It doesn’t take a talent to be mean, your words can crush things that aren’t unseen

I’m probably hard to date.

I’ve been seeing articles shared on facebook like “how to date someone with a mental illness”, and “how to treat your depressed girlfriend” or whatever.  I’ve never been shy about my struggles with mental illness – I have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive tendencies, and sensory issues.  These articles are likely helpful for some, but I really don’t like seeing them posted all over social media.

Mental illness is not just some one-size-fits all blanket.  There’s no instruction manual for dating someone with a mental illness, any more than there’s an instruction manual for dating any man or woman.  Every situation, every relationship, and every person is completely unique.  I wouldn’t treat any two people in my life exactly the same, and I would really hope that the people in my life aren’t going to treat me exactly like someone else – especially if that means they are going to lump me in with 25% of all the people in the entire world.

Instead of looking at me and thinking, “What do I need to know to date a woman with mental illness?” I want a potential partner to look at me and think, “What do I need to know to date this woman?”

  1. I have down days.  One of the articles I read said that if your girlfriend has down days, make her go dancing anyway.  Again, I’m sure the author of that article had the best of intentions.  Perhaps that is what works with his girlfriend.  But not me.  I do have down days.  I have days where I’m just sad.  There’s no particular reason, and I can’t explain it.  When I feel like this, I don’t need to be pushed to do things.  I’m a pretty on-the-go person.  I like to be doing things.  Even when I’m sitting at home watching TV, I’m working on some side project like knitting or writing.  So when I do have a down day and I feel like doing nothing, let me.  Look at it as my time to recharge.  Instead of trying to convince me to get off the couch to go to the mall or out with friends, just get on the couch with me.  Sit with me.  Watch TV with me.  Maybe even sit in silence with me.  Just…be with me, and trust that I’ll be okay.
  2. I’m sensitive.  Dear Lord am I sensitive.  Most of the time it’s irrational and I know it’s irrational, but that’s when it’s the worst because I’ll try to talk myself out of hurt feelings.  I’ll keep it myself and I’ll tell myself that I’m being too sensitive, too overdramatic, too whatever, and I’ll keep it in.  I know this isn’t good for me or for my relationships.  If someone who cares about me hurts my feelings, it’s probably a safe assumption that they didn’t mean to hurt my feelings.  And it’s probably for the best that I say, “Hey, that hurt my feelings,” so that we can talk about it and move on.  But instead I’d rather hold onto it and let it continue to make me feel like shit.  For example.  My boyfriend got me this really pretty ring, with a really sweet meaning behind it.  I wear it on my right ring finger.  But you know, I have other rings that I like that I’ve bought over the years.  And sometimes I want to wear one of my old rings, but I don’t want to take off the ring that my boyfriend gave me because it means a lot to me.  So sometimes I will put whatever old ring I want to wear on my left ring finger.  It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just the only other finger onto which that particular ring fits.  I was on a date with my boyfriend this weekend, and he happened to notice the ring on my left hand and was shocked.  “People are going to think things!” he said, or something along those lines.  That hurt my feelings.  Like what, people might think you like me? Oh no, can’t have that.  It’s just a stupid ring on a stupid finger.  But of course I didn’t tell him that this hurt my feelings.  I just shrugged it off and here I am still hurt by it.  After I left today he messaged me to say that he missed me, and that he didn’t want to go back to reality. Logical part of my brain says, oh that’s sweet, he misses me.  Irrational part of my brain says, am I not your reality? Am I just some break from your normal life? Do you not want me in your real world? I know this is not what he meant at all.  But I’m sensitive.  And that’s just how I am.
  3. I need validation.  My ex-husband once told me that I have “an overactive need for constant validation”.  I think that’s a bit extreme, but I do admit that I like to be validated.  Who doesn’t? I like to be told that I’m doing a good job at work.  I like to be told that my new duvet cover looks nice in my room.  I like to be told that my hair looks good this colour, or that I look pretty today.  I don’t think that’s too weird.  But yeah, if you’re dating me…I need validation every once in awhile that I’m doing an okay job.  That you still like me.  That you think I’m smart or funny or pretty or whatever.  If I don’t hear that from you in awhile, I’m going to start to think that you don’t think those things about me anymore.  Again, irrational, but that’s me.
  4. I have weird boundaries.  I don’t understand them myself.  For example, my front door.  If I know someone is coming over, I don’t expect them to knock but to let themselves in.  But if I don’t know someone is coming over, even if they’re my very best friend, I don’t want them to just let themselves in.  In my kitchen…if you’ve been here more than once, I kind of expect you to help yourself.  I’ll offer to get you things, but if you decide later that you want a glass of water, you know where the glasses are kept and you know where the tap is.  But I’m still really guarded about my things.  I don’t want even my best friend to go through my drawers or my desk.  If you ask me, hey can I borrow a pen or whatever, I will absolutely say for sure! Check my desk.  Or maybe you want to check out my necklaces.  Yeah! They’re in my dresser.  Even though I have no issues sharing my space or my things, I have huge issues with permission.
  5. Sometimes my anxiety just says enough.  Sometimes I’ll be at a party and I’ll be having a lot of fun celebrating with my friends and then all of a sudden I’ll just need to go home.  I might be in a crowded grocery store and be completely fine minding my own business, but then suddenly I’ll need to checkout and go home even if I only have half the things I went to the store for.  Sometimes there will be a reason, like a flashback, or sometimes there will be absolutely no reason whatsoever.  It will just hit me and I will need to leave.  I might just need five minutes alone outside, or I might just leave completely.  It’s not you.  It’s not my friends.  It’s not the situation.  It’s me.  I feel that I’m pretty in tune with myself and I try to listen to what my mind/body is telling me that I need.

I’m probably not only just hard to date.  I’m probably not the easiest person to be friends with.  Sometimes when I feel the need to run away from a situation, I just go and I don’t tell anyone where I’m going or why.  I get that I can come across as rude sometimes.  I’m quiet and introverted and not socially confident so a lot of times people think I’m a snob and that I think I’m better than everyone, which could not be farther from the truth.  But I do feel that I am becoming more self-aware every day.  And knowing these things about me and acknowledging them and talking about them will hopefully help me overcome them.  I mean I’m always gonna need the TV volume on a multiple of five, and I’m always going to chew popcorn equally on both sides of my mouth.  I’ll always rub my foot on a soft blanket to soothe myself to sleep, and I’ll always say the same ridiculous prayer I made up as a kid every time I hear a siren.  But maybe I won’t always hold onto hurt feelings about someone’s semantics, and maybe I won’t always think that someone hates me if they forget to invite me to a playdate.

I’m not 25% of people.  There isn’t a guide to me and there isn’t a guide to any of the people in my life.  We’re figuring it out along the way and I’m just hoping I do an okay job of it.


I am covered in skin / No one gets to come in

I had decided to stop dating.

I got to a point where I was happy to just be alone.  I was enjoying my own company and was perfectly content to stop looking for someone to “complete” me.  I felt pretty completed on my own, and that I didn’t need someone else to make me happy.  I finally felt comfortable spending a weekend alone when my kids were at their dad’s.  I didn’t need to fill that time with anything, whether it was having friends over or going on dates.  It felt nice to sit at home and read a book or watch a movie and knit.

So I made myself a very ambitious goal: to watch/re-watch all of the Marvel movies in order.  In true Bri fashion, I did my research.  I researched the order of release, and also the order the Internet deemed correct for watching.  I made myself a list, and I searched Netflix to find which ones were available there.  The first three were not available on Netflix, so I tried to find them elsewhere.

I posted on a Facebook group asking fellow mommies if they had any of the three movies that I could borrow for a weekend.  I said, “I’m looking for things to fill my nights now that I’ve completely given up on the idea of ever dating ever again ever.  EVER.”  One mom replied, “If you change your mind I have a really really great ex-brother-in-law.”  We started talking and she made this guy sound pretty fantastic, so I thought what the hell.  I wasn’t expecting anything but I figured it would make a good story if nothing else.

So I sent the guy a message saying, “So I posted on a mommies group looking for a couple movies to borrow, and instead I got offered you.”  And yeah.  Somehow it clicked.

Now I find myself in a relationship with the most amazing person.  Someone who treats me the way that I want my daughters to be treated by their future partners.  Someone who will laugh with me, and cry with me, and sit in silence with me.  Someone I can’t help but open up to.  I have these walls but I’m finding that I don’t want them anymore; not around him.  I want to let him all the way in.

After our first date, I sent him the link to my blog.  He said he was curious and I figured, I have nothing to hide.  This is who I am, and this will tell you way more about myself than I will ever vocalize.  Here’s the link.  Read it, and then let me know if you still want to talk to me.  Maybe this was another form of self-sabotage, because I fully expected him to never speak to me again.

But instead, he would ask me questions about the blog posts.  He would tell me how they made him feel, or that he wanted to give me a hug.  He read the entire thing and he wanted to give me a hug.  I’m not ashamed of who I am.  I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done, or the choices I’ve made.  I know some of my choices have not been fabulous, but they’ve shaped me in some way or another.  But I still wrote him off completely as soon as I sent him the link.  In my mind, that was it.  Fucked it up again.  Classic Bri.

It didn’t work like that.  I am with someone who knows more about me than most people, in such a short period of time.  He likes me for who I am.  It feels incredible to feel confident in my own skin around him; like I don’t have to hide or pretend to be someone that I’m not.

At this point in my life, I feel that who I am isn’t going to change much.  I’ve come this far in life.  My views and opinions may change as I learn more about a subject or through the experiences I have, but overall I feel like I’m pretty done.  I am who I am.  I feel the same about a partner: there’s no such thing as a “fixer upper.”  It’s not my place to change someone else or fix them.  I want a relationship where I can feel perfectly happy being who I am in the company of someone who feels perfectly happy being who they are.

And right now, that’s what I’m feeling.  I am blissfully happy.  I have people I barely know commenting on how happy I seem.  I feel lighter.  I feel calmer.  I feel like me.  Like the real me.  Like the me that was lost for so long, buried under the labels of “Jeff’s daughter,” “Ashley’s sister,” “Ryan’s wife,” “Isabel/Abby’s mom.”

I wasn’t ready before.  I needed to let go of everything else, of the me I felt I had to be.  I’m so happy that I found you when I did, because I wasn’t ready before.  I’m ready now.  I’m ready and I am so wonderfully happy.


I am ready – I am ready – I am ready – I am fine

Recurring dreams

I’ve had the same nightmare for as long as I can remember.

The details have changed over the years, but the basics remain the same. I am in a car.  The car starts moving.  And I can’t stop it.

I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 21. I was married before I learned how to drive.  The dreams were a big part of why I waited so long to get my license.  But I had friends that drove, I dated boys that drove, and I lived in a small enough city that I could get anywhere I needed with a short bus ride or a walk.  I didn’t need a license.

Before I drove, the dreams always started with me in the passenger’s seat. For whatever reason, the driver would get out of the car.  The reasons varied: they forgot their wallet inside, they just needed to run into the convenience store quickly, or they were going to run up to the dropbox at Blockbuster.  (Yes, Blockbuster.  Yes, dropbox had a different meaning.  I’m old.  Get over it.)

With the driver out of the car, it would start to move. Slowly at first, but it would quickly pick up speed.  I would unbuckle my seatbelt and try to move across to the driver’s side while the car sped out of control.  Once I got to the other side of the car, the brakes wouldn’t work and I would steer helplessly as the car went faster and faster and faster.  I would press the brake pedal again and again, hoping for a different result, speeding through intersections and quiet residential streets.

Eventually I did get my driver’s license. I thought that maybe once I had my license, the dreams would stop.  I would be able to take control of the vehicle.  But the dreams didn’t stop; they just changed.  Now, I’m the one driving.  It always starts with my brakes failing just a little bit.  It’s a regular day, I’m on a regular drive to work, or to the grocery store, or to a friend’s house.  I’m coming up to a stop sign or a red light and I need to pump my brakes a few times to get them to work.  Weird, I think to myself in the dream.  I should probably get that looked at.

But then of course they eventually fail altogether. And I’m speeding down roads faster and faster, blasting through red lights and traffic and lines of Canadian Geese.  Okay, that last one hasn’t happened yet but I feel like it’s only a matter of time before that makes it into a dream.  Those geese are EVERYWHERE.

Since I’ve become more aware of these dreams, I try to talk myself out of them. Lucid dreaming, it’s called.  My brakes fail and I tell myself that this must just be another driving dream.  But in the dream, I can remember everything I’ve done on that day.  I can recall every detail, like what I did at work, or what I bought at the grocery store, or what kind of coffee my friend made me.  So it CAN’T be a dream.

As I go faster and faster, I run out of places to go. There are no more side streets to turn down.  The roads are busier now, and I’m in a more populated area.  There’s nowhere to go.  There’s nothing I can do.  It’s happening…

And then I wake up.

I did tell a therapist about these dreams at one point. It was suggested that I have these dreams because I feel like my life is out of control.  This seems true.  They are much more frequent when I don’t have a firm plan in my life.  I like control; I like planning; I like knowing what is going to happen and when.  And when I don’t know, I feel like a car spinning out of control.  My brakes are failing and I don’t know where I will end up.  I don’t know if I’ll come out alive.

All I know is that I can’t stop.

A very important list

I love lists.

I do. I write lists constantly.  It helps with my anxiety to see things on paper in front of me.  To-do lists are everywhere in my world.  Organization is beauty for me; it’s one of the reasons I love my job.

I also apparently love choosing the wrong guy. I am really good at it.  I find someone that seems so good for me, and then…they aren’t.  I need to break out of the patterns I have created for myself.  I need to be specific.  I need to be picky.

So, in true Brianne fashion, I have created a list of qualities that a potential partner must have. No settling.  Not anymore.  I’m too old to settle and I have two amazing little girls that don’t deserve to have someone in their life that isn’t going to be there long term, or isn’t going to be a positive role model.

There are some incredibly random items on this list, but trust me: they are all there for a specific reason. I am an open book – if any items need clarification or explanation, I’d love to provide it.

  • Tall (5’10 or above)
  • Well groomed
  • Smells good
  • Has post-secondary education
    • Doesn’t matter what type of PSE
    • Doesn’t matter if they graduated or with what degree/diploma/certificate
  • Has a stable job
  • Owns a car
  • Lives on his own (not with parents, roommate, etc.)
  • Owns at least one suit
  • Good grammar/spelling
  • Smart
  • Good sense of humour
    • Is funny
    • Thinks I’m funny
  • Can participate in witty banter
    • Sarcastic
    • Appreciates my sarcasm
  • Good relationship with parents, but not overbearing
  • First date must be an actual date
  • Friendly with wait staff, store clerks, etc.
  • If he has kids, must see them on a very regular basis
  • Likes at least one sport
  • Can recognize at least one Matthew Good song
  • Punctual
  • Swears, but not every other word
  • Doesn’t vape
  • Drinks but not every night, and not to excess
  • Does not speak negatively of any exes
  • Self-sufficient
  • Smiles in photos
  • No earrings
  • Treats me with respect
  • Trusts and is trustworthy
  • Not sexist/racist/homophobic/anything douchey