Modern love and gratefulness

There is a common misconception that love should be easy. That once the passion is gone, it should be over. That you should be swooning everyday. Celebrate everyday, only have good times.

Every day, we are saturated with images of passionate love, love at first sight, being swooped up our feet. Proposals, epic marriages, retouched images of lovers in beautiful settings. But this is what they are, images. The capture of a moment. No context. No before or ever after.

Truth is, couples fight. Disagree. They get bored. They work hard to make it work. They CHOOSE to stay with their partners everyday.

For some it’s easier than others. Some days, temptation is harder to resist than other. Couples aren’t perfect. Love, like life, is messy and complicated.

Today, I dedicate this post to my partner, my husband, my life companion to celebrate the glorious day of his birth.

We had our challenges through the past seven years. I wasn’t always the best partner; but you always tried your best.

Through highs, and mostly lows, you supported me and lifted my spirit when I was down. You knew what would soothe my pain, my soul.

You are kind, loving, caring.

You give without counting, always ready to present the other cheek.

You hold no grudge.

For you, happiness comes easy. You count your blessing and always look for the positive outcome.

You are everything I am not.

You are my complement.

The NA to my CL. The Kermit to my Miss Piggy.

The positive to my negative.

You are the calm before the storm.

You make life easier. You make life worthy. You make life fun when I struggle to see the light.

You encourage my crazy projects and ideas. You bring me down when I fly too high. Worried I may burn my wings.

You watched me grow into the woman, the wife, the lover I am today. I watched you grow into the wonderful, beautiful man you are today. My diamond in the rough.

I know it wasn’t always easy. I know I am not perfect. I know at times I lost sight of the unique person you are.

But if I would have to start again, I would still choose you.

Bonne fête mon amour. Je t’aime.

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#Undateable; on disability and dating

Recently, my attention has been drawn by the disabled community to a BBC podcast Ouch. They held a series of interviews under the topic; Are disabled partners a burden?

Now I haven’t listened to the podcast because:

A) I avoid torture whenever possible

B) The answer is pretty obvious to me: NO.

But what bothered me most about this particular episode was the attached hashtag: Undateables.

Are disabled folks undateable?

How is this damaging for the collective imaginary who, most likely, will do as me and only retain the question and hashtags.

Only I know ableds may have a significantly different answer to that question. It may even reinforced their belief at a glance. The human brain is lazy, it takes shortcut and avoid being confronted in its core beliefs when possible.

Now you may ask; What is the collective imaginary regarding disabled folks?

Great question!

Disabled folks, in the “mainstream culture”, are denied romantic storyline; rich and full sexual lives; the right to having a family of their own, etc. It can go further as to question their own existence through the capitalist lenses of productivity and eugenics.

Now, I know for a fact any of this isn’t true. Having limitations of any kinds shouldn’t prevent any body for leading the life they want. It may take adjustments; equipments; accommodations; but really that’s all logistic.

Unfortunately, the collective imaginary and messages are so strong; through lack of representations, misrepresentation and misinformations; that some disfolks internalize those messages.

They can’t see themselves as sexual beings. They hold negative body images. They confine themselves into the box society has built for them. It’s not their fault. Podcasts like this one only reinforces prejudices and stereotypes. It’s only a grain of sand in this big desert of lies.

At times; I even bought that message and felt a burden to my partner. Apologizing profusely for my limitations; for not being enough. His answer was firm; you are not a burden.

Any partners who have an answer that differs isn’t a good partner. Sure, we all have our limitations, but having any kind of disability is not an exclusion factor for relationships. Being a fucking jerk should be.

Some folks may be limited for a million different reasons, it doesn’t mean they have nothing to give to a relationship. Any relationship is an exchange; a reciprocity. A partner that can’t see that; that labels their partner as a burden, should seek a different partner and therapy. Always therapy. But that’s another topic.

I am tired to see disability associated with “undateability”. No one is undateable other than by choice. And that’s totally legit if that’s not your groove.

But feeding that collective imaginary towards disability hurt everyone. In the end, they are missing out on incredible individuals and rich lives.

Find someone who respects you. Find someone who loves and values you AS YOU ARE. Flaws and all. Right now.

You do not have to believe their lies and above all, do not feed into it.

You matter. You are worthy. I wish all my disfolks out there the happiness they want and deserve.

Until next time,

Catherine; the cynical mermaid

Mood cycling

Today; I feel overwhelmed, exhausted. It feels like I just ended a mood cycle. I usually go between happiness; high energy; anxiety; depression; high expectations on myself; and everything in between. I try to do everything at once to convince myself of my worth. Convince myself I am as good as everyone else. As productive as everyone else.

And ever so often I have days like today; feeling like I have hit a wall. Feeling at the end of my rope. Unsure of the way to go. Realizing I overestimated my capacities. Then; the self-doubts and insecurities creep in. Overwhelming sadness and exhaustion.

I realize it hasn’t been three weeks yet since my life was changed forever by an embrace with a car. I haven’t taken much time to rest, to heal, to recover. Time when I don’t feel guilty for not being productive. Time just to be; to breathe. Without an agenda or pressure. Since the accident; my perspective on some aspects of my life has changed, but I think I still have much work to do.

I am sure in a few days I will be better; significantly less tired and in a much better mood. A new cycle will begin. Can the cycle be avoided or is it just part of my mental health?

Before you tell me to be nice with myself; to be mindful & give myself some time.

Yes. I know. I give those advices like candies on Halloween. Easier said than done

Realizing your limitations, while helpful, feel some days like a slap in the face. Especially when your limitations are invisibles. When you fail to see them yourself at times. When your voices makes you feel like a fraud. Like you don’t belong. Because you’re not really disabled, right? But it’s barely past lunch and you’re already out of spoons.

Lately; I am more than ever confronted by the fact that I am a being ruled by her emotions. They guide my life. Set the mood for the day; the week; the months. Sometimes they are positive; most often negatives and rooted in self-hatred.

I am not afraid to open my heart and share the inner working of my soul. While living with invisible disabilities is challenging; I am dedicated to live an authentic life. To show that opening yourself and your heart to others not only cultivate love and a sense of community, it also may help others put words on their own mind chaos or start their own introspective journey.

The older I get, and the more therapy I do, the easier it is to call BS on my inner voices. I may not like myself but I start to understand why some of you do. And that is a part of healing. Tiny steps into recovery.

Hope is the fuel that keeps us going. Rolling with the punches through life’s obstacles. Resilient. Life is a journey, yes, just not a linear one.

Until then;

Catherine

**If you are feeling triggered by this article, feel free to contact me for support or your local hotline. You matters. Take care of yourself

How to deal with others emotional labour?

Lately, I have seen a general exhaustion in the different communities; either Fat, Queer, Disabled, Mental Health; in regards to the amount of emotional labour required from writers and activists.

As a social worker, I am trained and have the tools to deal with other people emotional labour on a daily basis, and may be more inclined to do so with my fellow tweeps, let’s call it occupational hazard. However, even to me it can become too much and I have to put the limits I have learned to establish over the years.

This guide is for the well-meaning people who get a lot of request or are dumped emotional labour on them and are unsure how to manage it.

1. You are responsible for the means, not the results.

This is something I tell myself every day, whether I am working with a client or doing emotional labour with a friend or fellow tweep. While we genuinely want to help others with their problems, they are not your problems. You can made recommendations, give advices, refer them to organisations, but whether or not this people use them or not is outside your control. You can’t be held accountable for the results. Which leads be to my second point.

2. People are responsible for their own action; of their own life

You can’t carry the burden for them. Sure, they may be going through a rough patch, difficulties in their professional or personal lives, but the actions they take, or don’t take, is not your responsability. Once this person unloaded on you and you gave them an active listening, advices and supported them, the outcome of the situation is not on your shoulder.

3. Establish clear limits and boundaries

It is very important to establish boundaries and limits upfront when a person unload their labour on you. Tell them what you can and can’t do. Reflect that you are not a professional and might not be equiped to help them adequately. It is okay to refuse to do emotional labour with someone. It requires a lot of energy and knowing your own limits is an healthy behavior. Saying no does not make you a bad person. Don’t let people manipulate you into thinking you failed to help them or you were responsable for something you were not unless previously agreed. By putting clear boundaries, failed expectations and misunderstanding can be avoided. It also decreases the stress on the helper.

4. You cannot save them

And this is a very important point. Professionals of the helping relation field have to remind themselves constantly. We wish we could uplift pain, solve all the problems, stop wars. We are only human with our own set of problems. We are limited by our own knowledge and understanding of the world. While you can empathize with them, the best thing you can do is provide them the tools to find a solution to their problems. IF YOU CAN. It’s okay not to know what to do. The healthiest thing to do would be to be honest with that person and encourage them to seek proper care. People are much more resilient than we think. Sometimes, they just need to be reminded of the obvious.

Now you’re going to ask me; but what if the person is suicidal? What if they kill themselves because I “turned them down”?

5. You do not hold that much power over someone’s life

If you truly believe someone is at an immediate risk of danger to themselves or others, please call the emergency services if you have access to these informations or try to reach someone in their close network. While most people say they are lonely, which is a valid emotion, they still might have some sort of network around them. If you feel someone is using suicidal ideations as a way to get your attention, it may be better to refer them to mental health services and, once again reflect your limitations. You are not responsable if someone decide to take their own life. Unless you encourage them too, but this is another story.

6. Do not carry the burden of others on your shoulders

You have enough as it is. You cannot hold the weight of the world on your shoulder. That person might feel relieve for a moment after dumping their emotional labour on you, but at the end of the day, it is their mind chaos and it belongs to them. Try to distance yourself. Don’t absorb the other person feelings. You may as easily fell down the rabbit hole with them.

7. You can’t pour from an empty cup

While it may be rewarding to do emotional labour with others, it can be extremely psychologically depleting if you are not careful and taking proper care of yourself. It can lead to caregiver’s burnout; with similar symptoms as stress and depression. If after talking with the person you feel depressed, sad, stressed, unwell, guilty. If you notice changes in your eating and sleeping patterns after talking with the person; it may be time to end the relationship and seek proper care for yourself. You have to prioritize your mental health first. You can’t help others if your cup is empty.

Sometimes people are unsatisfied with the solution I propose and may respond: “So there is nothing I can do?”
My answer is always “not quite”. There is always something that can be done, but it may not be something you wanted or expected. Sometimes it’s taking baby steps and some things takes time. We rarely can do grandiose thing to help people, but the smallest change is already an improvement and should be reinforced positively.

Now I know some of these advices may sound cold and harsh. I want to remind everyone that while I believe everyone is genuinely doing their best, being untrained and unequiped to deal with intense emotional labour can lead to change in one own’s mental health and physical state. There are trained professional in your communities eager to help. I will say it again, you cannot save other people. They are responsable for their own actions and decisions and while it may be tempting to want to take over their pain, this will only double the suffering. Empowering people by giving them tools and resources to overcome their problems is the best thing you can do for them and for yourself.

I remain available if people want more detailed tools and approaches to deal with difficult situations. Sensitives people or HSP may be more susceptible to get into those delicate circles. However, I think it can be equally damaging for the other person to receive emotional labour from someone who is not equiped to do so. I am not pointing fingers, I believe most people act from the best of their knowledge, but sometimes, it is not enough.

Encourage them to build a network in their community, it could be community based organisation, health services, local volunteer groups, whatever is best for them. The bigger the safety net the better. Think of yourself as a link in the long chain of this person’s life and problems.

Remember, you are not alone. I am always available.

Until then,

Take care my lovelies

Visibly Invisible Illness

Some say it’s an invisible illness

But I see it everyday as I look in the miror

The rolls, the stretchmarks, the cellulites

All these bites eaten to soothe the pain

To hide this endless void of suffering

Forgetting what hunger fills like, fearing the emptiness.

All this weight I am still wearing as an armor

To shield myself against the harm of the world

I wear the shame and the disgust as another layer of clothing

As I was thought as a little girl, it only flared up since

It may be invisible to others, but it’s the only thing my reflection shows to me

Not the heartwarming smile, the gentle eyes, the compassion to others.

Not the love of those surrounding me, only what is absent, my own.

Focussing on the lack when the rest abounds.

Coming to terms with a body that is scarred, marked by mental illnesses and eating disorder

A body I fail to see its beauty doesn’t make it any less beautiful, desirable, worthy.

A body some would deemed lazy, stupid or ugly.

A body I inflicting more violence than it deserved

By a mind that is invisibly ill to others.

20 years of suffering in silence, invisible to most.

To you, a smiling young woman, with all her life in front of her.

To me, a self-reflection filled with disgust, self-hatred, failing to see what you do.

You tried with all your might. You can’t save me.

But I haven’t given up yet.

Just watch me.

I survived a car crash

Wednesday morning, 7:05 Am. The kind of day where you wished you stayed in bed. On my way to work. I was far from knowing how the next few minutes would change my life forever. This January had been hell, the last day would finish it with a bang.

As I crossed the first street corner away from my house, once the light turned green, I see a car moving forward my way. Anyone that ever lived in a big city knows how cars engaged in the way in a passive-agressive manner as you strut to the other side of the street. I thought it was one of them. I thought the car would stop. Boy was I wrong. This car didn’t stop.

BANG.

Everything is in slow motion. My mind tumbles as I fall back. I remind myself to stay soft. I try to make sense of what is happening. Why didn’t it stopped? My knees are the first to collide into the car bumper. Then my head hit the hood, breaking my glasses along the way. I fall in a crouched position. For a few seconds, a searing pain through my right knee renders me immobile. I fear a concussion. I can’t move. All this time, I think to myself this is what dying feels like.

Seconds passes, driver exits the car. Ask me if I’m okay. If I can move. With all my might, I stand up and move to the opposite street corner. There is definitely something wrong with my leg. I still fear a concussion. I am in shocked. The driver move their car to the side and join me. They insist on taking me inside their car to avoid the freezing weather, it is -25c, typical winter weather. I refuse. They offer me to take me to the hospital. HELL NO. I won’t sit in your car from hell, I think to myself.

The driver seems as distress as I am. Tears stream down their cheeks. They say they are sorry. That they never saw me. Because my coat is the same color as the road. Grey.

Setting: Beautiful wednesday morning, cold but sunny, no precipitation. A tall 5’7’’ fat woman cross the street. She also wears a green bag, a yellow hat and a checkered grey white and red scarf.

They never saw me. In broad daylight. A fat tall woman in a grey coat. Because of what I wore. Sounds like victim-blaming doesn’t it. Sounds way too familiar. And it worked. I did feel guilty.

After a few minutes, I am the most cold-headed of the two. Adrenaline must have kicked him. I take my phone out. Call the husband. We live one minute away from the accident site. He is coming. He tells me to call the police. I feel like I needed someone validation to do so. All this time, I tell myself I should have taken her license number but I can’t walk to the back of the car, or even move. Thinking straight is hard. Standing is the most I can do at this point.

911. “Yes, I’d like to report an car accident.” The operator ask me if I am okay. I tell her I think so, they will send an ambulance anyway. Thank you. I called the ambulance for my own accident. Irony.

Ambulance arrives. Relief floods over. I painfully walk toward the truck with all my will. They asked me questions. My brain functions at a lowered capacity. I finally start crying, nerves braking out. I apologized profusely. Maybe I overreacted. Reassurances abound. I did the right thing. They take my vital signs, assess the trauma. He talks to me in a soothing voice.

Police arrives. They take my short statement. He looks at my coat and laugh. “It’s daylight” he says. I feel validated. This lone statement makes all the difference. Everything feel surreals. My first ambulance ride. I don’t see much without my glasses, but I feel safe inside, my husband next to me. It’s over, but this day was far from over.

Waiting in the emergency room is my own definition of purgatory. You know when you came in, you never know when, and if, you will exit. At some point, desperation and anxiety take over, they must have forgotten you.

Parked in the waiting room in a wheelchair, I was replaying the last hour in my head. Poor driver. It will be a bad day for them too. What if I had wore a different coat that morning? What if I didn’t assume they would see me crossing the street? I was feeling guilty, blaming myself, looking for ways this could be avoided. I was tired and in pain. I was blind from lack of glasses. I was hyper aware for any signs of concussion. All I wanted was to lay in bed and sleep forever.

But this day, like any day reached to an end and I was discharged. Diagnosis; broken fibula. Leg needs to be straight and kept this way by a zimmer. I was given crutches I have yet to understand how they work.

Since then, other symptoms have emerged but no concussions or other life threatening consequences. I have to sleep on my back and it is incredibly uncomfortable. My knee hurts most of the time. I need assistance for most thing. Going to the bathroom is an incredibly tough chore and I tip my hat to everyone dealing with reduced mobility and bathroom on a daily basis. I am covered with scary bruises.

This accident could have been much worst. I could have died that morning, on that last day of this cold January. I am ever grateful for all the support and love I have received.

This is a life changing moment for me. There will always have a before and an after the accident. I feel different. I see it as an opportunity to grow, to learn and to be grateful of this life I was given.

For the driver, I doubt I will ever know the rest of their story but I wish them luck. I truly believe it was an accident and this person will also live with some consequences for the rest of their life. I do not resent them. I hope they will also grow and learn from this.

In the meantime, I am taking time to heal my physical and psychological wounds, cursing everyday I don’t have new glasses and drinking my usual quantities of coffee.

I blame all of this on the super full blue blood moon. I am a survivor.

Writing this has been for me a cathartic way to clear my head of the events. I do not seek validation or any other type of attention from this. I do not want people to demonize the driver. It helps me make a bit of sense of what happened in those few chaotic minutes that felt like an eternity. I am ever grateful to be alive and well surrounded. I want to give special thanks to everyone that supported me throughout this ordeal, especially my husband, my parents, my family, my friends and all my beloved twitter community.