That’s a very loaded question, but I’ll keep this simple. Or as simple as I can.
My name is Nicole Worden. I grew up on the eastern coast of the United States, in the beautifully scenic state of Maine. My summers were filled with sitting beside my uncle at my grandparent’s greenhouse shop, which sat on the side of a very busy route in a tourist town. Traffic would stretch for miles on end, and we’d occasionally have a customer stop to peruse the rows of flowers and herbs. This is my happy place, where I go when the days are long and hard. I can smell the lilac bushes behind the greenhouse as the wind blows through, grasping my young attention span for a second before my mind squirreled off to the next thing. I can hear my grandmother yelling our names from the front door of their home, just a ways up the dirt driveway, letting us know that lunch was ready. The memories are fond, but they are nothing but dust on the cobwebs of my mind.
They moved away, farther North, away from the city, when I was about ten years old. My summers became quieter, colder. My teenage years crept up on me, wreaking havoc on my mental state. Depression from heartache and loneliness, and anxiety that crippled me from time to time. I prevailed, but not with much of a win. My teenage love for singing, songwriting and performing lessened as the years went on, as adulthood sank it’s teeth into my wallet and sanity. But I kept trucking.
By twenty-one, my anxiety would bring my life new twists and turns, and with my doctor’s help, we began to dig to solve the problem. Generalized anxiety, depression, and a panic disorder. That’s what they call it, anyway. In short: I could have panic attacks that stem from anything or nothing, leaving me constantly on edge that another attack may be only moments away. Every day was a struggle. Medications gave me highs and lows, sometimes making me feel worse than I do without. My anxiety and depression caused me to feel isolated, lonely.
At twenty-three, I met my boyfriend through an online dating site. He seemed too good to be true. So much so that I denied him for months before I followed my gut instinct to give him a shot. I’m beyond grateful that I did so. Online dating brought a wide range of men into my life, most of them only holding my attention for a short while before I decided that they weren’t the one for me. The reasons were varying: too religious, not religious enough, too boring, not boring enough. But the one who held my attention was the one who I found to be too good to be true. Musical, wise, easy on the eyes.. I was intrigued. We exchanged online messages for months before I agreed to a video chat with him. I’ll never forget it. I had just gotten home from work, and had just finished my shower. He was free to chat at the same time I was, which was a rarity due to his busy schedule. I agreed to the video chat, but reluctantly. I was nervous that he’d take one look at me and compare me to Fiona the Ogre. But no, even with my sopping wet hair that made me look like a distant relative of a drowned rat, he told me not to apologize for my appearance. Instead he told me how beautiful I looked. In that moment, my nerves eased. We talked nervously about our day, our lives, our plans. It was nerve wracking, and yet so effortless. The months went on, but I had told him that I didn’t want to commit to a relationship when we were so far away. 1800 miles, give or take. He began telling me about his interests, his hopes for the future. He began telling me about women who he’d begun to chat with, since I had turned him away from our potential future. I was happy for him at the time. This man who deserved more than I thought I could offer was searching for happiness. But as time drew on, jealousy made it’s way into my heart and I began to fight the inner workings of my mind, who warned of the emotional dangers of a long distance relationship. It was too late at that point, though. My heart was invested. And so with quiet, cautious words I told him that I didn’t want to hear about these other women. That my feelings for him had grown. That I was jealous of them, and how they were only an arm’s reach away from him, instead of hundreds of miles. Shortly thereafter, we became exclusive. And then a month or two after that, he told me he loved me. At that point, I was hooked.
He came to visit me for a week about six months later. It was the best and worst week of my life. He was everything that I had dreamed and more. From the moment he stepped off of the plane and our eyes locked, it was like we revolved around each other. We spent the entire week beside each other. It seemed we were in a magic land. Time stood still. Until it started again, and realization kicked in that he would be leaving. Every moment was like a dream. After the week ended, he went back home, and I was left in tears. I spent about a month seemingly doing nothing but crying. For one week, my heart had been completely filled for the first time. It was a feeling of extreme comfort and elation. And after a week of living in this magic moment, it was stripped from me.
I wanted it back. Badly. But our situations wouldn’t allow either of us to leave where we were. He had just begun to further his education in a trade school, and I was going through some financial struggles. I lived in my mind in the following months, replaying that wonderful week, until I couldn’t take it anymore. Despite everyone in my life telling me how insane I was, how cautious I should be, I threw caution to the wind and bought a one-way plane ticket. I sold my belongings, and gave away what I couldn’t. I left a dream job behind in exchange for a maybe. Maybe it would be great. Maybe it would be a disaster. But it was a risk I was willing to take. My heart couldn’t deal with the torment of the loss any longer. And so I ran.
I’ve now been with him physically for a year. The first few months were an extension of our week together – a beautiful get-to-know-you game. By December, two months after moving in, life began to change. The job that I had gotten when I had moved left me high and dry after being put on bed rest due to extreme pain that couldn’t be determined without further testing. I picked up direct sales on a whim days prior to the beginning of my bed rest. My days were full of staring at our bedroom ceiling and trying to make money off of my cellphone. By January, we found that I have two herniated discs at the base of my spine. With my job having deserted me, I was without income and insurance, so it turned into a whirlwind of complexities. The next course of action would be physical therapy, which I couldn’t pay without a job. After a few more weeks of rest, I attempted to get a job. For a week straight, I woke up at 4am to get a job that may or may not work out. On my first day out of training, complications of my back problems left my hands and arms tingling, which abruptly ended my time with that company. Bringing us back to point A. It was at that point we decided to attempt a one-person working household. My boyfriend was making enough money to get by with one of us, and that would allow me to focus solely on direct sales. So that’s what we did.
February went on without a hitch, but March began to bring on doubt. My mental health was in a questionable spot as notice of unhealthy family members back home left me concerned. Was moving here such a good idea after all? The loss of family members after a move so far away was the one thing that had held me back for as long as it did.
April was a month from hell. My cat who had been my source of comfort throughout my teenage years when my depression had been disabling, passed away in my arms. A moment that still haunts me, months later. And then two days later, news arrived that my grandmother had passed. The woman who had been a second mother to me in my early years. I was lost. I was a wreck. I still am. I spent weeks in bed, doing not much else beside crying. I still have my days.
By June, I had begun to get back on my feet again. But life dealt me a hand of one step forward, two steps back. On father’s day, my step-father passed away from complications from Lyme’s Disease. Hope had been drawn out for so long, that my family had fought for his survival for the longest time. Until there just wasn’t any hope left. I had flown home a day prior, so it was a partial relief to be with my family during this troubling time. But as I went home, I was pushed back another step. The beginning of July left a gaping hole in my heart, metaphorically. My grandfather, husband of the grandmother whom I’d lost in April, passed away. I was fortunate to be able to see him while I had been home, but the loss of a man whom I’d always viewed as untouchable broke me in two. The loss of my grandmother came back to the surface, the depth of my depression became unbearable. I slept. I cried. I slept some more.
After a few months, my mind has begun to focus on other things. The shock of the situations have come and gone, but the emotions are still there. But now, we’re rebuilding.
I am now a full time homemaker. I spend my days organizing the lovely home that my boyfriend has helped me create. I cook dishes that would most definitely surprise my step-father, who had dreamed of opening up a restaurant one day. I fight the same anxiety that my grandmother battled throughout her lifetime. And I pull from the strength of my grandfather, who had been nothing short of a solid rock in my upbringing.
This is me. I am stubborn. I am a survivor. I am strong. I am alive.
Naturally, I am Nicole.