I’ve never liked the idea that one decision or one event can change your entirely life (mostly because it would paralyze me with fear given the pressure this would put on every choice I would ever have to make).
That being said, there is one moment that changed my entire life. Not on its own. Not without the other decisions and events that followed. But like a metaphorical patient zero, I can trace the current trajectory of my life back to one moment, that changed everything for the better.
I won’t bore you with tales of teenage sadness, except to say that teenage sadness bled through the majority of my years. I was severely, desperately, blindingly depressed from the age of 12 to 26.
14 years. (cue GnR). 14 years is a long time to be sad.
I used to think that I would never get through it. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that I had been born broken, that something in my brain just didn’t work right and that was the reason that I was this way. I still very vividly remember cutting myself because at least it made sense, if you were upset because your arm was bleeding that was logical. If life feels hopeless, when surrounded by a family that loves you and your future is (almost inherently) bright, that can seem incomprehensible. How do you find your way out of something when nothing makes sense?
And then, one simple thing happened…followed by another…and then another…and so on and so on until now. A string of events, where everything pointed in the right direction. And it wasn’t just chance, but dammit if I don’t feel lucky.
It happened the year I turned 26. I was working at Coast Mountain Bus Company call centre, a union job, making more money than I ever had before and I was absolutely miserable. I hated answering the phones–less because the people were awful (but just to be clear they were awful) and more because I felt like management didn’t have our backs. It was probably just a symptom of the union/management dichotomy but the point (for this story, at least) is that I was absolutely fucking miserable. I had been moved to day shifts (which, as a night owl, sucked big time). I remember leaving for work at 5am and getting home around 3pm. I had started going to bed by 5pm. I couldn’t even pretend that I wasn’t miserable. I couldn’t hide it.
Which, as it turns out, became a much more literal truth then I was expecting.
One day in February, 2008, I was standing in my parents’ kitchen, with my back to my mother, when she asked if I had been scratching at the back of my head. I was irritated. I was cranky. I was miserable. It seemed like an insane question. It felt like she was hassling me.
“No,” I answered sullenly. But she wouldn’t let it go. I thought she was just going to give me some motherly advice about how I shouldn’t wear my hair in a ponytail all the time but instead she walked over and tried to examine it. I went to the bathroom and used the old two-mirror-hairdresser-method until I saw what had her so alarmed.
My hair had fallen out. In a huge round patch. Bald. Disgusting. Even my own hair couldn’t stand to be around me. I’m not sure I entirely believe it, but sometimes I like to think that this was my body speaking for me when I couldn’t speak for myself.
The great irony of my life is that the worst job I ever had, turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
I started working at Coast Mountain Bus Company.
On December 25th 2008, I had my last drink of alcohol.
A month and a half later, my hair fell out.
I was lucky enough to get to go on paid medical leave.
I started counselling (that like every other counselor/psychiatrist/etc. that I had been to since I was a preteen wasn’t great – or at the very least, I wasn’t ready to let in).
I went back to work.
It was even worse than before.
One day, on the phone, after a snafu in scheduling, I yelled at my boss (nothing crazy just a raised voice).
The next shift I was fired.
By some miracle, I wasn’t technically “fired” but actually just “let go” (reason K – other) and thus I qualified for unemployment insurance.
The counselor I had been seeing was through my job and since I didn’t work there anymore, I had to find someone else.
My counselor recommended a government-subsidized mental health centre (conveniently located 10 minutes from my house).
And that’s where I found both a psychiatrist and a counselor that would help me to change everything.
I went on anti-depressants and put the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) techniques I was learning to good use.
The way I am listing things here makes it seem so quick and easy but don’t get me wrong–it was a goddamn struggle. I remember one time, after my psychiatrist was supposed to have upped my dosage again, returning from the drugstore and finding out he had mis-written the Rx and it was the same dose (and the pills were time release so you couldn’t just split them). I remember flipping the fuck out, falling to the floor in sobs. I was gutted. The money it would cost to fill the prescription again. The wasted pills. The days it would take until the problem was solved. Looking back now it seems ridiculous but I remember feeling like I had fallen overboard and just when the life raft was close enough to grasp it sunk.
I remember being so so fucking sad. I felt like a complete failure. A burden to my parents (would I ever be anything other than someone they had to worry about?). I was living at home with my parents, had a degree I felt was useless, I’d been fired (in my mind) for the first time in my life and from a job I hated no less (it felt like getting rejected by someone you didn’t even want in the first place), I was overweight and in debt up to my eyeballs. I was depressed and everything seemed worthless. The world was terrifying. I was ashamed and felt as if my life was meaningless, the only reason not to give up was my family who loved me so deeply (and I them) that regardless of the sad I couldn’t imagine leaving them with the kind of pain that a suicide would create.
When I started CBT, the goal was just to shower. Just get up, and shower. If I could do that, the day was a success. And then it was about doing things. Make a list. Accomplish a thing. Get dressed. Go out and have a cup of coffee. It was about not becoming overwhelmed. It was about not seeing the world as a terrifying place (I don’t always succeed at this one). I learned that I had to do things that I would eventually love, long before I would love them because when you’re depressed things are backwards and you can’t love anything. So you just have to do…get out and DO…because it will get better.
And in time, I did get better. Not quickly. Not all at once. But an inch of happiness here, and a moment of peace there, and life was just better.
And while all this was going on, I decided to go back to school. I already had a BA in Psychology (let’s not discuss the irony), but I wanted to go grad school and revive my dream of being an English Professor and writer (something that seemed to have gotten lost along the way).
I had no idea if I could do it. I needed to get another BA first though, so I applied to UBC and was accepted in.
I sold all the useless material things I owned and, in July and August, went on a 5 week solo trip to Europe (a similar trip I had tried but failed to complete ten years before–coming home after a week, hysterical and traumatized).
This time though, the trip was amazing. It changed me. I was stronger, more self-reliant, more durable. I set out to do a thing and I did it.
September 2009, I went back to school.
I only took a few courses because, honestly, I wasn’t sure at all that I could do this (this being a second BA, this being going to grad school, this being anything but being the failure I felt like I was)
Thanksgiving (Canadian) 2009, my long-distance boyfriend of 6 years and I broke up.
January 2010, I started dating and because I didn’t want to keep telling the same story to different friends, I started the blog Something She Dated.
In the next two years: I joined Twitter, I got a paid writing gig, I dated several boys, I lost weight, I gained some of it back (this one is still a real struggle for me), I started blogging for The Province Newspaper, I worked hard and got good grades (something I’d never really done up till now–I’d always just coasted).
In my final year, I applied to 6 graduate school programs. In all honesty, I never really expected to get into any of them. I got into 5. I still remember calling my father in tears when the first letter arrived from Georgia State University saying that they wanted me. Somebody wanted me!
I graduated with my 2nd BA (English Literature).
I ended up choosing Concordia (in Montreal) because they offered me the most funding and Montreal sounded like a great place to live, oui non?
I moved to Montreal. The first week was brutal but now I feel like I could move anywhere, could do anything.
Grad school was great (even the times when it wasn’t great). I became a TA in the English Department. I did some teaching in the Engineering and Computer Science faculty. And in this last term I even got a job teaching an English course all on my own (part time faculty, yo!).
In September 2013, I took my last anti-depressant.
After a year in the academic stream of my degree, I decided that I’d rather do my thesis in Creative Writing. While I have loved my time in grad school, I have realized it is unlikely that I will want to pursue a PhD in English (if anything, I’d be more likely to apply to law school but that’s another story). I applied to the Creative stream, was accepted, and on March 26th my thesis was accepted. I finished my courses and I will graduate with an Masters Degree in English Literature on June 9th.
The plan is to stay in Montreal till July 31st when my lease runs out and then move back home to Vancouver to spend a few weeks (to a few months) chilling at my parents’ while I look for a job. I’m hoping to move up north (Yukon, NWT, Nunavut)–for the adventure, for the writing inspiration, for the money.
I feel like this story explains everything, about me, entirely. But I can’t really be sure, because I’m on the inside, I know what the puzzle looks like complete, and you guys all just have the pieces.
This is why, when it comes to dating and life, I’m always looking for the fun–the joy–the happy.
I want to date and have happiness. I want to enjoy things just as they are. I don’t want commitments and promises of happiness forever, I just want to enjoy the happy when it happens. (now if only I could find a way to explain this to men that doesn’t sound like I’m using “fun” as a code word for fucking). Because, believe you me, there are very VERY few men, that I come in contact with (online or otherwise), who can understand my desire for fun and can get on board with it. I just want to date people and enjoy them for the time we have together. I want to be treated like a human being, not a talking vagina. But you’d be surprised how difficult it is to find someone who agrees. Who can see the value in the middle ground. Who has the ability (and desire) to care about someone generally as a person, or maybe even specifically, but doesn’t feel the need to tie their futures together. I just want to laugh and talk and fuck and have more fun than anyone should legally be allowed to have.
I want to date happy.
Because I was so so sad for so so long and I’ve come so so far. And I’m aware that others have definitely struggled more but this isn’t a competition, just (an abridged) story about how I got all the way here—-from way back there.
And I just hope, that if any of you are ever back there that you can hang on long enough to find your way up here because it is good. Oh god, it is so good. And even if I don’t always know how to help or make it better for you, just know that I’m here. And that there is a way. Ugh. This is starting to sound all preachy and sappy and stuff but ya know, I’m actually a mushball (most evidence to the contrary) so whatever, I love you.