From start to finish, my summer was littered with baggage, in more than one sense of the word. Photo: Unsplash
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Such is the folly of Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong

Humid, sunny summer has tapered off into a colourful, cool autumn — and thank goodness it did. Upon us is the subconscious swapping of t-shirts for crewnecks, Birkenstocks for Blundstones, and sunglasses for umbrellas — especially this past week. I’m not upset about it at all. Rather, I’m grateful.

I typically enjoy summer, a cherished break from school. Yet this year, my summer was kind of a bummer. From start to finish, it was littered with baggage, in more than one sense of the word.

Before I begin, I think it is important that I introduce the law that has defined my life: Murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Our story begins in May. I was sleepless in suburbia. I had gone home to Thunder Bay, Ont. Only, it was my last few months calling it home. My family was moving.

This isn’t the disastrous part. My parents are restless and indecisive people. They’ve swiftly packed up our lives countless times, only to slingshot it across provinces, countries, and even continents. Having moved from Bangladesh to Germany, Toronto, and Thunder Bay already, their decision to pick up and move somewhere else was not particularly earth-shattering.

So, when they told me they were looking to move this past summer, and that they’d go wherever they had the best opportunities, I was genuinely happy for them. The only question which remained was: where to?

Murphy called it: expect the worst. My parents, who lived 15 hours from my cozy apartment in Sandy Hill, would be moving 40 minutes away. We would share the same first letter of a postal code! They said it was a coincidence — I say it was an aggressive way of officially proclaiming to my siblings I’m the favourite child. Even so, I was more than a bit peeved, and was a petulant child for months. Moving 1,460 km from Thunder Bay to Ottawa felt comparable to a personal attack on my privacy.

The next roadblock was juggling being a super peppy, incredibly fun, and always happy camp counselor with my deteriorating mental and physical health.

Though the official diagnoses of my deteriorating mental health are part of the series of unfortunate events that plagued my 2021 summer, it is also an ongoing act of neglect on my part. I’ve always favoured adorning rose-coloured glasses when it comes to the red flags of my well-being. Blackout curtains, even. Honestly, it was more like my eyes were tightly closed, my hands were clamped shut over my ears, and I stubbornly refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong. Whatever eye paraphernalia, the point is: I was willfully, blissfully ignorant.

Truth be told, part of me thought that I was faking it in vain. Despite telling no one, somehow my convoluted brain convinced myself that I was making up my struggles for attention. Attention from who, I’m not quite sure — the posters on my bedroom walls, maybe?

I had imposter syndrome. How could I — peppy, bubbly, outgoing me — be clinically depressed or anxious? It felt like an oxymoron. I had friends and I did well in school. I felt ungrateful. In hindsight, it makes sense that my chronic overthinking would lead to me to overthink my own mental conditions. Touché — it adds up. A naïve part of me believed that my struggles with anxiety and depression would just go away with time if I pretended that they simply didn’t exist. 

It was only in the process of packing up my house for my parents’ impromptu move that I discovered journals from 2014, 2016, and so on, that definitively forced me to confront the fact that this is not a phase (mom). So, it turned out my mental health was not the fault of my summer.

It is true what they say: the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. I can try to shove everything under the rug but, eventually, the rug is far too lumpy with baggage, which ends in me tripping, falling, and landing on my face­.

Thus, I finally sought help and — ding, ding, ding — it was official. Being diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression was not easy to hear — I definitely broke down in my car driving home from my appointment that day. Nevertheless, it did help to have a licensed professional telling me that my struggles are real, valid, and not a figment of my imagination. 

Because nothing can ever come easily, the licensed professional just so happened to be a long-time family friend. Though she was nothing short of professional, it was, at times, incredibly awkward. Of course, her secretary was also a friend of mine from high school who dutifully asked me, “reason for appointment?”  Oh, Thunder Bay and its small-town charm — I don’t know if I will miss that aspect.

Some of my other problems were far too conspicuous to even attempt to ignore — like a bullseye. Luck would have it that the bullseye in question was a bald spot. More precisely, it was a flare up of alopecia areata which, of course, had decided to rear its patchy head into an already overwhelming period of my life. By golly, Murphy, you’ve done it again.

My hair is my comfort blanket. I’ve almost always had long, thick hair, with the exception of the few years of childhood my mom decided a bowl cut would look just darling on me. Spoiler alert — it didn’t. The thought of losing it was a tough pill to swallow.

Whereas my lack of hair during my bowl cut phase was my mother’s fault, my experience with alopecia was a bonding moment for my mother and I. She was the one applying topical steroids on my bald spot every morning and night — glamorous, I know. 

Even tougher to embrace was the myriad of other health complications that led my doctor to believe that I had an underlying health condition. As is how June became the month of doctors’ appointments and being poked, prodded, and probed.

To make matters worse, I was going through this emotionally draining diagnosis process all while trying to maintain a work-life balance. Hustle culture had me in a chokehold: I was finding time to say goodbye to my friends on the weekends as I prepared to leave the one town I called home after years of nomadic living, and juggling work, my health, and Marie Kondo-ing twelve years’ worth of questionable belongings.

With a jam-packed schedule, I found myself squeezing my appointments throughout my days at the summer camp. Such is how I finished getting diagnosed with alopecia areata, depression, and severe anxiety disorder, only to hop in my car with tears in my eyes, quickly toss my fanny pack and bucket hat back on, and get back to work. I had a game of socially distanced freeze dance to lead! Sometimes kids were just what the doctor ordered for my post-appointment blues. Other times, I was just shy of getting whiplash from my quick emotional flip-flop.

Murphy’s final kicker to my bummer summer was when I got my wisdom teeth out without anesthesia. Though my mouth was sedated, I saw things no one should see.

And that, my friends, is the story of how I spent the course of my summer becoming increasingly more mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. As happy as I am that my kind-of-bummer-summer is over, I am aware that the coming of autumn is not the disappearance of these unwelcome constants in my life: depression, anxiety, alopecia, and a possible mystery disorder. Besides my wisdom teeth and summer camp job, I’m stuck with the rest of my newfound frenemies. Yet, I’m not too worried. I’ve already done the hardest part: acceptance. All I can do now is be hopeful. What else could go wrong, right?