Welcome 2017…Burn 2016 to the Ground

20161221_170835Without a doubt, 2016 has been one of the worst years of my life.  I survived a massive, never ending family law trial.  My psychiatric records were released to my abuser.  My privacy was breached again and again.  My children’s privacy was destroyed again and again.  By the end of the court process I felt like I had only shards of trust left in anything.  My belief in justice was shaken to pieces.  My trust in the system to protect my family was gone.  As I entered into this Christmas season, I felt like believing in justice for my children was akin to believing in Santa Claus.  A myth, a tale told to pacify young infants.  There is no justice here.  Certainly not in 2016, and certainly not for my family.

I’ve been waiting patiently for 2016 to end.  On the Winter Solstice I burned a fire with my children, symbolizing the end of the year and welcoming back the light of the new year.  An end to the darkness and inviting the brighter days leading to summer.  In the fire I burnt away my fears and dark thoughts from 2016, leaving behind those bad memories and making space for positive karma for 2017.

I am a superstitious person.  Despite my scientific, thoughtful, highly rational mind…my obsessive compulsive nature leads me to have some strange superstitious, ritualistic thoughts.   Some of them are not quite spiritual, but take on an element of obsession.  I believe in signs.  I want to believe that things happen for a reason, even if we can’t see what that reason is.  There is no reason to explain the things I have endured in 2016.  None at all, except for oppression, broken systems, delays, inadequacies and incompetent workers.  No reasons that can satisfy me, or any reasonable person.  But at the end of the year, there are still many things to be grateful for.

I believe that I am a stronger person than anyone should ever have to be.  My children are also stronger than children should have to be.  I suppose in a way, this is something to be grateful for.  Though I almost cry out in pain at times, watching the innocent 2 year old children of my friends’, as they laugh and play with very little cares in the world.  I want that for my children again.  I miss their baby smiles and laughter.  It breaks my heart that they are no longer innocent, though they are still so young.  But they are strong and they are kind and they believe in justice, with a fierceness that has replaced their childhood innocence.  For that I am proud and grateful.

Things I am Grateful for at the start of 2017:

  1. A safe home that I love
  2. Wonderful caring neighbors and a beautiful neighborhood
  3. Enough money to buy the things I need for my family
  4. A job that allows me to help others, be challenged, learn and give back to my community
  5. My coworkers who I consider friends and who have supported me and helped me grow
  6. My family for always supporting me
  7. My children for giving me a reason to keep living and for being wonderful tiny humans
  8. My friends across the world, online and in real life, text and in person
  9. The rainbow community for supporting us and loving us and showing us where we belong
  10. For my citizenship and for this amazing, safe country I had the privilege of being born in
  11. For coffee, for tea, for coffee shops, for hot chocolate and for hot drinks everywhere
  12. For all the people I’ve met through my work, the people I’ve helped and everything I’ve learned from them this year
  13. For my car, for getting me and my family everywhere I need to go
  14. For my health, though it’s not perfect, I have a lot of ability
  15. For fresh air, for sunshine, for the woods, for nature, for being outside
  16. For the internet, cell phones and the ability to stay in touch
  17. For this blog, the ability to write and being able to share my experience with so many

Thank you all readers, for following my blog, for sharing it, for reading and commenting.  I wish you all the best for a peaceful, happy and healthy new year in 2017.  Be well.  I hope to see you all here in the New Year!

How to Spot & Escape a Narcissist

This blog is amazing!

Neurodivergent Rebel

Narcissists hide in plain sight. They can be cunning and charming. Most of the time you can’t spot a narcissist unless you get to know their motives. Narcissists are dangerous master manipulators.

How to Spot a Narcissist 

Narcissists are self focused. – Narcissists always think of themselves first and don’t care about the feeling and comfort of others. They tell stories about themselves. Often the stories will paint the narcissist as either a hero or a victim. The narcissist is never wrong and they always paint themselves in a positive light.

Gaslighting – Narcissists are master manipulators. Gaslighting is emotional abuse. A narcissistic partner may that causes  you to question your own instincts, judgement, and even sanity. A narcissist wants the power to control you. When you lose your ability to trust in your own perceptions, it becomes easy for the narcissist to get you to do the things they want.

Narcissists play the victim.

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Not really accommodating.


It’s frustrating trying to explain invisible disabilities to people who don’t understand disability.

It’s even more frustrating when people, places or organizations which claim to specifically accommodate or treat folks living with a specific disability or illness, don’t even remotely accommodate the symptoms of that condition.

I live with chronic, complex PTSD which has remained somewhat unresponsive to treatment.  I consider it a disability because for me, at this time, it appears to be permanent and it impacts my life on a daily basis.  It changes the way I think, act and complete tasks of daily living.  It also changes on a daily basis, which means some days I am quite simply more “able” than other days.

I recently sought alternative treatment at a clinic which claims to specifically treat people with PTSD.   This is their main focus is on helping clients with PTSD that has not responded to psychiatric medicine.

Logically, I thought that this clinic would be expert at accommodating the disability of PTSD.  Makes sense right?

I had a pretty good first experience there.  The doctor and the counselor I met with were helpful.   But the receptionist…not so much.

I had some issues with the treatment that was prescribed.  This was nobody’s fault.  But I needed to make another appointment to change the plan, shortly after the first appointment and sooner than planned.

To someone without PTSD and extreme anxiety this wouldn’t have been a big deal.  Just call, re-book the appointment and move forward.

But for me, it was a nightmare.

I felt like it was my fault.  I’d chosen the wrong plan to begin with.  They were going to think I was crazy for changing my mind.  They weren’t going to believe me about the side effects.  They were going to question me.  I felt embarrassed.  I felt ashamed.  I avoided making the call.  I invented stories in my head about how bad it would be going back. I felt angry that the plan hadn’t worked out.

I avoided calling the secretary and emailed the counselor.   He had told me I could contact him if I  had any issues and had seemed approachable.

Person with PTSD is going to choose to approach the least threatening person.  Person with PTSD (me) is going to choose email rather than speak to a person on the phone if they feel embarrassed.  The phone sometimes seems extremely intimidating to me.  What if I get nervous and say the wrong thing?  What if they say something that upsets me?  With email I can plan what I’m going to say and the response.  There is time to react calmly and clearly.

The secretary called me back.  I missed the call.

Then I avoided calling her back.  Anxiety was making the decision.

She called me again.  I missed the call.

I avoided calling her back.  Anxiety was making the decision.

My kids got sick, I had a stressful week at work, I procrastinated calling her back. I was busy with other things.  But I was also working through the anxiety, getting myself to a place where I felt I could make the call.

She left me three messages and probably about 3 weeks went by.

Today I called her back, expecting to apologize for not returning the call sooner, make an excuse about my kids being sick and then re-book my appointment.

But receptionist was cold and very abrupt.

You waited too long to call me back.  There are no more appointments.

I was confused.  I asked her until when.

Until the new year

I said that was no problem, could she book me in for January.

I don’t have the schedule for January

Um….okay…I was getting really anxious by this point.  I asked her to call me back in January and ended the call.

When I got off the call I was frustrated and angry.  I’d been anxious to return the call because I was afraid of being judged for needing to re-book the appointment in the first place.  I waited because of anxiety.  I waited because I felt stupid and I was judging myself.  The anxiety was related to my PTSD and anxiety is a common symptom of PTSD.  PTSD is the reason I was seeking the treatment in the first place.

I told myself the fear of being judged was irrational and that the clinic staff would understand and assist me in booking an appointment because they were there to help me.  I told myself that they would understand that someone with PTSD might be anxious about making a call and thus might procrastinate.  They might understand that someone could have a few rough weeks and not return a call.  I reassured myself.

I made the call.

But it turns out my anxiety wasn’t misplaced.  I wasn’t able to re-book my appointment.  They were annoyed that I didn’t call back right away.  And I’m now seriously questioning how well that receptionist knows how to accommodate someone living with the disability of PTSD.

It’s not about the fact that there was no appointment until January.  I’m fine with that.  I procrastinated, I wasn’t expecting to see the doctor tomorrow.  But the phone call could have been handled differently:

I’m sorry to hear your kids have been sick and you weren’t able to return my call.  I’m glad I have you on the phone now.  Unfortunately our appointment slots are booked up until after the holiday break, but can I fit you in for the New Year?”

Another option might be

It sounds like getting phone messages and returning calls is difficult for you, and email is easier.  Sometimes people with PTSD find calls difficult.  Don’t worry, we can book your appointments over email as an accommodation.  Let me book you in for January.

This post isn’t about that one receptionist and this one situation.  This post is about not making assumptions about why people behave the way they do. Especially if you work in an organization providing health care services!

It’s also about realizing that accommodation for people with disabilities means more than just building a ramp (though ramps are needed too, I’m not knocking ramps!).  It means realizing that disabilities impact different people in different ways.   Accommodation isn’t always something complicated or expensive.  Sometimes it could be as simple as using email as a way of communicating, or offering choices for methods of booking appointments or receiving information.  Accommodation starts with realizing that not everyone lives life the same way you do.  We all have different abilities and that’s okay.

December 6th -National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women


On December 6, 1989,  fourteen female engineering students were murdered at school in Montreal.  They were murdered because they were women and their murders were extreme acts of gender based violence.

Just last week, on December 1, 2016, a Toronto doctor was murdered by her physician husband.  Someone posted something on facebook, commenting that this murderer must be “sick,” or “mentally ill,” and I was angry.

Violence against women, domestic violence, and gender based violence that escalates to femicide is not caused by seriously mentally ill men.  That’s a myth and it’s a dangerous one which overlooks the very real structural and societal causes of violence against women.  Causes such as patriarchy, rape culture, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and other types of oppression and inequality that impact women and gender non-conforming folks.  Mentally ill and other folks with disabilities are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of it.

Tomorrow night I will be attending a vigil to remember those women and gender non-conforming folks who have lost their lives as result of gender based violence.  In particular, the victims of the Montreal massacre.

So many times over the past few  years,  when I’ve heard news stories about domestic violence escalating to murder, I’ve thought to myself: that could be me.  That could be me.  What makes me different from those women?  What is it that made that particular man, escalate his violence in that particular way, on that day?   Statistics show that women are most at risk of being killed around the time when they are planning to leave the perpetrator, or just after leaving.  I often wonder what would it take to make my ex snap?  What does it take for someone to cross a line between sexual assault, and murder?   How thin is that line?  How safe am I really?

I could be that woman.   I am that woman.

Truth be told, a lot of us could be that woman.  And that’s not a reality that many of us want to face.  Instead we talk about how the murderer must be seriously mentally ill, a crazy person, someone that must be fundamentally different from us, different from our neighbour, our doctor, our religious leader, our school teachers, our lawyers, our engineers and our bankers.  We think of the victims as misfits, as street folks, addicts, people who are “different” or somehow to blame.

But the honest truth is that the victims of domestic violence are all around us.  They are you, they are  me and they didn’t do anything to provoke the violence.

The perpetrators are all around us too.  They are sitting next to you in the cubicle beside you at work, they just served you at the restaurant you ate lunch at.

Gender based violence is everywhere and we all have a responsibility to look for the signs, see the signs, believe survivors, speak out, speak up, ask questions, don’t turn our backs on it and remember those who have lost their lives.   Remember them tomorrow on December 6th, say the names of those who have lost their lives, and remember them every day.

I would also like to remember my friends who have not survived their battles with PTSD due to gender based sexual violence.  Suicide as a direct result of PTSD that was caused by repeated and horrific sexual assault is akin to slow murder by the perpetrator.  My friends were some of the bravest people I have ever known and they were survivors even though they did not survive.

On December 6th, I will remember you.

The 14 women murdered at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal were:

Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte

It’s rude to stare.


I’m not speaking for all people with disability here, there are my own opinions.  Trigger warning for description of self harm

I identify as a person with disabilities.  The thing is, that I live in an interesting position where some of the time I have the privilege of “passing” as a non-disabled person and some of the time, it’s obviously visible that I’m different, strange, mad, crazy, mentally ill, or whatever label people might want to put on my experience.

I experience my PTSD as a chronic disability rather than an illness.  It’s something I live with and cope with and I don’t expect it to suddenly be cured or disappear.  I don’t consider myself “sick” but I’m not really well either.

One of the ways in which I coped with having undiagnosed and improperly treated PTSD was to cut myself.  I cut myself for many years of my life.  Because I had severe adverse effects from psychiatric medications I cut myself deeply, chaotically and severely.  As a result I have visible scars over the majority of my body.   These scars are covered by long sleeves and long pants, but can be seen wearing any other type of clothing.

I have a number of close friends who also identify as having disabilities, and I work in a field where I have read, heard about and studied oppression related to disability.  What I want to talk about is the situation I encountered last night.  The one in which able-bodied, sane, or well people feel the need to STARE at, or comment on, disabled bodies.   The staring makes me feel instantly like a circus freak, instantly judged, instantly “less than” and instantly oppressed.

I was out at the dance last night and I’d invited along a woman I’ve met up with a few times.   It’s been winter weather so this was the first time she’d seen me in a short sleeved shirt.  I hadn’t mentioned the self harm to her.  I had mentioned my past abusive relationship.   When I arrived, I noticed her staring at my arms. I noticed her staring at them on and off over the course of the evening.  She never said anything about them, just looked at them awkwardly.

I was already struggling yesterday.  I was having a lot of body dysphoria and feeling self conscious and negative about my body.  I’d been at a party earlier and I was hot in my sweater but I didn’t want people looking at my arms, so I left it on.  Often I forget about my scars now, but some days I’m hyper sensitive because I don’t want to risk being under the “judgemental gaze” of able-bodied or sane folks.

Here’s what I wish folks would do when they notice my scars:

  1.  You’ve noticed my scars.  You are curious. I get it. But this isn’t about you.  Please don’t stare.  I’m not a circus freak.
  2. If you must ask questions about it, if possible wait until a quite private moment and then politely ask me what you want to know.
  3. If you absolutely have to know.  Please don’t stare.  I’d rather you ask me a question about what you want to know, even in a public place than continue to stare or sneak glances at me.  Believe me  I SEE YOU LOOKING AT THEM.  You aren’t getting away with looking at them subtly.  In general, people with visible disabilities are vigilant to noticing people staring at them.
  4. Remember, I’m still the same person I was before you noticed the scars. Nothing has really changed.  Your reaction to my scars is more about you, than it is about me.  If you are seeing the scars, it means I am comfortable showing them.  You are the one who is making the situation uncomfortable by awkwardly staring at me!

And here is a list of answers to some commonly asked questions about my scars.  Maybe this will help you to not ask these questions to other people who self injure, maybe it will help others understand a bit better.  To be fully honest, people rarely ask me questions about my scars.  I sometimes wish they did ask me.  I’d rather be asked questions than be stared at and be left wondering what the person was thinking.  But there are some common questions and questions I imagine folks have.

  1.  Do they hurt?  No, most of them don’t hurt.  There are a few that didn’t heal properly or weren’t stitched properly that do hurt.  Some of them itch or the skin pulls at times which can be uncomfortable.  For the most part they just feel the same as the rest of my skin.
  2.  Can I touch them? No!  That’s fucking creepy.  This is a trigger for me, because one of my abusers asked that question.  I don’t think it’s cool, cute, fun or sexy to have them touched specifically during intimacy.  Please just treat them as part of the rest of my skin.
  3. What happened to you?  They are scars from self inflicted injuries, mainly cutting.  I hurt myself as a way of coping with ongoing sexual and emotional abuse over a period of time in my life.  I also had serious adverse reactions to psychiatric medication, especially SSRI anti-depressants which gave me obsessive self destructive thoughts and impulses over a 4 year period of time.  I was told repeatedly that “doctors don’t give you medication to make you sick”
  4. Did you have to get stitches?  Yes.  Lots of them.
  5. Did it hurt?  Sometimes.  But a lot of the time when I was harming myself I was disassociating and I didn’t feel the pain.  A lot of the time I was doing it I was numb and detached and felt very little.  It hurt a lot AFTER and when it was healing, when the disassociation wore off.
  6.  Do you regret it? Sometimes.  It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t have the scars.  To be honest the scars trigger me sometimes which is why I often used to hide them.  They bring back bad memories of times I’d rather forget.  But they are a part of me as well, a part of my story and a part of what I’ve survived.
  7.  What is the worst part about having self harm scars?  The worst part is the judgement I get when seeking non-psychiatric medical care.  So many times doctors have seen the scars and treated me differently.  They often make assumptions about me that are incorrect.  They assume I’m drug seeking, an addict, or that I’m unstable, lying, attention seeking, borderline etc.  I notice that doctors have the worst misconceptions about self harm.   Doctors often assume I’m LESS able than I actually am, and at times I struggle to receive appropriate medical care.  There is a great deal of stigma attached to having a mental health disability, especially related to self injury.

The take home message is simple:

Don’t stare at people whose bodies may be different than yours.

If you must ask questions, do so politely and privately if possible.  Ideally, don’t ask a lot of questions of complete strangers.  Questions as part of a friendship come across completely differently and can be more acceptable as a part of getting to know someone over time.

I notice you staring at me, and I don’t interpret it as polite concern.  I interpret it as intense othering.

I was just there for the dance.