Eight years ago today I got in the car to go to work as usual (it was a Wednesday, not a Saturday as it is this year). I’d had a very usual sort of morning: drag myself out of bed, drink a glass of orange juice, sit in the bath and cry for half an hour, nibble a bowl of cereal, then get into the car. Rather different from my morning routine today, but that was how it used to be.
I left my flat, drove the 20 or so minute journey to work, and pulled into the car park of the large comprehensive school in the London borough of Haringey, where I was Head of Music. All seemed as usual until I tried to get out of the car.
My legs refused to budge. I couldn’t move. I called the school office from my mobile phone and told them I wasn’t feeling too well. I then drove straight to the doctor’s surgery. After a tearful appointment with a very unsympathetic doctor, I headed for home with a medical certificate and a stash of antidepressants.
I then went to bed. I didn’t get up again for two weeks.
In fact, the next date after that time that means anything to me is November 5th, when I was visited by an old friend, the same old friend who would eventually become my husband. He had to visit me at my flat because at that time I was still leaving the house only to go to my psychiatrist appointments.
The weeks between September 12th and November 5th are largely lost to me. I know that the world was full of turmoil, and I suspect I watched a lot of news (in those days I had digital TV and was in the habit of leaving the rolling news on 24 hours a day). I know that I still wasn’t driving again in November, and that I gave the car keys to a friend who had the car while I was too ill to use it. I know that I saw my psychiatrist, and I have vague memories of walking through Grovelands Park to visit the hospital from time to time. I remember huge pain in my head. I remember one night that nearly didn’t have a following morning (and am thankful to this day that the main effect a large amount of alcohol has on me is to induce sleep). I know that I must have checked my e-mail at some point, because I read a very significant e-mail that resulted in the meeting on November 5th.
Almost all other detail is lost, which is strange, because I usually have a reasonably good memory. I do remember the date though, every year, and not just because of the events unfolding in the world at the time. Eight years ago today was the breakdown that I now call “The Big One”, where I went from functioning human being to complete wreck in the space of a few hours.
I can hardly believe how much life has now changed, how much I have learnt about myself, and how my plans and ambitions have changed since that day. One thing never changes though – every year on 12th September I think about the years I nearly didn’t have as a result of what happened back in 2001, and every year the sun shines just a little bit brighter that day as I consider the wonderful things I would have missed out on if things had turned out differently.