Who Am I?

I created this blog as I saw a need for people to connect on a human-to-human level more than ever and I am human. I want you to know who I am and what communities I belong to.

Who I am:

  • I am queer and came out as queer when I was 14 years of age during a time that this was not acceptable within the community I grew up in. As a result, I have experienced significant and sometimes near death incidents of trauma. Being queer for me is more than who I’m with, it is who I am. It’s not just an orientation (I think labelling it as sexual orientation is offensive and reductive), it is a way of being. It’s my community, it’s who I surround myself with, it’s my chosen family, my way of thinking about things, and it’s a political stance. It’s a lot more than an identity to me.
  • I am non-binary but I tend to identify more with genderqueer. Non-binary is something that most people recognize now but wasn’t always recognized. What does it mean for me? I have the spirit, soul, and personality of both a man and a woman as well as genders in between. For example, sometimes I wake up and feel like a man completely. Other days I feel half and half. Other days I feel like both as well as other variations, some days I feel like neither. Somedays I feel like a transman. Somedays I feel like I’m in drag, especially if I am dressing feminine. It’s quite confusing if you don’t experience it. Just know this, the way I am, behave, dress, etc. can change every day. I will say I lean mostly into masculine and feel much less comfortable being feminine. My pronouns are they/them. I am okay if you mess up with my pronouns, please apologize and move on.
  • I am AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) and even though I have not always identified as a woman, I am generally treated as a woman. Therefore, I have been oppressed and sexually harassed much like AFABs who do identify as women. I also have not been respected as a trans person because I have appeared to look like a woman (I have always done this when I’m not sure if it’s safe space for me).
  • I am neurodiverse and proud! I have many mental health conditions but I’m okay with that. Sometimes I have really hard days where I wish things were different. Other days, I feel that mental health can be such a strength and that I can use it to my advantage. I try to focus on the strengths of it even through the hard times and this has been helpful. Although I have faced a ridiculous amount of barriers to crawl to where I am today, I have faced substantial trauma which is a huge part of my healing journey.
  • I am polyamorous. Similar to my queer identity, I don’t feel that it is just a way of living. Being polyam for me is my community, my friends, my chosen family, a political identity, and how I look at the world. This part of me has always been and can be a source of stress for me. I have attempted to build safe space for queer polyam folx within a community that tends to be very hetero/cis normative in majority and have faced some scrutiny for that.
  • I don’t drink alcohol. I have a problem with addiction and not just to alcohol. Often counsellors don’t talk about this but I think it’s important that we stop experiencing shame about this because it does not show people how strong recovered addicts really are. I have overcome many addictions in my life such as my alcohol addiction which was one of the hardest for me, addiction to prescription medication, addiction to stimulants, addiction to cigarettes, addiction to food, addiction to working out, addiction to online shopping, and many more! I am still completely dependent on coffee in the mornings and I just can’t quit it. I do feel that everyone in this world will have a problematic relationship with something similar to addiction at some point in their life.
  • I have many physical health conditions that cause me chronic pain or completely take me out somedays. It can really suck. However, the good days are REALLY GOOD.
  • I have lived in poverty most of my life. I’m still not quite as comfortable as I would like to be. Having this experience was really hard but I find it has really helped to inform my work in social work.
  • I am a white settler on unceded Algonquin territory which is located in Ottawa, ON. I recognize that I have privilege as a white person and a settler. I benefit from systems of oppression.
  • I am not certain of my heritage but I believe that I have linkages to Irish and Scottish communities. I am more certain about my Irish ancestry as we have a Code of Arms attached to our last name. Part of my healing journey is to learn more about this. It is so important to learn about who we are. I will be tracking my experience with understanding this in this blog. I grew up and have lived most of my life in Nova Scotia (particularly in Halifax, NS). I have also lived in Montreal, QC for five years, Gatineau, QC for four years, and Ottawa, ON for one year with my amazing partner.

I have been a counsellor for six years now. I graduated from McGill University in 2015. I hit the ground running and started work in social work right away. My first real social work job was in Kahnawake, QC where I got the lovely privilege of working with the Mohawk community there. I really loved the job as my ultimate goal was to work with Indigenous communities and specifically I was drawn to work around mental health and addiction(s). Perhaps my own lived experience brought me to this goal but ultimately, my goal hasn’t changed in the past six years as mental health and addiction(s) is still my focus. I worked in various types of settings where I got to work with different populations over those six years and that was meaningful to me. At a couple of points, I have had two to three jobs. Social services doesn’t pay all the bills sometimes, I’ll be honest about that.

I did not work much with queer and non-monogamous communities over those six years in social services and I realized that was something that I need to do (or at least that is what my spirit tells me). I have done a lot of work over the past couple of years within the community in Ottawa as a volunteer I guess you could say, creating safe spaces and events for folx who are queer and polyam; or queer folx who are living or attempting to live a sober from from their substance of choice. I do a group through Kind Space once a month called Polybilities for queer polyam folx. My goal over the past couple of years with these communities has been to create safe spaces and build community.

I am in alternative practice now which means I am no longer having to do things that I find are unethical. I can protect confidentiality more and have more meaningful therapeutic relationships. I also am able to choose who I work with and queer and non-monogamous folx are communities that I feel I could do great work with due to my lived experience and consulting with these communities on a regular basis. Of course, I will always work with Indigenous communities as I feel greatly connected to the amazing people I have been privileged to work with.

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EMDR Therapy Results

I have been doing EMDR therapy now for close to one year. I remember when I started looking for a therapist sometime a year ago. I was really nervous but luckily, I had been doing the training for EMDR to become a practitioner so I had already tried it a couple of times. I did not have the intense and amazing results that I know are possible during my training. I think this was because people were just learning. However, the healing that I have gotten from EMDR makes me want to tell you this, please try it if you are struggling with flashbacks and trauma-related symptoms. I know it sounds like a hefty price tag and also, the limitations and risks seem large. This is nothing compared to the results that you might get. This is backed by science! EMDR has been around since the 1980s but it’s only recently gained more popularity. Clients tend to be very afraid of EMDR if I’m honest. I have not figured out a way to help them understand that there is a lot of pain but you get a lot of gain.

One of my most incredible experiences during an EMDR session:

TRIGGER WARNING: Gun violence, violence against queer people.

I want to celebrate an EMDR success story! EMDR = Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. I am going through the reprocessing of all my traumatic memories now. I have not told this story to many people, I hid it. Now it’s time to speak about it.

When I had just come out at 14 years old in the town of Spryfield, located in the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia, my ex-girlfriend and I were walking down the street close to my family home when a person (who may or may not be affiliated with a gang) had shot at us while they were driving. They did not hit us, they hit the bus shelter next to us. We had hit the ground and all I could hear was shattered glass. I just completed an EMDR session about this today. I not only have so much compassion for myself but I have so much compassion for the perpetrator as well. I didn’t expect this to happen, honestly! For so long, this memory felt like a dream. I must have dissociated. Now I remember how brave I was to protect me and my ex. I protected the perpetrator as he was black and would have been brutalized/thrown in jail for a long time. NS was very racist and still is. He probably didn’t care about my being queer as much as it felt to me at the time. Perhaps he was following orders. I know the climate in this neighborhood and many people had various marginalized identities. I know he probably didn’t actually want to kill us. He might have missed for a reason. I also protected my family by not telling them (believe it or not) because I knew they were so scared about my wellbeing when I came out. I did not want them to freak out about it and make it worst for my mental health. Obviously there is no way to go back into the closet and I was not even going to entertain the idea (even after getting shot at). I think I did the right thing. I feel much better about it now. I can’t believe a 14 year old was able to do such a thorough risk assessment. And now, it is resolved for me! 😃

This was the processing that I was able to have through EMDR and it solved a lot of things for me. Most of my EMDR success stories actually happen AFTER the session. Like how particular names or behaviors no longer trigger me, I am more compassionate towards myself and others, and I feel that I am able to regulate myself better a lot of the time. I was able to have conversations with people who had severely traumatized me and have compassion towards them. I never even thought I would ever talk to this person! This is stuff that I thought was not possible, I’ll be honest! I never thought this type of healing was possible, but it is. It has changed my world.

When the darkness comes

When the darkness comes….

I hope that you will see, the beauty that is still inside of me.

I’ll gather my troops to begin the war.

It’s not like I haven’t been here before.

My toolbox open and my weapons strewn on the floor.

I’m using every coping mechanism I have learned before.

I will defeat this beast of darkness, I proclaim.

I will beat this beast so that it will not come back again.

But it always does and it needs no reason.

It will come, no matter what the season.

Whether we have mostly night or light.

I know I must always be ready to fight.

This doom of waiting day in and out.

Never sure when the darkness will come about.

Every time we fight, I start to think.

I’m tired of being on the brink.

A constant worry, a shadow of doubt.

I’m done with this all, I shout.

Perhaps acceptance is key.

I don’t want to use up all my energy.

Maybe this beast and I can get along.

As it sings its darkness song

I realize it was me who always had the power

To let it move with me, not let it tower

Through befriending my enemy

I will not let it become my identity

Now we can walk hand in hand

For my healing, I stand

Trigger warning: This blog post discusses suicide and experiences of attempted suicide (not including a lot of details).

What does it mean to be a suicide survivor? How has this helped me in the mental health field?

I will never forget the day I woke up in the hospital after my attempt. It was horrifying. I knew right away what had happened and how I attempted to change the trajectory of my life with one action. I asked the world how I was still here. There is no way I could have made it. If I’m still here, then why? I did have an out-of-body experience when I was pronounced dead where I realized all the people I would leave behind. Afterwards, so many racing questions and the flashbacks, ohhhh the flashbacks. Those never end and they still continue to this day.

I made my attempt when I was 17 and I’m now 34 years of age. I keep thinking maybe I will get over this. Maybe the flashbacks will end. They haven’t. I traumatized myself. I traumatized myself. I remember being in that state of giving up and it didn’t feel like there was another option but now I regret that decision. I wish I hadn’t done it. I sometimes feel this pressure to do really well with my life because I survived. I have to prove I deserve to be here, right?

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I deserve to be here no matter how many times I attempted and there was many. My battle with mental health has been a long one and I felt overwhelmed too many times. I keep coming back to this thought. I had traumatized myself and why??? I have experienced a lot of trauma and here I am, putting more trauma on myself. This was the hardest thing to come to terms with. Can I even trust myself? What if there are long term health effects from all these attempts? What will I do? All those questions torture me.

I wish I could tell you that the attempts stopped when I had traumatized myself at 17 years old but they didn’t. The thing is, that was my way of suffering outside the way I was in the inside. It made sense of a situation that didn’t make sense. In Nova Scotia where I am from, mental health is ignored and not talked about. I reached out for help but the door was shut on me. I was not well and no one could really help me. I felt lost a lot. It was here I realized that the mental health system was flawed. This is an important turning point for me in lighting a fire under my ass.

These experiences shaped me into an amazing social worker because I see how flawed the system is and I actively work against that. I can recognize right away when a system is oppressing someone. So I’m happy for the strengths I got there. It has also been helpful for me to identify when someone is really suffering and in need of mental health support. I know that face, I know that pain, I know those tears. It may not be the same experience but I feel an automatic kinship when I see these signs.

When I see these signs, I search for that will to live, that reason for living. I feel everyone has that even if they don’t feel that they do. There is always some anchor in the deep sea of life. Find it and hold on to it for them. It’s a precious thing and they need someone to show it to them. Show it to them when it gets dark. Find this anchor before the deep sea becomes stormy and it’s hard to find. Don’t wait until the darkness comes, find it while it’s light and easy to look for.

A lot of people don’t know how to support someone who is suicidal. If you can’t talk about mental health, you will not be a good support to someone in this state if they are in crisis and needing mental health support. Find someone who they can talk to open and honestly. Whether this person is a mutual friend or someone through a crisis line. Even if you don’t understand, listening is ALWAYS helpful. Just listen. If they trust you and want you to listen, then listen.

A lot of people who have had loved ones die by suicide have a hard time making sense of why someone might do this. The person is not weak or selfish, they have been fighting for a long time and couldn’t do it anymore. The amount of human suffering we go through to get to that point, I can’t describe in words. It’s insurmountable. I still blame a flawed mental health system that turns us more into prisoners or exiles then it does to protect us.

I wish for more community based mental health support initiates, all people being connected to trauma informed therapists for free or low cost, and safety planning for all (we know the police aren’t always the harm reduction option for folx forced into marginalized status in this society). I know this sounds like a pipe dream but it actually could be a reality. Community oriented care has always been the answer.

For those who are suffering and the darkness has come, hold on to your anchor or find your anchor, stay here with us! Create a safety plan with some loved ones on how they can support when it gets darker. Designate a trusted and safe person or people in your life as someone to reach out to. Make a list of crisis lines you could call in case you can’t reach anyone. When it gets darker, reach out to that person or people. If you can’t reach them, pull out your list of crisis lines. I know you don’t want to talk to a stranger but believe me when I say, you don’t want to be on this end, I promise you. Much over 90% of us regret it. You can believe me or not, but things can actually get better. Just hold on. Please.

Here is an incredible website full of stories of people who had survived their suicide attempt and are glad that they did: https://www.today.com/specials/suicide-attempt-survivors/

Polyamory Debate – Nature or Nurture?

There are many ways to look at polyamory and the reasons why people are polyamorous. I am going to bring in my lived experience to bring forth for this debate. I don’t have an answer but some food for thought!

I realized that I was polyamorous when I was starting to bud sexually as a young adolescent. I remember that I used to be really creative and liked to draw, I would often draw my favorite anime characters and they would explore one another. However, in these drawings I would often draw all the sailor moon characters together in the shower, exploring one another, and living together in the same house. This was before I even heard of the concept of polyamory. It was natural for me to picture the sailor moon characters as being together in a polyamorous relationship. I did not see polyamory represented in media, this was not presented as an option for me, nor did I see anyone in polyamorous relationships. So how can this even be possible?

I believe that before we are told by society what is wrong and what is right, what is acceptable, and what is stigmatized, we as young people see more options than what society presents to us as options. We are more open and flexible to various ways of living or being. In my case, I truly believe that I was just wired that way. Does this mean that polyamory could be genetic? I’m not sure I would go this far but I do feel that there must be parts of the brain that depending on how they develop, the concept of polyamory may make more sense. I think a lot of polyam people I have met, a lot of them have good emotional regulation, ability to compromise, and are not as affected by emotions such as jealousy.

If we look at communities pre-colonization I think it is safe to stay that polyamory has always existed in the ways that it could exist today. Indigenous communities have always been community oriented where more than one or two people from a community would raise a child, in fact a village would. It never had to be just the biological parents who took care of their children, community members took on many different roles in many other member’s lives and it was a beautiful and meaningful way of living. It was always community based living. These concepts are still somewhat alive within polyam dynamics today. I have always believed that we could learn from the way that things used to be.

When I have clients who are looking at polyamory as an option for them, I look at what strengths they would bring to polyamory and I have seen a common thread. A lot of the people have the ability to look at platonic relationships as just as valuable as romantic relationships. Some value having a relationship with themselves and prioritizing that and this is good for many reasons in polyamory.

This blog post is not complete and I’m still working on it!