in sick because he was hungover. 

I’m just going to let that sink in. 

A few days into my attempted foray back into work, I was miserable. I was on a set schedule and only worked 7-11am. I consistently, for the first time ever, showed up to work, primarily because I was not hungover. 

I thought to myself: I only have to be here until September, and then I can quit, because I’m going back to school. 

Then something amazing happened. 

Within a week of returning, the company offered buy-outs to anyone who wanted to apply. A “buy-out” is when a company canvases employees to take a financial package and leave. This is usually done to weed out undesirables who want to leave but don’t want to quit; it may also be done to save the company some money. 

I applied. Unsurprisingly, my offer was accepted. 

(If I had not applied for the buy-out, I would have likely been fired, as mass firings of managers were also occurring at that time, including an old friend of mine who was fired after being off for maternity leave for a year. Yep, that’s legal.) 

The day I left that company, I drove home singing and happy. It was a beautiful day; the sun shone; I was still sober. 

I began university that September 2016, sober. 

The same year that I quit drinking and cocaine was the same year that fentanyl overdoses began to be noticed in the media. Indeed, it is the first year that statistics were seriously looked at. It was the first year that deaths skyrocketed because of illicit drug use. 

A mere 16 days before I got sober for good, a friend died from a fentanyl overdose in the very same city I escaped. 

I did not attend his funeral. 

My story could also have ended here. 

But, life continued on. I gave birth to my healthy and happy daughter in February 2018. 

In April of 2019, I finally graduated from university, after initially beginning over 15 years earlier, in 2004. I graduated with a BA in English (Lit) and a minor in Creative Writing. Not too far off from my initial university dream. (Due to life circumstances, I was unable to return to my dream school as it was too far away. Also, I still cannot visit the city that caused me so much pain.) 

Today, I write for a living. I am doing what I initially set out to do over 15 years ago, at the young age of 18, when I was innocent as to what would come next. 

If there is any solace in this story, at least to myself, it is this: I am finally living my dream, my truth. I had to go through ten years of absolute shit, addiction, sickness and pain, to be able to get where I am today. 

On reflection, would I have rather skipped the years of drinking and drug abuse in favour for not learning things the hard way? I don’t know. I don’t know what would have happened instead of ten years of battling a disease. Maybe things would have been better. Maybe they would have been worse. 

But whatever way the years may have went, I will never know. I mean, if I didn’t go through what I did, I’d have nothing to write about now – right? 

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On Drugs: Part III

[read time: 5-7 minutes]
[trigger warning: alcohol & drug abuse]

I was now 23 and living back at home. I was disgusted with myself, mad and ashamed. Throughout everything I was still dealing with the pain in my leg from my disability, as well as trying to keep my trichotillomania under control. 

I continued to drink every single night. The only saving grace about moving away was the fact that I had no access to drug dealers – for long. 

It is a known fact that people go to bars to meet other people. So, I did that to find a coke dealer. It was not hard. I managed to find three. 

Once again, I was back at it: snorting drugs all night, staying away from my parents’ house for days at a time, partying with people I barely knew and, honestly, sort of hated. 

During this time, I went to college to complete a basic degree in office administration. It was a far cry from my initial aspirations of becoming a teacher and writer – instead, I would be someone’s office bitch. 

In 2011, I sort of lucked out and got a really good-paying job. (Perhaps this was because of my office administration certificate… lol.) 

After the first day of training – yes, the first day – I got wasted that night. I stayed up all night with my boyfriend at the time and did coke. I did not sleep at all that night and went into my second day of training tired, hungover, still drunk and still high. 

That was the day they took my ID picture. 

I looked haggard. My hair was a mess, my face was all oily, and all I could manage was a sneering half-smile. 

When I received my ID at work a few days later, my stomach dropped at how bad I looked. This would be the face I would have to look at for the next five years. 

The amount of times I went to that job still drunk and high and awake from the night before is too many to even count. The amount of times I called in sick because I was hungover and awake and still drunk and high is also too many times to count – it’s even more. 

How did I not get fired? I was part of a union, simple as that. 

I want to pause here and give myself some credit. Despite my disease of addiction, I was still a good person. I volunteered at many different places. I donated time and money. I was even able to buy my own condo, with my own money, at age 26, ALONE. I made so much money I owed taxes. I still read voraciously in an attempt to stay connected with my old self. 

Before I knew it, it was 2015. I had wasted four years of my life at this corporate job that I absolutely detested. I was way too sensitive to work the job I was working – being a manager and dealing with, literally, the customers who want to speak with a manager – and it was destroying my soul. 

If the job itself was not bad enough, my coworkers were worse. To this day I do not speak to one person who I worked with during that time. They made fun of people who had diseases. They made fun of me in the throes of addiction. 

Keep in mind that I was still dealing with my leg pain and trichotillomania in the background of alcoholism. Besides these physical challenges, I was also attempting to deal with the PTSD I was carrying around from my failed attempt at university. (Once I got diagnosed with PTSD from my years at university, I would joke that my PTSD had PTSD. Truth.) 

Who do you think of when you think “drunk”? Do you imagine a bum passed out in the gutter, with a five o’clock shadow and a paper bag concealing his booze gripped in a fist? Who do you think of when you think “drug user”? Do you imagine a skeletal frame, sores on her face, barely able to walk in a straight line?

I was both of those things – in my own way. I passed out in many random and likely unsafe places. I did not pick at the skin on my face, but at the hair on my head. 

One day, while at work, hungover and coked out – again – I began to break down. I did not even realize what was happening at the time. I had likely just dealt with some asshole customer or some shithead coworker and simply could not take it any more. I knew that, for some reason, even the booze that night would not take the edge off this time. 

I left work early and went home sick. Little did I know, but I would not return to my job for nearly a year. 

After I arrived home, my full-on freak out began. I was shaking and crying – to this day, I cannot remember what it was over – and called my mom for help. Soon, I had an appointment with my doctor.

In a few days, my doctor saw me. I finally confided in someone that I had major issues with alcohol and drugs. I cried and cried in her office. She gave me tests to take about anxiety and depression. 

Together, we made a plan to keep me out of work and try to get sober. I was then diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, to which I was given medication to take. (Spoiler alert: they DID help.) 

So, in 2015, while off work, while attempting to get some fresh air and get better, I went for a drive to a pond. On the way back, I was in a major car accident. I was driving and was rear-ended at over 100 km/hr on the highway. Surprisingly, I was not drinking nor drunk at that time. 

I walked away, albeit with whiplash and an injured shoulder. I soon began physiotherapy and massage therapy, luckily all covered by my work plan. 

When a cab arrived to take me away from the crash site, the first stop was the liquor store. 

The second stop was my drug dealer’s. 

This crash cemented something within me. I knew, deep down, that this was my wake-up call to get sober. Despite the fact I was not drinking and the crash happened in the middle of the day, it still affected me enough that the first thing I turned to for coping was booze. 

I began to see a counsellor. I worked with the HR department at my job to see about going to rehab – they would even pay

Despite this offer, I declined. If I got myself into this mess, it would have to be me – and only me – who could get myself out of it. 

I drank the rest of 2015 away, and started 2016 feeling like shit. I would turn 30 in a few months, and I asked myself seriously: do you really want to be living this same shitty life for the next five, ten years? Do you really want to go into your 30s being a drunk? Do you continue to want to be known at work as the alcoholic and have everyone gossip and make fun of you behind your back? What do you REALLY want to do? Can you do it? 

[stay tuned for the final instalment tomorrow. Do I get sober? We will see…] 

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On Drugs: Part I

[read time: 5-8 minutes]

[trigger warning: alcohol and drug abuse]

I am six years sober this upcoming Saturday, the 26th of March. 

That’s six years of no alcohol – nope, not even one little drop. 

Six years of being hangover-free.

Six years of finally living life. 

I turned 18 in May of 2004 and left my parents house to begin university in September 2004. I had barely touched alcohol during high school. I think I got drunk a total of once. 

I was so excited for what the future held for me. I was admitted to my dream program; I was happy, full of life, and had big plans for my future. I knew I wanted to be a writer; maybe an editor on the side. After my schooling I would go on to become a novelist and then maybe a teacher. 

I was an excellent student in high school. In fact, I was Valedictorian. I had good enough grades to get me into my program of choice at UVic: Creative Writing. I would graduate with a BFA in 2008.

But – that never happened. 

Within a few short years, alcohol would take over my life, without even realizing that it occurred. I would then go on to drink and abuse drugs for the next ten years – and live in complete denial of it. 

I was shy. Not so shy that I would never talk to anyone, but shy enough that when I talked I blushed. Shy enough that I rarely raised my hand in class, not because I did not want to participate, but because I would inevitably turn red in the face. 

I knew I wanted to be a writer in Grade 6. That is when I first discovered writing could be a paid profession. (Keep in mind this was around 1997 and being a “writer” was likened to an “artist” and thus had the stigma of being underpaid etc. I was undeterred.) 

Grade 6 was the year I had major surgery. I was born with an arteriovenous malformation in my right leg. At age 11, I spent a week in the hospital after having major life-altering surgery. When the surgery was complete, my entire leg was encased in a cast, stick-straight, for months. After, I was never able to use my leg properly again, despite physiotherapy and other attempts. To this day, it only bends to about 90 degrees and no further. I am in constant pain. 

When I left for university, I felt good about myself. I limped all the time and was in pain, but I was smart, had a bit of confidence, and was so, so excited about my future. I was absolutely stoked to be attending the university and program of my dreams. 

I am unsure exactly when my addiction began. Sometimes I wonder if it was when I was young, seven, eight years old, and would follow my dad into the liquor store when he bought his beer. I loved the way it smelled in there; I can still conjure its fragrance today. It was sweet, inviting. 

Sometimes I wonder if it was the very first night I got drunk on campus. Indeed, it was one of the first times I got drunk – ever. I smoked cigarettes off and on at that time, and I asked a girl for a cigarette. As I tried to light it, the girl stopped me, took the cigarette out of my mouth, and turned it around. I was lighting it backwards. 

In my head, I thought: if I’m like this when I’m drunk, maybe I should stop. 

This one fleeting thought, had I held on to it, nurtured it, and believed in myself, I could have potentially not wasted the next ten years of my life drinking and snorting coke.

But if that were the case, we would not be here right now. 

Drinking made me sociable. Drinking made me friendly. Drinking made my pain go away. Drinking made my face go red. Drinking made me make bad decisions. Drinking made me hungover. Drinking made me hate myself. 

I survived the first year of university with excellent grades, despite living and partying on campus. I made no friends that year; I did not fit in with the other girls. I was the weird artsy one. All the dorm girls wanted to do was party all the time. I was desperate to fit in with them, so I upped my alcohol intake. They never hung out with me or asked me to hang out if we were sober. It was a confusing time.

I do not talk to any of those people today; nor have I, for many, many years. 

I was the loneliest I had ever been during my first year. To this day, when I think back on my first year of university, it was so different than what I imagined in my head. The little girl so full of confidence and hope was raped and shattered that year. Soon began my downward spiral. 

By now, I drank all the time. I turned the legal age in BC (19) before beginning my second year of classes. In other words, there was nothing that could stop my drinking now. 

I drank nearly every day. I would drink so much that I would often – and I mean often – wake up with puke in my bed. To this day I am surprised and grateful I never aspirated my vomit and died. That could have happened at any point. 

I was hungover all the time. 

I threw up everywhere. 

I was still lonely and in pain. 

By my third year of university, I was a full-on alcoholic but did not realize it. I needed alcohol to relax, pretty much every night. I got drunk every night. 

And then something else happened. 

[post continues tomorrow… stay tuned]

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How Social Media Made Me Happier – Including the Trolls

[read time: five minutes]

[WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT] 

I have a confession to make: I wanted a troll. 

This upcoming Saturday, the 19th of February, will mark the fourth month this blog has been established. 

I have been reflecting on this for a while now and wanted to share with you how it has made me happier. 

By blogging, I’ve been forced to open up. By extension, I was forced to use Instagram: I needed some way to promote my blog!

What I discovered is the majority of people on the internet have been kind and supportive and thankful. 

I couldn’t ask for anything better. 

But, for some reason, I felt that the Blog Experience was not complete without the appearance of a troll.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Brené Brown

I feel this, 100%, in relation to my blog. 

By being vulnerable, and finally sharing my story, I feel free. 

Admittedly, I eschewed social media for years because of my fear of hate comments, cyberbullying, and trolls. 

However, my disability has forced me to rethink how the rest of my life will be shaped: since I have no control over flare-up days, I cannot foreseeably work a job that will require my presence at a certain time. 

So, my life has turned inwards, homewards, and to writing. 

I have known for a while now that I have something to say. We all do: our own lives, experiences, and histories have shaped us to become who we are, and we are all very different. 

I did not put together what was missing from my life until recently: an avenue to connect to people like me – those with a rare disease, since there are so few of us. 

I realized that I can combine my life experience of being disabled along with the love I have for writing and present to you, world, all that I can offer: a glimpse into the life of someone with an arteriovenous malformation, who struggles with trichotillomania and, in the past, alcoholism. (That will be an upcoming post.) 

This actually is not my first attempt at a blog. I began another one in late 2018 and discontinued it in early 2020. At that time, I had not gotten over my fear of the internet haters and the worry that my blog would be “found” by someone I knew and dissed. 

However, those things do not worry me any more. Why? I took control over my story. If I am the one living it and experiencing it, then I am the one telling it. If I do not take my chance to tell my story, then there might be someone out there like me looking for the same thing I was – a blog about being different, and how being different is ok – but not being able to find it. 

If I don’t tell my story, someone else will, and incorrectly. 

Once I began to write this blog, and to do so without fear, I began to love it. Once I let go of any worry, I embraced what I should have been doing all along – my writing practice. 

Once I began to get comments thanking me for telling my story, I knew I was on the right path. If I can get through to someone else who is going through the same thing, we can all help each other along and the world gets a little better. 

For a bit. 

Then, along came a troll. (In the comment section.) 

I feel like I passed a test. Like I’m a Real Blogger now. Like I can say, “Psshh, there’s one of those trolls making a damn fool of themselves again.” 

I needed to see for myself what it felt like to be trolled. I needed more, though, to see how I would react. 

I often tell myself, “I didn’t come this far only to come this far.” 

What does that mean? 

It means that I didn’t go through 35 years of living disabled, 25 years of having trichotillomania, 10 years of being an alcoholic drug user and graduating from university 11 years late just to let some asswipe of a troll leave a grammatically incorrect comment on my blog thinking it’s going to get me down, because it’s NOT. 

If I was the same person I was over 6 years ago, I’d tell you, troll, to go eat shit and die. But instead, I wish you love, light, and happiness – because you clearly need it. 

Because writing this blog is something I love being able to wake up and do, those comments can’t bother me. It’s the exact same as dealing with a shitty customer or a road rage driver. We are all going to encounter shitheads in our lives, no matter where we are, what we do, or what we are doing at the time. 

I think people troll to try and make others feel bad about themselves. They troll because they are unhappy with their own lives. They troll because they are jealous. 

Remember, trolls (/bullies): what you do doesn’t say anything about me, but it says everything about you. 

So – how did social media help me become a happier person? Despite trolls? The love and support I get from people and the support I try to give back is sustainability to me. I am actually usually pleasantly surprised to see – at least on the accounts I follow – people are nice to each other in the comments and it is not an all-out war as I assume it always will be. 

This goes without saying: not all accounts out there will have positive comments. It’s up to you how you want your social feed to look – but more importantly, how you want it to make you feel

Social media, in my eyes, CAN be used for GOOD. So far, my experience with it on Instagram has been positive. My blog has helped me grow as an individual – and writer – and by sharing my stories I feel more connected now than ever. 

So, yes, social media and blogging has made me happier: I grew out of vulnerability, and I realized that haters cannot bring me down. 

What about you? Do you see social media as a positive influence in your life, or negative? Leave a comment below. 

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Dumped for Being Disabled & Other Truths, Part I 

[read time: 5 minutes] 

This event took place over nine years ago, but I still remember the text. 

I wanted to wait until you were done work, it began.

My heart sunk. 

I had been seeing a guy for a while now, and everything truly felt good. He was the first person I ever dated who owned a house and had his driver’s license. Not only did he even own a car, but multiple cars. He actually treated me nice. For a while, I truly believed I was – finally – dating a real man. 

And I wanted to give you a call

He took me on dates for drives in his old Cadillac convertibles, cruising the strip along the beach, eating ice cream along the way. We would hold hands and wander into the shops. He always made sure he had an extra sweater in the car for me, in case I got cold from the breeze rolling off the ocean, cooling the warm summer night air. 

There are so many great qualities in you, I continued to read. 

My mind jumped back to all the things I had ever told him. 

I’m sad. I’m depressed. I drink too much, I know it, and I can’t stop. My knee. My leg. My pain. 

I opened up to him, and he let me. We would talk on the phone for hours. He coaxed my deepest and darkest fears out of me, and listened, and said he understood. He was empathetic. 

And I’ve truly enjoyed the time I’ve spent with you. 

We would make out like teenagers under the pier, licking ice cream off each other’s lips. 

He was tall enough to hold me, protect me, and gently kiss the top of my head. Always a tall girl myself, finding someone even taller than me was a rarity.

But I want to be with someone who can enjoy the finer things in life. My stomach clenched. 

I told him how life had always been so difficult for me because of my knee, my leg, my disability. I confided in him the self-pity I always carried but tried not to show. 

I confessed to him like a diary: I won’t be able to be a police officer. I can’t be a paramedic. Anything that caused strain on my leg was out; I failed physical fitness exams and could never carry more than 40 pounds. 

Someone who can do things. Bicycle. Snowboard. Hike. 

I was sitting at my desk at work, and realized my palms were getting sweaty. I logged off my computer and ran down the four flights of steps to the fresh air outside. 

But you can’t do any of those things. 

I CAN do those things, I wanted to scream at the text. But I chose not to. They cause me pain, it hurts. Why would I put my body through that unnecessarily? 

He told me, as he listened to me express my frustration with the world, that he would take care of me. Take care of my well-being, take me to doctor’s appointments. 

For a while, I thought I found the one. 

And I want someone who can do those things. 

I started to hyperventilate. I just quit smoking a few weeks before, and I craved a cigarette now more than ever. 

I went to the gas station next door and bought a single cigarillo. 

I want someone who isn’t disabled, who can do those things. My hands shook as I lit the cigarillo and breathed deeply. 

There is was. Not only did he not call me, and not wait until I was done work, but rather he broke up with me because I am disabled – something I have no control over nor asked for – over a text. 

This guy was 43. You’d think he would have learned something – anything – by now. 

I gripped my cell phone in my palm, outraged. 

Good thing you told me now that you’re a little boy and not a man, I replied, then blocked him, and have not had any interaction with him since. 

I let the sadness flow through me for years. I was already an alcoholic during this time period, and that text did not help matters at all. 

Those words constantly played over and over in my mind.

I want someone who can enjoy the finer things in life. 

Words do hurt. Words do stay with you. 

I drank heavily for days after, pissed off at everything, especially him. 

But the one thing I did not do was hate myself over this. I knew, deep down, that he was in the wrong. Maybe he had tricked me into thinking he was someone different, someone who cared; maybe I had fallen for it. But the one thing I knew was that this was not my fault. 

It was not my fault I was born with a disability. It is not my fault I cannot snowboard, bike, hike. Do couples have to do every single thing together? Ever heard of alone time? 

By the way, I do not consider those things the “finer things in life”. Who even says that to describe outdoor activities? 

Speaking of which: ever heard of adaptive sports? Clearly, he had not. 

That text, although it enraged me, spoke volumes. Volumes about him, about me, about the state of the world. Despite the sweet whispers he said, they were nothing but lies. A person like him could never understand me: he has no patience to. 

Ever since then, I have made it a point to be more empathetic towards myself. Yes, there are things I cannot do – so what? To dump someone because they are physically limited and have been since birth is the most ridiculous and outrageous thing that has ever happened to me.

And you know what? I was not surprised. Not one bit. I knew this would happen to me one day, because that is how people deal with differences: by ignoring them, shaming them, and pushing them to the side. 

Luckily for him, he would never recognize me now if we passed each other on the street. And luckily for me: I’m not with him. 

Featured

Perspective: Life as a Disabled Single Mama

[read time: 5 minutes] 

Hi, everyone! 

I received lots of comments and support after uploading my post about living with an arteriovenous malformation, so I figured a follow-up is in order. 

One of the questions I was asked is: “How do you do it – be a single mom with a physical disability?” 

Answer: it is difficult. Indeed: probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, even more so than struggling to get sober (post coming soon). 

First off, I do have help, mostly in the form of my dad, who graciously drives me to my doctor appointments (usually over an hour away) and helps out with picking up groceries when I need. My mom also helps out and the two of them together take my daughter for one night a week so I can have a break. Yes, I realize how lucky I am.

But beyond that – everything is up to me. 

Being born with a physical disability has shaped my life: it is the lens through which I see, and the constraints through which my experiences are filtered. 

I have to ask myself, every day: Can I do this? “This” could be a myriad of things: walk, drive, shop, work. 

The answer: it depends. Am I having a flare-up? If the answer is yes, walking/ driving/ going out is a no. 

Even if I am not having a Bad Leg Day, the activities my daughter and I can do together are severely limited. 

This is not because I do not want to do these things, It is because I cannot. It took me many years to accept my limitations for what they are. This isn’t as simple as changing my mindset – no, because of my disability, some activities are impossible. And, for the sake of my health and avoiding possible further injury, I have to respect my body. 

For example, I used to go on hikes with my dad and brother all the time when we were younger (think: early teens – so, about 20 years ago). However, as any adult with any bodily issues knows, your body deteriorates with age. 

I’d give anything to be able to go on a hike again. It does not matter how many times I complain about my arthritis, though: truly, nothing can be done. Just pain management. And when doing the activity causes the pain, there is no point. I can’t punish my knee for the sake of one hike, when I know I’ll be couch-bound for about a month after. 

So, we have to pick different activities. We go for lots of walks. We walk to places where I can sit down. 

Then, there are the home days. We have had more of these than I’d like to admit. (Granted, with covid, it’s easier to tell myself it’s safer to stay home anyway, lol.) 

What’s a home day? Days we stay home. Days that my leg is so bad I cannot leave the house. Days when my cane won’t cut it and I wish for a wheelchair. (I don’t have one of my own – yet. I’m sure I will soon.) 

These days we spend reading, playing with stickers, doing puzzles, and letting my daughter run around on the patio while I sit and watch. 

But, here’s the thing that hurts the most: she always wants to play with me, especially outside or at the playground or park, and oftentimes, I can’t. I endure the walk to the playground so I can sit on the bench while she gets out her energy. I drag my camping chair outside so I can watch her play in the snow. But there’s times when I can’t join in. These are the times that hurt the most: not only does my knee cause me pain, but there’s pain in my heart, too. 

Every time she wants to be carried, it breaks my heart that I can’t. I used to be able to hold her, obviously, when she was a wee baby; now that she’s 37 pounds, the strain on my leg is too much. 

There’s pain knowing I cannot participate in events coming up in her life: wanting to go snowboarding. Driving places excessively far. Hikes. Biking. Yoga. All things I know my broken body won’t be able to partake in. 

But that’s not to say she does not have a fulfilling and joyous life. Anything that needs to be done for her is done. I make it happen, one way or another. 

I am the only one who pays the bills, does the driving, gets the groceries, makes all the meals, does all the cleaning, etc. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I wish for a partner who can help me do things such as load her or the groceries into the car; clean; generally help out. But, I choose to have nobody and it will stay that way forever (sorry, boys). 

Without someone by my side, I have learned to adapt and do things alone. I know better than to overbuy at the grocery store – I simply cannot carry it all in, especially when my daughter, being 4, cannot help. I use a grocery cart to wheel our stuff to our suite, but even then, it can’t be too heavy (I know, I know, I’m 85). 

So, I must listen to my body and respect it. On the days that I have “off” from my daughter (thanks, mom and dad!), I spend it resting. I sit on the couch with my laptop in my lap and my legs propped up – as I am now. (Side: because I have a venous malformation, and blood flow is affected, the best thing I can do for my leg/ knee is have it up and above my heart. However, we all know that means lying on one’s back and propping your leg way up. This is not feasible for day-to-day life, so I keep it elevated as much as I can.) 

These recent days, I’m packing for our move. I bought a two bedroom condo, which is dramatically different than the one-bedroom I currently rent and that the two of us currently live in. 

It’s an exciting time, but tinged with stress: will my leg hold out? Will my knee be ok? 

Because I am the only one doing the packing (however, I hired movers, because I know my limitations) I am worried that at some point, I’m going to have a flare-up, and then packing will grind to a halt. So, to circumvent this possibility, I started packing two weeks ago. Yep, you read that right: I need to take the whole month to pack and prepare, just to ensure that my leg will not be overworked and will hold out until the end of the month, when my daughter and I move. 

But it’s times like this when I also really shine. I prove to myself that I can do it. I have always been able to do it

It just takes me a bit more time than others, and that’s ok. 

What about you? Do you face any day-to-day challenges? Let me know by commenting below. 

6 Things I’ve Learned Before Turning 36

[read time: five minutes] 

  1. Your thoughts become your actions, which becomes your reality. 

You know what kills me? I learned that THIS YEAR. When it finally clicked, I smacked myself in the head and went DUH! 

Let me give you an example. I wanted to change my life trajectory. I always wanted to “be” a writer but never did it. So I brainstormed: what can I do to “be” a writer? Write! 

That’s when I decided to begin this blog: it could be my creative outlet. Then, I really sat down to complete my novel – which has been an absolute pleasure and huge learning experience. As well, I began to write articles for magazines – something I love to do. 

2. Get enough sleep!

I have been a big champion of sleep, ever since I was a wee lass. It is important. Do not take it for granted. This is the time when your body has a chance to rest and your brain has a chance to heal. 

One of my tried-and-true tested ways of falling asleep is reading. This may not be the case for everyone. But, for me, as soon as my head is on the pillow with an open book, my eyes immediately begin to close. Because I love to read and want to read, I make the effort to go to bed earlier than required so I can be awake for a bit to read. The end result? I usually fall asleep “on time” – giving me at least 7-8 hours of sleep before my alarm wakes me in the morning. Try reading before bed! It works. 

3. Do not worry about what other people are doing. Worry about yourself. 

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” I love that quote, because it is true. Why sit and watch someone else’s (unattainable) life on YouTube, when you could be out levelling up your own? (On that same vein, why sit and read people’s blogs? Lol.) 

This tip hearkens back to the first one. If your reality is that you sit and compare your life to someone’s you see on the internet, how does that benefit you? 

Also – people’s opinions of you do not matter. This is hard for me to still live by, but it helps when I do remember it. 

4. Karma is very real: the type of energy you put into the universe is what you’ll receive back. 

When I used to drink, I was negative, angry, pissed off, pessimistic, argumentative… all the time. I was either drunk or hungover, and it affected my mood and how I interacted with the world and the people in it. Guess how I got treated back? That’s right. At my corporate job, the majority of my coworkers were horrible, shitty, mean, argumentative people and treated me as such. 

Fast forward six years – the amount of time I have been sober for. Now, I control my reactions to the environment around me and do not put out any negative energy (if I can help it, lol.) I meditate near-daily, which helps ground me and put things into perspective. 

A meditation I like: visualization 

This meditation helps me put things into perspective. First, imagine yourself in a beautiful forest. It can look any way you like. 

Imagine a stream. Watch it flowing by. 

Look up into the trees, and note how the leaves fall down into the stream. Watch as they gently flow away. 

Now, imagine that the leaves are your thoughts. Some times, the leaves may be bigger or take longer to fall, but eventually they will end up in the stream and float away. 

Author’s note: the first time I was guided through this meditation, I actually cried. 

A meditation I like: grounding 

This one is deceptively simple, and will help bring you to the present moment – which is all that matters.

List five things you can see.

List four things you can touch. 

List three things you can hear.

List two things you can smell.

List one thing you can taste. 

By the time you’re done, you should be more aware of your surroundings. Remember, you are safe; thoughts are just such and cannot hurt you. 

5. Drink enough water! 

Like sleep, water is a key element to our bodies’ function – it keeps us alive. People die from dehydration every day, unfortunately. 

Water helps to cool you down, keep you hydrated, and helps maintain brain function and regulate weight, among others. 

In hot climates, if you are recovering from an illness, or if you are physically active, it is even more important to get enough. 

I am not a dietician or a doctor. And, I know not everyone likes to drink water, for whatever reason. You do you. If you like your water filled with that squirty fake fruit stuff, I say go for it. Drink that water. Once again, do not take medical advice from me. Ever. 

6. “Friends who mind don’t matter, and friends who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

As I get older, this adage could not be more true. If your friends are true, they will actually support you and your own opinion, even if theirs differs. If you – like me – have a visible difference in the way you walk because you are disabled, a true friend will not care about that, because they love you for all of who you are. 

I want to leave y’all with a quote from Brené Brown.

“You’ve got this flame, and this is your spirit, and this is your soul, and this is your light. Sometimes it’ll shine really really bright, and you want to surround yourself with people who, when it’s shining bright, think, ‘wow what a beautiful light.’ You want to be the type of friend that when your friend’s light is shining you say, ‘wow that’s a great light,’ and you want friends who protect your light. We don’t want to surround ourselves with candle blower-outers.” 

Discontinuation Syndrome 

[read time: less than five minutes]

In tarot, there is a card called the Wheel of Fortune. This card represents the querent’s life. When this card is pulled, it reveals that a change of course may be coming – whether good or bad. The beauty in the Wheel is that it is always turning, so even if you are in a “bad” spot in your life, know that, at some point, the Wheel will, eventually, turn to the good again. 

I use this example to introduce why I have been silent on WordPress for a few weeks. Not only did I take most of the month of April off to focus on writing my novel (pleased to say that I’ve written almost 20,000 more words since April 1), but I also embarked on a new, personal journey.

I stopped taking antidepressants. 

Before I continue: I am not a medical doctor. Do not ever take medical advice from me, thank you. What I speak about here is my own personal experience. Please do what is right for you with guidance from a certified medical professional. 

In spring of 2015, I was in a bad car accident. While I was not too physically hurt (aside from whiplash and an extremely sore shoulder), my mental health deteriorated from it. I was already off work at this time from stress, as I was drinking excessively and could not control it. Luckily, I was not drinking nor drunk during this accident – I was actually rear-ended on the highway, going 120 km/h, during the middle of the day, when I was driving home from going for a healthy walk around a lake. 

Very shortly after this accident, I felt more lost than before. Already in talks with my doctor about becoming sober, this accident actually prompted me to drink more. Since I was clearly on the path to self-destruction, my doctor suggested antidepressants, which I grudgingly took. 

I began on one medication and moved to another  – Effexor (venlafaxine). I began on one pill and quickly moved up to three a day. I took them as prescribed. I took them religiously. 

I got sober March 26, 2016. I had a baby February 2018. I graduated university May 2019. Life continued on, and I continued to dutifully take my meds. 

One day in the summer of 2019 I felt sick. Woozy, hot, almost as if I had the flu. Wherever I looked, it was as if my eyes took a second to catch up to the place my vision initially landed. My head buzzed. My body shook. 

Without realizing it, I had accidentally missed my three pills that morning. I was experiencing something called discontinuation syndrome and did not know it at the time.  

What is discontinuation syndrome? 

According to multiple sources online, including the Mayo Clinic, discontinuation syndrome is the same as experiencing withdrawal from medications. Simply, when you stop taking something that you body is used to, it will rebel. 

So, on that day I forgot, when I took my pills, I almost immediately felt better. 

Not too long after that, I forgot, again, to take my pills and felt the same way. 

I realized that missing this medication – even by a few hours – could seriously mess with my mental health. 

Then I had to do a second-take. Wait, wasn’t I taking these precisely to help my mental health issues? 

Fast forward to today, 2022. I have been sober for over six years now, and have not had a depressive episode or major anxiety attack that I have not been able to crawl out of for over a good year by now. I practice different forms of meditation and self-care to combat any mental health issues that arise. 

Then, I forgot to take my pills again one morning. I hated the way I felt – in fact, it seemed that, because I was being so negatively affected by NOT taking the pills, that it may be time to end my relationship with them. 

I checked in with my mental health and decided to talk to my doctor first about going off them completely. She decided that I was ready and together we made a plan for me to stop them. 

I told her about how I felt when I accidentally missed my dosage. I told her how I felt anyway, in general – I was actually happy, healthy, and had good mental health meditations and checkups in my toolkit to be able to calmly guide myself through my day. 

I told her that honestly, yes, I do believe taking antidepressants helped my mental health and helped me in the times that I needed it. I also told her that I felt it was ready to stop. 

As the Wheel of Fortune turns, so do changes in life. So, I find it weird that something that is supposed to make you feel so good can also make you feel so bad. 

So, on the first day, a few weeks ago, of me intentionally taking one less pill in order to wean myself off antidepressants (guided by my doctor’s advice), I was hit hard by the effects of withdrawal. 

It started with me feeling very, very sore. My whole body hurt. The symptoms descended on me while I was grocery shopping; people walking by me would think I was a 90-year old, that was how slow I walked. 

By the time I got home, I was in full-on withdrawal. My whole body buzzed and shook. It felt like my skin was crawling. It felt as if bugs landed underneath my skin. (Fun fact: this sensation is called formication.) I laid on the couch for three hours and shook violently until it passed. The rest of the day I was exhausted and useless. 

But after that initial setback, the symptoms came lighter and easier to manage. But it did not happen overnight; that is why I have been silent for a few weeks now.

Have to give myself grace. Have to be patient and understanding with myself. I even had an anxiety attack – from not taking the pills – and was able to meditate my way out of it. 

The Wheel of Fortune never stops turning. We have our ups and downs, whether self-imposed or not. It is a fact of life. Even though I was in a low point during the initial withdrawal from medication, the Wheel still turns to the good point in life. That is what it does. 

Camp NaNoWriMo + The Four Tendencies 

[read time: 5 minutes]

Hi, everyone!

I wanted to remind everyone that Camp NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow, the first of April, 2022. 

What is Camp NaNoWriMo? 

Some of you may be familiar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It is held every November, and the goal is for writers everywhere to come together to cheer each other on and write those dang novels we have floating around in our heads. Ideally, the participant writes 1,667 words every day in November and completes the month with a 50,000-word novel. 

Camp NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, can be used for any writing project (that is, not just a novel) and your word count goal can be any amount. The Camp runs every April and July. 

I joined NaNo this past November and ended up making it 21,375 words into my novel. In other words, I did not finish

Not only did I not finish, but I never continued to write it – not even once – since. 

However, that time away from the story let it percolate in my head and I think I’ve got the plot totally figured out. I feel confident about my idea and how it will go. 

That means that for the month of April, I will attempt to write 28,625 words and finish my book! That averages out to roughly 954 words/ day. (I’ve written longer essays than that in one sitting for university – I KNOW this is an achievable goal!)

However, being a single mama means that time is not always on my side, and that is exactly why I failed NaNo in November. 

But: the idea of using NaNo again to achieve my writing goals is what inspired me to write this post today. 

Those of you who know me well know that I am a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin. She is affectionately (and cheekily) called “the happiness bully” – her bestselling book was titled The Happiness Project. In this book, she spent a year tracking her happiness to see if she could increase it. Did it work? You’ll have to read the book to find out. (Spoiler: it did.) 

Rubin went on to write more books. One of them is calledThe Four Tendencies, and my goodness – it really helped me understand a lot about myself. In fact, when I finally figured out my tendency, and thus what drives me, a LOT clicked into place. 

So, what is “The Four Tendencies”? 

It begins with this question: “How do I respond to expectations?” How do you respond to your own inner expectations – do you give in, or ignore them? What about to outer expectations? Do you do something because someone tells you to? Or not? 

Rubin discovered that there are four groups of people who respond to inner and outer expectations differently. 

First is the Upholder. They respond positively to both inner and outer expectations and likely will do both with little to no complaining. I like to think of this Tendency as the Type A of the four. 

Then comes the Obliger. They respond to expectations when someone else has requested it, as they do not want to let that person down. For example, an Obliger might say yes to going on a walk in a group, but will not be motivated to go for a walk by themselves. 

Next is the Questioner. This person may or may not respond to expectations  – depending on answers they get from evidence. For example, they may want to go on a bird watching hike, but only after reading literature on where they best birds can be found. 

Finally, there is the Rebel. THIS IS ME. I was shocked – shocked – when I took the quiz and this came back. In fact, in true Rebel fashion, I decided I did not believe it – for a while. Then, as I critically examined how it came to this conclusion, I knew the outcome was true. I was, in fact, a Rebel. I don’t respond to inner OR outer expectations. That fact alone is exactly why I only work for myself now; I can’t abide by the rules of being expected to do something. I want to do my own thing. 

The thing about being a Rebel is that it’s the most complex of the four. This is because the Rebel has something called a Rebel Identity, where, despite their resistance to expectations, they can pass off as an Upholder, if that is part of their Identity. (Or could pass off as an Obliger or Questioner.)

I can say with one hundred percent certainty that this is true. Someone may view a Rebel as lazy if that Rebel cannot get their stuff together and be bothered to be at work on time. 

But for me, being early to work or activities is part of my Rebel Identity. So it may look to outsiders that I’m a Type A Upholder, when really I don’t want to be there at all but hey, I’m still there early

Rubin concedes that people can be a slight mixture of the Tendencies in certain situations, but generally most people are only one and will stay that particular one for their whole lives. 

Knowing this, I highly recommend you take the Four Tendencies quiz for yourself so you can also see what motivates you. 

So – what do Camp NaNo and the Four Tendencies have to do with each other?

Well – isn’t it obvious? Camp NaNo is a fantastic way for all us writers to be held accountable for something we say we are going to do. To me, knowing I have an audience and a goal influences the amount of writing I strive to achieve. 

In true Rebel fashion, once I announced at the end of November that I failed writing my book but WOULD continue to write it regardless, I in fact did not continue. 

And, everyone, that is why we are here today. NaNoWriMo, when I participated in November, was a fantastic way for me to hold my Rebel self accountable for all the lovely novel-writing that I was going to do. It worked. Because it worked, I’m holding my butt accountable again. 

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo, Camp or otherwise? I’m curious to see if it helped you out. Leave me a comment below! 

Book Review: The Cosmic Principle by Abby R. Laughlin 

[read time: 3 minutes]
[warning: potential spoilers ahead]

Hi, everyone! 

Today I’m uploading my first book review post! 

I was lucky enough to be chosen to be given an advance reader copy (ARC) of The Cosmic Principle by Abby R. Laughlin, her debut novel. It is the first book in the Nexus Series. 

First off: I LOVED this book! Laughlin created a fantastic world full of complex characters and a story I could not wait to get back to. I am also going to try my best to spoil as little as possible – this is a book definitely worth reading for yourself! 

The book begins in Bersama, a planet not unlike Earth, but in a very different galaxy. 

We follow the protagonist, Caldera, as she and her sidekick, Ren, travel the galaxy for the Vanguard, sent out on missions by the King – or so they think. 

When the King is murdered, Caldera suddenly finds herself the new Queen. She soon discovers that the Council has been signing off on projects for years without the King’s knowledge or consent, and vows not to let that happen to her during her reign. 

When Caldera and her friends discover that the former King was on to a potential major discovery, they fear he may have been purposely silenced. A new, secret location is soon revealed, where their fears are proven correct. 

Caldera and Ren soon crack the discovery the King made, and are on a quest to find a rare mineral. It is discovered that this mineral is able to open a wormhole – and what they find on the other side will have major consequences for the rest of their lives on Bersama. 

Do I recommend The Cosmic Principle? YES! Laughlin is an excellent writer and her commitment to the world of Tellis and her characters is commendable. This book is the first in a series, and I am absolutely going to read the rest of it! You can order her book from visiting her instagram page here. It is available March 31, 2022! 

featured image courtesy of Abby R. Laughlin/ Instagram.


Disclaimer: If you purchase items through links on my website, I may receive a small commission.

On Drugs: Part II

[read time: 7-8 minutes]
[tw: alcohol and drug abuse]

I began to live with a boyfriend during my third year. One night, when we were drinking on our patio, we noticed the people across the street from us drinking on their patio and yelled back and forth and soon became friends. 

That night was the first night I did cocaine. I loved it. It was exactly what I had been looking for: made me sober up, friendly, and fun.

Not too long after this, I developed a major ovarian cyst. One night, while drinking with my boyfriend at the time, I had sharp pains in my abdomen that I could not ignore. For a while, I had a bloated stomach and assumed I had a UTI. But that night I insisted on being taken to the hospital, so my drunk boyfriend dropped me off at the emergency room and left to go party.

Before long, I was admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening cyst. The doctors even contemplated removing an ovary – that is how serious it was. 

Luckily, with major bedrest and painkillers, the cyst eventually shrunk and went away on its own. 

But, with this health scare, I wanted to quit drinking. 

I began to spy on my boyfriend through the windows of our apartment, while he hung out with the people across the street, doing coke all the time. 

I soon moved out. 

At first, moving out was the best thing I could have done: I was free of constant drinking, free of the cocaine. 

I regained my health. I was working as a barista at the time and had 5am shifts – my absolute favourite start time. I was, and always have been, an early riser. I liked being able to start and end my work early, so I had the rest of the day to do things. I would work in the morning and go to university in the afternoon. I had it made. 

A few months into the new year, about halfway through my third year at university, a new guy was hired on at the coffee shop. 

I was lonely, I was single, and soon enough he and I began to date. 

One night, we were partying with all his friends, who were all new to me at that time. I still remember being in his house along the beach, playing a drinking game with his friends, when he motioned for me to come meet him in the kitchen. I got up and went over, and discovered he had set up two lines of coke. 

My stomach and heart sank. I was desperate to be liked, desperate to have friends, desperate to not be alone. I had already been drinking at that time, and my consent was impaired. I only missed half a beat and then took up the cut McDonald’s straw and snorted. 

Now, it was cocaine combined with alcohol that would rule the next eight years of my life. 

Before long, I stopped doing work for my university classes. I began to skip class. I even went to class high on coke once. 

I quit my barista job and began to work at a deli. One day, I seriously injured my back there. I went on worker’s compensation and used cocaine more frequently and heavily. I went to my physiotherapist’s appointments high and after not sleeping all night. 

The barista guy and I broke up. Despite this, I still called his dealer and bought coke. I spent thousands of dollars a month on it. All the money I had saved up for my future and future education was snorted up my nose. 

I remember it was February 15, 2007, when I decided, once again, to skip class. I had not done the work I needed to and was not ready. I went out the night before for some Valentine’s Day thing at some club. 

Memories of clubbing are hazy: I was high, drunk; smoke machines skewed my vision; and ever since, I’ve tried to forget about my clubbing life. I made out with random dudes. I fell down. I made mistakes. 

I spent the day on my couch, feeling like absolute shit for skipping my writing workshop. I threw up all day. I berated myself. I promised myself that this was the last time I would party. 

By this point, my addiction was bone-deep. Nothing else mattered except drinking and doing drugs. I often used alone, every night. My friends commented on how skinny I looked, when I finally crawled out of my apartment hole and saw them months later. 

I would be so drunk and high that I would have to psych myself up for hours just to get the confidence to go outside. I would worry that I looked fucked up, haggard, high. 

Which I did.

I would worry so much about going out to buy a pack of smokes at nine in the morning, when I normally ran out, that I would rip up butts from the ashtray and use a zig zag to make a new cigarette. My makeshift smoke might last me an hour, but inevitably, I would have to venture out. 

My heart would beat 100 times too fast. I would never be able to get a full breath of air. Anxiety overtook my life while hungover and being high took the depression away. I couldn’t stand being sober now, because coming down was even better than flying straight. 

I did not stop using; rather, I used more. I was so disappointed in myself and felt like I dug an unfillable hole. I gave up on my dream of attending my dream school and my dream program, because I could not stop drinking and doing drugs. 

I dropped out. 

I languished in this city for the next year and a half, imbibing and snorting alone or with other people. I spent so much money that my power was cut off. I dealt with the situation by getting drunk and doing coke all night – in the pitch black. 

By the end of 2009, it was evident that my lifestyle was unsustainable. I was not working (I was still collecting cheques for being off because of my injured back) and I was spending all my time and money drinking and doing drugs. 

The breaking point came when a guy who moved in with me – supposedly, my husband – went out one day and drank to the point of stupor. Surprisingly, that particular day I was incredibly sick – with an actual cold – and did not join him for day drinks. 

When he arrived home that evening, he was wasted and looking to fight. After a few swipes at me, I pushed him back. When he landed on his wrist – hard – it broke. 

He called the cops on me.

After they came, they arrested him. I took all his belongings and dumped them out our 8th storey window. 

I got my key back from him via a friend. I have never talked to him again. 

I moved out a few weeks later, back to my parents house. The night before I moved, I had one last hurrah to myself. I drank and did coke all night. When my dad and brother arrived the next day to help move my belongings out, I was useless and spent most of the time in and out of consciousness on a blanket on the floor. 

I left that city behind. I was safe again, in my parent’s house. Away from drinking, away from drugs, away from all those people who were not my friends but only wanted me to spend money on them and party with them all night. 

The first night back at my parent’s house, my mom and I sat down and had a glass of wine together. I told her that I felt like I failed. 

I had gone from a fresh-faced, happy teenager to an ashen, skinny, shrunken shell of my old self, in only two and a half years. That is all it took for my dreams to be shattered and destroyed. I had only moved out from my parents’ house a mere five years before. 

Now that I was back at home, you’d think I would smarten up and quit drinking – right? That I would say to myself: well, now you’ve gone and done it, screwed it up and ruined it, so now go make it better! 

Nope. Because of my actions, I was now dealing with major PTSD and did not realize it at the time, until I was diagnosed years later. 

[part III is coming tomorrow. Stay tuned…]

The Joy of a Morning Routine 

[read time: 5-7 minutes] 

Hi, everyone! I am back with another instalment of the “Joy of…” series, where we look at mindful activities and how they might help you. 

As a super early riser, one thing I am a proponent for is a morning routine. There are a LOT of morning routine “how-to’s” out there. Naturally, everyone thinks theirs is the correct way. I am also a proponent of “what is right for some may not be right for others.” So: what I share here is what works for me. Figure out a routine that works for you.

One popular routine that immediately comes to mind is the “Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. He uses something called the “SAVERS” technique. This stands for Silence, Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing (aka writing). While I would love to fit all this into my morning, that is not possible as a disabled single mom of a toddler. 

I do, however, ascribe to a few of the points he outlines. Everyone’s morning looks different. Me personally: I am an early riser (always have been) and I love being able to relax with my cup of coffee before rushing off anywhere. 

This is the important part: relax with coffee. (As you will see in an upcoming post, my mornings used to consist of me vomiting the alcohol out from the night before. That has not been the case for almost six years now. Yay!) 

And, the second mist important part: not rushing off anywhere. I hate being late – or even on time. I prefer arriving early to places, if I can. To me, there is no worse way of starting a day than by arriving at work late after being stuck in traffic and angry that I couldn’t pee before having to start my shift. (Side note: that’s a reason why I work for myself at home now, lol.) 

So, what to do whilst relaxing with said coffee? Don’t go on Instagram. Keep it closed. Close Twitter. Nope, Facebook isn’t allowed either. (Or Meta, to whatever it is called these days.) 

I like to sit outside, if I can, for a few moments, and hear the birds chirp. It is known that spending a few minutes in nature can improve mental health. And, if y’all knew the place I USED to live, with the constant cars, cars, people, honking, cars, car doors slamming, and cars, you’d know that I feel very lucky and grateful to live somewhere now where the only person who could potentially see me on my patio would need a high-powered telescope. 

While I sit outside, I stay off my phone. Inevitably, I open it up because that is where I keep my daily to-do lists. If there is a day I decide to work out of Starbucks or the library, I can have access to my list from anywhere (oh, the joys of iCloud). 

to-do list.

If it is the beginning of the week, I take a few minutes and jot down every event in my paper planner. I keep this as my “overview” for the week, where the meetings, appointments, and kid things are kept. 

After I make my list, it helps me visualize the day. I can break it down into what tasks I find easier/ difficult, what constitutes work and what does not. (The joy of working from home means I often do laundry on my self-imposed “breaks” – lol.) 

Then – Wordle! My mom got me into doing this, and I love that it helps wake up my brain at the beginning of the day. Sometimes I have to put it down and continue after I drop my daughter off at school, but I always finish it and love the satisfying “click” my brain gives when I figure it out. 

I write in my gratitude journal. It is literally called “The One Minute Gratitude Journal” and, get this, it takes about 30 seconds to write in. Over time, as this book fills up, I like to look back and remember happy moments. Even when I’m already feeling good, this boosts me up even more. 

Then, I make my bed. Why is this important? It has been shown that making your bed helps to lower stress and start your day off right. But, I wait a bit to make it – maybe an hour or so. Making the bed right away just tucks in all the dust mites and keeps them warm and cozy, while letting your bed air out helps kill them. 

Then, shower and begin my day. 

Here is the thing: no morning is the same. Some days I get up earlier and have more time to do extra things, such as write more or read a magazine article. Some mornings I have calls with friends. (Hey, when you have to wrangle kids all day, sometimes 7am is the only time we have to talk!) Some mornings I journal; others, I listen to an audiobook. Still others I’m out the door right away and on my way to Home Depot or some other big box store that I can’t stand and that’s why I go so early in the morning – to avoid all the people. 

However, despite the changes in day-to-day life, I still attempt to complete the following: coffee, to-do list, visualize the day, Wordle, gratitude, make my bed. This might take me half an hour at the most. Some days it can stretch out for hours. 

The joy of having a morning routine can be found in this: having a structured morning can be beneficial and conducive to a productive day. Feeling as if tasks have been accomplished before even leaving the house (I usually leave around 730am to take my daughter to school) can really jump-start my day on a positive note. 

Then again, some days are meant for throwing everything out the window, saying fuck it, and going back to sleep. 

What about you? Does having a morning routine make you more productive? Do you use one? Why or why not? I would love to hear your comments! Please leave them below and have a fantastic day. 

Note: I do not receive commission if you click on the links and buy anything. I’m only sharing them because I truly like them! 

Favourite Writing Practices, Part I

[read time: 7 minutes]

I wanted to share with you some of my favourite writing practices that I’ve picked up over the years.

For those of you who do not know, I have a BA in English and English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing (Creative Nonfiction). I was a creative writing major in high school (many moons ago) and wanted to become a high school Humanities teacher specifically because of my love for English, English lit, and writing. 

Learning about creative writing is fun. I can then take what I’ve learned and apply it, teach it, and see what works. 

One of my favourite things to do in class is something called a Wild Mind, developed by Natalie Goldberg, from her bookWriting Down the Bones (1986). She consequently wrote a book titled Wild Mind (1990) after the success of the previous. 

This could be considered similar tostream-of-consciousness writing or the morning pages by Julia Cameron. However, unlike Cameron, where she expects you to put away the morning pages and never look at them again, Goldberg encourages you to read your wild mind – if you want.

So, what is a wild mind, exactly? As Goldberg says, 

“The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise. You may time yourself for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or an hour… whatever amount of time you choose… you must commit yourself to it and for that full period…

1. Keep your hand moving. 
2. Don’t cross out. 
3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. 
4. Lose control. 
5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. 
6. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.)” 

Goldberg outlines these rules for writing: “The aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor.” We have to get out the ugly before we get out the good. Also, there could be a gem hidden in there: some of the best things I’ve written have been buried deep in a wild mind. 

Writing Down the Bones is a short book, punctuated by easily-digestible chapters. Besides introducing me to the practice of wild minds, Goldberg has a plethora of fantastic advice. For example, she says, “When you write, don’t say, ‘I’m going to write a poem.’ That attitude will freeze you right away. Sit down with the least expectation of yourself; say, ‘I am free to write the worst junk in the world.’ You have to give yourself the space to write a lot without a destination.” 

I try to take this advice to heart. It’s similar to the maxim that first drafts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be written. In fact, I find that the editing process is the most fruitful to me personally: it does not matter if my story is full of plot holes – they can be figured out later. At least I wrote the parts I wanted to; I can add or subtract later. That’s the beauty in editing. 

She understands that at times, sitting down to write can be daunting. Goldberg says, “The blank page can be intimidating, and it does get boring to write over and over again for ten minutes of practice, ‘I can’t think of what to say. I can’t think of what to say.’” In order to combat this, Goldberg recommends bringing a notebook with you everywhere. Then, when a good idea comes, jot it down. She says to jot down anything interesting: a snippet of conversation you heard, a topic, a list. I realize that this book was written in 1986, before cell phones. I use the “notes” app on my mobile to write things down quickly. 

As you begin to compile various bits of interesting information you’ve picked up, the composting begins. “Just practice writing, and when you learn to trust your voice, direct it. If you want to write a novel, write a novel. If it’s essays or short stories, write them. In the process of writing them, you will learn how,” says Goldberg. “Instead people often begin writing from a poverty mentality. They are empty and run to teachers and classes to learn about writing. We learn writing by doing it. That simple.” And it truly is that simple. If you write, you have fodder to work with. If you do not write, all you have is an empty notebook or blank screen staring back at you. You cannot edit what you have not written. You can not submit a draft that has never been developed. 

She argues, “When you bake a cake, you have ingredients: sugar, flour, butter, baking soda, eggs, milk. You put them in a bowl and mix them up, but this does not make a cake. This makes goop. You have to put them in the oven and add heat or energy to transform it into cake, and the cake looks nothing like its original ingredients… In a sense this is what writing is like. You have all these ingredients, the details of your life, but just to list them is not enough.” Then, once this is done and all completed, Goldberg hopes that “You are offering up some good solid bread for the hungry.” Goldberg is a master of metaphors. This example perfectly illustrates the act of bringing a story together (or a blog post, or an article) and how, despite having the perfect ingredients, they need to be assembled and baked for the correct message to come across. 

As Goldberg claims, “Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed… but there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details.” Ah, yes. The joy of being a writer. We go over every detail incessantly, worry over every conversation, pick apart moments in time. We tease meaning out of (almost) every interaction and mythologize the stars. 

I try to use all of Goldberg’s advice here, in combination with the timed writing practice of wild minds, to enhance both my writing practice and that within the classroom. 

You don’t know what is going to come out of you when you write a wild mind – just write. That’s the point. Get it down, get it out, recover one excellent sentence and throw out the rest. Or keep the whole thing. Sometimes, I feel, the greatest challenge to being a writer is the writing itself. 

What about you? Do you have a favourite writing practice you enjoy? Leave me a comment below! 

Note: I do not receive commission if you click on the links and buy anything. I’m only sharing them because I truly like them!

What I recommend:

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Moleskine notebook