Last week: A second routine surgery turns complicated and results in my second near-death experience.
The hits don’t stop coming
1987 was a massive year for me, not only because of my appendix problems, but also due to several other events, both related and unrelated to that trauma.
I mentioned some of the related bits last week: the implosion of my first serious relationship, academic struggles, and the revelations of the second surgery.
My first serious relationship yielded to my second in a few short months. By the time of the second surgery, I was firmly entrenched in coupledom again. At that point, I really didn’t know how to function socially without a partner. I was still so awkward on my own, still doubted my own value so much that it seemed the only option.
The man in question was attracted to wounded women. This is not to disparage him in any way, because he was an excellent person, but I still have trouble seeing my virtues and can’t figure out why else he decided to enter into a relationship with me. This is just a statement of fact, something he revealed to me later himself.
With regard to my academic difficulties, I missed a lot of school and because I tended to fall asleep toward the end of the day, I was doing poorly even in the courses I was there for. In an attempt to catch up, I wanted to enrol in a correspondence course in history to offset my poor performance in other classes. My mom and I met with a counsellor to discuss my options.
I was told, point blank, “You’re not smart enough to complete a correspondence course successfully.” The counsellor in question was clearly looking at my recent marks, not on the A’s and B’s of previous years’ courses. When I tried to press the issue, she said that I didn’t have the time and dedication to complete a correspondence course.
“You’re recovering from surgery and still pretty sick. You’re heading for a second one in a few months. You have enough to worry about without a correspondence course.” Essentially, she thought I was too lazy to complete the course. This was not the case, but I couldn’t convince her otherwise, so I left the session empty-handed.
Other events were converging to form a perfect emotional storm.
English: Tropical Depression One upon being declared (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the winter, my paternal grandmother had a stroke while driving home from visiting my aunt and uncle down south. Her car shot through an intersection just after entering Sudbury and ended up on an embankment. Fortunately, no one else was injured, but the car was totalled. She was admitted to hospital, but as the days and weeks progressed, she did not wake up.
At first, they thought the stroke had caused more damage than they originally determined. Further scans revealed that this was not the case. As time went on and her coma continued, they needed to insert a feeding tube to keep her alive. She could not continue to survive on intravenous alone.
They couldn’t insert the feeding tube. Something was in the way. A quick exploratory revealed that her abdomen was full of cancer.
We couldn’t imagine the kind of pain she must have been in during her long months of silence leading up to the stroke. My grandmother was an intensely private and fiercely independent woman.
Due to my own health issues, I was not encouraged to visit my grandmother much. Then, when my state of infection became clear, I was discouraged from seeing her at all. Finally, I was brought up to say my goodbyes. Without the intervention of a feeding tube, my grandmother would slowly starve, if the growing cancer didn’t get to her first.
The decision was made to remove all supportive measures and let nature take its course.
Family came up to visit and either stayed or returned for the funeral. It was about that time that I started to cry for no reason. I couldn’t cry when it seemed appropriate: when saying my goodbyes and at the funeral, but at odd times, I’d just sob uncontrollably or stare off into nothing.
I had no idea what depression was then and even though my boyfriend tried to tell me, I was closed to the message.
My friendship with Margaret suffered as well. My first boyfriend was very jealous of my time and rarely let me do anything on my own. He was everywhere and became sulky when I wanted a “girl’s night” or to do anything with Margaret that didn’t involve him.
My quick turnaround into my second relationship didn’t help matters. This time I was the needy one and relied on my boyfriend, the picture of the strong, silent archetype, almost exclusively. Margaret found a relationship of her own to fill the gap. She needed someone she could rely on too.
Margaret’s mother was getting remarried and would be moving to Mississauga at the beginning of the summer. Margaret was allowed to stay on with me for the summer, in my grandmother’s house until she joined her mother in Mississauga and I went away to the University of Guelph in the fall.
My parents had settled my grandmother’s estate in the spring and my father had to buy out his brothers of their shares. My grandmother hadn’t left a proper will and a lawyer was hired to sort through the mess. They would be moving into my grandmother’s house in September after I relocated to Guelph and renting out their house to pay off the second mortgage they had to take out to make the proper financial arrangements.
My grandmother’s house, though large, only had one bedroom. My move down south would be a permanent one. There was no place for me at home anymore.
Throughout this time, I didn’t write, or even think about writing. There wasn’t any room for it in my life and I was too busy trying to fast-track through highschool and try to maintain some form of a healthy relationship with anyone to spare any time for my creativity.
In a relatively short period of time, I had a serious infection bookended by two surgeries, ended my first major relationship and entered my second, lost my grandmother, my home, and my best friend. This was the beginning of a situational depression that it would take me years to recognize and sort through.
Next week: Fumbling toward stability.