And So it Began
Hello, I’m Maggie and I, like all of y’all, have tales to tell. I figure what better platform than my blog?! So, welcome to the first installment of a tentative series, in which I tell you various tales! 😀
I decided that I’d like to get a little more personal with all of you wonderful, loyal readers of The Caramel Files, hence the birth of this little project of mine. I don’t know what all I will write about or where this series will lead me, but I’m excited at the possibilities.
I’m a proud social worker!
Therefore, I’ve decided to write an essay series regarding the situations, families, and individuals I have encountered throughout my ten years in the field. I also seek to educate others about the profession and society’s need for practicing social workers.
A traumatic event completely reshaped my life 14 years ago, taking me on a seemingly endless roller coaster ride of emotions, therapy, many more horrifying losses, psychiatric diagnoses, hopelessness, and ultimately – recovery.
Looking back on this past decade, I have overcome so much more than I ever imagined possible. I’m honestly a stronger person because of what I’ve experienced – I’ve had to be in order to survive.
The trauma I endured led me first into a downward spiral, then shouted in my face that my life’s calling is to help others, especially children and their families. Thus began my new journey of hope – hope that I achieved by inspiring it in others.
My ultimate decision to major in social work in college was not easy to reach. After attending the state university for five semesters and in the midst of experiencing severe depression, I decided to transfer to a much smaller college an hour from my hometown.
Horrible depression had slapped me in the face after the happenings of July 15, 2003. I awoke that balmy summer morning to my worst nightmare – my best friend was dead.
I had seen Brian only hours before receiving that fateful phone call. I remember telling his sister ‘to watch him’ – he’d been taking and mixing four different prescription pills – before I left their house, saying, ‘he’s had a lot’, referring to the pills, which Brian had obtained illegally.
Not fully realizing the gravity of the situation, not understanding that we should have already been calling 911 by the time I headed home, I left – fate was out of my hands – I’d unknowingly given up control.
I can still remember the names of the pills Brian mixed that night – Percocet, Xanax, Lortab, and Soma, all central nervous system depressants. Immediately following his accidental overdose, I spoke with my psychiatrist and asked him to explain exactly how Brian died.
My doctor laid out the interactions that most likely occurred due to Brian’s combining drugs. I learned that because of the drugs’ classification as depressants, Brian most likely suffered respiratory distress, leading to heart failure and his premature death. He was 19.
I was 20 and had never experienced the death of a loved one – all four of my grandparents were still living at the time; I even had a great-grandmother and several great-aunts still kicking. I never dreamed I’d first be touched by infinite loss via the sudden death of a beloved friend, a peer.
I’m writing this in such detail because I want others to understand just what led me on the career path I chose. Before I lost Brian, I had zero clue regarding what I wanted to do with my life. Although his death still kills me, and always will, he didn’t die in vain.
Not only did I want to help people, especially teens and young adults, like Brian, I strove to gain knowledge in working with the bereaved, like me. I’ve always been the listener and advice giver among my friends, so pursuing a degree related to mental health and general well-being suited me.
After that horrible summer, I returned gladly to the state university four hours away from my problems – or so I hoped. I remember a friend of mine asking me if I was ready to leave home again and return to school. I simply replied, “Brian’s dead and I hate my job, so, yes.”
I had grown to despise my once beloved job as head lifeguard at my hometown’s awesome pool. It was so odd, yet expected. The morning of Brian’s death, I, being in a dazed shock, actually reported to work at 10:00, after seeing my dearest friend’s lifeless body being wheeled out of his home on a gurney and placed in an ambulance.
I don’t know what I expected from my fellow lifeguards – I don’t think I expected anything really; I didn’t say anything about what had happened in the early hours of that morning, but word travels fast in my town. I knew everyone had an idea of what I was dealing with, especially when I finally broke down in hysterics on the stand an hour later.
What was so horrible was that the two girls with whom I worked and assumed were my pals, ferociously turned on me THAT day – I was totally iced out. I can only guess that I was being judged because of the manner in which my Brian died. I never spoke to the bitches again that summer and bade my time until fall came back and I could run away again.
So, obviously, I was anxious to get out of town, back to the place where I was already accustomed to not seeing Brian – across the state. Part of me looked forward to the support of who I thought was one of my closest friends. This friend, also one of my roommates, had lost a friend suddenly the year prior and I had lent her a listening ear many nights and watched her cry and struggle.
I had anticipated that this friend would understand and be present for me to grieve openly, to tell my story. I was blindsided again. She jumped so far up her boyfriend’s ass that I pretty much never saw her again.
As an aside, I want to say that I told her boyfriend that he looked like a spider. He wasn’t amused, but he asked me what animal he reminded me of and I was truthful.
Anyway, that friend was the only confidante I – thought – I had. I was left alone. That semester I quickly crumbled. I stayed in my room most of the time, refusing to attend even big home football games. If I did go out, I got sickeningly drunk, praying my hangover the next day would take my mind off my emotional pain.
Eventually, I completely isolated myself at school and made the journey home every single weekend, whereas before my personal tragedy, I would go a couple months at a time without leaving campus.
I wallowed in my misery from August until the semester finally ended in December. My grades had gotten so bad, as I’d quit attending classes, that I’d been humiliated by my psychology major advisor, burst into tears on campus, and made the decision with my mother to transfer to a school in the next state, within an hour’s drive from home.
I went home with no purpose, no idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew that I had to use my traumatic experience to help others – to turn my loss into a purpose, to give reason and meaning to what had happened to Brian. Only when I realized I could re-frame my experiences and feelings, did I figure out that I could handle life without my near-constant companion.
These are reasons I became a social worker – I couldn’t save my dearest friend, but I thought I could save others.
Perhaps I have a bit of a savior complex? However, that’s beside the point.
Some of the things I discussed in this piece – like people I thought were loyal to me apparently changing their minds – may seem to be rant-y tangents. But, I want you to understand – maybe even feel – the emotions I convey and experienced during this turning point in my life.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this piece – I needed a forum to push some intrusive memories out of my mind. If anyone can relate in any way to my experiences, I’d love to hear your feedback.