Staring at Pain Killers

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I was about 16 years old. Perhaps a year younger or a year older. I was home alone, a rare commodity amongst my large family. I had just gotten into an argument with my parents, the subject of which is no longer important enough for me to remember. I had convinced myself that I was unloved. More importantly, I thought I was unlovable.

As a teenager, I was deeply unhappy. There was no real cause for my unhappiness. I had a great childhood. A good group of friends. I didn’t do too badly in school. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. But my unhappiness grew to be the only thing I could really see. Some days, I knew that things would eventually get better, that it wouldn’t always be like this; I looked forward to those days. On other days, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could see was darkness. On these days, I allowed my demons to control me.

I remember feeling a sense of calm, but I also felt manic. I walked around the house looking for pill bottles, painkillers that I hoped would subside a hurt that went far beyond the physical. I purposefully left alone any prescription medications my parents or grandmother might need. I didn’t want anyone to suffer because of me. I gathered a collection of capsules in a dish and stared.

I don’t think I ever truly wanted to not be alive. The issue was that I wanted to feel alive, to feel as though I was really living. And if I wasn’t, if i was constantly succumbing to those darker places, what was the point? Without a real purpose, I wasn’t able to grasp why I should continue living. I felt as though I was a burden, as though my unhappiness was causing my family to become unhappy. And it was my fault.

I don’t remember crying. I don’t think I did. I was shaking, though. And it wasn’t long before I realized that I was about to do something that I didn’t actually want to do. I knew I didn’t want to die. I picked up the phone and called my friend. She conveniently lived next door. I asked her to come over and she was at my doorstep less than a minute later. She could hear in my voice that something was wrong.

It’s only now at almost 30 years old, that I am starting to face what I have spent more than a decade trying to ignore. Depression. It’s the word I’ve always been afraid to use. I was afraid of the stigma and afraid of what that meant of me. It doesn’t mean that I’m weak, it doesn’t mean that I’m a lesser person. It means that I’m human. And on my most anxiety-ridden days, I have to remind myself of these things.

My friend sat with me on the couch. We didn’t say much to each other. We didn’t have to. I just needed her there to sit with me. She eventually ventured into the kitchen and found my collection of pain killers. “What were you planning to do with this?” she asked, not expecting an answer. She quietly and calmly returned the pills to their respective bottles, cleaned out the dish and returned it to its place in the cupboard. We never again spoke about that day. And when my family returned home, all signs of my panic had disappeared. It was as though it never happened.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if she didn’t come over, if she didn’t answer her phone. Would I have taken the pills out of sheer desperation? It’s clear that I didn’t actually want to kill myself. But I’m not sure that I knew that then.

This is just a small piece of my story, and I’m not telling it because I want people to pity me, or look at me through sorrowful eyes. I’m telling it because it has taken me many, many years to come to terms with what I have been battling for so long, and I’m finally ready to start talking about it. And we should talk about it. We should all tell our stories, whatever they might be. Because mental health needs to be discussed. Because there are other teenagers out there staring at bowls full of painkillers. And maybe if we talk about it, maybe if I start to tell my story, I can finally stop hiding and start healing.

Don’t Tell Me My Dress is Slimming

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For generations, women have based their wardrobes on the clothes that they have been told are flattering for their body type. We’ve worn black because it makes us look thin, we’ve worn A-line dresses because it’s the most flattering for our shape. We hide our arms because we don’t want people to see that extra flab. I used to be this kind of girl; the type that would love when someone would tell me that I looked like I had lost a few pounds, or that my my dress was slimming. I used to look at thin girls and envy them. Then, as I grew up I thought, “Fuck that shit.”

I made the choice that I no longer wanted to be self-conscious about my body, and I no longer wanted to ‘hide’ my flaws. I didn’t want to be the type of women that spent her life hiding under the types of clothes she was told to wear, rather than just be happy with herself and wear exactly what I wanted.

I am a lover of fashion and art, and love to express that through my clothes. I know what looks good on me, only because these are the types of clothes that make me feel the most comfortable in my skin, make me feel the most confident, and make me look in the mirror and think, “Wow I look great today.”

So, when I make that effort to get all gussied up in clothes that express who I am, I absolutely hate when someone tells me that my outfit is “slimming.” All that tells me is that the rest of the time, I look like a fat cow and should hide under a bag. Okay, this might be a bit extreme, but how am I supposed to take it? Saying “that dress is so slimming” only tells me that every other outfit you have seen me in before this made me look grotesque.

Telling me my dress is slimming tells me that you think I should keep hiding. It tells me that my body isn’t good enough to put on display, and that my best only occurs when I give in to all those female ideals that I worked so hard to rid my life of. And to that I say, “Fuck that shit.”

The next time you want to pay me a compliment, tell me I look nice, fabulous, beautiful, gorgeous. Tell me my outfit is fantastic. You can even tell me how flattering my outfit is. But don’t tell me my dress is slimming. My body type and my weight should never enter the conversation.

The fact of the matter is that I will never have a flat stomach. My arms will always be kind of flabby. I will always have wide shoulders, my thighs will always touch and my hips will always be disproportionately small.

And I am perfectly happy with that.

In the Wake of Loss

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I have never understood loss. Not really, anyway. Not until a month ago.

Last month, I lost a dear friend of mine. She was smart, beautiful, funny, caring, and good. She was good. She was simply good.

I’m still unsure of what caused her death, but I know what killed her. My friend, who I have known for most of my life, wasn’t able to nourish her body the way most of us can. She suffered from an illness that I will never truly understand. And it’s this illness that took her life.

The thing is, I hadn’t spoken to my friend in quite some time. I hadn’t seen her in even longer. I found it difficult to be around her because I wanted to shield her from her demons, force her into some form of treatment. But I couldn’t. There was nothing that I could do to help her and that fact was hard to swallow. I eventually put distance between us; an act I will always regret. I just thought, eventually, she’d ask for help. Eventually she’d get better. And then we could all move on.

Now that she’s gone, now that I know I’ll never see her again and she’ll never have the chance to get better, I miss her so much. I have never before been filled with so much sadness. And now, a month later, I’m convinced I will always feel this way. I will always miss her and I will always be sad about what happened to her. There is no moving on, there’s simply learning to live without that small piece of myself that she took with her.

I still have days when I’ll wake up, think of her, and suddenly not know what to do with myself. I live alone and I work from home, which, I have realized, is toxic to someone who is in the grieving process. So, on these days, instead of taking care of my responsibilities, I immerse myself in worlds of fiction. I turn to lighthearted ChickLit and romantic comedies, where the girl always gets the guy, the good guy always wins, and everyone is always okay in the end. These worlds help me forget. Help me forget that my friend isn’t here anymore, help me forget about her family who lost a wonderful daughter, sister and aunt, and help me forget that I failed her.

All I wanted to do, for so long, was protect her. I wanted her to get better. I wanted her to want to get better. And I wanted her to know that I’d help her along the way. But I’m not so sure she knew that. Because I simply could not accept her illness and I couldn’t just pretend that nothing was wrong. Now, I wish I had just been there for her anyway. I wish I had followed through on making plans with her, called her, and just been a friend to her. I should have spent more time with her. I should have tried harder. I wish I could have just accepted that I couldn’t save her. She had to do that for herself.

I used to feel angry with her, that she wasn’t getting the help I knew she needed. Now, I accept it. I accept that she was suffering and overcoming her illness was just too hard. I just wish I had found this acceptance at a time when I could have told her, “It’s okay. I understand. I’m here for you anyway.”

My friend was smart, had a great career, was so funny, and was so very beautiful — on the inside and out. She was a genuine person, which is hard to find these days. She was quirky, and owned it. She was encouraging and somehow always made me feel good. Because she was good.

To my dear, sweet friend: I hope you are looking down at us from up in the clouds, eating and drinking to your heart’s content. I know you’ve finally found your peace. I’ll see you on the other side.

The Things I Fear

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I have irrational fears.

I am terrified of clowns, so much so that I will begin to shake and lose my breath when one is near me. My parents tell me I’ve been scared of clowns since I was about three-years-old. A ceramic lamp in my older brother’s room seems to have been the cause.

The very thought of snakes make me cringe. I am constantly worried that I will arrive home to find one slithering out of my toilet.

I hate hospitals. I’m scared of what happens inside them. More than once, I’ve panicked while visiting relatives. I begin to cry, uncontrollably. It becomes hard to breathe. And then I can’t escape fast enough. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s happened enough for me to want to avoid hospitals. My grandfather died in a hospital. I was six. I loved him. The doctor told us he passed away. I didn’t know what that meant until my father took me into his room and asked if I had anything I wanted to tell him. I shook my head. I stayed silent. I didn’t understand death then.

I fear that I won’t be able to conceive children. I fear this because I have a disorder called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It stops me from being able to menstruate on my own, among many other smaller symptoms including acne, oily skin, and mood swings. Most women who suffer from PCOS are still able to conceive. My fear is irrational.

More than not being able to conceive children, I’m scared of having a miscarriage. I’m strong in many ways, but am not strong enough to deal with such a loss. My desire to be a mother is too great. This would ruin me.

I worry that I will never succeed. That I’m not as great of a writer as I have led myself to believe for so many years. That I will never write a novel and, even if I do, no one will want to read it. I fear that I will never be financially stable as a writer. That, eventually, I will have to tuck my tail between my legs and go back to the type of job that eats at my soul. The kind that will give me stability, but make me so unhappy that I’ll no longer be able to recognize myself in the mirror.

I fear, as many do, death. I think about death often. My own death. My loved ones dying. I fear not being able to say goodbye. I wonder what it would be like to get sick at a young age and know that I’m not going to make it. I fear dying before I’m ready.

I fear that losing any one of my best friends would be something I wouldn’t be able to recover from. That a piece of me would die with them and moving on would be just too hard.

I fear losing my parents before I’m ready. I fear losing one parent will be too hard for my family. I’m not sure what would happen to my siblings and me if we were left on our own — I fear our relationships would crumble and I would lose them too. I also fear losing my brothers before I am able to build the kind of relationship with them I have always longed for. Before I can get them to love me the way I always hoped they would.

I am utterly terrified of the very thought of someday not having my mom around. She’s the single best thing in my life.

I fear being alone. That when it’s all said and done I’ve somehow alienated everyone close to me. I’m scared that I may be unlovable. That my many quirks and neuroses will drive people away. That one day I’ll look around and I’ll have no one to share my fears with.

Rosemina is a writer from Toronto, Ontario. She is a lover of music, bad TV shows and all things pop culture. You can read more of her musings by following her on Twitter @RoseminaN

Dear Men, Stop Staring at My Boobs

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Two years ago, my friends and I decided to have a low-key New Year’s Eve. Instead of spending our money on tickets to one of Toronto’s many parties, we decided to go out for a nice meal. But, that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to dress up. I wore a little black dress that happened to have a v-neck cut. I was a bit uncomfortable with the amount of cleavage I was showing, so I made attempts to cover myself up with a well-placed safety-pin. I was still showing a lot more cleavage than I am used to, but I figured, ‘Hey, it’s NYE. Why not?’

What I did not anticipate was what happened at dinner. My friends and I were seated next to a family of three — mom, dad and teenage son. The mom and dad seemed to be at odds, perhaps they were even divorced. How could I possibly know that? Well, the man was obviously distracted and clearly not paying much attention to the conversation at his table. He spent the better part of his dinner staring at my chest. Staring is perhaps too light a word. He was ogling. All night. Through his and my entire dinner.

But that’s not even the punch line. He proceeded to take out his smartphone and while pretending to take photos of the restaurant’s decor, he started taking pictures of me. He wasn’t very good at his spy tactics since his phone was so obviously pointing at my chest and I definitely took notice. I turned away from him, which made conversation with my friends a tad bit difficult. They too had noticed the attempted picture-taking and were just as baffled as I was. Eventually, I switched places with one of my friends to avoid the harassment.

And this brings me to my burning questions. Why can’t females show a bit of skin without so much unwanted attention? And when did the possession of mobile technology grant us the right to take photographs of random strangers? (I’m not even going to touch upon the fact that the man was not serving as the best role model for what I assume was his son.)

This wasn’t the first time someone has stared at my chest, nor was it the last. But could this man have been so unaware of his actions that he didn’t notice how uncomfortable he was making me? Or, did he just not care? He certainly managed to have me question my choice of attire and made me wish I was drowning in a very large coat.

I am a curvy female who, on occasion, will wear cleavage-baring dresses. Sometimes I might even show some leg. I am confident enough that I don’t feel I have to hide behind baggy shirts, and no one should expect me to. Yes, my breasts are on the larger side, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to wear a cute top or dress without having some guy stare at my bits all night. And for those of you who will inevitably ask, no I don’t dress to gain attention from men or women. I’m a lover of fashion and art and dress only to please myself.

To the guy from NYE, thanks for making my night so uncomfortable. I hope you’ve seen the error of your ways and will teach your son how to treat females with more respect. To the gentlemen of the world, thank you for treating me with dignity and making me feel comfortable enough to show a little skin now and then.

Rosemina is a writer from Toronto, Ontario. She is a lover of music, bad TV shows and all things pop culture. You can read more of her musings by following her on Twitter @RoseminaN