For those of you who donít know, my name is actually Abby, not Evie. Evie is a nickname that my best friend gave me because of my last name Ė Evans. But Iíll still answer to it, donít worry.
There is no real reason for this landmark, other than I feel like Iím a turning point in my life. Things have finally started to turn around and Iím in a place where Iím happy with myself, something that hasnít happened for over a decade.
The reason for this change is Australia. Iím studying abroad in Melbourne right now and absolutely loving it. The people here are fantastic and Iíve made some friends that I hope to keep for the rest of my life. But first, let me tell you about the person I was Before Australia, from here on out known as BA:
I was diagnosed with depression at age 17, in my junior year of high school. I was switched from medication to medication Ė nothing would work. Also, at this time, my parents split up for the first time (note, for the first time). I learned that my dad had cheated on my mom and he moved out. By that time my depression had gotten incredibly bad. I was hospitalized at the end of March 2004, for 2 days. It was the scariest 2 days of my life. I vowed that I would never go back there, and so far I havenít.
My depression has been a constant weight on me since then. It has influenced who I am and how I act around my friends. You see, Iím very self-conscious. I canít deal with criticism. I take almost everything as a veiled criticism of me or think that people hate me because of the slightest thing. I also think very little of myself. I think that Iím ugly and stupid and boring, generally just not a fun person to be around. Iím using the present tense right now because itís still partly true, but it used to be a lot worse, trust me.
High school was the biggest problem for me. I went to small private school in New England where everyone knew everything about you and they were all preppy and knew it. It was a horrible place for an independent mind to grow up. I was a theater kid and definitely NOT part of the ďinĒ crowd. I did find some good friends, but there were a lot of issues with some people in my high school that I wonít go into now.
High school finally ended. Whew. The day after graduation, however, I found out that I had cancer. At first they thought that it was lymphoma, but it turned out that it was instead Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma. This is actually one of the best cancers to have (if there is such a thing) because itís easily treatable by surgery. The only problem was that the surgeon who was supposed to do my surgery was in China. So I had to wait until August. I had my surgery 2 weeks before I started college.
College wasÖinteresting to say the least. It took me a while to recover from my surgery, and by the time I did, everyone had already made friends. Also, I was on the party side of campus, which didnít suit me at all. I made a couple friends, who in the end betrayed me (I wonít go into that here) and felt like crap yet again. My depression wasnít getting any better. I could go into a lot of detail here about how my parents got back together and then split up again, or how I cried almost every week, but I wonít, because thatís not the point of this post.
Sophomore year of college started, and it was better than the last. I went to the quieter side of campus, where I met some really cool people and had a great time. But, the best thing that happened to me that year was that one of my friends convinced me to do a semester abroad at a school called Monash, just outside of Melbourne, Australia.
I went to Monash with 3 of my best friends from sophomore year. Two of them were in a different dorm, but one was in Richardson Hall, with me. At Richo (as Richardson Hall will hence be named), I met some of the most incredible people I know, Aussie or otherwise. The people here are so nice and interesting to talk to. Theyíre just fun people to be around. I love them so much.
I think the greatest change though, has been me. I finally like who I am here. Iím confident and interesting and fun to talk to. Iíve even been dubbed ďthe favorite AmericanĒ by some of my friends here. BA, I just stayed at home and watched movies on my computer. Now, I want to go out and explore the world. Iím more willing to go to bars and hang out with my friends. I go into the city and go bar hopping. I NEVER did this BA. I think being legal to drink here, helped, but thatís not the entire difference. The difference is me.
When I was really little, I lived in England. I went to an international school, so you had to make friends quickly, because people were always coming and going and you never knew who was going to leave next. So you had to make friends quickly, or not have any. Thatís how I feel here. Not the do or die attitude, but the feeling that I could make friends in an instant. One of my Aussie friends brought her friend from home to our local pub one night, and we instantly bonded. Itís that kind of feeling.
I feel like Australians are my kind of people. They are funny, with a really strange sense of humor, always joking around, and just so much fun to be around. Theyíre not worried about cliques or who belongs where. The most popular guy in Richo talks to me all the time. Iíve NEVER been friends with the popular kids, but here it just feels like itís not a big deal. You can be friends with whomever you want, and thereís no judgment put on it. Itís such a refreshing feeling.
Another thing that amazes me about Australians is their inability (or at least aversion) to talking about the big subjects. I havenít told any of my Aussie friends about my depression. Iíve told a few about my cancer (of which I actually had two bouts of, one right before I came to Australia), because of the scars that I had when I got here. But other than that, no one knows about my depression. Iíve ALWAYS been the depressed girl. All of my friends know about my depression because Iíve had some really bad days and they were either there for me or not. But never has someone that Iím close to NOT known about my depression. Itís so nice to not be that girl here. Iím someone completely different, who people still like and care about, but without that stigma of depression. Itís amazing.
The only bad part is that Iím afraid to go home. Donít get me wrong, Iím incredibly excited to go back home and see all of my friends and my family and my dog. Especially my dog. But I donít want to go back to the person that I was BA. Thatís not who I am anymore, but I feel thatís how people still see me at home. They donít see who I am now because they donít know that Abby. They know the depressed, cancer ridden, divorced parents Abby that always needs taking care of or comforting. Thatís not me anymore, and I know that, but I donít really know how to be this new Abby when everyone else knows the old Abby. I donít really know how to go about showing people how Iíve changed.
Australia has been one of the happiest times of my life. Iím going to miss it so much when I go home in 3 weeks. But, until then, Iím going to enjoy as much of Australia as I possibly can, and go home with as few regrets as possible. Iím going to Cairns in a few days, and then New Zealand, where Iím doing everything from 4-wheel-driving to skydiving. All I can hope is that, when I get home, people accept the new Abby, instead of trying to force the old Abby on me.
And if nothing else, Iíll have some amazing stories to tell.
Posts: 1789 | Registered: Jul 2003
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I'm glad your trip has had such a rejuvinating effect on you. I'd hoped that if you got away from it all (apparently to the fun land that is Australia) you might find life much more enjoyable. I'm happy for you.
Thanks for the landmark, Abby. I can really relate in some respects. I had a big turn in my depression a couple of years ago, but my husband doesn't see it at all. It's the weirdest thing. That's because before when I was depressed, I did my best to put a happy face on it (the two are related.) Now I'm not depressed but I am honest about things that come up. I guess for him it's a wash.
Posts: 11003 | Registered: Apr 2003
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What El JT de Spang said is absolutely true, regarding patterns of behavior. I once had a conversation with a cognitive-behavioral therapist who talked about behavior, thoughts, and emotions going hand in hand. Behaviors elicit thoughts, which bring about emotion which bring about behaviors, etc.
Often, people will have difficulty changing one of those three aspects. With addiction, it's the behavior that is difficult to change, with depression, it's the emotion. Her suggestion was to find which of the three things was easiest to change, and that will help to break the cycle. In your case, it sounds like behavior is the best route. I wish you the best of luck in your return home!
Posts: 1099 | Registered: Apr 2005
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Thanks for the landmark Abby, "Evie!" Australia is indeed a wonderful place. I hope you find a way to take the good things you found in Australia and pack them along with your things back to the US.
Posts: 14250 | Registered: Jul 2005
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When you come back to the U.S., make new friends with your new attitude. If the old ones don't accept the "new Abby" then just don't spend too much time with them. You don't have to be trapped into old patterns. I can't remember what book it was (Dance of Anger, maybe?) but I remember reading that "Change Back!" is a message that those close to us often send us when we try to create positive changes, and we have to stand up to that.
Sounds like Australia has been a real gift in your life.
Posts: 3147 | Registered: Jul 2005
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Thanks everyone for you comments. I really feel like this trip has been a huge change for me, and I'm about to take my next big step in terms of personal development. I'm going to Cairns (where the Great Barrier Reef is) all by myself. I've never been somewhere where I didn't know anyone or wasn't going with someone. It's really nerve wracking, but I'm also incredibly excited. It's a chance for me to be by myself. I've never really been comfortable by myself, but I think this is a chance for me to really learn how to be alone. Lyrhawn said to post here after my trip, and I definitely will. I'm also going to NZ after that, so I'll post all about my trip to NZ there as well. I'm doing some crazy stuff there, like skydiving! I'm so excited (and also really scared, I'm petrified of heights)! Wish me luck!
Posts: 1789 | Registered: Jul 2003
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