Annabel by Kathleen Winter

4/5 stars.
ebook, 480 pages.
Read from June 12 to 21, 2014.

I’m literally one book away from finishing all the Canada-Reads nominations of 2014. I am impressed with the diverse content between all of the books up unto this point, however, Annabel has had the most beautiful plot so far.

Jacinta Blake gives birth to an inter-sexed child in a small village in Labrador, Canada in 1968. While her husband, Treadway is out trapping as usually does for most of the year, Jacinta’s friend Thomasina is the only other person present. While Jacinta and Thomasina want to let the child live as it has been naturally born, when Treadway comes home he decides that the child will be raised as a boy. They name him Wayne.

Jacinta struggles with decision and reluctantly takes Wayne into the hospital as baby to have surgery in order to make him a boy. This is also followed by massive concoction of hormones that he will have to continue to take for his entire life

Thomasina lost her husband and daughter, Annabel, while they were out on a canoe trip and comes to secretly call Wayne by the name Annabel when just the two of them are together.

The story progress through some heart-retching scenes as Wayne grows up. At one point he is hospitalized because he is menstruating, but because he had surgery as a baby there is no where for this menstrual blood to go, causing immense pain and discomfort for Wayne.

Out of all the characters, it’s Wayne who holds the most grace with his situation. He doesn’t learn what he is until he is a teenager but he lives a somewhat normal childhood. His parents were however racked with questions, fears and frustration that they are often unsure how to deal with. Each of them feeling isolated with the knowledge of what Wayne is. It’s ultimately Wayne’s brave decision that relieves and brings the family together again.

Inter-sexed people are more common then most people recognize and it’s a hard concept for some to accept. We grow up with the belief that we are either male or female, but the idea of someone being or both is foreign to many of us. The story of Wayne could be about any inter-sexed child and their family and for some, without a story like Annabel, would not have a basic understanding of what an inter-sexed person has to go through.

Annabel is a testament to great Canadian fiction and brings an in-depth perspective of growing up inter-sexed.

The Dreaded Relapse: Dermatillomania

Originally posted on Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Support Network (CBSN) on June 18, 2014.


For those of us that are dealing with and working through Dermatillomania, we’re all familiar with the major ups and downs of this condition. From going to a few weeks or hours without picking or just managing to reduce the picking to a minimum for a while, we’ve all encountered the occasional times after these instances when we are faced with a major relapse in our picking. These relapses are not only damaging to our skin but are oftentimes devastating to our self-confidence and mental health. Here are some tips, remedies and advice to get back on track and staying positive through these tough times:

  • Determine the trigger:  Are you stressed? Getting enough sleep? Or perhaps you’re excited or anxious? These are vague trigger definitions but they are a start. Part of making progress with this condition is monitoring your habits and getting in touch with your triggers. Many people with this condition are self-sabotagers on other levels than with their skin. Whether it’s not getting enough sleep or exercise or just ravaging yourself with negativity and self-hate, recognizing these behaviours are essential for healing. Do you notice that you pick when you have trouble making decisions? When you’re overwhelmed and unorganized? When you have to face/deal with certain types of people or situations? Or are just triggered by perhaps the feel or look of your skin? Get specific and write it down. Create a habit log. It doesn’t have to be complicated but include things like how strong the urge was, how long you picked for, where were you when you were picking and how you felt.  Once you start to notice a pattern of thoughts, behaviours and places where you pick you can start creating strategies for the future. Check out CSBN’s tips and tricks page for more resources.
  • Forgive and be kind: Relapses, just like skin picking, don’t define you or your progress. Be kind! Negative self-talk, hatred and pity will get you absolutely nowhere. Do not make yourself a victim. Victimization will perpetuate the cycle of picking and anxiety. Recognize that you’ve slipped, tell yourself it’s okay, give yourself a hug and look forward. I highly recommend diving into these books for further assistance in getting over some of these mental roadblocks: “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown and “Skin Picking: The Freedom to Finally Stop” by Annette Pasternak. Check out CSBN’s store for more book recommendations.
  • Don’t let the relapse hold you back: The red open wounds of a relapse make most of us want to crawl underneath the covers and never emerge but this is often one of the worst things that you can do. Don’t cancel plans over your skin and don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do. Reclaim your control and get out there! Wallowing at home often leads to more picking and negativity.
  • Reinforce positive thoughts and go back to your picking-reducing behaviours ASAP: If you know you can’t control yourself in certain instances there are few things that you can do to help keep your hands away.
    • Disposable medical gloves work really well in keeping hands away from the skin. They are thin enough that they don’t get in the way of everyday tasks (they even work with touch screens) but will prevent you from looking for and picking at perceived imperfections.
    • Cover up: if your pick spots are on places on your body cover them up so that you’re not tempted to inspect your skin.
    • Set timers and cover-up mirrors: If the bathroom is a room you can’t seem to get out of then cover that mirror and get yourself a timer so that when you do have to make use of that room you’re on a tight time limit. Create a system of rewards and punishments for making or breaking these time limits.
    • Fidget toys and spinner rings: Keep those hands busy! There are many places where you can get these great little trinkets for your hands.
    • Don’t want a fidget toy or a ring? Try knitting or making friendship bracelets. Check out the CSBN’s bracelet project!
  • Healing the wounds you have made: So you’ve made peace with yourself but you’re still left with the open sores. Try these remedies to speed up healing and reduce redness:
    • Apply a clay mask: clay reduces redness and draws out impurities to prevent infection. It can, however, dry the skin out don’t leave it on for more than 20 minutes.
    •  Try a mix of honey, cinnamon and lemon juice: Honey (unpasteurized is best) and lemon juice have natural anti-bacterial properties to keep those sores clean and infection-free while the cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and swelling. Leave it on as long as you want and remove by washing or wiping your face. This mixture works well on the fresh wounds, as it will help create a nice even scab making it less likely you will pick it off later and the sticky honey is a deterrent to keep your hands away from your skin.
    • If you’re going to wear make-up try to let those wounds scab over to an extent and try not to cake it on. Use a green concealer to masks redness and a mix of foundation and pressed powders to get the best coverage. Get mineral-based and oil-free make-up to prevent further aggravation of your skin.
    • Tea tree oil: a natural and pain-free antiseptic that will keep wounds clean and will dry them out quickly.
    • Bactine: This pain-free antiseptic spray will clean out sores and has a pain reliever that will numb surface pain.

Dermatillomania used to be my dirty little secret. It is now something that I have mostly overcome and I am working with a bunch of great people at the CBSN to spread awareness and offer support for people dealing with body-focused repetitive behaviours.

For more posts and information on Dermatillomania, check out: