Fuck You Santa!

RasterBy the time we arrived back to our flat, in Berlin in December 2013, I had lived and worked in 5 cities across 3 countries. Since 2008. This was not by choice but necessity.

During the fall of 2013, I resigned from my role as acting head of UxD at a firm I consulted at in Torino. I had been consulting there 2.5 years, full time onsite. I had the pleasure of working with an amazing and talented group and they felt like family. Though, I was already exhausted and chronically stressed when I arrived in Torino in 2011. I pushed through those Torino years nearly destroying myself in the process.

My projects in Europe were increasingly large, complex, high pressure and high profile.  The last project I worked on was the digital strategy for FIFA, for the 2014 World Cup.  We got as far as initial approval on the concepts and I could see all too well what would be coming. I knew I could not withstand leading another project of that scale. Thus, I resigned with the plan to work again at the studio in Stuttgart instead of offsite with clients.  We rented a 2nd flat in Stuttgart with that in mind.

Once we arrived in Stuttgart, I worked maybe 2 weeks before simply collapsing. It was near Christmas, so we drove back to Berlin. We bought our flat here in 2010 and, if for no other reason, it is considered home.

The first couple months, I couldn’t leave the house except for therapy. Joel took care of food and basic necessities. I filled the void with all the fiction I never got around to reading from my library.  And Netflix around the clock.

I watched every possible serial TV program available on Netflix at the time.  From the brilliant to the mediocre, it didn’t matter. Before Joel started commuting  to Brussels for work, he’d watch some with me, then when he needed to sleep, I’d go into the bedroom and watch more. My sleep was not regulated yet, so I’d be up late and sleep at odd hours.

I was so completely and endlessly empty and blank. I found there was one old, unexpected TV show that was somehow comforting, oddly.  This was Angela Lansbury’s Murder, She Wrote.  At first, it was because it reminded me of my late stepfather. Though he was a comedy writer, he loved murder mysteries and would zone out to this show whenever it was on.

Then, it was the formulaic predictability of the narrative. The scenes and styles of early-mid eighties in a small fictional town in Maine. The grandmotherly feel of Angela Lansbury. The only thing that provided some solace. So I continued watching for several weeks, into the small hours.

From that Christmas 2013 to February 2015, I’d go through phases of voraciously reading (both fiction and non), or watching and re-watching serial TV.

I was able to do one thing a day, apart from very short walks with my dogs. These things were just to get groceries, go to the drugstore, etc. Though, miraculously, I was able to push myself to the gym a few times a week. That definitely counted as the one thing that day.

Of all the shows, my favorites were The Wire and The Sopranos. I hadn’t seen them in their entirety, not least in sequence.

I was deep in the Soprano’s run. I got hooked on some breakfast cereal and lived on that during this period.  The Fuck You Santa! scene resonated the most.  I could laugh at both the humour and irony.

During this time, November 2014, my beloved dog, Raster, died suddenly.

We had just returned home from a simple vet visit regarding a broken claw. We were in front of our apartment building, Raster lost balance and fell over onto his side. I brought him inside, tested his balance by staging him between my calves. He was going to fall again without any reflex to stop. And, we go!

Not unlike the story with Dolph in San Francisco, I found myself speeding through a city to an animal hospital with my dying dog, next to me on the front seat.

When we arrived, I carried him into the ER. The receptionist demanded I enter the form while I was holding Raster, who was clearly barely hanging on.

Luckily a doctor saw this, ran over, put a pad down on the floor of the waiting room and laid him down to exam him right there. Seconds later she rushed him into the main doctors visiting room. I followed.

Straight away she said that he wasn’t going to make it. “Look at the way his eyes are rolling up, moving from side to side. He’s having severe neurological problems. We can’t do anything.”

It was like being punched in the stomach, relentlessly. If there was any improvement of my own health before that, it was completely extinguished after this event.

So it wasn’t surprising when this drawing came up, like a reflex.

Fuck You SantaAs it turns out, things would get a lot worse for me.  And as it turns out, I’d later spend a lot of time in that very animal hospital.

8 thoughts on “Fuck You Santa!

  • Reply Steve October 5, 2016 at 10:12 am

    These posts are so compelling, which I feel conflicted about…the emotions are real and raw and I am glad to know about it but also want to know more and want to respect your sharing with enthusiasm and encouragement…but the drama of the narrative and the way you share it makes me feel slightly voyeuristic, like oh, I should look away because looking at this is serving me and not her.

    On the other hand, talking about what we hide, and making it normal, while still allowing it to be hard, I think is your goal and one I share (this gives me perspective on things in my own family).

    Anyway, this comment is about my experience with your story, and I apologize for shifting away from you. I can’t even get into my specific feelings (doggie stuff, say), but wanted to give you a meta reaction – I’m reading, I’m feeling. Thank you for sharing. I hope this is really really good for you to do…

    • Reply jennifer October 6, 2016 at 3:17 am

      No apologies at all, Steve. I’m very interested in hearing how people experience this. Thank you much for letting me know. If you want to know more or have specific questions feel free to ask.

      Another friend commented similarly on a feeling of voyeurism. It’s ok. It makes sense. In both cases, we’ve worked together and you (both) know me on a personal level.

      In any case, it is all about normalising discussion on these things. I can imagine this has some commonalities with people who started speaking openly and honestly about cancer, or AIDS for the first time. I think people need to know and learn about depression. As you know, the best learning is always through experience. If not ones own, then through understanding others.

  • Reply Carl White October 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Well done with this, Jennifer. Keep ’em comin’! I think it’s very theraputic. Sorry you had to go through all that horror. Love you, Carl. x

    • Reply jennifer October 6, 2016 at 3:18 am

      Thanks, Carl! Love you xx

  • Reply Chris Burke October 5, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    I know we talked abt this, but wanted to leave it here too. Your drawing of Raster is just so great. So emotionally charged with much pain, but also done with so much love – repeated heart shapes, in the front legs, in his beard, and the ears. Beautiful. xo

  • Reply Ann Rolwing October 7, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    I loved Raster so much. I know he’ll visit me at the Rainbow Bridge one day.

    Thinking about you a lot. Thanks for sharing. XO.

    • Reply jennifer October 8, 2016 at 8:38 am

      I remember you saying that. You’d often have him on your lap, as I recall, when you guys were watching the boys. Thank you for your thoughts. xo

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