Sunday, 23 March 2014

I Just Couldn't Afford a Dining Set: Why I Started Painting and Some Other Personal Tidbits

Some days I really wonder how I even got here - no, I don't have fame or riches, but people seem to enjoy my furniture and to me that's the best thing ever! I often stop and just think about how crazy it is to be able to be THIS busy with painting and how much I love helping people create a fabulous home.

It was not an easy road for me, and perhaps that is why I often reflect on how much I appreciate where I am today. I will spare you the gritty details, but I do think my story is worth sharing, so here it goes...

When I applied for University I really wanted to be an Art Therapist. I loved creative arts and I loved how painting/drawing/etc made me feel inside. I applied for Therapeutic Recreation and got into the Honours program - I graduated in 2006, but realized quickly that the demand for Art Therapists was nearly zero, unless I wanted to move to Toronto (which wasn't happening!).

I still loved working in recreation, and adored working with people, so I spent approx 5 years working in the field, with my most recent professional position being the Program Manager at a retirement home. I absolutely loved my job and I fully intended on going back to work full time after my daughter was born and my maternity leave was over (she was born in 2010).

My baby girl arrived in May 2010 (4 weeks early!) and something wasn't right from the get-go. I was hearing things when I was in the hospital - babies would be crying all night long, but I was told my daughter was the only baby in the nursery that night, and she had slept fairly soundly. I thought perhaps I was just sleep deprived and high on adrenaline...

Long story short I lasted 5 weeks before a complete mental breakdown. I remember being at my mom's house, crying and crying because I didn't know how to get home. I very literally did not know HOW to get home! I couldn't drive or think or anything. The thought of being alone with my daughter at my house scared me to the point of a complete panic attack. I knew then that something was really, really wrong.

I visited my family doctor who sent me straight to the emergency room. The on-call psychiatrist was quite lovely, but she insisted that I stay overnight. Little did I know that the "overnight" stay would result in 3 straight months of hospitalization, followed by another 3 months off and on over the next year. I was shipped to a different hospital after 2 months in hopes that a more intensive program would help the severe depression I had slipped in to.

I am not in any way proud of how I felt/acted, but I talk about it because I KNOW that there are other women who have felt this way, or may be struggling with it now. I only talk about these things because silence is what kills us inside day by day.

I didn't want anything to do with life anymore - I didn't want to be here and I thought that my daughter and my husband would be so much better off without me. The never ending cycle of hopelessness and despair was becoming too much to bear.

I was then referred to a specialty hospital that performed Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT - "shock treatments") Deep down I'm sure I was scared, but I was so catatonic at that point that it came across as I didn't care. I had 12 treatments where they put me under and induced a 30-60 second seizure. Surprisingly enough this DID help me see some light at the end of the tunnel. I remember laying on the stretcher, waiting for the doctor to come down the line of patients (6 of us were lined up in bays waiting to be given medication to put us to sleep, they "shocked" us then moved to the next person) and as they were fitting all the electrodes onto my head (and when they asked me how I was feeling that day), I smiled up at them. That was huge for me. I remember them smiling back, and just as I drifted off to sleep from the meds, they said "well, we cured another one!"

It is a longer story than I care to subject you to on here, but I suffered 2 long years with the depression before it started to lift. I began to feel actual love for my daughter, and appreciate the stay-at-home-mom I had become. I lost my previous job since I couldn't return after a year with my severe depression, and I know this had made things even worse for me. I had NO idea what I would do, and my doctor encouraged me to enjoy being at home and to take that time with my daughter.

Another year later and I had fully embraced my new life. Cooking, cleaning, decorating the house, I loved it! And then we really needed a dining table...we had built a new house and had a dining room with a gaping hole!

Being the cheap person that I am, I advocated for buying something inexpensive from the Brick or somewhere like that, whereas my husband wanted a solid table that would last for years. I knew we couldn't afford the kind of set he wanted, so I got to work looking at options!

I begged and begged for him to allow me to try painting it! He was definitely skeptical but finally gave in and allowed me to purchase a $150 solid oak table to paint. Well, didn't that darn table turn out awesome (much to his surprise and mine!) and then I went on to do 6 chairs and a buffet....

That was last year, and once I caught the bug, that was it! I have taught myself everything I know to this point, and I learn new things with each and every piece.

If you had asked me 5 years ago if I would be doing this, it would have never ever crossed my mind. And at the time of my depression, I had thought my life was over because I had lost my beloved career, and didn't even like staying at home (when I was sick). Now that my daughter is turning 4, I am doing something I not only enjoy, but am getting paid for! How cool is that ?! I appreciate every piece I do, and I love all the clients I get to work with.

I guess the moral of my story is - everything truly does happen for a reason, and even in the greatest suffering, there is good to be had.

Thanks for reading,

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