Inside the Mind of Kurtis J. Wiebe

You can never leave.

Today I am Building Our Future For You

June 20, 2014

Willow,

I’m on a plane back from Los Angeles. I’ve been away for five days and I’m an hour from home. I’ve missed your mom a lot. She’s told me you’ve been quieter than usual since I’ve been gone and that when we talked on Skype you danced to the sound of my voice. You touch my heart in ways I can’t begin to explain and I haven’t even met you yet. But, we’re getting close. Seven weeks, to be exact.

I’ve been meaning to write a letter to you for a while now, but I’ve been planning my future so that I can give you a comfortable one. That’s why I took this trip. By the time you can read and understand these messages, you’ll already know that I’m a writer. Or like to think I’m one. It’s a strange profession, but I want you to know that, from the moment you’re born, I will support whatever it is you want to be. I grew up in a time when everyone thought creative careers were an impossibility. It’s nonsense. Just know that, like with most things in life, it’s not an easy path.

I’ve been thinking about the journey your mom and I have taken. The time has gone by at a terrifying speed and you continue to grow and change our lives. Mostly your mom’s, to be fair. You’re stretching her out and she waddles in hilarious fashion that I can’t help but laugh at. You’re insanely active, kicking the hell out of your mom, apparently the most when she laughs or when The Police come on the radio. Or when she sings.

Life for me has stayed much the same, externally. The life I live in my head, however, has gone from work related obsession to work related obsession plus you. If I’m being really honest, I’ve been feeling scared. I see what is to come and there’s a panic inside that I can’t shake. What if I can’t support this family? What if you get sick and I can’t help you get better? What if, what if, what if…

And that’s me. Sometimes I am fearful. But there’s also so much anticipation, Willow.

What if she looks like her mom? Or both of us? Or, worst case scenario, she looks like me? What will she love? What will she sound like? How will she feel in my arms?

I spend a lot of my time waiting for you. That time can’t pass soon enough.

I turned thirty five this year. I realized not long after it was the last birthday I’d celebrate as a man without a child. Your mom and I went on a trip to New York together, the last we’d take as a couple in this stage of our lives. My last father’s day without a child physically in the world. Next weekend I’ll attend my last comic convention as the man I am now.

But you know, despite my fears, you’ve made me ready to be a father in a world of firsts.

In seven weeks I will hold you, my baby girl.

Love,

Dad

Struggling with Identity

Over the weekend I received a message on Tumblr asking a personal question about identity and family. I took a few days to really think about what I wanted to say because there was a lot riding on the answer. I’m posting the question, followed by my answer.

I’ve fallen in love with reading the journal entries you post. You seem like you are really thoughtful, sweet, and easy to talk to. I’m sorry I don’t really have the nerve to come off anon, but I was wondering if you could help me with some advice? After reading your entries I have started to write about struggling with my sexuality, I just don’t know what I am or what I want to be. I would like to tell my family, but I don’t know how. Should I let them read my writing or tell them in person?

I read this over the weekend and have been thinking about it a lot. I debated whether or not to post it publicly because it’s such a personal question, but obviously I decided to as I think it’s probably a question a lot of people might be asking themselves.

First of all, thank you. My blog/website was something I originally created as a marketing tool. I’d post images from my work, pieces of writing method or sneak peeks. Over time it kind of grew into something more personal as I’d gone through a lot of difficult times in my life not long after I started the site.

Thirty Five

35, eh?

Halfway point of the thirties onto 40, the halfway point to being full dead if you round down those life expectancy numbers.

It’s a crazy week for me. Tomorrow I leave for New York to launch the latest issue of Rat Queens with a team of burlesque dancers and probably a few pints of beer. I’ve got solicitation copy to write for Peter Panzerfaust #22 and Rat Queens #9.  I actually don’t have time to be writing this, but, I felt it was fitting to reflect on what has been a wonderful year for me.

At the end of 2012, I moved to Vancouver. I experienced a lot of my life in Saskatoon. Many wonderful things but, sadly, a lot of heartache. I think I’d lost myself in a lot of ways. I couldn’t tell which end was up and I was going around in circles. I saw all the reminders of what I perceived to be evidence of what defined me. And that definition had become one of failure.

So, I left.

It was probably the scariest thing I’d ever done in my life. Maybe even the bravest. I packed up what little possessions I had into the back of my 2004 Aveo (RIP) and headed West. I actually made the decision over the course of two hours and put the plan in place in little over two weeks. Have you ever had that feeling like your skin is crawling but, inside somewhere? A completely fictitious itch in your head?

I still remember driving away, watching the city disappear in my rear view mirror. Like I’d never see it again. With each mile I felt the excitement of living creep back in. A feeling I’d been familiar with a few times in my adult life, but it’d always seemed to be fleeting.

I would miss my friends. My family. My home. But I would not miss the person I was there. I had a chance to start over without the baggage. Without the shame. People would experience me as a man with a clean slate.

imageThere’s a funny story about my first weekend in Vancouver. It involves my fiancée, Shannon. I’d been in Vancouver only a few days when I met her. While she would prefer the story told of us meeting at a party, the truth is we met on Plenty of Fish where online dating is the equivalent of trying to dissuade a suicide bomber long enough to escape the blast radius.

It was an early Sunday afternoon, 5 full days after I’d arrived, and it nearly didn’t happen. We were both feeling the pain from a night of drinking in our separate worlds, but we’d really enjoyed our conversation on the site. (Side note: I won her over with my very first question; if you were stranded on an island and only had one show to watch and it was either Firefly or Buffy, what would you choose?)

So we met. And we had a wonderful time. We saw Life of Pi together. We laughed a lot during our coffee before the show. We both walked away having really enjoyed the afternoon, but both deciding it would stay as a real swell friendship.

Then we saw each other again.

And again.

And pretty soon we spent most of our time together.

image_3It wasn’t just that we could make each other laugh easily. Or the fact that we could talk about any topic, intellectual or simple, but that she challenged me to be a better man without the demand of me becoming one. That alone was enough to take a long look inside and see the patterns that had long been waylaying me.

Then I had a new freedom that I’d never experienced my entire life. Because I saw my life for what it was, that I’d made choices I could blame no one else for. And at the end of that realization was Shannon, still standing with me. And I loved her for it.

Many of you have seen my life grow with her. You have read my posts about the child I’m having with her. About me proposing to her even in light of my negative views on marriage after having barely survived my first.

It’s the first time in my life I know I’ve made a right decision in my personal life and I won’t lose sight of that.

I’ve managed to do a lot with my career. I took a short stint with Black Tusk Studios and worked on a triple A videogame. I learned a lot, probably the most valuable lesson being able to work with a team of creative people. While I enjoyed it, I realized that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go with my career.

rqstaplesIn that time I launched Rat Queens, which has gone on to be my most successful and personally rewarding pieces of work I’ve ever done. Not just because it’s been a joy to write and to collaborate with Roc on, but because of the experience I’ve had with the fans who love it.

To hear that it was nominated for an Eisner was a real shock. I think I’d always just thought of it as an important book within the community that supported it, but to be recognized on that level was probably what I needed to adjust the view of my own work. I’m eternally hard on myself.

Still, I strive to be better.

In writing and in life.

I miss home. I miss my family. My friends. My heart is still in Saskatoon in a lot of ways, but my new life is here. Next to Shannon and Willow.

And from that vantage point, the future looks brighter than ever.

Here’s to year 35.

image_4

Conan: Blood of the Cossian Fallen – An RPG Podcast

Last Friday I sat down with three friends to play the very first session of our Conan d20 game. We also decided to record the session and, while I’m not sure yet if that was a good idea, the concept is to post the sessions and have an ongoing podcast of our adventures. While it seemed like a narrative driven firecracker, I suspect that might’ve been the cider talking.

So, here is the basic premise followed by the write up that I read to the players at the start of the session. My players were: Jordan Groves, Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson. All three were new to the system and two were unfamiliar with the Conan setting.

The premise is that all three characters are ages 14-16, on their first hunt with their parents who are the protectorates of the village. Should they succeed, they are inducted into the Blood, the elite warrior caste of their village and, when the time comes, replace their parents when they inevitably die in battle.

 

Tonight the skies are clear and the stars paint the sky with good omen. It has been a long journey. Three days, three nights. Your muscles and bones ache, the needling cold of your trek through the Eiglophian Mountains still stabbing through you despite the raging fire you’re gathered around. All of you have survived the peril and, despite wearing a mask of bravado, the experience has taken a physical and spiritual toll.Image

Crom has demanded much of you, yet this is only a brief respite on the night before your first hunt. It is as it has been for five hundred years before you came bloody and screaming into the world and as it shall be long after you die in the same glorious way.

The Blood, your parents whom one day you will replace, mock your youth. As you gather around the fire, leeching warmth like your body has never known it, they pass around a tattered waterskin and drink deeply of mead. Their veins course with it. You have not earned the right to drink from the ceremonial artifact, the skin they call The Gut.

As Chief Torgun and his pack of mongrel warriors taunt and roughhouse, a light arcs across the sky and suddenly all is quiet. All eyes turn to the burning star.

“Crom has vanquished his enemies, casting them from the heavens to the abyss.” the chief mutters. “It is the sign we will have a fortuitous hunt.”

The Blood nod and mutter, slowly passing the Gut between them.

The chief sits in the circle by the fire. His eyes are open but see not the physical world. They see the fate of his people in the young blood gathered around him.

“For five hundred years, our clan, the chosen of Crom, have survived in the shadow of the Eiglophian giantess. Her mighty stones have protected us from the vermin Pict, sent the replenishing waters from her eyes and nourished our people with the milk of her breast. For five hundred years we have protected her and for five hundred years the burning star has signaled triumph.”

A silence hangs as he looks to each of you. A life time of battle and blood pools in his gaze.

“But you are not immortal. Crom does not protect the weak. He casts aside the mewling whelp. Chews on the bones of the coward. To survive, to become one with the tradition of the Cossian tribe, you must survive while Crom taunts your inevitable failure from the heavens. Be at peace with his vulgar disdain, make it a lover and fuck it. Only then can you prove to Crom you are worthy.”

Another pause as a wild grin scrawls across his scarred face.

“Because I can promise you one thing. Crom will fuck you if given the chance to do so.”

ImageThe Blood erupts in laughter and cheers. Heavy hands crack across the backs of your heads. Tonight, your weakness is their entertainment.

You sit for painful hours as you wait for your parents to fall prey to their debauchery, respecting the tradition of the hunt until they have all fallen to blackness from drink.

Then, finally, not hours from the coming sun, you fall asleep and dream of glory, honour…

And, more than anything, fear Crom descending from the heavens and fucking your skull to pieces. 

When you wake, it’s not with a warm sun on your face, but a boot of shit and mud and guttural laughter from your fathers. Here, at the foot of the mountain, the sun is barely casting light in the deep shadowed valley. The Blood are ready to fall on the trail and head into the dark woods that lie across the river. A hazy, wet fog greets your morning.

This is the day you shed first blood. And, if you survive, the day you become a warrior of the Cossian people. 

ECCC 2014!

Holy hell is this Emerald City Comic Con going to be a wild show for me. This is by far the most involved I’ve ever been in a show and I’ve still so much to do to get ready for it, but I’m damn excited, folks. Let’s do a quick summary of what’s all in store for me and the plans I have for my fans!

First, I will be tabling with Roc Upchurch, my partner in crime on Rat Queens, at Table X02. I’ll be there all weekend when I’m not attending signings or panels. My co-creator on Peter Panzerfaust, Tyler Jenkins will also be at the table next to me, and he’ll be selling his gorgeous art. And finally, also sitting with us will be Shannon Woodhouse, my life partner in crime, mother of my future child and amazing brain behind the Rat Queens lady merch. She’ll be making shirts and other surprise items available for sale, and ECCC will be the official unveiling of all her hard work. 

Image

 

Second, Roc and I are on an Image Panel on Friday. Details:

Image Comics Presents Comedy in Comics
Sometimes the best comics are the funny ones, but getting jokes across in print while simultaneously telling an engaging story can be tough. Luckily, we have a panel of experts who can tell you their secrets, tips, and a few really good jokes.
 
Program date and time: Friday, March 28, 3:00 p.m. in Room TCC 301
 
Panelists: Rob Guillory (Chew), Kurtis Wiebe (Rat Queens), Roc Upchurch (Rat Queens), Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals), Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), Jim Zub (Skullkickers), Brandon Graham (Prophet) 

Thirdly, we are also hosting our OWN panel, a Rat Queens panel for the ages where we’ll be showing some real behind the scenes looks at our series and having a real informal chat with the fans! Details:

Rat Queens: A Creator Chat
Room: HALL D (602-603)
Time: 3:40PM – 4:30PM

Have your chance to meet the creators of the Image Comic’s hit Rat Queens and learn about the origin of the series, including its RPG influence, what the future looks like as well as the importance of gender and sexual orientation in modern comics.

And FINALLY we are hosting a Rat Queens after party on Saturday night! We have some amazing guest creators coming to hang out with all who attend and we’re going to be raising funds for Seattle base Gay City Health in an effort to support the LGBT community. Visit the Facebook event and let us know you’re coming:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1427802967461679/?ref=5

Details here:

Image

This is going to be one hell of a show for me and I cannot wait. Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Today I found out you will be a Willow

This is a letter to you about two things. The first part being how you made your presence known over the weekend. And, I say this with absolute loving kindness, but your mothers scream broke me from a creative headspace to which I didn’t return the rest of the day. That seems to be the status quo, you little munchkin. Disrupting my life, tossing it all about, and I acknowledge that what we’ve tasted so far is nothing compared to when you arrive. So, I’m going to enjoy these little hiccups of you.

Saturday was your first announcement to your mom that you were quite awake, thank you very much. To be fair, I actually ignored your mother’s first scream because I thought she was being silly about a spider or squirrel or other related fear she has and wanted me to come deal with the situation. To which I coolly responded, “I’M WRITING!”

Small aside, you’re probably going to be annoyed by ‘in the zone’ Dad. He’s pretty obnoxious.

The second scream made me realize the spider or squirrel or other related fear wasn’t simply going to take care of itself. That was a man’s job. And since I was the only one around, I would have to do. I huffed as I put down my computer and walked into the living room. You mother sat there, this wide eyed look on her face that was equal parts terror and joy.

“It’s MOVING!”

And then she put my hand on her belly. And then you said hello in the only way you can right now. I can’t really explain how that made me feel, so I won’t even bother. Just know that you made me smile.

Today we went to take a better look at you, which brings me to the second part of this letter. Every week we’ve looked online at how you’ve grown, to consult this parenting website to see where we were in the journey. The diagrams were weird, the pictures of how you might look stranger still, and yet we still were very excited for our peek at you.

And you were more beautiful than I could’ve imagined, even though you’re still just a human looking lump of DNA. We saw your silhouette, a small glimpse of a promise of who you’ll become. You were moving all over the place. We saw you yawn. You acted shy, as though you didn’t like to have the spotlight on you. A feeling I know so well.

“These aren’t always 100% accurate, but…”

Then she told us.

And then my stupid eyes watered and I held your mothers’ ankle, which is strange, but it was the only close part of her nearby. We looked at each other and laughed because we had this silly bet. Two days of laundry and dishes to whoever guessed wrong.

I guessed right.

When the nurse left, I hugged your mom and felt this sense of certainty wash over me. It’s all falling into place.

“I was right all along. Me and my two girls.”

I can’t wait to meet you, Willow.

Love, Dad

PS: This is how we see you.

photo (2)

Rat Queens Valentine’s Day Cards

RatQueens_Vday_Violet RatQueens_Vday_Betty RatQueens_Vday_Dee RatQueens_Vday_Hannah

Today I Proposed to your Mother

 

February 8th, 2014

Today I Proposed to your Mother

I know what you might be thinking. Isn’t that supposed to happen before my other letters to you? Well, yes. Generally that’s the way the world works, but let me explain.

See, both of us had different spouses in a life before we met each other. Sometimes we make big life choices without understanding the full weight of them, or before considering what we really want out of our lives.

In fact, these choices led to a lot of pain for both of us. And pain leaves an indelible mark, something that hides away and surfaces in the strangest of ways. For me, and for you mother, we were afraid of repeating a similar mistake. We were jaded and certain that there was only sadness and disappointment in relationships. And we came to that thinking honestly.

That’s what is pretty wonderful about our story, that we crashed into each other’s lives when we simply weren’t looking. We were surprised and terrified. Afraid because we made a lot of sense together very early on. To be honest, we ran from it at first. We found reasons to be alone. But, the more time I spent with your mother, the more I knew I couldn’t deny it.

I loved her.

Want to see something amazing? I captured the moment I knew I loved her on camera. The second I saw this picture I knew. I loved your mother.

love

Why it took me another few weeks to tell her is something you’ll understand when you fall in love for the first time. It’s absolutely terrifying and nobody wants to be the first to admit it.

It wasn’t long later that we moved in together. We were tentative, it was a huge step, and at this point both of us had sworn off ever getting married again because our experience with it was the stuff of nightmares. This was our testing ground.

And you know what?

It was… normal. I know that sounds boring, but one day, when I tell you about my life, you’ll understand why I appreciated that more than anything else.

And not long after that, we started talking about children. See, we knew inherently that this was it. That we’d spend our lives together. And we both knew what we wanted beyond just the two of us. We wanted you. You just happened a bit… quicker than we expected. And that’s wonderful! Really! And for your sake, I won’t go into any more details than that.

But, as I’ve spent more time with your mother, and we’ve both become more excited every day about you, everything is becoming perfectly clear:

This is my life. And I will spend it with you and Shannon as long as I live.

Look. You’re starting to make an impression!

bump

We’re not sure when this marriage is going to happen. There’s so many things happening with my career, lots of life is still uncertain, but we will figure this out in the time that works best for the three of us. Until then, stay healthy and strong. We love you.

Dad
PS: She said yes by the way.

yes

Bits of Script: Rat Queens Teaser

Had a private message asking if I had any sample scripts from an artist looking to practice sequential work. Reminded me I used to post pieces of script for people to check out as a way to show my process. Here’s the very first five pages of Rat Queens I ever wrote, initially meant to be the actual intro in the first issue but ended up being used for promo material.

 

PAGEONE (5 Panels)

Panel 1. The focus of the intro to our first issue is a bait and switch. This large panel will be of Hannah in a dark room, setting the tone and mood to look as though things are grim and scary, like she’s been caught and tossed in a dark pit somewhere. In reality, she’s waking up in the aftermath of massive party at their house. The party was a massive all night with dozens and dozens of people passing out on the floor. Here, Hannah is sprawled out on the floor, the side of her face on the ground. We want all the following panels to be dark, lots of shadow, mostly outlines so the reader is unable to tell where she is but still able to get a small sense of character and space.  We’re on the floor, level with Hannah, she’s unconscious and looks ROUGH. Again, painting a picture of doom here.

Panel 2. Push in on her eyes, one is narrowly open and she’s wincing a bit.

Hannah 1

Ughhhh

Panel 3. On her hands and knees, rubbing her head with a hand, facing the floor, hunched over. Still in quite a bit of pain.

Hannah 1

What happened?

Panel 4. She’s crawling along the floor. She’ll be making her way to the front door but there’ll be overturned tables and unconscious. I think we should stay close in on Hannah the duration of this scene.

Hannah 1

Where… guh, it smells like troll ass in here.

Panel 5. She crawls over a few bodies all crunched up together. Still dark, can see enough to know what she’s crawling over.

RatQueens_01_01_FINAL (Copy)

PAGE two (5 Panels)

Panel 1. Behind Hannah, she’s foreground looking ahead and we can see the piles of bodies, arms and legs sticking out. Real grisly. It’s all darkness ahead, we can’t see an end to the room. It’s cramped, enclosed. The darkness crushing down on her.

Floating bubble 1

H-h… help. Me.

Panel 2. Hannah, squinting her eyes as she crawls forward.

Hannah 1

Let’s just avoid that disembodied voice.

Panel 3. She crawls over more bodies.

Panel 4. A hand rises from the bodies and grabs her wrist.

Panel 5. A face appears close to hers, a human male, in his 40’s, almost ghoul like with long hair but bald on top. He looks terrible, missing a few teeth.

Man 1

I… need… wat-

RatQueens_01_02_FINAL (Copy)

PAGE three (6 Panels)

Panel 1. Hannah punches him in the face.

SFX 1

Crack

Panel 2. She crawls over his face and continues on.

Hannah 1

Everyone’s got needs, old man.

Panel 3. Hannah finds the wall with her hand.

Panel 4. Her hand as it touches the bottom of the handle to the door.

Panel 5. She’s leaned against the door as she turns the handle. She looks desperate, her eyes half closed and like it’s taken everything just to get up onto her knees. Her weight is heavy against the door.

Hannah 1

*hurk* Ughhhh, my guts are burning. Poison.. it’s-

Hannah 2

Ok… that’s a little vomit bubbling up…

Hannah 3

*huff* Just *huff* keep it *huff* together, Hannah.

SFX 1

Click

Panel 6. Small panel, the outline of the doorframe lit by hot white light.

RatQueens_01_03_FINAL (Copy)

PAGE four(splash)

Panel 1. Behind shot of Hannah on her knees, shielding her eyes from a giant blistering white light that is washing over her, blasting away the darkness.

Hannah 1 *large yell, words shaping the balloon*

Gahhhh! N’Rygoth’s ballsack!

RatQueens_01_04_FINAL (Copy)

PAGE five(5 panels)

Panel 1-4. Side by side panels of Hannah, crawling across grass, in pain, suffering. Panel 3 will show Betty’s feet and Panel 4 will show Hannah grabbing onto them for dear life.

Hannah 1

Must..

Hannah 2

Escape..

Hannah 3

Black pit of..

Hannah 4 (Panel 4)

Ohhh, thank the goddamn gods for these little lady feet.

Betty 1 (Panel 4)

Dude-

Panel 5. Large panel. Betty, hands on her hips, looking healthy and ready to go and dressed for adventuring. Behind her, the other two girls, also dressed for adventuring but look as worse for wear as Hannah. Violet is in her metallic armour, rubbing her head leaning against the house and Dee is leaning against a tree, barfing her guts out.

Betty 1

You got SO drunk last night.

RatQueens_01_05_FINAL (Copy)

On Anorexia

In December, 2013, I returned home for Christmas after being unable to do so the year before. I left behind the grey, slightly cool climes of Vancouver and flew straight into the frozen hell of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. At least it was sunny.

This was the first Christmas my partner, Shannon, spent with my family, and it was a really wonderful time. We saw friends and family, played games, and chatted for hours. We even went for a bit of a drive around the city and I showed her a few places that held memories for me. Some good, some bad.

And, somewhat related, we ended up going through the stacks of photos that my mom and dad have kept over the years. Me as a baby. Me as a kid. Me as a fat kid in junior high. Me as a fat kid in high school.

Then I saw them. Three pictures from a year in my life when I lived in Calgary.

I was 19. And I was anorexic.

Not a lot of people talk about male anorexia or male body image, it’s not something, as a man, you want to share because of the shame you inwardly feel about it. And, to be fair, I haven’t talked that much about it to many people but I have thought about it in the years since. Quite a lot.

The fact that I was anorexic probably comes as a shock to a lot of people. I’m a big guy. Always somewhere between ‘could shed a few pounds’ and ‘does he breathe cheeseburgers?’. A few years ago I managed to get really fit and lose 60 pounds. I felt great. I swore I’d never go back to the way I was. And, here I am, two years later, in the exact place I was before. A place where my clothes feel like they crawl on my skin, where I never feel comfortable with myself no matter what I’m wearing.

I suppose the important thing is that, as of this moment, I’m taking steps to change. The problem is, I can change my weight, but I still haven’t really dealt with the greater issue at hand.

My mind.

All of these feelings are rooted deep and bring me to 1998 when I slowly faded away and didn’t even notice.

I can’t even tell you how it started. I never had a moment where I looked in the mirror and decided that I had to be skinny. There wasn’t this sudden switch from a regular diet to eating nothing at all. It just sort of… happened.

I’ve tried to remember a lot of the details but, to be honest, I don’t have a very solid memory of that year. This is the first time I’ve ever written anything about it, so maybe more will surface. Bear with me.

I can give some context. I was working as a 7-11 cashier on a nightshift in one of the sketchiest neighborhoods in Calgary. I worked as much as I possibly could, even holidays. I didn’t go home to visit my family for over a year, and probably only once or twice in two years. I was struggling with religion, having grown up in a Christian family and in a town built around a Bible school. It was my first foray into the real world and I was utterly unprepared for it.

I was also seeing someone long distance from Australia and because I was young, didn’t realize how poisonous the relationship was. It was a melting pot of shit. Essentially, I lacked any sense of control in my life.

I suspect this was the seed. A feeling of drowning in chaos and hating how I looked.

Let’s talk about that.

It’s strange. I was always a skinny kid growing up. I lived on a farm, so I was always outside riding my bike or climbing on bales of hay. In the summer I’d be outside from early morning until the sun set. I was very active. Then, in grade 5, we moved to the aforementioned town so my dad could study theology. It was also the year I discovered video games. Now, I’m not going to blame Nintendo for being a fatty, but my time outdoors dropped significantly. It was the beginning of a long descent into gaining weight, puberty and extreme self-consciousness.

I don’t think I was fully aware of my weight or what it meant. The thing was, I was actually a popular kid growing up so I wasn’t ever the brunt of jokes or cruelty. But, there’s a very clear memory for me where that all changed.

Grade six. The soccer field beside the school. I could see two ‘friends’ pointing at me and laughing and I couldn’t figure out what the hell they were going on about. It kept on all day until I finally pulled one of them aside and asked what it was all about. The friend confided in me that it wasn’t his joke, that he was just playing along. That it wasn’t him who said I looked like John Candy.

Then it hit me.

“I’m fat and everyone knows.”

That’s the moment when I began to hate my body and, despite ups and downs, it’s NEVER gone away. It fundamentally changed how I engaged the world around me. I began to tease others to turn the attention away from me. I became cruel and cynical as a means to protect myself. I cracked jokes all the time to distract people, telling myself that if I could make them laugh then I’d be worth something.

I still do this.

It haunted me all through high school and, despite being outwardly happy and social, I was dying inside. So, I found a way to cope. Or, a few ways. The first was food. The worst possible solution to feeling horrible about my weight was taking something directly responsible for it and stuffing it in my face. The other was escapism through roleplaying games. But, you know what, this I will defend until my dying breath. It was the one good thing I took away from all of this that has taught me to be creative on the fly, to create real characters and tell interesting stories. So, fat kids, play RPG’s. You might become a writer while dealing with insecurities.

When I left home, I did so with no sure footing in who I was. I had ideas of who I was, but it was all fabricated, coping mechanisms that made a framework of Kurtis, but nothing real. So when I came crashing into the real world, I had nothing to ground me. I couldn’t experience life with a set of parameters that made those moments manageable. I had no control of what was happening.

And still, every day when I saw myself in the mirror, I hated that fucking face. That shitty body. That worthless, no good, rotten composition of flesh that somehow passed for a human. Something no one could ever see past because I sure as hell couldn’t.

Somewhere along the way, as I looked in the mirror and saw the exact same fat body, the rolls and the stretch marks, what I perceived to be true and what actually was true became two completely different things. I’d been losing weight at an alarming rate.

I remember numerous occasions where people would comment on how skinny I was and I would immediately be offended because I thought they were insulting me because I was overweight. I remember numerous times rejecting offers of picking up groceries with my roommates because I just wasn’t hungry, even though my shelves never had any food on them. In all this, I never realized I was sick.

I’m still not even sure how I survived, to be honest. I don’t remember buying groceries for at least a year. I used to steal burgers from work every few days and claim them as damaged on the ordering sheet. And I smoked. A lot. That is one thing I do remember. Every time I had a hunger craving I would light a cigarette. I think at one point I was smoking almost two packs a day. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.

I can’t imagine how my parents felt when they came to visit me before I headed off to Australia for a second time to spend time with my girlfriend. (who later became my wife, who later became my ex-wife, but that’s for another time) I have talked to my parents about that visit a few times over the years and mom has said that she thought I was a hard drug addict.

To be fair, all the signs were there. My skin had turned pale grey, my hair was falling out and my frame, normally a size Large, was now swimming in size small. It must’ve been difficult for them to send me off, not having seen me for a year, seeing their son wasting away and probably dying.

And I still had no clue.

What changed? How did I gain the weight back and find health again?

I suppose the honest answer is that I didn’t.

Sure, I gained weight back. I ate normal. I quit smoking. But that old demon has never died and I’ve carried it ever since. It just manifests in different ways, and while I don’t care to go into all those details, the one that is constant is how much I dislike my physical self.

I’m writing all this because I think it’s important for the world to know that men struggle with this. It’s okay for men to talk about this and admit to it. This isn’t a gender based issue, as much as the media or the world would have you believe it is. You aren’t a freak if you hate the skin you’re in. It just means that there’s some patterns that have developed and that you can actually overcome them.

And while I haven’t, I’m working on it. Going to the gym now to gain control of my weight is fine and definitely important. It’s only a small part of what the real problem is. Because even when I lost all that weight, I still felt inadequate. I felt like I deserved misery. And, eventually, those feelings grew and I couldn’t outrun them.

I’m also writing this as a soon to be father and the terror I feel for that child if they struggle like I did. That I want to be an open book, so that if this ever happens they know I understand. That I’ve been through this and I know how much it hurts and how hope is so easily lost. I don’t want them to be in the dark like I have been for so long.

Because you don’t have to be in the dark. You don’t have to suffer this alone.

You are loved.

image (1)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,501 other followers