Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Creating My Odyssey: YOUR STORIES I've been reading one of my newslet...

Creating My Odyssey: YOUR STORIES 

I've been reading one of my newslet...
: YOUR STORIES   I've been reading one of my newsletters which has really inspired me! Alexandra Franzen http://www.alexandrafranzen...

I've been reading one of my newsletters which has really inspired me!
features a 'show and tell' post every so often. What a great idea, I thought! So I'm going to do something similar. So if anyone has any projects they're working on, do tell me. Whether it's creative, connected with travel, a business, home renovation, gardening, a hobby...
Another idea I've had is a more personal one. If you've  recovered from depression and anxiety or any other mental health issue, and are now working on a project you've been unable to pursue due to your illness, I'd love to hear from you, and I will write a post featuring your stories.

So, get to your keyboards/grab a pen and paper, and get writing! 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Creating My Odyssey: SPUNKYAND EVER SO SLIGHTLY WACKY!This is how...

Creating My Odyssey:


This is how...
: SPUNKY AND EVER SO SLIGHTLY WACKY! This is how I might justly describe our creative writing group, which I hav...


This is how I might justly describe our creative writing group, which I have, when the discipline moves me, expanded to include an art group which meets at my house the week following our monthly writing group gatherings. 

I'd been a member of both a local writing and art group for some time and thoroughly enjoyed both. I joined them as an aid and therapy for my brain - I was very up and down back then - and they worked a treat. The tutors were excellent and I grew very fond of them, but I can't remember which group came first! (Not that it matters.). I think I found the creative writing group initially - all kinds of writing, no real restrictions - and grew to know and enjoy the company of the members. Three members in particular. Two of them, lovely peeps, were members of a local art group as well. They suggested I pop along, so I did. Another great group. 

I didn't want tuition as far as art went, I just needed encouragement and inspiration and to swop ideas with other creative minds and the discipline to actually DO IT!  And this I did. So I belonged to both groups for some years, and the discipline of writing something to read out and create art every week transpired.

This all occurred while Husband was still working. When he retired I carried on as before and he began voluntary work on a local charity Accessible Boating. Ultimately he became deputy chairman of the charity, but he needed something else. He's a very creative bloke. He writes, and he's in continual building mode on his model railway, which occupies the garage and is the best one yet of all the railways he's built. Fabulous! I suggested he join the art group, so he did, his ultimate quest being to to paint a halfway decent backdrop to the railway (half done!).

Then Husband and I were introduced to open mic (open mike/microphone) nights by my writing group. These events occur all over the country and consist of like-minded creatives meeting up in the evenings and sing, play instruments, read poems, short stories, anecdotes, put artwork on display - you name it, anything (almost) goes. They usually take place in pubs or clubs where there's a reasonable entry fee, and even in members' homes. Because these events mostly cater to amateurs, there are very few rules - watch your swearing and don't make your offering too long otherwise your fellow performers won't get a look in and your audience will go to sleep. They're a great opportunity for those trying to break into the biz, such as poets, actors, singers, instrumentalists, artists, and to practice to a (hopefully) forgiving audience!

I'd grown used to reading anecdotal material and silly poems to my writing group, so these events held no real fear for me, and Husband was used to holding the floor at work, so reading out loud held no fear for him, either.

Sadly, a few years ago our bubbly art group tutor left to be replaced by someone who just didn't fit the bill for us. We left. And I was expelled from my writing group (true) for becoming too outspoken and critical! I had been cured in the brain department and now appreciated that, despite my fondness for the group, it had turned into a glorified coffee morning.  Another member, a friend, had left previously, and she was holding small, intimate writing sessions elsewhere. We joined her along with other creative friends and we've grown and matured into an intimate group of singers, instrumentalists, artists and writers. We all get on so well and hold 'mini mics' in each others' homes. We provide food and drink, and we play and sing and read and show art. Great stuff.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find another art group, so, my brain cured, I decided to hold afternoon sessions with our creative friends in my own home - the first time I've ever been able to do this. It worked, and I decided to hold them the week after our monthly writing sessions. This also holds an element of discipline - remembering to put it in the diary and invite members along.

Currently, Husband is the only male.  Our other male member had to leave, but Husband does love being surrounded by 'his' harem! We're always on the look-out for new members. I decided to title this article 'Spunky and ever so slightly wacky' because there is definitely an element of this in the group, and a sense of humour is a definite must! No sense of humour? No admittance!  So if anyone in our area of the UK (Hampshire) fancies a bit of creative company and inspiration. do please holler!

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Creating My Odyssey: SWASHING MY BUCKLE!******************************...

Creating My Odyssey: SWASHING MY BUCKLE!
: SWASHING MY BUCKLE! ************************************************************************************ Although my fascination en...

Although my fascination encompasses the wild west - mostly - when it comes to dressing up and re-enactment, wiki/English Civil_War, cavalier and eighteenth century male costuming has always lit my dripping wax candle as well. Eighteenth century breeches, boots, velvet jackets, men's shirts - perhaps filly, tricorn hats, guns and swords are sooo exciting! Who doesn't want to swash their buckle? Okay, not everybody, but I luurve it! (Shame about my big bum. So not the right image).

     I've invariably worn my favourite feathered stetson, guns, knives and fringed pants or calf length 'buckskin' skirts as www.kitty-le-roy.co.uk and for a long time the cavalier look fought alongside wild west, but the wild west won out! 

     Why? People frequently ask me that. My fascination grew after watching
The Virginian, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Virginian_(TV_series)Alias Smith and Jones
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alias_Smith_and_Jones, and High Chaparral
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_High_Chaparral on telly during the sixties and seventies, and
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butch_Cassidy_and_the_Sundance_Kidat the cinema (my westerns have to have humour). Perhaps I was a fella in a past life but I often wonder if it's in my genes/jeans.
An ancestor, great Uncle Herring, went to seek his fortune in the gold fields of British Columbia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia. According to family lore he was 'burnt out of his homestead' by Indians but survived to head south to Los Angeles and join Sunkist https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunkist , the orange juice production company. Wonderful story. Another family member (by marriage) prospected in Dawson City, Canada https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawson_City. Up until the 1930s, when prospecting, he took up residence in a cabin that's been restored and is now rented out as the 'Gold Rush Cabin' https://dawsoncity.ca/accommodation/whitehouse-cabins/  to holiday makers. I've gotta visit and stay there.


     Back to reenactments. I managed - finally, to indulge in a few years of wild west living history, dressed in buckskin fringes, stetson, pants and holstered Colt .45 as Kitty Le Roy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KittyLeroy (the real item ain't someone I'd emulate today. I don't gamble or dance!). 'My' Kitty Le Roy is a saloon-going prospector/adventurer, and I re-enacted a gold rush camp with my pard/Husband quack Doctor Jack Coltrane. I enjoyed it once we had the tent up and running. Husband, being a bit of an exhibitionist, loves dressing up and this forced him to totally relax, away from his highly stressful job. 
     But damned anxiety got in my way, even after I'd recovered from depression, until I realised that living history, while I'm glad I've done it, just ain't my bag, man, which I feel sorry about. Interesting, because I had to distinguish between feeling anxious because of my illness, and anxious because I was genuinely anxious and that it had nothing to do with being unwell. Confused I was. I couldn't precede each event without being riddled with anxiety, because wild west events always, because of the nature of the thing, involved people (strange, that). I felt shy of folk (back then) and was constantly trying to prove myself - 'Hey, look! I'm Kitty Le Roy!' - until I reached the conclusion, after I had fully recovered and could see more clearly, that I was trying to do/forcing myself to do something that really didn't suit me. Such is life. I'm not an exhibitionist (shame) at heart, but while I was depressed, I was desperate to show off my interests, and this one in particular, because I'm an older woman into the west and guns! And my epic novel, Alias Jeannie Delaney, the life story of a devastating cowgirl who's the fastest gun in the west, came into that category.

     Time has passed and I still love the idea of dressing up and indulging in visits to festivals or conventions. Star Trek http://startrekspace.blogspot.co.uk/p/star-trek-conventions.html.
Steam punk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk. Mediaeval
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiddleAges. Maybe all three at once! I particularly fancy steam punk
wild west. Factual history with a bit of fantasy thrown in. I adore the costuming! Husband's niece, seriously into pirates, has influenced me big time. In fact, pirates, particularly the female ones - Anne Bonney https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Bonny and Mary Read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Read and Grace o'Malley 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_O%27Malley - definitely float my galleon! Pirates are bad.
They travel galleons in the tropical high seas - I adore travel, the sea and the tropics, so this encompasses several interests all in one go - nicking treasure from equally bad, usually rich, people. I want to be a pirate! Husband has said he doesn't want to know cuz he was the one who had to organise it all. I totally get that. He said that if I really want to do something, I've got to organise it and he'll turn up on the day. Maybe I will.

Bonney, Anne (1697-1720).jpg
I research female outlaws, pirates, cowgirls, adventurers, you name it, and love the idea of emulating them. I browse lady pirates, 'normal' cowgirls and steampunk cowgirls on Pinterest  and the spark pops up in my brain. 

     Just to round off, A few years ago we had our daughter and twin granddaughters stay with us over Halloween. We all dressed up - Husband was Lurch the butler - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Addams_Family - suits him. He's tall and can be gaunt when he chooses. Daughter was glam witch, the girls were mini witches and I was ugly old hag witch who hated children (figures). When local children knocked on the door to trick or treat, Husband would put the appropriate music on Michael Jackson's Thriller https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA and open the window so that the music would drift outside, and we would answer the creaking door with big cackles from me and a gaunt 'Good evening.' from Husband. The kids would run screaming. No, they didn't - that was the Adamms family. After shrieking at the kids that I hated them and would have them for dinner, we'd hand over a bagful of sweeties. We all loved it and we were expected to repeat this performance every year in our cul-de-sac. We managed the next couple of years. Last year we made a Halloween animation film. Terrific fun!

     Yes, dressing up and being someone else for an hour or two is fabrilliant! I fully recommend it. I'd love to hear from readers who do any of this!

* Please let me know if you appreciate the links, or do they detract?

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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Creating My Odyssey: I subscribe to umpteen zillion blogs. Many of w...

Creating My Odyssey:

I subscribe to umpteen zillion blogs. Many of w...
: I subscribe to umpteen zillion blogs. Many of which centre around mental health. HealthyPlace is one of them, and possibly the best be...

I subscribe to umpteen zillion blogs. Many of which centre around mental health. HealthyPlace is one of them, and possibly the best because it's so extensive, so I decided to share them with you.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Creating My Odyssey: WARNING! THIS IS THE STORY OF MY NOVEL...      ...

Creating My Odyssey: WARNING!

: WARNING! THIS IS THE STORY OF MY NOVEL...                                                                                      ...

Creating My Odyssey: WARNING! THIS IS THE STORY OF MY NOVEL...      ...

Creating My Odyssey: WARNING!

: WARNING! THIS IS THE STORY OF MY NOVEL...                                                                                      ...

Got the better half of an afternoon  to spare? I know I've talked
about this on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jo.bennett.165 until I and you are blue in the face and my dear readers are saying: 'Oh, no - not this again!' But - I have to. It helps. A lot. It really does.
     When it comes to my novel writing, which still causes me more angst than anything, I write out my convoluted, weird thoughts because it definitely helps to get it down on paper - or screen -  even though I've completely recovered from thirty years of depression and anxiety - a major miracle.

     Therefore, this is the story of my novel.

     Many, many moons ago (during the sixties, to be more precise) I was a young girl, growing up. I was/am very creative. An artist and writer among other, myriad, renaissance soul, eclectic things.
I was also growing a fascination for the wild west, particularly for the unconventional, cussin', fast shootin', rough n'tumble gals of the period. And there were a lot of 'em (I've researched hundreds of 'em). I watched The Virginian, The High Chaparral and Alias Smith and Jones. My western had to have humour. I also saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the cinema.
     My dad owned a .177 calibre air rifle and I learned to shoot it through an (open!) window at empty cat food tins and empty plastic washing up bottles. I weren't too bad, either. Dad called me Annie Oakley. I loved that.

     I think I must be reincarnated from either Annie or Calam(ity) Jane. Over the years, as my fascination for the west grew, my parents told me about my maternal great uncle, by marriage, who went west to Dawson City in Canada and prospected. His cabin has been restored and is now a holiday let. I have to visit. I have no choice. 
Although he married, he didn't have children. Another, paternal, great Uncle Herring, a blood relative, also went west. Apparently, according to family, he was 'burnt out by indians' but survived to head south and joined Sunkist in Los Angeles. Apparently he didn't marry or have children either. Until, in recent years I discovered a sepia photograph of five Herring cousins in Los Angeles. Oooh... interesting.

     I have yet to research all this.

     To cut an extremely long story a bit shorter, my fascination for the west grew to the point whereby I was desperate to emulate those women and dress in buckskinned fringes and don guns. My feminist leanings had encroached on the west. Eventually I acquired the kit. I was extraordinarily lucky to marry my soul mate who, in the marriage vows, promised to follow me into this madness provided I did the same for him. Fair 'nuff. (He loves dressing as quack Dr.Jack Coltrane, pard to my Kitty Le Roy, whom I read about in a Titbits magazine years ago. I've since changed my persona although I keep her name cuz my gran was Kitty). 

     I now have a  Facebook page:  Kitty Le Roy's Wild West Saloon, and website: Kitty Le Roy's Wild West, and I've acquired a number of western pals on route. All this to add to all the other subjects a renaissance soul enjoys. (Writing, travel, the paranormal, cinema, science, boating...), and which I talk about in this blog, Creating My Odyssey, which is my creative mental health blog.          
     Which brings me nicely to the reason I'm writing this. 
     Over thirty years ago I began to visualise a story - Alias Jeannie Delaney. My protagonist is a charismatic, devastating cowgirl who's the fastest gun in the west and also bisexual. She's a cowgirl, outlaw leader, jailbird, deputy sheriff, rancher and, finally, mayor. The best way to describe her is to visualise a female Robert Redford. Like that. The closest portrayal I've seen so far is Sharon Stone in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quick_and_the_Dead_(1995_film)
     'Look -' I remember Husband pointing out to a passing bus back in the nineties. ' - they've written your story!' 
     And there was Sharon Stone on a banner on the side of the bus. I was delighted. 
      I drew loads of images of my heroine in the early days of my marriage, using photographs of blokes as reference, and I found her extremely exciting. Still do. I had to tell Husband, but I was embarrassed as hell. How would he react to my idea of this macho but beautiful woman who did everything John and Clint did, and more? And the fact that she's bisexual? And the fact that, despite everything I tried to do, I couldn't make her less devastating and beautiful? In the end, I decided that that's how she is and that that is one of the reasons for the story - jealousies for the way she is earns her umpteen enemies. This thought made me really excited. I handed my drawings over to Husband  and cringed in the bedroom. I couldn't face his possible reaction. Some minutes later he appeared in the bedroom.
     'What are you worried about? She's really sexy! Get that story written.'
      Problem being I'd been brought up by a family who would not have understood and thought me odd, anyway. I could never have gone into a detail. I was far too embarrassed and still am. I smothered Husband in grateful kisses. Poor man. Which is why I had to write her story. I had no choice.

     Then I had the kids. And post natal depression. Twice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpartum depression  And that developed into reactive depression. And that impinged on my western hobby and my novel writing, something Husband had been concerned would happen. He was right. I couldn't - and still can't - watch westerns or listen to the music from western musicals without feeling sad. We think that's because my mind - which has a mind of its own - says I want to be part of the film/music piece as my western persona, but can't cuz I'm a woman! Although we're slowly beating said brain into submission, the feelings are still there. I'm seeking help for  that.
     I struggled through those years but continued writing The Novel, on and off, throughout the years. I was, still am, desperate to get it out, to show the world that women like Jeannie - in some format or other - do exist! 
     The Novel is epic, charting Jeannie's life from birth in New Orleans in 1865, to 1910 in Wyoming. It's in five parts, and over a hundred chapters. BIG! Husband's slowly chucking stuff out of the attic, and that includes the very first drafts (typed on a manual typewriter back in 1985 with one hand while I bottle fed baby daughter with the other. Shows how determined I was!). Those first drafts are stuffed in a cardboard box and plastic bag. I've peeped at bits of it and thought: 'Wow! I have improved!' Well, I should jolly well hope so! I'll be keeping that first draft (not stuffed in a cardboard box and plastic bag) for posterity's sake.

     Three years ago I had my medication crisis. Long story short - again - I had been prescribed with Prozac (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoxetine) which made me suicidal over Christmas.
*(Please bear in mind that medication is a very personal thing. What works for one person may not work for another). By sheer luck and through wonderful neighbours, we were introduced to the brilliant mental health team who prescribed a medication combination (known in the trade as - technical term, haha! - California Rocket Fuel. 'Gimme! Gimme!' I remember laughing at the time) and a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy which does work given the right approach and support. I was lucky. I had both. Together, and with the amazing help of my scientifically minded Husband and a lot of hard work, four years later - I think it must be by now - medication and therapy have literally cured me. I've never felt like this, ever. Even as a kid, I was known as moody Annie in the family. Because of this literal cure (bare in mind these things are very individual. We all react in different ways to such things) I started my blog principally because I wanted people to know that depression is one of the easiest mental health issues to be helped. It's 'simply' a case of finding the right treatment. Not easy.

     But - the ol' brain still ruminates and cogitates. In more recent times, desperate for feedback for The Novel, I joined umpteen writing groups on Facebook and started posting chapters to loyal pals. I've had excellent feedback, encouragement, critiques and suggestions. And I'm printing out each chapter for Husband to critique. But, despite the fact that I've typed 'THE END ' many times, it remains a beginning, muddle and end. It's such an epic story, it tires me out, and, when a low mood does descends on me, we know it's connected to the novel. Many things can trigger (haha! Very good!) things. A piece of dramatic music, a film, a song. I then have to get to my laptop and deal with the story. I was concerned about plagiarism (it's such a masterpiece, you see), so I'm being careful. And I must seek psychological help for this before it sends me barmy, because The Novel won't be finished any time soon.

     So there we go.  That's the story of my novel.


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Creating My Odyssey: GUESS WHAT - IT'S CHRISTMAS! *********************...

Creating My Odyssey: GUESS WHAT - IT'S CHRISTMAS! *********************...: GUESS WHAT - IT'S CHRISTMAS! ************************************* I briefly chatted with a lovely friend today.      &#3...

I briefly chatted with a lovely friend today.
     'How are you?' I asked.
     'It's that time of year.' She responded.
     'Ah..' I nodded. 'That time of year.'
     And she told me how, according to her mother, if she didn't do the right thing - i.e. All the family get together and 'have fun' - she would be a selfish so-and-so. Hang on a pickin' minute...! I did suggest she tell her mother what to do with herself, but my friend is far too nice to do that, and then there'd be all the repercussions that go with it. True.
     After all, it took me years to finally admit to my dear old dad that I hated all these family get-togethers. Vile. I spitted/spatted on 'em! (Used not to, but as I got older I did). But by then my mum had been in a home for severe dementia for ten years and hadn't a clue. Dad felt largely the same, but, again, was far too nice and polite a person to acknowledge it, because he wanted to do the 'right' thing, whatever the right thing was. (Goes to show I'm not nice n' polite when I don't want to be).
     'So-and-so is bringing a cake.' He said, 'I don't want to spoil it for them.' Referring to his own birthday. Honestly! It was his birthday! He couldn't even have what he wanted. A quiet day reading a book, drinking red wine and ignoring everybody.
     I'm definitely not a nice, polite person when it comes to this biz. But, referring back to Christmas. I loved it when I was a kid. It was magical. Then I grew up and all the expectations and commercialisms popped up. I began to not like it anymore. Forced jollities. Being sociable. Some people are like that. Bully for them. And that sounds bitter and mean. I apologise. But for those of us who don't want to be jolly at the click of a Christmas tree lights switch and who can barely tolerate other people (I know one or two folks like that...), Christmas is four months too long, starting after the summer hols have ended. Haven't even tricked or treated yet!
     And if I hear Noddy Holder singing 'And here it is Merry Xmas..' one more time, I'll strangle him with a nice long piece of tinsel... Having said that, son told me not so long ago that Noddy hated that song. He'd made a fortune out of it but because of it he banned Christmas in his house. I love that! I now respect Noddy and won't be swivelling the knob into mute mode when that ****** song comes up, as it will.

     After I had kids and depression I began to detest Christmas. If I'd been well I might have tolerated it. Just. So we put all our feet down with a heavy hand and refused all family requests to attend the wretched get- togethers. We did our best for the kids and hoped that they had reasonable festivities. Just cuz we hated it didn't mean they should. So we plodded on, until nearly four years ago and my cure, and the kids were well into grown-up mode, we had small grand-daughters and we could do what we ****** well wanted (my parents were gone so no obligations there).
     So we've spent the last two Christmases in Looe, Cornwall, https://www.cornishcollection.co.uk/self-catering-holidays-cornwall/holiday-apartments-looe/rock-towers-apartment-10-looe in apartments overlooking the sea and the estuary, eating Christmas dinner cooked by Husband and drinking wine watching the seagulls do their thing. Now that is MAGICAL!
     We are beginning to like Christmas again. We're having a Christmas party with our writing group. We're going to a Christmas market in Hyde Park. We are beginning to like it again. Took a long time coming.
     In the meantime, I do it every year. Whenever folk talk about the pressures of Christmas, the blasted family obligations, I say: 'Don't do it! Say no! Be selfish!' But I'm a fine one to talk. It took years for us to refuse to celebrate or socialise, and we used my depression for that, so I know it's not all that easy to do. But, if you are suffering mentally, you must do what's right for you, for your own sanity.
     We're returning to Looe for Christmas, and I'm really looking forward to it. We have a mini pink, fluffy glittering tree with Rudolph the reindeer sitting underneath. We'll have Turkish delight, dates, cake, pudding, little pressies, wine, cider, beer, and etcetera...

     And, by gum - we will enjoy it!

Creating My Odyssey:           MENTAL HEALTH GUEST POSTI've had the pl...

Creating My Odyssey:           MENTAL HEALTH GUEST POST
I've had the pl...
:           MENTAL HEALTH GUEST POST I've had the pleasure of getting to know Kathia, who went through a horrendous upbringing and ...

Tuesday, 21 November 2017


I've had the pleasure of getting to know Kathia, who went through a horrendous upbringing and depression and has learned to look out for herself. This is her brave story, and, today, her journey towards learning to heal.

The painting Kathia made several years ago,
representing her settling into adulthood
and coming to terms with some of her past.

     Depression is… personal.

     Everyone has an opinion on it and its treatment, ranging from “You have to be crazy if you’re seeing a therapist!” to “Your body is amazing and has the ability to heal any ailments.”
     I started consulting at a young age, and I’ve seen my share of therapists. A lot of them, Canadian government employees. The health care system may be free; it doesn’t mean you’re going to find yourself a gem. Finding the right shrink can take years and I didn’t want to wait that long…

     I’ve learned quite recently that not everyone is capable of doing the level of introspection I have survived on for years. I guess I am lucky then as paid shrinks were out of my mom’s budget. When even Christmas was donation based, a paid shrink was out of the question. I read a lot and had a
very critical eye, able to discern from a young age what is realistic and what is definitely fantasy. I also watched an incredible amount of TV, so I can rightfully call it “Aunt TV”, as it raised me and taught me a lot of what I know today. I loved Auntie’s documentaries a lot. That and Bugs Bunny.
So, my way of dealing with my problems has always been through my daydreaming states. Long bus drives, boring classes, naughty corner both at school and at home. This little piggy was quite naughty. Well this little piggy had a lot of adult problems to deal with.

     Because I can’t pinpoint the start of my depression, I tend to wonder if I had been in either a state of denial all this time or just too busy to mother my mom.
Introspection is fantastic, you get to know yourself very well, but it can turn you into a narcissist as well. Or maybe that were just my mother’s words, as apparently, I was gifted with everything I touched. Even today I have to fight her to make her realize that no, I can’t do everything, please get an expert to do it for you. Introspection can help you up to so much… Eventually, you need someone else to help you sort things out. But I managed to jump in and survive teenhood, and waddle through the adult world. I’m still trying to find the safe shore every now and then.

     Ever since I was a kid, I didn’t want to grow up. I wished Peter Pan would find me and bring me to Never-Never Land. Most kids want to be adults, I feared the day it would come. I watched my mom crash and burn, go from one abusive boyfriend to another differently abusive one. It’s like she tried all the types just to make sure they really weren’t good for her.

That’s when she would forget I even existed.

     She once told me about the two friends she had growing up. They would be mean to her, but when they’d quarrel with one another, they would stop talking to each other and remember that my mom was still around. They’d be extra nice to her until they made up again. Then they’d go back to their old ways, either tormenting or ignoring her. This charade went on for a long time. Long enough that it was now encoded within her DNA and whenever a “new boyfriend” would come along, I’d suddenly become the third wheel she had been. By age 6, I could make myself a few easy snacks, Aunty TV was there anyway. When a burglar tried to climb through the window, I ran to the kitchen and threw cayenne powder at his face. That’ll teach him! She was already not there when I came back from Kindergarten, and with a boyfriend in tow, I was invisible. But fear not, whenever things turned nasty, I was there to rub her back and tell her all the bad things I’d do to the awful man if he came here again. We were buddies again! Until the next fling…

     My dad was one of those awful boyfriends who threatened to kill me and my mother at the point of a gun and then to kill himself. He tried to strangle my mom multiple times, almost killing her and breaking her legs more than once. I’m lucky I only get a little disturbed and start crying when I hear glass breaking. Then again, I was only a baby/toddler. However, I do remember one instance, at 11, where I freaked out in the middle of the biographical movie centered around Tina Turner’s tormented life. How I reacted back then, as she got beaten up, makes me suspect I saw more than I dare remember. I saw and heard things as a kid I wasn’t ready for. I learned I can’t trust men, because men cheat and then give venereal diseases to their girlfriends. Boil your boyfriend before sex! I learned to become a little adult, and adults didn’t like that.

     My mother also had no backbone, so I had to step up for her and it was demanding. It meant that for years I acted as a pillar for her, and later for friends, while putting my own needs and feelings on the backburner. It also meant she never had my back.

     One summer, at age 13, I spent hours away – 11 by train – to see the only boyfriend my mom had had who really loved me. The sweetest man who I secretly call my
dad. Well, he was an addict and a drunk, because my mom doesn’t do normal. My rationalization of that night is that someone had laced his casual drugs with something really bad and he went NUTS. My dad lived in a trailer parked on one of his friend’s property near his house. I remember having a strange feeling right before his friend left me in a hurry. I had asked to come with him to the convenience store, but as I was picking up the change I had dropped on the lawn a mere meter from his pick-up truck, he just drove away. Fast. My dad started yelling my name and it sounded like despair mixed with utter rage. Had he found out I had dumped 2 of his beers into the sink during his nap? Knowing him, that wouldn’t be enough to tick him off.

     The man who would die for me was calling my name that night and I felt nothing but fear. So I ran. I ran to the friend’s house, which was empty, as I heard my
dad screaming my name over and over again, hot on my trail. I grabbed a cordless phone and locked myself in the bathroom. A madman was banging on the door, a scene reminiscent of the Shining and me, a little ball curled atop the toilet’s cover crying and paralyzed, not knowing what to do… The screams and banging eventually stopped and I called my mom, because that’s the first person I thought about. I called her and hoped she would help me. I told her what had just happened and how scared I was for my life, how I thought I was going to die, and she told me this:
     “Oh I’m so sorry honey, but… there’s nothing I can do. … I have to go.” And hung up.
     She hung up on me just like that. In retrospect, I should have called the cops, she should have told me to. But she didn’t. She didn’t have my back. I looked at the floor and waited. Waited and waited.
     At one point I couldn’t take it anymore and opened the door. I somehow expected him to jump out of nowhere and attack me, but he had left. I looked around and nothing. No sound, but my heartbeat.
Thu-Thump-Thu-Thump. I was still afraid of being there, so I walked cautiously towards the shed and stole a bike, went down the crazy steep and awfully long lane down the mountain road. At the bottom of that slope were train tracks sticking out by 2 inches I knew would make me and the bike fly high. Eyes wide open, I repeatedly wished for my safety. At the speed I was travelling, the train tracks barely made a bump under the wheels and my feet were no longer on the pedals, but the bike broke and the pedals got stuck. By some miracle, the wheels kept on going. Eventually, unable to pedal, I ditched the bike in a dike and ran to the nearest house. Luckily, it was full of old ladies and they let me stay the night.
     My dad doesn’t remember what happened. I don’t think he would want to remember; it would break him. So my mom didn’t have my back, but she did want me. I think she wanted a friend, or one of those cute easy kids. Easy kids come from normal families, not yours, mom. To give her a break, her past is worse than mine. So that’s why I can forgive her. Hard to believe right? She still snubs me if she has a boyfriend and then I’m back to being her #1 idol when she’s single. Oh mother…
     I had a bit of a chaotic beginning obviously, so no wonder I bit my peers, spat at them, hit and kicked them and refused to mingle. I wanted to be left alone, yet also wanted to have fun with them. I was very conflicted. But I did superbly alone. I was top of all my classes until 4th grade of high school. Then I got friends. Hard to do when you move every 2 years. I never did ask my mom about that but I suppose my real dad was the reason. Next time you see an unhinged kid, tell yourself that they might need love and security. Not every one of them have such crappy pasts, but from experience, quite a few have had the rocky ride. A good friend of mine suffered multiple types of abuse as a kid, I can tell you this kid was angry. And he is still angry, but he’s learning to let go.
     My elementary school years were spent in a classroom for unhinged kids. We were labeled and everyone knew who we were. The other kids were told not to mingle with our kind. Good thing my grandma found some money to get me out of there. Private schools will turn a blind eye to your past as long as you show them where the cash is. One year was enough and all my grandma could afford, bless her.
     But you know what? I cleaned up my act on my own because I was given a chance at being in a normal setting. I became what I call a “boring teen”. I was not unhinged anymore, knew what was wrong and had my mom’s apartment to myself for the last 2 years before graduation. Even if I didn’t throw any party, I was pretty proud of it, and child services knew nothing about it.

     But all this damage, it lingered, it ate at me and today, I’m still fighting with self-worth. I still believe, deep inside of me that everyone I know and love will one day betray me. That I’m not worth loving and not worth anyone’s time. It’s hard. Especially when instead of looking for my absent dad in my boyfriends, I was searching for my emotionally absent mom. Being told that you are no longer desired to your face was not just heartbreaking, it was shattering. I kept wondering if I would ever be enough. At the same time, that proud part of myself, the one that stood up for my mom all these years when she took different forms of abuse, told me I should not change my appearance only to please a man. I should change for myself.
     But it lingers. I look at my baby pouch and wonder why I haven’t bounced back. I don’t snack, eat pretty well and sometimes super healthy and used to go to the gym regularly. Nothing. NOTHING. I hated my body, the one thing I thought I could trust turned its back on me. It made me want to push everyone away.
     At one point in time, my mom befriended a very good and well-known shrink in our province. She exchanged cleaning services for consultations and finally, we had ourselves a nice match. That friend-shrink, whom I called the Wise Lady helped me through some of those feelings I couldn’t let go of. The abuse at the hand of my aunt (not Aunt TV, she was always the nicest) who was a hard drug addict and some parts of my childhood I wish had been different, but it wasn’t enough. Back then it felt like it was enough, but I know today that there’s still more that needs to be touched.

     fI really started to notice signs of depression when I got pregnant overseas in a country I didn’t understand the language of, and my employer's bankruptcy left me and my peers jobless. Money issues and stress were my constant visitors. I wanted this baby, but I was not sure if this was the right time and place anymore. I felt alone and isolated, and I really really really wanted a baby shower. I missed my friends back home. We talked on Facebook, but I yearned for real face-to-face. I was stuck onto a piece of broken ice drifting away into the ocean, away from everyone else. I kept my pregnancy a secret because deep down, I thought no one cared. I didn’t think anyone would have wanted to support me. I was also hit with many unanswered feelings from the past and many weird dreams. All at once, my past came back to haunt me.

     I was going to be a mom.

     Having kids with my husband seemed like a good idea. There has been a cycle of abuse and damage going on in my family for generations, and I wanted to end it with my new family. I wanted to set things right and see little us making us proud. But I was troubled. Isn't this the moment to feel overjoyed? I thought I was an anomaly. Maybe I wasn't ready when I thought I was. I had forgotten that my past had never been resolved and no role model to emulate. And how much the books and media lie. I didn’t know how to mom.

     When our little boy was born, I felt nothing motherly. I liked him, but we didn’t bond. I became disappointed in me, in my son, … that the event didn’t happen the way I imagined it should. Then within 3 months, my husband finally was transferred to Canada, my home country.
Making friends was difficult, now with a child, even more. I was bored of moms who had nothing to talk about but their children or who does their hair or nails. I was withering.
     My son was starting to walk and show some behavioural problems I recognized too well.
     Oh no.
     I did not need this.
     I started not liking motherhood at all.
     I felt trapped.
What had I done?
     I had no friends, and the closest family I had was 3,576 km away – that’s 2222 miles. We were having trouble affording days out and both my husband and I had thoughts of running away. Then things settled down a bit. We were considering buying our first house and having another child because we didn’t want a lonely only child. At least, I felt strongly on the subject. My husband lost his job in the middle of our purchase, we almost got sued and I was due soon, but we found financing through our bank and our second son was born.
     This time, we connected instantly, like old friends finding each other again. We moved into the new house and have been managing better. My husband received a good severance package supposed to last us long enough for him to find work again. Until the economy crashed, big time. It was the worst time to be an engineer in the oil and gas industry.

     But he got a new job and we’ve been slowly recovering.
     In the meantime, we had a lot of self-discovery time for ourselves. I learned to let go of some past guilt through writing letters and it worked, thanks to a new shrink I found. She has been the best so far. But she recently retired before we got to the part where I learn to let go of my anger, sadness and psychological bruises from my aunt, my dad, and my mother. People tell us to let go. It’s not that easy. I tried techniques and it helped alleviate the anger, but every now and then, I will be doing chores, and random thoughts will enter my head… I will think about my past and get angry or cry.    
     It’s still there. It’s still affecting me.
     This past made me who I am; fragile, afraid of people, but too outwardly, seeking the attention I never received. It’s a little better, but I still feel inadequate in dealing with other human beings. It feels like what I say is often taken the wrong way. I have a filter, but it’s thin. I’m straightforward and don’t do well with sugar coating things. I try. But I’m still learning and I feel like an adult-child amongst those adults. It’s like they know how it works. Everyone around me seems to know what role to play and how to play it well. Women around me know what being a mom is. I’m finally starting to enjoy it thanks to my second son, and my firstborn's mood has been improving steadily. We're closer than when we started and I know it was never his fault; he was probably reacting to all that stress I was having. He’s doing much better now that I understand more about myself.
     My healing has had a rippling effect within my family. I’ve been going deep down and moving the sludge around. Talking to my husband has helped a lot, too, I should give credit were credit is due. He’s had to deal with depression himself but listened to my problems – a.k.a. me ranting about my past, the analysis I came up with, and possible solutions. The more we talked, the more details I remember and it has helped frame a lot into context.

     Little by little, my pile of sludge lessens until maybe one day, I’m free of my past. But will that truly be enough?

     I still have feelings of not belonging, I’m still afraid people won’t like me because I’m broken. If I mend myself, will these feelings disappear? I wonder if I can have normal after my past. But I have learned to cope better, learned to accept the past as the past, even if it still angers or saddens me, and I have learned to see other people’s points of view.
     Mainly my mom’s.
     She didn’t know how to mom or love either, because her household was devoid of both. I believe that even if I’m good at going deep down and analyzing myself, I want to see a professional, but a really good one I feel gets me and my way of wanting to deal with my past.

     I don’t know whether you can have access to free ones in your country or not, but if not, consider this: Life is worth going through with all its ups and downs, but if all you can focus is on the negative, or if past trauma has left you afraid of interacting with people, going out of your shell, being yourself, anything that keeps you from being free… go see a professional.

     I often cannot tell when my body is incapable of taking any more stress and I now realize my body has been weakened tremendously. I have an incredible amount of stress I put on my shoulders over the years and there are a few things I noticed I haven't gone deep enough, maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’m afraid… But I know, I need someone else to ask me the right questions and dig up some old dirt.

     And a regular massage.

     Yes, it’s money I’m spending… on myself. It’s worth it, because my mental and physical health is worth it.

     I’m worth it.