words and art by loreto duran
content warning: mentions of self-harm and suicide.
It’s January and this new year seems bleak.
I don’t feel like myself, but then again, I’m not sure who I really am.
I’m on the Queen Streetcar on my way to Parkdale, and there is this gleaming black wall that taunts me.
In big bright white letters:
Jesse Harris, the creator of this mural that makes me feel like shit, has it posted outside of CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). It acts as a reminder to individuals who have mental illnesses that they had in fact changed — surfacing from the rehabilitation program as entirely different individuals.
I’m crying on the streetcar.
I feel icky.
I am constantly changing — but I’m not sure if this is a good thing.
It feels like a revolving door where I feel fine, but then the next I am back at it again.
I’ve navigated systems that have torn me down constantly because of my disability and mental illnesses.
I feel tired.
What’s the point of therapy when the world keeps changing? When my internal changes aren’t reflected in the world around me?
At times like this I’m trying my best to see the light at the end of the tunnel — but I panic because I feel like the light is really just a train about to run me over the tracks.
“It’s going to be better.”
Sure, it’s going to be. But right now, it’s not. So I don’t know when the “better” starts.
“You’re not alone.”
Sure, I’m not alone. But just because people are experiencing the same rainstorm, doesn’t mean they…or I’m under the same umbrella. Maybe that umbrella can only shelter two people and the third person is left out in the cold, getting wet. Maybe that umbrella has a hole in it, dripping wet onto one person. Maybe there’s no umbrella. Maybe that rainstorm brought a flood, and I am being swept away because I’m not a strong swimmer.
I’m playing around with suicidal ideations again.
This is nothing new.
Every January seems worse than the last one.
I’m struggling with this whole existing thing.
There’s no respite, no break, no relief.
I’ve been suicidal without being depressed and depressed without being suicidal and it’s starting to feel like I’m stuck in an emotional limbo. I don’t feel like I deserve to be alive.
I feel like I’m punking myself by staying here, like I’m just teasing myself at this point.
I’m ashamed I feel the way I do — my mental illness and trauma are acting as fixed scripts with a self-destructive ending. Maybe, I’ll win best picture for best dark comedy.
I hear someone at work talk about how Pieces to Pathways is currently launching harm reduction kits — and one of them being for self-harm.
I’m now at 21 Strickland Avenue trying to pick up a kit.
I’ve struggled with self-harm my whole life.
There’s a pamphlet inside with resources and a guide on how to provide emotional self-care with myself.
Within the chart there’s a line that reads
“The struggles you are surviving are a part of your life, but they do not define who you are.”
This kit fills me with hope.
I’m not a blank service.
I am a person.
There’s a squishy textured toy of a dinosaur.
I’ve been carrying it around my jacket pocket ever since.
I’m in the basement of 180 Shaw Street. Attending this weekly program on ‘Community Building.’ It’s 5:00 PM and a prompt was suggested by a community member, for everyone to do before our actual meeting begins.
Repeat after me: “I am worthy of care.” “It’s ok to ask for help.” “It’s ok to receive help.” “I have valuable care to offer.”
Every word I try to say, feels like a lump in my throat. Someone notices it’s hard for me to say this, and we talk. For the first time in a while, I’m vulnerable with another person. I’m not being robbed of my agency — I’m opening up slowly at my own pace. They are here and listening. They are patient and they are kind. We hug. They pull out cedar from their personal collection and give me a piece, I smell it and hold it in my hand repeating the words from the prompt in my head:
“I am worthy of care.”
“It’s ok to ask for help.”
“It’s ok to receive help.”
“I have valuable care to offer.”
I’m feeling better.
When the meeting ends and before I’m about to leave, the same person from before says goodbye, and pulls me aside to say, “I’m glad you’re here.”
It’s the next day and I’m in Parkdale again. Michael asks me if I’ve eaten. He takes me to Loga’s Corner and says “You can’t work in Parkdale if you’ve never tried momos.”
I haven’t eaten a proper meal in a while.
I forgot how good food can be.
Michael tells me how much he loves his partner Leah and goes on about how great of a person she is, I’m sitting here wondering how my partner would talk about me. My relationship has fizzled and died out like a sparkler. I can sense it’s going to end soon.
I’m not the same person my partner fell in love with and it makes me sad. I’m too much for him to handle and I know he’s going to end it soon, but I’m trying to pretend it’s not going to happen. But it does a month later, before we reach our two-year anniversary.
I feel like a burden — not only to partner but to everyone. Even Michael, who so graciously bought me lunch today.
I’m at 201 Cowan Avenue.
Churches sometimes make me uncomfortable.
Although I was brought up Catholic, I felt as if I really didn’t belong in the practice of ~spirituality~.
Yet, very strangely, being upstairs organizing the closet filled with art materials and glancing at Michael on the couch replying to emails, felt organic. As if I really did belong here.
The faint smell of elders, the sound of the creaky floors and staircase, the warmth of the furnace hitting my chair as I look outside the window, to see the pigeons resting in their make-shift nest by the windowsill….all of this is something I am looking forward to daily.
This little church felt sacred to me.
I’m still not sure entirely what a safe space looks like, but I feel it.
I feel safe.
I feel safe here.
Mindfulness practices have been increasingly difficult. Being comfortable with silence is so ingrained within my own fears, concerns and confusions. I don’t like sitting with myself- acknowledging I am a whole person.
But, I’m trying.
I’m starting to realize that silence is meant to be shared and not filled. It’s bringing me comfort that I can just be with a group of people in silence. I can hear the humming from the furnace, the people walking in the outside hallways and the cars outside. I’m present within the now. I’m not necessarily sharing how I’m feeling, but within this circle although nothing is being said, it feels like we all have a mutual understanding.
The silence is magical.
In these minutes — my life is on pause.
For once, the bustling world outside us….is just outside. Another realm. In this circle, things are complicated, we are complicated, and I am complicated.
And that’s OK.
“Being OK” isn’t necessarily a celebration. It isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never feel pain again. “Being OK” can be described in five words: “I am living through this.”
What I have grasped is never to make the assumption that everyone around you except for yourself has it all figured out.
Community spaces within this time have wholeheartedly accepted me as a whole living breathing person.
In the institutionalized spaces I’ve navigated through my life, I’ve been looked down on as a Mad, Disabled, Queer Woman of Colour.
But in these spaces, I’m a person…who so happens to be a Woman of Colour who is Mad, Disabled and Queer, and that’s great!
I’ve been able to take comfort in this.
For once, fully accepting myself as a whole individual.
I’ve been able to take inventory of my feelings.
I’ve explored more supports and have begun my journey of healing.
Although it’s not linear, I’m trying.
I’m allowed to be messy.