Where we left off . . .
In my last post, I described how I fell into a tumultuous relationship with the guitar player in my brother's band ("Band Guy"). Not only was this relationship unhealthy for both of us, but I was also making reckless life choices that were out of character for me. My life was becoming more about partying and less about my future. Although my grades were actually quite high, I was on a path to destruction! There was a drive inside me that was pushing me to break as many rules as possible, and I was seeking danger in an attempt to protect myself from feeling numb again. My only fear at this time was that I would experience my depression again, so I kept running from it in any way possible.
Part of the problem was the fact that I feared that breaking up with Band Guy would lead to more depression. What I did not realize was that my unhealthy relationship and life habits were actually the perfect formula for depression relapse. At this point in my story, Band Guy and I had been exploding on each other on a weekly basis. My parents were constantly reminding me that my relationship was unhealthy, even using the word "abusive" to describe it. Every time my parents tried to talk some sense into me, I lashed out at them just as badly as I lashed at Band Guy. I really wanted to believe that they did not have the whole story; they did not understand my relationship, and they most certainly did not understand Band Guy.
Exasperated, my parents started to lay-off. They tried to trust that I would make the right decision in the end. They wanted to believe that they had taught me to respect myself enough to put an end to this back and forth abuse. Maybe some time away would be what I needed!
My grandmother on my dad's side ("Nana") was always incredibly special to me. Whenever I thought about my childhood, one of my first warm memories was of my Nana. Visits to her house thrilled me as a child, and we would bake all sorts of recipes together. Just the sound of her voice brought me a sense of calm. Sadly, we had to move away when I was 6 because of my dad's job. She now lived about 4 hours away, and I only saw her once a year if I was lucky. When I was a kid, I imagined visiting her on my own, but I didn't know how to make this happen.
My mom suggested that I visit Nana for a week. Getting away from Band Guy and the ensuing stress might be exactly what I needed. Of course, I was thrilled at this idea! I knew how to drive, but I was relatively new to the whole driving thing; I did not feel confident enough to drive myself to my Nana's house. However, my mom suggested that I take the train up to Toronto and then catch the Go train the rest of the way. This seemed like an opportunity for a great adventure, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't want to get away from Band Guy for a little bit. I knew as well as anyone that I needed some time away.
My first trip to the GTA set the stage for a ritual that I would live for four years! When I got off the train in my Nana's city, I was greeted with the same loving warmth that I remembered from my childhood. She was thrilled to have me visit for a full week in her home; this was something we had not done since I was 6 years old. My cousin (let's call her "Amanda") also lived in the same city; she lived about 20 minutes away from my Nana's house. Amanda and I had been best friends since birth. For as long as I can remember, I have always looked forward to visiting Amanda more than anything else. Seriously! When we were kids, I remember driving to the GTA to visit my aunt, uncle, and Amanda; the whole drive, I felt like I was waiting for Christmas. When we would finally walk through the door at my aunt and uncle's, Amanda and I would tackle each other with a big hug. She is and will always be my best friend.
So needless to say, that week with my Nana, aunt, uncle, and cousin was the best week that I have had in a long time! I felt a pure happiness and a warm sense of safety that comes with spending time with family. All of my stress melted away, and I forgot that I even had problems back home. By the end of the week, I was closer to my extended family than I have ever been in the past. That week worked magic, and I was already planning the next visit before I caught my train home.
I thought that some time away would help my relationship with Band Guy, but things only continued to get worse. Finally, one heated fight pushed me to take action that would benefit both of us. Band Guy kicked me out of his car on the side of the road and drove off cursing at me. Sure, I was only around the corner from my house, but I was mortified. To make matters worse, a lady saw the whole thing happen from her window and came out to see if I needed help. I couldn't even speak through my tears; I was gasping for breath, and I could hardly think straight through my embarrassment. I thanked the lady and continued to walk home. Suddenly, my dad's BMW came around the corner; he was on his way to pick up my brother from the party place where we both worked. When he saw me, he pulled over and rolled down his window. Originally, my dad was only going to say hi, but once he saw me crying, his face turned solemn.
Get in; we will talk
As my dad drove to pick up my brother, he demanded that I explain what happened. He knew that Band Guy was involved, but he wanted to know the specifics. I told him what happened now that I could breathe a little. When I was done telling my story, my dad looked more sad than anything else. He didn't have to say it. I knew what I needed to do even though I did not want to do it. When we returned home from picking up my brother, I was exhausted. Remember my ex from high school? Well, his parents were over for a visit. This sounds weirder than it is. My ex's parents and my parents became close friends while we were together, and their friendship continued long after our break-up. In fact, they are still friends to this day. In many ways, they are like another set of parents to me. They have been immensely supportive to both my brother and me, and I could tell that they were just as worried as my own parents. My face was pale, and my eyes were swollen. It was time to throw in the towel. Even I could not deny it anymore.
I finally had the conversation with Band Guy that needed to happen months and months earlier. After some yelling, we finally decided that we needed to be apart. We ended our relationship and decided to go our own ways. I felt a massive relief, but I also felt a panic. I didn't know how to be without Band Guy after so many months living his lifestyle. My family and friends were all excited to see that this relationship was over, but I felt myself shaking from withdrawal. It's strange how unhealthy relationships become almost addictive. I wanted to stay away from him, but within a week, we were meeting up again. The scary part of this experience was the fact that I wanted to leave Band Guy, but I felt powerless to do so.
I returned to the GTA in June of that year to visit with my Nana again. It had only been about a month since my last visit, but I needed to clear my head. Amanda tried to talk some sense into me, but she knew who I was texting whenever my phone went off. When I talked to my Nana about what was happening with Band Guy, she responded differently from anyone else in my family. I was overwhelmed and crying. I told my Nana about how desperately I wanted to be free from this cycle, but I felt like I had lost all control over myself.
I know you will make the right choice in the end, Quinn. You are strong, and you are smart. Whatever you are going through is tough, but I know that you will do what is right in the end.
My Nana's unwavering faith in me never ceased to amaze me. I felt a sense of comfort in knowing that I had the ability within me to change my life. I was not trapped. I would make the right decision at the right time.
Still, once I returned home from that two-week visit, I fell back into my old patterns. I celebrated my 19th birthday in the bar where my brother's band commonly played. They performed that night on the eve of my birthday so that once midnight struck, I had my first legal access to alcohol. That night quickly became a blur and then a big black space of nothing. My memory was shot, and I needed people to explain to me what happened. I guess you could say that I started 19 off with a bang!
The rest of the summer was an endless struggle of seeing Band Guy in private, and trying to justify my actions to my parents. Even Erica was becoming weary. At the end of the summer, my family rented a cottage like we do every year, but this year we rented a different cottage from our usual pick. Typically, this trip is the highlight of my summer, but this year it was the pinnacle of my problems. I started experiencing a strange, foggy fatigue that knocked me off my feet for 5 hours at a time! My body felt weak, and I could hardly keep my eyes open. At the same time, I was constantly fighting with my parents (especially my mom) about Band Guy. Looking back, I do not blame them for being as angry as they were. They were tired of watching their daughter compromise her values, but I would not concede. I would not admit that they were right. I believed that I was an adult, and I was tired of being told what to do.
The fatigue and fighting continued into the fall until I reached a breaking point. My parents reached a breaking point as well. I would not stop seeing Band Guy, and they would not accept my reckless lifestyle. I was exhausted, and I did not want to fight anymore. My parents presented me with an ultimatum: either end my relationship with Band Guy or move out.
So, I moved out.
With my parents' help, I found myself a rough apartment in the old part of the city. My parents wanted to make sure that I wasn't living in a pit, so they helped me to decorate my place and clean it from top to bottom. To my surprise, my apartment actually looked really nice by the time my mom was done with it! Even my friends were surprised when they visited. The dilapidated exterior combined with the rough neighbourhood prepared my friends for disappointment, but the warmth of my unit made up for it. That fall, I left my job at the party place where I had been working for four years, and I started working at the fast food restaurant around the corner from my apartment. Erica helped me to get the job because she also worked at this restaurant. I LOVED my job and became dedicated to being the best worker I could possibly be. I was working twice the hours that I worked at my old job, which is how I was able to support myself without a roommate. I felt independent, and I felt free to live my life the way that I wanted rather than how my parents wanted me to live. I had a new job, a new year of university, and my own place. Things were starting to look up for me!
How terribly, terribly wrong I was
The fatigue that I was experiencing was becoming so heavy that I was missing more classes than I was attending in school. I was kicking butt at work, but that took all of the energy that I had left. Not to mention that I was working around the clock (literally) in order to pay my rent and utility bills. I went to my doctor to see if I had an iron deficiency or some other issue that would explain my debilitating fatigue, but my tests kept coming back normal. Meanwhile, my relationship with Band Guy was becoming less fun and more of a hassle. I didn't even want to hang out with his friends anymore; I was beginning to feel out of place. The excitement of breaking rules just did not exist anymore. I thought that Band Guy and I would stop fighting now that my parents were no longer putting the pressure on me, but of course, our problems only continued the same as always.
My apartment was dark and lonely. I had no one living with me, so I would come home to an empty apartment every day. The hydro bill was obscenely expensive, so I had to minimize my heat. My apartment was so cold that I had to wear a sweater and gloves in order to be comfortable. I had an electric blanket in my room and would climb into bed just to keep warm! The quiet of my empty home was deafening, and I felt a hollow pit in my stomach. My mind and body were fatigued beyond words, which meant that my laundry wasn't getting done, the dishes were piling up next to the sink, and my textbooks were scattered around the living room. As winter approached, the days were getting shorter and darker. I was having friends over less often because I was too tired to do anything other than go to work. My school work was beginning to suffer because I would sit down to start my reading, but my eyes kept closing on me. This fatigue kept increasing until I could no longer get out of bed. I honestly tried so hard to get out of bed! I used all of my muscle and might, but I felt like someone had dropped a thousand pounds on top of me overnight. I felt hazy and drugged. Class was no longer an option; I was missing all of them. On the rare occasion that I could get myself out of bed, I could not muster the energy to shower. I showed up to class wearing sweats and hoodies (something I never really did) with my greasy hair woven in a messy bun. I know this sounds like normal student attire, but I was always one to plan out an outfit with hair and makeup. I never left the house looking like I just rolled out of bed, but it was the only way to ensure that I went to any of my classes at all! When I was in class, my head started bobbing, my eyelids felt like they weighed ten pounds each, and my professor's voice sounded like a foreign blur. I had to start tapping my feet under the desk to make sure that I didn't pass out in the middle of class.
My Lowest Low
Before things could get better, they needed to get worse. My fatigue reached a point where I could no longer wake up to alarms at all. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I would hear them, but I felt like I was in a drunken stupor. I couldn't move my limbs to get out of bed. It was like someone anesthetized me. I was working half of the hours that I was working before because I couldn't stay awake for an 8 hour shift. The worst part about all of this was the fact that I felt miserable. I felt empty and lonely in my dark apartment. No one knew that anything was wrong because no one saw me, not even my family. Even Band Guy hardly saw me anymore. I was becoming a shut-in, and I was losing control of my life.
Then the dark thoughts hit full-bore. Warning: the next paragraph contains mention of suicidal thoughts again, so if this is a sensitive subject for you/something you don't want to read, then please skip this paragraph. Things are about to get dark, but don't worry, it all turned out just fine. However, I know that many of you are experiencing your own mental health battles and might receive immense comfort from knowing that you are not alone in this struggle.
I started to not only wonder why I was alive, but I was also beginning to wish for death. Every morning that I woke up, I was disappointed to find that I was still alive. My mind was quickly being consumed by day dreams about how I could end my life. I thought of many different ways, but I knew that I would not carry through. I was angry with myself for being too afraid to do what I "needed to do." I honestly believed that the only thing left to do was to end it all. I had no reason to live. I had no will to live. What was the point of being alive if all I did was sleep and slug around my apartment? I was contributing nothing to the world, and I no longer believed that I could have a successful life. A part of me was afraid because I didn't know when I was going to finally take action on my wishes. Instead of seeking help, I knew that my first act would be an attempt at my own life. Can you imagine being afraid of yourself because you know there is a strong chance that you will make an irreversible choice? If you have been there before, then you understand just how dark and terrifying this feeling can be. The worst part is that there was a big part of me that hoped that I would finally make the call to end it all.
Christmas came around, and I was able to act okay around my parents and brother. I had a hard time returning to my apartment; I lived with my parents for over a week during Christmas break. My mom asked me if I was okay because she noticed that I was not returning to my apartment. I shrugged and told her that I was a little lonely, but that was it. After Christmas, Band Guy and I finally ended our relationship for good! We parted ways and never spoke again. I think everyone was relieved to see this relationship end. Our fights were so vicious that other people were being impacted by them. And honestly, I just did not have the energy to fight anymore.
There is always a light to guide us out of the darkness
Once Band Guy was out of my life, I felt a relief deep inside of me. I had removed a toxic element from my life that was pinning me down. It still took about 3 or 4 months to really recover from this depressive episode, but I had taken the first baby step by releasing Band Guy. I started to attend classes again gradually; my grades took a hit from the previous semester, but things could have been much worse! I dropped to an average of a B and lost my scholarship for the rest of university. I also made the decision to move back home with my parents; this decision was hard to make, but there were key events that made it impossible to live independently. First, I finally went to see my doctor and told him about my months of intense depression. My doctor made some major changes to my medication, but he also advised me to move back home. He told me that I was in no shape to be living alone. The intense concern in his face struck me; I was beginning to wake up to the severity of my own situation. However, the final turning point was during one of my psychology classes. We were learning about self-harm. As I listened to a video interview of a girl who was my age describe why she self-harmed, I noticed that I saw the appeal. It sounded like a great way to release my dark feelings; finally, I could extract my feelings from deep within and place them outside of my mind. At the same time, I knew that I wanted to put this darkness behind me. I knew that, if I returned to my apartment after class, I would self-harm.
I put my life into my own hands
I decided that I would not live like this anymore. I may not have been able to just "snap" out of my depression the way that I did the first time, but I sure as heck was not going to keep hurting myself. I made one of the most important choices of my life that day: I never returned to my apartment again. I went home to my parents after class, and I told them that I decided to live with them so that I could look after myself. My parents were thrilled to have their daughter back! They lovingly accepted me back into their home, and they moved my things out of my apartment for me so that I would never have to return again. That place held dark memories for me, and I knew that I was not mentally equipped to walk in there again.
And so here I was, living at home with my supportive family, connecting with friends again, and attending classes again. I could finally begin my recovery. Of course, I learned that recovery is not as smooth and simple as my first recovery led me to believe. I had horrible side-effects to my new medication including flu-like symptoms and nausea that knocked me off my feet. However, I worked with my doctor to find the perfect combination of medication for me. I talked to my friends and family when I was feeling down. My suicidal thoughts stopped, and my fatigue lifted. It became clear that the fatigue that I had been experiencing was depression and not an iron deficiency.
Although I was not entirely myself yet, it was becoming evident that I was going to be okay. I was going to conquer my depression for the second time, no matter what it took!
Did you like this post?
Chapter 4 will be coming to you next week! If you join my mailing list, you will be the FIRST to know when the post is published. You will also have access to my positive living newsletter (because let's be real, we all need a positive boost every now and then)!
Also, next week, I will be sharing about how I finally recovered to my full self. I will also tell you about how I started a new relationship and how that relationship was unhealthy in a different but just as threatening way.
Til next time, I send you lots of love