So let’s just start out with the main points: I’m 23 years old. I have zero money to my name (in fact I owe some!) and yet I’m completely happy and do not feel threatened in any way.
If, at 18, someone had asked me how I pictured myself at 23, I would not have imagined this.
I would have pictured someone more ‘responsible’. I would have pictured someone who had a good job, with savings in her bank account to fall back on, should anything happen. A decent place to live – with or without roommates. I might have pictured someone with a degree under her belt. I probably would have pictured someone who, despite all things pointing in the right direction, might not have been happy. At the end of the day though, that would be the most important factor. I’d want to be happy.
So at this point, I’m definitely winning.
Let me just sum up the past 5 years of my life for you:
At 18 years old, I had been out of highschool for nearly a year, working my ass off to save for something (I didn’t know what I was saving for).
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life – so obviously I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I felt this way straight out of highschool, which is why I took the first year off to work. After that first year, I was still clueless.
So I decided to travel.
I started to look into cheaper ways of traveling – possibly not even traveling, but rather living in a new place. This sounded pretty ideal – set up a homebase somewhere central in europe, and use it as a port to travel to other places nearby. It sounded perfect. I’d get a job as an aupair – a kind of nanny – and I’d use my vacation time, my days off and my ideal location as a way to travel cheaply and efficiently. I had planned to also use the time to reflect, and ultimately decide what I wanted to study.
That didn’t exactly work out.
I had only been in Germany for about 5 months when I started looking into staying longer. It just felt like the place I needed to be at that time. So, I got a job at a kindergarten, to begin two months after my au pair contract ended. Unforseen circumstances brought me to live in Jakarta, Indonesia for four months, with my host family. I ultimately went back and stayed in Germany.
That second year turned into a third, then a fourth, then a fifth – I never left Germany. I never felt like I wanted to. I was so content in my life – things were just easy. I learned quickly how to live my adult life in another country. In fact, it’s the only place I’ve ever done it – back in Canada, I lived with my parents. Sure, I had my own car and I was independent, but I still lived at home. I never had to completely take care of myself until I moved thousands of kilometres away. But I did it, and I did it well.
I learned the language. I paid my taxes. I had my friends. About a year into working at the kindergarten, I started dating Nick. Soon after we met, we had moved in together. Everything happened really quickly but it worked. My best friend and roommate, Sarah, also had a boyfriend, Rob. Our best friend, Charlynn, lived nearby and spent loads of time at our place. We’d all hang out together like a big happy family. It was a lovely time in our lives.
Eventually, Nick and I got our own place, Sarah decided to move home to California. Charlynn stuck around.
I still don’t know if it’s related to everything or not, but soon after all the changes, I fell into a really bad depression.
I was in a terrible state. I was paranoid, I was sad, I was exhausted all the time. I still pushed myself hard enough to go to work – it was hard, but I did it. I could fake it for the 7 hours a day I was there, and then I’d go home, cry, and sleep for 15 hours straight. I didn’t have a life and I didn’t want one either.
If it weren’t for Nick, I probably wouldn’t be here. He was my fucking life line.
I started seeing a psychiatrist, spent a week in the hospital to get a diagnosis. I was overwhelmed with support. Charlynn and Nick came to visit me in the hospital whenever they could. Charlynn would always let me know she was there and she loved me. Anthea, someone I had known for years but never been close with, reached out to me with her own story.
I was finally diagnosed as schizo-affective about one year into ‘treatment’. I started taking the correct medicines, and eventually things got better. Of course when I was doing really well, I’d think I was cured, and I’d stop taking my medicine. I’d fall back into a state: sometimes I’d be depressed, sometimes I’d be irrationally angry for days, and sometimes I’d be overly happy and reckless – those were the manic days.
One of my worst symptoms was paranoia. This one went across all boards – it didn’t matter if I was depressed or happy, I’d still be constantly worried about what people thought of me. I was convinced everyone talked about me – about how much they hated me. As I’m sure you can imagine, that was exhausting for Nick to deal with day in and day out. He is a saint because he never blamed me.
One day I literally woke up and thought, “fuck this. If they want to talk about me and hate me, whatever.”
I just didn’t care anymore. I somehow had a moment of clarity that stuck. I wasn’t being like this on purpose. Nick would tell me all the time that this wasn’t me – Becca isn’t like this. This is just Becca when she’s in a state.
Finally I understood what he meant.
After that realisation, my entire life changed. I started to go out. I met an incredible group of people who quickly became amazing, close friends. I had a family again in the place I’d adopted as home.
The problem with schizo-affective disorder is that it’s selfish. It doesn’t care if you’re having a great time – it can decide how you’re going to feel regardless of your environment.
This is true. To a point. I learned that I could distract myself. I realised that when things were constantly new and changing, I could keep myself busy enough to get past the numbness.
Picture it like running. You know when you’re running, and you reach a point where you feel so drained and like you can’t go on any longer. But, if you push yourself just a little further, you get past it and you gain your second wind.
That’s kind of how it was for me with mental health.
I know this is controversial. I’m not saying you can cure yourself with attitude alone. I’m doing this while also being diligent about taking my medicine. I have other weapons, but I’m using my will power as well. I’m helping myself, but I’m not doing it alone. I still don’t think I’m strong enough to do it alone.
So, when I felt myself dropping again, I knew I had to dive in again. I had to throw myself into the deep end to prove to myself that I could swim.
So what did I do? I booked a flight to Thailand.
I had been wanting to go for a long time. I wanted to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. That was my plan in the making that I had never actually planned. It was an idea.
One night, after hanging out with Jen, another wonderful person who stuck by me, I went home, opened Chrome up, and booked a flight to Bangkok.
Just like that.
Then, I went and quit my job, spent as little as possible in the coming weeks, and got on a plane. I was on my own for nearly 3 months.
I just got home four days ago. I have no job. I have negative money (I borrowed some to fund my trip).
But I am so excited for what’s coming next.