So. My story… Maybe sit down with a cuppa because this is going to take a while!
(You also might want to grab your snorkel, because it’s going to get deep!)
Three years ago I graduated high school, auditioned for my dream course, got accepted, and moved cities. I was off to Sydney to study a Bachelor of Music majoring in Music Theatre (and as many know, the only thing I had ever wanted to do with my life!). For a couple of months, things were great! But it went downhill when I tore my hamstring during a dance class in April first year. It was diagnosed as a grade 2 tear and was quite painful. I couldn’t dance, and when that was all I had ever done with my life, it was hard to accept that I couldn’t do it anymore…
I began my recovery by attending acupuncture sessions with a physiotherapist, but after many sessions and a couple of months, I realised it just wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t getting any better, I was wasting money on sessions, and I had been missing other uni classes to fit in with my physio’s schedule. So I stopped going. By now it was trimester 3 of first year and I sat down with the head of my department to discuss what I should do next. She referred me to an osteopath so I made an appointment… After only three sessions with my osteo, my hamsting felt almost completely better! It was incredible, but very painful to go through her procedures. The most frustrating part in it all was that I had been wasting so much of my time with the physio’s treatments when it could have been fixed so much sooner by the osteo!
By the time my hamstring started to heal, the emotional damage was already done. I tried to stay strong and pushed myself to stay in Sydney through it all, even though I had no real support network there and no particularly close friends. I started to become a very different person, not as bubbly or excitable as I had always been. I stopped wanting to go out or make new friends or talk to people or even get out of bed in the morning. Class was suffering because I had no motivation. I ended up not finishing trimester 3 and deferred my course until the start of the new year. Things were not looking good at all.
A couple of good things happened that first year – I got my job at Luna Park, I met a boy who I would soon fall very much in love with, and I had some experiences I couldn’t have even dreamt of had I stayed in Cairns – and I thought maybe all of that would be enough to outweigh the negatives. So at the beginning of 2014, I returned to my studies. I was with a new group of people by then and had to go through the nerve wracking first introductions and first time singing in front of them all… they were lovely, but I didn’t click with anyone in a special way. Before I knew it, I had deferred again.
By now I was with my then boyfriend (he made life bearable!). He and his family helped me out a lot, and I definitely think I would’ve given up on myself and my life in Sydney had they not been there to support me through the particularly dark days. They were blessings in what was a very difficult time in my life, even though I took them for granted – not on purpose of course, but as the song goes “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”. I will never ever be able to thank them enough for their role in helping me get better, they made a huge difference in my life and I am a much better person for it.
In the middle of the year, I was promoted to Team Leader. I was so excited about this new opportunity to excel in something in Sydney, giving me a real and tangible reason to stay. Things had not gone well, my dreams had been crushed, I was not mentally or emotionally well… but this promotion was incredible. I felt so accomplished and was exceedingly proud of what I had achieved. I decided I would enrol myself into a Certificate in Business at TAFE – I realised how happy my job made me and thought I could carve a career out of it. Unfortunately, after a short time, I realised that the content I was learning was very basic and most of it had already been taught to me during my first job in Cairns. My classmates soon realised that I knew what was going on and that I would be the one to team up with if they didn’t want to do any work – I was constantly being handed group assessments to finish because they knew I wouldn’t let myself or my group fail. After putting up with it for half of the semester, I bowed out and decided TAFE wasn’t the place for me.
For a couple of months, I only worked at the park. I just did my team leader duties and fully immersed myself in creating inductions and organising team briefings. Things were looking okay, but I wasn’t much better. I was eventually persuaded into going to see a proper doctor and that’s when I had my wellbeing examination. I was diagnosed with severe depression, extremely severe stress, and extremely severe anxiety. I was upset to hear it properly clinically diagnosed, because I knew I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t real, but it was also a weight off my shoulders to know what it was and that it could be fixed. One in 16 young Australians is currently experiencing depression – it’s nothing to be scared or ashamed of, but it’s definitely something to diagnose and to manage.
At some point during it all I started feeling a lot better. I was extremely happy in my relationship, it was my rock, and it made me feel better. “Things will be okay if I have my rock”, I thought to myself. But no single person ever deserves to feel that kind of pressure, that kind of responsibility for someone else’s wellbeing. It is asking too much and I completely understand that. My mind was very clouded, even though I didn’t realise it at the time.
Christmas that year came and went, followed by new year, followed by the decision that I would go back to my studies – this time I would smash it! I was feeling really positive, “third time’s a charm!”.
Then came the break-up.
It was the hardest, most upsetting, most painful thing I have ever felt. I can’t explain the feeling and I’ve never felt anything like it, but all I know is that it hurt and I never ever want to feel that pain again. I still get twangs of it every now and then, if I think about it too much, so I try not to. I haven’t fully recovered yet, which is really hard, but it’s also okay.
Regardless of all of the positive parts of my life falling apart all together and all at once, I decided to tough it out. I stayed in Sydney and went back to my studies. I met my third new group – and boy did I love them. Do I love them. They are incredible people. Amazing people. During that first trimester back I was still having trouble. I was still not well, I was mid-heartbreak, and I needed to move house – which is never an easy experience. I quickly remembered that in a music theatre course singing about your feelings is encouraged, and so I became ‘that girl who always sings about her past love’. Sometimes I was sassy, sometimes I was scathing, and sometimes I was just downright miserable. One song in particular – Stranger to the Rain from Children of Eden – made me bawl my eyes out every time I sang it… (Points for connecting to the song though!)
As a quick background: the musical is set during the time of Noah’s Ark. Noah has three sons. Two are already married, but his youngest son, Japheth, is not happy with the women Noah has tried to obtain for him, and instead wishes to marry the servant girl, Yonah, who is a descendant from the race of Cain (Noah is a descendant of Abel – the descendants don’t get along because of a prior tiff between Cain and Abel… that story may sound familiar). Noah isn’t okay with this and to show his disapproval he won’t allow Yonah onto the ark… (when the storm comes, all those who aren’t on the ark will drown). Japheth comes to say goodbye to Yonah, and that’s when she sings this song. She says she is used to being left on her own because she bears the Mark of Cain (I like to equate the “Mark of Cain” to depression – deep, right?). She says it’s okay, and that she will be fine, and she wishes him an even sweeter love because she cares for him so much and just wants him to be happy. Very emotional and touching and all of the feels. (In the story he sneaks her onto the ark anyway and they get Noah’s blessing after a gallant fight to the death, and they live happily ever after and a dove is released, but details, details.) But back to the main story.
I sang through my emotions that first trimester, and I completed it with a solo in the end of trimester showcase! Mum came down to Sydney to watch me and it all felt so good. I couldn’t wait to get back into it! The only real downside had been that I get sick very easily, and had taken a fair bit of time off due to coughs and colds and losing my voice and at least 3 terrible bouts of tonsillitis… but everything else was pretty good. I went back again – trimester two felt emotionally much stronger, the strongest I’d felt in years. I kept singing through my emotions – you wouldn’t believe how many music theatre songs related perfectly to my break up… but then I found out I had to move house again and had only twelve days to do it in, and my stress and anxiety got the better of me and I broke down. On the day I broke down I had two assessments due, I did one in the morning, a duet, and even though we got through it, it wasn’t very good on my part and I felt that I’d let my partner down. I was pretty upset about it all and went to ask one of the heads of my department if I could defer my second assessment because I felt like I needed to have a mental health day to myself. He really raised his voice at me and told me I was immature for doing “this” again (he’s talking about depression there, folks) and told me he thought I was just wasting my time. I felt completely attacked and totally lost and fled uni for the day to go and cry at my cousin’s house. Considering all of the progress I’d made and how good I had been feeling about myself, this was totally uncalled for and utterly hurtful.
I stuck it out for the rest of that trimester, I completed everything, and I even got my first Distinction in a practical subject. I’d just moved into my new house, and was loving it and my new housemates, so I decided to stay in Sydney over the break so that I could just focus on uni and settling in and getting ready for trimester 3. I was telling myself I was excited to go back and that things would be okay again.
The first day back I walked in and started to cry. I hated this place. I called my mum and she said, like she’d said many times before, “maybe it’s time to come home”. And I, very unlike many times before, said “I think you’re right.”
And that, my friends, is where we are today. I have dropped out of AIM and I am considering a move back home. And to tell you all the truth… I am so unbelievably relieved.