I’m going to drop a bomb on you all.
So, just prepare yourselves.
Maybe grab a hot cup of tea, or a glass of wine, put on your soft pants, and get comfortable. What I’m going to say next might come as a surprise to most of you.
I, Kalmia Hockin, have a superpower.
Shocking. I know. Unbelievable? Maybe.
It took me a while to accept and perfect my fighting abilities, but I’m getting better and stronger everyday. My superpower is unlike that of Spiderman (or SpiderGwen, if you prefer the Gwen Stacey version, which – full disclosure – I do), Captain America, Black Widow, or even Wonder Woman. I like to think of it as most similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s super power abilities. Buffy Summers’ life was that of a typical teenager from the 90’s. Her life was full of high school drama, boys, shopping, a great social life, dancing at The Bronze, and a relatively normal home life, until one day- seemingly out of nowhere- vampires and demons began following her around and showing up in unsuspecting places, killing her classmates, and threatening her “perfect” 90’s Californian teenage life. Possibly even more unsettling was that random strangers kept popping up and telling her that she was the Chosen One, and that it was her destiny to slay the vampires, demons and evil forces of the world. Total bummer for the Buffster. She avoids and denies it over and over again, ignoring the signs of her inhuman strength and kick ass ninja moves, because she is determined to continue on her path to teenage popularity and normalcy, like that of everyone else she knew, until she no longer can ignore the truth and she accepts her destiny as The Slayer. With the help of her “Watcher”, Giles, she practices and perfects her slayer abilities, all the while struggling to lead as normal of a life as she can.
Her best pals (later on, affectionately known as the “Scooby Gang”) are a rag tag group of outcasts who help her to slay her demons (both metaphorically and literally), and pick her back up when she wants to throw in the towel. Buffy Summers is a fierce heroine, with a huge heart, who gets beat down time and time again, but gets back up and fights back- plus, she has a wicked sense of humor, and a quick wit filled with pop-cultures references for every occasion.
Buffy Summers is my role model.
7 years ago, I went through some pretty difficult stuff. While it didn’t involve my high school gymnasium being taken over by vampires, leading me to light it ablaze as a last ditch resort to destroy them, it was horrible, and I feel very fortunate to be here. I had found myself going through three large, long, difficult and stressful events all in row without being given a chance to recover from the last before the next thing came along, and much like Buffy, I really wanted to just throw in the towel and burn up with the building. I couldn’t eat without my body rejecting it, not only had I lost interest in activities that used to bring me joy, but the thought of doing anything caused me to have a panic attack, I couldn’t sleep, and if that wasn’t enough, I felt completely useless and guilty for putting my loved ones and friends through my misery. Basically, I had turned into a skeletal 120 pound slug that slid from my bed, to the couch, and back to bed to cry over nothing. My nerves were completely fried, and despite all of the signs, I was in denial that I was suffering from severe anxiety and major depression.
Without getting too deep into the nitty-gritty, I spent a full 2 years fighting and living in a nightmare that I felt helpless against, and that I nearly lost. There were a lot of bumps along the way, and it often seemed as though despite all my efforts, that I could never get ahead, but whenever I wanted to throw in the towel, my Scooby Gang (my friends, family and partner) helped me through before I could completely let go. Like Buffy, I just wanted to get past it and get back to my normal life like everyone else around me. The first time I had said to a doctor that I thought I had depression and anxiety, he responded by chuckling and asking why I would be depressed? Didn’t I have a roof over my head? Didn’t I have people who loved me? He then proceeded to lecture me about how ungrateful we are in North America, and how good we have it in comparison to children in South America. Of course, this enlightening point of view immediately cured me of my ailments, and definitely did not at all amp-up my feelings of isolation.
Unfortunately, this is still the mind set for many when it comes to mental health. Much like the inhabitants of Sunnydale, California, who- despite having weird and horrible things happening everyday- still deny the existence of vampires and demons, many people are often skeptical of mental health issues because they can be difficult to diagnose, define, justify and it can be difficult to understand. This skepticism, or lack of understanding, only builds walls, and further isolates us from one another. Mental health issues can manifest for many reasons, in many different ways, and can cause some real physical health issues for a person. It isn’t just something that can be willed to go away because you want it to. Mental illness also does not just affect the one person experiencing it firsthand; it also affects their friends and loved ones. It has no prejudice regarding age, gender, race, or life circumstances. It can, and does happen to people with all different living situations in all different parts of the world. The chances are pretty good that you or someone close to you has experienced depression, anxiety or another form of mental illness. We’re only just beginning to break down the walls that have been keeping us from discussing our mental wellness, but we still have a long way to go. It can feel self indulgent, difficult and really awkward to talk about, but, it’s such an important conversation to be having.
Buffy, being the wise, kickass sage that she is, once said “the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.” And I feel that nothing could be more on point. Life can be difficult, brutal and unforgiving, but it is also so wonderful, rewarding and exciting, and at the risk of sounding horribly cheesy, and cringe-worthy, you cannot let your struggles limit your possibility for the incredibly magical life that you are all so deserving of.
Build your Scooby Gang, start your path to slayage, and please know that it gets better.
You’ll find below that I’ve shared some of my favorite resources, tips, and practices that I’ve filled my Slayer toolbox with. Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below, and to share this list with your friends and family.
1. Mood Gym : Do it yourself C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
2. Mindfulness Meditation : Two wonderful doctors at the Whistler Medical Centre (Dr.Wynn and Dr.Collins) run a very valuable program that teaches the foundations of MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy). Similar to C.B.T., MBCT combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness. For more information, please ask your doctor for a referral.
3. D.I.Y. Mindfulness Meditation : Calm App. A 7 day free trial.
4. Bach Flower Remedies : Sold at Nesters in Whistler and Stay Wild Natural Health in Pemberton.
5. Valerian Root Tea : There are many different brands to try, or you can always purchase a Valerian Root tincture from Nesters or Stay Wild and blend it into your favorite night time tea for a restful sleep.
6. Maca root : I buy mine in a powder form and add it to my smoothies. It has an earthy, nutty flavor to it. You can also purchase it in capsule and tincture form.
7. Exercise! : Never underestimate the power of exercise for improving your mental wellness.
8. Petting a dog (or cat) : Our little companion entered into our lives 3 years ago, and he has been an incredible source of joy, comfort and companionship in our lives. Plus, he’s ridiculously adorable. The amazing thing about owning a dog when you suffer from mental health problems is that, no matter what kind of day you’re having, your dog will get you out of the house to take him/her for a walk, and that fresh air and exercise can make all the difference some days.
9. Using a mental health day. Call in sick and cash in a mental health day. Sometimes, we just need a day to catch our breath and decompress.
10. Read a book! All I wanted to do when I was depressed was to read a dang book, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t concentrate. This may or may not be the case for you. If not, our wonderful library has so many incredible stories and reference books for us to indulge in. Overwhelmed by the choices? Our Pemberton Library staff members love helping people find their next read.
11. Walking to work, instead of driving. This is a new practice for me that I’ve adopted this year, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what a difference it has been making in my day. Walking to work and walking home, has given me time to ease into my work day, and decompress before coming home. It’s a great time to transition between the two.
12. Essential oils. Diffuse them, throw them into a bath, roll them on your wrists, or just huff them! My favorites are straight up Lavender, Serenity blend by DoTerra (it’s seriously amazing), cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, wild orange (especially peppermint and wild orange mixed together), and Balance by DoTerra.
13. Have a bath! Light some candles, toss some salts, essential oils and bubbles in there, grab a book, a cup of tea (or a cold beer), put on some soothing tunes and RELAX.
14. Sometimes, you just need to let it out and cry. And that’s okay too.