This may sound a bit cliche, but I can’t believe it’s already October. Months have come and gone in the blink of an eye, and I’m a semester and a half away from graduating with my Master’s degree.
It’s been about 1 year since I finally admitted to myself and my (then) husband that I’m lesbian. I’m 10 months out from divorcing the same man, my best friend. 10 months into a new relationship with a beautiful, intelligent woman, and 2 or 3 months into an internship I love but thought I would hate.
I am 4 months out from a breast cancer scare and a breakdown that almost led me to drop out of school.
Yeah…. It’s been a tough year.
At the beginning of January I don’t think I ever could have guessed I’d be here towards the end of 2019. Moving away from my husband and out of our shared apartment was barely on my radar – I was still reeling from both of us giving the news to his family that barely a year and a half into marriage, we were getting divorced. The last time I’d seen his dad, he asked me not to come back to their house again, despite his wife asking me to visit for her birthday. He said seeing me was like seeing a dead relative coming back again and again – and, holding back tears, I said I understood. For months I’d done my best to mentally prepare myself for this moment, when the man who was most like a father to me – who had walked me down the aisle – would in an instant no longer be family. No longer even want to talk to me.
Leaving that house for the last time, I reminded myself that I had accepted the loss of his family as a painful but necessary consequence of embracing who I really was. But it really, really hurt.
I was extremely, eternally grateful for my husband’s response – that he loves me and supports me no matter what – and for his mother’s response; “You couldn’t be more of a daughter if I gave birth to you myself.”
For eight years these people, along with his brothers, had been my most beloved family. They had stood by me through stage 4 cancer without hesitation. I still see my ex-mother-in-law, although not as often as I’d like. We meet for coffee when she’s in town and I always have a wonderful time. I’m still not quite used to not seeing her though. I’m crying even as I write this.
There wasn’t much time to grieve my losses. January to May was my practicum, my first of 3 semesters of actual clinical practice with patients. That was rough, too – not only did I have to dive in and practice the skills I’d been learning for a year and a half, but I also got thrown into the pit that is community mental health bureaucracy. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Confusing, badly designed report after report. It was frustrating as hell. It took up way more time than actually seeing the client. I started to learn very quickly why mental health workers – especially those in community mental health and public service – burn out so very, very fast.
But I survived, and then came my school intensives. Intensives are a week-long period where I travel to my university campus and have classes, and professors observe me practicing my counseling skills in person. At the end of that week I get a report of their observations. They let me know if I can continue with my degree, if I am being asked to leave the program, or if I need remedial measures like classes or extra clinical experience. It’s nerve-wracking, but this was my second year and I wasn’t as freaked out as I was my first year.
I was much more concerned about the lump in my breast, and the ultrasound results that couldn’t exactly tell whether it was cancer or not. I was also more concerned with my disgusting apartment that wasn’t suitable for me or my cats to safely live in.
At this point I’d already started dating a lovely, intelligent woman I’ll call Mary. Poor woman had caught me at kind of a bad year – but I guess, according to her, I’d caught her in a bad one as well. We were both going through a lot of turmoil and transitions separately, which unfortunately transferred over into our relationship. But even at this point I think we both felt like it was worth hanging in there for each other. I called her after my ultrasound, struggling not to cry, and asked her just to drive around with me. I drove the highway loop around town a few times, we told jokes and talked about nothing in particular. And suddenly I felt just a little bit better.
During this week I was struggling really, really badly. I couldn’t get my homework done, could barely go to work. And I’d moved into an apartment that hadn’t been fixed up the way the landlords had promised when I signed the lease. Stupid me, right? Oh, the dumb things one does when tired, stressed, and in a hurry. I couldn’t deal with the bugs, the literal holes in the walls going into the unfinished apartment next door, the tile that was cracked and crumbling everywhere I went. My new girlfriend, my husband, and my friends all sort of cycled through my apartment making sure I ate, went to work, and got out of bed every now and again when I wasn’t working or at practicum.
I honestly can’t believe how I got through that. I certainly wouldn’t have without their help. And finally, after I broke down crying in my apartment with Mary at the dining table, she offered for the hundredth time for me to come live in the basement apartment of her newly purchased house until I could get my shit figured out. And this time I accepted.
I’m still here a few months later, and it’s become more of a permanent thing. I pay all the utilities and internet, and in exchange I have a clean, safe place to stay where I have some independence combined with the peace of mind that my kitties are well-taken care of when I’m gone 60 hours a week. It’s a weird arrangement, but it’s working so far. I’m not sure how long it will last, to be honest. But it feels like a suitably bizarre solution to such a bizarre and stressful year. And I haven’t even talked about my internship yet.
That’s all for now though, and I’m planning on covering that and the last few months in my next post!