Weirdo Talks

It’s that time of year. #BellLetsTalk


Journal excerpt from December 22, 2016:

I want (well, sort of) to recall my months of depression with the purpose of blogging them, though we’ll see if I have the guts to (I probably will and then take it down).

I spent much of my days this past year contemplating suicide, going as far as to carefully plan the act and even ensure backup if the initial attempt wasn’t effective. I played out the necessary actions at least a handful of times, standing achingly at the edge, my mind racing with paradoxical hopes of freedom.

Suicidal ideation and attempts are heavily peppered over my history, dating back at least two decades. But you see, I didn’t want to end my life because I hated it. I wanted to end it because I could no longer shoulder the weight of such an empty burden, such a great disconnect from reality.

People asked me what they could do. I couldn’t identify with all of those articles online, those lists: “10 Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person”, “7 Ways to Help Someone with Anxiety” or whatever.** Because there was no list, no specific thing. And when there was, it all too often changed. That’s the problem with trudging through the days simultaneously feeling everything and nothing. I didn’t know what to do for myself; I certainly couldn’t tell someone else what to do for me.

When I came back to work, started speaking again, started socializing again, it was just bearable. At first, I strongly advocated talking about it. When people asked, I was honest – “I was depressed”. I’d explain the course of it with a practiced ease, a rehearsed lifelong script, often effectively referencing one of my favourite bits from the most accurate depictions of depression I’ve read, Hyperbole and a Half it’s like having dead fish.

hyperbole-and-a-half_fish

Credit: Allie Brosh

But it didn’t take long to tire of it. It wasn’t even the explaining I could no longer tolerate, it was the response. Even people with the best intentions couldn’t hide their thoughts: pity, shock, shame, fear.  Everyone was trying to treat these confessions as ‘normal’ and still, that elephant followed me into every room I entered. Still, I found myself consoling others for the peril I claimed to overcome. Eventually, I didn’t acknowledge it at all.

Yes, I know I’m supposed to help stop the stigma, try and help people understand the severity of mental illness, but I couldn’t – I can’t – get on board with every bit of rhetoric. I can’t liken mental illness to the excruciating pain of cancer. Nor can I liken it to a broken arm, as some people have done. A broken arm isn’t 15% more likely to result in death by your own hand (pun [not] intended). (See what I did there? I toy with, tempt, beg for death, overcome the temptress, and still I can’t take this business seriously.)

The term “mental illness” literally has the word illness in it! So shouldn’t it be treated as such? – a category on its own. It’s managed  in a remarkably different manner than most ‘tangible’ illnesses and that alone, I feel, is unacknowledged.

So where am I at now? I’m generally happier, less burdened, and grateful that I made it alive through another episode. For me, depression is a lifelong war, and no matter how broken and bruised, I can either be weakened by each battle, or – if I manage to pull out a win – gradually learn from it and maybe become just a little bit stronger.

** I’ll admit that these tips shouldn’t be disregarded.


Brain excerpt from January 25, 2017:

  • I’ve been noticing small deficits in my cognitive behaviour that may be due to my overactive imagination, but I thought it worth a bit of research. Although it’s likely I’m simply succumbing to age, I found this article regarding Neurocognitive Functioning in Bipolar Disorder quite interesting.
  • Turns out working out really does help depression. Also turns out I don’t want to hear that when I’m depressed.
  • If you’re talking about it, whatever it is to you, thank you. If you’re listening, to me or to anyone, thank you. If you’re not talking, thank you – sometimes silence is the most beautiful sound. The terrible truth in that regard is that most of that “stigma”…? I don’t see it as much in others as I do within myself.

#BellLetsTalk #OrNotTalk #ImGoodEitherWay

 

Next up, I attempt to remember what on earth I did in Costa Rica so I can finally pen it nearly a year later.

 

 

Weirdo Looks for the Lorax

OH HI! 

I always do this when I start blogs: I’m really keen on it for like 30 seconds and then forget about it for a year. But here I am again, eager to share some travel tid bits, so thanks to my two loyal fans for sticking with me.

I’ll write a post about why I’ve been away some other time but for now…

Back to travel! I left off on my trip to L.A., surfing with dolphins. The evening after that rousing experience, we all drove out to Joshua Tree National Park to meet up with eight other people for a weekend of camping. We stayed at Black Rock campground which was easy to access but not very far into the park. This requires driving into the park to do major excursions, not that I’m complaining.


The park is home to endless…well, Joshua trees (aka yucca) – these curiously cartoonish plants that make you feel like you’ve strolled right into a delightful Dr. Seuss book. It’s also a Mecca for rock-climbing and bouldering.


We spent two nights eating homemade chilli, shivering our timbers, and having memorable campfire singalongs to, from what I recall, mostly Flight of the Conchords songs. During the day, the Joshua Tree veterans of the group suggested Ryan Mountain, an easy 3 mile hike offering stunning views of the desert on the trek and from the top.


Yes, the sky was that blue.

Anyway, this is pretty much mostly a photography post so enjoy the pics. And get down there; it’s much better in person!

Camping tip – I know it seems obvious but I can’t stress enough – dress warmly – especially at night. I’m Canadian and came in snowboard gear and still thought I was dying of hypothermia by 8pm. For the same reason, bring a good amount of firewood as well.

Next up, I make an impromptu trip to Costa Rica and realize life has taught me absolutely nothing.

Weirdo Surfs with Dolphins 

Hollywood has never intrigued me. The last time I was in Los Angeles I was somewhere between the ages of 8-12 and the bustling glitz and glamour wasn’t my cup of tea and still isn’t. I’m not a hippie/hipster or anything, I just don’t understand the obsession with famous people nor the necessity of purchasing items of clothing simply for the name. I’m pretty much just self-involved and poor.

Anyway, I made a little weekend trip down to LA on the first weekend in February for several reasons:

  1. Needed sunshine. Raincouver was sucking the soul out of me
  2. There was an open spot to go camping at Joshua Tree National Park (to write and link to in another post)
  3. There was a statutory/bank holiday here in British Columbia (side note: this holiday is called Family Day. This started in BC four years ago because the gap between New Years stat and Good Friday stat holidays were too long so we threw another holiday in there. Canada, eh?)

I originally planned to fly into San Francisco to hang out with my friend Anne Marie before heading to Joshua Tree, but it was Super Bowl weekend and tickets were alarmingly expensive (refer to above reference of me being poor). So I flew into LA to stay with another friend, Lindsey (side note: Anne Marie, Lindsey, and I know each other from six days spent on a tour in Uganda back in October. Another win for travel).

I arrived expecting the smell of judgement from well-dressed passersby with my poncho and backpack with sleeping bag strapped on so that my silhouette was mildly reminiscent of Quasimodo.

Instead, I was greeted in Santa Monica with smiles from people walking to and from the pier, questions about where I’m from and, most excitingly, the glorious glow of sunshine.

  
I spent the evening meeting some of Lindsey’s surf buddies and begging for a board and wet suit to borrow, not heeding the warnings of the water being extremely cold. 

We went to Sunset Beach the next morning with my expectations of ice cold surf but dear God – it was spectacular. Still need a wet suit for “winter” surf here, but I spent my first few years of surfing in the Canadian waters of Tofino so to me, this was summer surfing.

  
Ever since I got caught in an undertow a few years back, I’ve been cautious so I stick to smaller breaks. I was sitting a little further from the majority of surfers, enjoying the feel of water lapping against my legs and wind whipping through my hair when I notice a dark fin rise up about arms length on my left side. I’m petrified. Not five seconds later, another fin rises up at the nose of my board. 

I’m frozen. I start screaming, “Lindsey!” but even I could barely hear myself because my throat has swollen shut from fear.

Another fin appears; they’re circling me. I’m not sure how much time has passed but suddenly I hear a cheery voice: “Well, that’s not something you see every day! You’ve got some luck in ya.” What. WHAT? Who are you and why aren’t you calling for help, I’m about to be consumed by three sharks.

A paddle boarder appears beside me. “Don’t worry! They’re just dolphins. And they seem to really like you!”

A breath I didn’t know I was holding exhales out of my mouth and suddenly I’m giddy with excitement. This is so fucking cool! I see a set coming in that I’m sure I can catch but I’m admittedly too terrified to put any more limbs than necessary into the water at the moment so I sit it out until the dolphins finish inquisitively brushing up against my leg and my board and move on.

I tell Lindsey about this later and she’s stoked: “Oh my gosh – you have dolphin energy! This is going to be a good day.” We’re gab excitedly about it on the way home.

And then, several hours later, she says something that makes me want to simultaneously throw up and strangle her: “Did you know dolphins rape people?”

What.

“Yeah, there are like nine cases a year.** It’s cool though; they’re still really lucky.”

Next up, we camp at Joshua Tree National Park and my Canadian blood doesn’t come through for me.

**Cases of dolphin “rape” are actually attributed to dolphin sexual aggression which you can read about in this short scientific journal summary. Although, I don’t know why you’d want to.

Weirdo Plays With Fire(works)

Total hyperbole. Didn’t touch fireworks or go anywhere near them. After the JPP incident, I’ve been scared to death of them; I like my hands.
This entry will be relatively short as:

  1. My photos are redundant if you follow me in Instagram
  2. I no longer have Facebook to showcase my posts so I don’t even know who reads this anymore

I wanted to write as I haven’t traveled in awhile and my frequent work travels throughout Western Canada have become mundane so here’s a short recap of my most recent trip.

  
I rang in 2016 with six close friends in Ucluelet and Tofino – my favourite Pacific North West beach spots located on the most western coast of Vancouver Island. They’re little towns about 35 km apart, located in the beach and popular for beach-goers, PNWers, and surfers willing to brave the freezing temperatures (we don’t really have anywhere else to surf up in Western Canada, anyway).

We stayed at The Cabins in Ucluelet (I like to call it Ukee; I’m not sure if this is acceptable by the locals but I walk into shops happily saying it anyway). The beaches here are more appropriate for whale watching, relaxing, swimming and paddle boarding, but it’s much more affordable during peak seasons. I, of course, intended to take pictures of the cabins because they were ridiculously adorable and cosy, but I, of course, forgot. I guarantee that the photos they have on their website – at least of our cabins (Port Side) – are an exact replica of their reality.

They’re literally a 90 second walk to Terrace Beach as well, and the sunsets are pretty unreal.

 
Yeah, I sat out here for a bit, continuously taking photos. This is what my camera roll looked like: 

  

Anyway, we rang in the New Year in style – old school jams, fireworks and champagne on the beach under a stunning blanket of stars that I wish I could’ve captured. It was a blissful and sweet entry into 2016.

  
Tofino is only about a 25-30 minute drive away and these are the beaches you want to hit for surf. We went out to Long Beach and the Chesterman’s. For you surfers out there, I highly recommend North Chesterman’s Beach for the high, clean swells. Photos below are a mixture of all beaches and taken with the sun in my eyes and a dying iPhone 6.

   
  

   
If you’re looking to rent and/or get surf lessons, I’ve only ever gone to Long Beach Surf Shop in Tofino and Relic Surf Shop in Ucluelet and they are both fantastic in gear, lessons and staff alike. Storm in Tofino has some pretty sick apparel options as well.

Tuff (I give nicknames to everything) isn’t quite a complete visit without checking out the Tofino Brewing Company – I adore their Blonde Ale.

Next up, I have no idea. I’m currently in flux in several aspects of my life so who knows where I’m off to next!