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I used to be what I will graciously call passive.

I had (and have) a really good life. I was born into a self-made wealthy family. Every bit of my life (and the lives of my ancestors) was put together so that I could live an easy life. My parents did this weird thing where they actually loved each other. They loved me too. My sister was amazing. My friends were amazing. None of us did drugs. School came easy to me. Everything came easy to me. Life was easy, and because of this, I just let life do its thing. I allowed the mother of my high school boyfriend to fill in a university application for me and I went there simply because I got in. I didn’t put any thought into what degree I was going to do, it was chosen based on what I didn’t want to do. I found my group of incredible friends within my first week of being in a new city at university because we were the only English speakers in the residence. I even met my future husband while playing around on my computer.

Life was good, and it was certainly good enough.

And then a few things started creeping from the cracks that I had ignored. I grew into the biggest depression of my life. I didn’t fall into it; I wasn’t smacked in the face by it; I allowed myself, little by little, to grow into something simply because I didn’t make an effort not to. I didn’t go to the psychologist, I didn’t force myself out of bed right when the feelings started, I didn’t learn coping strategies. I simply allowed it to consume me. I welcomed it like an old blanket and hid in its cosy fort. In my second year of university, I had a breakdown. I can distinctly remember the exact moment that I curled on the floor in a university residence shower and cried. I can still smell the shampoo.

My depression lasted for a year. In this time, I destroyed myself. I went onto medication, and I went off it without the required weaning. I went to absolutely zero university classes. I ignored my friends. I fought with my family. I became friends with the wrong people. The wrong person. I slept past my feelings. I ate my feelings. I dyed my hair for the first time so that I wouldn’t look like myself. I stopped contact with my best friend (future husband). I drank in the middle of the day because I had heard that’s how people coped – it didn’t work and that stopped. I cried. A lot. And even that was a passive cry. I spent a lot of time in the bath. I became a shell. I allowed myself to break.

I was broken.

And then the bricks that my family, friends, and future husband had been building for me while I was too weak to do so myself started forming a foundation. Then a house. And I could stop living in my depression blanket fort and move in there. I allowed myself to be looked after. And after 365 days of the worst year of my life, with the work of people who surprisingly still loved me, it left me.

Looking back, that was The Sign.

The years that followed saw me magically get my degree. Long distance date my eventual husband. Move in with the guy. Move twelve times. Go through a bunch of smaller depressions. Find a corporate job thanks to a family friend’s contact. Get married.

And then my husband, T, had a job offer that involved a year in my favourite country in the world. This job offer wasn’t handed to him or given to him by default. They thought of him because he had won the student competition with the company. I had been around when he was working towards this competition. It was held in his last year of studies. It was in addition to his crazy engineering workload. He and his team spent nights in the labs on this project. When I say nights, I mean, until 5am when he’d nap for an hour and then go to class. I mean that this happened more than once. I was waiting for him in his dorm room during one of my visits. I never saw him. I played Sims in his freezing dorm room and made a little T Sim to hang out with. He and his group actively worked on this project for so long and so hard, and there was no doubt that they’d win. They won a stack of money for the university and a trip to see the company in Germany. I joked that based on all the time I had put into not seeing him, I also deserved a trip to Germany.

I got my trip to Germany. And with it, everything changed.

(Part Two)