Today started out like most days, with an early morning beginning at 5am. However, today was different from the minute I woke up. I knew today would be the day I wanted to explain to people...why I craft. Why I make pretty things. What makes me make art.
I think everyone has a chapter in their book of life that they aren't proud of; a time and place that they aren't willing to take many people to... or dwell on for the very simple reason that it's dirty. Its dark. Its hard and sometimes painful and even embarrassing. But with today being Bell's Let's Talk Day, it seemed even more important to get this out there. I am not afraid anymore. I can own this. I can do this. For a long time I have been getting stronger. And braver.
I met a man who was no monster. He was, by all accounts a good person. And in the beginning, I truly believe he cared for me. I gave up everything to be with him - meaning my city I lived in. A job. I even left my kids behind as they had decided that they didn't want to move and wanted to stay with their dad. I did this all, thinking (truly believing) that this was going to be a new start. A wonderful new journey. Well. It was the beginning of a journey all right.
Oh, it wasn't all bad. I cannot convince myself of that. There were good things. And in the beginning, it WAS good. But this tiny dark cloud loomed over me all the time. I missed my children - like someone had literally ripped a piece of my heart from my chest. It seemed to get worse the longer time wore on, in fact, it got so hard each time they came to visit that it would send me into sadness for longer periods of time each time they left me.
I don't think this man knew what to do. I think he tried to keep me happy. I think he thought that if he looked after me, and took care of every thing I needed or wanted that it would make me happy. I didn't have to work, he said. I could just be at home, he said. Could you imagine that music to a working mother's ears...after having to work her children's entire young lives? That suddenly she could just "stay home"? Its sounds devine....doesn't it?
Well. It destroyed me.
Let me tell you a little bit about introverts. We all say we like to be alone. And, to some degree, we do. But we don't ALWAYS like to be alone. I felt like a caged bird. I felt controlled. And it became control. It became sadness. It became loneliness. And then, it became darkness.
That happy beautiful wonderful life I was living was killing me. I cried. A lot. Mostly in secret, alone in the shower...that heavy, heaving sobbing sadness that you come to do when you get overwhelmed. Those ugly cries that are triggered by everything from a sad song or commercial, to someone calling you and reminding you how lonely you are even though you aren't alone. I was shrivelling, like a flower. But man, was I a great actress. I mean - Academy Award performances for me. People thought we had it all. They didn't know I was living with a man who was abusive, controlling and addicted to looking at porn and cheating on a regular basis. They didn't know I was so emotionally numb from knowing all that that I couldn't function as a normal "wife" would. That I missed my kids and old life so much that it was destroying me mentally. I was sinking.
I tried to stay busy. I tried little, menial jobs close to home, as I was told "it didn't make sense to drive to work in a neighbouring community". I stayed busy being the perfect wife: cooking, house immaculate, entertaining guests, book club, first responder, comedic genius- the girl who always wanted everyone to laugh. Inside I was dying.
I first remember having a fight with my ex that got so out of hand, I had a panic attack. It was the first of many. These "asthma attacks" (as we came to politely refer to them as for the sake of denial) were the standard. Trips to emergency, being hauled away in an ambulance.... stays in the hospital for these "attacks"..... I don't remember exactly when, but eventually I know that I hit that "wall"-that point in depression where you are slamming into it at 200km/hr and are about to hit rock bottom. You don't get dressed for days. You cry. Then you don't make any sound at all. Your mind begins its crazy descent into that dark place - and this is hard to say, but its true. You MAKE A PLAN.
Yes, I had a plan. I can honestly say this now, looking back, that I thought that was the answer. For me. For everyone. I was in that dark place. And let me tell you, I truly believed with 100% of my being that following through with this plan was the right thing to do. I had no light left. Even still, I could hide it well. I functioned. I acted. I finally hit that bottom one day... a month before Christmas. I can't remember what reason it was exactly that imd but it wouldn't have mattered because finally, as weak as I had gotten, I finally admitted that I did not want to be alive a minute longer. And I think he thought at first I was being dramatic.
He realized quite soon after I was serious.
I think it scared him when he realized I was not joking. That I went into detail exactly how this was going to take place. I scared the ever-loving shit out of this big, strong controlling type-A man. I saw how afraid he was. But I didn't care. Because I was dead already.
I don't remember a lot between that moment of my truth, and him getting me help. I know he whisked me hours away to a hospital ward ( and let's just call it what it really was-a psych ward) where I spent weeks recuperating in what was supposed to be a safe and healing environment. Where I couldn't follow through with my plan. I will tell you, there was nothing therapeutic, or healing. No psychiatrist came and counselled me. I was shaken awake every 15 minutes by nurses every night to make sure "you're still with us". I was made to sleep with the door open. I had to have supervised showers. I was forced to participate in group "exercise sessions". I called home every night to this man - the one I tried to escape from...asking to come home. He refused until I was sane. I called my family, admitting to only my mom that I was broken. I think it was that shame, that admittance of weakness that woke me up a bit. Surely this was not what I had become?
When you sleep in darkness and you first wake up, there is this little moment when your eyes adjust to the change...the faint light. It's called Hope. I began to see it. It was a week before Christmas and I couldn't let myself believe I would spend Christmas in this ward. I did everything I could to convince myself to "get happy". I tried to convince this man that I could be better, and do better if I was home. I missed my kids dreadfully. I knew I had to change. No one else could change me. It had to come from within. Reality told me that we weren't going to solve our problems over night. at that point I didn't care if I could save us. I need to save ME.
I remember coming home. It was hard to be there, because let's face it, I knew EXACTLY what I had planned to do in that house. It was a hard truth. It all seems like this was another world...another time, when I think back to it all now. Somehow, I clawed myself up out of that place. Not alone. He tried, he really did. But I had to do it alone. I saw my kids, and they never knew what that previous month had almost become. They won't know until now. Their mother stood before them a completely different person. I was raw. But they left, and I didn't fall apart. I survived. And slowly, I began to thrive.
I got stronger. And that...is where life changed.
I got to know some ladies in the community that were wonderful and I am sure they knew how I struggled to be living in this fishbowl -small community. I got invited to go out for a crafty night. Someone was hosting a card making/scrapbooking home party. I was hooked. Instantly. In fact, I found my ONE THING. It was something for me: only me. A creative outlet. It was my therapy... and it saved me. I began slowly, but when I would feel that low seeping in, I would always retreat to my space and create something. Even if it was just for me. To this day, I still retreat. And it saves me still.
I truly believe people-everyone- needs that ONE THING. Exercise. Reading. Travelling. Cooking. Maybe for some its just a small minute of your day meditating. But for me, it was this.
Doing this saves me. Every day. Because it taught me that no matter how bad I think things are, there is still something beautiful in me. I can make this. I can do this. We all all need to see this in ourselves.
Today is Bell's Let's Talk Day. The world right now seems a little scary and a little dark for some of us. I saw it once. And if you see it, and you want to talk, let's talk. I am listening. There is some light. In all of us.