AMY WINEHOUSE WAS MY VULNERABILITY ROLE MODEL

I looked up to Amy in ways I shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

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Amy Winehouse said, “I wouldn’t write anything unless it was directly personal to me just cause I wouldn’t be able to tell the story right.”

I still remember when one of my high school boyfriends broke things off with me. I think I was in grade 11. I spent all weekend watching her concert DVD and watching the 30-minute doc they made about recording Back to Black with Mark Ronson. She talked about falling in love with Blake and admitted to fucking it all up. She talked about lies and things being less than ideal by her own doing. It made me feel less alone every time I was in pain or did something stupid while drunk. It wasn’t the first or last weekend I shut myself in my house and did nothing but listen to her voice and words.

She was my role model. I looked up to her in ways I probably shouldn’t have. Some people might believe that’s sort of fucked because of all her issues, but I truly know I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

To say I was a fan would be an understatement. I think I wanted to be her.

I owned Back to Black on vinyl and I never even had a record player. I watched every interview she had ever done well before she died about a million times each. I owned the only concert DVD she ever released. I bought a black Adidas sweater because I saw her wearing the same sweater in an interview (this was before athleisure came back in fashion). I read her biography a dozen times.

I can point to pieces of my past and personality and see her reflected right back at me.

The way I’ve ALWAYS done my eyeliner since the moment I started wearing makeup.

The way I say “yeah.”

The way I love playing pool like she did (I’m half decent actually).

The way I dealt with breakups with a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The cheeky way of talking.

The way I can’t help but be inappropriate sometimes.

The way I love jazz.

The way I used to dress (till I stopped wearing push up bras).

The way I never brushed my hair and wore it big. I still don’t brush it if I’m being totally honest.

The way I talked about myself.

The way I wished my eyes were just a little darker so they’d match perfectly.

The way I wear my heart on my sleeve.

The brutal blunt honesty in my writing.

She taught me authenticity because it just oozed out of her. Despite being someone who acted like she didn’t think very highly of herself, she couldn’t help but be anyone but herself. Before I ever opened a Brené Brown book, I listened to her music and learned what vulnerability looked like. I saw her using art to tell the stories of her life and make peace with them in her own way.

She’s also goddam ruthless, which you’ll know if you watch enough of her interviews.

Even then, there was something about what she created and how she embraced her messy, aggressive nature. She was never quoted saying anything good about herself, but she was always honest even when it maybe made other people uncomfortable.

She just…wasn’t guarded. You can tell she literally didn’t know how to be. If you watch any interview with her you can see her emotions all over her face, in her expression and through her eye contact and body language. If she didn’t want to be there you could tell. If she was upset you could tell. If she didn’t like the questions she was being asked you could tell.

There were a total lack of walls, which you could argue hurt her in some ways, but made her utterly unforgettable in others.

She’s a beautiful singer and songwriter, yes. She was volatile, yes. But what she really taught me was about putting it all out there. Ugly stuff and all. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a great role model for kindness or dealing with your problems and pain the healthy way, but that’s ok. Nobody is perfect, and she never tried to pretend she was.

I remember where I was when I found out she died. I was sitting in class and my friend texted me and asked me if I had heard. I didn’t think it was true. I had been following her in the news because I had heard she was going to put out a new album soon. When I saw my friend later that day and she confirmed it I started crying right then and there. I don’t even think I could fully appreciate the impact she had on my life until I became an adult.

I grew up believing struggle was part of being a creative. Believing alcohol was part of being a strong saucy woman. Believing being raw, direct, uncensored and borderline offensive or difficult was charming. Believing relationships had to be difficult, rocky and messy. Believing destroying your own life was part of living your life.

Then she died. Way too young. And I realized then, and even more now, that she taught me so many amazing things, but also so many destructive things. You never get the sense that she’s overly happy about being famous.

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Amy Winehouse at the Union Chapel in London, UK. November 24, 2006 📸 Photo by: Jill Furmanovsky __ Photographer Jill Furmanovsky recalls, — "I took live photos of Amy Winehouse for MOJO Magazine at Union Chapel in 2006. She seemed particularly happy that night and made references to a loved one (Blake) who was in the audience. I asked Amy if she cared if I took a quick picture. The road crew was loading and a cold wind blew through the open stage door Amy did not care, she forced herself to stand against the wall in the hallway, raising her head to catch the light while the autumn leaves blow." — Jill __ #AmyWinehouse #AmyNeverDies #JillFurmanovsky #Uk #RockPhotography #RockArchive #UnionChapel #2006 #Photo #BlackAndWhite #Amy #Icon #Legenday #AmyWinehouseNeverDies

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Like I’ve said before, when you don’t like yourself very much it’s easy to spot in others. I could never shake the feeling that she was incredibly insecure, despite being so bright and amazing. I used to read it as being humble, but I don’t believe that’s what it was. I believe it was self-loathing.

She may have had a shaky personal life, but you could always tell writing and performing was the one thing she truly loved. We all need a thing, but sometimes it’s not enough.

It’s not a coincidence that I believe the most powerful, deep, soul touching writing comes from a very personal place. Just like the way she felt about music. She didn’t give a shit about being famous, or being well-liked, she just wanted to tell her stories and make her vision come to life.

You can judge her. You can pity her. You can love her the way I do. You can listen to her music. And you can learn from her. But truthfully, the world will never forget her and her music because she’s unforgettable.

She made me feel seen. She made me feel less alone. She made art and music that made me realize that you can put your everything out there, but you have to be strong enough to handle the criticism that goes with it. Resilient enough to handle the hatred for being different. Love yourself enough to know that you have to live with your fear and love it to death instead of trying to silence it because that’s courage.

I related to her. Her aura. Her dark nature. Her sadness. Her regret. Her flirty self-concious energy. Her way of brightening up other people’s lives but seemingly not being able to turn the light on for herself because she couldn’t locate it.

The way she so obviously went against the grain, almost sometimes seemingly just to piss people off but really because pain speaks volumes. She’s why I feel compelled to write about my own fuckups. But there’s one thing I really think she missed in some of her art, which was the gratitude and light parts of life. I would have loved to hear more from her about the good. That’s one thing we didn’t have in common, but I do believe if she had stuck around a little longer she would have found a way eventually to make art that didn’t come from a place of low self-worth.

She wasn’t the hero I was ever supposed to have, but we can’t help who we fall in love with. Being proud that her art and life (from afar) was part of my journey, and writing about that journey, is something that only Amy could have taught me how to do.

Please do me a favour today, and everyday, and remember that addiction doesn’t discriminate and sometimes there are factors in people’s lives that add kerosene to the fire. Not everyone has the tools and what it takes to extinguish that flame.

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ON REALIZING THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY: FORWARD

I’ve finally figured out how to describe what it feels like to go from who you were before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of…grieving?

I couldn’t find a photo I liked for the header so please enjoy this photo of me from Grade 7 when I still had a unibrow but didn’t really know *how* to pluck it and only wore black t-shirts because I always had sweat stains. Simpler times.

I’ve always had a habit of talking about who I used to be. Especially when I would go on  dates, which, as my counsellor has pointed out to me, isn’t really relevant to who I am now.

It’s no secret. I have a lot of regrets and pain in my past which is why it’s such a *subject* for me. I mean, I’m writing a book about some of the stories FFS.

I’ve spent WAY too long ruminating it and letting things that happened years ago dictate how I would feel about myself on a day to day basis. I’ve allowed regret to make me feel like a Bad Person. I don’t know when, but at a certain point I have accepted and fundamentally acknowledged that my past is a part of me, but it isn’t *me* anymore.

So I asked myself the other day, at what point does the past intersect with the present?

When does the ‘before’ become the ‘who I am now’?

And how do you know when you’re internally shifting from one to the other? How do you know when it’s over?

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I only have a handful of photos from when I was a teenager because I didn’t have Facebook until I graduated high school. I almost completely erased them all or lost them over the years. This one is from 2008. In most of the pictures of myself from this time I am drunk, and if I recall correctly, this photo is no exception. I couldn’t bear for many years to look back and reflect on this time I spent struggling, feeling misunderstood and trying to fit in. It would always bring back a flood of memories about eating disorder recovery, depression, therapy, pain, binge eating, drinking till I blacked out, heartbreak and academics. Even typing this I still remember sitting in a bathroom stall scratching the skin off my knuckles till they bled. I remember shutting my parents out. I remember having my first panic attack. I remember believing that I was only in university classes in high school because I knew how to work hard, not because I was smart. But I also remember wearing a hoodie with a tall collar to cover up hickies, winning an award for having the highest grades, setting the carpet on fire in the drama room, making out with boys in forests and under bridges, fighting with my one of my best friend’s and making up in a food court (thank god @jocelynhummelt ), getting an underage drinking ticket, writing a 30-page screenplay, giving people who tried to cheat off me the wrong answers and being an unpaid production assistant on sets 😂 I haven’t always been able to look at photos like this one and remember both sides of the same period of my life. The parts that make me laugh and the parts that hurt my heart. I know it’s the magic of hindsight, but also I’ve learned that you can’t have one without the other. I still have both sides in me and that’s ok. I was messy, deep, loud, raunchy, creative, all over the map and over the top then, and I still am now. I wouldn’t change any of it.✨☺️✌️#10yearchallenge #throwbackthursday #tbt #teenagerposts

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Grief is associated with death. Which totally makes sense. But I think it also can be a way to describe the natural response loss or perceived loss, not just of someone or something you loved, but of anything. I’ll give credit where credit is due – I started thinking about grief differently when I read chapter seven of Rising Strong by Brené Brown.

I think this is the best way I’ve found so far to describe the internal shift between the before to the vivid, sparkling present. It kinda feels like a form of grieving.

Now, I won’t say that what I’ve felt is anything like losing a loved one who was close to me. I wouldn’t ever make that comparison. But I do find it interesting that the emotional process of moving through grief has been similar.

By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief and loss below is a briefing:

  1. Denial and isolation;
  2. Anger;
  3. Bargaining;
  4. Depression;
  5. Acceptance.

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

I think it clicked when Brené explained in Rising Strong that change that is perceived as loss can spark grief.

I guess 2019 has been sort of a weird grieving process for me. A confusing, emotional, slow, weird sobering process letting my past go. A movement between the ‘before’ to the ‘who I am now.’ I’ve written about on my blog while I was in the early stages of it, but I’ve always struggled on how to express what this whole thing has felt like now that I can get my head around it.

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Sometimes our past has the ability to confront and/or overwhelm us. When triggered we tend to lose perspective and begin to act from a place of insecurity, fear, and hurt (rather than awareness and authenticity). When being faced with our past, it’s important to remain aware, engage in a dialogue with ourselves, identify our needs, and seek perspective or support (if needed). •• • • • #selfawareness #awareness #reflection #relationships #boundaries #triggers #mentalhealthtips #selfesteem #mentalhealth #psychology #psychotherapy #counseling #therapist #selfdiscovery #selfcare #selflove #lifetransitions #identity #authenticity #emotion #privatepractice #onlinetherapy #onlinecounseling #millennialtherapist #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters #past

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It’s a confusing process to release your past self and way of life. It’s that moment where you deeply realize everything is different and there’s absolutely no way to go backward. It’s only forward from here on out.

For some people this might feel more like one chapter ending and another beginning, or a subtle slow shift until one day you realize you deal with things so differently you barely recognize yourself.

But once I read Rising Strong, I realized it’s felt a lot like grief. Which is kind of upsetting in itself, because who am I to compare losing someone to leaving behind a part of myself? But it’s a loss. I held onto it so goddam tight. But now that I’ve forgiven myself and come to terms with almost every part of it, it’s feeling like getting out of bed in the morning and not knowing what to do with yourself. It’s having nostalgia about the past, while knowing you can never go back. 

It’s saying goodbye to the story I’ve always believed to be true about myself.

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My past self still haunts me. Not always, but sometimes. Slipping in when she finds an opening. She is a spectre. Not quite a memory — a way of being. Coming back to remind me that at one time I was a different person who set fire to everything just to watch it burn. I can’t see her when she visits me but I know she’s there. I can feel her replaying old memories on a projector onto the back of my mind. The full body sensation of shame that puts you right back there in that moment when your world revolved around whatever was happening. I feel my spine tingle, and I know I’m not safe here. I plant my feet and observe that everything keeps moving even if I stop. I can’t go back to that place and time where she was thriving and making me believe that destruction was the only option. I remind myself she’s a spectre. Gone but never forgotten. Her lessons and scorched earth are part of who I am today. She left me with almost nothing so as an act of survival, and mercy, I left her behind so I could start over. I was built from a new blueprint on the rubble she left behind. #realtalk #poemsofinstagram Photo by @mskanishaszekely

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I can say “I’m different,” all I want, but it really appears in the smallest of moments.

Walking home through downtown late at night totally sober and passing groups of people on the street searching for where to go next. Hearing slurred voices cheering and yelling and conversing while I’m on my balcony. Feeling the twinge of desire to participate but knowing that’s not my path anymore. Finding my way in this new way of life. Smiling to myself and sleeping soundly. 

Being so fully present that I can’t ignore things anymore. Learning how to tell people when I’m hurt and tackling conflict head on. Accepting that my “cut and run” mentality has kept me emotionally protected but not connected for far too long, and knowing it isn’t brave. Coming face to face with my people pleasing tendencies. Looking around and realizing the people I love most are imperfect and worthy of love, and so am I.

Having those dates where you return home and walk in the door and either a) smile to yourself as you hang your keys up and brush your teeth because it felt GREAT b) come home and yell WHAT THE FUCK MAN to yourself in your apartment and go straight for the carbs because you are seriously questioning your own judgement or c) come home, let out a big sigh and text your friends asking “why do I do this shit again?” Trying very hard to not overthink shit, but also not ignoring the obvious. Yenno?

Laughing. Laughing so much. For me, laughing at when shit goes wrong and knowing it’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean I’m a Bad Person. It just means shit happens. Being able (for the first time in my life maybe) to not take everything so seriously!!!!!

Sitting with the moments where it occurs to me I’m not living my values and feeling the bodily sensations come over me. Feeling the shame story cloud my brain. Sensing the alarm bells go off in my head to drown the feelings – peanut butter, Netflix, anything – because they are seriously uncomfortable. Resisting the screaming urge to turn away from myself in that moment. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. Finding the courage to get curious. Exploring ways forward that are within my integrity.

Realizing my tendency to worry endlessly. Realizing my tendency to overload myself even though time and time again it sucks the life out of me. Realizing my codependent tendencies. Owning my tendencies and accepting it all. In some cases, admitting that if I can’t find a solution on my own, maybe a therapist can help. 

Being truly, truly happy in a way that I don’t think I could really feel before.

Catching myself hustling for the approval of people who will never understand me, love me or respect me. Finding out that connection really has to begin with how you feel about yourself. Knowing, deeply, that you cannot plant a flower in concrete and expect it to grow. 

Letting go of the sense of certainty about my future I clung to so tightly. Deciding to uproot myself for a while (fall 2019) because it feels right. No clue what I’ll come home to or how I’ll feel on the other end of the extended trip I’m planning. Dealing with the fear related to that.

Crying so fucking much. Because there have been many times where I can’t keep it together during these confusing times where my past tendencies push up against who I want to be now. Releasing because my body can’t keep things packed down anymore after years of doing that.

Forgiving myself for what I cannot change and allowing it to make me better. Because as I’ve figured out the hard way, there are no other options or shortcuts past this part.

“…When I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.”

The Book of Forgiving

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As I write this, I’m sitting on my balcony listening to Beyoncé’s Homecoming album drinking a non-alcoholic beer thinking about every summer before this one. I’ve never felt this different. Maybe it’s because for the first time ever, summer doesn’t really represent what it once did for me. It doesn’t hold the same kind of reckless promise, but I’m realizing that’s for the best. Summer doesn’t mean I start worrying about wearing shorts or preoccupying myself with the grand question if this is the summer I will *finally* grow a thigh gap. The answer is no. It will always be no, and that’s a-fucking-ok with me. Hotter weather just means I continue to wear what’s comfortable and makes me feel like…me. The idea of an open afternoon conjures bigger plans then sitting outside getting sunburnt while drinking pitcher of sangria followed by a nap to sleep it off (only to wake up in the evening hungover). It might mean I get up early to go for a hike or read a chapter of a book on some good grass somewhere. It definitely means no hangovers. Summer doesn’t mean I feel heightened expectations or weird irresponsible urges to have a fling. Be impulsive because of the heat and beer. Avoid tough conversations because they aren’t “good vibes only.” Summer just means I’m gonna keep doing me, loving the absolutely shit out of the people in my life and being honest with myself and others about what’s working and what isn’t. I don’t need to go wild to feel alive anymore. The start of this summer feels wayyyy different than every single previous one, and I’m just gonna tip my head back, feel the sun on my face and take it all in 🌞 P.s. The day after a breakup I was trying to distract myself so I ended up spending like $200 on decor in Marshall’s and bought this stone squirrel. Her name is Spinelli 🐿 #sobercurious #summer #livingoutloud #wholehearted

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It’s quite simple: I was always worthy of love and belonging but I never believed it, so I never acted in ways that aligned with those beliefs. Even now I struggle to believe it half the time but half the time is better than no time. I am still in it, this process. Progress over perfection and what not.

I suppose I am grieving the part of my life where I did not love myself. Where everything was a sign I was a Bad Person. Where there was very little questioning and a whole lot of self-destruction. Where I only directed criticism at myself and not kindness. Where I so badly and deeply wanted connection but was too scared to show up authentically in order to really let it happen.

It’s weird…because I thought at many points in my life I did this work already.

I thought I had done it. But I know better now. Even as I write this I’m still not done, but I know there’s a difference between this process and maturing.

Maybe there were some token moments of accepting that I couldn’t change the past, but they weren’t coupled with a healthy dose of compassion and forgiveness. There was an attempt to own my story and who it has made me into, but no execution. I wasn’t ready to accept my story.

I know it’s different now because there’s only one way forward.

Which is what my favourite movie scene is all about and I will endlessly repeat this quote because it’s too perfect:

I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that, just like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same for yourself, fucker? Can you forgive? Are you any good at that?

Silver Linings Playbook

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“SO…WHY DON’T YOU DRINK ANYMORE?”

I didn’t (and don’t) really know how to explain my reasons because I’m still figuring them all out. It feels like trying to tell a story that I’m in the middle of.

I was working my last event as the Market Lead for Bumble in Winnipeg. It was a Bumble Bar Tab, which is where local teams of city reps set up at bars and give free drink tickets to people who show their Bumble profiles. Even though I was working, I got hit with the “so, why don’t you drink?” more times in one night than all the times in the four previous months combined since I stopped drinking.

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I wasn’t upset, or emotional. Just stumped I guess? I hadn’t really found a good way to answer that question in a way that felt genuine to me. There are also a million answers I could share.

I mean…I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t left standing there with my mouth open trying to figure out what the hell to say to a stranger who knows nothing about me or my story.

I’ve never gone to AA or worked the steps because stopping was a choice for me, but for many it’s not. The stigma and shame around talking about any type of addiction is often so bad that it makes life worse for those affected by it, which is FUCKED. While not everyone knows someone battling alcoholism personally, grey area drinking is quite widespread and unquestioned. Let’s be honest – not many of us actually know how many drinks a week is past the threshold of harmful for us, and not many of us count or care.

I love this quote from Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington:

Booze is deeply interwoven into almost every aspect of our lives—both at work and play, and from our family time to our love lives. And while I still don’t identify with the term “alcoholic,” my research, both academic and in the field, has actually led me to believe that anybody who drinks on a regular basis is addicted to alcohol to some degree—the negative consequences of this addiction more acute for some, depending on individual life circumstances.

I didn’t (and don’t) really know how to explain my reasons because I’m still figuring them all out. It feels like trying to tell a story that I’m in the middle of. I told myself so many times that once it’s been long enough, then I could talk about it.

So I haven’t been saying anything. Because I’ve been waiting to be on the other side of this transition where everything is figured out, neat, tidy and triumphant. Because that’s an easier narrative to swallow, and we all know that.

It’s the classic, “I was doing my thing, which led to a downturn of some sort, which meant I struggled and got a little dirty but now I’m back up, better than before, I’ve showered and inexplicably own a Ferrari!!!!!!”

But that’s not what this process has been like. At all. It largely has not been all that fun, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been rewarding.

What about the part where you’re figuring out how the hell to get back up in a way that doesn’t screw things up even worse? What about the part where it takes a while and/or multiple tries? What about the part where you don’t feel like yourself? The FOMO? It’s easier to look someone in the face and respect them when they come to you standing tall and triumphant with their shit figured out.

It’s harder when they’re vulnerable and gritting their teeth just to get through to the day. Eventually, they will be ready to fully rise, not the same person they were when they fell.

I’m not just talking about getting off the sauce. We are conditioned to celebrate and tell the stories that talk mostly about the after, but not what it took to get there. We reflexively look away when we see someone struggling.

As usual, I’m not coming to you pretending to be on the other side of some sort of mountain with all the answers and a really fancy car (again, how?????? also FUCK YOU STEVE from YOUTUBE AND YOUR FERRARI).

I’m so sick of reading stuff that skips over the awkward, struggle-y bits. If I wanted you to think this was easy, I’d wait a year and write a blog post then about my life transformation and blah blah blah buy this coconut water that will also heal your childhood trauma or whatever.

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At the end of the day, I have so many ways I could answer the “why” of being booze free and I haven’t settled on one good one yet. So here’s an array for your enjoyment:

Non-verbal answer

Laugh and shrug. Maybe at the same time????

Real answer

I love making pancakes and dancing in my living room to Lizzo on Sunday morning and nothing harshes that vibe quite like being hungover.

Sarcastic answer

Because I don’t need to be drunk to make terrible jokes via text and eat an entire large pizza to myself.

Awkward answer

It’s a long story.

Subtext: you’re a stranger and I’d probably only tell you once I’ve had a minimum of five drinks……….which isn’t gonna happen……sooOOoooOOO this is where I bite into my mozzarella stick and stare at you while chewing slowly.

Short answer

I didn’t like the person I was when I drank.

Shorter answer (also good for making people regret that they asked)

Alcohol makes me sad and slutty (lol).

Vulnerable answer

I didn’t like the decisions I made and the things that happened. So after some self-reflection and time spent experimenting and being sober curious, I decided that cutting it out pretty much entirely (aka not saying I’ll never have one ever again, but it’s definitely not a part of my life anymore) would be for the best.

Practical answer (good for a date I think but don’t take my word for it)

It’s just not my thing anymore. Also, do you remember that commercial from the 90s where they said everybody has a thing? What’s your thing?

Accountant answer

After Q4 of 2018, things were volatile. The forecasted losses were much greater than the projected earnings so we made some cuts and calculated risks. After an adjustment period and minor recession in Q1, things seem to be looking up!

Proud answer

Because it was a good choice and one I made for myself when I was at my happiest, and no matter how hard it’s been I’ve never regretted it for a second.

Sassy answer

Because everything in my life felt like it was already changing anyway, so I figured….fuck it. What’s one more thing? NOTHING IS PERMANENT. In with the old out with the new weeeeeeeee. I took my old drinking habits and threw them in a dumpster along with some other baggage and lit a match and let it all BURN.

Long but short answer

[Tells story of 2019] So yes, I had a quarter-life crisis as soon as I turned 25. Was that your question?

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125 days ago, I made the decision to become booze free 🎉 It wasn’t because I got pregnant (lol) or because I started taking a medication that didn’t mix well with alcohol. I didn’t hit rock bottom. I didn’t do it because I’m trying to cut fat for summer (F$CK DIET CULTURE). I didn’t wake up with a hangover and say “never again.” I didn’t have some sort of spiritual awakening and decide to become *pure.* For the past two years, I’ve been experimenting with periods of abstinence, questioning my relationship with booze and exploring how it makes me feel and why I drink. So I guess you could say I’ve been some variation of sober curious for a while now. This isn’t anything new, but talking about it is….new. I wasn’t classified as an alcoholic by any means, which is why I want to be clear that this was a choice. Drinking behaviours and alcohol use exists on a spectrum, and I think people often forget that (Google ‘grey area drinking’ if you are curious). However, it can’t be denied that there’s a huge stigma around talking about this sort of thing. For people living with alcohol use disorder quitting is not an opinion. It’s a necessity to stay sober. On the plane home from New Orleans, at one of the clearest, happiest moments of my life I started to ask myself these questions: “What is the role of booze in my life?” “Am I the person I want to be when I drink?” “Why am I drinking so much?” “Who am I without alcohol?” The answers were right there. I couldn’t ignore them. Especially since I know that denying the truth to yourself is the quickest way to set fire to your inner peace. So here’s a question that has nothing to do with alcohol but everything to do with personal growth: Are you clearing enough room to ask yourself tough questions? Are you staying curious and nonjudgmental toward yourself and your own behaviours? Most importantly…are you ignoring the answers when they come to you? #sobercurious #boozeless #thedrylife

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To be clear…I realize nobody is trying to be an asshole by asking. They’re usually just curious. Also, I go to LOTS of social events where nobody even notices. I don’t judge – people let me do my thing and I let them do theirs. I just thought this topic would be a good way to get the conversation started 🙂

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GUEST POST: I WROTE NEW RULES FOR DEALING WITH MY CRITICAL INNER VOICE

Kieran Moolchan’s inner monologue and story behind how he is learning to defend against his own negative self-talk.

GUEST WRITER INFO

Kieran Moolchan is a product manager, gamer and frisbee enthusiast, and mental health advocate in Winnipeg. He’s a charity fund organizer at A Critical Cause and is always willing to listen before even thinking about giving advice. He says ‘yes’ to less things than it seems like.

About 3 minutes ago there were about 700 words on this page about “being the best, like no one ever was.”

From that opening Pokémon joke, and went on and on about the our internal desires for greatness and how the process to achieve that greatness was blah blah blah

Shut up, Kieran.

I usually hate the first thing I write.

But that’s because it usually sucks.

…Or it’s because I’m conditioned to be extremely critical of any work that I do.

Many of us are conditioned to bring ourselves down. That conditioning comes from different sources and triggers, but it nags and criticizes some of us every waking second.

It’s that inner voice…can you hear it?

“That’s garbage.”

“Why would you do that?”

“You’re trash.”

I hear that voice all the time.

When I’m writing when I’m talking when I’m driving when I’m walking when I’m buying groceries when I’m making soup when I’m running when I’m boarding an airplane but don’t have my boarding pass on the right page of my passport so then it takes an extra five seconds to switch to my photo page the attendant looks up at me and raises her eyebrows for a second and there’s sixty people behind me and they just want to get home to Trinidad because it’s February in Canada and wouldn’t we all rather be in the Caribbean?

“You’re bad at airplane embarkation.”

I was thinking about trying to put together a plan to make it my priority to find some time to allocate some personal energy to sending a message to someone I respect about offering to, if they were into it, and only if they had a minute, do some work for them for free, only if they wanted it, because I’d love to help them out.

“They wouldn’t even want your shitty help why even offer?”

There was a moment that I was putting in a resume application to a place that I have always dreamed of working but then I didn’t do it for three months because if I failed then my inner voice would win and I’d be embarrassed at…myself?

Internally embarrassed?

Eternally held back.

Consistently brought down.

By myself.

By my own inner voice.

For some reason, I’ve always thought that my critical inner voice brought me a type of power. The kind of power that let me see my mistakes and look for a way to be better.

To be better next time.

Just be better.

But the negative aspect of that can be an inner voice that critiques with cruelty, instead of constructively.

Has my inner voice always been so destructive?

I think that when I was younger, I had a lot less ammunition to berate myself with when I tried to accomplish something. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and that was exciting, not terrifying.

As a kid, I was curious and confident, though prone to the occasional outburst of emotion that was quickly quelled by someone, usually my father, saying that it was disappointing that I hadn’t expressed my frustration first and then found a solution, instead of letting that frustration fester into anger.

My dad was pretty good at helping me feel what I needed to feel without losing control of those feelings.

I’m thankful for that.

And so, I could see what I wasn’t good at, analyze why I wasn’t good, and then improve.

But that was just something that I did, not something I felt I had a voice inside speaking out about.

I was me, and I just heard…ME, inside my head.

I think we don’t truly start to notice our inner voice until it starts to sound like someone, or something else.

In university, it was things like long mood swings, and missed classes because I couldn’t get out of bed. There wasn’t just a lack of energy. There was also something different, something other than the same inner monologue that I’d heard before, that perfectly reflected the way I felt or the way I thought I should be thinking.

It was a tired voice whispering: “why bother?”

I didn’t recognize this voice.

I’m not saying it was another person. It was just a version of me who I didn’t recognize.

But after a few weeks, that voice would perk up, and I’d sound like myself again.

Then, in 2011, my dad died.

Feel what you need to feel” was something that only lasted so long before I was stuck in the feeling. I was past grief and into depression. I quit school, basically. I stopped doing track and field…I’d been pretty good at it and I just dropped it. There were deeper reasons than just an inner, but it was shouting the whole time.

Why bother.”

I was acutely aware of that voice now, during that time, and it was telling me that this shitty feeling was going to last a lot longer.

I didn’t want it to.

So I went back to school, thinking I could ignore it, or function with it whispering within me.

But that was tough too.

Because, as I found out through therapy and a psychiatric diagnosis a few years later, everyone has an inner voice, but mine was supercharged with the symptoms of bipolar type 2. I’m open to talk a lot about that diagnosis, but all that means, when it comes to inner voices, is that I’ve had the experiences of all sorts of internal narratives.

Sometimes I feel so powerful and unstoppable that I have to recognize that what’s in my head is much too enthusiastic.

During the best of times, and more and more often now, through practice and self-awareness, my inner voice sounds like the one I recognize as mine: curious and confident.

But the hardest voice I have to deal with is one that is a saboteur.

The one saying: “Why bother.

Do you ever let your own inner voice get out of hand?

I definitely do.

And the times it gets out of hand means I’m no longer going through the process of trying to be better. Instead, I’m tearing down the thing I just did. I’m tearing down my own performance when I should be building on it. The thing is, there is almost ALWAYS something good about what came before. Even if what came before felt like a disaster.

The best we can do is build on what we did before.

Our inner voice, when it’s feeling like a particular kind of jerk, holds back our will to start and our will to build. It makes us feel so bad about the million ways that we could fail that we end up paralyzed and overwhelmed, unable to begin, accomplishing nothing.

And if we do nothing; if we have nothing to build on because we never started, then our inner voice has really sabotaged us.

The good news is that through all my experience I’ve come up with three steps that are simple to say and write down (but require practice) for when that inner voice is moving from helpful to harmful:

  1. Don’t pick up the phone
  2. Don’t let him in
  3. Don’t be his friend

Seriously, Dua Lipa ain’t wrong.

1. Don’t pick up the phone (Or, use your inner voice caller ID)

A lot of the time I can feel when my inner voice is going to drop some trash commentary on what I’m doing.

The monologue changes from “Let’s do this!” or “Let’s do this…a little better!” to something more nefarious, like “Are you sure you’re up to this?”, “Do you even KNOW what you’re about to do?”.

And then, before I can even answer with “Yes, I’m ready!”, it wants to answer for me.

You’re nothing. Don’t even try.

At that point, I’m not picking up that phone.

I’m going to dive in to the thing that I was about to get a negative comment about. If I just try it, just do it, and fail, that’s better than not trying it at all because my little voice was being a party pooper.

At least, after, I have a performance to improve on. And hopefully the rush of having done something a little out of my comfort zone.

I’m not giving that mean inner voice the chance to stop me from starting.

2. Don’t let him in (When that voice comes knockin’ don’t open that door)

Once I’ve done the thing, or I’m doing the thing, I have to keep up the momentum, no matter how many internal side-eyes I’m giving myself.

For example:

I am, embarrassingly, for some reason, stress sweating while I write this.

I’m alone in an office. There’s no one around. Yet, I’m stressing OUT.

What if you/they hate this article?

What if my Dua Lipa connection fails and I have to start this sucker all over again?

Oh yeah, that’s my inner voice.

I’m not letting him in.

I’m not letting that voice stop my momentum.

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Throwback to when I got the chance to speak at a Pecha Kucha night about my mental health journey last year. The way I feel today is a lot different than how I felt when I was fighting with the worst of my symptoms four years ago. ⠀ I'm where I am now because of the help of my family, friends, and mental health services in Winnipeg.⠀ ⠀ But those services could be better. When things were at their worst for me, it didn't seem like there was an accessible path to help. Resources exist, but they felt far away.⠀ ⠀ I still get messages from friends and friends of friends asking "Where do I go for help?" or "Who should I talk to?", and there should be more done to make it easier to know how to get help, and feel comfortable asking for it.⠀ ⠀ This Saturday, April 22, I'll be part of a 24 hour charity video game stream. We'll be raising money to support mental health initiatives in Winnipeg. There will be guests, stories, and a welcoming community of gamers ready to make things better.⠀ ⠀ Tune in on your computer or phone at:⠀ ⠀ CriticalCause.org⠀ ⠀ I love y'all.⠀ ⠀ Photo cred @ jeope (on Twitter)

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3. Don’t be his friend (create a new, more constructive inner voice)

We’re almost at the finish line. Maybe I’ll go back over this post and see what edits I can make. I’ll probably engage in a little constructive criticism and then seriously question if this blog isn’t just hot garbage but what if it is hot garbage and when I read this post over the next day I realize what a huge mistake I made and that not even light edits can save it and…

Damn, I woke up in his bed in the morning.

I’d just gone over for a little coffee and critique and the next thing I knew I was fully under him.

Come on Kieran, just charge ahead and hit publish.

Believe in yourself, the world won’t end if you missed a typo.

Most people are hopefully still on board with this extended song lyric metaphor, seriously!

But for real, if you shack up with your hurtful inner voice, using it to justify the inadequacies that you think you might have, you won’t be able to lean into improvement and constructive habits.

That inner voice needs to change, or, if you’re feeling extra dramatic, throw it out and make it a new, encouraging and positive voice!

It takes a lot of effort, and practice to do, but that voice doesn’t have to be so negative. It doesn’t have to bring you down.

I’m not saying we should never listen to our inner voices.

I’m not saying that a constructive, cautiously optimistic voice doesn’t sometimes keep us safe.

Our voices are a part of us. They’re an amazing, powerful part of us that can drive us to do great things.

But if you find that your inner voice is being cripplingly critical, like I did, for years, and sometimes, even now, I hope that you can start the breakup process with your jerk voice.

With practice, and mindfulness, your relationship with your inner voice can become supportive and safe.

And if you need an external supporting voice, let me know.

We can practice together.


WHAT COMES NEXT FOR KIERAN

Kieran is going to keep as active as possible with ultimate frisbee, biking, and working out because one of the best ways to keep the mind healthy is to keep the body in motion. It also holds back the neverending tide of McDonald’s he eats.

He’s serious about listening and giving advice, so feel free to send him an email at http://kieranmoolchan.com or tweet in his direction.

ALL MY FAVOURITE SELF HELP/INSPIRATIONAL STUFF

Books, Instagram accounts, articles, podcasts, docs, TED Talks and more! Let’s get growing and glowing with self-love.

I believe we’re all on a journey of personal growth. Whether it’s mindful and positive, or not, that’s up to us. Some of the materials I’m suggesting here are specific to my life experiences and the types of things I’m working through, so keep that in mind. It’s about finding whatever works for you and serves as a beacon of light when you’re struggling.

If you’re ready to show up, get mindful, learn from your mistakes, laugh a little bit and make some changes — you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled a list of both recent and older materials that I love for your consideration. I hope you get something from them just like I did.

ARTICLES

As with all articles: don’t judge them based on the headlines. I’d recommend actually reading them before you get your knickers in a bunch.

DOCS (NETFLIX)

Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution
Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Happy
Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé

BOOKS

These are my all time non-fiction faves (my favourite fiction book of all time is here). I always have a stack I’m working on. Based on what you’re seeing here, if you have book recommendations for me please go ahead and slide them on into my Instagram DM’s. 

TED TALKS

INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS

These are gonna be ALL over the map. Follow these accounts if you want to be more socially aware, lean into antiracism work, get that daily dose of encouragement, want to love yourself more, love a good laugh and/or want to confront your BS.

@CreateTheLove
@bymariandrew
@theslumflower
@whatswrongwithmyvagina
@BodyPosiPanda
@ihartericka

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Traveling while Black part 3,000: “…..white feminists tended to romanticize the black female experience rather than discussing the negative impacts of that oppression. When feminist acknowledge in one breath that Black women are victimized and in the same breath emphasize their strength, they imply that though black women are oppressed they manage to circumvent the damaging impact of oppression by being strong – and this is simply not the case. Usually when people talk about the strength of Black women they are referring to the way in which they perceive Black women coping with oppression. – bell hooks, "Aint' I a Woman" • • Yesterday, I was standing waiting for my bags in the TSA  pre check line (I make this distinction because white people get very uncomfortable when you come into spaces that are made accessible to them via class). "Yellow.. its the color of the season. Did you know that?" I was wearing a yellow turtle neck and had to move away when this presumable white woman was going to reach to touch it. As I was walking away, another white cis woman looked at me as if she was seeing Jesus and said, "wow you look amazing!" Y'all its a yellow turtle neck and khakis! But Ericka, its just a compliment, nah its their discomfort on loud speaker. White people do not compliment each other to this extent, I know they ain't shifting their way of being when they see me. • • I used to get dressed for these compliments. I would wait to wow white folks as my internalized anti-Blackness said that Black people weren't here for my weirdness. This fetishizing didn't end when I was married to a white person either, she did it too. When we divorced, I wasn't able to grieve. "You are so strong, Ericka! You will be fine!". When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, same thing. This rhetoric is what kills black parents in labor. Medical institutions think that we are only strong too. Like (@kolbybrianne) said this absolutely plays a role in desirability, and Eb said yesterday, if Black femmes are godlike, who wants to fuck god? • • bell hooks goes on to say that Black women are strong so white women can remain victims. • • Black folks only: Have you had this experience?

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@Rachel.Cargle

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Why is it that in order to talk about race white women act as though their safety is in danger? They approach it as if it’s rocket science. They place themselves into a role of one who must be coddled into understanding as opposed to shaken up to their role in the oppression of entire communities. • The marginalized have been living in fear, pain and frustration for generations but all of a sudden white women are the ones in need of “safe spaces” to finally talk about it. • Share this because I’m really tired of discomfort being called anything besides what it is and white people aren’t immune to discomfort, it’s exactly what’s needed in this conversation regarding race.

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Rachel also offers a free 30-day antiracism course (targeted at WW) that encourages you to dig in and #DoTheWork. You can sign up for that here.

@recipesforselflove
@thefinancialdiet
@thefashionfitnessfoodie
@AwardsforGoodBoys

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HI BEAUTIFUL

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@florencegiven

PODCASTS

Girls Gotta Eat

Fave episode: What Turns You On? with Nikki Glaser AND/OR Money Talks with Ramit Sethi

How I Built This

Fave episodes: The episode with Daymond John who created FUBU and my ALL TIME favourite & most life changing podcast episode of all time — the episode with Whitney Wolfe, the creator of Bumble.

Stuff Mom Never Told You (aka SMNTY)

Fave episode: Any episode from their 2017 series of episodes on Role Overload (single ladies, working mothers and working daughters).

The Art of Charm

Fave episodes: 748. 7 Signs of a Toxic Relationship AND 749. How to Handle Toxic Relationships

Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations

Fave episodes: Her episodes with Eckhart Tolle or Brené Brown (she has multiple episodes with each of them).

Guys we F*cked

I would actually recommend starting at the beginning and listening from the first episode onward. I think this podcast kinda broke the internet when it started and set a precedent for a whole new generation of female-hosted sex and dating podcasts.

TWITTER ACCOUNTS

Tbh we all need a good laugh or some insight once in a while, and here are a couple accounts I can always count on for that.

@SheRatesDogs

@TinderDistrict

@EWDatsGROSS

@LegendsLeague

@ChrissyTeigen

@Scaachi


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