On Vulnerability

This will be my last post for the indefinite future…I need to get back to being myself.

At any given point, I usually have two or three of these posts in the works, swapping places with a handful of others in the trash. The topics range from the less personal (e.g. talking about seasonal affective disorder – which y’all should definitely read up on if you haven’t before – or some other mental health condition), to those that are deeply personal – ones that I’d always struggle to share.

Over a year ago, I decided to start this blog to share a lot of what I had and have been struggling with in an effort to help myself and others heal. I would give myself a year to turn my mental health around. It was never easy, I was never fully comfortable telling my stories, and – I’ll admit – most times I didn’t want to. In every case, though, what made me share was the fact that maybe I’d be able to help just one person who was going through something similar. I became terribly passionate, not about sharing my life, but about helping someone.

I’d like to think I did.

Now, sixteen months after I began, I think it’s time I call it. This will be my last post for the indefinite future…I need to get back to being myself. I unknowingly took on an incredible task, and didn’t realize just how far this little project would go. I am tremendously happy with the results, both internally (within myself) and just how much positive feedback I’ve received from various people and groups.

Before I sign off, though, I’d like to leave my readers with a few of the lessons I’ve learned during this journey – and hope I’ll be able to give you something worthwhile one more time.

Being vulnerable is ridiculously difficult.

I get a lot of messages from people along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it”, or “you make it look so easy.” It really isn’t. Being open is very, very hard for me – especially in such a public setting. Being vulnerable can – to many – be seen as a sign of weakness, neediness, and a source of shame. It’s definitely not something I would willingly sign up for all the time. What made me share, though, was the hope that by being vulnerable it would inspire others to do the same, and to show that it’s not always a bad thing to ask for help.

Sometimes, people will get the wrong impression of you.

If you met me seventeen months ago, for example, you’d probably never think I would have been capable of doing something like this. I greatly enjoy my privacy and personal space, and it’s not a regular thing that I would be so willing to open up. By sharing so much of my personal life, I may have made myself too available, too open, in certain situations. While I enjoyed receiving messages, both for help and for encouragement, I’d often need to take a step back and re-evaluate if I was really ready to keep doing this. At this point, I think I’ve had my fill of the spotlight.

It may seem wrong, but sometimes, it’s OK to be selfish.

Selfishness is usually looked at as a bad thing, but sometimes it’s necessary to protect yourself. I’ve always believed that everyone needs a recharge sometimes, and as of late, I’ve been stretched thin. I think I’m a pleaser by nature, and love taking care of other people and other living things (if my dogs and plants could talk, they’d tell you)…but sometimes taking care of myself needs to come first.

That being said, I’m looking forward to being just a bit selfish over the next few or more days. Time for a little social media purge and do a little retail therapy! *googles closest Designer Shoe Warehouse*

All fun aside, for my readers: if you’ve been following my writing since the beginning, or have just recently found this blog…thank you so much for taking some time to read it. I’ll probably leave this site up for a while, so feel free to share it with someone you feel could use a little reassurance, or even just a break from their own struggles. I could definitely use a break myself. For my friends: you know how to reach me.

Wishing you the best and Happy Halloween,

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Phil.

 

 

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On Grief and Loss

Getting “over” any loss – whether it be a death, end of a relationship, or otherwise – takes a huge toll on me, and I’m not sure I’ve fully moved on from some of them. For some, I’m not sure I want to move on.

My maternal grandfather was born and raised in Greece. He grew up in a small village, survived a war, married my grandmother, and moved his family from Europe to Toronto in search of a better quality of life and opportunity.

Before I moved to Canada permanently, I’d stay with my grandparents during every visit. While his English wasn’t perfect and my Greek was basically non-existent, we forged a bond between papou and grandson that was cut way too short about eight years ago.

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Papou manning the grill.

I lost my grandfather in the middle of what should have been my final exam period in university, and got the call that he had passed right before walking into an exam room. While I knew that he wasn’t doing well, I don’t think I would have ever really been prepared to lose someone close.

Needless to say, I never took the exam. Still reeling, I was forced to essentially re-live his loss every time I had to talk to a professor, ask for a death certificate, or apply for some sort of extension allowing me more time to get things done academically. In the end, I would spend an extra semester in school making up for classes and exams that I just could not get myself to sit through. I still dream about my grandfather, and there are days when – even though it’s been years – I still feel the loss deeply.

Grief doesn’t always occur with a death. It can happen with a breakup or divorce, loss of a job, death of a pet, or even financial hardship. Sometimes, the loss doesn’t even have to be your own.

Around a year ago, a friend of mine lost their mother. I had met her in person only once, well over a decade ago when I was still new to Canada. It was a cold fall night, and I boarded a GO bus from York University to Streetsville, Mississauga (which might as well have been a flight to China – I didn’t know what direction I was headed in and nothing looked familiar) to visit my friend at her house.

If you’ve followed my posts so far, you’d know that that period of my life was complicated to say the least. While I was still struggling externally with adjusting to a new country, and still battling with an internal need to belong, a woman invited her daughter’s friend into her home with a large smile and open arms. I don’t remember many of the other details of that night minus a grand tour of the house and a hot meal, but what stuck with me was the way I felt there – welcomed. To see and experience that sort of kindness, offered to a complete stranger…that’s something that, for me, would be very hard to forget. I can only imagine how her loss must have affected (and still affects) that family, and they’re in my thoughts and prayers.

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Papou and I, early 90’s.

Everything you read in life about grief and loss will probably tell you that losing someone you love is one of life’s biggest and most difficult challenges. Most sources may even tell you what the symptoms of grief are, or that there are several steps involved in the process of grieving, or that there’s professional help for that sort of thing. What you may never read, but definitely may experience at some point in life, is just how long it takes to get to the other side of grief. Sometimes, you may even feel fine for a while – even years – and then that one song plays or someone brings up that thing you used to do together, and you’re back to where you were before.

Getting “over” any loss – whether it be a death, end of a relationship, or otherwise – takes a huge toll on me, and I’m not sure I’ve fully moved on from some of them. For some, I’m not sure I want to move on.

That being said, if you’ve got someone in your life that you love and appreciate…don’t wait until they’re gone to show them that you do.

Until next time,

Phil.

 

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