‘The Long Hard Fall’
As my relationship with Allie deteriorated, the shadows of depression cast over the fringes of my mind. I took epic walks, and lamented my life, that I was nobody, nothing, that I wasn’t like ‘normal people’ (to whom Allie always compared me), who had jobs and security and all that, and questioned whether I ever could be.
I got a referral to a work-placement agency that specialised in dealing with people with mental problems, and was assigned a case worker, Martina, who’d previously worked extensively in counselling. After several appointments, Martina said she felt I was ‘a little bit bipolar’. It wouldn’t have surprised me if this was the case, but it didn’t really mean much to me – it was just something else to add to the pile.
Martina was great in trying to structure a plan to find me work, as well as somebody I could talk to when I felt low. Her plan was to send me to school to study to become a library technician. Allie wasn’t impressed. What was a library technician? What future was there in it? How long would it take? She was eager to get on with life and grew frustrated with where I was at, and any obstacles or delays in me getting where I needed to be.
I grew obsessed with the questioning of my self-worth. Why had these things happened to me? Why had I responded the way I had? Why had I missed the opportunities I had, locked away as an agoraphobic, or due to my anxiety, or my depression, or because I’d become too scared after being battered around so long?
One day while I was walking and thinking about Allie, about the sort of conversations we routinely had nowadays, I became short of breath and panicked. Arguments we’d had (and could have) raced through my mind. Her condemnations echoed in my ears.
The truth was simple: I was shit.
I went and saw Dr Warren and broke down on him, telling him I feared going back to where I had been. He said that there was a new government plan where he could refer me to a psychologist, Dr Patricia Matusik, for a nominal fee (I would get the bulk back through Medicare), and maybe in learning techniques to deal with my anxiety and depression, I could avoid the mess that had been my life with neurosis and medication. Dr Warren wanted to see me a few days later to see how I was faring, but when I went back I was much more composed.
I decided that was it for the relationship. I loved Allie, and for the first nine months or so she’d given me strength and direction and confidence. Maybe you shouldn’t ask for that, or expect that, from any person, but when you have a partner, you expect to complement one another. I’d hung in hoping the relationship would reinvent itself, and when we argued – even when I wasn’t to blame – I would try make the peace. But now I was certain that wasn’t going to happen and I was sure it was just a matter of time before the relationship died.
When I saw Martina again, I told her to put aside the plans to become a library technician, and asked her to look at some field where I could maximise my writing skills. My logic was simple: I could get a low-paying menial job with zero advancement. I could train as a library technician, but it wasn’t really a field I’d probably enjoy. Or I could try a field where I actually already had skills and make a career for myself.
Martina found me a course in Professional Writing & Editing. When I told Allie, she was less than pleased because it meant two years full-time study. She saw my lack of prospects as an anchor and wondered if they would ever be right. I gave her my reasoning for going back to school.
It didn’t impress her.
It didn’t bother me. Now, I was doing this for myself.