A Journey Interrupted
The day after ‘the day’
FEBRUARY 5TH 2016
"Whatever this is... this thing we wake up to everyday, dragging our sorry asses from one cunt of a situation to the next, I want no part in. I have had enough..." That's what I uncontrollably recited to myself as I thought I had reached rock bottom, driving home, with bags full of my belongings and a compelling need to hide in the deepest depths of whatever this planet has to offer so that no one would ever find me.
The past year has been one of the toughest years of my life. Escalation, after escalation, after escalation, and getting fired from a company I loved (as if it was my own) was the absolute breaking point. "You need to leave, pack your things and leave immediately" those were the words that shattered my world and sent my body into a downward spiral of utter panic. Before I could gather my thoughts I was hysterically crying into my shaking hands, gasping for air as my entire insides were twisted, ripped and ferociously pulled out... to then be forced straight back down into my mouth - leaving little breaks for me to catch my breath. "You need to breathe" I slowly started to hear my work mate repeat, but I couldn't. It was like my world had been poked at ALL YEAR and finally it caved in. My body gave out and there was nothing I could do to hold it back together again.
One year before...
It was around 6.30am when my house woke up to knocking on the door, 3 police officers at the front of the house and 3 went around to the back. A search warrant was shown upon entry, I was taken to the bathroom to be padded down, and the drug raid commenced - room by room. I'm not sure what they were expecting but they got 3 confused young adults surrounded by art, music equipment, a super cute kitten, and an impressive amount of Warhammer figurines. Once they realised that we were not their ‘normal’ drug affiliates, they let their guard down and started fooling around; scaring each other with a fake snake we had in the yard - all the while the 3 of us were sitting side-by-side nervously on the couch thinking 'what the fuck is my life'.
It was a strange moment in my life where I was left in fear while police officers played around in my house and went through all my belongings. They didn't find anything during the raid... bar one text message thread on my phone where my manager at the time asked if I could source some 'treats' and I messaged back saying yes for two reasons (A) it felt so normal for youth to be able to source treats for their friends. Everyone knows somebody that knows somebody, right? and (B) it was my manager, I wasn't going to say no - not because I felt pressured, but because I did know someone I could get some off and it didn't feel like a hassle. Because of that message I was escorted to the police station for questioning and without notice, I didn’t show up for work. By the end of all the questions and tears, I got slapped with a supply charge and was told I could go to jail. Even though the text message deal never went through 'intent to supply' is still 'supply'. Who ever knew that you could get into this much trouble over a text message?
That was the start of a long convoluted journey I was yet to discover and watch unravel as it slowly turned my world into a haze of anxiety, depression and emptiness. Transforming my mind and body into a shell of prosaic movements working together to piece either what once was, or what it thinks it should be doing.
Triple J had a segment/documentary going at the time called 'Australians on drugs'. They were discussing the matter over the radio and I decided to message in my experience about getting a supply charge over a text - even though the exchange of goods never eventuated. They were keen to share my story so after some emails and phone calls, I then had a Triple J film crew at my house conducting a video recorded interview to air on their segment. It was an insightful little experience and I was grateful that I got the chance to share my story and inform other youth to be more careful.
FEBRUARY 4TH 2016
Almost a year has past, filled with a constant fear of what was to come and after many court adjournments, meetings with the lawyer and dollars flying out of my bank account; the day had finally come - judgement day. I had one friend that came along that day (as I didn’t tell many people about it) and she sat in the seating area behind me. I was nervous, but more than anything in the world I couldn't wait to finally get my result, leave it all in the past and move on with my life.
As the court started my case, I was put into a small booth and my heart started to race as the security guard locked me in. The court read my case and I did my best to hold a brave, yet reflective demeanour as the judge kept his gaze upon me and my life - which was hanging on by a fine thread. In the end the judge gave me 12 months probation and made a firm note that he was disappointed that I didn’t tell the police who I was going to get the 24 pills off. The door was unlocked, and I was free to go.
A sigh of relief would be an understatement, I had been holding onto this part of my life and everything it affected for almost a year. I had been through what felt like hell and back whilst trying to hold together a casual job, a career, a 6 year long relationship (with a guy who was going through something similar but on a whole other level of the legal system) and trying to finish my uni degree (which I had finished three months before hand - Nov 2015). So yeah, I was a little happy that things were… looking up Millhouse… right?
My friend and I had a moment to debrief what just happened. She informed me that there was a lady sitting in front of her that was looking me up on Facebook and taking notes. We thought it was super weird but didn’t think much of it - I was too stoked - IT WAS ALL OVER. Once I got my papers, I was free to leave the building FINALLY! We walked towards the front doors and saw the lady who was taking down notes next to a photographer “That’s her!” my friend exclaimed. As we got outside the doors the photographer ran over to us and started snapping away, taking pictures of me. Again, weird? We kept walking but didn’t get far until we realised that it must be for some sort of article or newspaper. Upon realising, I ran back to request that the images were not to be posted anywhere. The woman promptly walked away and the photographer did his best to avoid me. I caught up with him and pleaded, but as this is something he is probably faced with regularly, he reciprocated with no remorse.
So unfortunately for me, a writer from the Courier Mail chose to sit in on my case and had a photographer waiting for me outside. When I got home anxiety levels were high and I tried to do everything in my power to contact the Courier Mail or my lawyer or anybody - to ask that the article remain unpublished, never to be seen by the public's eye. Despite my efforts, it seemed like the Courier Mail were only proficient at deflecting these situations and had me running around in circles where I was often met with dead ends of silence followed by the disengaged tone, parroting in my ear and solidifying my extinguished hope.
FEBRUARY 5TH 2016
The next day I went to work with panic on my sleeve, awaiting a message from someone saying “Hey! You’re in the Courier Mail.” To my dismay, the message came - nice and early. My friend that came to the court case sent me an image of a half page spread article about me, accompanied with a very lovely photo (yay). My body almost instantly went numb, and anxiety trembled through my insides and out. I had a quick read through the article where it stated my full name, my uni course, my work and my manager's full name. What do I do?! Do I tell them before they find out from someone else or do I pretend I didn’t know? Either way, it’s the fucking Courier Mail, surely SOMEONE they know will read it. So I did what I thought was right, and told them immediately. Next thing I knew, the owner (who is also the manager's mother) was on the phone to me "You need to leave, pack your things and leave immediately."
FEBRUARY 2016 - JUNE 2016
Jobless and distraught I had quiet chuckle to myself as I remembered thinking that I had reached rock bottom the year before. Hindsight - it can be a kick in the guts but you can learn a lot from it if you let yourself. I did my best to move on, re-vamped my portfolio and started sharing my work on Instagram in hope to find work. This resulted in receiving a phone call from my old job demanding that I stop posting work I did for them and that if I continue I would be taken to court. Eventually I stumbled across some jobs. I worked for a few casual jobs and did a lot of freelance design work. And although I had little income and drive, I still managed to apply for jobs every day (with cover letters - holy shit how much do they suck) until I found myself a ‘career job’ again.
JULY 2016 - JANUARY 2017
In July 2016, it was confirmed, I was about to embark on a journey down the corporate drain… or is it up the corporate ladder? I’m not sure. Although the staff were more than lovely, the next 6 months sent me down a even deeper spiral of anxiety and depression. Sure the pay was great but the daily 9hr grind of sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen doing work in an environment I didn’t enjoy did a lot more damage than I anticipated. Whenever I had my next probation check-in, I would use my lunch break to drive to the 'Department of Corrective Services', scan my finger print at a machine to answer 5 questions, and then drive back. I was living a life I knew nothing about; nor wanted to know anything about. I was a broken girl from a poor upbringing, pretending I knew corporate jargon, pretending I lived the same rich lifestyles as them and pretending that I would one day want to be the marketing manager instead of assistant. I hated everything about myself and lost any bit of lust for life I had left in me. In a way, perhaps it was started by grieving over and recovering from the full-on hand life had dealt me, but then to be coupled with such an alien job environment sent me into what my family called, a zombie. I woke up early - tired, worked - tired, went home - tired, stayed up past 12am every night... tired. I struggled to show any emotion, spoke in one tone and couldn’t even fake a smile to pass off as genuine. A lot of my personal work and friendships stopped; and there I was, a slave to my own existence.
It wasn’t until things got really bad did I realise how far my mental health had fallen… but it was different this time, it wasn’t like every other sudden trip and fall. It was slow and eventual as if you were carrying a baby on your back, but after time that baby grew and before you knew it, you’re carrying the weight of a full grown adult (probably could have thought of a better metaphor but I'm out of ideas). Except I didn’t have a full grown adult on my back, I had panic attacks, random fits of crying and a feeling of internal lacklustre for myself and life. It got to a point where I would constantly go to the work toilet to do breathing exercises, and I became what felt like a blank canvas of I don’t knows.
Purposeless and striped bare, I finally went to see a doctor for help. It felt nice to finally come to terms with the fact that I needed help. I have been through depression and anxiety in the past but it’s hard to stop and convince yourself to get help (especially when it’s so common). I kept telling myself, eh you’re not that special, everyone has a fucking bad day - you’ll get over it.
Although this is only a snippet of my life over the past 2 years that doesn’t include a plethora of other circumstances, it is a part of my story and I would like you to take from it what you will. For me, I have learnt:
- Remember you have the right to remain silent
- It’s not a justice system, it’s a legal system
- It can ALWAYS get worse
- Just because the majority of people can work the 9-5pm daily grind, doesn’t mean you should be able to and that doesn't make you inadequate
- It’s okay to get help
This time last year I got 12 months probation for 'supplying drugs'. Earlier this month was my last appointment. It's been an insightful, costly and above all exhausting ordeal - spanning over 2 years. I've only had to go into the probation office about 5 times but I've watched all sorts of different people go in and out; cementing the fact that anyone can wind up in the legal system, innocent or not. I've been discriminated against by a psychologist who wouldn't have a bar of what I was saying as 'I was a criminal'; treated poorly by police officers; watched a prosecutor and a lawyer smirk at the thought of less paperwork because the next defendant in court was dead; lost my industry job and even had a half page spread about me in the Courier Mail (internet version titled 'Unlikely Face of Brisbane's Drug Trade'). All over... one text message. It felt like I was ripped out and forced onto a never ending roller coaster ride, with no way to get off until it was over. And although I have spent the last 2 years battling different levels of depression and anxiety, it's nice to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 2017 please be kind.
I was too hesitant to post this, this time last year... but a year has past and hell, here it is. A lot has happened since all that but I still get faced with repercussions from it, if an employer googles my name the article is literally the first thing that pops up. Not my online portfolio, not my socials. Though, I'm not in the slightest ashamed of it all; I've realised that it works better if I accept it and own it as it's all a part of who I am. Perhaps I'm even thankful. I've learnt a lot about the world and myself, I now work for the chillest company that goes above and beyond for their staff and customers (shouts out to you Amaroso), and I'm generally more aware of the world around me. I know what anguish feels like, I know what it's like to work through it and I know what it's like to work towards over coming it. My mental health still suffers a lot but I do my best to get up and find reasons to not give up. Whether it's just by letting go and saying 'entertain me life, what the hell do you have for me next' or by being active in making positive changes through exercise, improving myself and/or altering my mindset . Life will never stop throwing curve balls, that's just how it is - accept it, but it's how you choose to deal with those curve balls and what meaning you choose to gain from them that really matters.