grief

Blond depression

I attended a fundraising event yesterday in honor of a foundation that is dear to my heart, founded, managed and run by a quartet of fearless women, friends I’ve known since uni. There, I ran into a friend that I’ve known since 2009. She has seen me go through ups and downs and my various reincarnations, from kickboxer to boxer to dancer. She commented on my blond hair, and asked me if I’d been having more fun.“Oh definitely. I mean I am depressed, but even so, I’m having way more fun than when I was a brunette. Blond depression over non-blond depression, any day. There is no going back. I can smile even though inside I feel like death.” She laughed, telling me that there would no doubt be a new entry into the next edition of the DSM – blond depression, the cuter, flirtier version of normal depression. The version of depression guys still wanna fuck.

Am I depressed? Yup. Without doubt. I wrote Rough Patch on November 19th, almost 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve displayed all the symptoms associated with a Major Depressive Episode, except for suicidal thoughts. Although, I might not have suicidal thoughts, but I do most fervently wish I could fall asleep and never wake up. I consider with a twisted mix of admiration, pity and marvel those people that are capable of ending their misery. It’s not any form of virtue or morality that stops me from doing so myself. It is just that my apathy and fatigue are so deep I cannot summon the wherewithal to come up with plan that doesn’t seem like too much effort. #silverlining

I’m failing at keeping my shit together. My performance at work is alarmingly bad. My bosses wonder, irritated at my inability to deliver anything, be it so minor as to show up before 10am, or answer 1/3 of the emails I receive in a 72 hour window. I think we are all hoping that if I can just somehow make it to the holidays, a 4 day break with no computer might do me good, and I’ll return, miraculously cured of wtv it is I am going through. I wake up every day at 7am, and it takes me almost 2 hours to talk myself into getting out of bed. So really, 10am is a remarkable achievement, but not exactly something imma boast about.

I withdraw from everyone. I cannot keep up any sort of social front. I collapse into tears at the smallest comment, and frequently have headaches from trying to not cry in public. I am deeply worried about work, but somehow that worry never translates into anything, because I am so exhausted by trying to appear normal in public – which I am abjectly failing at – that I cannot concentrate on anything.

I cannot blog – I have no words. Nothing worth saying

I cannot read.

I cannot watch a TV show.

I try coloring, and I panic at the choice of coloring pencils – what if I get it wrong?

The number of horrifying social meltdowns at work and at dance are multiplying. I sense people withdrawing from my negative cloud. She’s such a drama queen. Crying, again?! What are you, a child? You do realize that if you keep acting up, people around you will reach their “fuck it” stage, and fade from your life? Why do you think you are so special – everybody’s got shit to deal with. These are not my paranoid thoughts. These are comments coworkers and my dance team have said. I remember now why depression is such a taboo. While all of these comments fail to demonstrate any compassion or kindness whatsoever, they are not wrong. People do tire of vortexes of despair. Public meltdowns are drama. Employers do expect a certain level of productivity. Everybody does have shit to deal with. I’m trying my best, I swear. Nobody wins a participation medal for life. Life is like the Olympics or boxing. There are winners and there are losers, and there are better winners, and there are bottom of the barrel losers. Who and what you are matters.

And right now, I am nothing but an exhausted miserable mess.


I know my close friends and family will panic when they read this. Please don’t. The panic just adds to the guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I am not suicidal; I am depressed. I can be depressed and still know that I am loved. Unlike the previous depressions, I am no longer ashamed of that love. This is my 4th depression since 2010. If they can sustain this rate of mental health bullshit, I believe that they won’t recoil in horror, be disappointed or bounce.

I can be depressed and still recognize moments of kindness. A guy at the gym last week told me, “Hey. I read the last few posts. I won’t ask if you are ok, because you know you’re not. It worried me, but I know you’ll work through this. I’ve been there before, it sucks, so I want you to know I care, and I’ll be cheering you on as you fight that shadow.

I can be depressed and want to be alone, yet know that Allie & William, Dynamo, Coach, DD, my squad, my darling cousins, my uncles & aunts, my father, my godmothers, love me dearly.

Why blog at all if it is just going to cause alarm? See? There she goes again being an attention whore. SO much drama! I blog because depression feeds off shame. When my brain tries to steal my words, replacing them by tears, silencing my voice, writing, no matter how uninspired or non value-added this post might be, is a way to tell my brain to politely fuck off.

This isn’t my first rodeo with depression. I know the ropes. I will get through it, not unscathed, but I will get through it nonetheless.

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How you doing? Oh, just like Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto

“So, how’ve you been doing? Whatcha been up to? What’s going on in your life lately? Anything? Nothing?!”

I hate those questions. They suck. They are only ok to answer if you have something to boast about, when your life is all gold stars, rainbows and unicorns. My first half of 2017? I LOVED talking about my life. I visited 5 different cities, and went on the most transformative trip of my life (Dubai). Work was exciting, dating was ok, dancing was incredible, I was happy. Then my shadow woke up from its nap, and the 2nd half of 2017 sucked, despite some pretty sweet moments:

“Everytime I wanna know what is going on in your life, I just read your blog.”

Ok, so then why are you asking me what I’ve been up to? I have not been up to much, although the above list of blog posts proves that I witnessed a fair bit of other people’s lives. If you read my blog then you should be aware I’m struggling with depression these past few month. Yes, still – that is what depression does, it robs one of one’s capacity to live for months, if not years. Reminding me that I am still stuck in this garbage zombie state isn’t doing me any favors. At best, I feel equally irritated and anxious about my inability to prove that I am living life in a manner worth living, in accordance to wtv standards of the person I am talking to. At worst, I feel shame, and my shadow goes off on a rant about how much of a fucked up train-wreck I am, still with nothing to show for all my talent, intelligence and privileged opportunities I’ve been given, just a disappointment to everyone, really. It is taking most of my energy to survive, and still be a semi-useful employee, worth employing. Just because I blog about my struggles doesn’t mean that I want to talk about them all the time. I am a depressive – I fucking hate vulnerability. Talking about my depression, unexpectedly, face to face, with acquaintances or not close friends? Ummm, no. And if y’all don’t read my blog… then I am just as unlikely to say “Oh hey nothing really has been going on, just fighting my way through my latest bout of depression. How about you? Still happy as fuck? That’s nice.”

“So, how you doing? Whatcha been up to? Work, work, just work? Anything else? Dating?”

Look, bro, I know at this point you are just fishing for a topic for conversation to make this less awkward, but I am not gonna make this any less awkward. YES. WORK. THAT IS ALL. THIS IS AWKWARD BECAUSE PERSONAL QUESTIONS ARE IMPERTINENT. Didn’t you ever read Miss Manners??


How’ve I been doing? Ok-ish. Work has been nuts – I am on my 3rd consecutive week of 65-70 hours. It feels nice to be given a challenge, and to feel myself stepping up. Just in time, too – my funk noticeably affected my performance at work from July-September. I really don’t have much time for anything else. I’ve been trying to stay semi-constant at the gym, my happiest of happy places, and manage to squeeze in 6-8 hours of dancing a week, down from 15+ in Sept-Oct. Work, with its series of definite goals (Nov 25, Dec 22, Jan 23) gives me structure. Every day is a new day, must continue moving forward, one step in front of the other, no time to think or feel too much.

Except that of course, I do. Feel.

While working yesterday, I put on some classical music (latest coup de coeur: Max Bruch’s violin concerto no.1). Youtube is a wonderful concept, really. One beautiful piece after another, old favorites, reliable staples. And then… familiar notes, forgotten from my youth. I stopped working, and listened from beginning to end.

To try limit my mother’s “favorite” piano concertos to less than all of them would be hard, but without doubt one of the top contenders would be Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. Rachmaninoff wrote it after a serious, almost career-ending depression that lasted 3 years. Friends and family urged him to seek professional help, which he did reluctantly. His therapist, an esteemed expert at the time, used hypnosis on Rachmaninoff with success. The result, a few months later, was the 2nd piano concerto. Rachmaninoff dedicated it to his therapist, and credited the man with saving his career and life. My mother always felt that the origins of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto could be heard in the score. A tormented first movement, an awakening of hope in the 2nd, and a verve, readiness and capacity for life in the 3rd.

An awakening of hope, she thought. “It sounds like a blind man seeing his first sunrise on a new day”, she would say. Then why does it make me weep with sorrow? Every time.

How’ve I been doing? I’ve been doing as good as the 2nd movement of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. In theory, I am headed towards a happier ending, but right now there is more sadness than joy.


It doesn’t help that this weekend was a true fall weekend. Cold, rainy, grey, with winds that cut to your bones. Bright leaves falling, turning into damp rotten mush on the sidewalks. Just as in years past, as the leaves fall, grief bubbles up, and I miss my Ma terribly. I suppose it is only fitting that I listen to Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto on loop. Memories of sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car, listening as it played on the drive home from the Pointe-Claire library (her favorite place ever – her body prevented her from physical travel, so she found solace for her mind by reading everything. No joke, she never borrowed less than 5 books at a time, every week). Of sitting parked in the driveway of our home, till the concerto finished. Of her sigh of contentment. Of the click-clack of her canes on the pavement, as she climbed slowly up the front steps of our home, while I carried her books for her.

I’ve not been back to Pointe-Claire library since her death 5 years go. A place I spent thousands of hours in, growing up.

“So, how’ve you been doing? Whatcha been up to? What’s going on in your life lately? Anything? Nothing?!”

Oh, nothing much, just the usual weeping whenever I hear a piece of music I strongly associate with my mother. That’s all.


Here is a recording of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. Although Arthur Rubinstein is primarily known for his Chopin, he does a brilliant job. Jack the volume up, make sure you have surround sound, and enjoy.

 

 

Cat therapy

Allie asked me to house-sit during her two week honeymoon with William. Contrary to everyone’s expectations, it’s been 9 days and so far both cat and plants are still alive. #overachiever

The first few times their cat clambered into my bed and snuggled in the crook of my knees, I was startled. Now, if I don’t wake up to her paws stepping over my shoulder to curl up next to my face for a 10 minute session of morning breath cuddles & purring, I am a little disappointed. Wonders’ll never cease.

Last weekend, I kept it low-key. My funk has mostly stopped sliding out of control – treading water totally beats being pulled willy-nilly by the current of my shadow – but I’m nowhere close to being fully myself. I am still exhausted by life, and after the previous week’s hectic wedding activities, I was craving the hermit life.

I don’t own a TV – I am rarely home long enough to make it worthwhile, and I definitely have the type of personality that is susceptible to binge watching shows on Netflix to the point that social and professional life are compromised. So just like I don’t bring any junk food, candy or bread into my home, no TV. 

Allie has a nice TV. 

What better way to spend my Saturday evening than with wine and some good entertainment? Allie’s cat definitely thought it was a good idea.

Scrolling through Netflix, so much appealed to me, but I kept coming back to the Sherlock (BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch aka Bae aka the only man other than Jon Stewart that I’ll ever love). My mom discovered Sherlock when it first came out in 2011: we watched the first season during my family dinners. We loved that show! We intended on watching Season 2, episode 1 together soon after my 28 bday, but she died before I could get my shit together to go visit her.

Many people encouraged me throughout Seasons 2-4 to keep watching the show. I couldn’t bring myself to. 5 years, I refused to watch that show. My godmother even offered to have sleepovers where she’d cook and coddle me and we could watch it together, just us girls. I couldn’t.

Until this weekend, buoyed by all the love from Allie’s wedding, in her condo, with her cat purring next to me. It still hurt, but I felt safe enough to try work through that painful mix of emotions.

Season 2: done. #toldyaIdbingewatch

Fall is upon us, which I always find hard, I miss her awful, but clearly the gaping wound caused by her sudden death is finally starting to heal. 

Who’d have thought a fur ball would do me so much good?!

Some shadows can’t be beat

It’s rare that a celebrity death will get to me, on a personal level. Sure, death is always sad, but most celebrities are strangers whose artistic legacy may or may not have affected me. I regret that the planet has lost a person that used their influence for good, bc that is something worth regretting, but I remain unaffected.

There are a few celebrity deaths that hit a bit closer to home. Princess Diana, Robin Williams.

And now Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. This one hurts.

Like every other middle-class white kid growing up in the suburbs, I could sing along to all of Linkin Park’s albums. I could relate. #adolescentangst But unlike most of my teenage musical appreciation, I’ve continued to relate. If anything, I relate more now. Not in a nostalgic way, but in “great music remains timeless and relevant” kinda way. My adolescent angst has given way to my shadow, and it hasn’t been easy. I listen to the lyrics, from their earliest stuff till now, and my teenage recognition of a shared emotion has deepened into a sadness, an understanding of what 17 years of an endless struggle feels like.

That sadness is now tinged with despair. Whenever someone loses their battle against depression, especially after putting up a valiant fight, I panic. The older I get, the more I get it. I get the exhaustion that leads someone to say, “I can’t anymore. I have no fight left in me.” I feel deep sorrow that the world has lost Chester Bennington’s voice forevermore. I am grateful we have record of 17 years of his inspired music. But most of all, I feel an odd satisfaction that finally, the guy is at peace, free from his shadow. 41 years is a lot of years to put up a fight. Well done, buddy. You were a trooper. Thank you for making the rest of us feel less alone, for the space of a few minutes, a few songs. You brought us relief, however temporary. Now, rest. 

This cover. He rolled in the deep, alright.

For those who aren’t as familiar with Linkin Park’s work, I STRONGLY recommend the following albums:

Chester could sing.

Until he couldn’t anymore.

#depressionsucks

Reblog: Falling Half in Love with Strangers

I stumbled upon the post below: it’s a masterpiece. It describes so very perfectly what happened to me in Dubai. I’d say my experience was a bit further along the line of “falling in love non-platonically” than Quinn’s here, but that doesn’t matter. I was invested. I experienced, for the first time in my life, an immediate and perfect connection with someone, and the days and hours that followed served only to prove my gut instinct right.

It’s been surprisingly hard letting go of that connection, especially in this era of social media. I struggled to understand what I was going through in the weeks following Dubai. Such a sharp blend of happiness and sadness. I realized, finally, that it was grief: grief for a chapter of happiness that had a pre-defined expiry date. Melodramatic? Maybe, maybe not: it is what I felt, and when I read Quinn’s experience below, I am comforted in knowing that others too have experienced similar moments. Now that I’ve worked through all that, I’m free to feel gratitude for those 4 days of perfect connection. Seeing him pop up on my Fbk newsfeed serves as a reminder of what I should continue striving for in my interactions on this side of the pond: a heart singing with joy.

I am on the lookout for a particular word.

I want a word for the feeling I get when I connect with a total stranger for a few minutes or hours, and then never see them again. It’s an ability to suddenly feel profound, intense affection for someone I don’t know. It’s not physical attraction, necessarily. It can happen with men or women. It is a non-discriminatory feeling that happens without warning, without rhyme or reason. I want a word that explains how I can feel instantly and powerfully attached to somebody and then, in a perverse way, almost hope never to see them again.

Is there a word for that?

There are a handful of people I’ve met over the years who I still think about from time to time, because even if I only spent a few hours with them, in those hours I was invested. I wanted to know everything about them. I fell a little bit platonically in love with them and their stranger-ness. I felt something that I don’t have a word for, and I hate that. I felt a nameless, wordless bond.

Read the full post here: Falling Half in Love with Strangers

 

Too late

I never understood Mother’s Day growing up. I understood Father’s Day even less. Like, why bother? Y’all are my parents every day, so why are we gonna pretend one day is more important than all the others?

I was a brat, can you tell?

I did a half-assed job celebrating Mother’s day, growing up. My mother was always slightly upset by my lack of effort. As I grew older, after I moved out and started appreciating my mother a whole lot more once I realized what a pain adulting could be, I tried to make a bigger effort.

Our last mother’s day. 2012.

2012. Mother’s day. I was swamped with work – putting in regularly 60-65-70 hour weeks, the rest of my life on standstill. Groceries? Don’t know what that is. Laundry? No time, I’ll just keep buying new clothes. I’d cancelled a few of our weekly family dinners, never having time to call and chat, bc I would leave my home at 8am and come back at midnight, 7 days a week. On Mother’s Day weekend, all I had time for was a quick brunch. I felt so guilty, such a shit daughter. My mother’s health was bad – I hated making her come downtown to meet me, instead of me taking the time to go see her.

Look how happy she was to see me – just to spend time with me. My father insisted on taking pictures of us, something he never did because my mother HATED being photographed. But this time, for some reason, she let him. It was a lovely meal – she told me not to feel guilty about my disastrous schedule and poor time management skills: she knew, without a doubt, that I was doing my best, that I loved her, and I would learn eventually to do better. I had enough going on, I should focus on the tasks at hand, instead of taking on unnecessary guilt.

What a mama.

Easter 1988 or 1989. I was almost-4 or almost-5.

I get the importance of Mother’s Day now.


My Ma:

My Muslim-Catholic-Orthodox Easter

Faith and religion are thorny issues. Deeply personal ones too, except when they become the cause of so much world conflict and hatred.

Funny joke:

Easter wasn’t celebrated in the USA this year because Jesus, with his Middle Eastern background, got stopped at the border.

Ha. Ha.

Sigh.


I was baptized Russian Orthodox Christian. However, due to my mother’s poor health, she was unable to make the weekly treck downtown to the 2 Russian Orthodox Churches in Montreal. She firmly believed that any religious upbringing was better than none, so she brought me to the Catholic parish close to our home. I attended that church from the age of 8 to 22, and integrated myself into that community, singing in various choirs, meeting my high school best friend, experiencing my first adolescent crush, doing volunteer work – some of my happiest memories from my youth are from that parish. My mother also enrolled me in an all-girls school run by Catholic nuns, because she admired the nuns’ mission to educate strong-minded, independent feminist girls. She was not alone: my fellow students were Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Catholic, and avowed atheists. We studied all the major religions on the world: the nuns explained that while they were true to their faith, they weren’t in a position to pass judgment on the other religions. Moreover, if we were to be true citizens of the world, capable of empathy, tolerance and good manners, we needed to understand the broad tenets of each faith, as well as the socio-geo-political implications of each religion.

The consequence of this upbringing is that I identified primarily as Catholic, when young. However, my mother made sure I understood the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, and I’ve continued to attend Orthodox liturgies regularly but infrequently (2-3x a year). It is difficult to dissociate cultural heritage from the religious one. Part of my identity is Russian. The older I get, the more I appreciate my Russian roots and relate to the Orthodox dogma. Yet when I go to the Russian Orthodox churches, I am overwhelmed by my feeling of exclusion from that community. I don’t speak the language, I am SO Western, I don’t belong. The usual struggles of any 2nd generation immigrant.

I feel like a fish out of blessed water. I do not belong anywhere.


I was ex-communicated for having pre-marital sex with my then-boyfriend at the age of 23. It makes me laugh, now, except not really. It remains one of the most upsetting things to have ever happened to me.

I’ve struggled to reconcile the requirements of my faith with my reality as a young adult living in a secular society. Now that I am less young, I struggle even more. As y’all know, reading this blog, I aim to live a life of integrity, vulnerability, joy and self-realization. That’s HARD. I am also aware that while those are good goals, some of the behaviours that allow me to achieve them are not compatible with the requirements of my religion. I have no idea how to reconcile my identity and my faith.

Enter Dynamo. If I as a haphazardly-practicing Christian find navigating a secular world difficult, Muslims have got it a bazillion times worse. Dynamo has successfully built a life for himself that works, that is fully integrated in this secular, frequently intolerant of Muslims, world, yet allows him to practice his faith (e.g. Ramadan, Halal food, no alcohol). I consider him my role model, especially since we inhabit a similar social & professional world; it isn’t easy for him. We have talked of our struggles often over the years, the compromises we are comfortable making, as well as some of the similarities and differences in our religious dogmas. But the differences don’t matter, nor do our failings – we share this struggle, and encourage each other to be our best selves. As Dynamo told me 2 months ago:

Happiness is a choice, and is contingent on the alignment of the values you hold dear and your own behaviour.(…) Have your values changed? Because your quest for happiness has not, so make sure your behaviour is reflective of that. I don’t think it is.

My (Christian) values. Not his Muslim ones, although there is a significant overlap. And unlike that Orthodox priest that ex-communicated me, Dynamo does not judge me. He gently reminds me to reconsider that which matters to me. My Muslim friend wants with all his heart that his Christian friend finds happiness, peace and salvation.


After months away from any church, of any denomination, I spent Easter weekend (this year, Orthodox and Catholic Easter coincided) with my Catholic godmother and her family. We went to church a lot. The responses, the exclamations, the prayers of my youth were instinctive. I found myself weeping a lot – a mixture of grief, repentance, and happiness. I’m no closer to aligning my behaviour with my values, but it’s clear to me that this is a struggle I wish to continue engaging in. I cannot, despite my best efforts, break away from my faith.


How wonderful is it that my Orthodox faith is sustained by the love of my Muslim friend?

#HappyEaster

#IslamophobiaFTW