Well, I apologize for this long-winded post, but here goes....
Grew up in an alcoholic home. When I was in grade 10, about 15 years old, my father got me a job at a local grocery store as a stock boy. It was a great job since the pay was good. My dad stuck his neck out for me by asking the manager for the job. I worked at it for a while but then began to call in sick and come up with other false excuses for being unable to show up for my shift. The truth was I wanted to be with my friends out drinking on a Friday or Saturday night instead of out in a parking lot putting groceries into customers' cars. I admit that I dropped the ball. I was so immature and irresponsible. Two guys I know from my high school worked at the same job for years and did well since there were often pay increases. I have written extensively on this site about the anger and resentment I hold towards my parents for not helping me with my university education. I will never know if I would have been able to save enough money for tuition, housing etc. if I had continued with the job until I graduate from high school. I feel guilty since I know of so many other people who DID suck it up and do the job, whatever it might have been to earn money for their future university studies. My two older brothers never worked during high school and had no problems paying for their university education since they were both able to live at home during the school year and in the summer while doing summer work....I feel so terrible about my lack of maturity. I had the same trouble in university; unable to hold down a part-time job to try and help pay for my tuition, rent... since I was in a difficult program (difficult for me), Commerce, and just could not balance my life-work and school, like so many other students did. I ended up dropping out of university because of financial difficulties on three different occasions, and remember a friend telling me that "working part-time and going to school full-time is not that difficult..." I felt resentful because he was so gifted ( he later won a Rhodes Scholarship), and I did not have the confidence or belief in myself that I could pass my courses while working....
I believe things began to unravel, both emotionally and as a family. When I was in my last year of high school in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, my parents were going through extreme marital turmoil. They, in their infinite “alcoholic wisdom,” felt it best to ship me off to my grandmother’s house to live since there was too much stress in the household. Therefore in late September my dad and I hopped in the car to take me out to the other end of the city to live with his mother. The plan was for me to live there, and I guess attend a new high school for an indeterminate length of time since the long-term plan was never really discussed-so typical in our household. We lived right across the street from this public high school I had been attending with my three brothers and sister for the past four years. On the way to my grandmother’s house when we had driven no more than about a km when I get enraged, grabbed the steering wheel from my father and yelled “why am I the one being forced to leave, to pick up and move away and begin anew?” I went crazy with no concern for the safety of myself or father so he ended up pulling over to the side of the road, where I jumped out, went to a friend’s house, stayed with his family for a few weeks, and returned to school to try and continue the school year.
I ended up returning home after three weeks and tried to continue a normal life at school in October and November like nothing happened. In December my parents told me they decided I was to move out with my mother to an apartment she had rented about a km away from our house. Nothing was said to all the five kids as a family about the separation/divorce or new living arrangements. I can still remember that day 21 years ago since I “officially” moved out to her apartment on Christmas Eve. A friend invited me to his family’s home to spend Christmas Eve with them, a routine I was to continue with various friends and their families for the next 10-12 years.
The school year in January of 1980 continued and I ended up failing a few courses in grade 13. I remember walking into a final calculus exam not caring. Actually there was a lot of numb feeling of being lost that time.... Naturally my family was oblivious to what was going on in my life. There was only ONE person who recognized how my life was thrown upside down. My classmate Mike said that I had been really studying hard in the first half of the year and kind of gave up and lost it in the 2nd half of the year.
I had to redo three courses the next fall at a new high school so I graduated from with my grade 13 high school diploma in December of 1980. During that time I did not see much of my father or three brothers and sister. Unfortunately, I did begin to see my mother’s boyfriend (Bob G.) who began to visit her (our) apartment on a frequent basis. He and I did not get along at all. Funny how a two years before, when my parents were still ostensibly married, this guy, who was my mom’s boss in the government, had taken my mom, me, younger brother and sister on a 4-day ski holiday in Quebec. I was 18 at the time and was too naive or dumb to wonder if this was normal for my mother to be on a ski trip with someone other than her husband.
During the winter of 1981 I had a string of jobs that I could not hold down. My mom’s boyfriend Bob, really made it clear how lazy he thought I was, and how I should not depend on my mother for help with university, that I had better be prepared to pay for it myself. Both he and my mom criticized my half-baked idea of attending university in London, Ontario, since my two older brothers had attended university in Ottawa while living at home, so why did I think I was any different or special? The truth was that it did not matter if I went to school in Ottawa, London, Boston etc. or wherever since I was not going to get any support from my parents
During my five and a half years in high school I never dated a girl. I had like a few girls, but never had the courage to ask one out for a date, to invite one home. I never had even kissed a girl in high school. Too ashamed to bring friends home to our home which was a pig stye. One girl I did like was floored when she called my
home and my sister answered the phone. I had always led this girl to believe I had no sister-I was too ashamed of her! Both my parents were alcoholics and the house was a really mess.
Managed to work a bit as a pool cleaner in June and July and saved some money for my first semester of university at the University of Western Ontario in the fall of 1981. I took a plane down to London from Ottawa and had to rely on the kindness of a friend’s father who offered to carry my luggage down to London with his son’s stuff in a U-Haul van. I lived in a all male dormitory. Was happy to be away from my family. For the first time in my life at 19 I dated a girl. Acted selfishly by eating the cookies my roommate received in the care packages sent from home. Studied hard, drank, went to class. Had gone out for the varsity rowing team in September. I had quit and rejoined the tea several times since I was so insecure about my ability to study while rowing. I was so worried about my future. I think I took the 7-hour bus ride back to Ottawa twice that fall to ask my mom for
financial help. I did qualify for student loans and bursaries but it was not enough. Did not have confidence to work part-time. It was only years later that I figured it is Ok to ask for help, but at the time I had no idea of how or who to talk to?
My eldest brother was living and working in Sarnia, Ontario. The first time I visited him he was not happy to see me since he was mad at me since I had not attended the reception for his wedding the previous year. I had no idea he was getting married. I only found out he was getting married a few weeks before the ceremony-did not believe it was necessary to let his brother in on it I guess? Naturally I did not feel part of the wedding plans so I ended up drinking with my buddies in a pizza restaurant during the reception.
The final winter semester of my first year went Ok. I studied hard but was unable to line-up a summer job. I had made arraignments with three other guys in my residence to rent a house together the next year of school. Went back to Ottawa in May and tried my hand at house painting with College Pro Painters but was terrified up on the thirty-foot ladder so had to quit only a few weeks later. I was unemployed and living with my mom that May and there was lot of tension in the house since my mother had bought a it together with her boyfriend Bob, and I was not welcome there. During the summer of 1982 Ontario was going through a severe and deep economic recession. I was unemployed and things are grim. I called the home of one of the guys I was to going to share a house with next year. His mother told me Pat had landed a job at a gold mine in northern Ontario and invited me to their home in Sudbury to stay and look for work. I hitchhiked to Sudbury. And stayed with the H family for about a month. I had a hard time finding steady employment in Sudbury, a mining town dependent on the two major employers (Into and Falconbridge), severely hit by the recession 1982. I saved a few hundred dollars and left Sudbury in late July to hitchhiked to Toronto. I thought maybe my friend Ken from university could help find work. I still remember the look on his mother’s face when she saw me walking up her driveway with a suitcase in my hand. I stayed with Ken’s family for a few weeks and then went down to Kitchener to see one of the other guys I was to share a house with. Gord was surprised to see me on his doorstep. I ended up staying with his family for a couple of days, then went down to Sarnia where my brother lived to look for work. I stayed there for a few weeks, and unable to find work, returned to Ottawa. I got a bit of construction work through a team mate of the rowing team, and finished the end of the summer living at a friend’s house while working. I saved a few hundred dollars and hoped to get student loans and grants that fall..
I was planning to return to London, Ontario for my second year of university. I called my friends Pat and Gord to discuss when I was to move into the house we were to share, but I could not reach either of them by phone, but did manage to speak with Pat’s mom. She knew my financial situation all too well since I had lived at her home in Sudbury that summer and was unable find any steady work and therefore could not save any money. I can still recall that telephone conversation I had with Mrs. H 28 years ago.
Me: Hi, Mrs. H, this is B_____. I am just calling since I wanted to talk with Pat about when we will meet to move into the student house we have rented this fall in London...
Mrs. H: Hmmmm...I don’t think so...You had better talk to Pat. I think the plans have changed...
So it’s the first week of September, a couple of days before the new school year begins. I reach Pat by phone and he informs me that indeed the plans have changed. He asks me how much money I managed to save and I answer not much. He then tells me that he, Gord and Dave had found me to be a liability and do not want to be responsible for having to pay for my food, clothing etc. if I run out of money. So I am out of the housing plan and after that kick in the gut felt like giving up and quitting school. A friend told me not to give up and suggested I call some other friends. I managed to find out one guy who needed a roommate, so I had a friend take my stuff down in his dad’s company truck to London at the last minute, move into a house with two guys I had never met before, and try to salvage the year. I was in a daze. I think I lasted 6-7 weeks that semester before dropping out. Moved back to Ottawa in October and lived with my mom and sister, who had also recently dropped out of college, and managed to find work in construction. Things were very ugly at home. I enrolled in the local university where I would spend long nights studying in the medical school library since I did not want to go home. Had to move out. I lived in a student house, and managed to get through one complete semester in the fall of 1983. In the winter semester I dropped out because of lack of finances.
I went to 4 different universities for my undergraduate degree and dropped out due to financial problems at least 3-4 times. I have been fired from about 3-4 different employers, some of which I am grateful it happened, and others that really wounded me. Both my academic and employment background have come up in job interview and I usually end up feeling very ashamed, embarrassed and defensive about my past. I did end up completing graduate work, but when I look back upon the events of my 20's and 30's, I feel like a loser. I would like to hear how others manage to turn negatives in their past into positives, whether on your resume, or just the way you look at your past...
I did have one terribly negative and painful experience during my 15-week teaching practicum for my elementary teaching degree. I began the practicum in January of 1997 in London, Ontario. I was dragging my feet to the school and by the afternoon felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat. My supervising teacher complained to the principal of the school about my "poor attitude, lack of enthusiasm, commitment..." and they terminated the contract. One week later I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and depression. The latter illness I had suspected for a month or two, but the former no idea. I had been abusing alcohol for years, which did not help matters. I appealed the decision to the teachers college but they took the side of the school.
In Asia I have been fired from 4 jobs. The first time in 1995. In this case I knew I was completely burned out since I was wearing headphones in the class, listening to music and tuning out from the class (high school). I was drinking a lot over the previous 3 years and had been experiencing panic attacks which were getting worse and worse. I would carry a small bottle of alcohol in my briefcase just in case I had an attack so I could run into the bathroom to chug it down and calm my nerves- I did this only once at school, but had made it a regular habit to always have booze on me, even when on my mountain bike when out cycling
The second time was 2000. In Asia. Drinking a lot. I was unable to continue with my anti-depressants since I had been unemployed for a long time in Vancouver previous to this job, and could not afford the meds. The way I coped with the stress, anxiety etc. was alcohol. I had been off the Paxil for almost 6-8 months so I am not sure if I suffered from quick withdrawal, which I have read is not recommended.
The third time was in the Middle East in 2002. This job lasted only three months. I had no anti-depressants and was unable to drink in this country where alcohol is banned. I really had a tough time there....
The fourth time, is the last full-time job I had. I was let go in March 2008. I was brought before the associate dean of the department and the human resources manager to talk about the "grave concerns they had about my teaching performance I did my best to defend myself and then disclosed to them that I was, though the college's EAP, attending counseling with a psychologist and psychiatrist, on meds, and told them about my history of depression. I asked for unpaid compassionate leave but was refused and fired that day. It really was a blow. I am still trying to put back the pieces of my life together. I live in Asia with my wife and two kids and there is not much if any support for people with mood disorders. I can buy my meds here. Sometimes I read this forum and get the impression that there is more recognition amongst employers in Canada that depression is an illness like any other, and employees should not be discriminated against.
I told a few people at work before I was let go about my illness. I am sure after I was fired that through the office grapevine everyone knows about my illness. What hurt a lot is that several other colleagues were granted compassion leave for various medical conditions, and the HR Manager was allowed to take time off for his battle with colon cancer.
For the two years I worked at this job I was mostly sober. I did have a lot of stress in my life in addition to the job, but became a father in Feb. 2007. I could feel myself several months before I got fired withdrawing from people-I would choose to eat in my office alone instead of going to the staff cafeteria. I had pretty much given up on the students since I felt I had bent over backwards to accommodate their needs and I was still getting so little back. For example, the guys would never bring their book, notes, pencils etc. to class. so I made the arrangement where I keep all their textbooks & notebooks in my office, then I would lug the 20-25 books in a bag, having to make two trips, to each class to ensure they all had their stuff. I got very resentful about this after a week or two and then said to myself, "they are all adults, so if they cannot do it themselves, I cannot help them..." I could go on with other anecdotes, but I am sure most readers will draw the same conclusion those at the college did; that I am not a good teacher, or unfit for that level. One supervisor who sat in on one of my classes just before I was fired said I looked terribly nervous. I disclosed to her my history of panic attacks and she said I should change careers. Indeed I had problems with anxiety in the classroom before, but during that stressful time of my life I felt even more anxious. I teach only part-time now and I take anti-anxiety meds which seem to do the trick.
I am still angry at my former employer since they made an allowance for one teacher with a drinking problem to take time off to enter rehab. Am I wrong or naive to expect that other teachers and supervisors should know something about mental illness in the workplace. I mean the college did have an EAP, so why have one if they can summarily terminate an employee without any kind of due process?