Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I remember sitting in the backyard at my mother-in-law's. The rest of the family was playing a game of baseball using one of those plastic bat and ball sets that are so popular at dollar stores. There was much laughing and trash talking. And there I sat, by myself, at the picnic table. My sister-in-law was across the lawn from me, making her way back into the game. She paused and attempted to make eye contact with me, beckoning me to come play. I pretended I couldn't see her. Yes, that's what I did. I just ignored her because I was incapable of getting up and joining in the fun.

Mike got his sisters later in life, he was sixteen and so were they. We were not all instant friends. This baseball game was early on in their blended family relationship and I was already making a muck up of it because how do you form a connection with someone like that? Here she was inviting me to join the fun and instead I pretended I didn't even see her. She gave up eventually. Obviously. Why wouldn't you? At the time she didn't know me from Adam and I'm sure even she wasn't completely sold on the idea of investing in these new relationships.

My life is made up of a million of those types of stories. Stories in which I behave, seemingly, like an asshole (if I was lucky. A lot of the time I came off bitchy) because whatever I had going on inside my brain didn't allow me to be comfortable within myself. You'd have to wonder how I ended up with any friends at all. I'd like to send a very heartfelt thank you to those of you who pushed through all that stuff I had up and in the way to be my friend. I used to "joke" that I made you work to be friends with me and while the "joke" had more than a sliver of truth to it, I promise that wasn't by design. If I could have been any different I would have. So really thanks for taking a chance on me because if you hadn't pushed it, I certainly wouldn't have. Y'all know who you are.

Mental illness is not something I spend a lot of time discussing with other people. I mean if I was incapable of saying hello to someone I certainly wasn't about to offer up how I would stay up hours later then I should just because my anxiety went off the charts when I climbed into bed. My Dad was bipolar and committed suicide and yet on my hospital paperwork when I had the girls when they asked about a history of mental illness in the family I answered none because I didn't want to that to be my label. I realize that was stupid because the concern is postpartum depression and I knew that at the time, but I felt people would be watching me even closer once they found that out. When I meet someone new I usually skirt the Dad death question the best I can when and if it comes up because people are usually so incredibly sorry they asked and then it becomes an awkward moment of me very brightly assuring them that everything is okay, that I'm fine with it when I'm not truly fine. I live with it because that is the realty of things, but I will never been fine with it because it's not fine. It's not okay. He should be here. I don't know what has to change to keep this sort of thing from happening to other families, but just simply talking about it has to be a good start, right?

I am one of the lucky ones. My feelings of anxiety are lower then they ever have been before in my life. That is something I am still adjusting to. I can chair meetings and make new friends and sit through volunteer screening interviews and I barely break a sweat. I climb into bed and just fall asleep. No more staying up to the point of exhaustion and then reading until I fell asleep with the book in my hand. I presented an award to a couple of kids at the school in front of a room full of people. I was in a flash mob! My life is big and full and wonderful. I mean my life has always been wonderful, but this is just an easier kind of wonderful. That Shannon that ignored her sister-in-law all those years ago does not exist anymore. I have learned, the hard way, that I'm not "cured", living like this takes work. I need to be good to myself. I need to run and write and drink my water. I need sleep and game nights and volunteering and I need my friends. I read a book recently about the power of friendship and how important it is to a woman's overall health. My social circle is the largest it's ever been in my life and I credit it very heavily with how mentally healthy I feel. From my closest friends to work friends to volunteering friends to neighbours to friends who I've never met in person you all give something very important to my life and I thank you all for that.

Be good to each other, you never can tell what someone else is living with. Be patient. Be empathetic. Take a chance on the quiet bitchy girl in the corner. Mike's sisters did and I am so thankful for them.

Much love.


Shelley said...

I knew your father quite well. He really was a nice man. He was kind & helped so many neighbours in his friendly way. I know he love you, Dave & your mom. He always seemed like he enjoyed the times with his kids. Bipolar is a mean cruel illness, with meds that make you feel you don't need them anymore. Sometimes life just hands you a bag of shit. Both you & David are amazing people, so never forget that, even if you don't feel it sometimes.

Lynn said...

Oh, how I loved this post! Thanks so much for sharing, Shan. Just in the time I have been reading your blog I've seen you change, grow bolder, grow braver, and that's just amazing. I love that you're not (quite) as afraid to talk about this now and to make changing yourself part of your core goals. Rock on!

Julie said...

I agree with Lynn. It's been 6 years since I started reading your blog and you have grown, as we all have. And I love that you have been so generous to share it with us. Rock on indeed.

Betsy said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I am also one who struggles with anxiety and depression. I am actually on medications for both and seeing a counselor. I am working toward good mental health, but it's a process and it takes time. I agree that this needs to be something that we talk about. Problems will never get solved if we just hide our issues in a box. PS I have lied on medical forms too, about my mental health. I was worried about the label for sure!

Bibliomama said...

I got so anxious trying to type a suitable comment on this that I ate another biscuit. :)
I've had the same issues with sleep anxiety and social awkwardness my whole life. I'm so incredibly sorry about your father, and about the uneasy legacy that leaves you. The rest of my family is almost annoyingly normal (sorry, neurotypical), which is good but also makes you feel like even more of a freak when you're not. Considering that you're someone I think of as incredibly competent, energetic, friendly and active in the volunteering community, I would say you've triumphed admirably over some really difficult circumstances.

Shan said...

Shelley - I'm not going to lie I teared up reading this. Thank you.

Okay I'll admit it I got teary reading all of these.

Lynn - Thank you so much. It astonishes me at times how different I am. It's been such a gradual journey I never really noticed how big the curve was. And yes, talking more is good. Thank you being such a wonderful visitor here.

Julie - Why do you guys all live so far away. Seriously. I think I was made for Ottawa:) Six years, really? Seems like a minute and a lifetime all at once. Thanks Julie!

Betsy - Medication is one thing I haven't done, but likely should have at points. I wish you so much peace during this time. My thoughts are with you often.

Allison - Anxious or not I would have eaten the biscuit! An uneasy legacy.... never thought of it that way, but yeah. Not one of those labels is one I would have picked for myself, but I love hat you did. It's nice sometimes to see yourself through someone else's eyes. Is everyone in Ottawa as awesome as all of you?

Lynn said...

Yes, everyone in Ottawa IS that awesome, so you should TOTALLY MOVE HERE :).

Also: craving biscuits now.