An Open Letter to My Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

You know, our relationship has always been a funny one. For a long time, I believed that you were all in my head. I mean, after all, you are; but that doesn’t make you any less real.

We’ve had a rocky relationship the whole time I’ve known you, and how long has it been now? 2 years? 5 years? Or perhaps, have you been around since the day I could form a conscious thought?

I think you have been.

You hid from me for a long time though. But one day you just decided: I’m going to make Carole notice me, and I’m going to make her life an absolute hell.

The funny thing is you did it in a way that made me feel like I was going crazy. It was small things at first, like overthinking and overanalyzing. Your voice was quiet, discreet, and small. You snuck into my head, whispering softly in my ear.

“Did you lock the door?”

I did. I did every time. But I’d think about it all day. What if I was responsible for someone robbing my family? What if they killed someone who was at home?

Why didn’t I realize how irrational you were being?

“Why did you say that? They probably hate you now. Everyone hates you.”

You made me afraid to talk to anyone. You scared me into thinking I was pathetic and that no one would ever like me.

You were wrong. So very wrong. But I couldn’t see that. I couldn’t hear anyone telling me otherwise. You told me that they were lying and that the truth was written all over everyone’s actions.

You lied to me.

And you didn’t stop there. You crept into every part of my life, filling in the ripples of my brain and flooding my veins with fear and irrationality. You took hold of my perfectionism and pushed me to work myself half to death. You promised I would feel better if I just did everything right. That people would love me more if I got good grades, if I looked a certain way, if I was nice.

“You’ll never be enough Carole.”

But I’m not perfect, and I never could be.

When I noticed you, things got worse. Did I offend you by discovering you hiding out in my brain? When I tried to evict you, did it hurt your ego? Did it hurt you that I didn’t want you anymore? Were you going to be lonely without me?

For a long time, you’ve ruined my life. You kept me awake at night, staring at the ceiling, making me relive my day over and over again, begging me to listen and critiquing everything I said and did. I remember feeling so lifeless. The hazy yellow light from the lamp post outside my window would streak through the shutters and onto my face, right into my eyes, but all I could see was darkness.

I remember closing my eyes and seeing a warped reality. I remember you asking me why I was such a failure and why was I like this? 

I didn’t have an answer.

You made me feel like I had nowhere to go. You would wake me up with a tight grip around my throat, taking a hammer to my heart, and laughing while my lungs screamed and screamed.

But you’re a smooth talker Anxiety. I would beg you, I pleaded with you to stop. I walked ditches into the floor, I tapped my fingers against the walls until my nails hurt, I repeated to myself over and over again to “stop stop stop”, and you told me that this was all my fault. You weren’t doing anything to me.

And I believed you for so long.

I believed you when I would sit quietly and my mind would seize up with dread for no reason at all. I believed you when you convinced me I would die if I left my bed in the morning. I believed you when you pumped my lungs until I was heaving from hyperventilating. I believed you when I was scrambling to hide tears with my shirtsleeves.

And you know, sometimes I still believe you. There are weeks when you handcuff me by the arm and tag along with me all day. There are days when you set up shop in my skull and hand out doubt, fear, and tears to my naive brain. There are hours when you sit beside me on the floor while I cry and try to convince me everything is my fault in that sick twisted way of yours. There are minutes and moments I can never get back because all of my focus was on you.

But you are no friend to me, Anxiety. That much I’ve known for a long time. I don’t think I can ever fully let you go, and you know this very well. So for now, we have to live with each other, fighting to occupy this brain of mine. But you don’t control me. You’ve taken the reigns from me enough times, and I know there will be days when you grab them from my hands when I least expect it. But I am not done fighting with you. You will not wear me down. The thing is Anxiety, you underestimate just how strong I am.

And that was your first mistake.

Love,

Carole Lynn

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The Day After – A Short Written Piece

The Day After

By Carole Palattao

She sat, the next day, at the kitchen table. The light whispered through the tissue paper curtains, while silence hummed in her ears. The cold morning air tickled the tip of her nose, as she sipped on warm milk and ate cereal out of a little white bowl. It was strange, she thought, how normal everything felt, there was so much noise in her heart but she couldn’t make a sound. The fridge creaked before beginning to whine, and she watched her cheerios float as they tried to sing along. How odd, to notice all the small things, she’d felt blind to for so long.

There was only so much time she could spend in the kitchen. Her stomach was in knots, and everything was cardboard. She pushed away from the table, and the thin curtains shivered. She gathered her things, shuffling quietly across the creaky wooden floor, slipped on her shoes and was out the door. Outside the air was crisper and biting, but she inhaled deeply and the taste was delightful. Each step she took felt less and less real, until she was walking on clouds, with the sun at her heels.

In this world she created, there was no pain; just sunlight and fluffy white clouds with no rain. She wished she could stay here forever. He had been her happy place, or one of them at least. But now with him gone, she felt somewhat incomplete. She knew she’d be fine without him, but it was hard to say at that time. So she kept walking and walking, trying to put a spring in her step. She remembered memory upon memory because that’s what she did best. Of sweet whispered words, and kisses in the dark. All those things she remembered, like they were just yesterday. And suddenly, they were all whisked away. What once was a memory for her heart to hold dear, her brain snatched them away to turn them into something sad and surreal. Her head felt like it was spinning, like taking a shot in the dark and she prayed and she prayed but Lord, it didn’t stop.

And she realized then she was halfway down the street, toward the bus stop of new faces she’d meet. She wondered if people would see her puffy swollen eyes, or her wobbly steps, or the tears that she’d cried. But to just anyone she was a normal girl, swallowed in a sweater of her favourite colour like she could conquer the world. But really, the rug had been ripped from right under her feet.

But these strangers didn’t know, so she gave them a smile. She said hi to the bus driver and looked happy for a while. But her heart was still beating like it belonged to somebody else. She was wondering how long it would take to have it all to herself.


 

Hi all! It’s been a while since I’ve been on this lil blog of mine. This is a piece I wrote about 3 weeks back, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s got some rhyming in it, but it’s not consistent LOL. It’s also a bit awkwardly paced, but that’s okay! Let me know what you think!

– Carole

Turning 18 and Tackling the “Supposed” End of Childhood

Lately I’ve been reminiscing.

First year of university is over, and I’m sitting back in my childhood bedroom. Gone are my days of my tiny dorm bed with the white bed spread layered with pink flowers, windows that open just a crack, and flocking to a communal pizza on my floor at 3am. And gone with that is the independence I once had when I was living on my own.

My childhood bedroom I sit in has been mine since I was about 11 or 12 years old. It’s painted the lightest purple shade called ‘touch of violet’. I have butterfly wall stickers along the wall where my bed leans, fairy lights twisted around the winding metal headboard. My baby pictures are up on the wall, so are my school photos, my certificates, my plaques, my piano competition medals. I have over 20 stuffed animals sitting on my desk. This room has been a home to me for years, it’s grown up with me, seen me in my best moments, my worst moments. There are so many memories in this room.

When I first moved out, I remember timidly opening this big wooden door that had a metal plate bolted to it: “2W8” it said. Inside was a tiny little room, cream coloured walls, twin beds with no sheets, a desk, a shelf, and a closet with a curtain. None of my memories were in that room. But by the end of first year, it had felt like I’d lived there for ages.

Coming home was a weird feeling. It felt like I had reloaded an old save file and I was back trying to live the life I had lived before I moved out, except I was a totally different person now.

And I wondered, was this what adulthood is like?

What exactly is adulthood anyway?

Canadians legally define an “adult” as an 18-year-old individual. I remember how excited I was to become this glamourized ~adult~. I think I was disoriented by how different, but also how similar the world felt.

My 18th birthday passed without much fuss. It was very different. It was my first birthday away from home and I had 2 finals. I clamoured out of bed at 8am, got ready, spent 6 hours on exams, went home to my little dorm room, and went out for dinner with my friends. I remember lying in bed that night wondering to myself, “Am I different now? Am I a changed person?”

After all, I was legally an adult now. I could vote in the next election if I so chose to, did that somehow remove me from “childhood”?

From what I’ve experienced, becoming an adult doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t magically wake up on our 18th birthdays and something has shifted. I feel like the process of becoming an adult has been so gradual, you hardly notice until one day it’s just happened.

I notice this a lot when I look back on memories. We like to joke around and see something nostalgic and think “OMG THIS WAS MY CHILDHOOD!” but what exactly do we define as our “childhood”? Do we mean those silly naive years when we played make believe and dress up while Blue’s Clues played in the background? Do we mean playing outside until our skin was burned and the knees of our pants were stained grass green? It is hard to define adulthood if we cannot identify childhood. And I think the problem is we’re too focused on something arbitrary like age telling us that we’ve become an adult. Sure, there’s a lot more responsibility put on you when you become a legally recognized adult (think: filing taxes, getting police checks, etc.), but it’s not like you’re suddenly swamped with responsibilities, you’ve been building up more responsibilities your entire life, as you grow older.

I remember the very first time I walked myself home from the bus stop. I was about 6 years old, in the first grade. It just so happened that neither of my parents would be around when the bus dropped me off, and it would be safer for me to walk down the street (for literally like 1 minute) into our town house complex than to wait on the main road for someone to come get me. My dad gave me a key and I walked myself home, turned the lock, opened the door, and kicked off my shoes in the little front foyer. I hadn’t even gotten into the house yet when my dad arrived. That was one of the first moments (I hope. This could be a dream I once had, but it still serves my point) I had any shred of responsibility. I feel like from that moment forward I had somehow “graduated” from a part of my childhood. I had the ability and had proven that I could walk myself home. That was a moment where it felt like I had grown up, even just a little bit.

And I think life is a lot of moments like that. It’s hard to remember looking back, but there were moments where I cooked for the first time, biked for the first time, mailed something for the first time, etc. etc. and those were all moments where I gained new abilities and responsibilities that furthered me in life.

So I don’t know, there’s definitely this transitional phase in between “childhood” and “adulthood” (which I guess would be called your teen years lol), but it’s hard to say that there’s a clear point in life where you suddenly feel like an “adult” over being a “child”. I mean, I’ve technically been an adult for half a year now, and I only really noticed it a couple days ago. I suppose my childhood is over now, but it doesn’t mean I’m suddenly this all knowing adult being that can just venture into the world just like that. There’s still a lot of growing to do. Heck, even people who are 50+ years my senior have growing to do.

But turning 18 isn’t all the glamour it’s cut out to be. Rather, it honestly just feels like a marker in this grand story of life. It’s a point in my life where I can look back and think of all the amazing things I’ve done in my life so far. And as I keep growing, learning, and experiencing all the world has to offer, I can keep looking back to the nostalgic, cozy “childhood” of my memories, while also looking toward the new, exhilarating “adulthood” of my future.

– Carole

Of 2016, Part I.

Happy New Year everyone! After ages and ages of 2016, we’re finally moving into a new year, that is full and teeming with potential. We stand at the forefront of this precipice. And it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do.

2016 was by far one of the most eventful years of my life. Looking back on 2016, I see a mountain behind me. When I look ahead, there is yet another mountain to begin climbing up. Here I am now, in this eerily quiet valley between.

I decided to start the new year off on this blog, to reminisce about the things I’ve done in 2016. As a forgetful person, I’ve gone through the effort to go through my twitter archive to find the most important moments of my 2016 life.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that it’s increasingly difficult to get a whole year to fit into one blog post, so this is part I, January to June, aka the first half of the year.

(Also, I’m aware that it’s February, it took me a whole month to finally scrap up enough time here and there to finish this monstrosity of a blog post [it’s about 2100 words long, so brace yourselves].)

Let’s get started!

My 2016: January-June

January

January was an interesting month for me. I find that every January that rolls around, I find myself in a rut. 2016 was no different. I was finishing my first semester of grade 12, exams were looming over my head, there were no holidays, it was always cold, I walked into school before the sun rose and left after it had already set.

The start of the new year challenged me to figure out who I was, led to some serious doubt, and watched me struggle to come to terms with who I wanted to be.

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My biggest goal of life is to make people feel something. I want to share joy, and happiness, and prosperity. Music is my medium for doing that, and back in January, all I wanted to do was pursue that dream.
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To achieve that goal though, there was a huge hurdle standing in my way. It was getting accepted into a music program! The New Year heavily burdened my thoughts with the prospect of this being ~audition year~. Despite the comforts from my teachers, my friends, my family, I couldn’t help but be nervous that I wouldn’t get into a music program. Holding on to this much doubt did terrible damage on my self confidence.
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Yet, through all this self doubt and lack of confidence, I began to find peace. It definitely took a long time, it still does, but when you begin to value yourself for yourself, you can begin to treat yourself to the things you deserve. I found joy in preparing for my auditions. I remembered that singing is what makes me come alive. I believed if I could just channel this joy, the audition panel would share in my enthusiasm and potential.
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By the end of January, half of my senior year was almost over. This tweet is very interesting to me because it documents just how much I’ve changed in high school. I remember being a quiet, shy, scared young girl. I didn’t like talking to people, didn’t like any social interaction, but here I was now, on the cusp of adulthood, flourishing in time spent with others, valuing lasting relationships, and spreading joy and positivity.

February

What a month February was! While January holds a lot of new change with a new year, February really kicked it off for me by starting a new semester. I always find at the turn of the semester I feel very unsettled.

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I’m not one that actively seeks out change. I prefer things to stay the way they are. Establishing a new routine, new classrooms, new coursework, new classmates, all at the beginning of February always threw me for a loop in high school.
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Though something that has never changed was my goal to be a teacher.
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February was also a very busy month because of the first ever CKSS Variety Show! I was super happy that this whole project came into fruition. Myself, along with our music council, had been planning the event since the beginning of the school year. After long countless meetings and an unbelievable amount of stress and setbacks, we were able to finally launch a new CKSS tradition, in order to share our love for all kinds of art. Not only that, but the whole even was completely student run, and an absolute success!
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February was also the month I realized how fast time was passing. The end of the school year was approaching at a crazy speed, it was almost scary to try and process it.

March

March was a very eventful month for me. I was accepted to 2 of 3 universities I applied to! The first acceptance letter I got was from MacMaster University for their Humanities program. If I wasn’t going to get into music, I was going to fall back on English, my second passion in life.

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MacMaster was my third choice university. But it was still a big step for me. When the email came in, this sort of numbness washed over me. For the first time since I had applied to university, it felt real. An actual university had received my application, reviewed my grades and decided to accept me! It was a strange feeling. I was both so excited, but very unsettled and nervous at the same time.
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Another huge milestone of March was, of course, my very first university music audition. It was at Wilfred Laurier University, in Waterloo. I won’t go into much detail right now, as that’s a story for next time, but I was a wreck the whole week leading up to this audition. I was studying so hard for their theory placement exam, reviewing my pieces over and over again… I barely talked to anyone that week because I was obsessing over this audition. But all my hard work came to fruition. A couple days after my audition, I got an email from the dean of music. My audition was a success.
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But it wasn’t over yet! I kept working through the month. The big day was coming. My Western University audition in April. This would be arguably, the most important day of the entire year.

April

April was honestly a blur for me. After my audition passed, the whole month disappeared like chocolate cake at a kids’ party.

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I remember the whole week leading up to my Western audition was absolute hell. My throat has this weird tickle and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to sound right for my audition. I gargled salt water every night, I would randomly start to cry because I was so nervous… But at the same time I was feeling a lot better because I had already done one successful audition. I remember going to bed the night before, trying to get in a good night’s sleep, feeling my heart beat so hard and fast I thought it would leap out of my chest.
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My Western audition came and went without much fuss. To be honest, it went as well as it possibly could have. I thought I had a really good chance of getting in when I left, the panel was super ecstatic, they told me they couldn’t wait for me to come to school at Western. I remember finding out I had gotten accepted. I was working on my final project in my social science class when I heard my email notification go off on my laptop. But I was so engrossed in my work I decided I would check it after class. Flash forward to the end of the period, I opened my email and my heart just about stopped. I read the first few words and screamed. My friend Thomas immediately asked me what was up. I just pointed at the screen, feeling tears stinging in the back of my eyes. I’d done it. All that time, stress, tears, all was worth it in that moment.
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And suddenly…. Everything changed. After I got accepted into the school of my dreams, my whole future began to change. Up until that point it had been “what ifs” and “maybes” but now, it was set in stone. I was moving away from home. I was going to study music for the next 4 years. I was ecstatic. I had been in one place with the same people for so long, it was exciting to think about venturing off for new adventures. But at the same time, I was so happy being with my friends, and being at my high school, and feeling like I actually belonged somewhere. I felt caught between two different worlds. And it felt like I would have to sacrifice my old life to get my new one.

May

May probably holds some of the most important memories of my entire high school life. In May, my school music program experienced different firsts and lasts.

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I’ll start with the lasts. May 5th marked my last spring concert, and last concert ever for that matter, at my high school. It was such an emotional day for me. I remember our first concert, we crammed everything into our tiny theatre, and people’s parents came and watched us perform. And here we were at our last concert, filling our school gym. We’d come such a long way, built such a big music program literally from the dirt. I cried so hard after our last concert. I wanted to live in and nurture this program forever. But I was leaving it to the students under me. And it was a crazy emotional time. May also marked our very first out of country music trip. We went to Chicago, Illinois, for 5 days and I will never ever forget that trip. I made so many memories there, just getting to spend a trip of a lifetime with my best friends doing what we loved most: music.
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The year was coming to an end super fast. I accepted my offer to Western, and was suddenly swamped with final assignments and exam prep. I worked myself to the bone, convincing myself that I had to make the most of high school while it was still there.

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June

And then… There it was. The last month of high school. June was full of so many lasts, so many things I would never get to do again. But it was all so worth it. There’s so much I could say about June, and I’m full of nostalgia, but hopefully these tweets will kind of capture the mood I was in that month.

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Everything felt like it was coming to a close in June. It felt like I was tying all the ribbons on the presents, ending the giant chapter of my life novel. Suddenly, I could count how many days of school and how many days I had left at the tutoring centre on my fingers.
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But of course, the school year can’t end without a bang. On the last full day of high school, my best friend Michael totally threw me for a loop and promposed to me with one of my favourite songs from High School Musical 3, with flowers and everything. It was basically flawless (save for Thomas screwing up playing the music in time) and totally surprised me.

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And finally, prom came and went, my friends and I danced our hearts out, and kept going till our feet were sore. We stayed up all night playing cards, and woke up to make waffles together. Our days together were all drawing to a close. Graduation came, and I surprised myself by not crying. It all felt surreal. High school was one of the most beautiful times in my life, senior year especially. It was my whole world for 4 years. I thought I would wake up and just repeat the process again. But this was it. I was moving on to bigger and brighter things. And I wouldn’t change my high school experience for anything.

And while it feels like a just shut the book on the entirety of 2016…. It wasn’t over yet! I still had another entire half of the year left. While the first half of 2016 was full of lasts and endings, the second half was teeming full of new beginnings that have helped me grow into the person I am now, writing about my 2016. Hopefully…. That part will be coming soon!

– Carole

One Word at a Time

I am a writer. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I weren’t a writer. It amazes me all the time how beautiful language is. Words can be a beautiful medium for art, and tapping into the soul we keep carefully hidden away from anyone else.

Beginning in November of 2015, I started composing “microfictions”. These are little stories, or little tidbits of stories. I challenged myself that any microfiction I wrote must fit the character parameters of twitter (140 characters or less). Therefore, twitter has mostly been my means of sharing microfiction, until now, when I decided to go through my archive and pull them all out.

It’s amazing to me, to see what I’ve written in the past few months. Some of them I clearly remember why I wrote them, some I don’t. Some are based on personal experiences/emotions, some are completely pulled from my imagination. In all, I’ve written about 70 microfictions, though I’ve tapered off in the past few months. Writing this blog post has helped bring back my desire to keep writing them.

Look for inspiration all around you. It’s there, waiting for you to capture the moment on paper forever. I challenge everyone to slow down and write sometimes. It’s extremely therapeutic for the soul. I love it.

You don’t need to write a novel to write. Microfiction is proof enough of that. Hopefully some of mine reach you.

Out of the 70 microfictions I’ve written, I’ve narrowed it down to a few I love the most.

If you’d like, comment your favourites down below, or try writing your own!

Microfictions by Carole P.

1. “Ghosts rattle my windows, hoping to find a home for their lost souls. Or maybe that’s just the wind.” Microfiction (19)
8:55 PM – 12 Nov 2015

2. “Power is in numbers, but they can’t stand against rapid fire. Cold souls prevent the listless from the decrescendo.” Microfiction (19)
11:04 AM – 13 Nov 2015

3. “The echo of guns replaced by candles as we sizzle the gunpowder with tears. But we are a minute too late.” Microfiction (21) #ParisAttacks
5:44 PM – 13 Nov 2015

4. “Heavy hearts lay on the ground of those lost, weeping on the tombstones. Can you hear the people crying?” Microfiction (19) #ParisAttacks
6:03 PM – 13 Nov 2015

5. “Deep cries are never found, lost to shallow laughs. People solely scratch the surface, hoping not to break their nails.” Microfiction (20)
10:13 AM – 18 Nov 2015

6. “Disappointment seeds in my bones, sprouting doubt and intoxicating anxiety. My mind and eyes won’t stop watering weeds.” Microfiction (18)
7:34 PM – 18 Nov 2015

7. “The mirror is a crystal we stare into to find value. We are so narrow sighted, we miss the light bending into rainbows.” Microfiction (23)
10:32 PM – 19 Nov 2015

8. “One day I want to look into your eyes to see an eternity of loneliness recede like an ocean wave.” Microfiction (20)
10:46 PM – 19 Nov 2015

9. “The butterfly’s wings are shattered with rain. But once the butterfly is ready to fly again, she is too afraid to try.” Microfiction (22)
8:12 AM – 21 Nov 2015

10. “One day someone will write love on her arms, the curve of her back, at the base of her spine, but for now, she waits.” Microfiction (25)
10:33 PM – 28 Nov 2015

11. “The fluorescent sun drowns me in golden syrup. I taste the honey on my lips, and it reminds me I’m human.” Microfiction (21)
1:29 PM – November 29 2015

12. “Spin me round until I forget how much it hurts, the world is a blur, and your eyes anchor me to sanity.” Microfiction (22)
12:28 PM – 1 Dec 2015

13. “Hazy eyes are the looking glass into a muddled soul, full of fog and trying to see.” Microfiction (17)
4:59 PM – 4 Dec 2015

14. “He was music; a vibrant crescendo of sound and overwhelming dramatics. And I was so so lost in the melody.” Microfiction (20)
7:18 PM – 24 Dec 2015

15. “Frosted mirrors crystallize my sight, but hot tears burn a hole through fog, when I try and look for you in myself.” Microfiction (22)
8:17 PM – 28 Dec 2015

16. “Mr. Puppet Master I’m tired of this all. Please take away my heart and burn it with my soul.” Microfiction (19)
2:49 PM – 5 Jan 2016

17. “You’re a beautiful disaster that begs to me to keep breathing for you, but I’m suffocating in this dead air.” Microfiction (20)
11:04 AM – 19 Jan 2016

18. “Loving you was a cumulus cloud. But I was blind to the cumulating storm, until the lightning struck me.” Microfiction (19)
5:18 PM – 25 Jan 2016

19. “Wash me away in the sea until I sink into the shipwrecks. Maybe then, I won’t feel anymore.” Microfiction (18)
10:44 PM – 27 Jan 2016

20. “Each exhale expels a cloud of life from my lips. Even in the dead of winter, thank God I’m alive.” Microfiction (20)
2:04 PM – 29 Jan 2016

21. “Because she was a china doll put on a pedestal. Envy knocked her down and she shattered. But no one spoke up for her.” Microfiction (24)
8:40 PM – 2 Feb 2016

22. “Yesterday you bled into my dreams, and I woke up wishing that blood was dripping from my fingers.” Microfiction (18)
10:09 PM – 10 Feb 2016

23. “On a midnight walk on the 14th night, did you stop once to look at the stars? Did you see me in the constellations?” Microfiction (24)
4:42 PM – 16 Feb 2016

24. “This is a fairytale that’s turned into a nightmare. Ink spilled on our pages, trying to rewrite our happy ending.” Microfiction (20)
9:38 PM – 19 Feb 2016

25. “Despite believing I’ve washed you off my hands, I still find your name written in the lines of my palms.” Microfiction (20)
6:58 PM – 1 Apr 2016

26. “The scariest thing was looking out the stormy window to find it was always sunny.” Microfiction (15)
9:24 PM – 4 Apr 2016

27. “Maybe all along I was just the pawn on the chess board.” Microfiction (12)
7:59 PM – 14 Apr 2016

28. “I’m afraid you’ll find your way back in my head. I know you’ll haunt my dreams tonight.” Microfiction (17)
9:59 PM – 14 Apr 2016

29. “Because you are a treasure, buried for safe keeping, you forgot where your splendour is hiding.” Microfiction (16)
10:23 PM – 8 May 2016

30. “When we met, I could finally hear the music. I dread the day the world will one day fall silent.” Microfiction (20)
11:05 AM – 10 May 2016

31. “Maybe if I cry, the nightmares will purge from my eyes, and I’ll have dreams tonight.” Microfiction (16)
12:18 AM – 12 Jun 2016

32. “Hold on tight and don’t let me go. I want to stay in our Polaroid moment forever.” Microfiction (17)
9:19 PM – 24 Jun 2016

Language is such a beautiful, complex art that even it cannot be used to truly express the fullness of storytelling.
– Carole

Real Talk: Last Night, I Had a Panic Attack.

Ever since I hit grade 12, I haven’t been shy to talk about my mental illness when I’m approached. I consider it really important for people to speak out about their struggles with mental illness because it’s all very internal, and people always think they are alone.

Today, the subject of mental illness has really been weighing heavily on my heart. So I thought I would share my story in full so it’s out there for people who feel all alone to find, and know that they aren’t by themselves.

So here it is:

From the day I was able to make conscious thought, I was a nervous person.

I can’t tell you how many times as a child I was so nervous about different things, that it caused a lot of fear, crying, and an unwillingness to do things that made me feel that way. Looking back on it now, I realize I worried an unhealthy amount, definitely way more than a child should.

I remember when I was in the first grade, we all had to take care of a beetle. Our teacher gave each of us a plastic container with a little handle, filled with dirt and sticks, and one little beetle. I was getting on the bus one morning, holding this tiny container, when I tripped on my way down the narrow aisle. My container hit the ground, bursting open, and my blue beetle zipped away and out the window. I was so horrified, I began to cry.

Not because I was hurt, or was sad about losing my newfound pet, but because I was so extremely worried. What would my teacher say? Would she be mad at me? Would my mark on this insignificant beetle project suffer? I cried and cried, overwhelmed with this anxiety that my actions would have the scariest consequences.

When I got to school, my teacher wiped my tears and told me she’d give me another beetle when I tried to apologize over my shaking sobs.

Maybe that should have been my first warning sign.

I was that kid that cried over spilled milk. All because I was worried about what would happen, what kind of trouble I’d get into, what kind of inconvenience I was causing others. But at this point, I was thought of as nothing more than “sensitive” by my teachers, my parents, my peers… It was just one of those things that kids outgrew eventually.

Except, I never really grew out of it.

My whole life, I’ve lived with a constant nagging feeling that something will go wrong. Think about the strange sense of nervousness you get right before a big test; your head feels foggy, your hands are pretty clammy, and your body is tingling with a sense of dread. That’s kind of how I feel, for the most part of my life.

As I grew older, life became more stressful. With that, it became much harder to handle this constant throbbing of anxiety hidden deep within my chest.

Throughout my childhood, I was considered “very bright”. I was always a few steps ahead, and brought home report cards full of straight A’s. Somehow, in my weird mind of mine, I got it into my head that any sort of failure would result in disappointment from my family and friends, and that absolutely could not happen.

It’s crazy how interconnected anxiety and perfectionism are.

My second warning sign came around the time I was 12-years-old. I was in the seventh grade, and we were doing an assignment in math. We were using a computer program to complete a package of worksheets on geometry.

Absolutely everyone was struggling. The program did not have a user-friendly interface, especially for pre-teens who were still kinda new at the whole “tech savvy” thing. I remember I was so stressed about it.

One of my friends was teasing me about the assignment, but they seemed to take note of my mounting distress. “Carole,” they said, “don’t worry. It’s going to be fine.”

And I lost it.

“It’s not going to be fine!” I snapped, feeling a rush of tears in my eyes, the painful knot of worry pulsing hard inside my heart. “I can’t do this. I can’t. I can’t!”

My friend’s face was bewildered, scared even. They slowly inched away from me.

Everyone left me alone, hoping I’d get better with some space.

It wasn’t until grade 10, that I knew something was wrong.

I was struggling to understand grade 10 academic math. I wanted to, but it was the beginning of the year, and I was just having so much difficulty. Something that once seemed so natural to me, was foreign in front of my very eyes.

I remember the day I got one of my unit tests back. This strange numbness overwhelmed my whole body. My head felt like I was lost in the clouds, my body was moving on its own. All I could feel was that familiar sense of panic. That fear, that worry, because I didn’t know what I was going to do next.

Everything was all blurry. I moved in a subdued autopilot to my locker, grabbed my lunch, went into the cafeteria and sat beside my best friend. I must have looked like a ghost, because he looked at me with a very concerned expression. “Carole….? Are you okay?”

And I just started to cry.

All at once all these emotions just broke into a big mess that I couldn’t sort through. “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!” is all I could say over and over again. The whole room was spinning, I couldn’t breathe, nothing in my body was cooperating.

It took me half an hour to calm down and stop sobbing.

My friends were shaken. They didn’t know how to help me. They tried their best, they really did. One of my friends bought me a cookie when I stopped crying, trying to cheer me up. I was just tired from my strange outburst of panic. I wanted to go home.

That was the moment I knew there was something wrong with me.

No one else ever had moments like that. I remember things that would bring me to tears would not even phase some of my friends. I felt like an outsider in my own body. Why did everything make me so worried? Why did I panic about everything?

This continued on for the whole semester. And then I put grade 10 math behind me, and tried to keep going about my life like everything was normal.

But I wasn’t okay.

Grade 11 hit me hard, just like grade 10 did. I cried about math tests, wiped away the tears, and told myself to keep going. I had to keep pushing. I had to keep ignoring how I felt. I just had to get through it. Everything will be fine, I would say to myself. That didn’t help the overwhelming nerves I got when I was waiting for my teacher to hand back my test paper.

Soon, I found that this nervousness never left me. It was always there. Even when I had nothing to worry about, I still felt stressed. I could try to relax for a while, but start feeling guilty and nervous that I was forgetting something.

It was exhausting.

I couldn’t sleep. I became afraid to be left alone with my own thoughts. I didn’t like lying in the dark while I began to overthink about almost anything until I felt like I would burst into tears. I would just stay up reading books, and stories people wrote online until I woke up the next day, not really sure when I fell asleep at all.

I didn’t know what to tell people. I didn’t understand why life just seemed so difficult for me. Something has to be wrong with me, I would always tell myself, everyone else seems to handle life so well. All I do is cry, and think about something bad that’s going to happen.

Then, I found out about anxiety on the internet.

I had met a few friends online from twitter, and they would always talk about their mental illnesses and such. So I looked it up. I read about generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, OCD… I remember the way my hands trembled, and how I cried alone in my bedroom. It felt too real. It felt like me.

I remember the day I told my mom I thought I had anxiety.

She was sitting on my bed when the smile from her face seemed to drop. “But… You’re so happy.”

I was happy. I’ve always been a smiley kid. I have a good life. But none of that seemed to matter when it was late at night, and I found myself crying just in fear of something bad happening in my life.

The next time I went to the doctor, I told her I thought I was anxious. She wrote me up a referral to a psychiatrist.

My dad took me to the psychiatrist’s office. If you hadn’t known better, it could’ve been any other doctor’s office. The room had a faded old brown carpet, tan coloured walls, beige seats. Everything was so monochrome, as though trying not to trigger anything inside somebody.

I didn’t see a psychiatrist that day. I saw a nurse. She had a questionnaire, to ask my questions about how I felt. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t let on to how bad my problems really were. I was scared.

The nurse thanked me for my time.

My dad and I left. We ate McDonalds for lunch, laughing and having a good time.

I didn’t hear back from the psychiatrist’s office for over a year.

In the meanwhile, I continued to navigate through life on my own. Grade 12 was one of the hardest, but also most rewarding years of my life. It was so complicated. I could go into so much detail, but I’d never be able to cover it all.

To try and summarize it all, I had a lot of stress; just as most grade 12s do. But paired with my anxiety and lack of outlet, I didn’t know how to cope. I was in grade 12 advanced functions, and I was suffering. I would get so anxious to the point where I couldn’t form a thought. I’d forget everything I’d learn, stare at a blank page, and have to hand in a test that wasn’t even half completed.

I remember going into my school guidance office to ask for an IEP, because I could not finish in time. I needed extra time.

I met with my guidance counsellor. We talked for a long time. She agreed to let me write my tests in the guidance office with extra time. But she also told me, I should see the school social worker for my anxiety.

That didn’t really help me either.

I was crumbling, falling apart at the seams. Almost every day I would leave first period math crying. Pair that with grade 12 stress, such as preparing for my university auditions, maintaining grades, a social life, working at my job. I was a mess.

My music teacher, bless her soul, was someone that really helped me during that time. She was always there for me when I needed her. She offered me advice that was hard to take, but beneficial.

My friends were always there for me when I was having a hard day.

I think if I didn’t have the support system of people I had, I would not be here today.

I finally met with a psychiatrist when I was starting to get better. I was trying to reorganize my life, change my way of thinking, learn to live without an overwhelming cloud of anxiety hanging over me.

I spoke with the psychiatrist about my experiences in the past few years. He told me, yes, I did have generalized anxiety disorder. If he had met me a year ago, he would have put me on medicine to help. But for the most part, I was doing well, learning to handle my anxiety on my own.

And I have been. For the past few months, I’ve been doing really well. I’ve been handling stress at my own pace, teaching myself how to go through things one at a time.

But just because I’m getting better, doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Yesterday, I had a panic attack.

Nothing in particular brought it on, but I felt it was coming. I was sitting at my kitchen table, just looking through my phone when I felt this nudging of nervousness start forming in the pit of my stomach. I usually try to ignore this, hoping it would go away. But it didn’t.

I hadn’t felt this way in months.

By the time I was in bed, my hands were shaking. I tried to focus on something else. I tried reading little stories online. It didn’t help. I started hyperventilating and crying, overwhelmed with anxiety that had no reason to exist.

Today, I’m here to tell you, that it was okay.

Yes, I had a panic attack.

Yes, it felt like I had lost all the progress I’ve made in the past few months.

Yes, it took me over an hour to calm down.

BUT,

I won’t let my mental illness define me.

I won’t allow for this to set me back.

I won’t let myself fall apart like I did before.

Mental illness is something powerful and scary. It’s truly terrifying to think that your own mind can be working against you. But I’m writing this long winded blog post to tell you that it is okay.

Do not let yourself suffer alone.

If I had gotten the help I needed earlier, so much of the strife I experienced could have been avoided.

There is nothing wrong with having a mental illness. It is not something that’s “all in your head”. There is a valid reason why you feel a certain way. Don’t ever let someone discredit how you feel.

If you think you are suffering from a mental illness, please tell a doctor.

Lastly, be strong. Your brain is a powerful tool. It fights against you with a vigour. But your brain is also yours. Fight with all your might. Even with medicine, with counselling, with all the help in the world, you still need to have the willingness to fight.

Mental illness is a battle I will be fighting probably until the end of my life. The key is to never stop. Because there is so much you are capable of, and so much that you can accomplish and nothing, not even mental illness can dare stop you.

I believe in you. And I believe in me.

Believe that things can always always get better.

And know that I am always always here if you need someone.

– Carole

My World of Boy Friends

Have I grabbed your attention with this flashy title?

Good. I do hope you took note of the strategic space between “boy” and “friends” because surprise surprise, I’m super single, and I always have been.

No, this blog post is not me bragging or bashing my past relationships (come on guys, I’m not T-swift here), but rather all the boys in my life that I realize now have made my life very different from the typical Disney channel plastic storyline.

I find a lot of plot lines use “boy friends” simply as comic relief or their ulterior motive is to have the boy fall in love with the girl. For me, that’s never been the case.

It’s interesting to me now because I’m very different from how I was as a small child, yet things have hardly changed at all. As a kid, I was always a weird mix between a tomboy and a girly-girl. I hated wearing dresses, skirts, frilly socks, headbands, etc. but I loved wearing glitter, every shade of pink imaginable, flowers and all that. To some extent, these things carried with me into puberty and my teen years.

I remember when I was in grade 2, I had just moved to a new town, and had left my friends behind in my old city. Up until that point, I hadn’t really talked to anyone except the girl who I met on my first day of kindergarten at the bus stop, and one other girl in our class.

I felt really alienated from most of the girls in my new class. This was no one’s fault really, it was just one of things that happened in life. A lot of them had known each other since pre-k in this small town, and most of them were white. I really just didn’t have anything in common with them.

Instead, I found myself gravitated toward a group of 3 Asian boys. Maybe it was because they were Asian, or maybe it was because they were boys, but I just felt like I belonged there so much more.

I found that boys cared less about what you wore, were more willing to take risks, or rough themselves up. We would chase each other all recess long, pretending we were superheroes or Pokémon, which resulted in lots of scraped knees and bloody noses, but those was probably some of the greatest times of my childhood.

At that point, it didn’t really concern anybody that I didn’t have any girl friends. It was really cute that I was friends with a bunch of Asian boys, and look! How cute! This little girl’s not afraid to scruff up her knees! (There are so many strange sexist undertones in these ideas, but that’s a whole different topic).

It wasn’t until I was older than I started to run into problems.

By grade 4, I had a nice group of friends. There were 6 of us, and we lived in this perfect harmony of playing pretend and running after each other. And of course, it was me, and 5 boys. But of course, 10 year olds can only run into one problem in their pre-pubescent lives…

Crushes and cooties.

The trouble first started when one of the boys in our group of friends developed the most innocent, tiny crush on me. It was nothing crazy. He just enjoyed talking to me, and was really friendly. At one point I remember playing Pokémon, and one of my other friends supposedly “wounded” me. This boy with a little crush on me, swooped down, gathered me in his arms and gave me the biggest hug.

“It’s okay Carole, I’ll heal you!”

The game fell into a standstill, and the rest of the boys froze. How inconceivable! A boy?? Hugging a girl?? Crazy!

The rest of them stared for a painful moment or so before one asked, “What are you doing?”

Of course, I was quickly let go of. “Nothing!” was the embarrassed response. I’d never seen somebody turn so red before.

I vaguely remember the first time a pair in our class got “together”. They would bat their eyelashes at each other, pass notes written in blindingly pink highlighter, and hold hands at recess. This lasted for about 1 full school day, but the damage was done. Everyone was thinking about “boy/girl” pairs, and all of a sudden, being “just friends” was no longer an option.

My friends, every single one of them, were afraid people would think we were “dating” if they were seen with me. No one wanted to deal with the “embarrassment” and teasing that came with being a couple. Instead of running around together, they were running away from me. I found myself frustrated and lonely. I had no friends anymore. My boy friends had banded together and refused to talk to me. I still didn’t understand the girls in my class (and besides, I didn’t know any of them well enough for us to be friends, they still all moved about in those cliques they formed in kindergarten).

By this point, I wished I had made some girl friends, or stayed in my hometown, because I was so lonely. This lasted up until grade 5, until one new girl moved into town and befriended me. I decided from that moment on, I was swearing off boy friends for good. They were unreliable, mean, and I couldn’t trust them. After all, who becomes friends with someone, stays for years, and then decides to just move on because they suddenly became aware their friend was a girl?

I was so over it.

It didn’t help either that boys I had thought were my friends started to bully me. I see now that it was all because everyone in middle school is extremely immature and insecure, but at the time, I remember feeling extremely betrayed. They would call me names, steal my things, and all around made my life miserable.

I eventually made a lot of girl friends, and it was fun for a while… But things turned sour really fast. All they really wanted to do was gossip, cause drama with each other, cry to me about their feelings, and feel the need to not include me or invite me to social gatherings. (This is also another story for another time).

By this point I was really losing my mind. Girls weren’t good friends, boys weren’t good friends… Who was I supposed to be friends with?!

I’m really thankful that myself, and the others around me, were able to grow the heck up. I ditched my toxic friends. They weren’t really doing anything for me, and it was quite easy since they all kind of left me, no strings attached.

Though there was a lot of struggle, I eventually found a place where I truly felt like I fit somewhere. And it just so happened to be yet again, surprise surprise, in a group of boys. But of course, we’re all way more mature than kids in middle school (we’re still immature as hell, but at least we’re better.)

I wouldn’t trade these friends for anything. They’ve always been with me when I needed them. They’ve always genuinely cared for me; have always supported me in everything I do.

Are there hard times? Of course.

I constantly struggle to feel like I really fit into the puzzle. After all, there are some things they’ll never be fully understand about girls because they aren’t girls, just like I will never understand some things about them because I’m not a boy. I can’t stay over at their sleepovers, I can’t be over at their houses alone.

But would I wish for a core group of girl friends over boy friends?

No.

In all my life experience, I’ve found that it doesn’t really matter whether your friends are boys or girls. All that really matters is who makes you feel like someone important and who is willing to stand by you, even when you feel like you’ll always be alone.

Friendships don’t rely on anything except respect, integrity, trust, and faith. If you don’t have those things, it doesn’t matter if your friends are boys or girls.

I guess, in some long winded way, I’m trying to say, I love where I am right now. I love the support system of friends I have in place. If someone tries to tell you you can’t be friends with boys when you’re a girl, or vice versa, I’m here to tell you they are wrong.

The deepest friendships can be found in the most unsuspecting people. Don’t judge the quality of a friendship based on gender, or even race, religion, or any other factor like that. Judge a person for them. Don’t be the one that denies a friendship the potential to come to fruition. There’s so much you could be missing.

– Carole