one year

It has been a year since I took my time off work.  It was the Monday after Vancouver Pride last year that I had my breakdown.

At the time I thought that all I needed was a week.  Im strong, just a little break.  Thats it … turns out i was wrong.  I ended up being off work until December.

During that time off work I was not myself.  I was anxious and could not stand noise and people.  I needed time away from everyday life to gather myself and my thoughts and move forward.  At the time I would have said it was horrible, awful, scary.  Now, looking back I think it was a blessing.

The time allowed me to think.  It is possible all that time made me think.  Breaking down handed me an opportunity to figure out what I wanted out of life and to get a grip on what was truly important.  And time to rest so I could learn to breath again … I needed to breath.  Just breath.  I cannot believe that I forgot how to do something that was supposed to come naturally – but I had.

I went through many stages during those months.  I huddled up and stayed home.  I turned off the phone.  I avoided people, places, interaction with people.  At first the phone ringing made me anxious so I shut it off.  I pushed pretty much everyone out except family and someone who may as well have been family to me.

I put my feelings and very intimate thoughts in the very trustworthy hands of the people who loved me most.  I trusted that my family would be there.  And they were.  If I needed to talk – which I wasn’t doing much of – they listened.  If I needed to rest – they allowed me time in the cocoon of their home to get that rest.  They encouraged me when I worried about what this time away from work was doing for my career.  They let me know that I had backup no matter what happened.  During that time I needed only things, people and moments that I knew were predictable.  No surprises.  I had had enough of those.  Good and bad.  I wanted boring.  I craved boring.

Who knew boring would be so good.

I did some hard work during that time.  I had to take a good hard look at who I was, who I had been and who I wanted to be.  I had to be honest with myself about my goals and my limitations and I had to learn to love myself despite mistakes I had made and despite mistakes I thought I had made.  I had to learn to respect myself and love myself.  I realized I am my hardest critic and that I needed to let some stuff go.

When I figured that out things started falling into place.  Step by step.  Love yourself.  Care for yourself and learn what you need.  And do it.

I asked myself what was the common thread in the people I knew, read about or saw that I considered to be ‘happy’.  I wasn’t deluding myself – I knew that we could not control the bad stuff, the hard stuff.  I knew that even though I was living in a fairly controlled environment for this period of time that I would eventually have to let people back in which would allow for the unknown.  The surprises.

Looking at these contented people that I considered happy I realized that being happy did not depend on nothing bad happening.  Hurtful, sad, scary and devastating things would happen, like it or not, and that being happy depended on other factors.

The common thread?  Those other factors?


Simple as that.

The people that I knew that were genuinely happy were not people without pain.  They were not people without loss.  These people had experienced a wide range of emotions, experiences and relationships.  These people had an idea of what they wanted out of life and they pushed forward and made those things happen.  They took responsibility for their happiness and they pushed forward to make those things they needed or wanted happen.  They didnt wait for happiness to run up smack them on their asses – they sought it out and enjoyed the everyday moments of the life they created.

I started a list.  (I love lists – and if you need reminding there is this post and this one)  Ahem, any ways, I started a list – with the basics:

I wanted to live near the ocean.  I wanted animals.  I needed animals.  Cat and dog.  I wanted to be able to walk to work.  Walk to a job that I enjoyed and felt needed in.  I realized that I wanted my family to know how much I cared for them and I wanted a few good trustworthy friends rather than a bunch of people I knew.  I wanted some control in my head over what I worried about and how far that worry went.

This was a good start.  A list always is isnt it??


I adopted a kitten.  I moved within blocks of the ocean and my office.  I decided I wanted to go back to the job I had – a job that I enjoyed.  I adopted a dog.  I went to counselling regularly and saw my doctor regularly to help me overcome the anxiety and worry that ate away at my head at times.  Turns out I needed a little help from medication and a lot of talk therapy.  I went with it.  I spent more time with my family and continue to do so now.  And that has been wonderful.

All these things worked and were within my control.

Then I started to slowly let people back in.  Carefully and on my terms.  Some people liked this.  Some didnt.  That made some decisions easier I guess.

A year later I still have a list.  Not really basics anymore but a list of goals and things that are within my reach.  Things I feel I want and/or need to lead a happy life. 

I realize that the hard stuff will still come at me.  I realize that I will sustain loss and feel sadness.  I realize that I will worry and have days that I feel unwell.  The difference is that I have built – or rebuilt – a foundation in my life that feels stable and good.  A foundation that will sustain me through the tough times.

And thanks to my loved ones I have second third and fourth foundations – the foundation of others that I can hop on to when I need a hand.

Thank you for being there.



  1. jlb said,

    August 8, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    i thought about that last week-end….and yes…it’s in the doing… 🙂

  2. Samy said,

    August 8, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Hi beautiful!
    I had the urge to take a peek at your blog tonight. It’s been a long time, December to be exact… Funny that the first thing read is a recap on everything you’ve been through. I was there, before the breakdown, you’ve come so far! I’m so proud of you honey. Love the haircut, the tattoo, the kitty, the puppy, Vancouver (God I miss the ocean!), but mostly YOU! I love you girlie girl!

  3. NerdGirl said,

    August 9, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    J: It feels so long ago and then sometimes like it was just yesterday! Was fun hanging out with you when you were here!

    Samy: Miss you too gorgeous!! I will answer your email soon!

  4. alan said,

    August 11, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I met you as you put your life back on track, and am so grateful to you for sharing it with me; there are times when you have set me back on track without ever knowing it, and I owe you so very much!


  5. prin said,

    August 11, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    You’re awesome and inspiring. 🙂

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