How do we breathe when the world is on fire? So many nights I have asked this question as my lungs turn to stone. If the world is dying, then surely I will die with it too.

I first asked when I saw the picture of the little boy on the beach. Drowned as he tried to flee from war. Drowned as cruise ships circled in the same sea as his rubber raft.

I asked again when I heard the story of a woman born into sex slavery. Born to be owned and devoured by powerful men. I didn’t want to believe it was true.

I asked yesterday, after the play about racism. I know I am racist, it is knit into my being by the society that raised me. Undoing those knots is uncomfortable and my hands are clumsy.

My actions support a racist system in ways I don’t even understand. Giving power to some through the oppression of others. I feel helpless to make any real progress, afraid my ignorance will cause more harm.

I asked again tonight watching her performance, a voice for all of us who have been there too. Surrounded by others, claiming life over death. He could not destroy her.

Judyth Hill says to wage peace with my breath. To imagine my grief as the outbreath of beauty. She says that our lungs can transform, can bring healing to a broken world.

So I will expand into this despair. And release hope with my breath. I won’t look away, I will breathe in their pain.

If the world is on fire, I will breathe in the smoke. Through the flames, I will breathe out love and I will breathe out love and I will breathe out love again. I will listen.

It’s all that I have.

*Wage Peace, Judyth Hill.


Come and Sit

Tonight, I light a candle in a blackened room,
And I invite the darkness to come and sit.
Together, what is shadowed,
Will wax and wane with what is lit.

I remember beauty,
So much deep beauty,
In me, in us, in this life and in this world.
Tonight, I remember beauty.

I remember pain,
So much deep pain,
In me, in us, in this life and in this world.
Tonight, I remember pain.

It rips my heart to just be still,
Burns my hands to hold dark and light.
My limbs are restless, I want to flee,
I fear the dark of night.

The shadows mock any memory of joy,
Claiming they were never real.
And so I split one from the other,
To cope with all that I feel.

I can’t breathe in the depths of despair,
No consolation my sorrow could ease.
Mine has become a fragmented existence,
Denying light, my only release.

I have yearned for hope to be tangible,
More than symbol, more than a story.
The promise of rescue, the Son as Immanuel,
But I’m not sure anymore if it could be.

Is any beauty worth this pain?
Worth the cost it takes to endure?
Forgetting that I have ever felt light,
Will I remember it when it returns?

Redemption seems like fantasy,
Things with feathers fly away.
Hope has not nested here,
She does not seem to stay.

I could choose to extinguish this candle,
Put an end to my light, my spark.
I could deny myself life to drown in death,
End the dance between light and dark.

But maybe, maybe they can’t be separated,
Maybe that isn’t my goal.
Could I have one without the other?
Without them both, would I still be whole?

All these questions are my pain spilled out,
Tearing at old wounds and new.
When beauty and pain mingle tonight,
Perhaps, the only way out is through.

And if this is true, could I find a way,
To hold both dark and light.
To believe that birthing is dying and dying is birthing,
And it is this that makes all things right.

In the grief of love, and love forged by grief,
Searching for answers and finding none.
Mystery in shadowed places, gift in unknowing,
Rebuilding and being undone.

Wandering, finding, and losing again,
Tension between dissonance and peace
The sun rises and sets and rises again,
Acceptance is my release.

Yes, terror and sadness may sweep me away,
Anger drowning the love at my core.
But God and my body and time and grace
Will wash me back up on the shore.

Sometimes barely alive, sometimes gasping for breath,
Agony beating against my chest.
Yet I will live through even the darkest pain,
This endless cycling of wrestling and rest.

And so, I cling to the light of this candle,
This desperate symbol, this urgent need.
A relentless aching for a day,
when all might be redeemed.

Tonight, I light a candle in a blackened room,
And I invite the darkness to come and sit.
Together, what is shadowed,
Will wax and wane with what is lit.

Resonant Breath

This blog is a place where I explore what hope, community, love, and peace mean to me. It is where I process my darkest moments and where I find light. Hope and peace are characteristics that must be cultivated like a garden, and writing is one expression of that work.


I’ve been writing about my struggle with mental illness (specifically Borderline Personality Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder) since the beginning of 2013, although my blog contains many other posts on spirituality, LGBTQ+ issues, and stories from my experiences working with adults with developmental disabilities.

I write because it is therapeutic. The blog is called Resonant Breath because I am always learning to live one moment at a time, breathing deeply and allowing my experiences to resonate within me.

I am striving to live mindfully, peacefully and justly in all that I do. All of life is made up of small choices between life and death. Each decision we make leads us closer to one or the other. Resonant Breath is a place to remind myself that I have the power to choose life in each moment, and that life feels fuller when I pay attention to the choice.

New Life

Three years ago, I wrote a piece called Through the Screen Door. It was written from a hospital bed, during a long admission that seemed to have no end in sight. Hope felt next to non-existent. I didn’t believe that I would ever get better, or be able to build the life with Kathryn that I had imagined.

That post was about picturing kids playing in our backyard, knowing that some day Kathryn and I would be raising those kids together. It was about imagining a time when mental illness wasn’t the driving force in our daily life, and about using all we had learned through my illness to teach little ones to live with hope deep within them.

We had gone to a fertility clinic earlier that year for an initial consult. We had also spent long hours researching and talking about the pros and cons of anonymous vs known donor sperm. We had not set a specific timeline in motion, but we were well on our way to beginning to grow our family. I remember Friday nights spent wondering how much sperm was being tossed away in houses all around us.

I’ve wanted to be a mother since I was little. Probably since I knew that babies came from mommies’ tummies. I was the girl eager to babysit the neighbours’ kids, always volunteering in the nursery at church, enraptured by the pregnant women and babies that seemed to constantly flow through our community. I remember my grade one teacher, who had gone on maternity leave, bringing in her newborn infant for the class to meet and trying to get as close as I could to see the tiny one’s eyes, her lips and fingers. I was the little girl that imagined my wedding and picked out my kids’ names long before a healthy relationship was ever a reality in my life.

So when Kathryn came along and we got married, it seemed logical to start planning for kids almost immediately. I had a new motivation too – I desperately wanted to see her be a mother, and see aspects of her reflected in our children. I was in love with this woman, and couldn’t wait to nurture her through pregnancy and care for a child together. I probably would have agreed to pregnancy on the honeymoon if she was up for it. It’s a good thing she’s more practical about these matters.

But she was on board with planning for kids within a couple years of the wedding. She had never imagined getting married before she met me, and couldn’t imagine herself as a parent until I showed her what I saw in her. She developed a unique bond early in our relationship with my then ten year old niece. As more friends began having children, she too started to catch the baby bug. It was incredible to watch how children were drawn to her very laid-back approach. Even kids deemed timid eventually found their way into her lap.

And when that long year of hospitalizations came in 2014 and interrupted all our plans, it was painful for both of us. When our second niece was born that fall, my heart simultaneously burst and broke each time I watched Kathryn hold her, care for her, play with her and teach her things. I was so amazed (and still am!) at all the potential in her small body, at everything she had learned each time we saw her – to lift her head, or make eye contact, or roll over. The first time she said our names my heart melted.

But it wasn’t our time. I was ill, and getting better was the priority, and although it was the wisest thing to put off pregnancy-planning, it was still painful. So we actively imagined the future in order to build hope, we put the building blocks together piece by piece so that one day, it would be our turn. We bought a onesie and a teether together as a promise to each other that although the time was not yet, it would be.

Those items have been sitting in our cabinet next to my childhood stuffed bear and Kathryn’s stuffed lion for three years now.

And this spring, after a lot of processing with Kathryn and my therapist, we made the decision to let go of that promise. With the recent relapse of my illness came a realization that we may not ever be able to promise each other the stability that raising children would require.

A few people we have talked to have said, “you’re still young, you will change your minds.” Others have assured us that I won’t always struggle this way, that we can and should look forward to long periods of wellness. It’s also true that lots of people parent, and parent well, with mental illness.

There are a lot of reasons why we’ve made this choice, but here’s the key – even if I could guarantee five years or ten years of stability, the chances that at some point a deep struggle with suicidal ideation will re-emerge seems very likely. I’ve been dealing with suicidal thinking since middle school. And it seems that every time I finally begin to say I am free of the torment, it comes rushing back in to defeat me. I am not willing to put a child in a position where suicide is introduced to them as a way to cope or escape. It’s so fucking hard to reroute that neural pathway. And the stakes are way too high.

In some ways Kathryn has had an easier time accepting this new reality. Of course she has grieved through this process as well. But her world didn’t shatter the way mine initially did. It’s possible that part of the reason is because she had begun to question our plans earlier than I had. She says that her only desire is to have a fulfilling life with me, and that she’s spent a lot less time defining what that means to her. She also didn’t spend her teenage years imagining nursery colours or reading parenting books.

The message of a woman’s role as mother has bombarded me daily through this entire emotional process. The movies we watch, commercials on television, comments from others, and our own damn hormones all seem to reinforce motherhood as the ultimate definition and purpose of womanhood. I weep with all of you who have been accosted and accused by these messages. You aren’t alone in your grief, for whatever your reasons. We’re learning to sit with it too.

I don’t expect others to fully understand our decision. It’s true that things may change in the future, this isn’t written in stone. For now, for us, we decided we had to get to a point where we were okay with not being mothers, that our lives would not be defined by that role. And accepting that has been its own step toward hope. We’ve had to reimagine our future together. We’ve had to take apart all those pieces in order to find out what we have left to rebuild a new life.

The Bear

The Bear, Part 1

Death consumes me.

I am fighting a bear that is 1000x stronger, 1000x more vicious than me.

They tell me to be brave, to have hope, to take one moment at a time.

I believe the voices that say I am stronger than him.

I tell the bear and he laughs and grows 100 more teeth to rip at my flesh.

He stalks me while I do the things that show that I’m still alive – while I put on clean socks, while I brush my teeth, while I try to sleep.

My death would mean less to the bear than a mosquito does to a windshield.

I beg the bear for a merciful death, for release. I can’t remember why I try to flee from him.

He does not show mercy. While he hunts me I can no more choose to die than I can choose to live.

The Bear, Part 2

Who is this bear that stalks me at night when I am alone, when I am most exposed?

Perhaps he is chemicals and broken synapses in my brain. A hallucination caused by disordered biology. I swallow the pills that they tell me will tame him.

Or, he is a loud roar, no more of a threat than the rolling thunder at night. A desperate cry composed only of Fear. Like dark clouds dispersed by a strong wind, he is quieted to sleep by their assurance that dawn will come and Love will Win.

Or, he is a fragmented part of me, a distortion in a fun house mirror. I invite him in, so that both he and I can become more whole.

Or, he is the escape I hold on to when being alive means experiencing pain. The dark shadows projected against cave walls intensify the size and threat of the bear. I have rejected my own nourishment so that he can grow stronger. I have given him more power than he deserves. When I call for help, the Universe answers with Light to help me see.

The bear and the terror are real. The struggle and the wounded flesh and the monstrosity of feeling caught between life and death are real.

Yet, even as he hunts me, I sharpen my weapons. I find strength left like bread crumbs by those who have been chased by their own bears. I reach through the isolation; my community is my arrows. I scratch my words into rock faces; my  voice is my spear.

I am hunted by him, but night by night I learn more of his secrets. For tonight, the bear and I will rest.

I am still alive. I can choose to live.

If You Feel Too Much

If You Feel Too Much

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of TWLOHA

If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.
If you feel too much, don’t go.
If this world is too painful, stop and rest.
It’s okay to stop and rest.
If you need a break, it’s okay to say you need a break.
This life – it’s not a contest, not a race, not a performance, not a thing that you win.
It’s okay to slow down.
You are here for more than grades, more than a job, more than a promotion, more than keeping up, more than getting by.
This life is not about status or opinion or appearance.
You don’t have to fake it.
You do not have to fake it.
Other people feel this way too.
If your heart is broken, it’s okay to say your heart is broken.
If you feel stuck, it’s okay to say you feel stuck.
If you can’t let go, it’s okay to say you can’t let go.
You are not alone in these places.
Other people feel how you feel.
You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.
There is still some time to be surprised.
There is still some time to ask for help.
There is still some time to start again.
There is still some time for love to find you.
It’s not too late.
You’re not alone.
It’s okay – whatever you need and however long it takes – it’s okay.
It’s okay.
If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here.
If you feel too much, don’t go.
There is still some time.


Hold the Light

I will tell my story.

I will open space for vulnerability where stigma and silence have reigned.

In this, I bring my darkness to light. In this, I find hope.

In this, I kindle a spark for you to bring your own darkness to light.

“You are alone.” “This pain will last forever.”

These are the two great lies of mental illness.

And so, instinctively, we fight or flee.

In telling my story, I challenge myself and you:

Stand still and hold the light.

Towards Light

Do what you can to take the smallest step towards light.

This is my new goal in difficult moments. Having borderline personality disorder, a mental illness that is still largely misunderstood and unknown in the public eye, means my day to day experience involves monitoring my vulnerability to intense emotions and using coping skills to avoid spiraling into despair. Despair is a familiar place for me. At times its embrace even feels like an old friend.

Sometimes it seems that my emotional memory is much stronger than my logical memory. The pain of past struggle feels fresh and new, when in fact I know it is just old scars. The pain pins me down, holds me hostage, and demands to be felt. And instinctively I resist.

Sometimes the smallest step towards the light is accepting the darkness. Letting it in, letting it whisper and rage and swirl and silence. Letting it crawl along your skin.

My own struggle against suicidal ideation is rooted in escaping emotional pain. The darkness flourishes in thoughts of endlessness, of inability to endure the darkness. The darkness tries to panic me, and as I try to flee, it solidifies its hold.

Everything I know (so far) about living with borderline personality disorder and depression is in these words by the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

I will let the darkness come if it must, as I hold within me the hope for light. When we ache in the absence of light, the ache in itself is a spark. My desire for light in the face of darkness is in fact a source of light. It shows me there is still life here. There is still some fight left in these bones. I will not give up, I will not give in, to the dark scars I carry.

Sometimes the smallest step from darkness is to accept it. If I can resist the desire to flee and allow it space to sit I may find my soul, much like one’s eyes, begin to adjust. Nothing can extinguish my hope. The darkness may call me stubborn, it may call me a foolish coward, but the embers of hope will still burn and this burning will lead me to light.

Let Everything Happen

Let everything happen to you:

beauty and terror.

Just keep going.

No feeling is final.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

A dear friend, Karis, shared this quote with me awhile ago, maybe last year sometime.

I took to it and buried it deep inside and have come to it again and again (and still yet again) in my most difficult moments.

Everything I know and have learned about dealing with depression, borderline personality disorder and suicidal ideation boils down to this.

There is life in these words.