Sometimes Things Are Just Things

It took my Grandfather years to downsize because he couldn’t part with his furniture. He’d come to so cherish his dining room suite because it had belonged to his parents and was gifted to him and my grandmother once they’d married and begun their own family.

I think he’d infused, confused, misplaced, the deep love he felt for his mother, who died when he was still a young man, into the furniture. The table and chairs didn’t replace his mother though. He couldn’t claim they loved him back but he couldn’t part with them because of the power he gave them.

I’ve been just as guilty, hanging on to pieces of my mother as though they’ll bring her back. The most important parts of our relationship are stored in my head, my heart, not in her opal ring or the wall hanging she made in a circular weaving class. These things don’t love me back but they make me feel closer to her in a way she didn’t intend. I gave these things their power over me. I gave them that intense hold that’s so often born of grief and good intentions.

Things can turn evil if we give them too much power, too much of ourselves, if we let them hold us back.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer’s solo work lately and her song, The Thing About Things, on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, has had me thinking of the power we give things and how we often let what we own own us.

I’m down to one last thing I thought I was saving for the daughter I don’t have. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to admit that my grad dress will never be pranced around in during dress-up or altered to fit my little girl as she goes off to a formal dance. It’s hard to admit that I’m not going to have a daughter the way I always thought I would. It’s just a dress. I’ve given it the power to bring me to tears about something that doesn’t exsist.

I’ll be working on letting things go, taking back the power I gave each piece. Taking back the power these things were never meant to have. Within my heart and head I have the real power to keep my precious memories safe.

Do you find you hang onto things? Have you ever given meaning or power to an item only to realize it’s how deep it’s got it’s claws in you? How do you go about letting go of things? I’d love to hear any comments you have.

K

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Witnessing Suicide by Train – Part One

WARNING This is about an actual suicide by freight train I witnessed so please read with caution because it’s sad and gruesome and there’s no silver lining. I’ve changed names, times, and locations to protect the witnesses as well as the suicide victim and his family. I’m also pretty sure this was kept out of the media so as not to encourage others.

Sunday morning and the air is soft like spring, the sun warming our faces. A close friend, I’ll call Jane, and I are walking, coffees in hand as we do most days. We’re Still comfortably ignorant of the life-changing event waiting for us as we trudge along.

We stop to stretch as a freight train goes by and we begin to cross once it’s safe. We start to speed up as we notice another train is rumbling towards us in the distance. Once we’re across the tracks we notice something isn’t right.

What looks to be a man is walking robotically calm toward us along the tracks, train behind him, white shirt leaping out in contrast to the dark coloured Engine and cargo behind him.

Jane and I stand back from the tracks, both straining our eyes to see better and discussing the situation, wondering if we’re both seeing the same thing. As it all draws closer panic begins to set in. He can’t possibly be on the tracks!

As the scene draws ever closer to us it becomes obvious he is on the tracks, freight train bareing down on him and he is unflinchingly, eerily calm. He just continues plodding forward, radiating all I can describe as despair.

The train whistle is blaring, breaks are squealing against tracks, we’re both screaming, watching in suspended horror as he’s hit, thrown up almost casually at a right angle like a ragdoll.

Suspended animation snaps back into real-time and adrenalin combined with crisis instinct kick in for us both. Jane is calling 911 and I am running, slipping on the oversized loose gravel, knees skinning, hands scrapping. If there’s any chance to help I want to be there.

A man, I’ll call him John, who had pulled up to a stop just after the impact is running with me soon, I fall and wave for him to keep going as I stagger to my feet and keep running.

Reaching the tracks I begin running parallel to them, checking quickly under the freight boxes. I’m hoping desperately he’s still walking on the other side. Maybe he dove out of the way and he needs first aid or maybe he’s not dead but needs to hold someone’s hand as the last of life leaks out… maybe. I’m willing him to be alive, begging time not to take him as I stumble forward.

Coming upon John, who’d run faster than me, seconds after he arrives where the majority of the young man has landed, Shaking my hands out I will myself to move forward to take in the scene, I quietly whisper, “he’s dead?” Although I already know the answer in my heart, because it’s breaking.

John is moving in closer, quickly checking for a pulse but soon he’s shaking his head, tears springing to his eyes, “There’s nothing we can do, he’s dead.”

Soon we’re hugging each other tightly, strangers no more. Next I’m staring at the victims chest, hoping he will suddenly start breathing, but I can see every bone in his chest looks broken beneath his bare skin. His white shirt was torn off upon the impact from behind. He will never breathe again.

Stepping back from our embrace, we introduce ourselves. It seems an odd formality given what we’ve just witnessed together. John and I step closer toward the victim and he says softly to the deceased, “I hope you find peace at last.” And there is nothing else to say.

There are things I may never tell about what I saw. It’s too horrible and too graphic to lay at the feet of another, but I will never be able to unsee the carnage. It’s seared in my memory with all the raw harshness of a branding iron.

Sirens begin to sound in the distance, coming towards us from every direction. Soon fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances are crowded round the intersection.

We both wait close to the body as more and more sirens converge at the site. Soon we can see the Engineer, looking broken and defeated, coming towards us with a police officer.

Prior to him seeing the body I tell the Engineer I saw he did everything he could and it wasn’t his fault. I utter how sorry I am and ask if I can give him a hug and I can feel the pain we both feel comingling as we embrace, a dreadful stew of horror, the stuff of nightmares.

I tell the police officer I’m a witness, as does John we and assure him we’ll stick around and give statements. I shuffle through the heavy, rugged, gravel, back to the intersection where a crowd has gathered.

As soon as the First Responders close in on the young man dead on the tracks he is reduced to paperwork and clean up. This is what they do and part of how they cope, I realize they see horror like this and worse every day and I am grateful for their vigilance and sacrifice.

As I reach the crowd I’m swept up in a whirlwind of chaotic emotions of the people who’ve stopped to see if they can help. I appreciate their determination to assist but all I really want is to fall into Jane’s arms so we can cry and mourn together, but that is not to be just yet.

Those in the crowd who weren’t witnesses are soon shooed away by those first responders, no doubt used to getting rid of crowds and securing areas.

Us witnesses stick together, trying desperately to get whatever help we need. When a statement sheet is passed to me I latch onto it like a drowning victim finally clutches a floatation device. Something to do helps.

Taking a deep breath I stare at the empty page and whisper to myself, “OK Kim, you know how to write. Do that.”

So I focus on writing, the feel of pen on paper, the weight of the pen in my hand. This is what must be done right now so I take comfort in the familiar sensations and write. My statement is long and wordy but I don’t care, it made a good distraction.

Eventually, we exchange numbers with John and part ways. An EMS worker drives Jane and me to our separate houses. Soon I’m alone and I break down in the shower, crying, keening, hurting for that young man on the tracks and the horror in my head.

Jane finds out through reliable sources that it was a suicide and not an accident for sure.  Even though we knew this in our hearts and heads

we are overwrought with emotion, hugging and crying the more we find out. I’m not going to give any more detail about who he was or his reasoning because I want to be respectful to his family and friends.

By staying busy my hope is I’ll be able to block the horrible images that plague my mind. When there is space to fill and nothing to fill it with I just see the whole thing over and over on repeat in my mind. I will talk more about this when I discuss PTSD specifically in Part 3.

I hope reading this account hasn’t been too much to bear but we need to talk about Mental Illness and how awful and real and tragic it can be. We cannot keep shoving this shit under the rug because it’s “uncomfortable”. Fuck Uncomfortable! We need to talk about mental illness and death because it happens all the time. Bringing mental illness to the forefront is likely to help prevent this from happening to so many others.

My point was not to shock but to share so that others might know how tragic suicide really is. And I’ve been there, so close to taking my own life. I’m glad I’m still here, still writing and painting and learning to hold space for the deceased in my heart rather than just seeing his final moments.

In parts 2 and 3 I plan to discuss the issues of suicide and PTSD. I will write these as soon as I can but please be patient as I’m struggling with concentration right now and still trying to come to grips with what I’ve seen.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to post in the comments section or, should you have something more private you’d like to share with me feel free to use facebook messenger or my email addy is kim@trefor.ca.

All my love to you dear readers. Hold you’re own loved ones tighter, talk about how you feel, do whatever it takes to not have anyone end up like that poor man on the tracks❤

K

Inspiration is Everywhere

Every artist finds themselves feeling uninspired once in a while. For example, I’ve been drawing tree women for months and, while I love my girls, I want to shift my focus and work on something else. Here are 5 ways I’ve been looking for new inspiration and a refreshed point of view.

Here’s a brand new drawing I created from a combination of colours I’m drawn to right now, some twisted trees that came to mind, and a figure pose I found on Pinterest, I then altered her hair, clothing, and overall aesthetic. Yeah, creativity!

  1. Go for a walk or look out a window and study what you see. It may look like just more trees, or other houses, or a parking lot but if you look closer there’s so much more going on. People are coming and going, lights twinkle at night if you’re in a city, stars twinkle if you live somewhere rural. There’s so much to see and ponder. It might not happen all at once but if you listen closely there’s inspiration everywhere you look.
  2. Relax. Relax. Relax. Putting pressure on yourself to produce new art is unlikely to make things happen, although my next point will directly contradict this point, it just depends on what kind of person you are. Both techniques often lead to new and exciting, quality work.
  3. Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it. For many people having a deadline to keep them working towards something. Personally, I am motivated to write by deadlines to some degree but when it comes to drawing I put less pressure on myself. As long as I practice every day I know I’ll get to something fresh and exciting in the near future.
  4. Look for inspiration in your immediate surroundings. It may sound strange but check out the shadows that cross the different rooms in your house throughout the day. Look at the shapes and design of your furniture and decor. Then ask yourself how you can incorporate some of these shapes into your work.
  5. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration. Never directly copy anything, unless it’s just for practice and not to be shown as your original work. I have files for figure inspiration, faces to draw, shapes, illustration style, trees, water, and more. Any time I’m looking for something to practice or if I want to draw a Trump cartoon, I head to Pinterest and pull out the picture I want to use. When I’m feeling uninspired I scroll through and add all sorts of new ideas to my files and soon enough I’ve found several ideas to combine and add my own twist to in order to create something exciting and new.

I hope these few ideas for finding inspiration are helpful. Using your creativity is a great way to cope with pain and mental illness, I know this first hand, unfortunately. Creativity is by no means going to solve all your problems but I find it to be an integral part of my path to coping with chronic pain and mental illness to the best of my ability.

Please let me know if you have any special techniques you use to stir up your creative juices. As always, I love to hear from you.

K

Gaming Addiction – Freakin Mental Monday

Watch as Another Freakin Athiest and I co-host our weekly show regarding mental illness. We discuss Gaming Addiction and it’s placement in the new DSM and with the WHO. We also spend time discussing what defines addiction with regards to gaming.

If you’re looking for more info regarding possible gaming addiction and recovery ideas check out http://www.gamequitters.com

I’m Not Doing Enough… Really?

I often beat myself up for not doing enough. Sometimes it feels as though the world is passing me by like I fell off the treadmill and can’t seem to regain my footing.

What if there’s another way? What if the treadmill isn’t the only way to get around in life? Is it a little scary to forge my own path? YES. But I don’t have to let fear stand in my way. I can be brave.

What if I choose to see it that the world isn’t working faster or harder than me but that we all do things at our own pace and that’s ok.

Occasionally I wonder, if I were a stronger person would I be able to cope with the pain and thrive? I’ve heard stories of others who prevail and cope with mental illness and chronic pain, like superheroes sent to taunt me with their power to overcome the very things that hold me back. Is this really the case though? or am I simply not as appreciative of my own work over that of others.

Why shouldn’t I value my own accomplishments and efforts in the same way I value the work of others? What would happen if I chose to value myself for just being me?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on challenging my negative thoughts. Therapy has taught me to check out the assumptions I make to see if my logic holds or if I might reconsider.

If I check the assumption that, “I’m not doing enough.” The first thing I notice is the ambiguity of the word, “enough”. How much is enough?! Who the fuck knows. What I take away from this analysis is that I’m mustn’t base my goals on nebulous ideals.

If I look at the word, “doing,” next and check my assumptions out something interesting occurs to me; drawing, writing, yoga, housework, visiting Drs, planning creative works, pacing myself so I can manage to have the energy for visits with friends and family, playing with my cat… I am doing quite a bit when I look at all these items.

Now if I go back to my original statement, “I’m not doing enough,” I can see this statement for what it is. It’s a thinly veiled put-down that assumes my value is based on physical output and monetary accumulation alone.

The statement is also judgy and unfair. I’m essentially telling myself I’m not good enough and because I’m not good enough, I’m worthless. That’s a pretty shitty thing to tell myself right?

Imagine if I called up a close friend with chronic pain and mental illness and said, “dude, I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think you’re doing enough.”

I cannot even imagine saying such a thing to an enemy let alone a close friend. If I wouldn’t say such a thing to a close friend why the hell would I say it to myself? I have to allow myself the same empathy, love, kindness and caring I’d show anyone else, otherwise, I might as well punch myself in the face every morning.

Sadly, I’d have to punch myself in the face a number of times throughout the day as that’s how often I’m making negative comments to myself, about myself. I want to be done with treating myself this way. I need to be my own best friend and train my brain not to hurl insults at itself. I need to teach my brain that I am enough, that I have worth and I’m worth valuing.

I know it’s going to take time to, literally, change my brain but I’ve already noticed my inner voice growing stronger and more loving. I’m the only engineer I’m allowing to rewire the circuits of my mind, fuck your iron rings, I’m best suited to this job.

I can change my thinking if I continue to build confidence in myself slowly but surely, celebrating each small victory rather than waiting for someone else to change things for me all at once. If I take charge of the change I want to see I’m pretty sure I’m more likely to end up happiest with that which I’ve changed.

Are you playing an active role in building the future you want for yourself? What small changes can you make right now? What’s your ultimate goal for your future and will the changes you make move you closer to it?

K

Freakin Mental Monday

Hey Everybody,
I’m trying something new to spread info & awareness about mental illness.
I’m co-hosting a show called Freakin Mental Monday on the Another Freakin’ Athiest Youtube channel.
Tonight we’re talking depression symptoms & revealing our own struggles with depression.
Join us live at 6pm MDT & you can ask questions & comment in real time or watch it later when you’ve got time

Chronic Pain Fog

For the past month or so I’ve been wanting to write multiple blog entries. Ideas swirl round my mind, but like wily minnows, they slip through my fingers as I try to grab hold. I’ve only managed to spit out one or two blogs since my birthday at the beginning of August.

I write down drips and drabs and scribble notes on tiny scraps of paper or in one of a million notebooks and diaries. When I can think clearly it all comes together and my fingers fly across the keyboard and I can see the pattern building, the web I’m going to weave.

I suppose I haven’t really been slacking off too much. My focus has just temporarily changed to something a little less fun. I might have known, as I’m new to web design, “easy to use,” would mean, absolutely not easy to use if you’re a Luddite and the last time you learned web design was in 1998. I’m afraid those skills are just a titch out of date.

Luddite or not, I’m proud to say I’ve been working on a new website for my blog, as you may have noticed. http://www.perkreations.com will eventually also hold tons of easy to access mental health material. In addition, I plan to use the platform to showcase some of my art and offer cards, prints and originals for sale.

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This is the new logo I created for PerKreations. I’d love to hear what you think.

I use art, especially, as a coping mechanism when I’m in pain. I believe in pushing through the ugliness of art, that’s how you get to the good stuff. I usually manage to do this with drawing as I do it in a reclined position, on a heating pad.

Having said that, if I’m standing at an easel trying to paint it’s hard to push through anything when pain makes me feel I’ve a mind full of marshmallows, shakey hands, and a yucky sweaty face… these pain symptoms aren’t to be pushed through as the consequences will be incredibly painful and I don’t want to create a full-blown flare-up. In cases like this, I must put down my brush and come back to the easel after some rest.

The trouble with pushing through chronic pain is for many sufferers there is no end, just worse. The symptoms I mentioned, shakey hands, marshmallow mind and a sweaty face are just a few of the indicators I get that I’ve reached the end of my tether. Others may get rashes from the pain, experience swelling, feel cranky, irritable, anxious, depressed, guilty and more. Everyone with chronic pain is different and we all have our ways of coping and signs of overdoing it.

If I go out one day and run an errand, write or work on my site a bit,  go about the chores needing to be done to keep the house somewhat clean, then, even though I’m feeling sore and exhausted, I go out for dinner or meet a friend for coffee, I will pay for “pushing through the pain” with even worse pain that renders me useless for several days after.

I suffer from disc problems in my low back, hip issues, nerve pain and arthritis in my left leg, I also get sciatica pain. All of these pains sing to me in different tones or sometimes as a hellish choir. Some pains whisper one moment, then yoddle a moment later. As in, “Oh Fuck, my sciatica is yoddling!”

Sometimes it feels not too bad and is well managed with medication, knowing my limits and stretching. Sometimes the pain increases for no reason at all, sometimes it’s related to stress, and sometimes I overdo it. The trouble is the, “overdo it,” line isn’t always in the same place so it’s confusing as hell to figure out what’s too much and what’s too little. My body continually moves the goalposts on me.

I do not have pain-free days, I do not have pain-free hours. This is just how it is and over the past 12 years I’ve become better at handling the pain as well as anxiety and depression.

One particular thing that holds me back is pain fog. It limits my capacity to concentrate, stay calm, remember things, it’s as though all the different pains are singing a horrible, no good, very bad song in my head and if I have to think or focus on something complex like writing or decision making, I’m useless.

So, my website is coming along, although slower than planned. I am writing, although slower than I’d like. When the pain is bad I turn to my heating pad and create art to eventually have available on my website.

Do you experience pain fog? What’s it like for you? If you don’t have chronic pain had you heard of pain fog or brain fog? If you have any questions I’d love to hear from you dear readers.

K