From one mum to another: Get over yourself

I’ve noticed that the internet has become over run with ways to become a mom (while keeping us inside, at our computers, away from other actual moms and other kids)

There are all kinds of blogs on how it’s ok to not do the dishes sometimes, and yes we’re all run down.
I could find about a thousand things to add chalkboard paint to and make my house just that much more creative for the babes….if I wanted to, but another blog tells me it’s ok that I just get construction paper and markers.

There are forums where we argue about cloth vs disposable, breast vs bottle, babywear vs stroller and every mom in there is so much better for doing it her way.

We get indignant if somebody is on the elevator and we can’t see their disability while we have our precious miracle-angel in the stroller, or if somebody is in the pregnancy/new mom parking and is neither visibly pregnant nor a new parent.

We flip shit if our kids have a two degree fever and rush to the ER, thus clogging it with panicky moms, instead of using the internet for what it was designed for…research. (Here’s a handy guide from Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in case you don’t know)

To all of these mums, I have one thing to say: GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELVES!!!!

We get it! Parenthood is scary, uncharted territory and you want everybody to know that you’re doing the best you can. Know what… So are the rest of us.

Some of us parent with more rules than others. Some of us use more humor or more gentility.
If your kid has food in it’s belly, somewhere to shit and gets out for fresh air, the only one who should care how you do it, is you.

If you can manage to get your house looking like a pinterest board, good job mama, keep on truckin’. If you can barely keep up with laundry and dishes…we should hang out cause you’re my kinda people.

Take the next elevator that comes along, because you don’t know whats going on in that persons life and if it in entitled teenagers, just think back to when you were an entitled teenager, you probably did the same thing.
The pregnancy parking spot… WHAT??? Are we treating pregnancy or new motherhood like a disability now? Do we really need priority parking because our bodies managed to connect sperm to egg? I don’t think so.

We are no longer birthing in fields, lit by fire. We have wonderful facilities we do this in.
Mothers have every advantage and yet we polarize each other from the village mentality, creating playdates for whom? Babe or mum?
We aren’t doing anything new. This has been done since the dawn of our species and will continue forth as such.
We tear each other down or stand on high horses because we want the world to know that we’re doing not only the best job we can but a better job than everybody else.

We are mums, hardest job on earth, yes but if we don’t get over ourselves, we will continue to war within this awesome club we have instead of binding together to support.

Get over yourselves

What you took from me: An open letter to my rapist

***caution: entry may cause triggers***

Dear Rapist,

I know you don’t consider yourself a rapist but you are. I also know you don’t think about that night but rest assured I do. At one point or another, every single day, I think about you and I think about that night.
I think about what I don’t remember and what I’ve lost. 
You took so many things from me in one act, which you don’t even know you did. 
I hope one day you will know what you did but for now, I write.

My safety
On that night, the number one thing you took from me my safety. Now, I’m a firm believer that women should be able to go where they want, dress how they want, drink how they want and be safe. I’m also a realist and know that there are predatory douchebags waiting for the right opportunity to take advantage of a woman because they feel it is their douchebag given right. I didn’t put myself into one of those situations. 
I am a creature of habit. I went out for my birthday, surrounded myself with friends in a bar I had been to a thousand times before, dressed in a hideous 80’s prom, dress and yes, got black out drunk with a plan home. Here’s the thing…you are part of that social circle. You shouldn’t have been a problem. You should have been part of that safety net. You should have known that when I said I didn’t want to sleep with you, I actually meant it. 
Instead, you waited till I was (aformentioned) blackout birthday drunk and took advantage of the fact that I could no longer consent.
You took my safety away.
I can no longer call those outings safe. Places I’d gone for years are no longer truly safe. I had to work hard to make my normal, normal again, all because you took my normal away from me.

My normalcy
Weekends used to go: get the kids off to dads. Get ready to go out. Karaoke my face off, spend the day lounging in bed and schlepping around the house. Get ready to go out again. Karaoke my face off again. Spend the day lounging in bed again and schlepping around the house some more. Greet the kids from dads place.
It was wonderful. Relaxing. Routine. 
After you it took me months to even get back to karaoke let alone drink. When I do drink I only have a few. 
If I do indulge in more, its in a home. 
My weekend normalcy, how I enjoy myself around my friends has changed, even when you’re not around. 
My day-to-day normalcy has become managing triggers. Indulge my reading until I can’t anymore. Manage panic attacks on the bad days. Thrive on the good days. (The good days are becoming more often and I am truly blessed for that) Try to stay out of the dark recesses of my mind. Pick out good memories instead of dwell on the bad one. This has become my normalcy.
I am trying to survive. More than a year later I’m still finding myself in survival mode some days wondering when it will end. 

My Birthday
A day of celebration. I took the date off all social media because I couldn’t stand to have the slew of well wishers. I freaked out on my sister for trying to plan a surprise birthday party (in her defense, she was trying to take it back for me…trying to take it back from you). I told people not to visit from out of town. My world came to a halt this year on my birthday because of you. 
I am proud to announce that I salvaged it though. The man I was seeing took me to see my childhood campground and I asked friends to donate to Operation Christmas Child instead of buying me drinks. We gathered 7 boxes total. Your selfish act became my push to do better. 

My intimacy
I will never again know a romantic relationship where I don’t have to have a talk at some point and tell them what I’ve been through. I go on most days like it never happened but I need to tell them because there will be days where I don’t want to be touched. There will be times in bed where I will pull away. My romantic partners will forever get to deal with the baggage you have left with me. That isn’t fair to me or to them. One night of getting your rocks off is a life time of unpacking for me. 

My memories
You have memories of my body I don’t. Let me repeat that. My. Body.
I don’t remember anything you did with my very body. You do though. 
What I do remember though is waking up, next to somebody I had expressly told I did not want to have sex with, terrified and confused. 
I remember the hospital. I remember my mothers frantic concern. I don’t remember much of you at all though. Just rushing you out the door in the morning before the total system implosion started. 

You did give me a few things though, I’ll credit you with that.

Strength
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I was plenty strong enough already thankyouverymuch, I didn’t need this lesson, but I got it anyway so here we are. I learned that I can get through this amazingly traumatizing experience and come out (mostly) on the other side.

Bravery
I’ve been told that my writing makes me brave. I don’t think so. I really don’t. In fact, I think my writing gives me a place to hide till I confront you properly, but maybe in a way it gives me a little bit of strength in that it lets me cope with what happens. 
More than my own bravery though, people have told me that it gives them bravery and strength and that is much more important. 
If one survivor reads this or It Happened To Me and identifies, and comes forward, than I have done so much more than I ever set out to do. 

Feminism
I always wanted equality and was something of an armchair feminist. Your actions lit a fire under my ass that has been damn near impossible to extinguish. It changed the way I look at the world. I am deeply ashamed to say but having my own safety stolen showed me how easy it is and how many women, all over the world are having theirs stolen in much grander ways, every day.
I read as much as I can every day till triggers stop me. I am raising my own boys in a way your parents obviously didn’t. I’m trying to start change from the bottom up.

I will never thank you for what you gave me because you took so very much more from me. You stole from me and you don’t even know it.
Yet

Why The Men’s Rights Movement Is Garbage

“Yes, the patriarchy overwhelmingly privileges the interests of men, but it also hurts men.”

As an angry feminist (as described by someone else in an attempt to shame me from being a feminist) I think this article is beyond brilliant.
Men need all the help we can offer them in the issues that absolutely face their gender, just as women do. Let’s focus on that instead of the fact that there is another group trying to get rights , safety and equality for themselves based on their gender.

The Belle Jar

I need to take a moment here to talk about the Men’s Rights Movement, because there seems to be some confusion. Actually, there seems to be a whole lot of confusion.

Over the past little while, I’ve had a number of people challenge me on calling out men’s rights activists (hereafter referred to as MRAs). “But men are oppressed too,” people say. “Feminism is sexist, and it teaches men that masculinity is wrong.” “Straight, white men aren’t allowed to be proud of themselves anymore.” “If you believe in equality, then you should want men to have the same type of activism as women.” “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

First of all, yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But let’s not pretend that all opinions are created equal – some are based on fact, and some are total bullshit. Like, I could tell you that I believe that vaccines…

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50 Things People Should Realize About 50 Things Every Woman Should Realize About Men

Earlier today an article popped up on my Facebook feed. Thankfully most of my Facebook friends are progressive thinking individuals and this was posted with rage. I truly hope the article was written in satire but sadly, I don’t think that is the case.
The article, 50 Things Every Woman Should Realize About Men was from a site called wallstreetinsanity.com by a contributor by the name of Chuck Henderson.

As a forward thinking woman who has had zero trouble with the fellas, I have decided to take it upon my enraged self to debunk most or all of these 
(please note: for the sake of responding to this tripe, I’m keeping the relationships in the male/female but this can translate to any gender identity and relationship construct. I also fully realize that not every girl is a “girly girl”, which are a lot of the points here but in the interest of straight up response I’m not even going to touch that in my replies. That would turn this into a blog post worthy of Tolstoy)

1. You Gotta Stay Away From His Internet Search History

You can’t handle it. It’s more or less the same for every guy, so don’t think he’s a perv or anything. But if you go browsing where he’s been, you’ll regret it. There are some things you can’t unsee.

Most of the women I know already know that their guy looks at porn. Here’s a tip though, so do we. So if that’s the only thing you have to hide than either suck it up or stay away from our history too, on the off chance it might fuck up some skewed Madonna/Whore thing you have going on.

On the flip side, if you do have something to hide and you are keeping your browser history hidden, maybe you should stop being such a dick and change your behavior. 
Lastly, most people will only go through stuff like that if they’re already suspicious or have massive trust baggage.

2. You Can’t Change Him

I know that you know this intellectually, but on some level, you may still think you can pull it off. You can’t. And if you do manage to get it done, he’ll figure it out and resent you for it. Love him the way he is or not at all. 

Do we want to change the way you suck food out of your teeth? Yes. Do we want to change the way you think that a concert tee from 1998 is still cool to wear to the bar (in a non-ironic fashion). Absolutely. Do we want to change your core values and personality traits? NO! We really and truly don’t.
Honestly, if they were that big a deal, we would have just broken up with you long ago when they started becoming too big to ignore.

3. You Shouldn’t Take It Personally When He Checks Out Other Women

Unless he’s leering and drooling, just let it slide. It’s a reflex and he can’t help it. Just let it slide.

This one is a hard one for me because as a bisexual women, I’ll check out other women. I’ll also check out other men. If I see a guy with a nice solid rib cage, big arms and great eyes walk by…I’m gonna look. Every. Time.
That said, everybody is entitled to their insecure moments and everybody is entitled to say “Not today please”
Any respectful partner worth their weight in salt will understand and respect that without question.
(Also: If you’re constantly checking out tall, skinny, big chested blondes…this short, chubby, moderately chested brunette is going to wonder why you’re even with her)

4. He Will Choose His Friends Over You

They’ve been with him for way longer than you have, and no matter how much he loves the regular sex, he’ll sacrifice it if you’re trying to 86 his buddies from his life.

On the flip side, if you’re out with your buddies more than you’re with your S/O…we’ll 86 you from our lives.
Reality check: We love that you have a life outside of us. It gives us a chance to have a life outside of you. If that life balance becomes skewed though, changes need to be put into place. 
Please don’t go out with the guys 5 nights a week and then come home, crawl into bed & poke us and expect us to be *that* happy to see you

5. Never Criticize His Mother

If he wants to do it, and you commiserate with him, that’s fine. But if you’re the one who brings it up, watch the fuck out. Odds are, there are qualities she has that he sees in you, so try to figure out what those are and relate to her on that level.

Totally guilty of this one. I’ll admit it. That said, don’t ever make a woman feel like she’s in direct competition with your mother and worse, the only reason she wins is cause of sex. Dude…that’s just weird. 
Also: Don’t expect us to like your mother just cause she’s your mother. We might like her cause she’s an awesome lady or we might dislike her cause she rubs us the wrong way. That’s just human nature.

6. You Have To Let Shit Go

You’ll have a lot of fights over the course of the relationship, but when they’re over, they really need to be over. Throwing old arguments back in his face will lead to loss of trust and ultimately change how he feels about you.

This is just a relationship thing. Try to stay on the topic at hand when having an argument. It’s also the hardest to do. For every argument I’ve been in where we have both stayed (mostly) on topic, I’ve been in just as many where one or both (yes…BOTH) partners devolved into past offences. It happens.
Just try to pick up your pride and steer the ‘conversation’ back to it’s original course.

7. Don’t Ask Questions You Don’t Want To Know The Answers To

Hey, he’s got a history and so do you. If you love him for who he is now, don’t worry so much about the steps he took to get there.

Goes both ways buddy. If you don’t want me knowing how many drugs you did in college or how many women you slept with than I don’t want you asking questions of that ilk either.
That said, some questions need to be addressed and those are at the discretion of the couple. Back to having nothing to hide.

8. You Can’t Bombard Him The Second He Walks In The Door

He knows you want to talk about what that bitch said to you at work today or your plans to redecorate the bedroom, but for god’s sake, let him have a beer and stare at the TV for at least half an hour first.

What the actual fuck was this entry? Does the author really think that’s all women want to talk about?
If I want to rant off about work or celebrate that another state legalized equal marriage (like a real god damned human) I will. This isn’t the 1950’s anymore asshole. We’re not waiting at the door with a drink, your slippers and dinner in the oven. 
If the beer and TV is more important than listening to your S/O…maybe you should start seeing them instead.
That’s not to say that we don’t all come home from work now and then needing some decompression time but for the love of being a grown up, say that!

9. Withholding Sex Is A Dangerous Game

I don’t care how mad you are at him, if you cut him off for an extended period of time, what happens next is on you.

So are veiled threats. I personally do not believe that men are such sex crazed animals that they need to chase tail just cause they’re having a tiff with the wife that ended in not getting nookie. I’m so very sorry you do.

10. He’s Jealous Of All Your Straight Guy Friends

Bitch about him to the girls all you want, but if you’re confiding things to other men and he finds out about it, he’s going to get jealous. Sorry to break it to you, but he wants to be the only man in your life.

WOAH! Double standards much? I’ll kindly address you to point 4. My male friends have been in my life longer than you have. 
They saw me with out make-up before you did, they held me while I cried before you did, they loved me when I was unlovable before you did. They got me to the point where I met you and was the person I am today. Instead of jealousy, you should thank them. 
Seriously… Cards or drinks. Meat of the month club memberships. Those guys have been through the wringer. 

11. He Wants To Try Anal

He might never ask for it, but he wants it. And odds are, most, if not all of his former girlfriends wouldn’t let him. Let him have it at least once, maybe on his birthday. It’ll be a bonding experience.

Lets bond over making your anus hurt for a few days and you feeling like you have to take a shit the entire time we’re having sex…cause if we do, it’ll show just how much you love me. *face palm*
I understand that some women like it and are into it. I also understand that some men aren’t and don’t.
Like every other sexual preference, it’s personal and boundaries should…nay, must, be respected. 

12. He Wants To Bang Your Friends

I’m not saying he’ll do it, but he wants to. Don’t take it personally—he’s wanted to bang 90% of all the women he’s ever met. It’s really not that big a deal. Let him know you know and watch how red he gets.

Meh…we wanna bang your friends. Especially that really attractive one nursing the break up, broken wing vibe right now. 

13. You Should Learn To Play Pool

There’s nothing hotter than a chick who can beat you in pool.

No. I hate pool

14. He Wants You To Seduce Him

Yes, he probably likes sex more than you do, but you want him to be happy, right? Don’t wait for him to instigate every time. Surprise him every once in a while.

Did I read that right? You want him to be happy, right? Holy shit!
We will instigate when we want to thankyouverymuch. 
If zero instigation has been happening lately, maybe you should ask whats going in on in our world. There might be something bigger than sex (yes…bigger than sex) that we haven’t told you about (and it might be because we don’t want to bombard you when you walk through the door)
There might be problems at work, issues with the kids or even the dreaded problems in bed. 
If you ask, instead of pout, shit gets fixed.

15. He Notices When You Don’t Wear The Jewelry He Bought You

If you don’t like it, for Christ’s sake, say so and let him try again. It seems ungrateful when you wear it once and then he never sees it again.

And we notice when you buy is a necklace to replace the one we always wear…that we got from our grandmother.
Secondly: Look above and look below…notice how much god damned whining is going on. Do you really think we want to endure more of that shit over a necklace or earrings?

16. He Wants You To Need Him

Sure, you’re an independent lady and he likes that. But he also wants to feel useful. So let him change a light bulb and open pickle jars for you. It boosts his self-esteem.

Everybody likes to be needed from time to time. It’s nice. This isn’t a man thing, it’s a person thing. 
Just like people like to be independent…so cut the condensation crap

17. You’ve Got To Watch Your Weight

Oh shit, did I really say that? Well, it’s true. Just because you landed him doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want and stop going to the gym (and to be fair, neither can he).

And we’re at the body shaming…I just can’t

18. If You’ve Been Living Together For Longer Than Three Years, He’s Not Going To Marry You

At that point, he already considers himself married, and the idea of a wedding is more of a hassle than the special day it is to you. You can try to force him into it if you want, but…

If he’s been living with someone for over three years and knows she wants to get married but he has no plans of it…seriously dick move and nobody should be asked to mind read that shit.
I know plenty of couples who put house and career above the wedding only to do it later on as well, so, never say never.

19. Ultimatums Do NOT Work

Any time you try to force a guy to do anything, he WILL resent you for it. Try an honest talk about how you feel and what you want out of the relationship before you give him an “either/or.”

At the risk of repeating myself…this is not a gender issue. This is a grown up relationship issue. 

20. He Wants Kids

It’s hardwired into his DNA. No matter what he says when he’s in his twenties, when he gets a little older, he’s going to want a legacy to leave behind. But please make sure he’s ready before you stop taking your birth control.

Fair. Most women want kids too. It’s basic respect to have at least one discussion about bringing another life into this world before actually going ahead with it. Please also understand that no birth control method is 100% and things happen (except abstinence but remember what you said about withholding sex?)

21. He Knows When You’re Lying To Him

He might not even be sure what you’re lying about, but he knows when you’re not being honest. Better come clean, or his head will fill up with worst-case scenarios.

Those jeans look great on you. Of course I don’t mind if your sister comes over for the weekend. I didn’t even realize I still had that dating profile, I’ll go delete it right now.
We know too. 

22. He Wants You To like What He Likes

Whether it’s movies, sports or hobbies, he wants you to enjoy those things with him. Even if it’s not your thing, try to have fun with the fact that it makes him happy.

But who really wants to date a carbon copy of themselves?
I’ll go to a soccer game with you…once…if that’s your deal. I’ll give that show a whirl, you get three episodes to win me over. After that though, I’m really ok with you having your interests and me having mine. Just so long as we have enough of the same interests to still have a few things to do together, I’m really more than ok with you having your own likes. It’s called independence. 

23. He Thought You Looked Good In That First Outfit

The more you change clothes before you go out, the more impatient he gets. After the second one, he doesn’t care anymore. Just pick one and let’s go!

Know what…I’m just gonna wait till a later entry to address this one.

 

24. He Has No Interest In Shoes

What is it with women and shoes? You may think that new pair is the cutest thing in the world, but it just mystifies him.

Oh my God…I’m not even half way through and I’m already running out of steam with the hypocrisy here. What happened to “like what he likes”? Doesn’t that work both ways?
Just pretend to be happy, don’t fuss too much if we want another pair and you’ll be more likely to get another of that thing you like.
(I’m not even getting into the ‘not every woman is a shoe woman’ argument. Shoes will take the place of what ever thing you like)

25. You Should Always Take His Side

Within reason. But if he’s involved in some kind of debate and you take sides against him in public, he will never forgive you.

If I don’t agree with his point, I am in no way obligated to agree with him. Ever. 

26. He Wants You To Expose Him To New Things

He wants to feel like you’re bringing something extra into his life, so tell him about your favorite authors, philosophers, whatever. If you help him grow as a person, he’ll always be grateful to you for it.

Likewise. Unilateral relationships are boring and end quickly. Bring something to the table and both partners, regardless of gender, will be grateful.

 

27. You Need To Tell Him Exactly What You Want

Don’t make him guess, because he’ll pick wrong. And don’t be vague about it either. If you want something, just say it straight out. Odds are, he’ll give it to you.

Unless you’re Professor X, nobody is a proficient mind reader. Openness and honesty are key to any relationship. 
It is nice to be surprised with that perfect little trinket now and then though, no matter who you are.

28. He Hates That Short Haircut

Very few women can pull off that pixie hairdo (although the ones that can do it beautifully). He likes your hair long, so don’t go chopping it all off without running it by him first. How would you feel if he got a Mohawk or grew a rattail?

Last time I checked, my hair was on my body. Now since it’s my body, it’s my choice. Are we really going to get into a pro/anti-choice debate over hair?

Most partners will consider their partners preferences in appearance. If I choose to get my hair cut though, there is most likely a reason and I’ll stick by it

29. He Wants You By His Side

If you abandon him at parties and go talk to your friends while he talks to his, you’re not giving him that level of completion he wants in a partner. Sure, you can branch out now and then, but he wants you to work as a duo.

Quite honestly, the best couples I’ve seen have their own friends and intermingle between all circles. They can go from one to the other, flitting back to their partner because it’s where the want to be, not because it’s where they feel obligated to be.

30. You Should Never Flirt With His Friend

I know I said earlier that he wants to bang your friends, so this might seem like a double standard, but it’s true. He’ll think you’re fucking with him—or worse, that you’re actually attracted to one of his buddies. Don’t risk ruining his friendships or there will be bad times ahead.

Yup… You did say you want to fuck our friends and we are attracted to your friends.
Being attracted to a person is ok. If flirting outside of the relationship is outside the parameters of acceptable, than either partner doing it isn’t cool.

31. He Wants You To Be His Muse

Behind every great man is a great woman. And of course you can have your own hopes and dreams, but he needs you help and inspire him to achieve his.

Thank you so much, oh sexist one, for the permission to have my own ambition. 
Bilateral support is the keystone in any relationship. Sometimes one partner will need more than the other but later it will be reciprocated in kind. This is just how grown up relationships work. It’s not a gender thing, it’s a love and respect thing.

32. Whatever It Is  You Want In Bed, He WILL Do It

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for it. Whatever you sickest, most twisted sexual fantasy, it’s PG-13 material compared to the shit that goes on in his head.

Ha! I wish!
My sexual fantasy list makes 50 Shades of Grey look like amateur hour. Hell, the sexual reality makes 50 Shades look weak but the reality is, not many men have gotten there and thats ok. Sometimes fantasy is better left to fantasy
Don’t underestimate us there Christian

33. He Needs To Lean On You Sometimes

Most of us are pretty good at shouldering our burdens, but every so often, they get too heavy. But don’t sit him down and make him talk about his feelings—that’s YOUR thing. Just do some little things for him to pick up his slack when he’s overwhelmed.

Bilateral support. We’ve been over this. Everybody needs help from their partner from time to time
Now, please don’t negate men discussing their feelings. That’s how gender binary issues with emotional stunting gets rolling and frankly everybody could use a little vent session about how they’re feeling from time to time

34. Save The Big Piece Of Chicken For Him

He works hard, he doesn’t complain much. He deserves it (thanks to Chris Rock for that one).

We work hard too. I’ll give it to you that men generally have larger appetites but if I’m having a hungry day and you’re not there for dinner…you don’t know any different. No harm, no fowl (Ha! See what I did there)

35. Don’t EVER Emasculate Him

Even if you’re just joking. I promise you, he won’t think it’s funny. And if you do it during a fight, your relationship might never recover.

Dude! You like JUST body shamed!
If gender binary is that important to you than it should be discussed and agreed upon that penis size jokes aren’t cool. Don’t make us guess though because honestly, I’ve dated lots of guys who were plenty secure in their masculinity to not have to define it in modern-traditionalist ways and I could totally take the mickey out about me being more of a dude than they were.

36. He Doesn’t Want To Hear About Your Sexual Past

If you feel the need to give him a number, fine, but don’t get into what you did with whom, no matter how much he asks. I promise you, he doesn’t want to know.

Oh sweetheart…you don’t even want the number. 
This one is different per relationship as well. I’ve been with people with whom I didn’t want to know a single detail and likewise for them. I’ve been with others where I was free with the high fives if they had done something super cool.
This one goes individually…treat it as such.

37. He Wants To Be The Best Lover You’ve Ever Had

And if he’s the love of your life, he probably is. But if he’s not, just lie to him.

I thought you could tell when we’re lying. Cause we’re probably lying.
Think about that spring break, where you ate sushi off the yoga instructor before trying to see just how flexible she is. We probably have a moment that equates like that too. Fact of the matter is that you’re not with the yoga instructor and we’re not with the person we had our moment with either. There is a reason. There is also a reason we’re together. Now pull your head out of your insecure ass

38. If He Cheats On You Once, he’ll Do It Again

Even if he apologizes and honestly regrets it, if you let him get away with it, it WILL happen again.

There is this sneaky part of human psyche that likes to get away with things…but only when we know for 100% that we can. 
If somebody has gotten away with cheating, either because their partner forgave them or because they lied better, than they will do it again. The thrill is now there. They know they can. There are apparently zero repercussions
Now here’s some interesting fact bombs: Recent studies have shown that women cheat almost as much if not more than men. They’re just better at lying about it. Farrah Fawcett carried on an affair for 11 years on the DL. ELEVEN YEARS! So I guess that throws point 21 out the window. It also puts this cheating fear mongering in a new light I’m betting 

39. You Should Let Him Open Doors For You

It’s great that you’re all liberated and shit, but being a gentleman never goes out of style. Let him do those little things and it will make him love you more.

Please for the love of equality, stop being so condescending when you refer to womens lib. 
Now that I’ve said that, I personally like it when a fella opens a door, pulls out a chair and I go completely weak in the knees for one who walks on the outside of the sidewalk (and knows why he’s doing it). That’s me.
Not every woman likes that. Some women find it condescending to their place in today’s society and the still reaching gap and total equality and there are some guys who totally dig that about their women 

40. You Need To Be His Moral Compass

He looks to his woman to keep him in check. Make sure he always does the right thing.

Just no. Women want a man who can keep himself in check because women want a grown-up. Women don’t want to have to babysit their man because without her he’ll do something stupid. That’s just a recipe for drama and disaster. This one is just nuts and insulting. 

41. You Should Let Him Win Sometimes

Men hate it when you’re better at them at what they love. He has a fragile ego, and sorry, but you need you to cater to it sometimes. If you throw a game and he gloats, though, all bets are off.

If my man can’t be proud of me for being good at something, than frankly I don’t want him. I’ve dated guys with the Midas Touch. They were good at everything they touched. It was annoying sometimes but in the end I was proud of them for being good at what they were doing. That’s how bilateral support works. I throw games for children who are too young to lose (ages 2-6), I’m not doing it for a grown assed man. 

42. If You Make Him Watch A Chick Flick, At Least Give Him A Blowjob Afterwards

Seriously, those things are painful. You have no idea how much we hate them. If he made it through the whole thing without complaining, reward him. And if it was one of the SEX & THE CITY movies, you owe him either anal or a threesome. Your choice.

This one hurts my feminism. Just as withholding sex is a dangerous game, so is rewarding with sex. Nobody should be doing something because they have cohersed sex at the end of it. 
Just like you want us to like the things you like, we want you to like the things we like. 
A better compromise would be for every chick flick, there’s an action flick in it. You pick one, we pick one. That’s a better, more respectful choice. 
I’m not saying there won’t be sex after one of our movies, people generally like it when their partner puts in extra effort and that usually equates to sex but let me be clear, WE NEVER OWE YOU SEX. EVER! 
Thinking as such helps perpetuate rape culture. Congrats. 

43. Speaking Of Threesomes… He Will NEVER Stop Trying

It doesn’t mean you’re not enough for him, it’s just that it’s the ultimate male fantasy. I’m not saying you ever have to cave in (it’s probably best if you don’t). But just tolerate his attempts to make it happen. He can’t help himself.

He can help himself. Men are not so primal that they are controlled by their sexual desires and nothing more. If a woman has nixed a threesome or any other sexual act, respect that. There are a million and one reasons a person doesn’t want to partake in a sexual act, especially one as intimate as having another person in bed with them and their partner. If you can’t respect that then you need to look at yourself and why you don’t respect her (or women in general)
(and from somebody who has had a threesome or two in her life, some fantasies are better left fantasies)

44. He Needs Quiet Sometimes

You don’t have to fill the silence with pointless chatter and small talk. If you’re comfortable together, you should be able to just shut the fuck up every once in a while.

I would be totally ok with this point if you didn’t tell us to shut the fuck up. Everybody needs quiet sometimes. Everybody. Even the most extroverted person needs quiet time. That quiet time may equate to music in earbuds that only they can hear but it’s still their version of quiet time. 
Really, was telling us to shut the fuck up necessary?

45. You Should Compliment Him More

Hey, women aren’t the only ones who like compliments. Tell him he looks good, tell him he’s smart, whatever. He needs to hear that shit every once in a while.

This is a basic respect thing. Everybody likes to be validated, especially by their partner. Everybody should do it more. Not just blanket statements like “You’re pretty/handsome” either…compliment them on something specific like their eyes, cooking or ability to not be a sexist moron. 

46. You Don’t Always Have To Be Right

Hey, if it’s worth it, then just dig your heels in and fight to your dying breath. But sometimes, he just wants his opinion validated and you don’t have to contradict him just because you see things differently.

If I see things differently, I’m going to say as such because I have valid opinions too. If your opinion is also valid, just different from mine, I’ll say as such, before I put my two cents in. Because I have valid opinions too

47. Make Sure You Look Just As Good When You Go Out With Him As When You Go Out With The Girls

We all get lazy after a while when we don’t have to impress anyone anymore. But if you’re all sweats and T-shirts when it’s just the two of you and you’re smoking hot when you’re going out without him, he’s going to wonder who you’re doing that for.

O.K. I said I would respond to the 23rd point eventually and here it is. We try on several outfits before hanging out with the girls too (or in my case, guys *cue doomsday music*). If you want us looking just as good for you as we do for them, than deal with the process. 

48. He’s Not Your Dad

For all you princesses out there. Yes, he’s supposed to take care of you, but it’s not in the same way. You’re a grown woman, for Christ’s sake. Learn the difference between a father and a partner.

You want us to take care of your moral compass and pretend we’re bad a things so you can feel better about yourself (read: be your mommy) but now you’re bitching because you don’t want us to expect similar treatment. 
Lucky for you some girls had shitty dads (*waves* HI!) and we’re not looking for that in any way shape or form but as previously mentioned by yourself “Odds are, there are qualities she has that he sees in you, so try to figure out what those are and relate to her on that level.” Same deal, bro. 

49. You’re Not His Mother

If you’re always picking up after him and washing his dishes, he’s got some growing up to do. Don’t play into his Freudian fantasy.

Half of this post has been one stick pin away from a Grecian Tragedy. There is more to needing a mommy figure than just the physical aspects, needing somebody to tend so closely to your emotional well being lends into that too. Sorry, but according to this, you’re looking for a mommy figure who makes you do your chores.

50. He’s Not As Complicated As You Are

Don’t go thinking that means you’re deeper than he is, though. Or smarter. He just likes to keep it simple. If you can understand and appreciate that, you might end up complimenting each other very well.

Men are deep. They are complicated. They are brilliant. They have more basic emotions than hungry & horny. They have just been taught to repress them to the point of never coming to the surface, ever. If we eliminate statements like the above, we might actually come to a point of emotional equality in life and in relationships. 

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************

I don’t for a second believe that the majority of men believe shit like this. I don’t for a second believe that the majority of what I’ve said needs to be explained to the gross populous. I also do not believe that works for one relationship works for another. I have garnered a lot of my opinions through dating, a lot. This is what works (more or less) for me. Do what you gotta do for you, beautiful people.
I did however feel the need to respond to something this inane and insulting hitting the web and I have done as such. Please take either side with a grain of salt as they are both opinions.

Please don’t forget

Russia cleaned up in this years winter Olympic games. Not only in medals (13 gold, 11 silver, 9 bronze – 33 total) but in clearing the “undesired” from the street.

More countries bringing home lots of Olympic bling were Norway (11 gold, 5 silver, 10 bronze – 26 total) and they legalized gay marriage in the beginning of 2009, Canada (10 gold, 10 silver, 5 bronze – 25 total) who legalized gay marriage in 2005 and The Netherlands (8 gold, 7 silver, 9 bronze – 24 total) who lead the world in not only speed skating but gay marriage rights by legalizing unions in early 2000.

As we look at the medal count, Olympians are packing to go back to their respective countries. Shadow boxes are being made or purchased for holding over mum’s fireplace. Armchair athletes are turning their TVs off but will we close off to the suffering still being endured as quickly as we bid ado with the closing ceremonies?

We must not forget the horrific conditions so many are still living in as we as nations collectively pat ourselves on the back. 

Draconian anti-gay laws are driving people into hiding lest they be tortured. 
Neighbours are turning against neighbours in disturbing shows of homophobic hatred as endorsed by an autocratic government.

Here in Canada, the refugee board is looking favouribly upon gay Russians looking to flee a country that would see them jailed or worse simply for being.

A recent study showed that 74% of Russians polled said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, which was up from 60% in 2002 (including 5% who said homosexuals should be “liquidated”).

Beyond the government, the Russian Orthodox Church is behind the open hatred of homosexuals. Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church (approximately 80% of Russians are members) said that the idea of same-sex marriage was “a very dangerous sign of the Apocalypse”.

Proving that he who holds the pen writes the history, a government funded biopic to be released in 2015, about Russian Composer Tchaikovsky claiming  “it is far from a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual,” and that he would  “not sign my name to a film that advertises homosexuality”.
Russian government is stating that (film maker) “Arabov is actually right – there is no evidence that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual.” despite scholars pointing out that Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality has been extensively documented in the composer’s correspondence and personal papers. 

As the Olympics approached and the world’s eyes were truly opened to the propaganda laws, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko stated that western media had an “invented problem” over the ensuing controversy.

As homosexual hate crimes and intolerance rise, we must not turn a blind eye.
The Olympics may be done but the time for unity has just begun.  

Please don’t forget those who suffer as we celebrate. 

Thank you.

Are we truly bringing people together?

In 1936 Nazi Germany used the Olympic Games as a platform. They fostered the games in the attempt to portray the National Socialist Party as a peace-loving & benevolent party, when in reality it was used to display Aryan superiority. 
This year doesn’t seem much different with Sochi. 

The decision to keep the games in Russia in the face of the glaring treatment of LGBTQ community members and allies is looking more and more like an embarrassment to the IOC. 

With propaganda and the acceptance of neighbourhood watch & report, it doesn’t seem that much different from Nazi Germany at all.

What is more disappointing is the number of countries which have decided to not boycott the Games this year. That number would be…100%.
Boycotting the games for the matter of political agenda isn’t unheard of.
In 1956 three countries (the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland) were not in attendance in protest of the Hungarian uprising in the (then) Soviet Union. 
In 1972 and 1976 a number of African countries threatened boycott to try and force the IOC to ban segregationist South Africa and Rhodesia. New Zealand was also included in the ban request due to the national rugby team’s tour of arphied-ruled South Africa.
After the IOC refused to ban New Zealand based on the fact that rugby was not an Olympic sport, it did concede on banning the other two countries. During the 1976 Montreal games, twenty African countries, joined by Guyana and Iraq, fulfilled their threat and withdrew from the games, even after a few countries had participated.
Cold war opponants vollied back and forth boycotting games in 1980 and 1984, starting with 65 different nations boycotting the 1980 Moscow games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984, the Soviet Union and 15 other countries then boycotted the Los Angeles  stating that they could not guarantee the safety of their athletes. (we’ll get back to that)

In 2012 IOC  Women and Sports Commission chair, Anita DeFrantz, suggested the banning of countries who prohibited female athletes to compete. This drove countries to allow women to compete and made London’s 2012 Summer games the first in which every country had at least one female athlete competing. 

With all of this and more, countries are still competing in an Olympics where a group of peoples are being openly discriminated against, harassed, threatened and met with daily violence. Countries which have passed equal marriage laws.

I understand that with games being once every 4 years it may be the only time athletes get to compete but at the same time, we have to ask ourselves “at what cost”.

As we approach the Opening Ceramonies, we are discovering how unprepared Russia is to host the games. 
We are learning about the slaughter of thousands of stray dogs
Media are being met with unprepared and ill equipped hotel accommodations.
More and more we’re learning about the grotesque acts of violence committed upon the LGBTQ community.

Here we see a video of a group called “Occupy Pedophilia” and just some of their heinous crimes. 

More and more we are seeing the poor and embarrassing choice made by the IOC not to pull out when there was still a chance. 

With at least 6 openly gay athletes participating in the Olympics, we can not be guaranteed the safety of our athletes. This was the exact reasoning given by this very country in 1984.

If countries have boycotted and pulled out of the Olympics for other reasons, reasons that were just as valid then as this is today, then why aren’t they stretching that ability now? Why is nobody formally standing up and telling the IOC & Russia that this kind of treatment of a group of society isn’t ok and won’t be tolerated. 

I can’t speak for other countries but as a Canadian, living in a country where equal marriage has been legal for quite some time, I am greatly disappointing in our decision to stay in the games. 
We have stood up and said that love & marriage is a basic human right for all people but does that only extend till ratings and mitten sales are involved?

Lets Talk

I like writing about my mental health issues because it gives me a chance to unload the crap I’ve gone through and it also gives others a chance to see that they may not be alone.

Today on Bell’s “Lets Talk” day I’ve asked for other people to share their stories.
A huge request, I know. I asked for full stories or partial stories. Tell me about your struggle…all of it or tell me about one episode/your first panic attack/your first doctor’s appointment about your mental health issues/your first break through…anything. Anything that might show people they are not alone in this because God, mental illness can be a lonely place.

The following stories are in the authors words.
***The following stories may trigger, please read with caution***

Danya’s Story

I am trans. For thirty plus years, I have battled depression after depression, each one getting worse and worse. (I have just discovered a report card from ’85 where the teachers comments allege to my nascent condition.)
I would self mutilate and later turned to drugs and alcohol. This went untreated for years, all because of the stigmas around depression (pick yourself up), homophobia (girlyboy, girlyboy) And an utter lack of information about transsexuals. These things were not discussed in polite circles or anywhere at the time in rural Ontario.

I have known for a long time that I was not in the right body but how does one express it when there are no words? As soon as puberty hit the changes in my body started to make me feel sick…but I had to deal with it, everyone said I was a boy, so I complied. Trying to fit in when you are wearing a mask is extremely difficult. I was beaten often.

So, I kept struggling forward, graduated from college, got a career job, moved out of mom and dad’s.
The move was the best thing ever, I was free and in the big city. I started discovering things about myself, my identity, my sexuality but the depression kept hounding me.

Then, in 2004, the year of the flood as I call it, my world came crashing down.
I was taken to emerg where I saw a doctor that diagnosed depression, gave me lithium and referred me to my first psychiatrist.
A few sessions in, the topic of identity came up. I told the doc I believed I was trans. He nodded and sent me home. Next sessions had him showing me pictures of intersexed children, to which I said “I don’t think you understand, this not what I am talking about.” In response, a prescription to a heavy anti psychotic drug and a referral to the ROH to see a forensic psychiatrist specializing in sexual deviants.
I let this go on for four long years. The anti psychotics rendered me into a zombie, no emotions, just flat. Until I said no more and just went off the meds altogether.

Fast forward to 2012 and another major depressive episode.
A friend of mine had just referred me to the Primrose family clinic which met I had a GP. What I didn’t know about this facility is that they are a team, so when I approached my GP with depression I got to see a psychiatrist and a therapist who recommended CBT, ACT and regression therapy. That’s when stuff got weird, in a really good way.
They listened, they heard, they sent me to an endocrinologist who after a few meetings confirmed my GID (gender identity disorder) and quickly began HRT( hormone replacement therapy).
That was last July. I am glad to report that the depression has all but disappeared (fingers crossed) and other than a few setbacks (losing a job because of discrimination) I am one happy girl. I still have a ways to go, but I can see the way now.

Let’s talk!

Leigh’s Story

Not sure where to start. I have probably been depressed since grade 11 (so 1996) (or maybe earlier). Was not diagnosed until 2002.
Looking back we can see the signs.
Sleepless nights but once I was asleep, I’d want to stay there. It took me 6 years to do high school. For the last 3 years of high school I only had afternoon classes and I was lucky to even make those. My late and absent pages that came with my report card were as many as a short story.
My mom had no idea what was going on being that she was a single mom and worked full time.

It wasn’t until my roommates at Loyalist told me to go talk to the doctor on campus.
I was failing out of my program for the 2nd time. Because it was just a campus doctor, he just gave me samples of an anti-depressant (celexa) and sent me on my way. Celexa did NOT help. If I thought I was sleeping all the time before, I was about to learn I could sleep even more.
I was not referred to counselling, and there wasn’t anyone monitoring my reaction to the meds.
I flunked out of my course, registered to go back as a general arts student for the winter, and went home for Christmas. I saw my family doctor over the holidays and we changed my meds over the break.
I take Effexor now. I know it gets a bad rap, but it really does help me. I adjust my dose in the winter to account for the SADs and lower it in the spring, once it’s no longer hibernating season. I know it is extremely difficult to get off (the withdrawal symptoms are painful) If I miss a dose, I can very much so tell. It’s also expensive, so once my doctor was unable to give me samples and I wasn’t in school, I discontinued them.

This was probably my darkest period. Within about a year, I had hit bottom at least 2 times that I can really recognize.
I got into my first serious relationship. It was not healthy and once I was off my meds I became someone I do not recognize to this day. I was jealous and possessive. Verbally and physically abusive. It wasn’t all me.
He did things to ensure I stayed crazy. He’d push my buttons and played on my insecurities. When he broke up with me and we were still sleeping together (cause nothing makes a guy come back to you like GIVING him sex), I just kept spiraling.
There was a night that he had to break down the bathroom door to get the knife from me. It’s not the first time I had contemplated suicide, wasn’t the last, but was the closest to that point that I had gotten. I used to stockpile pills too, especially tylenol 3s and such.
I came home from Belleville (where I had moved to be with this guy), and began to rebuild myself. I moved back in November. The pictures from that Christmas I can just see how unhappy I was. The pale face, dark circles. There’s tons of pictures cause it was my niece and nephew’s first one, but I cringe at any that I am in.

I got back on the Effexor. I started going to my family doctor regularly to talk about stuff.
I wasn’t all better and it was a long climb back to being someone living with depression as opposed to someone suffering from depression.
My mom had to take me to the hospital once because she didn’t know what to do with me. I was trying with a razor (schik or something), but all I was doing was making my wrist itchy, and yes, sting and bleed, but clearly this wasn’t going to do the trick. My mom had very sharp scissors for knitting, I needed those. She caught me looking, saw my wrists and down to the Queensway Carleton we went.
It was’t a serious enough attempt to have them admit me, but my dose was increased and I was referred to a psychiatrist in the out patient program at the hospital. I saw her for about a year. I went back to school part time. I figured out what I wanted to do with my life and I stayed single. I had to work on me. I barely liked myself, let alone loved myself. How was I going to love anyone else.
It hasn’t been a totally smooth road. There are bumps. I’ve cried and screamed and asked God to just kill me to make the hurting stop. There are days when I’m just so tired, I can’t move. Those are the dark times and they can be pretty bad, but they don’t last as long or happen as often. I’ve learned to recognize the signs or know my triggers.
I slid down after the wedding because this momentous occasion that I’d been anticipating for so long was over, what now? The wedding was beautiful and honeymoon amazing, but I had my up, there’s usually a down. The thing with Effexor is that it helps stabilize my moods so that my highs are not so high that the swing back down brings me so low. The pendulum swing is smaller. I will have this all my life. Whether I inherited it or my brain chemistry got messed up during my formative years due to things outside my control (broken family, isolation, bullying, etc.). I know it will never fully go away. It’s just important to know that I am not broken, that I fight the fight every day and look towards the future.

Roxanne’s Story

Roxanne’s story is documented in a different manner. She has already been documenting her struggles with Self Injury on youtube and was kind enough to share the link with me

Click here for Roxanne’s brave Journey To The Final Cut

Christa’s Story

I could see bottom. I thought I could anyway.
What I know it was now was a crash. A full mental break down. It kept me in bed off and on for a year but at this particular moment I wanted more than sleep. I had just been diagnosed bipolar and it wasn’t going well.
My brain was telling me that I was more trouble to those around me than not. I became convinced that they would actually be better off without me. I was weak for being so selfish and staying around, knowing how sick I was and all the trouble I was causing. “He” could move on without a crazy ex-girlfriend, my mom wouldn’t worry herself into tears and my kids wouldn’t be in fear of an angry, scary mommy anymore. Really it was the best bet all around if I just did it.

I started saving medications. Pain pills, mood stabilizers, anti-depressants. Anything I could get my hands on. It didn’t take me very long to have a solid little stash.
I made a plan. I chose a day. I chose a place where I would be found and it wouldn’t be by my kids.
I was going to take all these pills with alcohol and gravol (cause I didn’t want to risk bringing them back up don’t cha know)

My day was approaching and I got scared. No, not scared. Scared is reserved for roller coasters and frogs. I felt a terror that went straight into me, grabbed my stomach in it’s cold hands and started the full body shakes from there.

I called “him”. In retrospect it was the best and worst idea of my life (mostly best).
Our break-up had been messy enough, he triggered me and I knew it. For some reason he was all I wanted at that moment (Now I blame co-dependency).
Somewhere between the sobbing, apologizing, telling him I just wanted to sleep and that I was scared…he figured out what was going on. He told me he couldn’t come help me. He would be the worst person for me. I begged. He was right.
We would have fought, he would have left in frustration and I would have been left alone and worse than I started.
Instead, he called people. He called people he didn’t like, he called people he hardly knew, he called people he knew would take care of me.
I didn’t know what was happening but of a sudden I had people with me.
My ex-husband literally stayed awake all night and watched me sleep to make sure I was ok on the first night.
Then I was handed to a friend who took me out & distracted me.
I was then passed onto another friend who filled my day and night with distraction.
I was never alone, not for a second until my “time” had passed.
Had it not been for reaching out in that one, terror filled moment, I might not be here.
Had it not been for the foresight and the love of others, I might not be here.

I am here. I am stronger than ever. I made it through and came out on the other side. I did it with help, no doubt but I did it.
Thank you to those who helped me when I was down and continue to help me still.

Vikkie’s Story

All my life something seemed to be amiss. I’d have odd mood swings, feel dark and down for no explainable reason at all, and even went through a phase of cutting my wrists because the pain was a reminder that I was still alive. That I wasn’t broken. But boy did I feel like I was. So when I was diagnosed with depression in 2006 by my family doctor, pieces of the puzzle finally made sense and fell into place. We talked about getting me on medication to help with my anxiety and depression, and for the following three years, I tried medication after medication until we finally found one that worked for me.

This involved months of side effects, some that made the depression worse, to almost completely unbearable. A few times I cried openly at my desk at work, for absolutely no reason at all. During this guess period, the depression continued on as normal, some days being less of a struggle and others ended up feeling like a battle that raged with no relent. There were often days that I debated on just giving up because it felt like an a battle that I could never win, never overcome. Not that I didn’t try. I forced myself to smile. Forced myself to try and look on the brighter side of life and what it had to offer. Fought with myself and the often overwhelming feeling of defeat. But it never made a difference. No matter how I outwardly I lied to family, friends, coworkers, bosses, and myself, with a smile that was only skin deep.

I hated myself. Hated that my own mind seemed to be an enemy that I couldn’t escape. It constantly would lie to me, telling me things that it couldn’t possibly know. Told me things that were fears were actually truth. That I was worthless. That I was just a waste of space. That I was a mistake that was unwanted and should just kill myself, because that would solve all the pain that everyone around me was going through, since their pain was more important.

But as years progressed, I became adept at hiding it. Why did I hide it? It was easier. Easier than being called lazy. Easier than having to deal with the disappointed looks and glares that family thought I couldn’t see, couldn’t hear in their tones when they spoke to me. They had no idea of the battle and pain that I had trapped within, not due to lack of explanation though. I tried to explain, tried to tell them what it was like, but only got the response of “You need to push through it.” or “I had depression before and I got through it without medication.” Because obviously ALL depression is the same.

It’s been eight years now, and I still battle the same issues everyday. I still have that gnawing thought process going on in the back of my mind, and yet I continue on. I’m still broken. I’m still smiling on the outside, while inside I can feel shards of my once happy self, fall and shatter. Mirroring back the devastation of my self enclosed pain.

Matilda’s Story

Depression And My Fight to Win Myself Back

It always hurts the most when the people who say they love you treat you the worst.

It all began when I was a child. My mother, whom I was so attached to, was sick. She suffered from extreme anxiety disorder and was unable to cope in any relationship in a normal manner. Critical and hard, her fear was the absolute root of her resentment and lashing out at my father.

I still remember their fight like it was happening now in front of me…the sun coming through the window, the smell of coffee and rain in the air, my baby sister crying in her seat because no one was coming to pick her up. All I could do was try to hush her and tell her it was ok while from the living room I watched my parents throw food at each other in the kitchen, all the while yelling at each other. “Please stop!” I kept saying. No one heard me. Then came what was to be the next and last fight between my parents, the one that resulted in my fathers arm breaking when my mother threw him into the huge plant pot in the living room. I will never forget the look on my fathers face when he said goodbye to us. His arm was in a cast, his deep brow furrowed, lips begging not to burst forth with the cries of anguish that I now know must have been trying to claw their way out of him. At my tender age of 5yrs, I could not understand why he was upset. “Don’t worry daddy, we will be back soon.” I didn’t realize what was happening. I thought we were going shopping or something. I could not have known that no, we would not be back. My mother was taking us away from him, to move across the country.

When we arrived in Nova Scotia I got to meet my older brother. I also got to meet my grandparents. Nanna told me not to sit on grampa’s lap as he’d been drinking. Someone told me that grampa sometimes touched the kids when he was drunk. He scared me. Wandering off to find my big brother I was distracted by the sound of yelling. I stood at the top of the stairs in the entry way and watched my nanna repeatedly punch and hit my mother as she tried to cover her face. “You stupid bitch! What the fuck is wrong with you?! Why did you bring them here? You want me to look after them now to like I do with the son you were too fucked up to raise?” I just stood there. In that moment I literally felt my heart break. Where was my daddy? Why was nanna so mad at mommy? I’m scared and no one is picking me up!

Life with my mother after that was very hard. The three of us, my mother, sister and I, moved into a one bedroom apartment in a small building in Spryfield, an area that I would not to this day raise my own kids in. My memories of living there are vivid and painful. I had to walk to and from school by myself. I hated that school. There was a bully there, the kids called him Moose, probably because he was bigger than the rest of the kids. I hadn’t yet learned how to read and was laughed at when called upon to read a page from a book in front of the class because I didn’t know what side of the page to start from. I got bullied and beat up so bad but I was afraid my mom would be mad at me if I told her. When I was tricked into “closing my eyes to get a big surprise” and ended up with a mouth full of sawdust and sand I decided to stop going to lunch. I would walk through the swamp along the sidewalk so no one would see me then hide outside of the building under a tree and eat my lunch by myself. After a while I lost my appetite and wouldn’t eat at all. The school called my mother who spend the better part of a night screaming and yelling at me for skipping lunch. She kept telling me she loved me though, that I was her little angel. This is why I couldn’t understand why I would wake up and she wouldn’t be there. I would wander the apartment looking for her and she wouldn’t be there. This happened on a few occasions. She would just be gone. I never knew where she went. The neighbors clued in to her leaving her kids alone in the apartment when one day the fire alarm went off and the lady across the hall knocked on our door. I opened it and told her I didn’t know where my mother was. She took my sister and I into her apartment after the alarm was shut off. My mother came and got us after a while. Then one day I woke up and my daddy was sleeping on the couch in the living room. He had come to get my sister and I because someone, probably the lady across the hall, had called Childrens Services on my mom. She was told to either work something out my dad or they would take my sister and I from her and put us into the system. So dad came to get us. He dropped everything…his job, friends, house, and moved us to Toronto. This is where we started over.

Life with my dad was wonderful. He was a loving, responsible, kind and gentle man. He provided a safe and clean home for us, sent us to school, gave us huge Christmases and birthdays, took us on trips and did all the things a mom usually did to like mend our clothes, crimp my hair, play with us. My memories of my childhood with my dad are those of a loving, doting parent who let his children suffer for nothing.

But the damage was done.

Because of the trauma suffered from what I went through as a very young child I had developed an abandonment complex and constantly feared something awful was going to happen to my dad. He worked in construction and sometimes would be gone for weeks on contracts while my aunt, uncle or grandparents watched us. It was during these times when I would have nightmares about him not coming back or of him dying. My biggest fear was and still is losing my father. I recall vividly a day when I came home from school, 7th grade I think, and dad wasn’t home. I wandered the house looking for him. Panic set in and I started to cry and scream. When he walked through the door he couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Our washer had broken and he went over to the laundrymat. In my exasperation I tried to tell him what was wrong, he just gave me a big hug and kissed my forehead. When my uncle called me to tell me that my dad had been in a car accident on the highway I had my first anxiety attack. He hadn’t been injured, but that didn’t stop the feelings of complete helplessness and fear from strangling my common sense of well being.

Making friends was never easy for me. When I was a kid I used to send my little sister to make friends for me. The outgoing person I am as an adult, I was very shy and withdrawn as a child. My sister however, she’s 3.5yrs younger than me, was always very outgoing and made friends very easily. She has no memory of what happened before our dad moved us to Toronto. And no memory of our mother screaming at her to “shut the fuck up” when mom was had friends over, leaving my baby sister to scream and cry in a soaking wet diaper in her playpen for hours while mom got shitfaced. My sister is fortunate to not have to share my pain of what I witnessed for both of us. So when it came time to make friends in school I was a bit of an outcast and only hung around a couple of people. When junior high, grades 7 and 8 came along, I opened up a bit more. Unfortunately it someone came out as being flirty and slightly promiscuous. I innocently managed to get the reputation of being a slut even though I hadn’t even kissed a boy yet. A classmate informed me of that tidbit just before grade 9/high school started. “You’d better be careful about who you talk to and how you act once high school starts. Everyone already thinks you’re a slut.” Lovely.

High school was an experiment in who to trust and who not to let in close to my personal space. I had friends, however again, I felt like an outcast. I didn’t really fit in to any one group and felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Where everyone is looking for the approval of their peers and trying to garner acceptance I eventually realized I was more accepted by the guys than the gals. The girls thought I was a slut (hadn’t even lost my virginity yet) but the boys were nice to me. I found the more I tried to fit in with the girls, the more I felt like an outsider. But the more I hung out with the boys, the more comfortable I felt. And that realization is what led me on the downward spiral of pain, betrayal and abuse that I lived with with the men I chose to have in my life.

He was a year older than me, wore a black leather jacket, had long hair and drove a black pickup truck. He went to another high school and knew some of my friends from junior high. Friendly and outgoing, he charmed me the day we met. He said I was pretty and that anyone would be so lucky to be in my company. I was smitten. Someone was interested in me! This popular guy with a smile that would melt an ice shield said that he wanted to take me out and get to know me. We spent the first month getting to know each other and sharing our secrets. I came to trust him and found myself missing him when he wasn’t there. He would pick me up from school and we would go out for ice cream or grab a bite to eat. My friends at school thought he was a great guy and whenever he visited me at my school people just gravitated towards him. I felt so lucky.

I invited him to come to our schools fashion show one night. My friend, a guy, was doing a saxophone solo and my other friend was a model in the show. My best friend met me there and the three of us sat together to watch the fashion show. When our guy friend did his solo we clapped and cheered. My boyfriend seemed happy and in good spirits. After the show we left and as we walked down the road towards the lot where he parked his truck, he told me he saw how much of a crush I had on the guy playing the sax. I told him God no, he was just a friend. He didn’t believe me. He went into the middle of the road in front of the school at the intersection and layed down. Cars were honking and swerving to avoid him. He just layed there yelling that if he ever caught me talking to my guy friend he would throw himself into traffic. I didn’t know what to do so I begged him to get up. He did, and I clung to him, convinced I was never going to talk to another guy again. I thought everything was fine after that, until we got into his truck and he pulled a gun from out of the middle console. He put it to his head and pulled the trigger…*click*. He just smiled at me. “I love you. I love you so much that if I ever lose you I’m going to kill myself. Do you understand that?” I was terrified. I just nodded. He pulled the trigger again…*click*. “There is one bullet in the chamber. Just one. How long before you think it’ll go off?”…*click*. By now I was in tears. I swore to him that I would never leave him, that I loved him and that I would never, ever talk to another guy. He kissed me, smiled and drove me home. I was shaking so bad when I got home I almost fell down the stairs. I couldn’t see straight. All I kept seeing in my mind was that gun against his temple. He called me when he got home. But he didn’t say anything. “Hello?”…*click*…*click*…*click*….then he hung up. I still don’t know to this day whether or not there was a bullet in the chamber or not.

Things got very bad very fast with him after that. I dated him for a year. Throughout that year he literally stripped me of the little confidence I had and conditioned me into believing he was the only person that loved me and that ever would love me. He controlled what I wore, how much makeup I wore, when I studied, when I saw family, who my friends where, who I talked to…. I lent a bandmate a tape after music class. He broke into his locker and found it. He was convinced I was cheating with this guy. He spend three hours that night stalking his house and looking for him to beat the crap out of him. When that failed he showed up at my school the next day with his brother and a friend and publicly beat the hell out of him across the street from the school His bro and friend held his arms back while he put cigarettes out on his chest. They cut his hair. Punched him repeatedly. Kicked him and spit on him. It was horrible. None of the teachers did anything about it because it was not on school property. This was in the 90’s. I’m sure things would be different now (hopefully). The next day in band class the guy wouldn’t even look at me. My boyfriend then worked to alienate me from anyone who would talk to me at school. The last half of my relationship with him I literally only had him, so when he proposed to me and gave me this huge diamond ring, I said yes because I thought he did all of those things because he loved me and only wanted me for himself. I was 15yrs old.

After a while the abuse got so bad that I didn’t care anymore. He chased me around the plaza lot with a crowbar. Tried earnestly to run me over with his truck. Threw a hammer at my head and when that missed he threw a dresser at me. Abandoned me on the side of the highway far from home. Forced me to miss Christmas with my family. Set my stuff on fire. Punched me in the face. Threatened to kill me. Got me drunk and had his way with me as I vomited over the side of the bed. While we were up to his families cabin, alone, he pointed a crossbow at my head then chased me through the forest laughing hysterically. After every single one of these instances he would apologize for his actions while crying and promise never to hurt me again. He said he loved me and that I made him do it and that I should try harder to make him happy. So I did. He wanted a baby so I tried to give him one. When I couldn’t get pregnant he blamed me and said it was because I didn’t love him enough so he punched me in the stomach and said if I couldn’t give him a baby than I would never give anyone else one either.

My dad, my friends, my family…no one knew about what was going on. I didn’t tell a soul. I thought it was normal. I was 15yrs old and this was my first relationship. I spiraled into a deep, deep hole of severe depression and anger, only I couldn’t let out my anger because I didn’t want him to know I was miserable so instead I internalized it and I became sullen, withdrawn, very sad. One night we got into a fight while we were out. It was the end of winter. We were standing in the empty parking lot of a library. He had just broken up with me for the dozenth time and demanded his engagement ring back. When I refused to give it to him he punched me in the face and almost broke my nose. I took the ring off and threw it into a snowbank then ran. Blood pouring from my nose I didn’t stop running for blocks. I could hear him screaming my name as I ran. I called my friend to tell her what happened but she had gone on a ski trip so I told her aunt instead. I wanted her to pick me up. I didn’t want my dad to know because I was ashamed and scared. I thought he would be disappointed in me. The aunt asked me where I was and said she would come to get me. 10 minutes later my dad pulled into the driveway of the donut shop I called from. She had called my dad and told him he needed to come get me and why. I got into my dads truck. He didn’t say a word. As we drove he took my hand in his and told me he loved me. He then asked if I was pregnant. I said I didn’t know. He said we were going the next day to the doctors to get a pregnancy test done and to put me on birth control. He then told me he didn’t want me to see my boyfriend anymore, that he loved me and that I was worth more and was too special to be treated the way he had been treating me. My father, my hero, the man who rescued me from my mother, tried his best to rescue me from the abuse of my boyfriend. But I went back to him because he said he loved me.

Four months later, after a particularly brutal day of him beating me, I stabbed him in the arm. I’d had enough. The police came. The ambulance came. My then ex had a huge gash in his right forearm. We were both charged but I didn’t care. I was free from him. Now the law told him he had to stay away from me. Although I was out of that relationship with him, away from the beatings, the abuse, the assault on my spirit, I was so depressed I thought about suicide. I didn’t have the means to cope with what happened to me. I hadn’t even realized WHAT happened to me until I started reading about it in the school library…Relationship Violence..Partner Abuse..Dating Violence. That day I learned that what happened to me was NOT normal, that was NOT how relationships are supposed to work and that he probably did not really love me but was more obsessed with me. I didn’t know where to turn to, who to talk to or what to do.

So I kept everything inside. The problem with that though was it had to come out at some point. And it did.

Just before my 19th birthday I moved to Nova Scotia, this time on my own accord. I had family and friends out there and I wanted desperately to start over again, to get away from the pain and anguish I was still feeling. It was there that I met a man who was kind, gentle and accepting of me and my trauma. We had a great relationship for about six years. The problem was during that six years all that pent up pain, anger and resentment started to seep out. I became angry. Very angry. The slightest thing would set me off. At first I just thought it was work stress. But after I switched jobs it got worse. I couldn’t focus. I started yelling at my partner, would burst into tears out of nowhere, began having feelings of incredible self doubt and really started to hate myself. This all led to binge eating and a dependency on marijuana and alcohol. When I started to gain weight from the binging and drinking I sunk even lower. I recognized something was wrong and went to see my family doctor. I told her I thought I had an anger management problem and opened up about what had happened with my abusive ex and a bit about my mother. At 21yrs old I was told I had clinical depression. Clinical depression…it sounded so……sterile and cold. She explained that what I had been experiencing, the anger and outbursts etc, was a part of the depression. She asked me to find out my families mental health history. After speaking with my mother and aunt, I discovered that while physical ailments afflicted the men on my maternal side, mental health issues were rampant with the women. Depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, agoraphobia…my mothers side of the family with the women read like a dictionary of mental health issues. I was stunned. I also learned that these illnesses can be genetic, and because alcoholism was so prevalent in my family, with both the men and women, I was at high risk of becoming an alcoholic. My doctor put me on a low dose antidepressant and referred me to a therapist. Although the antidepressants were helping, the therapist told me that unless I stopped smoking weed she would not help me. This made no sense to me as the addiction was part of my illness. I never went back there again and decided I would just go the medication route. While my partner was supportive of me, he was not happy. My behavior, overwhelming stress and depressive episodes took a tole on our relationship and him and just before our 7th anniversary he left me. This was especially heartbreaking as we were engaged, I was planning a wedding and he had asked me to go off my birth control so we could try to conceive. All of that…the hope for a family of my own, my supportive and loving partner…was gone.

After my fiance left me I spiraled into a very dark place. Now living on my own for the first time in seven years, I found myself to be very lonely and didn’t quite know how to cope with it. I was on my own for the first time as an adult and although I tried to hold down two jobs to support myself it was too much. I stopped taking my medication and allowed myself to fall into the void. I would spend days, when I wasn’t working, on the computer on dating sites. I found myself craving human contact so I began a sexual relationship with my drug dealer. We entered into a dominant/submissive relationship. He would get together at either of our homes to get high and have sex. After we were done either he or I would get up, get dressed and leave. This happened between two and four times a week on average for about nine months. On the days when I didn’t see him I would be trolling the dating sites looking for single men to invite over just to have sex. I would always have to be drunk or high before I would have them over though. I never, ever slept with a stranger sober. I was afraid that if I was I would feel something and I just wanted to succumb to the numbness that was overtaking me. While these men were in my bed I would feel needed, wanted, attractive and confident (I’m sure the inebriation helped with that), however after they left I would feel disgusted with myself, guilty and swore that was the last time. But then my dealer/master would call. I couldn’t resist him. So I’d give in and sleep with him, high, again. The disgust and guilt eventually gave way a total absence of feeling. I felt…nothing. Not even the anger, pain and anguish that had been plaguing me. Just…nothing. When this happened I crawled into bed one night and stayed there for days. I only got up to use the bathroom. I didn’t even shower. My apartment was a mess and so was I. All I did was sleep and cry. No drugs. No alcohol. No nothing. Just sleep and tears. My mother eventually came over and peeled me out of bed and poured me into the shower. She cleaned my apartment and tried to help. But I was so angry at her for everything all I could do was cry and scream at her. She called my sister who called me. She talked me into moving back to Toronto, to start over again…again. She was going to help me. I missed her and I missed my dad, so in the summer of my 26th year I moved back to the people who wanted me close to them.

The first few months after I moved back home were hard. I was still severely depressed and emotionally void of anything other then despair. It got better though. I got a job, reconnected with a couple of close friends and with the help of my sister and her friends I was able to find a bit of joy again. I also started cognitive behavioral therapy and a new, higher dose anti depressant. Things were going well! I was going out and being social and managed to make quite a few friends from one of the dating sites I had initially only used for hook ups. It was through this dating site and those new friends that I met my next partner. I had all but sworn off dating before I met him and gave up on the idea of a family of my own…but something about him made my legs weak, my stomach flittery and my heart stop. The moment we shook hands you could feel the zap in the air. We were inseparable after that.

I will be the first to admit that I fell harder for him that I had both intended to and should have. I wasn’t prepared. I knew I should have backed off but he made me feel so good! He was charming, sweet, incredibly handsome. I tried to take things slow but three months after we met I found out I was seven weeks pregnant. The emotions came tumbling out like a volcano. I was on birth control and he, most of the time, wore a condom so I was very surprised that I got pregnant. And after failing to become pregnant by my abusive ex as a teenager then by my fiance I was all but convinced I was infertile. So finding out I was pregnant was a wonderful moment. When I told him he was, like me, terrified but happy. He was unemployed but promised to start looking for work and get a job right away. He said we would make it work. He said everything would be ok, that he loved me and that this was the best thing to happen to us. He promised he would make sure we would be ok. He promised. And I believed him.

Not long after that he moved in with me. When I was at work, puking at my desk from morning sickness, he was at home in his jammies doing his artwork, not looking for work. More time went by and he still was not looking for work. He would spend his time on the internet on the dating site chat boards having fights and debates with people. I started to highly doubt he would find a job anytime soon so I began nagging him to find work. He said he was, but all he seemed interested in doing was writing and doing his artwork. We began fighting. At first it wasn’t so bad, just a tiff here and there. But it escalated quickly. He wouldn’t even help out a friend at his job when he offered to pay him. Instead I did and when I came home with the money he had payed me he demanded I hand it over to him insisting it was “our money”. He used that money, along with the money he was given by his father, to buy weed and beer. He literally sat on his ass doing nothing but get high, drink and draw his art.

One day, after a particularly bad argument, he wrapped his arm around my neck from behind and squeezed. I couldn’t breath so I tried hitting him to get him off of me. He threw me to the couch and said the most horrible things. I called the police on him. They arrived and asked him to leave without pressing charges. I was four months pregnant with his child so I took him back. Afterall, we loved each other and he had promised he was going to make things work no matter what. Two days later came a knock on the door. Six officers were at my door. Apparently the officers who first responded didn’t do their jobs properly and should have arrested him. That was why the other officers were there. He was arrested on the spot and taken off to jail. He was ordered not to have any contact with me nor I with him. Not long after that I moved into a bigger apartment and again took him back. We were going to make this work. However, he assaulted me again two months later and was arrested and charged again. He still hadn’t found a job, still hadn’t quit smoking weed and had started putting me down on a regular basis. I had stopped taking my meds because I feared they would harm the baby so my depression again spiraled out of control. At this point I was desperate to be loved and wanted so again, I took him back.

After our daughter was born in 2007 things only got worse. The fighting, the put downs, the screaming, the complete and utter lack of accountability and responsibility…it was horrible. I did move out from living with him, got a place of my own and started to take care of our child on my own. I was pretty happy in my little apartment, having some peace and quiet and alone time. Raising my daughter was a joy. I loved every moment of it. Her father and I tried to make things work, however the moments of love and goodness soon became less and less and gave way to more and more moments of fear, resentment and anger. Again, I found myself unable to cope. Being a new mother and suffering the mental, physical and emotional abuse from my childs father brought about postpartum depression on top of the depression I was already coping to deal with. I went back on medication and tried my best to manage.

Thanksgiving weekend of 2010 was a turning point for me in my relationship with my partner. He still was not working, was high everyday, refused to watch our child and made it a point to make me feel even worse than the last time he put me down or insulted me. That weekend, while our daughter was away with family, he sexually assaulted me twice. First in the shower then in the bedroom where he said he was going to “finish what he started”. As I layed there with him on top of me, staring blankly out the window, I shut all my emotions off and let the numbness I had known so well take over. I felt like a shell of the person I had struggled to hold onto. All the hard work I had put into trying to become a better person went out that window. He said to me, “look at you, you can’t even look at me”. But he didn’t stop. When he finally finished he got off of me and said “that was fucking pathetic”. I hated him. And even worse, I hated myself.

It was April of the following year that I finally left him. He had introduced me to an old school friend of his a couple months before and right after I left him I started dating his friend. I had my doubts, however this guy told me that I deserved better and that he could treat me the way I deserved to be treated, loved the way I should have been loved by all the other men in my past who clearly did not appreciate me enough. I was so angry and sad and void of love for myself that I believed him.

What started out as something I saw as promising quickly turned into a living, breathing nightmare. This person needled me daily about my ex, the father of my child, questioned me, argued with me, accused me and gaslighted me all the time. It was emotionally exhausting. He was insanely jealous of any man I was friends with and systematically worked his way through all of them to alienate me from them. He insulted my sister, judged my family, blamed me for all my past trauma…”well you’re so fucked up it must all be your fault. Maybe everyone was right”. He would harang me to the point where I would have a knife to my wrist then wrap his arms around me and tell me that he loved me and he wouldn’t let anything happen to me, but then tell me “you can’t make a whore a housewife”. After my miscarriage he talked me into letting his ejaculate inside of me, telling me that if I got pregnant it’s because it was meant to be. His grandparents had just died via a murder/suicide and he wanted to bring life into the world where two lives were lost. I also wanted a sibling for my daughter. The following year my second daughter was born. Before her birth my depression was out of control. I was allowing this man to verbally beat me every day, giving in to his tirades and accepting that everything he was doing and saying to me was somehow my fault. He never came to any doctors appointments. He never helped me during my pregnancy. He didn’t even believe the child was his, he was convinced my ex was the father and when our child was three months old he made us do a paternity test. He sexually assaulted me numerous times when I was pregnant and struck me in the face more than once. My feelings of self worth were nonexistent. My confidence was shot and I felt like I had died a thousand times inside. I had trouble bonding with the pregnancy because I was so upset all the time and I started to doubt whether or not I deserved this child, let alone my first daughter. The insomnia started again and although I wanted to go back on my meds he wouldn’t let me. He said it would hurt the baby. The baby he denied was his. After she was born, when she was about five months old, I started back on my meds. When he found out he hit the roof. He accused me of purposely trying to hurt our child as I was nursing her and he was convinced I would poison her from my meds through the breastmilk. He told me that if I didn’t stop taking my anti depressants he would call childrens services and tell them I was hurting my baby. I literally felt stuck.

Thankfully I had started seeing a social worker and going to courses around abusive relationships. When my daughter was six months old I left her dad. I had support from my family, friends, my doctor and my social worker. I went back on my medication and continued taking the classes and seeing my worker. After many mini breakdowns, bouts of binge eating and insomnia, I realized that I have two little girls I needed to be healthy enough to raise. I started eating better, getting more sleep and working out. I lost some weight and started to gain back some of my confidence.

Today, at 35yrs old, I still struggle with periods of feeling worthless and questioning whether or not I’ll ever feel ok. Some days are better than others, however I now recognize what triggers my depression and how to avoid falling back into that deep, dark void. After a period of remaining single and staying far away from men relationships I reconnected with an old school friend. We have been dating for three months and are taking things as slow as possible. He is aware of my depression and anxiety and has offered his support. I have opened up to him a bit about the past abuse and while part of me wants to tell him everything, I have learned to set boundaries for what I am comfortable with. I am not ready to tell him everything and he doesn’t push me to. I am grateful for that and to have someone I know, that I trust, to be with and open up to and when he tells me he loves me and cares about me deep down I believe him because for once in my life it feels right. He doesn’t hurt me.

I have learned a lot over the past while, both about myself and about the many faces and facets of my depression. For one thing I have come to realize that up until recently I had no respect for myself nor much love for myself. This is what attracted the awful men into my life. People like that feed on weakness because its easier to manipulate a person who doesn’t care about themselves. I have also learned that I can control my depression with therapy, keeping up with my meds, a healthy diet and exercise. I recognize my triggers and I am becoming more and more aware of my inner voice that tells me when things aren’t right. Accepting that I am imperfect but worthy of love is a recent development. It’s one that both my partner and I are learning together. I have also learned that I need to have the courage to move beyond my past trauma and that the depression does not own me but is still a part of me. One day at a time. Baby steps. All I can do is be aware of my self and keep on top of my self from the perspective of someone who has been through hell and back but is still here to talk about it.

Every day is getting better. And everyday I am loving myself more

I have asked for more stories from more people and I will add them to this entry as they come in.
Please, if you relate to one or all of these stories, know this… You are far from alone. There are people who love you and want to help you.