I am a firm believer in the saying that everything happens for a reason. Ergo when something happens that affects my life on a rather grand scale I search (sometimes long and hard) for a reason. Because I feel entitled to know why. I want to know. I need to understand. I’m a fairly logical person, most of the time I can find rationale and reasoning behind just about damn near everything. Most of the time.
Then Jason died. So did I. In a metaphorical sense that is. I’ve lost scores of others before him. Except I knew why and as much as loosing some of those people hurt, it made sense. Cancer being the biggest culprit, suicide is fast becoming a close second. It all started in 2005/06. Candy who was an online friend and a wonderful woman lost her battle to cancer. That was the first friend I had lost to death and it was hard. She was generous and kind and one hell of a tenacious fighter. Then came Josh, whom I knew from a body modification “community” couldn’t seem to get over the loss of the woman he loved. He gave himself 27 days exactly. Then he hung himself in his best friends yard. Scott will likely forever be haunted by that image for eternity. That was the first real “encounter” I’ve had with suicide. Then my grandmother died, which was a relief. Sounds crass, however my poor nan had been suffering for years, as in too damn long. She didn’t deserve that.
Then in 2009 Jason died and my world as I knew it was blown to pieces. Everything pretty much fell apart at that point. I was numb, in shock and just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Jason was my rock, he was the only person in my life that I was 100% honest with. The unabashed, UN-varnished truth. He just got it and me. No explanation or justification needed with him. His death and my grandfather’s hurt me the most. However when I lost my grandfather I had an explanation for that. He passed from cancer and looking back on it now, that too was a blessing. Jason however chose to play God and ended his own life. Jason was an addict, suffered from an anxiety disorder and was bi-polar. He was also a victim of the American health care system. In hindsight, it doesn’t really matter what health care system you’re a part of, none of them really know how to deal with mental illness. The emotional fallout, the guilt, the PTSD, the burning need to know why haunted me for a really, really long time. I got up, I went to work and somehow managed to get through the day. I don’t know how I did that and looking back on it now, the memories are vague. Then one day, I came to the realization that Jason’s death and the others before him didn’t hurt anymore. I had developed an understanding of mental illness. I had also seen the dark side of mental hell where all that you love and all that matters to you simply doesn’t. Tempted by the thought of ending it, because it seemed so easy, so simple and it would finally be over. No more pain, no more sadness. Nothing.
Or so we like to think. However do any of use really know what’s on “the other side”? No of course not. Some believe in heaven & hell or a version of such or nothing at all. Who are we to say? No one really knows. Although I like to think that there’s life after death, there’s a few people who have some explaining to do 😉 In any case, I forged ahead. I threw myself into my work, damn near drove myself into the ground and accomplished quite a few positive things. I gave grief the finger and decided that I wanted my life back and I wanted it back now. So there it was, I figured that I had a handle on it all.
I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
So grief I had pretty much parted ways. I came to terms with the fact that those I have loved and lost aren’t coming back and it was OK to be sad about it once in a while. I wasn’t saddened by that break up to say the least. However the depression that I had largely ignored reared it’s ugly head and I knew that I was far from OK. I blamed winter. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is more common then people think and while I generally have that much under control because I know what it is, the root cause of it and how to offset it for the most part, you team that up with atypical depression and residual grief well that’s essentially a lethal cocktail of mental illness right there. One that I thought I could ignore and it would go away. I thought to myself: It’s January, before you know it spring will be here, you’ll be out of this apartment that you have come to hate sooner as opposed to later, you have an awesome job that you love and all these things to convince myself that it would be OK. All the while ignoring that voice in the back of my head that said :”Stop being a stubborn, prideful, fool. Go and get some help before you destroy yourself and others”. That’s irony for you. I’m the one with a foundation that is working hard to dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness, encouraging people to get the help that they need before they meet a permanent demise and blah blah blah.
Then Andrew died, also by suicide on January 25th 2011. When Andrew died, I also found out that another person I had known from high school had died by his own hand (in 2009). Then I shut down. Nothing I did made anything better, there was no refuge, and I lost my ability to cry. That in and of itself was rather disturbing. Tears aren’t something I indulge in very often, although I do find that there is a certain amount of catharsis in tears. All the suggestions I was spewing forth to help others combat their depression held zero appeal to me. I had no motivation, no desire to do much of anything. Pretending to be happy and well adjusted became my new full time job. All the while hoping that I didn’t loose the one that actually paid my rent. I had the occasional moment where I was genuinely happy, however when I wasn’t, things got ugly. I for the most part, managed to hide it from everyone. No matter the situation or the circumstance, I struggled to find something positive. Anything that would take away from the darkness that hovered so close to the point that at times I felt suffocated. I’ve always been the one to see the bright side of any given situation and I’m happy that’s one thing that hasn’t been taken away from me. I feel that’s a valuable quality to have. Then something happened. It wasn’t anything major in retrospect, but it was enough. It started as a slow decline. A Dr’s appointment gone horribly wrong, insurmountable stress from the possible what-if’s and maybe’s and could have, should have and didn’t. Suffice to say, my head was almost like a snow globe that had been shaken to death by someone. Too many thoughts, insecurities that I thought were dead and buried came to life all over again (when they really, truly shouldn’t have because those moments are over and there’s nothing to do but move on), and on it went. Then someone I had plans with had forgotten by no true fault of their own and I know that now. However at the time, my self realization and rationale ceased to exist and to put it simply I lost it on someone who didn’t nearly deserve it.
They said they didn’t recognize me and sadly I didn’t recognize myself either. Then I was at a loss, lost in the fucked up mess that had become my head. Which could have largely been avoided had I not been too proud to ask for help sooner. It’s not his fault, his intentions were (to my knowledge) not nefarious or mean. Just simple, human error. Nothing more, nothing less. None of us are perfect, although we often strive for perfection. Some of us more then others. Yet, he found it within himself to forgive me. I however had to find it within myself, to forgive myself. As I said to him once: “You know how I know you’re a good person? Because you make me want to be a better person.” I meant it then and I still mean it now.
That happened on a Wed. That Saturday, he called to bring me soup (again) because I (along with him) was recovering from a major flu/cold thing that had pretty much infected a third of Montreal. So I took that opportunity to at least partially address what went down that fateful Wed and as hard as I tried not to fall apart as in not cry (I rarely cry in front of others, it is in fact such a rare occurrence I have actually been accused on numerous occasions of not being able to do so). I’m pretty private when it comes to my feelings and after being a Chef all these years, it doesn’t go over well to show weakness in any way shape or form. It’s a hardcore industry to be in. Even more so if you’re a woman (lucky me). Then it happened. I turned away mid conversation and said this that and the other thing and after I uttered “I don’t need this” it happened. I started crying and couldn’t stop. It was at that moment, standing there in my fuzzy robe, with bed head, standing barefoot in a puddle of water from his shoes, clinging to him for dear life, drenching the front of his shirt with my tears saying “I’m sorry” over and over again that I had had enough. Then he said to me “You have an awful lot going on up here don’t you?” as he tapped me on the forehead and all I could do was nod.
Because I do. Some of which I can’t do anything about, some of which I can. I cried on and off for most of the day. That was actually a welcome change from not being able to cry at all. It was like the emotional equivalent of a volcanic eruption. It seemed to me at least that it was long overdue. As I lying in bed later that day, I was recalling the chain of events that had come about and the conversation I had with him earlier that day. More so when he said are you that much of a control freak that you need to know how everything is going to turn out (or something to that effect) and then out of no where in a moment that I can’t even begin to explain, the (short version) of the serenity prayer came into my head.
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
To say I had an epiphany of sorts is putting it lightly. I’m not claiming to have found God or anything of the sort. It was just as if a light bulb went off in my mind and everything made sense. It was at that moment that I had decided that I could not and would not do this one my own. Because sometimes you just can’t make it on your own and that’s OK. After all misery loves company, so I set out to find some. Company that is.
So I turned to my old friend Google and did a search for 12 step programs dealing with depression. Google didn’t disappoint, although some of the support I sought out did. Terribly so. Turns out 12 step programs just aren’t my deal. I think they’re great, I know a lot of people who are involved in them and it’s rather beneficial to them. I however needed something a little more then what they had to offer for my particular situation.
I actually found it.
I was skeptical at first. Their website offered generic information, however it was enough to at least grab my interest. As luck would have it, there were meetings in Montreal that were also in English (score!). They were also in the evening, so no conflicts with my work schedule (score!). It was also easily accessible by Metro (score again!) and close to my house. So I thought, either I am extremely lucky or this is just too good to be true. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. So I took down the number, had it for a few days. Finally worked up enough nerve to make the call. Left a message, didn’t hear anything back until the next day (whereupon I had pretty much given up at this point, I had no patience mostly due to anxiety). Then a kind and understanding gentlemen returned my call and assured me that what they do isn’t religion based, political or preachy (score again!) it is based on cognitive behavioral therapy. Which the logical person in me prefers. It’s taking learned behavior that’s negative and learning how to deal with it in a positive light. Dealing with horrendous situations in a more productive, logical, positive manner essentially. This is what I wanted, it was also what I needed. I like logic, I like answers and I like doing things in a productive fashion. This made me feel a little better, I committed to going that night. I was determined to make that step that day, not waiting until the next opportunity lest I back out. After all they say that first step you take is the longest stride.
So there I was, at said location. Debating. Did I want to do this? I hate strangers, I had become rather anti-social in the past little while. I hung out outside for a bit having an internal debate in my mind. Then I opened the door, found where I was supposed to go and forged ahead.
It was by and large the best thing I ever could have done for myself.
I felt comfortable right off the bat. My earlier anxiety had dissipated leaving a flood tsunami like force of relief in it’s wake. I was there. I made the call, got to the place, walked in the door and was welcomed with open arms. I figured at this point, what have I got to loose? So I stayed. I owned up, I opened up and no one there tried to fix me. All they said was good for you for acknowledging that you need to fix you. And I do and I will. One minute, one hour, one day at a time. I wish that I had done this before, however I choose not to. Sadly it took what went down that Wed night to make me hit rock bottom, perhaps that’s what I needed to happen? In any case, everything happens for a reason and while I am far from proud of how I acted that night I’m going to choose to believe that incident was the final catalyst that pushed me over the edge in a good and positive way.
Am I going to be OK? I don’t know, but I hope so. All I can do is try. Therefore I shall.