self-sabotage.

I have been thinking a lot about self-sabotage lately.

Psychology Today describes self-sabotaging behaviour as, “Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting.”

When I’m feeling down I immediately turn to self-sabotaging behaviour. For me this behaviour looks like the following: binge watching Netflix into the wee hours of the morning which causes me to be super sleepy the next day; binge eating (and sometimes purging) the worst foods which make me feel ill and lethargic; cancelling plans with friends; avoiding family (mainly my parents), leaving my living space in a state of disarray; spending money that I do not have; skipping yoga, putting my important work on the back burner; purposely skipping my medication. The consequences of my actions are: alienating myself and feeling very lonely; being tired all the time; reactions from eating food that I am allergic to (stomach pain, nausea, etc), a spiraling mindset of “no one understands me/I’m going to be this way forever/What is the point of all of this” etc; money problems; poor work ethic.

I feel like the last few weeks have been building to today. In the back of  my mind, my dialogue has been telling me to eat healthy, get more sleep, walk more, follow my budget, and I have actually been rebelling against myself. But each day I’ve been breaking down a little more. Today, I asked the universe for help. I walked to yoga, choking back tears, ready for an emotional release on my mat. When I walked into the hot room, I had this overwhelming feeling of this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. So I practiced.

I guess I’m writing because I feel as if I put the words down on paper I can hold myself accountable. One day at a time.

“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders”
Lao Tzu

 

 

Golden Tears

 

large.

My [now ex] husband used to tell me that I was too loud.

We would be at family events, or out for dinner with friends, and I would laugh at something and he would say, SHHHHHH… you’re so loud Shannon, calm down, or can you be quieter? It’s so embarrassing.

And you know what? I would be quieter. I would stifle my laughter. I became very embarrassed of my laugh, or the volume of my voice when something excited  me. I began speaking  at a lesser volume. Only chuckling through closed lips.

I didn’t realize how much this had affected me until I read a Globe and Mail article last week called Advice for young women: Be large by Elizabeth Renzetti. The article was at the forefront of my brain all weekend as I tried to decide how I wanted to share my two cents on the subject. Then I went to a movie with my friend – a really funny movie. I laughed so loudly the whole time and she didn’t SHHHH me once. She laughed with me. We laughed together. It was lovely.

I encourage you to read the article, but I am going to post a large chunk of it here, because in trying to paraphrase, I have just realized that the writer has done a damn good job of saying what needs to be said:

Years later, while working as a newspaper reporter, I would sit across from a man who regularly shushed me. I know what you’re thinking: How am I standing here, delivering this commencement address, and not in prison for this man’s murder? It’s crazy! There were many days when I would open my mouth and he would frown at me across the desk divider and hold his finger to his lips, and I would think, I wonder if this stapler could kill a person? Or, Could this Diet Coke can be used to crack open a skull? And yet I never did. I was afraid of jail, my friends. And I was so young. I actually thought, in those days, that if I made myself smaller and quieter – if I reduced my footprint in the world – then I would be happier.

No, I lie. I didn’t think I would make myself happier. I thought I’d make the people around me happier. If only I were less lippy. If only my laugh were quieter. If only my boobs were smaller, perhaps men would stop talking to them. It would shrink the target, at least. If I had no opinions, no one could criticize me. Shrinking and hiding is an excellent defence strategy, as every prey animal knows.

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said, “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.”

I did try, for a little while, to be smaller and quieter. It never lasted, though. I was too lazy. No one tells you the effort that is required in diminishment; it takes an enormous amount of energy to constrict yourself. Sometimes I like to think of those women in history and what they could have accomplished if their lungs weren’t compressed by corsets, their feet mangled to fit into tiny doll’s shoes. How they could have shouted. How they could have run.

So what I would like to say to you young women out there is: Be large. Be as large as you’d like to be. Take up the room that is yours. Spread into every crack and corner and wide plain of this magnificent world. Sit with your legs apart on the subway until a man is forced, politely, to ask you to slide over so he can have a seat. Get the dressing on the salad. Get two dressings. Order the ribs on a first date.

Throw away your scale. Stop weighing yourself. Is there ever a reason to know your precise weight? Are you mailing yourself to China? Are you a bag of cocaine? Enjoy your mass, for one day you will be old and as shrivelled as an apple doll, and you will wonder where the rest of you went. Wear a tiny bathing suit, even if the sales clerk raises her eyebrow when you try it on. Especially if she raises her eyebrow. Wear a small dress on your large self.

Be loud, in your head and in public. In meetings, speak first and resist the temptation to preface every statement with “This may have already been brought up …” When a colleague tries to interrupt, hold up a hand and say, “I’ll be finished making my point shortly, Bob,” and try not to picture what he’d look like with a stapler embedded in his forehead.

Laugh as loudly as you’d like during movies and live performances. Do not put your hand over your mouth. You aren’t vomiting or letting the devil in. You’re laughing. It is a sign of approval, like undoing your pants after a particularly fine meal.

Take up all the space. It is your space. There will be people who try to drive you from it, with catcalls or derision, with mockery and disapproval. These things diminish them, not you. Do not allow yourself to be diminished. Expand like a flower, like a heated gas, like a beautiful rising loaf. Expand into yourself, and never apologize for it.

 

I don’t think there is anything left to say, except, please be large.

distinct.

What do you think of when you think of a woman of distinction?

I asked myself this question and the first gal that came to mind was Rupi Kaur. She is a damn good poet, and her writing moves something inside me that aches for more. Her words drip of my tongue and lips when I read them and I find myself shoving her books into the hands of any friends I can recruit to read.

My mind also wandered over to Rosa Parks – a woman who was fierce and fearless, who stood up for what she believed in no matter the consequence.

I think of women in politics, women who stand up and march for feminism, women who say ME TOO and make public appearances to show the world that they won’t take anymore bullshit.

I would never in a million years think that I am a woman of distinction.

But someone did. She looked at me and watched as I pulled myself out of a dark hole. When I was doing whatever I could to make it from one day to the next, she looked at me and thought, hey, that’s pretty brave. So brave, in fact, that she nominated me for an award. The YWCA’s 2018 Women of Distinction in the category of Wellness, Sport & Recreation.

Me.

Whoa.

I feel like this award would be difficult to accept on a regular day, but toss in a lifetime of abandonment and self-worth issues and I was in way over my head. But not because I felt like I didn’t deserve it. No. Because for the first time in my life, I felt like I did.

(Double whoa.)

I watched eleven other AMAZING women receive awards at the ceremony yesterday evening, and I WAS AMONG THEM. Beautiful stories were told about building community, about creating safe spaces for women and girls to talk and laugh and cry and be themselves. There was laughter and tears (most of them mine) and I was just in awe the entire fucking time. And then my name was called. Mine. Shannon Butt. I got to accept this award with 11 other incredible women because I TOO AM AN INCREDIBLE WOMAN. How cool is that?

The past few months have been hard. Winter often makes me feel blue, and I have been tired. I have felt uninspired and stuck. But lately there has been a little more sunshine, the snow is melting, and the birds come out to sing. Last nights ceremony re-lit a fire in the very core of my being that had been fading fast.

I am a Women of Distinction.
Look out, Wonder Woman.

a letter to myself

About a month ago I had a really incredible day. One of those days where life just works out and the pieces feel like they’re falling into place. I remember thinking to myself, hey self, you’re pretty fucking rad. Look at all this cool stuff you’ve done, and these beautiful things you create, and no one did it but you. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself to say the least. While I was having this build-me-up-buttercup chat with myself, another thought occurred, hey self, you did all this while you’ve been single. You don’t need a partner to complete you, because you complete you.

So I wrote this in my journal, and I thought I’d share.

A letter to Shannon who is going through a break-up:

Yeah, it fucking hurts like hell. You’re probably thinking, “I can’t live without him”, or “our future together was planned out, what am I going to do now?”.  I’m not telling you not to feel those feelings. Own them. Break something. Scream into your pillow. Cry until your face turns blue, and then… breathe. Just open your mouth and suck in all the air your lungs will allow and then push that air out. Sight it out. LOUD. I don’t care where you are, just sigh.

Okay. Now you’ve taken a breath. Ready?

You’ve gone through this before. You have given your heart to a boy and he was greedy and took not only your heart but also your body and soul. You didn’t know any better. You thought he was giving the same back to you.

So you stepped the fuck up and took it all back. It was so broken, but you rebuilt it. YOU REBUILT IT. 

And you did that because you are amazing. 

So here you are, crying break-up tears. Maybe for the last time, maybe not. Maybe you thought the last time was the last time. Maybe you hoped it was.

Well I am here to tell you hoping and wishing do not matter here. Here is what matters:

You are strong as fuck. You took steps of courage. No, LEAPS of courage. You leapt and bound across the scariest, darkest places. Actually, sometimes you took a detour through the dark places. You thought that was where you belonged. You didn’t know how to get back out. But you did. You dove into yourself. Instead of looking for a way out, you looked for a way in. Inside. To the very deepest depths of you.

You swam across oceans; you ran across bridges that you thought would break, but they didn’t. Because as you ran across those bridges courage poured from your feet and strengthened the track. As you swam across the oceans your salty tears built a boat, and you found your way.

I guess my point is this. You can go through a thousand more break-ups, and it will still be okay. It won’t be easy, but it will be okay.

Why?

Because you’re you. 

Because you have learned so much about yourself and now, the only person who you will give your mind, body, and soul to is you. Any person that comes close will know that you take care of yourself first. 

If, along the way, you forget that, that’s okay too. It happens. So read this letter again.

If nothing else, remember this: You are so beautiful. You are good. You are perfect just the way you are, and you could use some work. You are smart. You are kind. You are truly lovely. 

Love, 
Single Shannon

singing the winter blues.

Here we are in November… The weather gets a little cooler each day, forcing you to dig out your winter scarves and sweaters, and bundle before you leave the house; the trees are almost bare, shedding the last of their colourful fall foliage; the days are getting shorter – less daylight as we move through the motions of each day. I find the first few days like this are so refreshing – the cool air is crisp in my lungs as I breathe in, and it feels good to hide inside the house and wrap up under a blanket on the couch.

For a couple weeks it almost felt dream-like as I would pile on the layers, grab a hot beverage, and take a stroll with my pup. But now, each day when I wake up it takes longer for the sun to appear, and each day when I go home the sky is grey and becomes dark so quickly. My energy is depleted, small tasks seem absolutely monstrous, truthfully I can’t make it through the day without a nap, and my motivation has disappeared just as quickly as the warm weather.

I am singing the winter blues. It’s a song that plays around the same time each year, and though it is very unwelcomed, it lingers around for months. That song is titled Seasonal Affective Disorder.

While it’s estimated that 6% of the population is diagnosed with severe SAD, another 15% will experience symptoms, and let’s be realistic – a change in weather can affect just about anyone. Less sunlight will change the internal clock of the body, and also drop serotonin and melatonin levels which keep our mood and sleep patterns in check. You might experience a change in appetite, weight gain, over sleeping, low energy, anxiety, or even an increased intake of toxic substances such as alcohol or smoking.

If you are someone who sings the winter blues, there are steps you can take to be proactive and change the tune of the coming season.

1 – Brighten up your environment: Make your space a little brighter by opening up the curtains during the day, even if it’s a little overcast outside. If the grey weather really gets you down, you might consider investing in a Light Therapy Light Box. They mimic natural light, and you can definitely find one that won’t break the bank. You also might want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement during these next few months, but please consult with your doctor before doing so.

2 – Wake up with the sun: If you can begin to get up with the sun, you will have more daylight hours in your day. Sleeping in hours past sunrise will only bring you closer to sundown. Try setting your alarm for day break, or even shortly after to feel the all-day effects of natural light.

3 – Take care of your mind and body: Often times when we are tired, it is easy to skip the gym, opt for fast food, and maybe even sleep in. Exercise when you can, meditate, go to a yoga class, or just take part in an activity you enjoy, whether that is playing guitar, painting, or play time with a pet. Take the time to nurture yourself.

Most importantly, I encourage you to be open, honest, and talk about your feelings. It is okay to feel tired, it is okay to feel anxious, or agitated. It is all okay. Just talk about it. Holding it in will only make for a longer winter. Shout it from the rooftops, and perhaps the winter blues won’t be the song you’re singing anymore.

a dream of suicide.

*warning – post may be triggering

I have been sleeping a lot better lately.  I still have far too vivid dreams on a regular basis, but for the most part they are just nonsense, or enjoyable, or I don’t really remember them. This is quite a change from a few months ago when I could barely fall asleep, and then once asleep my nightmares were so frightening that I would wake up soaked in sweat, shaking, and crying. It has been a very welcomed change.

Last night I dreamed of suicide. It was one of those dreams that was so powerful, I woke up and for a split second thought it was real. I had to sit up and check my surroundings, confirm I was still, indeed, alive, and take a big deep breath in, just to make sure.

In my dream I had decided to end my life. I sat down at my desk and began writing to all my loved ones…. “Dad, I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad. It’s better this way”…”Sister, I love you so much. You are such a good Mom. I’m sorry my niece won’t get to know me. Please tell her only the good things” …and so on.

I then sat outside under a tree, and cut my wrists.

I woke up gasping for air, tears streaming down my face, my fingertips searching each wrist for signs of harm. Nothing. I was in my warm bed, safe, with a furry dog to greet me with morning kisses.

But it felt so real. All morning I’ve had a tightness in my chest that I can’t breathe away. It’s starting to become a headache forming at the base of my skull and causing my shoulders to ache.  And, I can’t stop crying.

Let me be very clear here – I do not want to end my life. This was just a dream, it is not a reflection of how I am feeling at this moment. But I guess the thought never really completely goes away. It’s a fight every day to choose the path of contentment and health and family and all that good stuff that makes me want to live. And each day those choices get easier.

But every once in a while, I dream of suicide.

what if?

I haven’t been here for a while.

Truth is, I haven’t known what to say. Things are mostly good. I’m having more ups than downs. I’m getting healthy physically, and mentally. I’m taking part in more social gatherings, putting myself out there and meeting new people. I’ve begun taking music lessons and  I read a lot. Everyone keeps telling me, “you’re on the right path!”, or “look how far you’ve come since February!”.  Is that a benchmark I’ve been expected to hit? What if now people have expectations of me that I can’t fulfill? What if I’m taking too long to “get better’? What if I take on too much and I crash again? What if I have a bad day and it leads into a bad week, and then a bad month and the next thing I know I’m crying on my kitchen floor telling my Dad to take me to the hospital again?

Whoa.

It’s so easy to spiral. What-ifs can be dangerous – but what if…

What if other peoples’ expectations of me don’t matter and from now on I only worry about fulfilling myself? What if I give myself permission to take as long as I need to get better? OR, what if “Getting Better” is not a goal to hit, yet just a pathway I am currently walking. It’s not the destination, but the journey. What if I just take on what I feel I can handle, and say no thanks to what I feel I am not ready to take on. What if I have a bad day? Then I have a bad day – it’s allowed, I’m human. What if I have a bad week? Then I’ll talk to those around me who provide love and support, and I’ll go to a yoga class.

What if we change the context of our what-ifs?

Will you try something with me? Over the  next week, challenge your what-ifs.

“What if I mess up at this work presentation?” What if you rock it?
“What if I can’t do it because of my anxiety?” What if you breathe first and practice calming techniques?
“What if my friend is mad at me because I haven’t called in a while?” What if your friend just wants to hear from you?

This is my goal for the week.
We can do it together.

Dear Friend.

Last week a good friend asked me to write a few words of encouragement for her friend. You see, her friend will be attending the 12 week therapy program at Cambridge Memorial Hospital that I attended in February. My friend asked if there was anything I could offer this girl on her journey.

I wrote her the following letter.

 

Dear friend,

 

You are braver than you think and stronger than you know. You’ve probably heard that 100 times by now, but people keep saying it because it’s true.

 

It is not easy to live in a brain that tries to sabotage your every happiness. A brain that drains you of your energy and makes you sleep all day. A brain that causes you to cry until your eyes hurt and your face is raw.
I’m going to ask a favour of you: please give this program everything you have. Every ounce of energy left in your body, every benefit of every doubt you think of, because this program saved my life.
There is no magic pill. All the medications, all the money, all the time in the world cannot heal you. Only you can heal you. It’s hard work and takes balance but it’s worth it. Take advantage of the therapists. Do the homework. Pay attention in lectures. Practice your newly learned skills. They are worth more than gold.
Exercise. Eat healthy. Cut negative people out of your life and surround yourself with positivity. Find a hobby that is not watching tv or drinking alcohol. Go to coffee shops. Tell someone you love them. Wake up every morning and say out loud five things you are grateful for and do the same thing before you go to bed. Look in the mirror, say out loud one thing you love about yourself. Do this every day. Set goals, start small. Make your bed every morning. Celebrate your achievements.
Healing is beautiful. Just when you think your life is over, you transform. Embrace it. It’s scary as hell, but 12 weeks from now you won’t recognize the person who started this journey.
Fall in love with yourself.
Above all, know that you are not alone. I am here. Another wounded human scarred but hopeful. And guess what? There are more of us out there than we know.
Your mental health journey does not define who you are, but it will help shape who you become.
Soak it all in.
Love the journey.
It all starts here, with you.
I wanted to share this letter because it is not just for one person. This letter is for EVERYONE – whether or not you struggle with mental health. Maybe not the part about the 12 week program, but everything else applies to YOU.
Life is hard. Days are long, things get messy, and sometimes it just takes everything inside of us to make it until bed time. But that is okay. Take time for yourself, and keep going.
Start with gratitude.
I am grateful for every single one of you taking the time to read this post.
Love and Light,
Shannon

when there are no words.

I have been feeling a loss of words lately. I start blog posts, become frustrated easily, and don’t bother to post.

I feel as though I can’t explain what has been going through my head lately. It isn’t bad – it’s different. It’s an urge to be healthier. To choose positivity. To be content. But there is still an underlying darkness that creeps in, trying to sabotage my new way of thinking. I understand that scientifically that these are old neuro pathways that are used to reacting a certain way and want to take over from the new neuro pathways that I have been working so hard to develop over the last six months. But when you’re mid panic attack, that definitely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It’s more like…oh my god, this is happening again, why can’t I just be happy, fuck.

It’s okay to feel a loss of words. It’s okay if you can’t explain your feelings.

Take a breath with me.

Take a breath for me.

I’ll take a breath for you.

start.

“Start now.
Start where you are.
Start with fear.
Start with pain.
Start with doubt.
Start with hands shaking, voice trembling.
But start.
Start and don’t stop.
Start where you are, with what you have.
Just…start.”
-ijeoma umebinyuo

I taught my first yoga class yesterday, and I opened with this quote.

I’ve been sitting here staring at this screen for twenty minutes. What else is there to say? I opened with a quote. And I started. I didn’t stop. And it was beautiful.

So, start.