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The Psych Ward – Let’s Get Into It – Part 2

Going to the hospital is never pleasant, whether you walk or wheel through the front doors or come via ambulance, the experience can be down right scary as there are so many unknowns. In my opinion there are even more, seeming, unknowns when it comes to going to the hospital for mental health reasons as we’ve only just begun breaking down the stigma surrounding psychological medicine.

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Allow me to tell a few truths;

-You may not be admitted to the psychiatric ward or you may only stay a day or two, some folks stay much longer. My longest stay of the two was 2.5 months and that’s hardly a record. It takes as long as it takes to get back on your feet and ready to face the world and stay safe and alive.

-Ideally the medical staff want to see patients out in the world rather than cooped up on a ward. If you go to the hospital because of suicidal thoughts, delusions, anxiety… whatever, you will be assessed by someone from the psych team as well as one of the ER docs. During the assessment be as honest as possible. If you feel safe leaving and can come up with a plan for continuing care on an outpatient basis along with the psych team you may not have to be admitted. If you are scared about your mental health don’t be afraid to seek help. Nobody wants to lock you up and throw away the key.

-It has been my experience that most patients seeking psych help or being brought in involuntarily are nervous. Not only is the turmoil of coming through emergency triage in crisis frightening, the prospect and act of perhaps spending time in the stark ER beds guarded by Peace Officers and closely monitored via video camera and visual checks is also nerve wracking. The rooms are usually void of any equipment or much at all  aside from a non-adjustable bed, as the rooms are meant to be free of anything one might use to harm themselves or others. Patients brought in under arrest or from jails may also occupy rooms in this area. It can all be rather overwhelming, exhausting, and unsettling.

-it’s likely you might feel resentment or guilt at the prospect of being admitted either voluntarily or involuntarily. You might feel scared of what to expect. Perhaps you don’t feel “crazy enough” for the psych ward. Rest assured you have rights as a patient and you will be able to tell the Dr and psych team your perspective, the job of the hospital is to heal not to harm. It’s best to be a patient patient;) and assume you will be treated fairly and respectfully and to keep an open mind. Having said that, don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not getting the help you need or if you feel unheard, shamed or abused.

-While the Psych Ward can be wacky and wild place at times, it’s also a place full of strength and wisdom and creativity. I’ve met some of the most talented, intelligent, creative, loving and passionate people ever in the psych ward and in psych groups. From concert pianists to artists to writers to engineers to Drs to athletes to rappers. “Crazy” is not a diagnosis. Everyone is different and your type of different is no more or less important than another person’s type of different. Mental illness is blind to religion, race and wealth

– I used to worry constantly I was taking up space needed by someone else and that I shouldn’t be admitted for treatment because of that. The truth is, if you’re not in need of treatment you won’t be admitted. Trust the Dr’s and nurses to know how best to care for your condition. Do make sure to fully express how dire you feel your condition has become. If you feel absolutely unsafe leaving make that incredibly clear to the psych team.

– As I’ve mentioned before the psych ward, in my experience, takes a little getting used to at first. People are patients for a variety of reasons and this can be disconcerting as many patients may behave strangely socially, perhaps manic or deeply depressed, or have delusions, hallucinations, be catatonic or any other myriad of conditions. Keep in mind you’re seeing patients in acute distress.
Patients conditions will improve as their treatment moves along, just as yours will if you let your psychiatrist and the supporting staff do their jobs and help you with changes to your routine, a calm environment, possible med changes and more.

– For everyone there are good days and bad days and the bad days are far more trying than the good but overall improvement comes in waves until the raging ocean in each of us becomes a little more placid and it’s felt a patient is ready to transition to outpatient programs.

Just remember every patient is fighting a different storm and it’s tricky business lulling some oceans out of crashing and raging.

Please don’t let fear of the Psychiatric Unit deter you from seeking help. Think of it the same as if you needed to be on the cardiac ward. The psych ward is a ward like any other and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.

If you need treatment it’s imperative you get to the hospital, call an ambulance, speak to your Dr immediately or contact your provincial Health Link for direction to the best course of action. Do whatever you need to do to save your life or trust your loved ones have your best interest at heart if they’re insisting you be admitted.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and questions as always. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

K

 

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I’m Not a Flake, I Have Chronic Pain

Some might call me a flake. Yes, I’m that girl. I reschedule. I cancel last minute. I’m fucking unreliable, and I it makes me feel useless, inadequate like I’m letting the whole world down! (Yes, I’m that dramatic)

I’d be cocking up this blog job royally if I were actually being paid for it. I try to publish at least weekly but sometimes it’s more like a bi-monthly thing.

I’ve never managed to stick to the golden blogging rule of releasing on one particular day of the week. I’m woefully inconsistent at best.

This weekend I agreed to go to an event a friend invited me to at the last minute as she had an extra ticket. Her father had kindly, offered to drive me.

At first, I said yes, desperate to be part of such a thing, but I began adding up the amount of time I’d be out for and at 4 hrs minimum I could see by the by the time I reached home I’d be pain’s bitch for the foreseeable future.

I tossed and turned all night trying to decide and I woke up in so much pain I ended up in tears and calling to cancel. So predictable, so boring.

My unreliability makes me crazy. I always showed up and I always met deadlines before this disability garbage. I may not be a journalist anymore but that is where a great deal of my educational training lies. Writers must meet deadlines. That is the game. I would fire me.

Before all this crap started 10 years ago I remember thinking nothing would ever stop me. I recall resenting my Mom’s chronic knee pain. Why couldn’t the Dr just fix it? Why couldn’t she stop being so dramatic? How could her pain possibly be perpetual?

My Mom wasn’t always easy to be around when she was in pain. Her temper could be tempestuous, calm one moment and a storm of anger the next. Her constant random grunts and winces annoyed me. As a teen, I resentfully stomped down the stairs to the freezer in order to save her knee the grief when she asked.

I was a fucking monster. Maybe not, but I sure as hell know chronic pain now and it’s a motherfucker.

Chronic pain is so hard to understand, there are so many facets, so many inconsistent variables, and when you’re a kid like I was, it’s hard to understand when a parent, friend, or other loved one suddenly can’t do the things you once loved doing together.

Just as my Mom wanted her mobility back, wanted to be as she’d been, not deal with pain on a daily basis, I wanted her to be that way again and instead of resenting the disease I resented her sometimes. It’s just mind over matter right?

FUCK THAT NOISE!

If only I knew then what I know now. Chronic pain doesn’t fall into the mind over matter category, it falls into the, I can only do what I can do category.

For instance, as I mentioned, Saturday I had to cancel at the last minute on a friend because I was in so much pain. On Sunday I had a pretty good day and felt I accomplished a lot. On Monday I had a better day and got even more done. Today, I am sore but still kickin’.

My point is, even on a good day the pain is there roaring like a beast in the background and on a bad day, and sadly there are more bad days than good right now, the beast devours me and leaves my putrid and pathetic bod in bed for days.

Fortunately, before my Mom died I apologized to her profusely for not understanding her pain, for not helping her more with it. She was gracious of course and she also helped me all she could when I fell victim to chronic pain.

For everyone out there who knows one of us chronic pain copers please be better than I was as a teen;

  • Try to understand the nature of chronic pain as a constant that only gets softer or louder but never shuts off, and empathize, but please don’t advise.
  • Be understanding about cancellations. Believe me, none of us wants to cancel on a loved one.
  • Be attentive to your friend’s energy levels. Sometimes I get excited to be out and stay out too long then end up in utter agony for days. I police myself but it’s nice if a loved one knows energy with chronic pain is far from boundless and reminds me to take a break now and then.
  • Remember we’re the same people we were before the pain we just have a little added baggage now. This doesn’t mean we love you any less or don’t want to spend time with you. Chronic pain leads to all sorts of scheduling and emotional conundrums, please just be patient, believe me, patience and love mean the world.

I’d love to hear what helps you with loved ones when explaining chronic pain or how you interact with those with chronic pain. Please leave your comments below and take good care until next time.

K

Mother’s Day Smiles

Admittedly I’ve had a difficult time coping with Mothers Day since my Mom died 4 years ago. There are other reasons I feel a deep ache on Mother’s Day but I don’t feel like delving into that again. I’ve covered much of my angst in past posts.

The best place to be! Cozied up with Mamma and a good book. Circa 1981💟

This year I want to laugh. I want to recall a couple of Mother’s Day memories that never fail to make me smile. I hope these two slices of life on the day of The Mom bring on a snort of laughter and a happy crinkle about the eyes for you😁

Bridget Jones’ Diary Debacle

Back in the early 2000’s I bought my Mom a paper-back copy of the super-popular book, Brigette Jones’ Diary. She was intrigued as the movie was soon to come out and it’s always nice to read the book first.

A few weeks later when I was visiting I noticed the book was looking buckled and bent and rather well loved. I smiled at my Mom and asked if she was enjoying it.

She rolled her eyes over a glass of white wine.

“I’m waiting for it to finish drying.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Your father was desperate for a book one night and grabbed it before heading into the tub with a beer.”

“Uh huh,” I said, brow now furrowed.

“Eventually I decided to see what he was up to as I’d heard the tub drain a while back and he was being very, very quiet.

I walked into the bedroom and there he was, huddled by the lamp, carefully placing sheets of toilet paper in between the sopping wet pages, maybe hoping I wouldn’t notice.

Would you believe he feel asleep in the tub and dropped the book in?”

“And you hadn’t had a chance to read it? What the hell Dad?!”

My father shrugged, puppy dogging his eyes, “it was an accident. I’m sorry.”

“Well I hope you enjoyed it Dad. What did you think?”

“Meh. Not really my cup of tea.”

“I know. That’s why I bought it for Mom!”

I should have bought my Mom a replacement copy to give her on Father’s Day as my Dad’s gift. Lol!

One Last Gift

It amuses me to no end to know the last Mother’s Day gift to my Mom was a copy of the hottest dirty book on the market at the time, 50 Shades of Grey.

I’m not sure what possessed me to buy it for her. We’d never been in the habit of exchanging smutty books. I just saw the stacks of it and decided she needed to know what the buzz and hullabaloo was all about.

I recall asking if she’d enjoyed it and telling her I was reading the 2nd in the trilogy – It shouldn’t have been a trilogy btw. Ug, the next two books read like they’d been edited by a drunk monkey! But I digress.

She said she’d liked it. Then, in a low, almost nervous voice breathed, “is the 2nd one as, as erotic as the first?”

It was an odd conversation to have with my Mom but also highly amusing. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the 2nd book blew goats… and not in a remotely erotic way.

Like a good daughter I let her buy the next book so I’d have someone to bitch with about the dreadful prose and the plot with holes big enough to drive a Mac Truck through😂

Happy Mother’s day to all my pseudo moms and all my friends and relatives who are moms. You’re all incredible women, phenomenal women and I admire each and every one of you for so many wonderful reasons. Much love💟

What’s the best or most amusing gift you ever gave your Mom? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

K

Taking Some Credit

I often struggle when deciding if I should mention my accomplishments. For some reason I’m always concerned I’ll sound like a pompous ass. Lately, the more I consider this the more I realize how flawed my logic is. I don’t judge others to be pompous asses when they celebrate their accomplishments. They must be far more braggadocios, to earn the odious title of pompous ass. Why shouldn’t I have the same standards for myself?

This is a picture of an alcohol ink abstract piece in my new Galexcapes series. I’m still learning about alcohol ink and enjoying the process a great deal. I’m proud of how I’ve been able to find my own style with this medium and the confidence I’ve built up.

I think it’s long past time I took credit for the progress I’ve made. Lately it feels as though my heart and mind are stronger. I still suffer from anxiety and depression, but I feel I’m better equipped to cope now. I’m slowly beginning to see my self worth again and I’m recalling what a joy it is to know that I matter.

Every time I finish a painting, visit a friend, write a blog post, advance my stretching routine, keep up with the house work, lay down for a rest when I need to, or achieve anything positive, I take a moment to remember that those are all things I’ve struggled to do in the past couple years because of my mental illnesses and chronic pain. It’s important for me to acknowledge any progress I’ve made.

I still struggle and my illnesses are unlikely to go away. learning to live differently has been a huge challenge but I’m not fighting it anymore, I’m adapting and learning to love my life as it is – not as I think it should be.

It matters for me to continue improving. It’s not like I’m keeping score though. The point is to celebrate a job well done and ensure I remember my abilities. Even when my accomplishments are small it makes me feel good to give myself credit. Small accomplishments eventually add up to big accomplishments.

For me, a good way to take stock of what I’ve accomplished and show myself I’ve got lots to celebrate, is to occasionally write a list. Here’s my most recent;

Shit I’ve Accomplished Recently

Blog – As of this month I’ve officially been writing my Perkreations blog for 2 years. When I started writing I worried I’d never be able to keep it up, but I have. I’ve written well over 100 posts about mental health, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, suicide, self harm, the psych ward, art, poetry, creativity and feminism, to name just a few topics and I feel like I’ve got lots more fodder kickin’ around upstairs.

Art – I finish art although finishing is the hardest part for me. I’ve learned finishing is the most satisfying part, perhaps because it’s so difficult. It’s not as though I keep track of what I’ve finished, I just enjoy the buzz I feel once I’m in the home stretch and I intuitively able to figure out the best way to add the finishing touches that make all the difference. I believe the finishing touches are what takes a piece from, “meh,” to, “WOW!

Practice – Even on days when I don’t finish something important, like a painting or a blog post, I’m always working to hone my craft. I find practice to be incredibly satisfying. Usually the satisfaction comes from variations of the simple but important work listed below;
**I practice drawing skills in front of the TV. I find trying to focus on two things at once helps distract me from the pain I’m ever fighting to cope with and all that practice adds up to steadily improving skills.
**I scribble down story and character ideas, thumbnails of future art projects and bits of verse all the time. These bits and pieces don’t look like much to start with but often they develop into interesting and original finished projects.
**I study the craft of others for inspiration, I never steal but studying is an important part of my creative process. I do this by reading a wide range of subject matter, both fiction and non. I love looking at other artists work as well. I do this by watching documentaries, checking out Instagram feeds, looking at books and magazines filled with art as well as info about the artists and their methods and philosophies.
**It’s also important for me to draw inspiration from artistic avenues that aren’t my forte. For instance, I will never be a musician as I’m rather tones deaf, but I absolutely couldn’t live without music. Painting without my music feels lonely. Having music on warms my soul and helps me work with greater passion. I also love to check out podcasts, movies, jewelry, cake decorating, dance, and recipes for inspiration.
**The nice part about having a home studio set up is that everything I need is there and ready to go. I don’t have to waste precious energy setting things up. Any time an idea strikes I can stroll into my studio and make it happen. Further, when my pain is outrageous and I’ve no gas in the tank all I do is walk in, mix up a colour, and add a few strokes to something or a layer that needs to dry. Even if I feel I haven’t done a whole lot, it all adds up in the long run and that’s what really counts  –

Organization – Another thing I’ve been working hard on is cleaning and organizing my home. I tend to be decidedly untidy but I’m working to break that habit. Over the past year I’ve organized and sorted my closet and drawers, winter wear, jewelry, linen closets, medicine cabinets, cleaning supply closets, bathrooms, kitchen cupboards and drawers, art studio and vinyl collection. It’s been a slow but steady process and the act of getting rid of excess crap and organizing the rest has been surprisingly satisfying and cathartic.

Cat – Most importantly, a direct result of all the cleaning and organizing done this year is that my husband and I recently adopted a one-year old cat from a nearby shelter. It’s been a little over 2 weeks and Rafe (rhymes with safe) is fitting right in with us and making our lives far more interesting. I’ll be writing more about Rafe soon and the benefits of having a pet when suffering from a mental illness and/or chronic pain in an upcoming post.

It’s not a lengthy or exhaustive list but the projects mentioned are highlights for me. In spite of my logic earlier, I still find this sort of thing tough to accept. Part of me is screaming that I’m becoming a pompous ass and I shouldn’t dare post this. In the interest of progress, I’m going to press post and take a big step towards appreciating my abilities and accomplishments and loving myself a little more.

If any readers have stories about learning how to give yourself a pat on the back when you deserve one I’d love to hear about it. I’d also love to hear about your recent accomplishments.

As I mentioned, I’ll soon be writing more about acquiring our cat, the benefits as well as tricky spots. Should you have any advice about training therapeutic, service animals or general stories about how animals have been helpful in your life, I’d love to hear all about it.

Feel free to write in the comment section on Facebook or on WordPress. If you’d like to be anonymous when commenting you can do this by going directly through the WordPress site as a guest. You can also email me directly at kim@trefor.ca

K

The Psych Ward – Let’s Get Into It🌻🌼🌻🐙🌻 -Part 1

The Loony Bin, The Boobyhatch, The Funny Farm, The Madhouse, The Nuthouse, The Cuckoo’s Nest, Bedlam, The Bughouse.

Here’s a strangely monotone drawing I did while staying in the Boobyhatch (I think that’s my favourite silly expression for the Psychiatric Ward😜).

With so many bizarre, somewhat amusing, but mostly offensive, ways to refer to the Psych Ward it must be a pretty special place. Memorable for sure, lol! It’s not like there’s a huge list of alternate names for the Orthopedic Ward.

So if you end up needing a stay in Psych know you’re among the “lucky” few to experience it first hand, and add your own unique character into the mix that makes for such a storied reputation😉

If you or someone you know is in psychiatric crisis; a stay in a hospital psychiatric ward may be something to consider. If you’re unsure about whether or not such a drastic step is needed ask your family GP, Psychiatrist, Counsellor or any other health professional knowledgeable about such things or with easy access to relative information.

In Alberta, Canada if you need help but are unsure where to start you can contact Alberta Health Link by dialing 811 within the province or you can check out http://www.MyHealth.Alberta.ca, another brilliant resource in Calgary and Southern Alberta is http://www.thedistresscentre.ca They can also be reached by phone 24 hours a day at, 403-266-4357(HELP).

If it’s decided a hospital stay is recommended don’t panic! You’re getting help, which is of vital importance. You’re choosing you and you’re choosing life.

Don’t fight the stay, fight your inner demons instead❤ Take advantage of the help being offered in a safe, professional place where the goal is to patch your battered spirit up enough to get you back to slaying dragon’s in your regular life. Accept and embrace the help and rest and wierd that will be your world for a while.

Psych wards are endlessly entertaining if you open your mind and embrace the neurodivergent tea party as best you can. I’m not saying to laugh at others. Please be as empathetic as possible. I’m just saying wierd shit happens ALL THE TIME on the Psych Ward and since you’re a captive audience it’s better to appreciate the humour rather than being overly bothered by it.

You needn’t take abuse though, if another patient or staff member is bothering you tell a senior staff member or your Psychiatrist immediately to stop it before there’s drama. The goal is to rest and regain your footing not to cope with conflict on top of your, already full, emotional plate.

If you are checking in voluntarily or involuntarily don’t be afraid. Just as the cardiac ward is the right place for cardiac patients, the psych ward is the right place for psychiatric patients. While it can be a little frightening not knowing how long you’ll be admitted remember there are many benifits to a longer stay.

I’ll tell you about these benifits in lovely, monotony-breaking, point form;

-A longer stay allows you to spend more time with your psychiatrist adjusting meds, devising solutions for living better in your community, devising crisis plans, working on specifically troubling traumas, working on ways to cope better with your challenges, and offers a plethora of other personalized therapies.

-Having a little time away from tech distractions like cell phones, tablets and computers is good. These aren’t accessible on the many Psych wards, although once you’re able to go off unit for breaks you may check your phone for a short time.

It may feel strange, even scary, to unplug but the act is actually quite liberating and calming. Social media can be entertaining but it can also be incredibly stressful. You may not even realize how much of your time social media, endless browsing or game playing is sucking and how much stress it’s adding until you’re forced to take a break.

-A longer stay gives more time for both Drs and nurses to spend time getting to know you better and so they can fully understand how best to help you.

It may seem as though you’ve things to do and better places to be, but nothing is more important than taking time to focus on healing yourself. If there was a serious problem with your intestines you wouldn’t just leave the hospital. Taking health problems seriously is never frivolous or ill-advised. You are important enough to make caring for yourself a priority.

Fight for yourself. You’re worth it. If you need treatment of any sort please don’t be afraid to start.

If you’ve any stories relating to psych admission or being open to treatment in general I’d love to hear from you. Later next week I’ll have more information about the Psychiatric Ward, my experiences, some myths debunked, and some words of wisdom and encouragement. If there is anything in particular you’re curious about please ask and I’ll get back to you. If you comment directly through the WordPress site you can do so with anonymity, rather than having to post your name via Facebook or Twitter, if you wish.

K

Social Anxiety- A Self-Portrait in Texts

Me: Holy cow! I’m freakin’ vibrating from caffine overload! Lol!

Me: I am so sorry. I think I talked too much this morning and didn’t pay enough attention to you, your baby or (other friend). I was behaving selfishly and I’m really sorry.

Friend: Stop that! We enjoyed your visit. I didn’t respond to your message sooner because we are at ikea.

Me: No I wasn’t talking about u not responding, it didn’t take long anyway. I just keep playing the visit over in my head and realized how annoying I was being. Ahhh I hate anxiety. I’m sorry I shouldn’t have mentioned this. I’ve been really nervous lately and it’s fucking with my head. I’m sorry for being a freak and sorry for being sorry. Ok I need to chill out. Not sure why I’m not hitting delete rather than send.

It was really nice being there with you three. Just when I think I’m past ruminating and beating myself up it comes back and reminds me I still have a mental illness. Frustrating. I suppose I should appreciate that it happens with less frequency now. Thank you for understanding my crazy weirdness💜

Friend: Lol, all good my lovely. We were saying how nice it was to have you there this morning and how much we enjoyed your visit. So don’t worry at all. Never stop being you.

This is a text conversation I had after visiting with a friend, her baby and another friend from out of town. I think it’s a pretty good example of how social anxiety affects my life.

Fortunately the friend I was texting with has known me for more than 20 years and is familiar with my anxieties and pretty adept at helping me to dismiss unnecessary, repeating thoughts.

Here’s a little bit more about how this situation came to be:

I’m heading home after a nice visit with a huge smile on my face. There had been laughter and many old, inside jokes and stories, lots of catching up on each other’s lives, witty banter, genuine affection amongst ourselves, and a sense of ease together that only comes with long-standing, well-nourished, mutually appreciated relationships. It was an especially nice visit I’m thinking as I pull into my driveway.

I begin playing parts of the conversation from the morning back and I realize I forgot to ask about ongoing issue one of my friends was having at work. At first I’m starting to rationalize this oversight as we hadn’t seen each other in a while and there was a lot to catch up on. I’m able to tell myself I’ll be sure to ask about it next time we visit.

Next I realize how long I spent prattling on about some story about my husband. My friends were probably bored to tears. At this point my ability to rationalize away my subpar social skills begins to fizzle and I feel the familiar, but never comfortable, sensation of panic flip-flopping like a slippery fish in my belly.

Soon I am obsessively going over the entire visit with a fine toothed comb and analysing stupid jokes I made, things I now think I shouldn’t have said, other things I should have asked about and on and on and on.

I even begin to assess my mannerisms and actions; did I hug too hard or too long? did I gesticulate too wildly? was I warm enough or too familiar? did I stay too long or not long enough? Was I over-dressed or under-dressed? and on and on and on.

I consider possible consequences; they won’t invite me to visit again, I’ll lose two good friends, they’ll talk about what a crazy, selfish bitch I am, they must be mad at me, and on and on and on.

These thoughts and questions swirl round my mind and I’m rapping my knuckles against my temple to make it fucking stop. It doesn’t stop. I try distracting myself by painting but the thoughts keep interrupting.

I try reframing the situation and using my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills. I classify my thoughts; Mind-Reading-As in, I cannot predict if the others noticed my missteps or if they would even categorize them as such. Fortune Telling-As in, I’m predicting outcomes when I cannot know the future. Catastrophizing-As in, I’m making something small into a much bigger problem than it is.

Unfortunately I’ve never been able to make CBT work for me no matter how many times I write down my feelings, categorize and rate them. I know this type of therapy works for many but I’ve been trying to make it work for the past 10+ years and it’s yet to actually help.

Finally I decide to text my friend. Impractical as it is, this is what usually helps. I confront the situation and apologize for what I think I did wrong. As I mentioned before, my friend is familiar with my anxiety, sees it for what it is and easily calms my mind.

The frustrating part is, in other situations I can’t always go back and apologize, I generally haven’t done anything wrong anyway and I already apologize far too much as it is (I have anxiety about over-apologizing too. Lol!). Sometimes I just think things to death until it either goes away on it’s own for a while or until I’m having a full-blown panic attack and have to take medication.

If this is familiar behaviour to anyone out there I am truly sorry as nonsense like this is a waste of time and energy. Even if I actually had done something I needed to apologize for there’s no need to punish myself in this manner. Making the apology and meaning it is enough.

This is just one facet of how my social anxiety manifests but I thought it was a good example. If you’d like to share a comment, similar story or if you’ve got a coping technique that works for you I’d love to hear about it.

K

The Baby Question

“Why haven’t you had kids yet?”

Something I didn’t understand until I got a little bit of age on me is how uncomfortable this type of question can be. Once a woman reaches a certain age (25ish), whether her biological clock ticks or not is moot as, everyone from acquaintances to relatives will make sure she knows she’s born to birth and she best get on with it.

Consider this for a moment; what are women in movies usually haunted by or hallucinating about? I’d say babies. Some chick will start hearing a baby crying or laughing and it’ll turn out her unborn child, or her abortion is haunting her. This is standard narrative for the role of women on film. In books, the second the young mistress doth barfith one knows she’s in a family way. Just food for thought.

In reality there are many barriers to baby-making that are incredibly sensitive and personal such as, careers, fertility problems, general health issues, lack of a partner, marriage problems, genetics and genuinely not wanting children, to name a few. It’s important to be respectful and understand what goes on in another woman’s womb is really none of your freakin’ business.

I once had an older gentleman I barely knew tell me he felt it’s best for women to have babies well before they’re aged 25 or 30 at the latest otherwise, “they’re far too old.” He then asked how old I was and when I said 34 he shook his head doubtfully and said I’d better get on with it because I’d left it way to long.

When I was younger I asked women about babies with nothing but good intent. I meant it as a compliment, as in, you’d be a great Mom. Time has taught me great Mother’s don’t always give birth and some women have given birth and aren’t great Moms.

To me, Mother’s are women who care deeply for others, who nurture talent and encourage without expecting anything in return. Mother’s are role models but not perfect by any means. Being able to laugh at missteps and foibles is an incredibly important trait for a Mother to have. Also, giving advice isn’t as important as listening, further, understanding advice won’t always be followed and mistakes will be made is key. Helping a young woman rise from the ashes is far more important than scolding her for what she did wrong.

My Mom fell into the Great Mother catagory. She died 4 years ago and this profound loss, while often a traumatizing pit of sadness, has taught me I have many Mothers in my life. So many women have stepped in and shown me what strength truly means, offered me guidance and unconditional love. They’re my bonus Mom’s and everyday angels and I’m incredibly lucky to have as many as I do.

My Mother-in-law was kind enough to arrive in a week before my Mom’s funeral. She helped me write endless lists and knock everything off all the while ensuring I took care and rested so as not to cause a pain flare up. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I’ve thanked her enough for this.

I’m also fortunate enough to have a step-Mother-in-law who is a great feminist role model who compliments my intellect and encourages me to move forward even when I’m feeling lost and as though, because of my chronic illnesses, I’ve lost my chance to be anything useful at all. I cannot thank her enough for giving me these little boosts here and there, gently forcing me to remember my self worth.

My two Aunts have been so kind and caring, offering me a shoulder to cry on and wonderful insights and stories about my Mom throughout her life. We’ve grown a lot closer since my Mom died and, recognizing how fleeting life is, we make sure to say, I love you, often and appreciate the gifts each of us offer.

There are also several of my Mom’s close friends who’ve continually been there for me. With these women there’s that wonderful feeling that no time has passed even if it’s been ages since we’ve talked. We’re just able to pick up where we left off and carry on. This type of friendship is so special and I’m incredibly pleased to have those pseudo Mom’s in my life. Furthermore, the Mother’s of a few of my close friends are also incredibly warm and caring surrogate Moms to me.

It’s been a great pleasure to watch many of my friends and one of my sisters-in-law becoming mother’s and I get the bonus of doting on their kids and spoiling them whenever possible. I hope to someday earn pseudo Mom status to all of them whenever they need it.

I’ll be so thrilled should I end up having children in the future, but I like to think I am maturing into the type of person who is a stand-in Mom or second-Mom to a number of lovely young people I’ve come to know. I don’t wish to infringe on any decisions made by the actual parents but I’m there to offer support and love whenever needed.

I’ve overheard new parents say things such as, “I didn’t really understand love until I had a child of my own.” I like to think this isn’t true for me. I love the people in my life with all my heart and all my soul. I am fiercely protective should I feel one of these people is being attacked, short-changed, or bullied. It’s clear the “Mama-Bear” behaviour so often referred to is alive and well within me, no labour required (see what I did there?).

The next time you wonder why a woman hasn’t had children I urge you to compliment her on something you admire about her instead. You may be speaking to someone who’s never given birth but is a mother to many. Look at Oprah and Ellen for examples of prominent women with no children who absolutely are exemplary Mom’s to so many. I bet you can think of many women you know who have earned the status of Mom one way or another, be sure to treasure this gift.

In this modern age where, hopefully, we’re smashing the patriarchy for breakfast and moving towards a society of gender equality, I think we should examine what it means to be a “Mother” and modify the definition accordingly.

Please Note: Men are awesome too. I am incredibly lucky in that department as well but that’s another blog for another time. I promise.

K