Friday, 30 December 2011

About Me, Part 8: Owner of a Lonely Heart

Starting grade eight, turning thirteen, I had some hope that things would get better. They did somewhat, but not before they got worse first. My grade eight teacher, in sharp contrast to my grade seven one, cared what happened to her students, all of them. She cared about how we got along, all of us.

The bullying in my home room was less, but I was still a deeply isolated, depressed person. The consuming, overwhelming nature of my crushes was something I struggled with. Looking back, I think a couple of things were happening. I was projecting my inner feminine side on to my crushes, hence I was trying to reclaim a part of myself. I was also trying to find someone to connect with as I felt almost no connection to anyone or anything by that point. When I was rejected, it felt like being annihilated. That November, 1983, I decided I would take my own life. I lived on the eighth floor of a twenty-three floor highrise. One day, late in the afternoon, I went out onto my balcony and looked down into the fog and mist that was so thick it almost obscured the ground. The neighbouring highrises were hidden above their seventh or eighth floors. With the TV on in the living room behind me, I closed the sliding door. My pet budgie was chirping away in the background. I then got up to sit on the balcony ledge. I sat there for some period of time before deciding against doing it. I made no mention of this when my mother got home from work.

Instead, I made an appointment with the school counsellor the follow day. I had a few sessions where I told her what I had almost done and what had been happening to me (minus the summer incident which I had buried in the back of my mind). I really did not want my family to find out, but my counsellor obviously thought my situation was serious enough to call my mother at work. She came home concerned one afternoon. We began to talk about how I was feeling although the "why" had become vague.

I would continue to struggle with depression and suicidal tendencies for years, but for the first time I knew I could get help. My teacher had become aware of my situation. One time, I was summoned on the intercom to the counsellor's office for a session. I left the class portable to go the main building. I heard later that someone had said something disparaging about me after I left. I also heard that the teacher had managed to get everybody to question just what they had against me; she told them what I had been going through. Everyone seemed to realize that they had none. Perhaps, at that age in those days, we could still feel some remorse. When I came back from the counsellor's office, I came back to a different class altogether.

My mother, meanwhile, had to be hospitalized that November for a cyst, the first of many increasingly complicated medical problems. I felt the sadness and fear that I might lose her. In mid-December, I she sent me back to Montreal for the holidays and she followed a week later. We were supposed to go back to Ontario after New Year's Day. But right after Christmas, my mother had to go into the hospital to had her cyst (apparently the size of a lemon) removed. It would take her two months to recover. My extended stay in Montreal would become one of the defining periods in my life; the introspection I was allowed would help me develop my inner creative resources in ways that still help me today.

To be continued ...

Edit: I will continue my autobiographical series in January as I will be preparing a post looking back at the events of 2011 over the next few days. Thanks for reading!  Vanessa

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