Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Darkness and the Light

I've been thinking a lot about life in the last few days, and I thought I should write a blog entry about it. I'm not sure why, but I feel like it needs to be written.

I'm using word pad, so forgive me if the spacing or anything is weird. I've never used word pad before. I tried using notepad but it was being persnickity, and we don't have MS Word on the computer here in the music building, so I'm doing the best I can. It may seem dark and icky at first, and believe me, it was dark and very icky, but it has a happy ending. Again, I am going to put it out there. If you read this to the end, you get cookies... or something...

It all started three years ago October. It feels like it was so recent. I have a really hard time believing that it has been this long already. Everything seems to be moving faster as I grow up... but then, one does not easily forget trying to end one's life...

I was living on my own in Ottawa at the time, in my 3rd year of university. It was a Monday morning in mid October, just after Thanksgiving. I had felt very depressed for years. Actually, this is not entirely true. Sometimes I was depressed but other times I was crazy happy. My moods would often change completely randomly. I never could tell what would trigger them, I would just be happy one minute, and in tears the next.

I remember the Sunday, two of my close friends came to visit me in Ottawa. They had some things they had to do while they were there, and then they came to my apartment to help me clean up. My mother was due to come for dinner and stay the night, as she had to work in Ottawa the next day. We cleaned the place from top to bottom. It took us a few hours. We scrubbed it until it was shiny. We made dinner for Mom... talapia with Italian dressing and a salad.

Mom arrived early evening, bringing some groceries she had bought for me. We all sat down and ate dinner. Everything appeared to be going great. At around eight, my friends had to head back to Kingston, so we hugged and said good-bye. I do not remember what it was that Mom found, but there was a small spot that we had missed cleaning. We had a pretty ugly argument about it, she ended up cleaning it, and then we went to bed.

I didn't sleep that whole night. I thought we'd tried so hard to make it perfect for her, and no matter how hard we tried, it just wasn't good enough. I was crushed. I felt that I could not do anything right ever, and that I was a failure in her eyes. This was not her fault, I didn't much like myself at the time. So, I decided that the world was goign to be better off if I wasn't in it. I came up with a plan. We won't go into what the plan was, but it involved very nasty chemicals. I decided I had to go to class like normal the next day, which ironically happened to be psychology. Then I had to go to O and M so it didn't seem like there was anything wrong, and then I would come back and do what I had to do. I was terrified. I couldn't believe that after so many years of being depressed and feeling like I was crazy, I was actually going to finally go through with it.

The morning came, and Mom left for work. I believe my class that morning was at 8:30. It was around 5:30 when she left. I laid in bed for a few more hours, contemplating everything. I don't remember whether or not I had figured out what I was going to do with Rosamae. I think I was going to give her to my neighbours to look after for a bit while I did what I had to do. I didn't want the innocent puppy to know that I was about to end things. I figured she would have a better life with someone who was a bit more stable and normal.

So, for some reason that I will never understand, though I think it was my subconscious making sure someone knew what I was about to do so they could save me from it, I called two of my friends, and told them what I was planning. The one friend was in my class that morning, and I don't really remember how she reacted. I'm sure she was very concerned and upset, but I told her I would be in class so we could talk about it more when I saw her.

I remember the song BYOB by System of a Down was playing on my computer as I left for school that morning. I ran down the stairs, since I only lived on the 3rd floor. I cried the whole way down. I opened the door and started walking down the sidewalk, shaking and crying as I went. Then Al, the maintenance guy stopped me. He asked if I was alright. I lied and told him I was fine... because he was really going to believe that I was fine while I had tears running down my face. I don't remember how he convinced me to come back in to the rental office with me and talk to someone, but he did, so I went, putting up a fight. I told him that my bus was leaving soon and I had to get to class. I insisted that I had to get there on time. When we entered the office, I sat in a chair and rocked violently, more violently than I ever do now. I was pretty much completely incoherent at that point. I just kept telling them I was going to kill myself and I neded to leave please so I would not be late for class. One of the other maintenance guys, after I finally stopped crying, escorted me to the transit way so I could catch the bus.

The bus ride was uneventful. It was only one or two stops before I had to get off at the university and walk to the building where my class was taking place. I remember running into some girl who helped me figure out my way to the street where I needed to be. At that point my orientation sucked. I really didn't know my way around the university all that well. I remember thinking to myself that this would be the last time I'd ever be walking around Ottawa U, and these people would never see me again.

I got to class and sat through it. I have no memory of what we talked about, except I know there was a bit of discussion about the upcoming midterm. I sat beside my friend and told her everything. I don't remember her reaction at the time, although I believe she was the one who told me that I should speak with the teacher after class about this. So I did. After speaking to him about it a little, my O and M instructor showed up and we practised the route from the university to my apartment. I was getting ready for Chuck, the guide dog field rep, to come for the first time and see how Rosamae and I were doing together.

When I finally got home, I went to the convenience store and bought myself a bag of chocolate chip cookies. I have no idea why I did this; maybe I wanted a good snack before I did my thing. I got upstairs to my apartment and there were a few messages on my phone. One was from the friend from class saying she had been trying to call me and she had no idea where I was and why was I not answering my phone. I had forgot to tell her I had an O and M lesson after class, so she was pretty freaked out. Then I think I had a message from Dad. Don't really remember what it said either. I called my friend and told her I was fine and that I had just been out with the O and M instructor.

The next thing I knew, the police were at my door. I'd never had the police called on me before and I was a little freaked out. I told them my father was on his way and they had nothing to worrry about... so they left pretty quickly. Then Dad showed up, and he was furious. Somehow, we got in to visit my psychiatrist at the time on really short notice. She told me I had to go to counselling and she very quickly switched my drug from Topomax to Epival.

Earlier that morning, I had found out from a friend in the states that topomax had some pretty severe and crazy side affects. One of the biggest most scary ones was a man who, during the drug trial, was on the medication and used a chainsaw to cut off his leg. I had some very terrifying thoughts a few days before and I was wondering if they had something to do with the medication.

After visiting my psychiatrist, Dad took me back to the apartment and we sat and talked for awhile. I found out then that it had been my best friend in the world at the time who had called the police on me... except she told me that the only reason she called the police was so they would take my guide dog away from me, since I was not mentally stable enough to care for her. Don't mmake me go into this ex friend's own mental instability, because that's not the point of this entry.

I talked to Mom on the phone. I don't really remember her reaction, except obviously she was really upset and concerned. She and Dad both told me I had two choices. The first choice was to stay in Ottawa and each of them would stay with me and keep watch in shifts. Kep in mind this was a one bedroom apartment that was pretty small. So, it was either that or come home for awhile and try to get some help.

I had to consider this decision carefully. If I came home, it would mean that I would have to drop out of school that year. I was very afraid of doing that and not graduating, or failing my parents, which I'd already done enough of that week, at least in my mind. But if I were to stay in Ottawa, I'd never get any independence. That's the price you pay when you try to do these things.
So I took Rosamae outside to relieve her, and I asked her what she thought I should do. Maybe it was just my conscience speaking to me, but in my head I imagined it was her saying "Barb, you need to go home, and you need to get help."

So that's precisely what I did... Except the help wasn't really all that helpful.

But here's the thing that comes out of all of this. I'm alive! I never thought I'd be happy about it, but my God am I ever grateful that, no matter what other people's motives were, I got saved.

Three years later:

I walk down the street, my guide dog at my side. She makes suer I'm safe and that nothing bad will ahpppen to me on her watch. She is the most beautiful, most loyal animal I've ever met, and even when I have bad days where I become impatient with her, she loves me, unconditionally.

I sit on a couch, my boyfriend in my arms. His mother plays with his baby daughter. They start laughing, and I can't help but join in. Its infectious, its contageous, and its wonderful.

I wake up on a Saturday morning, cuddled close to the most amazing guy I could ever ask for. We sit and drink coffee on the couch together as the sun rises. He holds my hand and I feel overwhelmed with love.

Its Sunday night. I am back at Dad's house, eating dinner. Sometimes a roast, sometimes spaghetti, it doesn't matter. I'm with my family, and though they may be frustrating at times, they are my family, and they love me.

I sit in the harmony lab. I goof around on the piano while the other students are practising or playing for the prof. Because we all have headphones plugged into our pianos, I can do this. The prof asks me to play something for him and I can do it with no problem.

I'm at the farm. I kneel on the hard wood floor, and I begin my pursuit. I'm a monster! I like to catch little people and eat them up! Livi crawls away as fast as she can, squeaking and giggling the whole time. Then we hug, and I pick her up and we dance together while one or both of us sings to each other. She has the softest little voice, and I know she's going to be a true musician some day.

I'm with my best friends of all time. We wake up in the morning, take our guide dogs out to do their morning business, and then we eat home made egg McMuffins and drink beer. But don't worry, this one only happens a few timse a year.

I sit in my big red rocking chair. I either put on a good book or a tv show, and I work the yarn with my knitting needles. I am always fascinated how each new row of stitches is different, but it creates something that will eventually be worn to keep one warm in winter time... and I'm making it with my own hands!

I get a call from one of the heads of the department of music at Queen's. She informs me that I have been accepted into 2nd year ear training, as well as I continue to attend 1st yera ear training as well. Of c ourse I will attend. My friends are there, and I enjoy it very much.

I sit at a piano, and play the chord progressions that my theory prof has assigned me. Apparently, I'm a "gifted student". Me? Gifted? OK... whatever you say.

And I sit in an almost packed auditorium. Everyone sings together, in such amazing harmonies. Finally, after three years, I fit in somewhere.

Sometimes, when I'm wlaking back home from a day at school, or I'm sitting on the swings, or doing whatever I'm doing, I think of what it would be like if I had stayed in Ottawa. Would I have tried gaain to end things? Would I have found a way to convince my parents I was ok, and then, when they finally left me alone, I would try again? I certainly would not have the friends I have now. I would not have this boyfriend, this baby, this family who has accepted me as one of their own. If things had turned out differently, I would not be who I am, and I can not imagine that.

I am so lucky to be here, and to be able to write this all down now. I might not have much money, and sometimes I still have times when I really do not feel ok. There was a week or two in October, right around the anniversary of my attempt where I would not leave my house except to relieve Rosamae. I hardly spoke to nayone. There were three people that I spoke to every day and even they did not realize the extent of what was wrong. I was really scared there for awhile. I thought "What if I'm going crazy again?" But people sometimes just have rough times. This is normal. And, as of late, I'm closer to normal than I have ever been.


Blogger Ro said...

I'm glad you didn't use a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Even recurring problems are temporary, you know? I just talked to a good friend who has realized she has extreme lows in October and November. It's been a pattern her whole life. On the flip side, she has extreme highs in June and July. She's learned to recognize that each extreme will pass, always. She just has to ride the ride and wait for it to stop.

Keep singing. Just keep singing. The roller coaster always finds a straight path.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Carin said...

I remember that time. I had no idea what was going on until the dust had somewhat settled. There was still quite a bit of flying dust, but you and your dad were already talking. I'm so glad you didn't carry out the plan. Oh god, when you're in the thick of that fog, it feels like it will never lift. But it always does. I don't know why there are a few lines from a Blue Rodeo song that come to me when I think of that fog.

Somebody waits for the time I know will never come
You get yourself so high
Then you come down feeling blue
One day you’ll wake up and realize you’ve had enough
There’s a thousand shining moments
Waiting just to happen to you

Just the idea that just around the next corner is potential you don't even know exists. Next time you have one of those foggy moments, look at this blog post, especially the end of it.
Keep on truckin'.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Barb M. said...

Ro, unfortunately, it was not just in October and November. This was all the time. Some day you should ask Carin about the Higher lower game... Or maybe I'll tell ya at some point.

Carin, you actually knew more at that time about what was going on with me than anyone else, and yet I still could not bring myself to call you and say "Hey by the way..."

But life is generally really amazing now. The fact that I have friends, two families, everything. I have been incredibly lucky, and sometimes I look back on those times and think "Man I'm selfish. People have had a lot worse things happen to them and I was just whiny". But that's not really true either, and I realize that depression is a real thing, and it really sucks.

3:59 PM  

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