Who is Cassie-Lou?

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I was born on a Thursday. I’m a Scorpio born in the year of the dragon. I’m rational, spiritual, and constantly questioning.

I am a survivor. Of abuse. Of mental illness. Of physical illness. Of faulty & flawed systems. Of violence.

I am a flawed and fallible human, whose life consists of endless dichotomies. I try to embrace a dialectic approach to holistic care. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television, but I am an excellent peer support worker, and I care so much.

I love reading and writing. I love being outdoors. I love sensations and alternative forms of care. I love learning, and wish I could go to school forever. I love sharing knowledge. I am committed to unlearning & growth.

I am a single parent, polyamorous, pansexual femme. I live with disability.

You will find here writings about mental health, sexual & gender-based violence, sexual freedom, kink & more. I will not go back into the closet.

 

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Rise. Any trajectory is forward if time is your y-axis!

Today I used the #risefilter because I rose today. Show me your #risefilterpictures and tag me in them. Bonus points if you tell me what you rose above.

#riseabove #bebetter #dobetter #mentalillness #recovery #progress #selfhealing #selfempowerment #somanytagsomgNERD #somemoreclichestuff #doyogaandmeditate #haveyoutriednotfeelingsad

Today I cried. A lot. I had a rough go with executive dysfunction. I had to run around quite a bit.

Thing happened. Got triggered. Went to class anyways. Took notes. Asked questions. Then I got on the bus home and *whoosh* cried. I sat down at the transit station to wait for my next bus. Cried.

What happened next, was a solid two hours of medium-functioning adulting, with zero crying. Then, I guess my body ran out of tolerance for not-crying and needed to stop adulting in that fashion for a while. So I hopped on another bus to the grocery store I cried in 3 entirely different aisles. I asked the cashier to “just ignore my face please” as I exuberantly thanked her while she bagged my groceries. I cried on the bus home.

The worst part is, I don’t feel particularly sad. I feel like I am angry, and tired.

I am a high functioning, intelligent human with lifelong mental illness. I cried in all those places…but I still went to school, picked up a textbook, took notes, asked questions, spent (coped for) 5 hours on public transit, did a hard adult thing without crying, AND I DID GROCERIES.

I’m not overlooking these things. I was not always able to do things while crazy.

So what’s different?

Me, entirely it feels like. Being committed to unlearning is kind of a constant blow to my ego, which was already kinda shriveled from a lifetime of…*gestures vaguely at my past*. I get better all the time at taking criticisms without taking it personally. I know that white women’s tears are weaponized all too often. So I’m working on that too.

Another difference is that I’m learning to ask for help. I used to think that meant I could say “help, it hurts and I’m scared but I don’t know why – fix it? I don’t know how, just make it better.” Turns out, that’s not the most productive way to get help in my world.

I found a crew of humans with unique and varied talents, abilities and capacities, and I did my best to ask for what exactly I would like from them, in as much detail as possible, and then said it “out loud” to them. Amazing, right? (I begrudge my business teachers for being right about SMART goals.)

So today I cried and did not a lot of anything useful <– look at this jerkbrain talking! Try again. Today, I rose. I felt bad. I didn’t want to. I did things anyways. Tomorrow might be better. Or not. Who knows? But I have some plans in place. So time will tell. It’s all forward trajectory if time is my y-axis, right? We move forward even when we are stuck in bed.

That’s kind of the gambit you run with the intersection of disability and poverty, in my experience. I’m okay, ’til I’m not. I can flow through a solid 9 different emotions in a busy hour.

I’m also doing practical self-care at about 75% of my goal right now. Which means, I’m late for bed tonight. I have to leave the house in 9 hours to do it all again. Maybe it’ll be brighter then.

💜💛💙

I can’t say I’m not trying though. 👍

Dissect

I changed my body

Thinking you might like me more

That my attributes were too much

Not enough

So I sheared myself bare

And offered myself to your scrutiny

Inch by inch, waiting for inspection

My body still too much

My body still not enough

For some hyperbolic perfection

Rendered bare

I will always be too much

For a heart as deep as a puddle,

A worldview as broad as a pinhead.

If I still remain too much,

With each inhalation of power

Exhale the excess

Too much

Is not enough

Ethical Economist, Harm Reduction Edition.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to yearn. Our feels are valid and f’real real.

It is easy to get wrapped up in our own feelings and perceptions without engaging in the bigger picture.

Our actions are what count, in spite of any feelings. I don’t know anyone who truly enjoys being wrong, but I know I’m wrong a lot. I value reducing harm and active work towards anti-oppressive practices.

When folks care enough to expend the energy to tell me that I am wrong (in the sense that my actions are causing harm to an individual or group), then it is in my best interest (re evolution and personal growth) to acknowledge my harm (impact > intent) and hold myself to account to align my actions with my values.

This is where I often get stuck.

“But I didn’t mean it like that” is my biggest barrier to accountability; with solemn nods to “that isn’t my experience” and “it was just a thought”.

My ignorance is not serving me. The higher the risk of harm, the lower the tolerance for ignorance. As ignorance is output, the risk of harm increases.

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Critical thinking is a skill. And for some reason, they don’t drill that into our heads as much as they do biology (the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell), geography (did you know Canada has 4 distint biomes that hosts a diverse breadth of species?), math (Pythagorean Theorem, anyone?).

We (I?) learned crital thinking as a footnote. “Oh yeah, about 70% of the average adult’s intake are ads telling them how much their life sucks coz they dont have _____. So like…don’t fall for it.” *finger guns*

I wish I had learned how do dissect problems sooner. The bigger the problem, the more distractions. I stand back and look at this giant map of quests all lit up like a video game, and my glowing path is directed at so many micro-goals it’s just an aura all around me. Critical thinking, Freakonomics, and ethical explorations helped me develop skills to identify and quantify many kinds of risk, and a framework centered on the intention of actively working to reduce harm in the world around me.

When the cost of causing harm is high, – meaning that my wrongness is causing harm, then the demand for accountability is high. When the cost of harm is low, the demand for accountability is also low. Ceteris paribusall other things being equal.

A – The demand for accountability is reduced as the risk of harm declines. I theorize that the less accountable we are for the ways in which we participate in harm, the more harm we are likely to inflict.

B – My supply of accountability must increase as risk of causing harm increases. The more harm that we are at risk of perpetuating, the more we must be critically held to account.

C- This means that when the risk of causing harm to individuals or groups of people, our output of accountability muse increase to ensure compassionate care in the process of harm reduction.

D – I wonder if the heightened demand for accountability (re- actively engaging in anti-oppressive practices) would naturally reduce the risk of harm.

This is all just a half-baked rant where I try to make sense of the barriers to humans participating in the propegation of systemic oppression using some Microeconomic 101 skills.

I’d like to express gratitude for every human who has expended energy in my direction to point out harm that I’m causing in the world hoping I’ll listen and do better next time.

I did not listen to most of the folks who tried for a long time. But due to my personal evolution, I believe that my willingess to be wrong increases as my harm output decreases.

Its hard to know you’re hurting folks. It doesn’t matter how you meant it. Listen. Learn. Expend your own valueable resources (time and energy) into learning that which harmed people may not have the capacity to teach you. Think critically considering the stakeholders. Then make an informed decision with your goal of harm reduction in mind.

I believe we can all do better.

my own

e e cummings

e e cummings helps my brain flow languidly
around thoughts and ideas that burn beneath my skin & freeze thoughts in my mind

in the time it takes my breath
to hitch
my teeth find my bottom lip
and my thighs gasp

i sink into myself anew, and i feel at home
in my empty hall of vein and sinew

the din of solitude reverberates in my throat with each labourious breath
echoing through me
outside of me
even vibrations dissipate in me

i consume your joy
i absorb your sound
i weep as i tremble into my own loving arms
knowing that it would be nigh impossible to love
as i love me

30 Albums in 30 Days – 2018 Edition

This challenge is one that brought me much pleasure and new music into my rotation when I did it last year. Essentially I posted the following on Facebook to ask for recommendations from loved ones:

Okay folks I’m doing it again. Looking to spice up my music collection. Please comment with one album that means the world to you! I’ll be listening to an album a day for the next 30 days. The catch – it has to be one I’ve never listened to!

This year, I’m anticipating the same pleasurable outcome of diversifying my music library. The base list so far is as follows:

D1 – Jen Militia – Berlin Boot Camp
D2 – St. Lenox – Ten Hymns From My American Gothic
D3 – Alanis Morisette – So-Called Chaos
D4 – Feist – Metals
D5 – Adiemus – Songs of Sanctuary
D6 – LaLa Land – Wax Fang
D7 – Joss Stone – Soul Sessions
D8 – Motorhead – Orgasmatron
D9 – The Matches – Decomposer
D10 – Brand New – The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me
D11 – Grime Kings – Something Ugly
D12- Mini Mansions – The Great Pretenders
D13 – Billie Ellish
D14 – Poe – Haunted
D15 – Amorphis – Queen of Time
D16 – Age Of – Oneohtrix Point Never
D17 – Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians
D18 – Portishead – Dummy
D19 – Chinese Man – Shikantaza
D20 – Pushloop – Midnight Wax
D21 – The Avalanches – Wildflower
D22 – Out of the Blue – Electric Light Orchestra
D23 – ISON – Andromeda Skyline
D24 – Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
D25 – Weird Al Yankovich – Off the Deep End
D26 – LP – Forever Now
D27 – Rage Against the Machine (1992)
D28 – Dana Immanuel – Character Assassination
D29 – The B52’s – The B52’s
D30 – Stars – In Our Bedroom After the War

Continue reading “30 Albums in 30 Days – 2018 Edition”

Through thick and thin, or Why I will never take a river for granted again.

I believe that romanticizing the idea of “through thick and thin” in relationships is dangerous.

I will tell you why that was true for me, at least.

As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) I experience broad spectrum feelings. Sometimes I experience from rage to joy to sorrow and grief in the span of an hour.

This is, to me, the emotional equivalent of a triathalon in my brain. All day every day.

My most effective coping strategy to date is mindfulness & radical acceptance.

“But Cassie, that’s two skills!” You may say.

I posit that radical acceptance is impossible without mindfulness.

To be clear:

Radical acceptance is the practice of knowing the gravity or exuberance of every situation and accepting it for reality without trying to escape, or change the present or past.

Mindfulness is – to me – the practice of awareness.

Awareness of your body, feelings, situation and the sources of sensory input.

Mindfulness is being able to parse internal and external sources for certain stimuli.

✔ pain (stubbed toe v swollen muscles)
✔ cold (poor circulation v cold rain)
✔ afraid (phobia v imminent danger v overactive nervous system)

Mindfulness is great as a trend because there is science to self-healing through self-awareness.

Radical acceptance involves making a conscious choice to reduce using valuable resources (time & energy) on the past or present that is outside of your control and redirect those resources to the present you have power over & planning for a better future. It’s laughing about a situation instead of being stuck crying. It’s acknowledging the intolerable, unjust, and inconceivable while moving forward and gathering strength.

I cannot accept the truth of the present moment without a mindful awareness of the reality of a situation. To accept a situatiom does not mean we condone or approve of it, rather it is embracing the truth of the present in order to make informed decisions that can benefit us in the future.

This brings us back to the “through thick or thin” narrative. I can often accept inconsiderate behaviour when I know the cause. I can appreciate a horrendous reaction to something I view as benign when I can accept someones motivations and priorities as either unknown to me. When I can approach someone where they are at with a compassionate stance then this is where I have an opportunity to learn.

Through thick and thin denotes that no matter how somebody treats me or themselves or others around me that I should find it in my heart to forgive and forget. It implies that if somebody does wrong and then is sorry that you must forgive them. If one does not forgive the person who caused harm then they are bad. You are a bad friend for not standing by, you are a bad partner for not trying harder, you are a bad lover for not just loving more.

The idea that we are to stand by loved ones through thick and thin I have now come to understand as toxic. I believe it was created with the institution of monogamous marriage in mind. It does not account for autonomy, or an expectation that the people in our lives do better and try harder. Or that sometimes no matter how much you love someone, they are not good for you and you deserve better. This concept seems to imply that we cannot let go of people that are toxic to us, and often shames folks who even consider that possibility.

When somebody is actively and regularly doing us harm, whether intentional or not, we have a choice. We can tolerate that behavior hoping that it will change, while we observe patterns repeating. Or we can choose ourselves. The latter choice is often seen as selfish and often inherently negative. Putting yourself first, by definition, is factually selfish but being selfish isn’t always a bad thing. You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Filling your own cup first is the responsible thing to do. If somebody is continually draining your cup and never giving back or rarely giving back it is up to you to be mindful of your current capacity and make informed decisions about your next steps.

It is up to you to advocate for yourself and your own needs.

It is up to you to clearly communicate your needs, your wants, your hopes and expectations.

If a person hears you, says they understand your needs and still choose themselves over you again and again, they may be demonstrating a (subconscious) lack of respect or taking you for granted on the expectation that you will always be there. You don’t need to stick with them through thick and thin. You may feel obligated, you may feel guilty, you may feel hurt, but we are only responsible for our own actions.

I believe all of this deep into my heart because I loved someone that I took for granted. I was loved in such a pure and encompassing way that I felt safe putting it to the side. Because I thought it would always be there. I felt so secure in their love for me that I forgot to offer security back. I was careless, I was neglectful, and ignored their needs while filling my cup from the incomparable river of their heart, that flowed so strongly and so freely I never imagined it would run dry.

I took too much and gave too little. I thought they would always be there. But one day, they asked for more, and I chose not to give it. They built a dam, and diverted the flow of their river to a jungle that would appreciate its abundance in a way that I had forgotten how.

I spent a long time hoping that when they were ready the dam would open again and I’d have a chance to give my love in earnest. I railed against it’s boundary wishing for more time, another chance. But the reality is, that river is strong and beautiful, and no matter how good my intentions were, I did not deserve it.

I learned many lessons. I learned “through thick and thin” can be abused as a tool to manipulate others into staying beyond what is good for them. I learned that I can tolerate the intolerable. I learned that rose coloured glasses made all red flags just look lile flags, and I learned the weight of regret, and I bear it every day.

Then I learned how to move through it. No longer do I lie in the dried up riverbeds outside your dam crying for even a trickle from your stream. I learned how to stand again, walk again. I learned how to harden my heart and build my own dams to protect my own river. I learned how to collect water from the world around me, and how to splash my own water beyond where I think it could reach.

Most importantly, I learned to never take a river for granted again.

Calling Myself In: Accessibilty & Organizing

Today I saw a post on facebook,

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpermalink.php%3Fstory_fbid%3D578472042524653%26id%3D100010855866320&width=500

This post is a good reminder for me as an organizer. In an event description I recently posted for a workshop I’ll be teaching but not hosting I said: “Please message myself or ___ for accessibility information.”
 
This was lazy of me. I didn’t consider needs or abilities outside of my own.
 
Action Steps:
 
1. Contact event host for accessibility info & add to the event description.
2. Do some research and develop an accessibility checklist to work from for future events. Re-evaluate it regularly.
3. Make accessibility inquiries a routine part of venue inquiry.
Part of my desire for eventually owning an education-centered space of my own is to be about breaking down barriers and building a community. I dream of a community hub where people can meet, be, exist, learn, grow. I want folks to just be safe. I want to build a space that sometimes isn’t for me to use. I want to leverage the privilege I do have to make the world even just a tiny bit safer.
So I’m calling myself out again. I need to do better.