Surviving the Holidays: Remembering loved ones

i miss you holiday banner

As a child, Christmas was my favourite. I loved the decorations and spending time with my family, especially my mother and grandmother. Growing up, I loved them both equally. My mother was fun and loving and often like a big sister, while my grandmother and I were close like a mother and daughter.

Last year was the first Christmas without my Grandmother; she died on January 14th 2013. We came home from the hospital to a house that still had lights and a tree. Almost two years have gone by, and I cry when I say that she has died.

Facing the holidays without a loved one is terrible, but it becomes so much more so when the relationship was centered on that holiday. To say that our relationship centered on Christmas sounds strange, but it’s true.

Growing up, Christmas was my favourite time of year. My mother and I would spend days decorating our house and then days decorating my grandmother’s house. Both would be trimmed head to toe in Christmas lights (you never saw a lamp or overhead light on in December). There were big holiday dinners and lots of time spent with family.

I have, in my brain, our entire family history through Christmas ornaments. Whose mother-in-law it came from, how many generations back we’ve owned it. My knowledge of Christmas extends into my knowledge of our family history as well, since every time we went hunting for an ornament or rearranged for the holidays, photo albums came out and I was taught every person’s face, even if it was just an uncle’s friend who came for dinner that one time. My Grandmother and mother shared with me during these times not only the history of our Christmas ornaments but family history.

I’m lucky: my first Christmas without my grandmother came right after a major life change involving relocation and was the first Christmas with a significant other. Even though it had been a year since her death, I was still heartbroken and in that year, my Christmas changed completely. Instead of a big sit down dinner on Christmas Eve, I have an aunt who hosts the same family members but in a different house and with appetizers, and goodies galore. Christmas last year sparked the beginning of a new tradition with my other half – we agreed Christmas Eve for my family, Christmas Day for his grandmother and Boxing Day with his mother.

For some people, so much change following a loss can leave you feeling more lost. For me, the only way to enjoy Christmas was remove from it so many of the ties to the past. And yet, I still hold onto bits and pieces.

I recently purchased a set of Christmas ornaments off eBay that match a set my grandmother had. Through the long journey of finding the ornament, I was once again back in her living room, being told this history of the ornaments. Instead of colourful people stories of where they came from, the stories I learned this year were about brands and dates. I discovered things about my grandmother that I didn’t know. Like that she preferred a certain brand of ornaments.

I’ve been told by family and friends that I’m lucky I got so much of my Grama. That she shared stories about herself and her family, about growing up and her life with me so easily should make me feel blessed. And it often does.

My grandmother’s decorations were scattered. Pieces here and there. I see them now and then, and I may tear up but I hold fast. The bulk of the tree ornaments have been stored by my mother until she moves into a larger space where a full tree can be erected. Some people hate that they can’t see my grandmother’s tree again in one piece. To them, the tree is a centrepiece to their childhood happiness that they miss and they wish we could rebuild it each year for everyone to enjoy.

For me, I am glad that they are the way they are. I wish they were mine, on my tree. I so selfishly wish that everything she owned belonged to me. But the truth is, I am glad that we all got a part of her. I am glad that the ornaments will never stand together on one tree. Because even if we kept her tree, and placed every ornament on it, it would never be whole. The tree would always be lacking the heart and soul of it. The voice telling you what ornament belongs where and who bought it for whom.

As the years go by, we will all build our own families. Spouses, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Nieces, nephews, and great ones too. We will take our ornaments, and our small piece of her and build up our lives. Our trees will all have heart and soul. And one day, we will be the voice telling the children what ornament belongs where and who bought it for whom.

—- Jane

 

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How to survive the holidays through recent grief or loss

surviving the holidays BAN

As December falls upon us, Ugly Ducklings Inc wanted to kick off the holiday season with a series called “Surviving the Holidays”. We are going to cover a variety of topics in this series.  As co-founders of Ugly Ducklings, we’ve had the amazing opportunity to interact with, build relationships with and read the stories of so many amazing individuals. We notice a common theme of loss and trauma through many of these stories and interactions.

Loss and trauma can be perpetuated by the holiday season; people who are struggling with that might need a haven to keep themselves from becoming overwhelmed. Megan Devine, the founder of Refuge in Grief, is a blogger and inspiration I’ve (Erin) followed for quite some time. I knew she would have great advice for anyone who might be struggling through grief, loss and/or trauma this holiday season.

  • Megan, thank you so much for agreeing to offer your expertise to Ugly Ducklings Inc. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and Refuge in Grief?

Sure. The surface details are that I’m a traumatic grief therapist, teach creative writing with a focus on grief and loss, and host retreats and workshops for grieving folks. I never wanted to be or do these things. In 2009, I witnessed the accidental death by drowning of my partner, Matt. He was strong, fit, healthy – three months from his 40th birthday. It was a beautiful and ordinary morning: the first sunny day after three solid weeks of rain. Refuge in Grief grew out of my experience in the vast wasteland of grief support that existed when I was first widowed. It was, and is, important to me that others coming into such intense grief find love and support, rather than platitudes and encouragement to “move on.”

  • We have many young readers and through our interactions with them, we’ve found that many of them are struggling with their first encounter with sudden-death or the loss of a loved one. What is the biggest myth you’ve found in traditional grief resources that might hinder these individuals and what can you say to shed some light on the truth?

Traditional grief resources are riddled with myth. The whole idea that grief is an aberration, or one of the “negative” emotions, that you should work hard to get yourself out of grief as quickly as possible – it’s all such a dis-service to a newly broken heart. Grief is part of love; we grieve because we love. Grief is not sign that you’re unwell or unhealthy – it’s a sign that you’ve connected deeply with someone, and you feel their absence to your core.

  • It seems that holidays can be extremely overwhelming and triggering for people who aren’t even struggling with grief or trauma, but in your experience, how are the struggles different for someone walking through recent or historical grief/loss?

The holiday season is full of grief landmines. The first holiday season without that person there, the subsequent seasons when they still aren’t there: that empty place at the table is such a visceral reminder of what you’ve lost. That is true any time of year – they are missing every day, in every season – but the holidays are such a call to family and friends, it can seem even more brutal during that time. Seeing intact families enjoying each other, knowing you are now on the outside looking in – it can feel like repeated blows to your heart and mind.

  • Can you similarly speak to the struggles that someone with historical or recent trauma may experience?

Sure. In a lot of ways, grief related to trauma is similar to grief from a sudden or out-of-order death: there’s the same sense of the world being irreparably changed, your sense of safety or control is shaken. Nothing is as it should be, and more importantly, no one else seems to notice. While the world is rejoicing and celebrating, connecting and giving, you’re on your own, inside a whole different reality. That sense of wearing a mask, your true self being invisible – it can really feel strong at this time of year, in the face of the at least pretending-to-be-happy world.

  • Kindness-to-self is a really conflicting thing in our society today, I find; it sometimes seems that people are accused of being selfish if they do take time for themselves, while there is a whole other pressure to always take care of yourself first. Do you find this discourse coming into play when talking about grief/loss/trauma?

Yeah, it’s confusing, isn’t it. On one hand, we have all these self-help and self-discovery books on self-care, valuing yourself, putting yourself first – but in practice, you get called selfish when you do these things. Like, how dare you care for yourself when I need you to do something for me? Self-care is great, and I support it unless I need you to over-ride it for me. Ugh.

Grieving people are often accused of being selfish. Of course they are. And they should be. When loss or trauma erupts into your life, your main concern is for yourself and your immediate family (if you have kids). There is simply no energy left over to take care of anyone else, or worry about their hurt feelings. This is not a usual time, and the usual rules do not apply. I’m not saying you have license to be a jerk, just that putting yourself first is not only important, it’s necessary.

I think if we imagined a physical correlate for your emotional wound – translating your pain into something others could physically see – there would be less talk of how selfish you’re being, and more focus on how to love and support you through this time. And I mean that both from the perspective of your friends, and from your own internal voice.

  • What tips can you give to someone who might feel torn or overwhelmed about their participation in traditions and activities related to the holiday season?

There’s a whole post on this very topic, but the biggest take-away is that you should do whatever feels right and true for you. Other people will be hurt or upset if you choose not to participate, but your own truth is what’s important. I don’t mean you should be rude or mean, just that saying “no” when no is what’s true – that’s self-care. That’s kindness. And you deserve that.

Continue reading

A family secret: I suffered a mental health problem

Mental health awareness

I diagnosed myself when I was fifteen;
seven years later, a psychiatrist did it.

In February 2012, I was confronted with a family secret: My grandfather had been a patient in a psychiatric hospital for six months when my Dad was a teenager due to a mental breakdown and psychosis. While my grandfather was there, he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Whether that was type I or type II, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does.

I confronted my Dad about why I was never told of this, especially because of my continuous depressions through my life. He tried to play it off, like it was no big deal. (I’m not looking to make my Dad seem like a bad guy because he certainly is not; he just doesn’t seem to be proud of his – my – family’s history – except for the good things of course.)

mental-health-story-quote-1Well, that night I made a decision to go to my doctor and demand to get a referral for a psych evaluation. I’d been going to him at least once a year since I was 15, telling him that I needed help and he’d just kept sending me to psychologists who failed to recognize any signs. But this time, I wasn’t going to listen to him; this time he was going to listen to me!

Three weeks later, I went and told my doctor to give me that referral… He finally did. After seven years, I was finally going to get the help that I knew I needed. Since my first serious depression, I’d known that it wasn’t “just” a depression. I knew it was more than that, but no one would listen to a “hormonal” 15 year old.

Six months later I went to the psychiatrist and filled out a questionnaire that would determine if I had an actual mental illness and if so, which one. After I’d filled it out, I went in for the consult and I told him why I’d sought for psychiatric help as opposed to psychological and we made an appointment for another consult a month later.

August ended and September 21st came; I finally got there and sat down in the waiting room. Of course, the doctor was late. Typical, isn’t it? When you’re about to be late and you rush to get there, whoever you’re meeting is late. It didn’t take long for him to pull me in and give me my diagnosis. “Hi Camilla. So… There’s no doubt about it. You have Bipolar Disorder type II.”

No doubt. No doubt? After seven years, at least seven depression consults with my doctor, three psychologists and countless counsellors, it took one test and one conversation with a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis. A diagnosis that I had known I would receive. For seven years I had dealt with the downside of this illness and no one had been there to really help me.

mental-health-story-quote-2Less two months after I got my diagnosis, I went through another downward spiral, with the snap of two fingers. All I remember is waking up one morning and not being able to get up. I, physically, couldn’t. I lied there, listening to my alarm going off until my Mom came in half an hour later and asked me why I wasn’t up yet. I just looked into the air and said, “It’s gone bad again.” And so, another battle started, but this time we knew why and how to help it.

I ended up dropping out of school –third try on getting an education– to concentrate on getting better and staying better. With a diagnosis it wasn’t hard to have the system work with me instead of against me. They set me up in a mindfulness-ish class that had a couple of painting hours a week, which were the only reason I went. I wasted seven months there until I could get into a program for people who aren’t fit for work or school.

During those months, I did my best to experience as many things that would give me joy as possible. I went to Paris to meet one of my two best friends for the first time. Two months later I went to the Monte Carlo TV Festival with my other best friend – my best friend for longer than forever, as her and I say. And that same Summer I was lucky enough to not get renewed at that mindfulness-ish class, so that I could have a month vacation before starting the program. This break gave me two weeks in Skagen; this annual trip was exactly what I needed! A week of having fun with a friend and the next with my Dad and sister – later joined by my sister’s mother – where I spent most days relaxing in the sun. Perfect.

And finally August came and the program started.

This program has three subjects: music, art and theatre. And since August 2013, I have been an amateur actress. This place is safe. If you’re energized and overjoyed, you use that energy to do theatre work. If you’re tired or sad – or both – there’s a place upstairs with a couch, where you can lie down if you need to. It’s a place where you have support your co-workers, the guidance counsellors and the ones who are in charge of each subject. There’s room for you there. Continue reading

An unusual view of adoption to help create awareness

November, adoption awareness

We wanted to show you this, because it raises awareness about adoption from a less-typical perspective. Share your thoughts in the comments below! Do you have an adoption story? If you do, send it our way. Email us at uglyducklingsinc@gmail.com

I always find that there is a side of adoption that doesn’t seem to get talked about quite as much as the rest. Adopted children are often asked to share their stories. Their adoptive parents are also generally given an open forum for talking about their motivations for adopting. But I always find the birth family isn’t often acknowledged, specifically in the media and our culture.

If and when a birth mother is given a significant story line in either fiction or non-fiction, it usually is talking about the circumstances that caused her to give-up her babies or young children, or what caused her babies or young children to be taken from her.

I love adoption.  I think it is an amazing and beautiful thing. 

And I truly believe that without adoption, I wouldn’t be alive.

She found us

I wasn’t adopted, but my mom had a baby when she was fifteen years old and gave her up for adoption. The statistics of couples that stay together while raising an infant born during their adolescence definitely point to me not being here if my mother hadn’t made that choice.

I didn’t know my mother and father had had this baby when I was younger.  I didn’t know about the baby until she, as an adult, searched for her birth parents and found them together with two young children. I was eleven.

adoption awareness monthTo say my life changed would be an understatement… but every single change was for the better. My sister is an incredibly strong and smart individual and we are very close. She is definitely my hero and I am so proud to have her as a sister.

It’s been so long now, we are just sisters; we were pretty much just sisters from the start. She is as much a part of our family as I am, and she is a part of me.

It’s also been so long now that we don’t have to tell the story that we didn’t always know each other to everyone we meet. The people who have been in our lives from the time we met already know… and the new people in our lives only know who we are now and what our relationship is now.

Occasionally, the story comes up in conversation and we do tell people who have never known us in any other context. The reactions range anywhere from endearing…

– “That is so sweet.  It is so nice to see you two having such a marvellous relationship now.”

… to hurtful

– “Oh… so she’s not your real sister?”

And there is the occasional disbelief, but probably not in the sense you’re thinking:

– “Pft, whatever. Adopted. Yeah right. By a family that looks exactly like you.”

It’s true.  We do look alike.  I have a photo of my mother, my sister and I at the same age, side-by-side… there’s no doubt we’re all related.

When people accuse her of not being my “real” sister… that’s the one that gets to me the most.  She is my sister.  Not only is she 100% biologically my sister… she is my sister in every other sense of the word.  I’ve had her in my life for more years now than not. We are close friends. We talk every day. She constantly inspires me and helps me. I don’t know how I would have gotten through high school without her.

She is my sister.  She is a part of me.

And yeah… I’m the bio family. I’m the family that’s not often talked about when the discussion of adoption comes up – certainly not biological siblings. But we do exist. Whether we’re 100% blood siblings or half siblings, we are “real” siblings and we are affected by the adoption too.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Robin Williams was the voice of the Genie. Try to fight depression

Don’t you feel like you just lost a long-life friend?

Someone who taught you how to laugh, how to cry? How to laugh and cry at the same time?

Robin Williams passed away yesterday, August 11th, and according to media reports, he had been fighting some depression demons for a long time.

You think that people who are always doing funny things and making people laugh are just showing the rest of the world what they are experiencing inside… well, sometimes it’s just their own way to cope with the problems and aches they have inside.

Don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you feel depressed

“I’m sad”. We all go through moments when we cannot deal with our inner feelings and we look for ways to escape. Perhaps we can’t seem to see an exit door. Here, at Ugly Ducklings Inc, we have been fortunate enough to create a supportive community, where people in need might come to us and ask for advice. At the same time, we have some amazing group of people who are willing to say some words of encouragement at the moment they most need it.

After the sad news of Robin Williams’ passing, and how everyone has felt touched by his leaving us, it is very important that we reinstate, and encourage you to look for someone who can help you, as there will always be someone willing to be there for you. As Sky Williams said in his video “A message to the Depressed”, always try to look for someone who is near you, a friend, a therapist, a relative. If not, you can try the different hotlines available.

We have a list of resources that you can turn to if you need to. Just click here.

And to all those who have been in close contact with depression, either because of a friend, a relative, or because you yourself are suffering, this message is for you…

“I’d like to live in a world where happiness is as easy as buying a soda in a vending machine. But it’s harder than that.”

Special thanks to The Telegraph and MindFullUK for sharing this beautiful video.

It’s International Day Against Homophobia

Be true to yourself What better way to be part of this important day than with an interview with these girls?

The road to equality is still a rocky one but if we all keep talking about respect, and tolerance, we may gain some extra yards quicker.

We had the amazing chance to chat with actress Andrea Verdura, and her beautiful girlfriend, Angela, who talked to us about being gay, finding true love, and most importantly being true to yourself.

Here’s our pop quiz part of the interview (and just wait until Andrea gives us a surprise when she answers what her favorite fairy tale is!)

And, for our second part of the interview, here are some of the things they had to say…

  • People never think that being heterosexual is a phase.
  • Straight men make comments like they think they can change you.
  • Any kind of change starts closest to us and then it spans outward.

Their advice, their outlook towards life, and their future projects just made us forget that homophobia even exists! Let’s keep in our minds that we can also make part of the change, ugly ducklings.

Leave us a comment and tell us what you loved the most about our chat. And if you seek any kind of support from the LGBT community, you can check our Resources page.

Until next time Ugly Ducklings…
– Swan Out!

National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week – Ellie’s journey

Leading a great life with anxiety

It is Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week in the United States, and we got this beautiful post by Ellie. Check out what her advice is to all those who need to live with it every day and lead a happy life. Make sure you leave a comment below in case you have questions for her.

I was diagnosed with anxiety three years ago and have been living with it every day since.

Before I was diagnosed, I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with me. I had been struggling with going to college and talking to anyone but I thought it was because I just got out of my first relationship.

But it was much more than that.

Living with anxiety daily is definitely a struggle, but despite what people may think, there are days where you don’t notice it and you can be genuinely happy.

But there are days when you get so low and sometimes there’s not even an actual reason for you to feel that way.

Other times there can be a trigger, whether it be something small like seeing an advert or something big like an argument with someone.

For me personally, I get very anxious at night and find it hard to sleep. Other people suffer more during the day or throughout the day.

But despite the struggles that I face, there’s a lot I have learnt from having anxiety.

  • I’ve learnt that putting on a brave face is sometimes not always the best thing to do because talking to people about what you’re going through is very important. Even if they don’t quite understand, it can be very therapeutic.
  • Although, if you feel as though no one in your family or friendship group will understand, then talking to a professional is very important.

My counsellors helped me so much and taught me meditation routines:

  • Breathing in through your nose for seven seconds then breathing out of your mouth for eleven seconds.
  • If you practice these at a time such as when you wake up (or whenever you’re not feeling anxious/as anxious) then these will help for when you do get anxious and feel yourself panicking.

Surrounding yourself with negative people has an effect on your mental health, so toxic relationships/friendships can make your anxiety flare up.

But whatever the case, if you feel as though you do have anxiety, then please see a doctor. It is my advice to you.

I hope this can shed some light one what this issue really 

– Ellie

Ellie is one of the Original 10 of Ugly Ducklings Inc, and is our guest blogger for National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week. She lives in the UK, and is currently studying college. If you think you suffer from anxiety or depression, and need to talk to a professional, check our Resources page to contact someone that can help you.

What Ugly Ducklings Thought of FROZEN

banner-frozen-do-you-want-build-snowmanI didn’t know a lot about the movie FROZEN when it was being advertised. I had read one article about it before it was even released. It was a feminist article telling people to boycott the movie because the writers had taken the tale and twisted into a “typical” Disney, “anti-women” movie. When I found out I was going to be doing training in the same city fellow duckling Belle lived in, I was happy at the opportunity to see her again (we met earlier this year at a Jenny Simmons’ concert – check out our blog from then); when she suggested we go see Frozen together because the night I was free from training was opening night, I was totally on board (it’s not really being a critical eye if you boycott a movie before anyone has seen it just because of some blog’s perception of what the movie is about). I was not disappointed in the movie and, in fact, left it with a whole lot of reasons of why people (mainly women) SHOULD go see it! Apparently, I wasn’t alone. I asked for our fellow Ugly Ducklings to write in some comments. Check out what they had to say (if you haven’t seen the movie yet – honestly, what are you waiting for? But also, these contain lots of spoilers, so you might want to wait until you’ve seen it to keep reading):frozen-poster-small

Belle writes, Hi, my name is Belle! On November 27th 2013, the newest animated Disney film Frozen was released. I was lucky enough to be able to see it opening night with my fellow Ugly Duckling, the wonderful Erin. As you can probably expect we were not disappointed! Frozen is an extremely inspiring film that I believe everyone can benefit from seeing. This powerful tale of two sisters, the outgoing Anna, and the emotion-concealing Elsa, truly teaches a strong message about discovering yourself, and the power of family. This film is a perfect representation of what The Ugly Ducklings is all about, rising above self doubt, and becoming the strong swan we are all destined to be. I personally related to Elsa on a very emotional level; I have always struggled with letting people in, and as a big sister I have often felt it my duty to conceal what I am feeling, and to just be the good girl I always have to be. This film taught me that some things are not meant to be kept to myself, and that it is okay to let people help me. Ultimately, we can all relate to this fantastic film, and there is certainly a little Anna and Elsa in all of us. There is no doubt that Frozen has made an impact on my journey to discovering my true self.

Jordan writes, Such an adorable film. I saw it around Thanksgiving and is easily one of my top Disney films because of the amazing music and the beautiful story of these sisters. It’s great to see true love applied to family and friends. And the snow was beautiful! I cried during Let it Go because the powerhouse vocals of Idina Menzel combined with the amazingly accurate animation of the snow and ice. This movie has a special place in my heart and is a wonderful, wonderful film for all ages.

Simone FrozenSimone writes, Let me start out by saying that I have known the story “The Snow Queen” by H.C. Andersen ever since I was a little girl and I have always loved it, so I was so excited to learn that Disney was making it into a movie. Though I can’t say that I really recognized anything from the original story, expect from the part were Anna was hit in the eye by Elsa’s ice… BUT that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Frozen. In fact, I love it! And I have been to the movies to see it twice with my 4 year-old niece, because she’s completely in love the movie as well. But it’s not just that the movie is amazing, it’s also the animation and details, the music, the humour, and the fact that this isn’t an usual “Disney Princess” story where the girl gets the guy; it’s about how “an act of true love” doesn’t have to come from someone you are in love with, it can also be from the love of family and friendship. I would like to end this of with a quote from my niece, “This movie is seriously good!”

Maddie writes, Frozen is a movie about sisters overcoming obstacles. It is also about sacrificing oneself for love. Frozen is also about girl power. It shows girls/women that they don’t need a man to save them.”

Sarah writes, When it came to the character of Elsa, she struggled with the fear of hurting the people she cared about with her magical ice powers for most of her life. Elsa’s parents brutalize her instincts so that even as an adult, she lives in constant fear of herself. Even after the death of her parents, those lessons to “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know” were so ingrained into her brain that she continued to keep herself isolated for another three years. It wasn’t until she ran away after her powers being discovered, that she found the beauty and strength of her powers and herself. When Anna confronts Elsa about Arendelle freezing over when Elsa ran away, Elsa begins to breakdown, lets the fear back in and for a moment, loses control of her powers. She exclaims that she can not control the “curse” and didn’t want Anna to get hurt again. This was Elsa’s moment of feeling like an Ugly 

let it go

Duckling. From her parents’ brainwashing, she saw her power as a downside and believed she was a danger. After almost losing Anna, she realized that what she has is not a curse but a gift and was able to unfreeze Arendelle with love.

Prutha writes, In order to get into law school every applicant usually has to submit a personal statement as a part of their application package. If I had to write one again, I’d most likely have written one linking Disney’s Frozen (2013) to my aspirations of attending law school. The story itself is undoubtedly brilliant but what would make me want to write about it specifically is Idina Menzel singing “Let it Go”; there was something about hearing Idina Menzel belting out the song lyrics that nearly got me jumping out of my chair and mimicking the beautifully animated Queen Elsa. All of the emotions rushing through me in that theater – it’s difficult to describe. Rarely do films make me want to be 12 years old again! I applaud Disney for reminding me why I want to become an entertainment attorney! I merely hope to be a part of a team that makes future films just like Frozen possible.

“Let it go, let it go! When I’ll rise like the break of dawn! Let it go, let it go! That perfect girl is gone!”

mellowdramaticsHow true all these reactions are! And Frozen very much conveyed the same message Ugly Ducklings Inc tries to spread: be who you are, you can’t hold it in – just let it go! Furthermore, this movie skims the surface of communicating what isolation and a lack of proper love and upbringing can do to a girl: the choices it can force a girl into that she doesn’t even know she is making: when Anna is so desperate for love and affection that she literally agrees to marry the first man that she meets (did I mention, LITERALLY? He was pretty much the only human being she had ever had contact with apart from her mother and father), Disney is definitely touching on a subject that’s marginalized in this type of film. Mainly that marrying someone you just met without getting to know them might not be the best idea.sisters

I also personally loved the sisters message throughout the movie. I love the playful love between the girls when they are little as the movie begins. I love Anna’s personality: “The sky’s awake, so I’m awake, so we have to play!” – how many dramatic toddlers do you know like that? They perfectly captured that playful, carefree spirit that many little ones possess. Do You Want to Build a Snowman is both hilarious and heartbreaking and by the end, really emphasizes just how alone the girls are together.
Showing that Elsa was willing to live her whole life in total isolation to protect her sister, because she was so afraid of hurting her, was incredibly song writing. I’d be happy to do that too, if it meant my sister would be safe, because I love her so much. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that has a powerful connection like this between sisters (Charmed is the closest thing that comes to mind). And really, let’s be clear about another message it’s sending: true love’s kiss is totally overrated!

Tell us, Ugly Ducklings – what did you think of this great movie?

swan out

– Erin

Jenn’s Ugly Duckling story

The ducklings who struggled and the swan that survived
Trigger warning: self-harm, cutting, suicide, alcohol abuse

I honestly don’t know where to begin and I’m certain this is going to be long. I hope that’s all right.

First and foremost, my name is Jenn. As a kid and into my teens, I was always extremely introverted. Shy seemed to be my thing and I have no idea why, now, looking back. I never had trouble making friends. But my group of friends were always extremely small and tightknit.

And outside of school, I never spent time with anyone but my parents and my sister. I was just happier that way. Fortunately, I was never bullied in school. I don’t know if we just didn’t have a lot of that in the school I went to, or if I was just blissfully unaware because of the fact that I so often just kept to myself. If I had to guess, I’d have to go with the latter.

Throughout high school, instead of hanging out with my school friends, outside of school, I spent my afternoons, and nights, and weekends on the internet, in chat rooms, talking to people online. People I didn’t have to see. People I didn’t have to worry were judging me. My self-esteem pretty much sucked, even though I was never given a reason for it to.

I found a community of people and learned about fan fic and “shipping” and realized that there was this whole, seemingly, underground world that I felt like I just fit into without question. In my late teens, I made a friend who I am still friends with to this day. I can officially say that I have known her for over half my life. We’ve visited each other several times over the years and she has continuously been a person I could count on no matter what was going on in my life.

Jenn, ugly duckling story.I spent my last couple of years in high school and even after I graduated, I immersed myself in television shows like Buffy and Roswell. And at some point I even decided that I didn’t want to just read fan fic anymore. I wanted to write my own. I’m not quite sure I ever went through that ‘awkward teenage’ phase that so many teens seem to go through these days. I guess I was a late bloomer. It was during all of this, going into my early 20’s when I started to realize that I was more drawn to the females in these stories. In the TV shows that I was watching. And I began to see that there was a reason I never wanted a boyfriend and felt completely put off by the one that I dated in my late teens.

It was my friend who helped me realize that whatever was going on with me was okay. That no matter what, she supported me and loved me. And come to find out, I was lucky all the way around. I found myself occasionally making comments about girls here and there and I never had to officially ‘come out’ to my parents. Unfortunately not everyone is lucky and for that my heart truly aches.

But. Even with all the support, albeit silent, I still found myself struggling with day to day things. Like simply being happy. Through most of my 20’s I struggled with depression and the only time I ever felt okay was when I would dig into my shows and lose myself in this somewhat ‘underground’ world of fanfiction and fairytales. It was my way to hide. But it wasn’t a way to heal.

My little sister, four years younger than me, was a little bit more social than I was. We didn’t have a whole lot in common, but at the end of the day… she was my sister and my best friend, and I couldn’t tell you a time when we were *ever* at odds with each other.

We always had each others backs. Whether it was silently, or by spending time with each other. Our parents split up around when I was 21 and my sister, 16 going on 17. It was around that time I noticed that she had started to hide herself away like I had been doing all my life. I knew she was depressed. But so was I. Regardless… we battled it out together.

That’s what sisters are for, right?

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S stands for Swan

banner the letter S for swan

A warm August hello to you, fair Ugly Ducklings.

Today’s blog is going to feature, not me, but a very special friend of us. Charlotte has followed Ugly Ducklings Inc closely since its very inception, and she was even one of the first people around here to turn into a Swan, after she opened her heart to us and told us her Ugly Duckling Story.

Very recently, Charlotte opened and started writing on her new blog and we’d love for you to become the first readers of this budding, great writer.

Here’s a tiny proof of that.

Charlotte dedicated the second entry of her blog to our movement, and, as a way to thank her for spreading the word on what we do, we decided to post it here as well. Can you guess what the letter S stands for?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

One of my all time favorite quotes by Maya Angelou is:
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.

And it’s so true, because it is our own personal stories of failure and triumph that can help others.

I have two very dear friends that literally live continents apart, yet they have started a movement that has eclipsed their distance and it has traveled to all the corners of the world.

Their website provides a safe haven for anyone young or old to tell their story. The website was inspired by Jennifer Morrison’s character role of Emma Swan in ABC’s Once Upon A Time, as she gave her fans the moniker The Ugly Ducklings, and thus the website was born.

If you haven’t seen the show or are unfamiliar with it, PLEASE lie to me and say that you have. It’s a show that encompasses all of the complexities of family, love, and loss while set against the backdrop of every fairytale story you’ve ever read.

 swans and ducks cleaning feathersSo, what makes an Ugly Duckling? It is someone who despite what life has thrown at them, they have succeeded. It is someone who has not let life harden them, and instead they have taken their own personal tragedies and used them to help others. We all have a story and when we start sharing, then that’s when the healing begins.

I was very fortunate to be able to share my story with Ugly Ducklings Inc. It is a story that is reminiscent of a phoenix rising from the ashes. I had every opportunity to be filled with hate, to be angry with the world, to repeat the cycle of abuse.

However, why not turn those horrific events into something beautiful? Why not take my anger and turn it into love for others who have also been hurt?

I am hoping to obtain my Master’s degree in Psychology so that I may further help those whose paths have been littered with broken pieces.

Being an ugly duckling means that not only do you empower yourself, but those around you as well.

Your story just may be someone else’s story too. And you’ll see that you don’t have to play a superhero or a story book character on TV to maybe save someone.

I thank Jennifer Morrison for inspiring Marie and Erin to create their website which has given a family to so many little ugly ducklings out there.

So, today’s blog is brought to you by the letter “S” because, eventually, all ugly ducklings grow up to be Swans.

PS. We cannot thank Charlotte enough for such beautiful words. They just make us work even harder to help and offer our encouraging words with more people.

– Marie,

The Tail Shaker.
The Ugly Ducklings Inc's swan