So…how was your decade?

Ten years ago I thought my life was over. I had just quit my childhood dream, something I had worked for intensively: studying piano at music college. It hadn’t happened suddenly, although it felt like that at the time: after a good and well-prepared entrance exam I emotionally disintegrated in a couple of weeks’ time and just couldn’t manage to pick myself up again.

I didn’t understand why I wasn’t the happiest person on earth to finally be living my dream of becoming a pianist. I felt quite the opposite, sinking away in the quicksand of a depression that had surfaced a year before. A combination of other factors -not choosing the right piano teacher, my dad’s heart operation- made me an easy prey, and before the 1st semester was over I called it quits and never wanted to touch a piano ever again.

The following year was equally turbulent: I practically fled from my life to work in Bournemouth, Great-Britain as a care assistant in a rest home for a couple of months, meanwhile my parents split and we first heard about my dad’s autism (Asperger’s). Now they’re a couple of facts in just one sentence, but at the time it caused a tsunami of triggers -emotions and memories- that lasted for years. Suddenly my depression started to make sense, and piece by piece I put my childhood and my life back in order.

It is easy to state it like that, it doesn’t tell you anything about the emotional hell I went through on a daily basis. Good days were the ones on which I didn’t get crushed under emotional triggers, and they were scarce. It wore me out, also physically and by 2004 I had lost about 10 kg. Always having been thin, it nearly got me hospitalized. I’m still recovering from it as I haven’t been able to get quite back on weight yet!

It didn’t really have a name, the therapists I worked with didn’t use them and I knew well enough for myself what it was all about, but it was a bit awkward to tell to people, or to explain the lack of diplomas and gaps in my resumé. Post-traumatic stress syndrome comes close; living for a prolonged period or growing up in a continued stressful situation will do the same as experiencing extreme stress under extreme circumstances for short periods. It made me f***ing crazy. Panic attacks out of nowhere, hyperventilating all the way, extreme emotions, sudden phobias…

So it didn’t come as a surprise when doctors thought I had chronic fatigue syndrome in 2006. It was a relief to put a name to it, and be able to tell people if they needed an explanation. It didn’t have the taboo of psychological troubles.

Meanwhile I had moved to Gent and glass and metal had entered my life… I’ve never quite gone back to playing the piano anymore, but those two base materials have filled that gap better than I could imagine: they helped me find my muse again.

Since 2007 my life seems to be on the upswing, and all that soul work slowly started paying off. Good days became more frequent, and then they became the majority again. Now I rarely have bad days. Triggers still overwhelm me but I seem to bounce back more easily than before, as if I’ve built mental muscles. Balance is bliss…and the perfect fertile ground for creative work, which in turn feeds the soul.

So that was my decade.

In 2000 I

  • could count the times I had been on the internet on 1 hand
  • didn’t have a cellphone
  • upgraded to a 2nd hand computer with Windows 95
  • bought an orange T-shirt I still wear
  • discovered aromatherapy, shiatsu & macrobiotics
  • listened mostly to medieval & dark wave (classical music was out of the question)
  • cut my hair (from looong down my back to spiky short)
  • made notebooks from old printerpaper
  • got rejected applying for a job with a famous jewelry designer in Antwerp…haha!
  • smoked marlboro menthol cigarettes whenever I could find them (not in Belgium)

How was yours? 🙂

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