The Last Time

drunk girl

The last time I touched cocaine was January 31st. Had I have known it would be my last time, I probably would have done things differently. I would have picked up an eight ball instead of a half and stayed awake all weekend. I would have thrown some sort of epic going away party for the dirty little habit that had taken up much of my twenties.

I had quit before, but was easily seduced back into its familiar arms. Cocaine promised to take me somewhere better than where I was, to a version of reality where I was happier, where I could forget about the depression and anxiety that plagued me, the things that robbed me of my confidence and grace. I wasn’t as sad as I used to be, or at least I didn’t think I was, but I still had this shadow that followed me around. Cocaine was like sunshine in comparison, and so I always returned. But something felt different this time.

It wasn’t so much that I was sick of the drug. There’s a reason I liked it for so long, a reason I was late for so many parties, and then, once I got to those parties, why I was always one of the last ones to leave. There’s a reason I spent way too much money on it over the years, an amount I don’t particularly care to calculate. I was just sick of me being on drugs and I thought about this as I put on my shoes and headed to the party. But later, after a few bumps in the bathroom, I pushed the thought away and my night turned into a blur like all the others before it.

I woke up on February 1st and, as I began putting the pieces together from the night before, I realized I didn’t want to be that girl anymore. I replayed the night’s events over in my head thinking, was I the only girl high at the party? There used to be more of us. But over the years, people trickled off. Some quit. Some went to rehab. Some disappeared. It used to be that cocaine was everywhere—or at least it felt that way. Sometimes when I was trying to do less I would tell myself I’d only do it if someone offered it to me, knowing that it would indeed be offered to me a some point in the night. Life felt glamorous like that. I felt like a woman from a rock and roll memoir, a wild child. I felt like I had a secret that made me interesting, which is such a cokehead thing to believe, that doing coke makes you interesting. It doesn’t.

If it was a rock bottom, it was a quiet one. There were worse lows scattered across the half a decade I spent dancing that line between a bad habit and an addiction. There were nights that ended with intense fights, and others with minor interventions. There were nights I don’t remember, and scars I don’t have stories for. I have been high in the presence of people I should not have been high around in situations I should not have been high in. On occasion, I bought the drug instead of doing something more responsible like paying bills or buying food. Once or twice, I found a baggie in my purse at work and did just the tiniest little bit, to even out. One time I rubbed it on my teeth as my boyfriend sped down the highway. I just wanted to feel alive, you know? And coke made me feel alive.

Plus, aside from this, it didn’t really cause that many problems in my life. I held down a job and progressed in my career. The friends who did coke with me also had 9-5s. They were artists and teachers and engineers. We paid for our drugs with pay cheques earned the good old-fashioned way, at corporate jobs or through freelance gigs. We looked after each other. We had fun. We laughed a lot. We danced. No one got arrested. No one died. And no one seemed to mind that I was high all the time, so I didn’t really mind either.

In fact, I looked forward to it. When I first started doing cocaine I didn’t want it to become a problem, so I’d make myself wait until 10 p.m. on Friday night before I did my first line. I thought this little ritual proved that I had willpower and restraint. But after a while, I stopped waiting for 10 p.m. Then I stopped waiting for Fridays. After a little while longer, I had three dealers’ numbers saved in my top 10. I was hooked. I loved doing a quick line before I went out. I loved the way it felt riding the streetcar high through the city. I loved a quick bump before a quick fuck. I loved doing it while I was getting ready to go out somewhere, with the record player spinning as I put on some eyeliner, stopping to do bumps between drinks. It was one of my favourite routines, the act of getting ready. The act in itself.

I didn’t realize it had become such a crutch, filling a void alcohol didn’t fill anymore. I was used to coke, and I felt more like myself when I was on coke, or at least more of the self I wanted to be. I felt confident, sexy and smart. It made me social and outgoing. I thought it made me fun! This is exactly how I used to feel about alcohol. Except I didn’t realize that it had taken the place of alcohol, because the alcohol never stopped either.

I’ve been playing the part of the party girl, though perfectly cast, for far too long. Coke was helping me to maintain an image I’m not so sure I want to maintain anymore. When I came to that February morning, I knew it was time to stop hiding under a veil of powdered confidence and liquid courage. It was time to say good-bye.

In like a lion, out like a lamb. That’s how this felt to me. And maybe this means my story is a happy one and that I got out before things got too bad. Still, it’s been harder than I expected. I crave it almost every weekend, talk about it too much, and find myself yearning for it, especially after a few drinks. I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to delete the numbers in my phone, though I have stopped responding to text messages from business-savvy dealers. I’m aware that temptation is a dangerous mistress. While I have no intention of indulging, there is comfort in knowing she’s just 10 digits away. Like the ex-smoker with a pack of cigarettes on the top shelf of the pantry, I keep it just out of reach. Just for now. Just in case.

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Staring at Pain Killers

delicate

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.

My Guilt-Ridden Journey to Being a Mom

photo-1414432548815-900106408037 copyIt’s a dark and lonely journey sometimes. The one leading from the day you have a child to the day you become a parent. “It’ll come,” they said. “It’s all natural,” they shushed.

It didn’t feel natural.

I ignored it, basking in the surrounding warmth. My mom was there to help me, a welcome breath in the blur of new parenthood. I rarely got to have her around, so it was lovely to have her by my side. I was surrounded by helpful and positive souls. That helped. Helped me forget there was a problem. Helped me sweep it under the rug.

“It’s just baby blues. It’ll go away,” I told myself.

Baby blues! That even sounds ‘cute’. And dismissible.

So I dismissed it.

That mommyhood ‘glow’ was not something that happened to me. I’d had a C-section. My body was struggling, not because anything went wrong, but because someone had to cut through seven layers of me to get to a baby, only to sew me back up and send me away, tasked with the care of said baby.

I call her Murphyskid. She was born in distress and had infant reflux. She never slept for more than 40 minutes at a stretch, and when she did, it was sprawled out across my chest.

This is the stuff you’re unprepared for. The stuff no beautifully presented prenatal class or book tells you.

Three months of lovely, helpful guests, having meals cooked for me, and endless helping hands later, my mom left. I remember her trying to prop me up a few days before. She’d pretend the baby wouldn’t settle with her and hand her over to me (having done most of the heavy lifting first) and when she did fall asleep, I’d get big smiles of,”Look how good you’ve gotten at this.” God bless that woman. She is my hero. No matter what your relationship is with your mother, make it work. Fix it; shine it. You’re going to need her (or the closest equivalent thereof) if you plan to do this baby thing.

The night before my mom left, I lay in bed crying. I could not imagine doing this without her.

She left and I had no choice but to cope. My husband and I lived in Dubai at the time and we had access to some household help. My in-laws came to visit. They were all great with the baby, but I still felt like something wasn’t right.

Was it normal to only feel fine when the baby wasn’t with me? It sounded wrong. It made me feel guilty. So I ignored these vague wonderings, grabbed a footing and hung on for dear life. All the while, I was feeling nothing for my child but mild curiosity. Cue more guilt.

Then the rug was pulled out from under my feet when we moved to Toronto. That in itself is a task of mighty proportions, but add in a sick, cranky baby and it was almost unbearable.

Symptoms got worse with the baby. Unknown to us, she had a dairy allergy, one that took the doctors (two different competent ones on two different continents) 11 months to figure out. Allergies often have associated pain. And when they are too young to tell you, they cry, and gripe and cling. In our case, Murphyskid did all of those. For nearly the whole first year of her life, when she was awake, she sat on the back of the couch, behind me, hanging on to my hair. She only slept with me beside her, holding my hair. I’d stay still and not breathe, in case I woke her and we had to do it all again.

Personal space was gone. I felt claustrophobic and angry all the time. Completely out of control. And guilty. I felt so guilty.

I fantasized about ending something. “We’ll put her up for adoption,” I said. “Lots of people want babies. She’s young enough that she can forget us.” Or we could move to someplace where we have a bit more help. Or, at worst, I thought I could just kill myself.

My husband, M, listened quietly, helplessly, desperately trying to help take the operational burden off me, so I could breathe on my own. That helped a bit, but still it was so much easier for me to just sit there and feel sorry for myself. So I did. And I was passive aggressive about it. Even malicious. I hugged too hard. Pushed too far. Yelled too loud. Cried too often. Maybe if I did that enough she’d stop wanting to be so close? Maybe then I’d have more space and that would make me happy?

That’s when M and my cousin suggested that I look into the resources available for mommy depression. “You cant be the only one,” he said.

I dragged myself to our family doctor, and I say “dragged” because it was such an effort. Shower, get out of pyjamas, and go out? That’s got to be more than I can take. Why cant I just stay here and sleep? I did a lot of that at the time…sleep. And feel guilty. My typical day involved: Wake, ineffectually cope, feel guilty, sleep, overeat, cry, cope, sleep, feel guilty, feel guilty… you get my drift.

The physician was great. He was matter of fact, and empathetic. He suggested self help as the first line of attack, primarily because we didn’t have insurance to cover rounds of psychotherapy, and secondly because he is a fan of cognitive therapy. In normal speak that means being aware of what you’re thinking, feeling and doing; trying to establish patterns that will help you find the sticky areas, which hopefully you can work on fixing by being less negative. It’s heavily reliant on your action and that’s exactly what I needed. Control. Not in a bad way, but in a, “I need to be responsible for stopping my life from spinning out of control” way.

It was an investment of time. I had to read a book he recommended. I had to fill out exercise sheets with how I was feeling, when and what triggered it. I had to quantify emotions. What a load of crap, I thought. How can this possibly help? I hated my life, I hated my child; how could the way I felt at 7:30 am this morning possibly help me figure this out?

But then I surprised myself. I found those patterns. M helped me distance myself from some of the situations that aggravated my anger and helplessness. Even today he does more bedtimes than me because that was one of the things that undid me. My claustrophobia would come out to play when I was trapped in a dark room with her climbing all over me because she didn’t want to sleep.

Soon I needed less and less logging. My mind found clarity. We paid to take Murphyskid to a naturopathic doctor for holistic help. The dairy allergy was found. A switch to soy and three days later she was a new person. The wasted time and effort of it all could’ve driven me on a downward spiral, but instead I felt relieved. Like a mom would. It was a sign of wellness.

The doctor also put me on B vitamins, which were responsible for the functioning of the central nervous system. She told me carve out a portion of the day for myself. Have a few drinks with a friend once a week. Exercise.

I can’t say I did all of those things. But I did some. And it helped. Oh, how it helped!

Yes there is a happy ending to my story. I am now 3.5 years into my relationship with a walking, talking, feeling, intelligent little person whom I love from the bottom of my being. We could’ve got there a lot quicker if I had had the right expectation. If that default screen saver image of what motherhood should look like hadn’t been planted in there to mess with my head.

I am respectful of the mind now. It’s not all about thinking, it about feeling. It’s about making deeper, more meaningful connections. It’s about letting myself love, both myself and those around me. It’s about learning coping mechanisms for when life becomes overwhelming. It’s about talking to people. And most important of all, it’s about taking it one day at a time.

Susan Diaz is a writer and independent communicator. She lives in the mad bustle of downtown Toronto with her husband and challenging 3 year old who drives her to blog most days! In her blog Carrots and Peace, she offers a humorous perspective on the things close to her heart – food, no holds barred parenting and musings on just about anything else in-between. She’s on twitter @susandiaztweets.

In Defence Of Mental Wellness

there's more to mental health than mental illness

I don’t like the way we talk about mental health, mostly because the conversation is usually framed around “mental illness.” Mental health is so much more complex than that. There’s this entire other side to the equation, one we don’t talk about as much or often enough, and that is mental wellness. When we forget about wellness, we remove not only the element of hope that is so crucial when you are depressed or anxious or angry or lost, but also the opportunity for things to get better.

I’ve written a lot in my life, and on occasion I’ve even gathered up the courage to put something out there that is really personal. It is terrifying to admit to the world that you are flawed, that you have complexes, that sometimes the things you do or think are not normal. I’ve shied away from talking about my own battles with depression and anxiety because I too fall victim to the stigma. But I’m starting to care less about what people think these days. Depression and anxiety may be a part of my life, but they do not define it.

I started shifting my thinking about this late last year. I realized that I had a problem with how I viewed my own mental health. My perspective mirrored society’s. I too looked at my condition as a mental illness and I forgot about my own mental wellness.

It’s easy to do that when you are sick. But after a while, I became sick of being sick. I was sick of feeling sorry for myself, sick of being sad, sick of crying all the time, sick of feeling like nothing was ever going to get better, sick of talking to people, sick of taking pills, sick of drinking too much, sick of feeling the way I felt, sick of being tired all the time, sick of fighting it. I cycled through years of this and every time it felt just as bad as the last.It felt like things would never improve, like I was destined to live in this cloud of darkness.

I read memoirs about other people’s struggles with depression and even the ones I cherished, most notably Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation, didn’t do much to make me feel better, even if I felt less alone. At some point, I accepted depression and anxiety as part of who I was, and that was a dangerous thing for me to do. With acceptance comes comfort and once you’re comfortable, what desire do you have to ever change things?

It’s not like I didn’t try. I spent a lot of time getting referred from one place to the next and listening to one person’s opinion then another. I worked hard on my career, determined not to let my sickness bring me down and even though it did at times, I was further determined not to let anyone know that this sickness existed. I got pretty good at it too. My reputation for being social and bubbly and hard working never faded. But it was not a very effective method for me because at the end of every day I still felt sad, this deep crushing sadness that made me question everything in my life, including my value and my worth. I wondered if people thought I was talented. I wondered if people loved me. I wondered, when they told me that they did, what they could possibly see in me, a shell of a girl.

Then I started thinking about it and I realized I was actually just sick of thinking of myself as mentally ill. How I hated that term. I’m not mentally ill! I shouted from the inside out. There’s so much more to me than that. I’m ambitious, I’m funny, I’m loving, I’m fun. I like to plan events and parties and talk to people and travel places and take pictures and document life and try new things and take chances. I realized it’s not that I was mentally ill, it’s that I wasn’t mentally well.

This idea of wellness seemed new to me. I hadn’t quite looked at things through that lens before and this changed things. I started to recognize that I really did need to learn how to shift my thinking patterns, and I realized this would take time and effort. I stopped thinking about the things that made me sick and instead concentrated on the things that could make me better. I sat down to write a list of 25 things that made me happy and before I knew it I had 47, then 60, then 82. I had a totally new perspective on my own mental wellbeing and I knew it was up to me to make some changes.

I decided to embrace mind over matter and I stopped looking at myself as sick and started looking at myself as someone who had the power to be well. I started embracing the very idea of wellness. All these things that were contributing to my depression and anxiety, I realized I could change them. And if I couldn’t change them, I realized I had to let them go. Maybe I’ll always struggle with my mental health to some extent, as I still do now, but I’ve realized I have a responsibility to myself to not make it any worse. I have a responsibility to myself to make it better.

Everything is going to be okay because what other option is there? ~ Me

In order to become okay, I had to put work into myself, a different kind of work than I was doing before. I had to be proactive and less passive. I had to decide what was worthy of occupying what I call my mental real estate, the places in your mind where all your thoughts, fears, and dreams live. I had to decide to be okay.

After so many years of feeling trapped and running in the big fat hamster wheel that is depression and anxiety, realizing I have the power to open the door was a huge discovery for me. And being ready to open that door was life changing.

How My Vanity Helps Fight My Depression

Lipstick-in-mirror

I like to look good, but I admit I don’t always dress the part. On occasion my hair is a disaster and in need of a good washing, and sometimes my outfits are a little on the questionable side. What can I say, my depression gets the better of me sometimes, and it makes getting dressed and doing my hair feel like climbing mountains. I know this because I climbed a mountain once in the heat of the Vancouver sun. I thought I wouldn’t, but I made it to the top.

Depression itself is a lot like climbing a mountain. You just keep going and going looking for the light, the break in the trees, the place where it all levels out. The summer I climbed Grouse Mountain I started paying attention to the details, and perhaps it is for this reason I still remember the signs warning climbers of mountain lions in the area, of the possibility of imminent danger. This is also what depression feels like: that at any moment something could just come out of nowhere and take you out without warning. It is both exhilarating and exhausting to live on this edge, this divide between beauty and the beast.

When I got to the top of Grouse Mountain I looked like shit. I know this because I took a before and after photo and my straight platinum blonde hair had turned into strings that dangled from my head like pieces of rope. Despite the accomplishment, I was ashamed of my appearance and of the sweat that told the story of my struggle up the mountain and how even when I came out on top, literally, I didn’t look at the top of my game. This bothered me. I never showed the photo to anyone. If Instagram had existed then, no filter would have salvaged my confidence.

A big part of my life since the depression started seeping in has been keeping up the illusion that my depression does not exist. I have my vanity to thank in part for that. Appearances have become quite important to me, and looking good has become my best defence in this battle. I have found solace and strength in the deception—and I have found a special kind of hope that comes from looking after yourself. Keeping up appearances has prevented me from plummeting to new lows because it proves to me that I still love myself enough to care.

Eye shadows and red lipsticks have become my weapons in this war. Strokes of smoky purples and dark eyeliners have become my armour, and a crisp chiffon shirt or a tight black dress (worn with pumps or a good pair of boots), my uniform. Maintaining my roots and upgrading my wardrobe have given me the confidence to fight this battle. These are the tools in which I use to combat my depression. They may not be the most noble, but they work.

Women do these little things everyday, but it is these little things precisely that make the difference when you’re depressed. When you put the time into your appearance you feel better, and feeling better is the ultimate weapon in this struggle. Feeling better gives you the strength to put your brave face on and persevere. When you’re feeling better you look better and this makes you more approachable. It allows you to maintain relationships with your coworkers, to hold down jobs, and find success in your endeavours.

If I let myself go, which is rather tempting at times but never an option, I know I would become much sicker. I would fall back into the depths of depression and I would feel ten times worse. There are other tools in this fight—medication and therapy, mostly—but I have found neither to be quite as immediately effective as taking the time to inject self-love back into your daily routine.

Self-love comes in many forms. For me it also comes in working on my body in healthy ways. I go to the gym, ride my bike to and from places, and practice yoga. Being active encourages me to eat healthier, both of which are proven to help lessen depression. Not only does this make me feel better mentally and physically, but it encourages me to work on myself, which ultimately assists in other areas of my life as well. It makes me more accountable and dedicated, and forces me to set goals and work towards them. Feeling a sense of accomplishment is yet another tool in this battle. These small things, even though they stem from a place of vanity, have helped me push forward even when it’s felt unbearable.

Depression is a brutal and debilitating illness that makes doing any of the above feel impossible at times. I am not always able to put on the mask. But it has taught me how important it is to take an active role in your recovery, and to take advantage of any methods that work for you. Depression can make you feel stuck and the best thing to do when that happens is move. I love the excitement that comes with the physical act of getting ready to go somewhere. It indicates that I am moving—and movement, as they say, is life. When I’m feeling really low and I need to shake it, I just get up, put some music on, curl some waves into my hair, and slap a little lipstick on. Depression may not be pretty, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be.

Behind the Clown Nose

Taken during my time in the Comedy Program
Taken during my time in the Comedy Program

On the first day of my Humber College Comedy Writing and Performance Program, our Mentor told us, “If you are here, there is something seriously wrong with you.” I remember thinking he was joking. He had to be. I was sitting in a room full of amazing people who only wanted to make other people laugh. What a beautiful thing. But every day that has passed since then, I can see exactly what he meant.

I remember one of the first assignments for Stand-up class. We had to write two minutes of jokes on pain. I was too vulnerable to write about my own pain. So I first wrote two minutes about the pain of someone else. I was ashamed of myself, because I had pain. It was a demon I have been fighting as long as I can remember. In fact I wrote about it once before here on Blonde. It was about my childhood battle with Scoliosis. Though I have learned to cope with my insecurities on the subject, I know it affects me still. I always forget about it until I find myself getting close to anyone.

Although Robin Williams passed away a few months ago now, I find myself thinking of him lately in the context of my own experiences dealing with pain through comedy. What many people construe as comedic charm is actually an armour of humour. That’s what we need to take from Robin’s Death. He was known as once of the funniest and kindest people in the entertainment world, but he killed himself. How? I am sure non-coms (non-comedians) think he had everything and his death was, though sad, very foolish. What Robin has done has reminded this generation that comics are not happy people. This message was delivered once before by another great comic by the name of Lenny Bruce. In Lenny’s final days, he struggled emotionally and legally over the censorship of material. Not many people today know his story unless you were a comic. I remember being told the Lenny was the Jesus stand-up, because he died for our sins. Lenny Bruce changed the rules of stand-up for the future. Before him… comedy was clean. Now, comedy is a place where issues can be addressed and in my opinion stand-up is the one place where no subject is off the table. Thank God for that.

People Like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin all said something to the world with their stand-up. Lucille Ball said something to world with Desilu Productions. Robin William said something to the world with everything he did, but in his lifetime we didn’t really see it. He did stand-up, he acted in great heartwarming hilarious films and it took him dying to remind us how important it is to realize how much of a silent killer depression really is.

My first year in Comedy School I was dumped. Oh I was dumped BAD. I was destroyed. Luckily, at that time I was assigned a stand-up piece addressing anger. That’s when I came up with this angry comedic poem about everything that happened. I have never been that vulnerable before. Doing it terrified me. Still, I got up on stage and performed it. Looking back at it, I hate that set. It was uncomfortable and painful, but it was so freeing. It was one of my first performances that I ever did. It was also the first time I turned to the stage to deal with something. By doing it, I made myself laugh. People were enjoying themselves and that was my payment for opening up and dealing with an inner struggle in a very public way. To be honest, I thought it was kind of… well, it was twisted. Strangely, I felt better and it helped me to overcome my personal tragedy. That was when I began to understand what my mentor was saying.

We had a class called Physical Comedy. It was because of this class that I truly began to see and understand the people I was working with. There were about 30 people in it and only three others were girls. Naturally, many of the guys became my best friends. One day, our regular teacher was away and filling in was the former Physical Comedy teacher. We did this activity were we had to list of the names of the chapters in our life. This may not mean anything to you, but when you get that specific and share the intimate details of where we are from and what we have been through with a group of people you begin to really see how beautiful and broken people can be. It was this day that I fell in love with every person in that room. I wanted to hug them, protect them and be there for them. I knew that comedians were not like other people. They were delicate and fierce all at the same time.

To me Robin Williams was always a symbol of strength and comfort. I knew of his fight with addiction, but as a fan I only knew him as a symbol of happiness and hilarity. I sometimes forget about the first words said to me in Comedy School. There is something wrong with all of us. There has to be. To know that our best way to deal with things is to get up make fun of our problems and leave with an adrenaline rush. The more I think about my life the more I remember how safe and secure these people made me feel. I also remember when I graduated thinking that I would never again know the love and comfort that I felt in this place. I was wrong, because after the program when I got a day job I began seeing the same comics who I would see in the stand-up world, but they weren’t stand-ups. They were bartenders, store clerks and working at the Apple Store. Comics are different, but we gotta live like we are not.

Robin Williams was a man who had accomplished everything that any comic dreams of, but still he was not okay. He wore that suit of humour with pride and brought joy to millions of people. His death is a permanent reminder that we need to remember that not just comedians, but people in general are suffering and sometimes it is really hard to tell. We need to see his death as a very important reminder that charm doesn’t equal confidence and quite frankly that we don’t know anyone. So be kind, be understanding and no matter how well you think you understand people, remember that you only see what is shown to you… and sometimes it is just a show.

The Day I Decided I Was Going To Be OK

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Since October or so, everything that could have gone wrong in my life has gone wrong. It started with little things that progressively got bigger, leading up to a huge fight during an otherwise pretty great Christmas vacation.

So when 2014 started, I decided that it was going to be my year. I wanted to turn things around.

But how are you supposed to make things better when you’re feeling so low?

I didn’t know where to start. When that happens, I usually write. But I was feeling so broken that writing about how horrible my life was made me even more depressed. I couldn’t put things down in writing as I usually do, and look at my problems with a different perspective. Writing was becoming a pain. Just getting up in the morning was hard.

I told myself to get my shit together. On the first Monday of the year, I set an alarm in the morning to try to find a job (because of course, I’ve been completely unable to find work in my field for months), or at least be somewhat productive. I missed my alarm. Then I proceeded to drop my jewellery-making supplies on the ground. There were beads everywhere in my apartment. Everywhere.

It’s going to get better, I told myself. I made a list of things to do. I love lists. Starting things slowly: apply for at least one job, call my cable company to know if there are ways to pay less each month. Simple, really.

So I made the call. I spent almost two hours on the phone with a customer service rep who either didn’t understand my problem, or didn’t want to help me. I completely lost it. Over my cable subscription.

I spent the next day crying in my bed. At this point, what else could go wrong? It seemed like even little nothings were going wrong in ways I never even imagined possible. That night, I went to bed wondering what the hell I was doing wrong. I’m a pretty nice person, I’m fairly talented at what I do, I’m not horrible looking… Why was the world against me?

When my alarm rang the next day, I was in a surprisingly OK mood. I still snoozed for hours, but I was finally able to extract myself from bed. I took a shower, put clothes on, went to my chiropractor appointment (which was quite lovely as my body had been aching a ridiculous amount). On the way there, I put on this new record I’d just gotten, even if it had been out forever. “FOX”, by Karim Ouellet.

I don’t know if it’s my newly repaired body or the feel-good music, but something clicked. Fuck it, I can do it. I can.

I got home. The cable company called and apologized for the horrible experience, giving me a bunch of free things. A million and one job opportunities I’m not only qualified for – I’m actually interested in doing – were published online. The news that I’ve been named an ambassador for a clothing company I love was released. A friend told me about a cool contest I should participate in. I wrote an article I’d been meaning to write for a month & that will get me great exposure when published. My favourite newsletter (Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity) arrived in my mailbox, with exactly the type of encouragement I needed to read.

I’m not saying everything has become perfect, magically, in a day. But now I’ve decided that it’s going to be OK. I’m going to be OK. Life is always going to have ups and downs. I was lucky in some aspects of life and not so much in others. I chose a more difficult path, an “alternative” lifestyle of travel and freelancing. I set myself up for more difficulties, but it doesn’t mean my life has to be a failure. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure.

It’s going to be OK. I’m going to be OK.

And until I actually am, I’ve got Karim Ouellet to listen to.

Beatrice lives in Montreal (when she’s not travelling.) She works in PR and marketing when she’s not writing for various publications. Follow her on Twitter @beatricebp.