Behind Heather's Mind

I was always known to be “the happy one”.
Always known for positivity, and looking on the bright side of, well, everything.

If it was the most difficult thing to find in a situation, I would be the one to figure out how to find the positive angle. I grew up an optimist. Glass half-full. Silver-linings. Always looking on the bright side of life.

I always thought, “why do people always focus on the negative, when there’s everything to gain from looking at the positive?”

Growing up in a K-12 school with a small population was fine.
My graduating class in 2007 consisted of a grand total of 6 students...including myself. 
The thing about growing up in such a small town and small school, is everybody knows everybody...and think they know EVERY thing about everybody. The joys of small town living! Both my parents were full time teachers in the same school that I grew up in. My Dad was a VP. I had many benefits of having both my parents always accessible to me. (Especially when I’d forget lunch money...!) However, it did not bring much of a positive outcome for the social side of my schooling and growing-up.

I was, more often than not, made fun of and. Directly and indirectly picked on. Made to feel insecure. Laughed at, because of the things I was passionate about. Left out of homework groups. Left out of social groups. The centre of silly made-up jokes or lame rumour. Whatever adolescent youth can come up with to be the popular comedian, I was either not included, or it was little snarky remarks nearby me, which would make me feel absolutely insecure.

I got through high school and that was fine. I made it past the ignorance of others, just learned to sit with it. I graduated with honours, and was accepted into post-secondary school, and received a BA Environmental Studies, and furthered my education with another year of graduate studies where I earned an Advanced Diploma in Ocean/Coastal Management.

Within the years after high school, I met a guy and thought it was the beginning and end of my search for my life partner. I had never been in a serious relationship, minus the little crushes and such from high school, and a couple others and dates throughout university.

While I do not want to get into far too many details about him and his personal life, the fact that I did not have much experience with standing up for myself or noticing red flags, was an unfortunate situation that I found myself in. But, I was the optimist. I looked for the silver linings, and the half-full glass. The red flags did not inspire me to stand up for myself until a decade later.

___

The years of my twenties was devoted to someone who I thought would be the end of my search for a life partner.

From unbelievable emotional reactions that could be triggered by a snap of a finger, explosive volume, unreasonable disagreements, very little to no patience, self-consumed obsession, overly consumed with image, manipulative, verbally, emotionally and psychologically abusive...

We were together nearly 9 years. Just over 4 of those years, we were married.

It was often rocky and mesmerizing, but I was never a quitter. I am a very determined person who is often willing to make things work. I will think of various ways to make things work, for the benefit of all parties involved.

There is only so much one person can take. Nobody enjoys being a punching bag for someone else. A nail can only be hammered so far before it cannot go any further. Looking back, it was a relationship that was much more pain than joy. I did not know the deterioration of my own self for a long time. I was spiralling from gaslighting antics, and “dead end” feelings. On my 29th birthday, the gift I gave to myself was to leave my ex-husband. I was officially divorced just after my 30th birthday. It took me a LONG time before I went through with this decision.

I knew things did not feel right. I could not comprehend that this was supposed to be a loving marriage and relationship...

I felt SO guilty for even thinking of leaving. I was married! People travelled to my wedding, believed in me/us, there were so many new connections made and joined families and mutual friends...

Ultimately, you do not get involved in a relationship for other people. You do not get married for other people. You do not stay in a terrible place for other people. I am so proud of myself for finally using my newfound backbone, to stand up and do something for ME for once. To break free of something that was holding me back from living.

Since then, I have found a new person who has fulfilled every part of a loving relationship that I thought I only dreamt about. Someone that allows - and most importantly, encourages - me to be my complete, authentic self.

I often get “in my head” about my past relationship experience, and much self-criticism, as a result. I have been learning about grace and forgiveness for my own self since that time. My role as the optimist has had quite the journey. It has been called into question many times. It works harder to shine the light through the damaged cracks.

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On September 4, 2019, I was involved in a motor vehicle accident, due to the carelessness of the other driver.

It took place in an intersection where the oncoming driver was supposed to stop in their left-turning lane. Instead, they drove onward, colliding into the front and driver’s side of my car.

I have been off work since that day. It is now over eight months since that day. There were missteps from the scene of the accident. From the Paramedics ASKING me if I wanted to go to the hospital. From three different hospital trips over the next month to finally get referred to a concussion specialist. Having been given prescriptions when I was not supposed to be taking any prescriptions whatsoever. And so on. Since then, stress has increased significantly.

The feeling of unease surrounds me daily, even though there are days I’m able to sit alongside of it, rather than feel like I am drowning under it. I have developed anxiety and depression, and every day I take medication to help me balance my brain and how she operates. I now receive therapy treatments from an incredible Psychologist. Without her and these sessions, I would continue to crumble.

I live with Post Concussion Syndrome, due to not having been to my concussion specialist within 48 hours after my collision. Instead, it was nearly two months before I got there and finally given proper recovery instructions.

My financial situation is absolutely the worst.

I have not been reimbursed with even close to the amount of wages I have missed, and the idea of a settlement/compensation seems like speaking of another world right yet. (I have a lawyer on the case, it is just still a very stressful situation.)

But, I am trying to embrace my journey, and learn from it. Knowing fully that none of this has been my fault. Falling behind on bills and expenses and self-care has been inevitable. So, I often feel very guilty and insecure. My confidence has been up and down; mostly down. Yet, again, I am innocent in this situation. But the toll it takes on mental health is absolutely unbelievable. And, nobody can “see” this. The stigma surrounding these types of issues is completely real. Completely exhausting. Overwhelming.

Yet, here I am. Trying to remain the optimist. Hoping to see the good. Searching daily for the silver linings. Steering away from the “what if” to instead, the “I am so grateful for...”. Creating my own cracks within the rocky obstacles to make sure the light - even though a small amount - can shine through.

____


I have been a Server for nearly 7 years.

I have learned how to handle myself, given the fact that, within a restaurant, you will experience EVERY type of individual. Combining my experience with this occupation, growing up an often-bullied youth, my decade-long relationship with a narcissist, verbal/mental abuse, becoming divorced shortly after my 30th birthday, experiencing a car accident and having developed health issues as a result...

...well, honestly, it feels like my life has gone backwards instead of heading in a direction that brings success, happiness, and contentment.

But, I have learned through all of this, that an individual is often molded and strengthened by the difficult roads that they travel. Even though we may become broken down and bruised, it prepares us to deal with more than we think we can handle. Whether that includes new and unknown obstacles that may be ahead, or the issues we have struggled through already, and feel like they have been branded within our core.

As my Therapist has explained to me, like a ship, we can withstand many storms. However, sometimes the storm may strengthen to an overwhelming system. It is then that we must drop the anchor. Sit it out. Be in the moment, and let it pass. The time will come when the anchor can be raised, and the ship will depart and sail to any destination. On that ship, we learn to be optimistic. We can find the bright side, because a storm does not last forever. But, even though you have doubts, you can become your strongest self, in all kinds of weather.

 

Heather D.

Gander, Newfoundland

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