How celebrity suicides can bring awareness

As most of you probably know by now, Robin Williams has died of an apparent suicide. My heart goes out to his family and friends, who must be struggling to cope. It proves that depression takes many forms and even the happiest looking people could have darkness deep inside them.

Celebrity deaths are often shocking for their fans too, and social media becomes an outlet for those wishing to honour the person who has died. I’ve noticed that this time, a number of people are urging those with suicidal tendencies to call helplines, or to talk to their doctor, or even confide in their loved ones. People seem to be openly talking about depression and I hope that this communication won’t stop once the shock of Robin William’s death wears off.

Depression is something that I’ve struggled with for a while. I’d say I had it on and off in high school and it came back with a vengeance after breaking up with my abusive boyfriend three years ago. Things in my personal life sort of went downhill from there for various reasons, though I’m sure the abuse I suffered from my alcoholic father didn’t help. I’ve always felt ashamed for feeling as I do, and it has been a very long road for me to accept that I can’t control the fact that I have depression. Yes I can control things that are triggers, but at the end of the day I still struggle to keep myself going.

I do not consider myself someone at risk for suicide. I have thought about it, and I often think about death, but not because I want to die. It’s more curiosity than anything else. As odd as it might sound, I would never kill myself because of the hurt it would cause my already fractured family. I want my depression to end, but not with death. That isn’t always the case with other people, and everyone’s struggle is different.

What I want is for the stigma of depression to go away. Why can’t we openly talk about depression? Why is anything negative viewed with fear and misunderstanding? I remember one time being told that my depression could be cured just by thinking positively. That person seemed shocked to know that depression is a change in brain chemicals, not just having a bad day. Then again, this person has never felt the effects of depression and couldn’t wrap their head around how controlling depressive thoughts can be.

I find it very lonely sometimes because I fear people won’t understand. I’m often told “Don’t feel that way” or “Well it could be worst”, which are really some of the worst things you can tell someone. It’s like saying how they feel doesn’t matter, that they aren’t allowed to feel what they’re feeling. It’s not like I chose to feel the way I do. I’d rather not have my brain tell me that I’m better alone, that I will never find someone who can love me completely, that maybe I am selfish and not good enough. If positivity was enough to change my brain, I would have been cured years ago.

But the thing with depression is that there are good days and bad days. My good days might not be “happy” days, but they’re days where I don’t feel like the world is coming down around me. It’s the days where I don’t miss the people in my life who have gone away as much as usual. And those days inspire me that maybe one day I can get past the darkness.

If you know someone who is depressed, remember that it’s not their fault. Remember that kindness and being willing to listen will always be better than frustration and advice giving. Most people who are depressed know what they should be doing, but they find themselves unable to actually make it work. A little TLC goes a long way.

If you yourself have depression and think of suicide, I urge you to please call a helpline. Here is a list of crisis lines for a number of different countries.

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How helpful advice is not always so helpful

I’m sure every one of you has had some older person give you advice, whether asked for or not, when it comes to job searching. Maybe it was your grandmother, or your father’s cousin, or maybe it was the neighbor from down the road. But everyone has some sort of advice to share, and not all of it is constructive. 

I am currently in the “I hate my job and need something more challenging” state of being. I am actively (more or less) looking for another job, one preferably closer to my field. After being bullied by a customer today and threatened with complaining to head office (the latter part I didn’t care about), I’ve had it with customer service. And it’s not a new sentiment.

When I called my uncle for Father’s Day, he asked how work was going. I was honest with him in saying I was unhappy and that I needed a change. I told him about the college I applied to, and how they basically ruined any chance I would have had at starting in the fall (they forgot to send me part of the application and I’m being penalized for it). And then I said I was frustrated by both those things, to which my uncle laughed at me and said there was no reason for me to be frustrated at my age. He then compared our situations (he changed careers and is in the process of finishing his education), and deemed his worst than mine. That he should feel frustration, not me who was only starting out.

I hadn’t realized it was a competition.

I get he might have had the best of intentions, but I was definitely not impressed with his choice of words. It made me feel like he was belittling my emotions. That my struggles were meaningless compared to his. And this is him on a good day.

Another “useful” saying is “Utilize those connections!”, or some sort of variation. “It’s all about who you know and being there at the right time.” is another one I hear pretty often.

But really, what does it mean? How can we do this? It’s not like anyone really teaches us how.

I felt so embarrassed today when I e-mailed a family friend today to ask her how to get in touch with a friend of theirs (that I’ve met once or twice) because he has contacts in the government. Her answer was to offer to help him figure out his new computer since the family friend was supposed to when she visited. The idea still makes me nervous, as I find everything I type sounds too much like an annoying “help me!”

And what about those networking parties that maybe your university/college/alumi associations put together? If you’ve just graduated, you probably haven’t made yourself business cards. If you have, great! but not everyone is so bold. Some people might give you theirs. But then what? Do you call theses people? What do you even say? Unless they straight up offer you an opportunity to do something, I’d have no clue what to do with someone’s business card other than keep it in my wallet for an indefinite time.

Maybe all this is easier for some people, because the connections have been built already. But starting from almost zero in a new city (well, relatively new still for me) is not always simple. There are no established connections. There’s no family friend to see about summer internship programs, or uncle who knows someone in that field. 

Regardless of all this, I am bound and determined to forge my way in the world. Connections or not, I will get there.

 

How going on holidays alone can be a time of change

I’ve recently come back from a three week trip to Europe. I spent time visiting family who live there, so I wasn’t really “alone”, but I also wasn’t with the same people for more than a week. Some called me brave, others just didn’t understand why I would travel alone. My response? I wanted to see what I wanted to see. If I wanted to go visit churches, I didn’t have to worry whoever was with me was bored. I didn’t have to worry that they wanted to see a different museum. I could visit things in my field of interest and I wouldn’t have to make concessions. It sounds selfish, but at the same time, it’s what I wanted. 

I started off in Hamburg, Germany. I saw some lovely things, including the Rathaus (aka City Hall), The Botanical Gardens, and St-Michaelis Church. This picture below is from that church. I love stained glass!
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There was also a crypt in the church which was very cool. There were preserved coffin ornaments that dated from the early 1800s, a Bible from 1720, and tomb stones still in the ground. 

I spent Easter weekend in Hamburg, and their way of celebrating is nothing like the North American way. They hang their plastic eggs on trees outside, which I thought looked really cute. They also have bonfires on the beach as a sort of summer solstice celebration. My cousin’s partner didn’t look up where the giant bonfire would be, so we ended up on a random beach with little fires going on all around us. It was still fun though!

I also finally  got to meet a friend that I made online. It was mostly by chance we were in Hamburg at the same time, considering she and her boyfriend live outside the city and it’s not always convenient to hop the train . But because it had been Easter, they were visiting his family in Hamburg. We met the morning of the day we were both leaving. Even though we had never met before, it felt pretty easy talking to her, a rarity for me.

After Hamburg, I went to Paris, France. There was so much about Paris that I loved. The cheese, the bread, the wine, the history, the culture… I was in absolute heaven. I can’t imagine walking down the street and becoming desensitized at seeing the Arc de Triomph. Or Notre Dame. Or really any of the wonderful landmarks and buildings that give a glimpse into years prior. In North America, there’s not much that’s really old. Sure, there are little pockets in big cities where you can find something a couple hundred years old, but they’re few and far between (especially after seeing how well the new and the old work in Europe). 

I’d like to list off all the things I did in Paris, but honestly, it’s a long list. My two favorite sights were definitely Notre Dame Cathedral (where we got a two hour tour of the history of the cathedral) and Versailles (where we spent a whole day walking around and I know for sure there’s stuff we missed). In close second, I would say the Louvre (mainly because we only had a few hours and I would have loved to see more) and the Conciergerie, where many people were put in prison during the time of the Revolution. I had chills being at the prison because I couldn’t imagine sitting in one of those cells knowing I was going to be beheaded. There were lists of those who had been executed and I wondered how many had actually been innocent of the crimes they were accused of. We also did the Eiffel Tower (second floor), a boat ride on the Seine, a small museum that had an exhibition of Josephine de Beauharnois (Napoleon’s first wife), a one-man-show called “How To Be Parisian in One Hour” by a comedian named Olivier Giraud (which was absolutely hilarious), and the lovely artistic area of Montmart. 

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Last, but certainly not least, I went to the Province of Venizia. I was staying in this small town called Oderzo, where my grandfather grew up. I got to meet one of his brothers and his family (his children and grandchildren). His and his wife didn’t speak any English or French, and my Italian is minimal at best, so I stayed with their daughter who lived in the apartment above them. Her son was still living at home as well, so one or the other would take me out to see Oderzo and the neighboring towns. I ended up also seeing Treviso, Verona, Venice, the islands surrounding Venice (Burano, Murano, Torcello), and Caorle. The weather was lovely almost every single day: 20 degrees Celsius and sunny. I tanned a little, which I’m pleased about, although for the first few days I had really awkward sunglasses tan. 

Treviso and Oderzo are small towns, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see. Remnants of Roman houses/towns were scattered in these towns, and Oderzo had a whole museum dedicated to artifacts found from that time period. Caorle too didn’t have a whole lot that was touristy, but the town is along the ocean, so most of the day was spent walking around the beach. I wasn’t allowed to go swimming because my cousin thought it was too cold, but it still felt nice to have the sand beneath my toes. 

Verona had an arena, which is based off the Colosseum in Rome. They now play concerts inside, as most of the seats have been modified from stone steps to actual seats. There was also Juliet’s house, where you could pay to go and see the little museum and her balcony. Quotes from Romeo and Juliet were scattered throughout the place, with items that “could” have belonged to Juliet, had she been a real person. There was a secondary exhibition going on at the same time called “Mind Map of Love”, which was really cool. There were pictures of couples of all kinds doing things that couples do: hugging/kissing, holding hands, arguing, cooking, making pottery, etc. There was even one brave couple (in my opinion) who got their photo taken in the nude. 

Venice, and the islands, was beautiful. A lot of churches, a lot of history, and different way of life. There were no cars, just boats. My only complaint was the smell in certain parts of the city, but it was tolerable. Masks were available everywhere, and I ended up splurging and buying two. And not the cheap plastic ones that are bought of the touristy vendor. I didn’t buy the 300+ euro ones, mainly because they were too expensive, but also because it wouldn’t have fit in my suitcase of the plane ride back. The one I loved the most had this golden webbing, but I knew it would be crushed. Instead, I bought some with feathers. We also saw a lot of churches as well as the Jewish quarters, which was very quiet. The islands had beautifully painted houses, all done in bright colours. My cousin’s partner told me that the houses were painted so that children, who left home at an early age, could easily find their families when they returned.  

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All in all, it was a great trip. Tiring and frustrating at time, definitely. But the food was good, the company was nice, and I can finally say that I’ve been to certain parts of Europe. 

 

 

How it’s wonderful to have something to look forward to.

I haven’t been writing a lot these days. No blog posts (I’m sorry to all those of you who enjoy my ramblings), no fanfiction, no random story lines. Nothing. Rien. Nada. Zero. I think I’ve made my point.

I was not without stories however, my brain having gone on an obsessive streak these days. It started out with watching all 10 episodes of Orphan Black (if you haven’t seen it and like shows with mystery and bordering on slightly fantastical, GO WATCH IT NOW! Ouf, my apologies for the enthusiasm.) Then it became looking at Ron and Hermione posts on tumblr, which naturally turned into a three-ish day fanfiction mega read. Thankfully that binge is exhausted for now. Unfortunately, I’m still working through the Good Wife, watching at least two or three episodes a day, so I know I’m not over the obsession phase.

Good news about the obsession is that I leave on holidays in one week and I’m also super pumped for that. I keep looking up places to go, things to do and see, where it is on the map, and worrying about making my connecting flights. The only other experience I have was when I went to Egypt last year with my school. (You can read that post here and see the pictures I posted here). While in total we took about 4 planes, I was following the group. When the teacher said “this way” I trusted him to get us there. Now, I’ll be alone doing this. I’m sure it’s not that difficult, but as it is a first time occurrence, the nerves are still present. 

Now I’m sure you’re all curious as to where I’m going that requires a plane. For the first time in my life, I will be visiting 3 different European cities.

My first stop is in Hamburg, Germany.There I’ll be visiting two of my cousins, a mother and daughter. I’ll also hopefully be meeting up with a friend of mine that I met through a forum we both frequent. She also has a lovely blog here on wordpress called hedonistictherapy. My cousins will take me around the city, so I’m sure they have a few things they plan on showing me while I’m there. I’ve also heard about the Miniature Village and planned on doing a lot of walking through the city. 

Next will be the City of Love itself, Paris, France. Another set of cousins live there, a family of four, the youngest having been born a few months ago. Most of my sight seeing will be done here, since there are too many museums to my liking. I plan on doing the major things: Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomph, and Notre Dame. I also hope to do the Catacombs and Versaille Palace. I’ll most likely get the Paris Museum Pass that lets you visit 60 museums and you can choose how many days you want it for. While I don’t think I could ever do justice to 60 museums in 6 days (10 museums per day? I refuse to run from one to another!), I also don’t particularly care for all 60 of them. City walking is also something I’ll be doing, as well as stuffing my face with as much fresh bread and cheese (not exclusively) my stomach will allow me. 

Last visit is Venice, though my cousin and great uncle and aunt live about 40 minutes outside of the city. For this once, I have no sights I really need to see. The only thing that matters to me is being in the hometown of my grand-father. This part of the trip is very emotional for me because I have always wanted to go see where he grew up.  I wanted to be able to take pictures for him to show him what has changed because he is too old and sick to ever be able to go back there. And the fact that I’m going has made him so happy. Last time my dad visited them, that was all my grandfather could talk about. They were leaving for Cuba the week after but my trip was more important. I know it’s wrong of me to say, but my grandfather has always told me I am his favorite. And I think for him, the fact that I’m the one going to visit his brother, his family, his hometown, just reinforces why he loves me so much. As much as I’m doing this trip for myself to explore the world a little bit more, I’m also doing it to explore my roots. My great uncle will probably have stories for me that my grandfather has never told me. He’ll have stories of my mum’s month-long stay there when she was a child. Maybe I’ll get to know more about their sister who died, a woman who died at 18, and is my mother’s namesake. 

Everyone’s been asking if there’s a chance I won’t come back. I think it’s because they all know that that’s where I’ll be eventually. It calls to me. That’s where my interests lie. And I will be coming back, I have too many responsibilities here. But if I could?

You’re damn right I’d move there. If I got offered a job anywhere in Europe (well, almost anywhere), I’d drop my life here and go.

 

How obsessive thoughts can be suffocating.

It’s no big secret that I’m depressed these past two years, my anxiety spiking and dropping in sometimes random patterns. But that’s what death does to a person. 

And right now, all my brain is doing is obsessing over things I miss about her. The things I wish we had done together. The talks we could have had, the laughs we should have shared. I think of the shops she would like in the area I moved into. I think of the clothes I think she’d like. I think of the different ethnic foods I could have eaten with her. I think of the walks we might have taken so I could show her the city. I think of the festivals we could have gone to. The tours we could of done of certain buildings. 

And each time, I get hit with a sharp pain in my heart when I realize we will never get to do those things together. And I have to stop myself from thinking of those painful non-memories, those wishful thinkings that will never come true. Sometimes I cry, and that’s okay. And sometimes I don’t cry, and that’s okay too. 

At the end of the day though, that pain reminds me of how much I loved her and cared for her, which means while I was by no means the perfect daughter, she knew I would always be there for her. That I would do anything to protect her and help her in any way I possibly could, even if I didn’t agree. And she knew that when she would be gone, I would help keep the family going because she would want me to.

I live by that unspoken rule between us because I know it would make her so proud of me and that’s all I ever wanted from her in return.