Friday, April 22, 2016

I knew a girl named Nikki.....

1999, the album, was released in 1982.  It was that same year that my father and mother separated and I was left in the middle, largely neglected, mostly forgotten.  I was beyond sad, I was suicidal.  I self harmed just to feel anything other than grief.  I was never really happy anymore.  Life was out of my control and it scared the shit out of me.  Music was my release.  

Music was how I lost myself and forgot my problems.  1999 was played so many times, over and over, in my cassette player that I had to buy a second copy.  I can remember clearly putting it on when my mother would leave the house and playing it full blast very rebel like.  I would dance around my room until my legs hurt and I was out of breath.  It was almost manic looking back but I forgot my mental pain.  Nothing existed but Prince and I.

Then he released Purple Rain in 1984.  That solidified it.  He was my saviour.  He was my religion.  He was a God.  You think I am kidding but he was my everything at the time.  I wasn't a happy child.  I wasn't overly social.  Most of my time was spent alone in my room, with him.  I think I might have stuck around a little longer back then solely because he made me find happy moments.  I know that sounds dramatic but it feels true.  

The song Darling Nikki was also released in 1984 on the same album.  I was 14.  I hadn't even kissed a boy yet.  The song was a little over the top for a girl of 14 but I loved it.  I loved hiding in my room playing that dirty song and pretending that one day I'd be sexy enough for Prince.  

For as long as I can remember I thought Prince was one of the sexiest men alive.  Men often wondered if he was gay because of the way he dressed and carried himself in his high heeled boots.  I knew he wasn't about sex, he was sex.  He was so confident in himself and his own sexuality that he would wear whatever the hell he wanted, when he wanted.  There were no lines he needed to stay inside of, he did what he wanted.  He opened the door for so many people who wanted to fly their freak flag.  I mean no harm when I say that, I don't believe people who don't stay inside the lines are freaks.  It's just a phrase.  Prince made it okay for anyone to be sexual, overtly sexual.  Androgynous became sexy.  Bowie started it, Prince affirmed it.  They fucked up the lines for everyone, and everyone should be grateful.

Prince taught himself how to play guitar, piano, drums, and music.  And he excelled at them all.  I tried to play all of them too, we didn't share that bond.  He was undoubtedly one of the greatest guitar players of our time.  Not in a practised way but in a feel the music and play way.   I was not.   

Watch this video of him playing in My Guitar Gently Weeps at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and you will know why people like Eddie Vedder and Lenny Kravitz call him one of the greatest guitar players of all time. 

Prince rips it

Seeing Prince in concert will be one of the greatest highlights of my life.  Because of my anxiety in crowds I spent a fortune for VIP tickets to his concert in Toronto in 2011.  He had set up the floor area of the arena like a bar with all high top small tables and chairs.  I was 20 feet from the stage and later him.  Upon first seeing him in person all I remember thinking was, "wow, he is so tiny" and yet shortly thereafter all I was thinking was, "my god, he is bigger than life"....."and sexy as hell". 

I am positive I will never see another concert as amazing as Prince.  While it was a big shiny show like so many others it was like seeing him in a small club all at the same time.  I remember a few bars into a song he stopped his band and I heard him ask them to play the song that night in a different key.  Just because he felt like it.  It wasn't a so pre-rehearsed concert that he and his band couldn't handle it being a jam session more than anything.  He frequently changed the song order and he danced only when the music made him.  The concert made my best friend cry.  When Purple Rain came over the speakers, she began to cry.  This was our youth in front of our eyes.  I welled up too.  

I am a privileged white, 46 year old housewife, and I feel like life won't be as good without Prince in it.  I mean, let's be real, I am sure I won't watch an entire Super Bowl again.  He's the only performer I know that could pull off that entire show in the pouring rain.  I am almost as sure of that as I am that it rained harder when he sang Purple Rain.  He controlled the weather too I think. 

RIP you beautiful talented soul.  I hope your last minutes were peaceful.  I hope demons aren't to blame for losing you but if so, I hope you didn't suffer because of them.  Genius like this often suffers the disease of addiction and if it turns out to be true like many news outlets are speculating I won't think "such a waste".  I will think, "thank god we got him as long as we did", just like I thought when we lost Robin Williams and Michael Jackson.  The only other times I felt this moved.  These guys were my childhood.  They filled huge gaps that otherwise would have been filled with mental anguish.

Thank you Prince for making so many times in my life that much more bearable.  And thank you for every single time I danced to Kiss and felt sexier than hell.  


Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Social media is a fantastic way to socialize with others, at arm's length.  It's comes with a safety net for those who find face to face human interaction difficult.  Many who suffer with anxiety (and other mental illnesses) find interacting with others especially trying.  Social media can help with this.  It offers a way to get and receive attention with a buffer, a protective net.  But it can also do great damage.  

In a face to face social interaction with another human being we have been taught lessons, etiquette if you will, that dictate how we interact.  What is polite, rude, hurtful, kind etc?  We were taught what is okay and what is not.  

Social media is in dire need of a new set of rules for how we choose to interact.  We need a new rule book because we do things on social media because of the arm's length nature of it that we would not do otherwise.  If we were to be face to face with a person it's doubtful we would say, "I am not going to talk to you, listen to you, or show interest in you generally anymore, but we can still pretend we are friends".  Social media has given us the weapons to do that to another human being without any consequences really.  

We all have mood swings, we all change our minds.  Now social media gives us the tools needed to attach people to these changes.  To adapt our social media environment to those shifts.  I agree that we should be able to do this, it's our world, we can do what we want with it.  I have made a ton of decisions on Facebook that if faced with the person head on, I am not sure I would have done the same.  But it's my Facebook damn it, and I am allowed to do what I want, when and where, I want to do it.  These are my rights.  

But there are consequences for every act.  For every choice I make, something happens at the other end of that choice.  And we need to remember that.  

I had a friend on Facebook that I quite enjoyed.  I commented almost daily on their postings, they on mine.  It seemed mutual that we were in touch, "like"-ing each other's posts and pictures.  It was an almost daily interaction.  And one day, it was gone.  I was no longer seeing them "like" my pictures or updates I posted.  I checked, we were still friends?  What was happening?  They had unfollowed me. Why?  What did I do, say, or post?  What did this say about me?  Each time I opened Facebook and I saw them comment on someone else's posts it stabbed me in the heart, (or ego, whichever you believe more valid), a little. 

I knew then, and I know today, that they did nothing wrong.  Deep down, I know I didn't either but it still ate away at me.  I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder.  It's a mental illness often derived from trauma that manifests itself in self loathing and emotional dysregulation.  Each time I saw this person liking someone else's posts I would obsessively eat away at my own self esteem.  

The one positive outcome from all this was realizing that social media is very dangerous for people with mental illness.  I limit myself there now and go on in fits and bursts, little binges per say, where I post a ton and then I force myself to walk away and do other things verse getting lost in the reciprocal interactions created by my posts.  

I had several choices in this situation to end this self harm.  I could stop the behaviour, the thinking and feelings.   I could delete this person entirely from my social media.  Or I could talk to them.  Stopping the behaviour altogether is a work in progress.  Just by recognizing what was happening I was well on my way to re-training my brain to do what was best for me and not assault my own being.  I felt like just deleting the person was in no way better than what they were doing to me.  It felt very grade school, very "you pushed me first".  But I also knew that I couldn't ask them to be my friend if they truly weren't interested.  I chose to talk to them and explain why I was deleting them.  I was not going to do something that might have a negative affect on their self worth without explaining my behaviour first.   Yes, I had to protect myself but I didn't have to hurt another in the process.  That seemed very hypocritical.  Besides that, I did have respect for this person, even admired them.  I was determined that I would try to respect them in this process.  

It didn't go as well as I had hoped.  I explained that my somewhat fragile mind wasn't handling the unfollowing well and that I needed to do some damage control.  The only solution I could come up with was removing them from Facebook but I felt the need to explain that versus just doing it without a word.  I said multiple times in the message, "you have done nothing wrong".  

I think it's auto pilot that when someone's feelings get hurt we feel the need to lay blame.  Oddly we don't do enough to avoid hurting others but when they are hurt we automatically prepare to defend ourselves.  As much as I tried explain that I knew they didn't do anything wrong they felt the need to defend themselves, at my expense.  Blame often masquerades itself as defence.  We need to take the burden of blame off ourselves and put it back from where it came.  I got a lot of, "I'm sorry.....but you did this to yourself".  Think of the abusive spouse, "I wouldn't have hit you if you didn't make me so mad".  We don't need to justify our behaviour if it's actually justifiable do we?  

I don't quite understand apologies with reasoning unless it's followed by, "but my reasoning does not negate your valid feelings".  Go ahead and explain why you did something if you need to but don't make that explanation the excuse for invalidating someone's feelings. Whatever someone feels is valid because they feel it.  It's that simple. 

Either or, the end result was me crying, a lot.  I was depressed then I'd get angry for allowing myself to hurt.  I was proud of myself for speaking up then profoundly embarrassed for the same.  Then depressed, then angry, then, then, and so on and so forth.  

It needs to be said again, they did nothing wrong in the act itself of unfollowing.  Perhaps the only thing wrong was not considering how that act could make the receiver feel.

I still maintain that this was a good thing because it made me realize how hurtful social media can be for someone suffering with any form of mental illness.  Even simple self worth issues (not to simplify those) can be amplified tenfold by social media.  

I feel like arm's length relationships are often more difficult to manage.  Just because we are one step removed or less formal in the relationship doesn't mean we don't have to use manners and be respectful of other's feelings does it?  If you can't say or do something directly to someone's face, then you shouldn't do it on social media should you?  I don't think that an arm's length relationship gives you any more rights to hurt someone than being next to them do you? 

You can go online every day and find someone who has done something fierce like respect their own body, mind or soul and there is a line up of people who need to be judgmental of it.  It's one thing to have an opinion, to state what you think about something.  It's another to apply your thinking as gospel to whatever you speak of.   We also need to stop and think, would I have the gumption to say what I am about to say, face to face with them?  Because if the answer is no, you really need to shut the hell up and not do what you are about to do.  

Don't get me wrong.  I have done this.  I am not innocent.  I have said things I wouldn't say otherwise and it feels cowardly after.  I have deleted people in the past without respecting their feelings, just focused only on my own, and I regret it.  I have even unfollowed a few people myself and until it happened to me I probably wouldn't have thought otherwise about it.  Because of how it's affected me, I have given a ton of thought to all the friendships and followers I have online and how I interact with them and I will continue to do so.  Will you?

The whole purpose of this post is to make people aware of the fact that having a computer in front of you rather than an actual person does not mean you don't have to be conscious of the harm you could be inflicting.  If you wouldn't do it or say it to a persons face, don't do it or say it to their profile picture.  They are behind that picture, feelings and all.

Did I make you think?  Sorry about that.  Go back to what you were doing.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

"I need to warn you, I am bigger than I was".

Eating disorders are defined as mental disorders defined by abnormal eating habits that negatively affect a person's physical or mental health.  

Body image is defined as the way you see yourself and imagine how you look. Having a positive body image means that, most of the time, you see yourself accurately, you feel comfortable in your body, and you feel good about the way you look.

I would wager that, if you find yourself having to warn people that you have gained weight, then you have an eating disorder.  At a minimum you have poor body image.  Likely you have abnormally eaten to gain the weight, or conversely finally eaten normally (stopped restricting) and gained weight.  By needing to tell someone you have gained weight, it is obviously negatively affecting your mental health. 

I have done this.

If I haven't seen someone in a very long time, and who's opinion matters (too much really) to me, I will figure out a way to let them know I am heavier.  If I feel my vulnerability will be safe with them, I will tell them very directly that I am anxious about seeing them because, "I am huge".  If I am not that entirely sure of the safety of my feelings with them, which is more often the case, then I will make a few jokes to clearly and definitely let them know, "I am huge".  
I have lost and gained 75 pounds in my lifetime, several times.  When I take control of my eating and restrict my intake, I can take the weight off pretty readily.  However, emotionally I am restricting my feelings then as well.  I am shut off.  I feel nothing for anyone, which keeps me safe from my feelings, which stops the over eating.  During these restrictive periods I often tend to drink too much, and sleep around.  Those habits make up for missing out on the reckless abandon of over eating.  One addiction takes the place of another.  When I am heavy, it's a pretty clear indication that my emotions are raw, and I am feeding them.  I am trying to stomp them down with food.  As I said, one addiction takes the place of another.  

Recently someone felt the need to say the, "I am bigger" warning to me.  

In that second of time I studied my emotional response to being on the receiving end of this warning.  I was curious as to what others might feel when I say it to them.  I was saddened by what felt.  If I am truly honest with myself and with you reading this, I was relieved.  I was relieved that someone else felt the same way I did.  I was relieved that someone else had gained weight like I have.  And I was relieved that I was not alone in the misery (of weight gain).

Then I was truly ashamed of myself.  

It should be noted that due to the shame I felt, I over eat all day thus feeding my shame with more shame.  Pretty smart huh?  Counterproductive much?  This is the perfect example of an eating disorder.  That which makes us feel uncomfortable is shoved away with food.  Which makes us feel more uncomfortable.  So more food is needed.  And so on, and so forth.

This whole post is eating disorder/poor body image talk at it's best and polar opposite to the wonderful body acceptance movement beginning to take place across the world right now.  And that is why I am writing this.  I need to take responsibility for my feelings and my part in this vicious cycle of poor body image. 

If you have never felt the horrible nagging need to tell someone you've gained a few pounds, (or conversely brag about your weight loss), then you likely don't have an eating or body image disorder.  People with them, even to the smallest degree, value themselves almost entirely by their weight.  They cannot see themselves past their own weight change and often then focus on the same in others as well.  

Do you know who causes eating disorders and poor body image in women?  Mostly women, other women.  We do this to ourselves.  We bond over the shame of weight gain.  We celebrate weight loss.  And we are jealous and envious of another's deemed success.   A success being defined as weight loss.  WE, are doing this.  Women are.  And we need to stop.

How many of you have said recently, "Jesus, Melissa McCarthy ever look great.  She's lost a ton of weight".

Ever looked at another woman's photo and thought, "fuck she looks great, I wish".  Have you gone as far as to say, "OMG you look fucking amazing, so jealous".  Basically we are saying, "you look great and I hate you for it because I have no self esteem".   Or how about when you look at a person's picture on Facebook and you think, "oooooh she's gained weight, thank god I am not the only one".  Feeding this.  I am feeding these diseases.  

If you have never done any of the above, you have a solid self worth.  A solid acceptance of your body.  You couldn't possibly comprehend what I am talking about although I would bet you've thought, "oh, she's so big, I bet she's unhappy, maybe I could help".  Just that thinking alone that, "big means unhappiness or ugly", feeds this.  So you're not entirely off the hook. 

I basically wrote all this because I need to be clear that I was ashamed of my response to this women's misery.  I fed it.  I said, "I get it, here's what I ate today, we share a boat and it's called the Good Ship Fatty Pants". I didn't help her.  I didn't make her feel better about herself.  I just climbed aboard her poor body image sinking ship and cut another hole in it for myself.  Fuck.  

So the question remains, how do we fix this?  I know by writing this and waking up to my own shit, helps.  Are you admitting any of this stuff to yourself?  Then I am helping there too.

But really, how can we take it further?
When we see someone, do we say nothing about their looks and stop making one's appearance important at all?  Is that even realistic?

Or do we say, "you look beautiful" making sure we also say it if there's any weight gain in a person thus helping them through any of their own body acceptance issues?

What do you think?  How do we fix us women?  I think we need help.  Least I do.  That's been proven really.

I would like to thank Ashley Graham, Brittany Gibbons and Tess Holliday who are making body acceptance the norm.  These three women, and more, are rewriting the definition of beauty for women all over the world.  And they have made me a better person for it.  I wouldn't be writing this if it weren't for them making me think every single day that I need love more and judge less negatively when it comes to body image.  

Thank you.