It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop

Recovery.

When people talk about recovery it’s most commonly used when talking about alcoholism, or drug addiction. Only since the start of my own recovery journey did I hear it used in conversations about mental health.

re·cov·er·y/rəˈkəv(ə)rē/noun

1 .a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

Being in recovery is something I have heard hundreds of times over the last 18 months. Being recovered? Not so much. Battling mental health issues is like battling any chronic sickness, do you ever get better? Or do you just learn to survive it? Do we just learn how to numb ourselves from the pain the best we can. Like living with a broken hand, do we just learn to write with the other side?

The brain is a mysterious thing. Growing up I can think about times where I felt alone, anxious, worried that everyone was going to leave me. I can remember spending nights in my room crying, wondering if I was the only person who felt the way I did. But I had a good childhood, parents who loved me, food to eat, a home – well, numerous homes, but all the same; my sister and I, we grew up pretty normal. After Seamus was was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis the anxiety got worse. The need to control things around me, everything around me, grew much larger than I had ever thought possible. It left me in a constant state of anxiety, like I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.. nothing I did fixed it. I went through periods of cleaning my house so thoroughly you could eat dinner off the kitchen floor, to not being able to get out of bed and face the day. When I was up I was SO high, but then, as it always does, when I finally came down it was a steep dive into a hole so dark I couldn’t see which way was up.

Manageable at first, it was easy to play off as just being a tired new mom. Sleeping when the baby slept, eating sometimes not for days- then binging on everything in sight, leading me to put on more weight, which led me to not wanting to leave the house; and then one day, I blinked – it was 6 years later and to say I was drowning is putting it lightly.

One day I looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognize the girl staring back at me- what was there, what was left was barely a shadow of my old self. I remember studying my face, trying to catch glimpses of a smile, or a sparkle.. something familiar, anything at all. But, nothing. I had completely lost myself, and for awhile I thought I would never find her again — sometimes I still think I won’t. Not the old me anyway. I think when you go through trauma, when you come out the other side of something that should have torn you to pieces you are never the same. I don’t think that the old me exists anymore, outside of pictures and a faint memory I have of some resemblance of normalcy.

In recovery. That’s where I have spent the last 18 months, that’s where I am now, and I am not sure what is on the other side, if there is another side – maybe this is it, maybe I just try and survive each day, maybe this is the new me. I still have days where I look in the mirror and am not sure if I know that girl… I have days where I am so high I feel like I can conquer the world- and the fall that comes after the high is still just as intense, but I am still here, and sometimes that is the best I can do.

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Home away from home

The hustle and bustle of Ronald McDonald House is familiar, and somewhat comforting.  The easy to wipe down leather couches are perfect to spread out and relax while we wait for check in.There’s more people than usual in the foyer this afternoon. Each mom keeping one eye on their kid as they run in packs up the stairs, down the slide… not one question about the NG tubes or scars.. except Seamus- he knows the drill; announce to his friends that he has CF to ensure he is the only one in the group.. all the moms keep to themselves at first, noses buried in phones or books, or simply dozed off with their eyes open. A conversation starts slowly, until a few key words are dropped.. ‘diagnoses’, ‘oncologist’, soon a discussion breaks out between moms who have found a common ground. I am immediately back thinking how isolating cystic fibrosis is. How nice it would be to have some friendly banter with a mom on the freshly cleaned leather couch while the kids are in the yard complaining about treatments and medications together…
It’s wild, the things I’ve come to envy.. to crave. 
I’ve talked Seamus through our plan for tomorrow. It’s his annual check up, so there is a full slate lined up- including blood work. It never used to be awful, I mean, it’s no tea party, but ever since our hospitalization in Whitehorse where they poked him 17 times over two days trying to get blood and place a decent IV, needles have moved up on the ‘hate list’.
It’s beautiful and sunny, we went out for brunch and did a little post flight shopping; it’s not all bad. Tomorrow the House is taking a group of us to Science World, a favourite of ours, but frankly, it’s just not always in the budget- or ever. A CF silver lining I guess.
Clinic is finished now, it was fairly quick and painless. My rational brain is yelling at me ‘see! I fucking told you it would be fine!’ and my poor heart is finally back to regular speed. All signs point to healthy. The three weeks of antibiotics have done their work and his cough is now a dull, dry hack, he’s gained a little weight, grown a little taller; and his pfts, well he’s literally blown the doctor away- 122%! For a CF kid – this is, it’s beyond what we could hope! It makes me feel like all my crazy and all his dedication is paying off; he’s such an amazing kid I am grateful for his willingness to be educated about CF, and work so hard every day on his treatments and meds. I’m a proud mom today.
Part of me finally feels like I can relax a bit- and the other part of me is anxious to get home and get right back into routine- what we are doing is working, and I just feel like we need to not even miss a beat. I love this news, Seamus loves his prize for kicking ass— this should all lead to just taking a fucking break, but it won’t. And that’s ok. It just has to be ok. 
We are tired. But we are happy.
We hope that you are all happy, healthy, and loved.
Xo

Written on March 20, 2019

Christmas conundrum

Here we are again.
Another year gone… how much has changed.  I am not sure what I want this Christmas Season. A cure…always a cure.. but I have come to the harsh realization that it is something that no wish can make happen.  That nothing short of hard work, blood, sweat and tears will give us the gift of a cure; the gift of life..
I can’t help but feel a bit lost.
There are so many things to feel grateful for. As I have let go of many toxicities, the repercussions of that have been glorious.  Positive outcomes have latched onto me as fervently as darkness has consumed me in the past… I am appreciative. 
And though I feel finally at peace with myself, and my choices of the past year, which have led me here to this place of contentment I still feel… empty. Emotionally drained to the point of having nothing left. Not sadness, not loneliness.. just nothing.
Maybe I am being a martyr. 
I feel the familiar pain, pulling at the back of my throat. Reminding me that it can rear its ugly head at any time; that no matter how far I run, I can never truly escape. I am trying to keep my eye on the prize, to remind myself how far I have come.. and yet the quiet of my room, the safeness of under the covers looks better than any present that may find its way under our tree.
I keep trying to move forward but I am paralyzed. I keep trying to remind myself that I am not alone, that people care, that not everybody leaves… but the sureness of my voice in my own head wavers. 
I keep trying to remind myself of the happiness I have felt so recently; all I can see is the darkness that is trying to pull me under.  
In a few short hours the pent up excitement over Christmas will commence. We will laugh, and shout, and love. I’ve just gotta hold on until then.
Hoping you’re all happy, healthy, and loved this Christmas season.Lots of love, from ours to yours. 

Written on December 25, 2018

If you want to make the world a better place Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Change. It doesn’t come quick, and it sure as shit doesn’t come easy. But, nevertheless, it comes.

This past year was probably the toughest that I have had. Anyone who says personal growth comes easily, well, is a fucking liar. It comes with pain, and sadness, and harsh realizations… but after all of that; after facing your fears, after admitting there is a problem to be fixed, after coming to terms with the fact that this journey is going to be littered with lost relationships, and lonliness, something incredible happens..

One day you wake up, open your eyes, and realize that some of the fog that you’ve spent years wading through has lifted; that maybe today is going to be the day that you wished would come.. the day when your first thought isn’t soul crushing self doubt and hatred.  When you look in the mirror and notice that the person looking back at you feels.. stronger, more confident, maybe even.. happy. Maybe.  Instead of dreading every appointment, class, dinner date, or personal interaction, you are able to put on a little lip gloss, some winged eyeliner, grab your to go coffee, blast the music in your car, and look forward to what the day might bring you.

I feel incredibly grateful to live in a country, and in a territory, where when I realized that I was drowning, that I was able to reach out for help that was readily available to me.  And I am lucky to have a support system that is so amazing, that with all of these things I was able to step back from my life and see that I wasn’t living; I wasn’t even surviving, and something had to change.

I spent the better part of the last year crying; crying for things that I didn’t know I needed- things that I never thought I was even allowed to ask for.  As a parent of a special needs child I feel constantly that I have to be the strong one; that I had to give the pep talks, and take down the information, and raise the awareness and the money, and try and save his life.  Every single day I felt like I let someone down, that I didn’t do enough to help Seamus live his best life, his most healthy life.. I felt like I was repeatedly failing, and nothing anyone could say or do could convince me otherwise.  I had a very large black cloud over my head, but because I was so caught up in my depression I couldn’t even see it.. I didn’t know I needed help until one day my entire life felt like it came down around me, and I realized that I had pretended to be strong for too long – that it was time to take a break from the constant GO GO GO that is the life of a CF mom, take a deep breath, and figure out what I needed to continue on.

It’s hard to be selfish. But as I’ve learned, sometimes it is completely neccessary, and it’s ok to ask for things that you need; from your relationships, and from yourself. It’s ok not to be ok. Say that again, IT IS OK NOT TO BE OK. I told myself this every single day for the last year- and I am telling you, that it’s ok; to be sad, to feel confused, to make mistakes, and to do what you need to do to move forward.

I never thought I would be here. I never thought that there was going to be a day where my anxiety didn’t force me into days in bed, and my depression didn’t convince me that I was all alone.

I still find myself often in tears, sometimes my anxiety is so bad that I have to cancel plans, or reschedule appointments, and some days I am so overwhelmed with sadness that I think it may never stop… but it does.  I know that my problems have not been magically fixed, but I also know that I have overcome so much in the last year, and with the help of many therapies, and medications, long talks, and good friends, that it’s possible to find my way through the darkness. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel–that it does get better, and that I am strong enough to continue fighting- for Seamus, and for me too.

Written on November 18, 2018

The beginning, the end

It’s been awhile.
I haven’t had much to say lately; well, truth is, I’ve had so much to say, but I can’t seem to put my thoughts into words.
I’ve received emails from readers wondering how we are- thank you for your kind words and thoughts- they are read and appreciated. 
Grade 2 this year. So far, seamless. Amazing new teacher, another great (small) class. Seamus seems to be feeling like his best self- thanks to a lotta love, and a little red hair dye. 
The colour coded schedule and information sheet has gone out, discussed, and agreed on- the same yearly CF info letter went home in backpacks- not as well received as years past; but all the same I feel like I covered all our bases. It’s.. routine now. It doesn’t feel all new and scary.. now it’s… well, old and scary. 
I wonder if that anxiety ever goes away. The worry of the germs, bacteria, flu season.. I wonder if at some point we just come to terms that that is life and deal. Is it just me? Am I alone in my worries? Are my anxieties in my head? I start to think of these things, repeatedly; obsessively… and then it happens.. again.
We lose another person. Each one feeling a little more personal than the last; this one.. it hurts. It hurts a lot. Claire was.. something else. A trailblazer, a woman of wonder and excitement; hilarious, yet so real. It’s a devastation to our community.. I see it on every news channel, Twitter, Facebook: Claire Wineland loses her battle to CF at 21 years old. More than all the news, more than all the articles, I see it on my friends faces; I feel it in their hearts. Every single loss is personal. Every single loss makes me second guess myself, my choices.. everything. 
What can I do to stop time? How can I work harder? Fundraise faster? Spend more time with him?
I was chosen to hike to Machu Picchu in May of 2019- to raise awareness and funds for cystic fibrosis. Each person has to raise a minimum of $4200 to go.. $1 for each person in Canada with CF.. My start has been slow, but our ideas are flowing and I am feeling confident that I will reach my goal in time. 
But will it be enough?
Is it ever going to be enough?
I hope so…
I have to hope…
This is my page. If you feel so inclined to help us reach our goal, we would be forever grateful.👇🏼

Here’s my baby. Here’s the reason I walk, hike, knock on doors, scream, shout; here’s my reason to fight.

Here’s Seamus, 7 years old, fighting to make it to 80.

Written on September 4, 2018

For her, for you; for me

To the girl who can’t get out of bed

To the girl who hasn’t left the house in three days,Who didn’t answer the door, leaving packages piling up

To the girl who chokes down saltines just so she doesn’t pass out from not being able to stomach food

To the girl who didn’t take her medication today because she doesn’t feel like she deserves to feel better

To the girl who counts her steps diligently just to keep her mind from wandering;

Wandering to places so dark she fears she will get lost

And never find her way back

To the girl who focuses, and refocuses on her task no matter how many times her thoughts try and escape

Who works just to get through the day

To the girl who carries her sons picture in her bag to remind herself why she is still here

Why she needs to stay here To the girl who brushes her teeth twice in the morning;

Once to wash the taste of the bad dreams out of her mouth

And once to wash away the fear induced vomit

To the girl who fights to live every single day

Who gets back up every time she is knocked down

Who loves fiercely, even with a broken heart

To the girl who feels so out of touch

Who cries herself to sleep each night;

Who has no idea how she will face another day

But does.You are not alone. Keep fighting, keep moving forward; one foot in front of the other- you have this. Even on the days you feel you don’t- you do.

Tell yourself that every day, write it on the mirror, scream it at the top of your fucking lungs. You are not alone.

Written on June 5, 2018

A sister is both your mirror and your opposite

My mom always told me growing up that my sister is the best Friend I would ever have.

This was the case when we we small. I remember waddling around, chasing my sister just hoping that she was going to let me into her world for a few minutes.  Thinking that she was the coolest person I knew and how lucky I was when people asked me if I was ‘Erins little siter’.

And then just as if it happened overnight, she grew up, and I …. didn’t. In my early tween and teen years I remember feeling like I didn’t really even have a sister; not by anyones fault, it just happend.  If she wasn’t leaving me behind to hang out with her friends we were at each others throats. Constantly spewing mean words back and forth daring never to forgive one another for what we had said in the heat of anger.

No matter what had happened at home, or how harsh the sting was from the fight the night before, I never questioned my sisters loyalty for me. On the many days I had come home upset from school for being teased for having buck teeth, or a mohawk, or being weird in general, my sister was my first line of defence, showing up with her older and scarier friends to make sure that my bullies knew that if they ever messed with me again that they would have a much bigger problem on their hands.

As the years went on my sister would intermittenly let me into her life, taking me to a party, or letting me ride to school with her and friends; but it wasn’t until she moved away and later invited me to come live and work with her that we really became friends. Real friends; friends who were honest with each other, friends who told you not to wear that top because it made you look like a grandma, the kind of friends who spent days laughing together, nights crying together, friends who even when fighting, we knew we had eachothers back, now and forever.

When Seamus was diagnosed with CF and we made the decision to move back to the Yukon, my sister spent days helping me pack up our lives, knowing it was the best thing for us, even though it meant leaving her behind. After we had moved, I was unpacking in our new apartment as I unpacked the pantry cupboard I fould a note that said “Miss you sisty”, and as much as she missed me and her nephew, I don’t think she really ever understood how hard it was to leave my best friend.
Over the past seven years we have had lots of visits, fights, and crys; but it wasn’t until this past week that we really reconnected again.

In an effort to get out of my life for a few days, and help my Watson Lake Family at the Motors while my dad and stepmom went on vaction, I headed down to the tire shop, having no real idea of what I was in for. I knew it would be long hours and hard work; of all the many things I admire about my sister, her work ethic is at the top of the list.  It became clear to me over the next few days just how amazing my sister is.  From slinging 24inch tires, to letting the glaringly apparent sexism about women in the shop run off her back like water, my sister takes everything in stride and with a confidence that astounds me.

She shoulders my load when I can’t carry it myself, she listens to me cry, she offers advice that is truthful and to the point, shes a matter of fact, no sugar coating relalist.

I don’t think knows how incredible she is. Strong, and kind, loyal and empathetic. I don’t think she understands that I wouldn’t be here without her; I dont think she knows that she saves me.

Working closely with my sister this past week changed something in me. I am in complete awe of how capable and driven she is- I am grateful to have such an astounding role model and friend.

When counting things that I am grateful for, she is at the top of my list.

Written on April 30, 2018

Finding my way through the darkness

When we first moved into this house I believe it saved my life. It gave me shelter from the storm, it gave me the quiet I so desperately needed; it gave me somewhere my demons couldn’t find me.. at first. 

But I have since learned that no matter where you go, there you are; and there your problems are too.  

It didn’t take long for my demons to take over, and because I spent several months isolating myself, there was no one to help face those demons. This quiet sanctuary that I had loved so much became a dungeon that I couldn’t seem to escape. My quiet nights spent reading and watching movies turned into many internal conversations where the darkest parts of my mind convinced me that I was worthless. That no one could ever understand what was really going on underneath- that there was really no light at the end of the tunnel. 

It didn’t happen quickly like the time it would take for your bathroom to flood from a burst pipe; it took over slowly.. taking small pieces of me each day so that by the time I noticed, the darkness had taken over almost every aspect of my life. It took my sleep, forcing me to run off of 1-2 hours each night, making my mind muddy and starved for rest. It took my appetite making me feel nauseous, which set in motion a cycle where I go days without eating and suddenly finding myself famished, eating every single thing I could find; all leaving me feeling sick.. sick to my stomach, and sick with guilt from treating myself so poorly. 

And, it took my smile. The thing which I am quite known for; the thing that no matter what happened to me, was mine. And now, I can’t seem to find it.

By the time I realized what was going on I tried to fight it, but the darkness had taken over so many parts of me that there was no refuge. There was no where to hide that it couldn’t find me, there was nothing I could say to convince it that it wasn’t true. 

And then one day it hit me, like a tidal wave, I was living in complete darkness. I had let those pieces of my mind convince me that I was worthless, convince me that I was alone, and convince me that there was no point in fighting. 

My world was spinning, fast, and there was nothing to grab onto; nothing to steady me.

Until it stopped. It came to an abrupt halt. And though everything seemed the same, it was different. Tainted.

And now, as I sift through the rubble of broken promises and broken hearts, I’m not sure what the days to come look like.. but I am hopeful, for the first time in a long time, that they will come with more light to lead me back.  

Written on March 29, 2018

Changing my frame of mind

There’s nothing like some good old fashioned family time to heal a broken heart. I’m just going to say it:So far, 2018 sucks! We are like two months in and already I am ready to throw in the towel! So, I got in my car, drove 500kms to my hometown, and engulfed myself in some good old family visits. My dad believes that there is no problem that a little elbow grease can’t fix- and I think he’s probably right.
I just feel lost. This last year, 18 months really, turned my life upside down, and I feel like I haven’t really gotten my footing. We are moving again at the end of this month- yes- for the LAST time! We’ve found the perfect place, in the perfect location, and I am hoping that this final move will bring us the closure that we need, that I need, to finally put the past to rest, and move into the future. Im in desperate need of letting go. I hold onto things, that’s what I do. But it’s time for change.. I keep talking about putting myself, and my health first; I keep planning to move ahead with my best interests at heart- and then the storm comes. And every time it does it’s faster and harsher than before. And then, before I can even blink, I’m caught in the eye of the storm- again. 
I need refuge. I need change.I need to let go.
Easier said than done I guess, but each day I work at it, each day I try to come to terms with the damage the storm has caused; in my heart, in my life. Each day I get up, I do my best to move forward, but sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it is impossible. I find myself spending days in bed; not checking my phone, not answering my messages, not having a single conversation, for days. I have nowhere to run, there isn’t a single corner of my mind that isn’t riddled with sadness and overrun with anxiety. 
Breathe. 
10 hours later;A little (or a lot) of elbow grease seemed to be exactly what this hurtin’ heart needed. A hot bath, a stiff drink, and a long sleep. I’ve survived one more day, at this point, this is a huge feat. 
Hoping you’re all happy, healthy and loved. 
#WatsonLakeMotors

Written on March 1, 2018

As long as you’re living, my baby you’ll be

At about this time, seven years ago, I headed into the hospital- 13 days overdue, dehydrated, and frankly, pretty tired of being pregnant. Little did I know, that in about 12 hours you would grace us with your presence, and my whole world would shift.
You were an amazing baby. You were happy, filled with smiles and laughter- you slept well, ate well, and were very easy going. It didn’t matter where we were going, or what we were doing, if you were in my arms you were perfectly content. 
If I haven’t told you enough, I am so proud of you; of the person you have become.  You are patient, and kind; resilient, smart, and the strongest person I know.  This year has been filled with lessons. Lessons that you have learned the hard way, taken in stride, and overcome with a strength that I not only marvel at, but feel a little jealous over. I’ve watched you grow so much this past year, not just in height, but mentally, and emotionally. I have watched you struggle, and held your hand; wiped your tears and explained things to you that I never wanted to, that I never thought I would have to. I guess what I am trying to say is that I know it’s hard, and that you’re tough, but you don’t always have to be. I’m here for you; to catch you when you fall, and to help you see the light when it seems to have gotten dark. If there is something I can promise you, it’s that no matter what, I am here. 
Being your mom has been my hardest lesson, and my greatest accomplishment. I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world; I wouldn’t have missed one minute. 
You’ve taught me to be strong kid, and you’ve taught me that it’s ok to feel weak, and that as much as you can count on me, I can count on you right back. You’ve shown me that taking care of myself is the most important thing I can do to take care of you; you’ve been the greatest support anyone could ask for.
It’s you and me. If there is one thing in this life that is concrete- it’s you and me.
Tomorrow you’re going to be seven years old, and I hope the next seven will be as fun as the last. 
Thank you. Thank you for being you, always and forever. You my love, are the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
Love always, and every day,
Your mom 

Written on February 5, 2018