A day in the life of

I am not quite awake yet. I think it’s “another coffee,” kind of day. I am commuting to work on public transit.

It’s coming on to the fall season. It is getting dark in the evenings and pitch black when the alarm goes off in the morning. It’s also cooler now. I took down the screen I taped up in the living-room to keep the cat from falling out while the window was open (the window opens outward with a gap of four inches) with nothing below it. I also placed candles and other knickknacks in front of the window to keep her away (It worked).

Fall, the season is different here in the Vancouver area. While some trees change colour and drop their leaves, many other trees remain green. It also rains in late Fall and Winter months, but the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a colder winter across the continent, so it’s going to be a “wait and see,” kind of year. I don’t do well with snow. I cannot walk in the snow anymore, so I am hoping not.

I do walk better than I ever had thanks to my Dantrolene prescription. I tried exercising again, but then my hips, knees and back hurt. Even with just the cooler weather, I feel aches in my knees and hips. It’s a no win all around. Sometimes, I hate getting older. I wish they had known about the drug a lot sooner, then a least there might have been less impact damage to my hips and knees. Oh well, bothering to be done about it…

So, it’s just a bus ride into work. It’s the same old routine of going to work. This is what comes to mind. This is what I write. A bit boring I know. It’s just another ordinary day in the life of “me”.
—Robert Confiant 19 September 2018

My complete coming out story

I’ve written about parts of this in other posting here on this blog, but I haven’t put the whole story together.

gay & disabled

I first came out to myself where I really admitted to myself that I preferred guys over girls. I hated myself. I tried to pray it away – God, how I tried. I cried and prayed. I did everything I could think of hoping I would change. I did not want to be any more different than I already was. I think this was one of the reasons why my downward spiral began.

High school was okay, I wasn’t teased or anything like that it was fine. I had a handful of friends, but I still felt like I was always on the outside. I grew up in the projects and I know that if it came out that I was gay; it wouldn’t have been good for me. It was different times. It was the mid-1970s. It was never mentioned, but it was known to be frowned upon. I grew up Catholic, so you can imagine what that was like. So, I kept quiet with things being what they were. Still, I had good friends; not a lot of friends, but I kept the key aspect of my life private. I didn’t tell anyone. Not even my closest friends. My disability avoided a lot of unanswered questions.

For a lot of my life, I remained celibate. I never dated; although, I did start to fall for one or two guys over the years, with one who “scared me straight” for quite a while. He was older. We never told each other outright, but the feelings and the flirting were there. He invited me over one night and I am sure that the only reason nothing happened was because he was waiting for me to make the first move something I wasn’t ready to do at that time.

When I was in my late twenties, I was ready to come out. My brother beat me to it. My parents soon asked me if I was gay, but he came out because he was sick and I didn’t want to cause any further worry, so I said, “No.” I should have said, “Yes,” and gotten it over with. I am a hundred percent sure that my parents would have been cool with it (the way they dealt with my brother leads me to believe my parents would have been okay with it).

When I moved away and eventually came out. It was freeing. Imagine the one thing you don’t want others to know about you and then imagine it getting out to everyone. At first, you think, “That’s it, no one will like me now,” but it is also freeing. Everyone knows. You’ve reached the point where either they do accept or they do not. Those who don’t; well, one has to wonder… Doesn’t one?

Anyway, that’s it in a nutshell is my full coming out story.
—Robert Confiant 18 September 2018

Depression and life

I just listened to a TEDx talk on suicide and life. Once upon a time, I could not do this.
I am told quite often that I am a strong person. They say this because I have dealt with having a disability, so well. And if I am honest, in some ways they are correct. I am a person who happens to have Cerebral Palsy. Back when I was younger, I didn’t let my dis-ablity stop me from doing what I wanted to do. My dis-ability (sic) is not who I am. I am not defined by my dis-ability. I live with it. To me, it is not brave, nor heroic, nor anything special. I have always had a bum leg. I don’t know any different, so this is my “normal.”

Somewhere on this path of life, I lost my confidence. I stopped believing in myself. I developed a low self-esteem about myself. My depression resulted because I believed that I couldn’t do anything. I was told, by kindly meaning professionals, that I couldn’t do this, or I couldn’t do that. I don’t blame them for what resulted. It just I took their statements to be realistic about my career choices to heart. I felt that I couldn’t do anything. It’s strange, how my all or nothing attitude played a factor even back then. I am an “All or nothing” kind of guy. I don’t like to admit it, but I still am. The result is that I suffered from depression in my late teens and early twenties. The fact that I was gay didn’t help. I was closeted, gay young man who grew up in the projects. I was supposed to be tough. I was also a strict Catholic and these two aspects were “polar opposites” in their views. I still joke about going to hell (I don’t believe it, but I still joke about it). So really, my depression stemmed from my lack of confidence in myself and the loathing I felt about being different. I gave up. I stopped living and I couldn’t see a good future for myself. I was depressed.

After I hit rock bottom, I went to counselling and I sought out help. I wasn’t working because of the recession at the time and because I felt I couldn’t do anything with me having a dis-ability. I got work eventually after I went on some job training course. It helped boost my confidence again. I later returned to school to upgrade my skills. The success I found there also contributed to my confidence boost. Step-by-step, I began to snap out of my depression and my confidence returned. It was a slow process, but one that built a strong foundation on which I could stand upon.

Today, this is all history. I have had my bouts of depression, but I have figured out tricks to help me snap out of it. My depression now stems from Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). With this realization, I find that my depression is manageable, if I caught it. Sometimes it can be a week before I realize I am in a state of depression. When I finally do come to realize this, I do the opposite of what I feel I want to do. Namely, I go out, instead of staying in; I socialize, instead of shutting myself out. For me, this doing opposite works. I also purchased a light for the winter months. It helps.

I am at a good place. I can’t say I never get depressed, but when I do, I can deal with it. For the most part, I am happy with my life. I no longer worry about the past, and I don’t fret about the future. I stay in the now. This was another issue back then, I couldn’t stay in the now.

Most of the time, I am that strong person I appear to be, but sometimes I am not. For those times I am not, I work on it. Over all though, life is good.

For those of you who are struggling. I am reposting this image:

Mental health continuum-mobile

Get to know the signs and if you are in any phase other than healthy, seek help. There is no shame in asking for help. We all need a hand up occasionally.

My life may not always be exactly what I want, or I wish for, but it is a good life. I have my health. I have a good family, partner and friends who are always there for me, and a decent job. A hobby that I love – writing, contrary to what our income obsessive materialistic society wishes to sell us, these are what truly matter.

Peace and love.
—Robert Confiant 15 September 2018

I don’t give up

I don’t give up, or I don’t give up too easily. I was always this way growing up.

I never personally knew anyone else who had a physical dis-ability (sic) growing up until much later. I had four brothers and a lot of friends in the project where I grew up, and I wanted to participate in the same activities that they participated in. I had to work twice as hard to meet, or just function enough that I could join in.

It was the same when I got employed. My mother helped me get my first job. We didn’t have a lot of extras when we were young, so when I hit sixteen I wanted to get a job, but I told my mom that I didn’t think anyone would hire me with my bum leg (I still call it that sometimes – my right leg is worse than my left leg). Anyway, she spoke with her boss at the time, and her boss gave me a try. It was a janitor position, which required that I be on my feet all shift (weekends and the odd evening). I proved that I could achieve this by working extra hard (well, harder than those I saw around me).

It was the same many years later when I got hired over the phone for a clerk position at a bookstore. I was hired as magazine stocker. It was gruelling and heavy work: Storing overstock in the back (climbing up and down), stocking the racks out front and shipping and receiving bundles of magazines. As I was hired over the phone, when I walked into work the first day my manager thought he had made a mistake. He told me this a few years later, but he figured I couldn’t be any worse than anyone else he had hired, so he gave me a shot (he never regretted it), but I worked really hard to keep this job. I loved working there. It was a good group of people and I loved to read. When I decided to go to university, he called me back each summer.

I never gave up to easily on anything I tried. It was many years of attempting to ice skate before I threw them in and gave up. I felt like I wasn’t getting any better, so I gave it up. If I saw some improvement, I am sure I would have stayed with it. Alas, I sucked at ice skating, and I felt, “Why beat a dead horse, when I saw no improvement?”

So, now I am realistic about what I can, or cannot do. I try something for a while, and if I don’t see improvement, then I give it up. Why waste my time and energy?

Some people think I am stubborn, and they are not wrong; I definitely am. But, my stubbornness has given me the “Stay with it” attitude. It has gotten me far in life (It can also tee off some people at times, I am sure 😁). Stubbornness has its benefits.
—Robert Confiant 12 September 2018

Do or do not, there is no try

“Do or do not, there is no try.” Yoda

Yoda

When one has a physical limitation, or any limitation, these are words to live by. Unfortunately, in real life one discovers there are limitations as to what one is realistically able to do.

I may not always succeed, but I always give everything I do or everything I attempt my very best. I never give up easily. I often make several attempts at doing new things. I can’t skate for instance, although, God knows, I’ve tried. I mentioned this story before, so I will skip the monologue, and get to the gist of the story. After many, many attempts of no improvement, I threw in my skates. I guess I could have kept trying, but I didn’t see any point. I had plateaued and I never saw any improvement. If I had, then I probably would have stayed with it.

For me, this is the key. I require some sense of improvement when I strive to do something. If I don’t see any improvement, I generally give up.

Unlike fantasy movies and books, life has its setbacks. The key is to keep trying until it becomes evident that it is beyond one’s ability. We can’t do everything, or else we would all be able to do it all. We all have our individual gifts, skills, and traits which makes each of us unique.

I learnt my limitations after I have made numerous attempts. I wanted to try for track and field once. I asked my teacher and she said if I could run a mile under 5 minutes, then she would let me. I couldn’t meet the time, but I completed the mile (I remained stubborn until the end).

Unfortunately these trials and failures, and what with professionals (teachers, counsellors, etc.) telling me to be realistic about my career choices, I began to lose my confidence. I stopped trying new things. I never attempted alpine skiing, and by the last surgery, I lost the flexibility in my ankle and feared I would only hurt myself.

Doubt and fear are two obstacles blocking most people from trying new things. I should have kept trying thing when I was younger now I feel I am too old.

Unfortunately one cannot go back. I have to accept that I cannot do everything, and I have. As mentioned above, no one can do everything. We all have limitations, but one must give it their all before one tosses in the towel. I still try new things. I have done IT ( I learnt to program and repair computers). I have taken up writing and I have written a book and I have this blog. I have drawn a map for my novel. I find if there is a will to do something, then one can usually accomplish the task. The end result may not be perfect, but at least it gets done.

In my case, the method I use may not be the same as someone without a physical limitation, and it may take me longer to accomplish it, but I get it done. And this is what counts. It doesn’t matter how one does a thing, or how long it takes. It only matters that one accomplishes what one set out to do.
—Robert Confiant 4 September 2018

The hardest task

The hardest task for me to do is fine motor skills, for example, working with tiny tools.

I love computers and computing. I found this out when I got my first computer (I was late to the game). It was a 286 IBM clone withe 512Kb of RAM and a 40Mb hard drive (a low end computer at the time, but it was good for me). I wasn’t getting the computer thing until it dawned on me that it was an idiot machine without its software (An obvious observation, but I was slow at first). I got it for university.

After I scraped by a degree (I picked the wrong major and I was too stubborn to change). In hindsight, I should have chosen social sciences or English literature (Either of these would have served me better). I digress, once I obtained my degree, I moved back home and worked, but I still wanted more, so I went to college and got a programming certificate, which lead to work in IT (A job for life, or so I thought). I loved working in IT.

repairing computer

My first computing job was “Presales.” I tested software while it was still in development stage and tested scenarios our clients were experiencing with previous editions of the software (reproduce the bugs they were experiencing). I loved it I would reconfigure computers to match their own machines by taking apart and rebuilding computer to closely match the test machine to reproduce the bug). It was fun, but for someone with Cerebral Palsy, it was tricky too. I got the shakes doing the finer aspects of the job and the more I would concentrate on doing the job, the worst my shaking got. I couldn’t help it was an aspect of my CP. I did it, but if the shaking got too bad I would need to step away until the shaking decreased, or ceased all together (This didn’t take much time. Sometimes all it took was the idea of getting away and a deep inhale and exhale). Overall, I was good at my job. I went on to just quality assurance (software testing with no taking apart and rebuilding machines), and eventually, I went on to work in a non-computing field; however, from time to time l still get IT request from friends, and the fine skills of working with small tools still cause me issues, but I manage. I love to dabble in computer stuff. It helps me keep my feet in it.

I can even teach others about computing. This wasn’t always the case, but I got better at it, although this is another article for another blog post.
—Robert Confiant 14 August 2018

One cannot just throw in the towel

When all else fails, just keep doing, keep trying, and keep moving forward. This is what having Cerebral Palsy has taught me, but that wasn’t always the case.

In my late teens and early twenties, I gave up. I stagnated. Before then, I was a happy, carefree, determined young man. I tried everything so called, “Normal” kids did. I wasn’t always the first kid chosen, but I participated. I never really gave it much thought then, but I tried everything at least once, and lots of time I had to do things differently from the other kids; I had to do things my way (I just couldn’t do something’s the way the other kids did them. It was physically impossible for me to do these things normally). But I participated. I had a lot of confidence back then, but in my late teens and early twenties, I lost that confidence. I fell into a deep depression.

I stagnated. I couldn’t move forward, and like everyone else in this linear existence of a world, I couldn’t go back. This depression went on for quite a while until I hit rock bottom.

Eventually, I got help counselling, job training, job searching and employment. I was happier for a few years, but then I quit work and went back to school. I disliked my latter year of high school the first time around (I was just present and I was really participating. Well, all except music. Music kept me going). I did extremely well when I first returned first college and then to high school to obtain my Grade 13/OAC credits. I didn’t do so well in university, but I picked the wrong major (hindsight is twenty/twenty vision). Oh well…

Somewhere along these school years, I got my confidence back. I never looked back (I removed, but I haven’t looked back). It’s become one of my axioms: Keep moving forward and never look back (The others, in case you are wondering are: Believe in yourself – have confidence, and one more; nobody is perfect – we’re all human and everyone makes mistakes, so be easy on yourself).

That’s where I am in life. I am moving onward. My life isn’t perfect, but it isn’t bad either. I having reached all my goals, but I keep trying. I have made some misjudgments, but nothing too serious. I keep trying. I try plan A, then plan B, and plan C if I need to or Plan D after that. I have lots of plans to help me to my destination – all leading to the same goal.

That’s the trick – keep going and keep trying. You’ll find the journey is what life is really all about. (Gees, how did I get this wise? It must be because I am getting old. LOL)
—Robert Confiant 10 July 2018