Category Archives: fears

Talking about mental illness

Many images come to mind when you hear the words “mental illness”.  There are people who think that person is weak or it’s just an excuse for the way they act.  It’s not true. Mental illness is a real thing and it can be debilitating to that person and those around them.  It can also lead to destructive behaviour which of course only worsens the illness.

I suffered a nervous breakdown a few years after leaving my husband.  It was due to many things arising out of my life at that time, and I didn’t tell anyone except for my work (because I needed time off) and my therapist.  I had everyone believing that my life was fine and that I was fine and nothing was going on.  At the time, I felt that people would think I was so weak and that I couldn’t function on my own and what happened that caused this?  So many things went on in my head that I believed people would think.  So I said nothing.  I slept all day, was awake all night and it was not a good thing that I didn’t tell anyone.  I went to a really good therapist who helped me work out what was going on, and gave me great suggestions on how to cope with my stress and anxiety.  I am happy to say that everything this man suggested helped me to get to the place I am at now.  A positive strong woman who is a realist.  Not every day is great but I know how to get into my head to deal with whatever starts me to stress out.  Meditation is a big thing.  Listening to music calms me down.  Going for a walk.  And sometimes, just sitting outside in the quiet brings me peace. 

I was lucky.  I know I was.  Not everyone in this world who suffers breakdowns and mental illnesses recover as well as I have.  Again, the stigma is out there.  Let’s not talk about what is happening with me because people will think less of me.  It doesn’t have to be that way anymore and there are ways to help.  And people are talking more about this issue which is fantastic.   

We need to let those around us who suffer from any kind of mental issue, whether it’s depression or anxiety or any of the disorders that they are suffering from, that it is okay to talk about it!  It’s okay to go to a doctor and ask for help.  It’s okay to admit that you have a problem and you need to talk about it.  Don’t shy away from talking about it.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be talking about it.  IT IS OKAY TO TALK ABOUT IT!

So get out there, seek the help you need, talk to family and friends and know that it’s okay.  People are there to help you and to love you.  You are not alone in this battle. 

Lessons I have learned in China

In less than a month, I will be leaving China.  Am I excited?  Yes!  I cannot wait to explore more of the world, and to be honest, I am excited to leave China.  I have learned a lot about myself while here, and I know I will be taking with me some newfound knowledge of China and of myself.

So what have I learned?  And what have I not learned?  I have not learned Mandarin, or at least not very much of it.  It is a very difficult language to learn.  I have learned to count. I can understand, if they speak very slowly, how much things cost.  I can say hello (ni hao), and I can say good bye – this is the easiest because they all say Bye Bye!  (ha – easiest Chinese lesson ever!).

I have learned that authentic Chinese food is amazing!!  So many dishes – chicken dishes, jiao zi (dumplings), bao zi (which is a steamed bun with a little bit of meat inside it), tofu (dof), noodles, rice.  So many delicious foods, so many names I don’t know how to pronounce or write.  I have had a few dishes that I have not enjoyed, but I would say 95% of what I have tried here has been so good.  I have even enjoyed the cauliflower concoction (for lack of a better word) that they served at the school.  With hot peppers in it.  Hot peppers and cauliflower together – two things I would never eat in Canada – and yet here, so good!!

I have learned that the Chinese people, where I live, are some of the most generous people that I have ever met.  From helping me find somewhere (actually taking me there, even if it is a 15 minute walk out of their way), offering me drives (people I know have done this), buying me meals, and just being patient with me while I try to understand what they are saying.  I will never forget the generous nature of the people in Changchun.

I have learned patience.  Not just from my teaching either.  This country has tried my patience on many occasions.  Between miscommunication and non-communication about work matters.  About salary issues.  About times for meetings.  I have learned that being patient is the only way to deal with it.
I have learned to live in the moment.  This relates to the patience as well.  Does it matter that I am early and the others are late?  No not really.  Does it matter that it starts to rain while I am out with groceries in hand and no umbrella?  No – it’s just rain.  I will dry off when I get home (this happened yesterday haha).  Does it matter if the bus is overcrowded? No – I can wait for another one or take a cab.  Patience, living in the moment – it all works together.  I am now at a place in my mind that getting upset over some things really isn’t worth my time or energy.  I just now go with the flow as much as I can.
I have learned to overcome my fears.  My fear of eating in a restaurant where I don’t know how to read the menu.  Fears of unknown food and how I will react to it.  Fears of being lost in a foreign city.  Fears of not being understood.  I understand now how it must feel for foreigners and immigrants coming to Canada for the first time, trying to read signs or menus, or just trying to communicate on how to get somewhere.  It is daunting and, as a solo traveler, it can be scary.  Overcoming my fears has been my biggest challenge here.  When I first arrived in Changchun, I was scared.  I was looking at the signs, and only seeing Mandarin, I thought – my God what have I done?  I can’t read anything, I have no idea where I am – it was the scariest moment in my life.  But I overcame that – and for that I am very proud of myself.

I think what I have learned most during my time in China is how strong I am.  And how brave I am.  It was not an easy decision to do this, and while it was very scary, I did it.  I know I can go anywhere now and survive.

Don’t be afraid to get out there and try new things.  You will not be disappointed!


From the delicious to the bizarre…

There are many unusual things to eat here in China, some more unusual than others (BBQ scorpion no thanks!).  The fun part of traveling is leaving your inhibitions aside and trying new things, if you are brave enough!!

Chicken gizzards ~ no.  BBQ scorpions ~ no. Unknown meat ~ well maybe.  Unknown seafood fried on a stick ~ yes and it was delicious!!  I know I ate chicken feet at one point unbeknownst to me. It was okay but doubtful that I will have it again willingly or knowingly!!

One of the more unusual fruit here is dragonfruit.  Its skin is bright pink, it has spikes all over it and doesn’t look like fruit at all!!

Inside it’s white with little black seeds (?).  It has a nice light fruity taste. It is not overly sweet, definitely not sour, and is quite refreshing.  It has a soft texture similar to a ripe pear.  I had tried it back in Calgary and thought it was tasty so I knew what it was like.  Of course, being in the country where it’s from, I had to try it!!  And it is more delicious here!!

Next thing to try ~ octopus in Chile!!

Fears of the unknown

I have many fears, as I am sure most people do. Some of my fears are common (war is on the top of that list) and some are not so common, I think.
I have overcome many fears since my traveling life has begun.  One was traveling alone ~ could I do it? Could I be happy being alone in a foreign place?   I have conquered that fear. Being alone in a foreign country is more liberating than fearful. Its an amazing feeling walking through European cities or Chinese cities and having a feeling of belonging, despite being stared at. Taking in all the sights to see, the smells, people watching. Experiencing a whole new way to live.  Adjusting as well as you can to the language.  I am happy to say that the fear of this unknown was a good one to overcome.

Last night I conquered a personal fear.  Eating out in public.  I have eaten in restaurants here in China ~ I don’t always like doing that but I have done it (the noisy eating I will never get used to!).  But there is one thing I have wanted to do and couldn’t work up the nerve to do, until last night.
BBQ is very popular here. There is a BBQ place near my place but I didn’t know what the food was. That’s another fear!  What am I eating?? I don’t usually ask, until last night.  I was walking by, on my way to get my usual chicken and rice dish when two of my students and their parents asked me to join them. So I did. I sat down, ate delicious food outside, with people watching, taking pictures and talking about me. (I know the Chinese word for foreign teacher ).

My usual chicken dish that I love!!
What did I eat?  Grilled tofu (I love tofu!!), a seafood skewer (no one could tell me what kind of seafood it was but it was good!), pork skins (yummy!), chicken (what part of the chicken is unknown but it was really good), chicken wings and a huge bottle of beer.  I overcame the fear of the unknown food and enjoyed a lovely evening with these very generous people.  And now I know I will definitely sit down again and enjoy the food there.
So when you’re traveling, take the plunge and try local food. Don’t be afraid. You may be pleasantly surprised!!  (I did say no to chicken gizzards though ~ I had to draw the line somewhere!)

Which path will you take?

Every day on my way home from teaching, I come to two paths. One is stone, easy to walk on but uneven. The other is grassy, an uneven surface but muddy.  

A sudden storm came through the city today, lighting up the afternoon sky and rolling thunder, scaring me and the kids in class!  Luckily, when I left for home, the rain had stopped, leaving a freshness in the air but a wet walk.

When I came to the path, I pondered which to take. Do I take the stone path and avoid the mud but possibly slipping on the wet stone?  Or do I take the muddy path and get dirty, but avoid slipping?  

As I made my way home, this thought kept creeping into my mind. Had I taken the safer path in my life, would it have been as exciting as my life is now?

There are times in our life that choosing the safe path is the best thing to do for ourselves.  But then there are other times that its okay to take the riskier path just to see what happens.

The question is ~ what if you decide to turn around and never take either path? What if you decide that you would rather go the long (and safe) way to your destination?

Life is what we make of it.  Choosing the path that is right for you is something only you can figure out. Be a risk taker sometimes ~ take that unknown path and see where it leads you.  The future is yours!!

So are you wondering which path I took??   I took the grass path ~ uneven surface with lots of mud.  I felt like a kid again, getting muddy, and enjoying the walk.  I always try to choose the path that will make me happiest!  

Choosing a better life

My life has been anything but easy. I have experienced challenges with every turn in the road of this life. It has only been recently that I have chosen to embrace every challenge and conquer it.

Czech Republic was one of my biggest and most challenging roads to take. Leaving my family, my comfortable job and a steady pay cheque was the scariest thing I have ever done. With a strong desire to succeed and to show everyone, especially myself, that I could do this, I put my nose to the grindstone, worked hard, worked long hours teaching, and succeeded. With the willpower and determination I knew was needed, I gave it all my all and was rewarded with amazing students and great new friends.

While moving to China can be seen as a huge move, and it was, because of the experience I already had moving away from my family, the transition was much easier to cope with.

If you have a strong desire to see the world, if you are willing to sacrifice the comfort of the known, if you want to be challenged, then you can have this life too. You just need to reach out and grab it.

Facing fears in our 50’s

In just over a month, I will be turning 52. I cannot believe I am this age. On most days, I feel like I am somewhere between 30 and 40. Of course, there are days I wake up and as I climb out of bed, my body reminds me of my age!!
Being in my 50s is amazing but of course there are fears I have had to overcome, and am still working on.
Being alone as we age. I like being single, I like having my own space, eating what I want, going where I want. But there is this voice in the back of my head that comes out to rear its ugly head every now and then and yell at me that I should find someone to grow old with. At times I think it would be nice to have that, but I am so independent I don’t think there’s any man who would tolerate me. Perhaps one day …
Being a solo traveler. This was a huge fear when I first moved to Prague ~ that overwhelming feeling that came over me as I boarded that plane ~ what the hell was I doing? I was scared. I didn’t know if I would be safe. Would I go screaming back to the airport and back to Canada because of the fear that was racing through my body? Of course not. But I learned to be very aware of my surroundings and to always have a charged cell phone with me. It is all a matter of being sensible, looking confident and making yourself NOT look like a tourist. (Put the guidebooks away!)
Changing your career. This is something I think our families are more afraid of for us.  I have changed my job every few years anyway so while it is challenging at this age to change a career, it is not impossible. Change is scary at any age ~ you just have to take that leap of faith and believe in yourself. I did and look at me now!  It is still a bit scary but fear motivates me.
While I was in Shenyang this week, I befriended a lovely young lady and we spent the day together doing tourist things together (Chinese people are so friendly!). She asked me how old I was, and I told her. She first was shocked and then replied with “I never would have thought you were in your 50’s ~ you are the coolest person !” It made my day that she thought I was cool and that she dismissed my age so quickly. It didn’t matter to her how old I was ~ she just wanted to hang out.
Age is just a number. You really are as old as you feel. So while my 52nd birthday approaches, I will continue to act however I want and will face my fears straight on. And when those voices start telling me things like I shouldn’t do this or that, I will just push those away and continue on with my awesome and “cool” life.