Saturday, January 28, 2017

Return of the Timeline: 2009-2013, When I Lived in Georgia, The Beginning

In the spring of 2009, after the exciting election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, my boyfriend decided he want to move to Georgia to manage a restaurant and winery for some of his family members. I have always been desperate for adventure, and he promised me a garden, told me he liked the way he thought when I was around, and that he would be able to add me to his health insurance plan. He also bought me an iPhone. I moved to Georgia for a garden, an iPhone, and health insurance.

I must have been quite a mess before I left everyone I knew and loved to live in a small town with a guy that had never really been the nicest person to me. Oh, he tried, but he wasn't ready for something like this, and neither was I. Looking back on things, I feel like I should have been able to see my inevitable major depressive breakdown coming from a mile away, but I didn't. And suddenly I was alone in a cabin in the woods with very little natural light, a new Netflix account, no friends that really knew me, and a workaholic boyfriend. I was teetering on the edge of a terrible realization.

I went to Dahlonega, GA on my own for the first time to scout a place for us to live. I stayed in a charming bed and breakfast with lovely host and enjoyed drinks and dinner at a local bar while I mulled over my housing choices. Dahlonega is possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Even today, when I drive through the hills, I am overflowing with words and thoughts and feelings....all of which require a full symphony to express.

However, the other side of that coin is crowded with all sorts of different discomforts, and my least favorite has got to be the tick. I became obsessively terrified of ticks. I had been terrified of them before, found a tick in my head on the last day of camp when I was about ten years old and will never forget the sound of someone repeating, "it's digging into your head" in terror as I sat, helpless to do anything about it. Years later, I remember finding a tick on my hiking boot the summer I lived and worked in Shenandoah National Park, plucking it off with my thumb and forefinger, laying it gently on the asphalt of Skyline Drive in beautiful Virginia, and violently crushing its horrific shell with a rock from the side of the road. Ticks and Black Widow spiders. That's when I let out the rage.

That summer, we could see ticks floating down from the trees and alighting on patio decks. I could feel them gently gripping the hairs on my legs before attempting to clamp down into my flesh. I huddled in my room in the bed, bingeing 30 Rock and imagining I was hearing my phone receive multiple text messages. No one was texting, though. And if they were, I couldn't trust them. They didn't know what I was going through.

I left for Pilsen, Czech Republic to teach English in late July, eager to get back to Europe, to some form of activism, but I found myself feeling overly nostalgic for my time living overseas. I knew this would be my last visit to a different continent for a while, and I was in the middle of a major depressive break. I sat up all night on the weekends, crying and writing letters as little girl Caroline to my parents. Seriously. I think because of a chapter in the book Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, or maybe Getting the Love You Want. Also, Seriously.

During my stay in Pilsen as a teacher of English that summer, I had the rare opportunity to watch the Health Care debate in the U.S. from the outside, and let me tell you, it was not pretty. It didn't help that I was also watching the state decide my fate as a citizen from the outside, that people with whom I went to church and sat beside on Sunday mornings were addressing me personally to say things like:

"I'm sorry, Caroline, but a health care system that allows patients with pre-existing conditions just can't exist here."

Take a minute with that.

We sat together in church and heard the same sermons and stories about self sacrifice, piety, love that passes all understanding, and this is where they took it. But politics don't belong in church anyway....right?

I cried myself to sleep every night, and when I opened my eyes in the morning and realized I still had to get up and teach classes, I cried some more. The ONLY way I made it out of my door every day was with the help of the Wellbutrin a friend was sharing with me because of my debilitating depression and rejection from buying healthcare and, consequently, medication. It was not really the drug for me, but it got me to class, and it previously helped me finish my Master's thesis.

This is the life to which my fellow "Christians," my extended family, condemned me. I certainly made the best of it, didn't I?

Drinking and speaking English, pic credit Mayinka Maya
I taught an advanced all ages class and a beginner adult class. I was originally told I would be teaching intermediate adults, but when my first session "meet and greet" activities garnered horrified stone faces (I love the Czechs), I suspected that was not the case.

I cried a lot. Not because of the students...they were incredible, striving to communicate with me on the same level through shared language...that level at which adults begin to understand each other...usually over wine and beer...delicious, fresh, czech pilsner. We played guitars and sang music at pubs into the wee hours. We talked about poetry and politics, family and the future. They were so excited about Obama as was I, despite the very public battle for the fate of my well-being going on across the pond.

On the last night and at the farewell party for all teachers and students at the Summer Language Academy, after multiple shots of local clove liqueur, girlie shots of a minty beverage referred to simply as "green," and more beer than I can ever remember, a student lifted me off the ground in celebration, then, unaware of his own strength, dropped me hard on the dance floor. I landed on my feet, but one of them was twisted around backwards, and I heard a pop.

Needless to say I definitely hurt something, but the alcohol numbed the initial shock of everything, and I limped out of the hotel with a gooey smile on my face and attempted to walk back to my dorm alone. Luckily, someone was behind me that could see my struggle to walk, announced himself, and swooped in to pick me up as I apologized profusely for my own body weight.

He, another teacher, get me back to my room and offered me a few different methods of pain relief. I accepted a couple, but I had to draw the line when, after telling me how remarkably beautiful and mysterious he found me, he offered to bring me to fewer words and with a loving nod to his wife. I respectfully declined.

Then, I sent an email to my boyfriend and called him on the phone to ask him to take the train into Atlanta to help me with my luggage the next day as I would be having a difficult time walking and carrying things. He said he would, but when I finally arrived after a miserably painful trip back overseas, he hadn't come to the airport to help me. When I called him to find out where he was, he got mad at me because now he was going to be late getting back to work. He had taken time off to come and pick me up and how could I not consider his job when thinking about my injury. He convinced me that I was ungrateful, and I went back to the corner of my bed, to 30 Rock, a silent phone, and no one.

That's when I had my break. My depressive breakdown. That's when I started on the long road to finding the best anti-depressant. And that was really the beginning, when I actually became a resident of Georgia.

The links throughout are blogs from my early days in Dahlonega and from the Summer Language School in Pilsen that year. Enjoy!

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