You Are Not Alone: Maddy’s Story

Something heartbreaking happened recently in my home community in New Brunswick- it has been weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time and as such I considered writing about it earlier on, but it wasn’t my story to tell.

Now that Maddy’s family has opened up about what happened and urged that her story be shared publicly far and wide, I feel comfortable writing about Maddy today and passing along the Murphy family’s message. I’ve included her father Mike’s post below: Maddy’s Story.

I live away from home now, so I only had a handful of opportunities to spend time with Maddy, but her life has touched my own. Maddy was a kind, funny, athletic girl, and my sister’s partner. She has left behind hundreds of people who fondly remember her dorky humour, love of animals, and easygoing attitude.

Her story is important not only because of her lasting legacy of kindness and love, but also because the way she left us was so shockingly unexpected, revealing the often silent yet intensely deep depths of depression. For a brief but agonizing time we were all waiting on breathing tests and brain scans, holding on to a slim hope that she would wake up in her hospital bed and have a chance at recovery, but we lost her.

It is immensely hard for the people left behind after suicide; I feel the pain of my sister so strongly, as well as that of my parents who have seen their beautiful daughter, who battles with mental illnesses of her own, crumble in response to the terrible news. Everyone struggles with a helpless feeling and the many painful questions that have no answers. I don’t know what to say or do other than to tell my family that I love them and I’m here for them, because there’s no getting around it- this is a horrible time. This is a new and painful reality that is hard to face- my father lost his best friend Jeff to suicide, so he understands the pain, and I hope he and Mom can help my sister heal. I’m very grateful for all of the friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers and everyone else who is supporting my sister right now as she grieves. I also hope my family can feel my love from afar, as I am thinking about them, and Maddy, constantly.

I’ve also wept for the people I’ve never met who are dealing with Maddy’s loss- her mother, her father, her siblings, all of her family and friends. I’m so sorry that this happened. It was overwhelming to see the huge number of people reaching out and sharing memories of their time with Maddy- clearly she will never be forgotten in the hearts and minds of so many people.

To Maddy’s family, and to my sister, thank you for sharing Maddy’s story. My heart is with you.

At the bottom of this post I have included some links, both Canadian and international, which offer support if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or has been affected by a suicide loss. Please know you are never alone.

Be strong, everyone. Rest easy, Maddy.

Many of Maddy’s friends and loved ones have gotten tattoos in her memory- her hockey number was 81

Maddy’s Story

Via facebook post from Maddy’s father, Mike Murphy
September 23 at 12:29 PMPublic:
 
Hi Everyone,
 
As I said this will be one of the longest posts you will ever read, and it will shed some light on how my life changed on September 12, 2019. If anything, please read the last few paragraphs as this is the underlying message we all need to hear.


My beautiful, vibrant, athletic, zest for life daughter Maddy Murphy has a story to tell. You all need to hear this and share with everyone you know because it’s so important as this affects so many people out there who are struggling with issues that we do not even know. Her story goes something like this…


From the moment she was born she was special, being a twin, she was the unlucky one who endured having her twin brother Mack sitting on top of her for the full term. I will always remember how we made jokes of her bent ear, crooked neck and cone shaped head from Mack. She was just amazing with those quirky features that went back to normal overtime, they were both healthy kids born at 7lbs4oz (Maddy) & 6lbs4oz (Mack). They both had a passion for all sports and excelled at everything they tried as they grew up together.


Maddy had a niche for hockey, her skating was strong (forward skating anyway), she quickly excelled playing for KVMHA in her early years. By the time she reached the age of 12 she earned a spot on the boys Pee Wee AAA Rangers Team. Maddy had a great year with the boys, this made her more determined as she set out to prove girls can play the game just as well. Maddy & Christina Rombaut were the only girls in the EDZA Program in the KV Area at that time, and the two teammates developed their talent that year, it was the beginnings of her crazy slap shot. Once Pee Wee was over the fun really began as the first Bantam AAA girl’s hockey team named the “Hericanes”, here Maddy developed bonds with her friends that are even stronger today than ever.


On the 2nd year of playing hockey something happened that changed her life in a moment, Maddy went to bed one night and woke up a different child. Maddy developed severe Tourette’s at the age of 14 with no explanation, this was the start of her first long battle that contained components with embarrassment, shame, ridicule and DEPRESSION. Maddy had to draw deep within herself as she focused on her sports with even a more determination than ever as she excelled to the top of her game. At the age of 15 one of her highlights was to play on the U18 Team Atlantic in Calgary for the Canadian Women’s Nationals, all along still dealing with Tourette’s and the silent disease of Depression. Maddy had many weekly sessions with Natural Path Therapy to try and ease the symptoms of Tourette’s & Depression, it was a battle. I still remember her always calling Tracy and asking to get in right away to help her, at least Maddy recognized she needed help and reached for it.


As Maddy began her high school years at KVHS in grade 9, she played hockey on the girl’s team while still playing for the Hericanes, there was a lot of running around to support the amount of hockey games. Going into grade 10 Maddy had the most fortunate opportunity to attend the elite school of Rothesay Netherwood ( RNS ), here she felt so welcomed she would spend so much time forming bonds with the girls in all sports. Maddy represented RNS in Hockey, Soccer, Rugby & even Volley Ball ( didn’t like ) sporting the number 9 ( #9 rides the pine ) the girls always cheered her on. This was every parent’s dream having their child immersed in such a great atmosphere.


Maddy was so happy or, so we thought….the disease that no one is aware of and what this whole story is about appeared for the first time.
She was a kid of the times on top of her game but Maddy was holding a secret from everyone, this would weigh heavily on her Mental Health issues even more. That underling Depression finally showed itself for the first time when Maddy thought the best part of her escape was an attempt on her own life in the form of pills not only once but twice this happened. This took us all by surprise that we were dealing with a young daughter that was displaying a smile on her face & a unmistakable laugh, the whole time was hurting so much inside. Taking the pills was a cry for help, although the help was there she needed something more. Maddy spent the night in the hospital for observation and released to follow up with a clinical phycologist. She always knew she had a problem, she would often text Kelly see if time was available to see her, Kelly always made time for Maddy.

After some time, we finally found out the secret she was hiding inside, low & behold Maddy was “GAY” like what was the Big Deal, but in Maddy’s world it was a big deal. After facing years of Tourette’s causing shame, embarrassment & ridicule, fighting the invisible illness it all took a toll on her. Her grade 11 year was one of the hardest years, she was losing that drive & the will she had almost to the point where I felt she succumbed to the battle of Depression. She was bullied by someone who was supposed to be one of her closest allies but ended up being her worst nightmare. Her academic grades were being affected, sports were slipping all at the most crucial time in her life. With help from her closest friends Kristen & the gang they helped her overcome this battle and expose what was going on in Maddy’s life. These girls help her get through a rough time in her life and as a parent I was so thankful.

After the years of therapy and countless visits to alternative care, the Tourette symptoms started to subside, the “Being Out Of Closet” had closure, things seem to be going so much better. Maddy started university, working different jobs and living life with such a zest. Maddy attended UNBSJ in pursuit of her Arts Degree, we all know she wanted to go to University to keep playing the sports she loved. She worked 4 different jobs at the same time, Rockwood Golf Course full time, worked for Vito’s Restaurant part time, The Saint John Marina part time & Harbor Station part time. Everywhere she went she made an impact on people a trait Maddy obviously picked up from her mother Mindy. Everyone on the outside looking in, she looked like someone who had it all, she met a beautiful girl named Chyanne & eventually fell in love. To the typical parents this was all good, things moving forward in life, she had the beginnings of a partner in life, dogs Bauer, Bailey & Thai, cats Sophie, Buddy & Tittin. Maddy always loved animals so much, she always wanted to pet every animal she seen and bring them home.

Maddy was a genuine kid who everyone thought loved life, she was known to post inspirational quotes and party like there was no tomorrow. Maddy & Chy traveled a lot and got to experience some spontaneous trips to see concerts or get their feet buried in the sand. Maddy had such a good relationship with Chy and they had so much fun together. Her young mind lacked the experience of life & relationships as she did not realize a relationship requires work. The highs and lows of all relationships are unavoidable, but to someone battling depression as Maddy has all these years, they look at though there is no light at the end of the day. She coped with her Depression the best way she knew how.

On Sept 12, 2019 my daughter Maddy Murphy thought the best way to ease her pain was to take her own life, she was a determined girl driven to succeed in everything she tried and unfortunately succeeded in her final task. The final chapter of her story will sum it all up on what the real meaning of this whole life story is about and why we ended up with a beautiful soul taken from us way to early.

Maddy had depression & knew it, its not like she didn’t try to help herself. Maddy went to countless therapy sessions in all forms, from Acupuncture, massages, chats with phycologist. She went to the family doctor and asked for an ESA ( Emotional Support Animal ) and purchased a Golden Retriever, she named him Beckett. Maddy has a passion for animals and Beckett would be ready for her in January. Just 10 days prior to Maddy taking her life she went to the Outpatient and asked for different meds as she knew she was not feeling well, she did this all on her own without telling anyone. The disease she has been battling was taking over and no one even knew. The biggest mistake Maddy ever made was the failure to see the support that was in front of her, she had a loving family with so many friends. When dealing with this sickness she was blinded by the pain she was in. I will never figure out what was going through her mind when she decided to follow through what she thought would be the best way to ease her pain.

Here is a girl who was so outgoing, determined, and everyone thought she loved life, we were all mistaken, all of us!

Depression is the “Silent Killer” that no one sees or hears, it strikes at the most vulnerable time in your life and leaves you helpless. This is the most important thing of all, this is what needs to be shared. Maddy’s life looked so good from the outside, but this is how she deflected her pain, by being the life of the party, working as hard as she could, playing her heart out in her sports, THIS is how she coped with Depression. Look around you nobody knows what is going on in people’s lives, just when you think things are so good they may not be. This disease of the mind can be so hidden with so many outlets for it to take a hold of people one wrong move and it has you. Don’t judge people based on their life from looking on the outside, get to know that person find out who they really are. We thought we knew our own kid better than anyone and never realized we would be sitting here trying to make sense of it all.

Everyone needs to remove the Stigma of this terrible debilitating disease, its out there and everyone experiences at some point in their life, its how we can recognize it and cope with it that makes the difference. The only thing I ask is for people to recognize the “not so” obvious symptoms, as no family should ever have to live through a tragic event like this. This was a complete tragedy that made no sense at all but if a positive can come of this that would shed light on the real “Boogey Man” Maddy’s story needs to be told. Maddy was so full of life yet such a hurting little girl inside. This is the sign that people need to see, the façade she was putting on for everyone around her. If this was a movie she would deserve an Oscar, I just wish it really was……

Maddy didn’t understand the consequences of her actions but at the time dealing with this terrible disease all she could think about is to end the suffering. Her suffering has now ended, I am at peace knowing she is not suffering anymore but my suffering through this tragic loss of life has only begun. My entire family has lost a piece of our hearts that we will never get back and we are devastated. No one should ever have to bury their kids. Please keep your loved ones a little closer, talk to them freely about Depression no one should ever need to experience what we just went through.

You touched the lives of so many at such an early age, I know there was more of you to give if I had only one wish it would to turn back time and be able to say goodbye.

May you rest in peace Maddy Murphy, you will be dearly missed and never forgotten!

Madison Claire Murphy born April 8, 1998 – September 16, 2019 #MM81 live on!

Beckett will be raised by our close friends, so Maddy’s spirit will live on, Beckett will be a reminder of a lost soul that had so much to offer this world and we are so thankful for this! #YOUmatter #MENTALHEALTHMATTERS its ok to not be ok!

maddy

RESOURCES

Canada Focused/Origin

Crisis Services Canada: Call, text, or chat support, and various resources

The Lifeline Canada: Links to Canadian crisis centres

Centre for Suicide Prevention: Suicideinfo.ca

Mental Health Commission: Toolkit for people who have been impacted by a suicide loss

Lifeline Canada: Survivors of Suicide Loss – Resources and Information

Lifeline Canada: Survivors of Suicide Loss- Support Groups

Mental Health Commission: Toolkit for people who have attempted suicide

 

General/International

Befrienders Worldwide: Providing emotional support to prevent suicide

International Association for Suicide Prevention: Homepage

International Association for Suicide Prevention: Guides relating to helping someone who is suicidal in a variety of languages

Suicide Stop International Help Center: Worldwide chat options

List of United States crisis centres

List of International crisis centres

List of Worldwide emergency numbers

American Society for Suicide Prevention: I’ve Lost Someone – Resources and Information

Earth Anxiety

***Scroll down for comic if this is tldr for you***

This is not my usual geeky post, but something more personal and heavy—something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

Do you ever read the news and think, man, this sounds like the beginning of a movie about the end of the world…? I do, increasingly lately. The headlines keep coming with words and phrases like scientists warn…  tipping point… dire warning…  catastrophe… and yet the world keeps on turning and for the most part people in developed nations go about their days much the same as they always have.

I’m generally a pretty positive person who lives by whatever will be will be, and I will make the best of it while I’m here, but I’m unable to shake the anxiety that comes from worrying about the future of earth- not just for myself, but more especially for my nieces and nephew, and potential children and grandchildren.

I’m nearing 30 years old and I still don’t know if I want to have kids- part of this indecisiveness is prompted because it seems like earth is on a very swift and dangerous trajectory.

Bringing up these kinds of things often makes people defensive, but I don’t mean to imply that any particular individual should feel personally ashamed for the state of the earth or the way they live; our problems are huge and systematic. Eco-perfection is a dangerous notion that discourages people from even trying—nobody is perfect, and living a 0 impact lifestyle isn’t immediately practical, affordable, or possible for many people. Rather than being discouraged, we need to take what steps we can on personal, community, national and global levels- and fast.

I am a lucky person who lives a good life, and I’m grateful for it every day, but my visions of the not-so-distant future are becoming bleak. In the last few years I’ve implemented some more earth-friendly changes in the way I live, but I am also very aware that I have a privileged life, that I can be wasteful, that I enjoy my creature comforts. I love to travel (and have to travel if I want to visit my family across the country), I buy too many cute plastic knick-knacks, and sometimes shower longer than I should. I could go on. I live in an oil boom-town where big-industry employs many of my friends and loved ones- it’s a diverse community of people who are seizing opportunity where they can, and who can blame them?

The cost of living is climbing, taxes are relentless, and people will go where they need to and do what they have to do to make a living and provide for their families. We can and must do what we can personally to live sustainably, but we also need to make our corporations, industries, and governments listen and take BIG actions, make BIG changes- right now we’re acting too little too late. If we keep deterring action because of whataboutism, aversion to change, and all-or-nothing perfection aspirations, we’ll be really sorry in 10, 20, 30 years.

It always comes down to money, what about the economy, but what good will our money do when our systems collapse? The doomsday-preppers will be in their element for a while, and the uber-rich-and-powerful will head to their swanky underground resource shelters… and then what?


When it comes to climate change, positive feedback loops are scary. I was thinking about this and decided to make a comic about it, since I believe comics are a great way of sharing information.

It’s not fun information by any means- it’s sobering- but I’m worried that the world is sticking its head in the sand and we’re about to reach a point of no return. And so, I do the only thing I can think to do- research and draw.

P.S.- I’m no scientist; I’m explaining this through my own understanding of personal research, but check out some credible sources— there’s a lot out there, and I’ve included a few studies at the bottom of my comic.

Eco Comic watermarked

Fit Your Material to Your Audience (Not the Other Way Around…)

Sometimes you try something and it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes you look at your creations so much that you can’t see them the way others would see them. I can be really hard on myself for these kinds of things, but I am trying to learn from my mistakes and “get back on the horse” when they happen so I don’t lose confidence.

This past couple of weeks my colleague and I have been giving tours of the library and informational presentations to grade 7 students. We still have more to go- there are 7 tours in total. My manager asked if I could give the students a mini-version of my “There’s a Graphic Novel For Everyone- Yes, Even You!” presentation since the teachers had been asking about it, to which I of course said YES!!!

GRAPHICNOVELBASEstars

So each day, my colleague starts out the tour, bringing the group around both floors of the library, doing a scavenger hunt, exploring some online resources, and then she hands them over to me for the final half of their visit.

I altered my original presentation for the grade 7 students, shortening it and changing some of the language and content to be a bit more suitable for their age. I was excited to present it, but as I was going through it with the students on the first tour and they were reading out the character cards i’d designed, I really began to realize how advanced some of the vocabulary I had used was. I also noticed that some of the titles featured, while perhaps acceptable for their age group, were not really as thrilling to the grade 7 kids as they were to me. Oof, gr. 7 is a Tough crowd, I couldn’t help thinking for a moment as many of them sat staring at me with glazed faces, picking at their shoes.

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(Examples the slides from the original presentation)

On the second day, after our second tour, my colleague asked if she could talk to me- “I don’t want you to be sad…” she said kindly, “…but the teacher who organized the tours called me, and she said the presentation is too advanced for the grade 7 kids.”

Although I had also been thinking that the altered presentation might still be too in-depth, to hear it coming from the teachers gave me a sinking feeling of anxiety and reminded me suddenly of my hell practicum . 

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However, as soon as I heard the feedback the teachers had given, it became very clear to me what the problem was with my presentation- I was trying to make the kids fit into my presentation and not the other way around. I put a lot of time and effort into the first version of the presentation, including original characters and artwork, and because of my attachment to those pieces I didn’t truly consider them through the eyes of a grade 7 kid like I should have.

Sure, lots of people in other situations enjoyed the creativity of my original presentation, but it was made for an audience of adult library conference goers! Yes, there were a few kids who answered my questions eagerly and were genuinely interested in what I had to say, but those were the kids like me who already loved books in grade 7- if the point of my presentation is that comics are for everyone, I needed to convince the OTHER kids. Yes, I had already edited my presentation a bit for the classroom tours, but it was clear I had to start fresh.

I assured my colleague that I could whip up something different that would be much better suited for the grade 7’s. “Are you sure? The next tour is Monday afternoon…” (this being Friday merely half an hour before our work day was ending). Yes, I knew what I needed to do.


 

So, I put together a completely different presentation- shorter, simpler, with a bright new PowerPoint style and carefully selected title recommendations. I planned a group activity with the help of my colleague that would get the kids’ energy out a bit before they sat down again for my presentation.

I’ve gone through this new presentation and activity with 4 tour groups so far, and I’m very glad to say it is working out much better. The teachers complimented some of the changes we made to tidy up the flow of the tour, as well as the changes to my presentation about graphic novels. Overall the groups have been more engaged. More kids have started coming up to me after presentations to ask about certain books that were featured.

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I’m glad the teachers reached out with their concerns instead of letting me stumble through all of the tours- it’s not often I work with kids in that age group, and the teachers know their students’ interests and capabilities best. I’m also glad that they gave me a chance to alter the presentation and give it another try. Once again my respect for teachers grows, because although I enjoy doing the tours, being in charge of a large group of tweens for only one hour is extremely draining on me- and teachers have them all day for the whole school year!

 

 

 

Yet another open letter to Joel Tucker…

I am shocked and very upset at the news that Joel Tucker, director of Washington County Libraries, has not only stood by his initial decision to censor Hurricane library staff from making LGBTQ+ displays or wearing LGBTQ+ pins, but is now also banning LGBTQ+ displays in ALL Washington County Libraries.

He claims he wants to keep the libraries welcoming and be a neutral ground, but it seems he doesn’t understand what either of those concepts mean.

When he first censored Hurricane staff, I wrote an open letter, which I never got a reply to.

In response to the saddening progression of events, here is my second open letter (as submitted through the Washington County Library System website’s contact page):

Mr Tucker,

As I have received no reply to my initial email or open letter, I write to you once again regarding your censorship of LGBTQ+ materials in Washington County Libraries.

I am an educator,LGBTQ+ ally, and MLIS candidate. When I wrote to you a few weeks ago I thought it likely that, once you fully understood the implications of your decision regarding the Hurricane library system, and listened to valid concerns from LGBTQ+ advocates, librarians, and other communities, you’d reconsider your harmful decision. Unfortunately I see that is not the case, and that you are effectively banning ALL Washington County Libraries from displaying LGBTQ+ materials.

This is a very sad day for your libraries and communities. You say you want to “remain neutral” and “don’t want to advocate for one position over another” but there are no positions involved here- just human lives. Your decision is not neutral in the slightest- it is an act that shames, isolates, and aims to erase LGBTQ+ people’s voices and rights by pretending they don’t exist.

LGBTQ+ people exist. Displays featuring LGBTQ+ content do not show any sort of position or stance- they only show real people who exist in the real world and are not going away.

When questioned you said that you do allow displays such as Black History Month because they are “not controversial”- some day LGBTQ+ displays won’t be controversial either. Do you want to be on the wrong side of history, censoring your community from access to important resources to appease the homophobic?

If LGBTQ+ content is controversial in your communities, that shows that there are people who would benefit greatly from accessing those materials- both in the LGBTQ+ community and otherwise. Banning LGBTQ+ displays severely reduces the amount of patrons who will come into contact with those materials, and so is a form of censorship.

Are complaints of controversy more important to attend to than the lives of LGBTQ+ people? Those who don’t want to see those books can walk away, put down the book. Those who need the book may never have the chance to access it because that display never went up.

Suicide rates are disproportionately high for LGBTQ+ people because of knee-jerk decisions like this one you are making- you are making these people feel like they are not fit to be out in society.

I am seriously disheartened with your current decisions and urge you to reconsider. Libraries are not a place for censorship. Hiding your materials in the stacks to avoid controversy should be the complete opposite of your mandate.
Your current vision of a “welcoming” library is not one I ever wish to visit- I hope you will think hard about the implications of your recent decisions and reconsider them.

Thanks again for your time,
-Shauna

Note: I am once again posting this as an open letter on my blog, hidengoshauna.wordpress.com

Lose Yourself In the Magic of Artistic Creation

I’ve previously written about my hard times completing my Bachelor of Education. Yet, there were also some beautiful times amidst the struggles that I experienced during that time.

One such ray of light was a class my cohort took together, a course on teaching art to kids. In this class we explored the basics of artistic composition and art history, as well as playing around with various mediums and styles.

The class was EXTREMELY polarizing- people either loved it or hated it. Happily, I was one of the ones who loved it. Our teacher, a wise young woman named Tessa, exuded an air of calm, whimsy, and a hint of rebellion. I looked forward to her classes very much- she was flown in from Edmonton regularly to our small northern municipality.

We did things like unrolling a giant roll of white paper, circling it like a group of witchy practitioners in a chant, loosely dripping black india- ink from large brushes. Later we ripped off pieces from the resulting scroll which we turned into landscapes filled with strange creatures and bugs. I kept an additional scrap and made this cat:

For the class, each of us had a large black sketchbook, and Tessa encouraged us to draw in it at least once a day. Again, for some of my classmates this was torturous, but for me it was the first hint that art was something I needed in my life. It had been a long time since I’d carried a sketchbook around or devoted myself to playing with art, and it turned out to be very cathartic and calming for me.

One project was to create our own personal emblems through a print stamping process- I was stuck on what to design for myself, but ended up creating something that incorporates hints of sun rays, book curvature, flower and pawprint.

At times many of the class, including myself, became caught up in the particulars of their art, feeling inadequate or not ‘good enough’. I now realize though that the act of creating something is its own reward.

Playing with colour, mixing and dabbing, moulding and sketching- you don’t have to hold yourself to some imaginary standard to enjoy making art. If anything, enjoy it as an opportunity to incorporate play into your life and let the colours awaken your sight and boost your mood, regardless of what the end result is.

^ I remember making this weird slapdash thing thinking ‘wtf am I making’ but I just went along for the ride and had fun with it. I’m not particularly fond of it, but nor do I dislike it.

Another approachable way to have fun with art is to reinterpret or play with parts of a work you admire. This piece, inspired by Munch’s ‘The Scream’ aims to portray the technological fears and intense panic attacks I was experiencing back in those days.

The entire course felt different from the rest of our studies. It stands out in my mind as colourful splash amidst an ocean of grey lecture rooms. We were so used to sitting at tables diligently discussing theories and studying facts that in contrast the freedoms of learning about art in that sunny room with Tessa felt like a spiritual journey.

One day she told us to find an elevated area like a table or counter and lie on our backs. I lay there, expectant. Tessa noticed me fidgeting and staring up at the industrial roof.

She asked ‘what do you see up there that is so interesting, Shauna?’

I replied ‘Im looking for an interesting angle. We’re painting the shapes on the roof today aren’t we?’

Tessa laughed and smiled at me, ‘Oh, no! Close your eyes. We are going to do a guided meditation’. It was lovely.

Something very strange happened as the course came to an end. We did a sculpture project in which Tessa directed us to create a mask that represents a different side of us- perhaps one that we don’t show to people, one that represents the monsters pulling at us each day.

My mask design, with pinhole eyes reminiscent of a Dave McKean creation, represented my anxiety and narrow focus, something that I was struggling with increasingly at that time.

This was before my “hell practicum”, but even then I was in a bad place mentally.

Tessa advised us to take our sculptures, which represented our anguish and pain, and take them into the woods, leaving them to succumb to the rain and return to the earth.

I thought it was a beautiful idea, so on a sunny day I took my dog Tegan with me for a walk on the nature trails.

I gave my sculpture to the earth, hiding it behind a memorable tree with a spray-painted face.

A mere couple of days later I returned to the spot, fully expecting to see my sculpture still there in the bush. It hadn’t rained, and I placed it somewhere out of the eyesight of a casual passerby.

Yet, it was gone…

Even more strangely, something was left in its place. Right in the very spot that my mask once lay was pile of…Lentils? Seeds? To this day I’m not really sure, but I keep thinking that fairies made off with my statue and left me a little gift in return.

Consuming vs. Creating

I wish I could find the exact quote; I read a book once, a good few years ago (I can’t even remember what book it was). I have no recollection what the book itself was even about, but I do remember this: the author quoted someone who said something like “if you aren’t actively creating, you’re just a consumer”. That simple, harsh truth really stuck with me.

Back then I realized that, for a variety of reasons at that particular moment in my life (okay… decade of my life) I was barely creating anything. I was solely consuming in all meanings of the word- consuming food, entertainment, and material goods mindlessly. I wasn’t using my creative mind in my job, in my hobbies, or in my day to day life. I was spending way too much time scrolling endless junk articles on my phone. I’d lost my teenage penchant for writing poems and playing with visual art.

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^Ignoring my friends for my phone? >.>

I don’t want to come off as preachy- technology is super useful, and we use our cell phones for so much more than distraction seeking. Plus, it’s fun and recharging to do mindless things once in a while, and I have abandoned the term “guilty pleasure” because if you love something, why should you feel guilty about enjoying it? Speaking of which, read this awesome blog post by @biblionyan on the topic of guilty pleasures!

But that’s the thing; this “guilty pleasure” pastime of scrolling and losing myself in click-bait wasn’t actually enjoyable for me. It was just a habitual, unfulfilling distraction I automatically turned to because it was easy and gave me a hit of dopamine.

I knew I wanted to spend more time creating again and really using my free time to learn new things and develop new skills, but for some reason this mindset just didn’t stick. I’d read an inspirational book, or watch a documentary, and feel motivated- for a couple of days. Then I’d fall back into the same stale routines.

Happily, I have now gotten to a place where I am creating and living so much more again. I am writing, drawing, painting, dancing, studying, traveling, and learning new skills like public speaking. I’m seeking out new opportunities rather than hiding from them. This has come about in the last two to three years. How did I get my creative spark back? Why hadn’t I been able to reignite it sooner?

My anxiety and depression were holding me back.

I unpacked about my struggles with anxiety and depression in a blog post recently, which you can read here. Long story short, after years of battling these issues, talking to counselors, and trying lots of methods unsuccessfully to manage, I finally tried medication prescribed by my doctor, and it helps me so much. Life is exciting and fun again. I feel like the old self I once knew and lost somewhere between adolescence and adulthood.

The passion for my job at the library, which I knew was lurking inside me, finally bloomed. I worked on building up my self-confidence from my lowest low. I started seeking out new opportunities instead of waiting to be asked. I began using my creativity more in work projects, and at home.

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Feeling lifted out of the muck, I sought out new hobbies: handbell choir, dance classes, sewing, yoga, cosplay, crafting, dabbling with ukulele, volunteering at the SPCA. I even helped out with some small roles in a local web-series created by-nerds-for-nerds. Speaking of which, my dorky fangirl self, who had been hiding in a sort of shame cave, fearing judgement of others, emerged proudly once again.

I started creating visual art again, something that I had largely abandoned in the height of my anxiety and depression. Before long it became a familiar habit. I get a regular urge to create art now, and when I get into my flow several hours can pass without my realizing.

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I’ve since started sharing my art in small local galleries & markets, and online. Sharing my art and creative projects with the world brings me joy.

I think that everyone has the capacity to be creative in their own way. Sometimes we get bogged down by a narrow idea of what “creativity” means, but we can be creative in so many different ways- at our jobs, around our homes, through the clothes and accessories we wear, or in our gardens, for example. Right now I am slowly but surely working on a goal of being more creative in the kitchen with baking and cooking.

Speaking of infusing creativity into our daily lives, recently I came across this extremely interesting Ted Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee about the roots of joy.

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She presented her insights about some of the universal triggers of joy as discovered through studies of people all around the world- things like bright colours, soft shapes, fractal patterns, novelty, abundance, a feeling of light and air.

Two take-aways that stuck with me:

  1. Why,  if these playful, colourful, and creative expressions bring us joy and increase our happiness and productivity, do we design so many aspects of our homes, offices, hospitals, schools, and streets in uninspiring, predictable shapes, and shades of beige and grey?
  2. Why do we judge people who embrace colour and creativity in their own lives, in what they wear, how they decorate and so on, by labeling them as kooky, emotional, unprofessional, or “girly”?

I think we can learn so much from people who incorporate fun fearlessly into their lives (or rather, refuse to let go of it just because they are getting older). I’m fascinated by people like Iris Apfel, Yayoi Kusama and Elizabeth Sweetheart who present themselves however feels right to them, and don’t give a flying fluevog what society thinks of them for being different. Thanks to social media like Instagram, it’s easier than  ever to find unapologetically creative people and bold sartorial inspiration.

A potential struggle for being creative is the busy lives we lead- there were times when I thought “how will I possibly have time to finish this personal project”? But as with anything in life, you make time for what is important to you, what makes you happy and fulfills you. I work on art during my work breaks sometimes, and because I consider my art time important for my well-being, I will pass up invitations or events on occasion if I know I haven’t had time to paint in a while. I am lucky to work at a library where I have the option of using my creativity on a regular basis such as illustrating the Joke of the Day, making fun book displays, or drawing pictures to accompany my power-point slides!

Yes, I still check my phone, yes I still watch Netflix and play video games, but when I do I always aspire to be mindful and intentional with this use of my precious time, and avoid getting lost in zombie-like distraction. Time is the most important commodity we have, and in this often cruel and unfair world I’m privileged to be a healthy woman living in a safe country where I have the gift of free time to explore my creativity. I don’t want to squander that.

Freeing myself from depression and intense anxiety has enabled me to enjoy my life and creativity to the fullest. I am glad that the days of dragging my feet through life are behind me. After 10 years of waking up with sighs of fatigue and defeat, sighs of contentment are a welcome change. There are so many things I want to do with my life that I don’t know where to start, so I am dipping my toes into everything.

I wish I could share this wake-up call with the world (well, that’s what a blog is for, I guess) but I think that, first and foremost, it’s something that you need to truly want for yourself.

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Librarians, ghosts, mental-health & diverse characters: A Spoiler-Free Review of Archival Quality

Yesterday I was examining our library’s New Book display, as I am wont to do, and I noticed this book:

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Graphic novels are one of my passions, so poked through it and soon realized that this book was SO relevant to my interests that I had to read it immediately.

It’s a book featuring:

  • diverse characters
  • ghosts and creepiness
  • a librarian as the main character
  • reflections on mental health

So, I scarfed it down on my lunch break!

Weir and Steenz have created a compelling mystery buoyed along by a wonderfully morbid setting and interesting characters. The style of the graphic art is lovely, and for that alone I’d be glad to have this book on my shelf.

Capture33^A poignant observation from the beginning of the book: If I had to visualize it, I’d say it makes me think about the walls that protect beach towns from flooding. The water rises and then retracts, and the wall holds, but it leaves line marks. You can tell it’s been there. You know it’s coming back.

There were a few places that the story fell a bit flat (some plot points needed further explanation or illustration, and the ending felt a tad rushed to me) but overall I enjoyed this story.

I give it 4 glaring skulls out of 5!