The first thing we do, once we move in, is build a suite in the large windowed basement for my parents. Jeff is lucky, for a relative of one of his coworkers offers to help and that man teaches Jeff all there is to know about putting up gyproc, and electrical wiring, and plumbing!
While they work one day, early on, mum and I sit at the kitchen table in our part of the duplex. She puts her hands over her ears, and says, “Make them stop! I’m tired of the banging.”
For they were hammering a lot that day.
I can’t make them stop of course.
“Mum, they’re busy building the suite. They have to make noise. I’m sorry!”
She remains unhappy throughout the work, until the suite is ready. Even then, she seems not to be happy and I worry that our moving in together is a huge mistake.
At Christmas, that first year my mum and stepdad are with us. Mum gets angry and tearful after we open presents on Christmas Day and goes to her room in the basement suite.
It is hard to know how she’ll react to things. She complains that day that Chris was “too noisy”. Well, he is a child, and Christmas morning is special! I am torn between wanting her to be happy and protecting and defending him.
I find work at a truck repair shop, as an office clerk, working in the office attached to the truck shop. It is noisy at times, with the dyno running a big truck, and some of the tools are loud when the mechanics use them. I am a bit shy of everyone at first, but the mechanics who pop into the office are cordial and I soon relax.
Jeff still has sleep problems, and I am losing valuable sleep because of it. I am awake until late in the night, while he tosses and turns and flings out his limbs.
None of the doctors we consult seem to care. Some of the suggestions include no caffeine after noon, and exercise, while I am told to try sleeping pills.
The truck shop is within a couple of blocks of Jeff’s place of employment. At first, I walk there, because I get off work earlier than Jeff, but I am frightened of the traffic. Suppose someone stops and forces me into a vehicle? I feel so unsafe, that I choose to wait at the front counter when I am done work, until Jeff picks me up.
One of the jobs I am required to do is the mechanics’ time cards. Every other Friday, I have to stay later and tally up the hours each mechanic has put in for that week, then the information is sent to Edmonton for processing.
The shop closes up at four o’clock so it is very quiet. Sometimes everyone, including the shop manager, whose office is behind my desk, all leave. It is rather unnerving, after the noise of the day, to sit there and work in the quiet.
One late afternoon, the door to the hallway is slammed shut. I look up in time to see one of the partspersons walking away! He has locked me in! I panic. I begin to shake. I quickly jumped from my chair and walked to the side door, which leads out into the parts department. The lights are off and all is still. As I make my way to the front of the building, there is Bert, the parts guy who locked me in.
“Oh, Trina, you’re still here?”
“Y-yes,” I stammer, trying to stop shaking. “You locked me into the office back there.”
“Oh, sorry. If it ever happens again, just page to the front.”
This makes sense, because the parts department, where Bert works, is open for an hour after the service department, where I work, closes. I have no logical reason to be afraid of getting locked in.
I return to the office and finish the time cards. I put them in an envelope and pop the envelope into the bag at the front desk. Jeff picks me up at the door as always.
From that time on, I am terrified every other Friday, when I have to do the time cards. I begin to shake and can’t stop. I try to hide it from everyone who passes by my desk. I often call in sick on Fridays, just to avoid having to go through the anxiety.
I make an appointment with my doctor, who prescribes Valium. It doesn’t help. I go back to him and tell him that I am having anxiety at work. He tells me to quit.
I can’t afford to quit. Between the house and car payments and all the rest, we need both Jeff’s pay cheque and mine to get by.
It doesn’t occur to me that perhaps I should go on sick leave, for the anxiety and find counseling. Not for a minute do I think that I might be descending into mental illness again.
Today, when I look back, I realize that there were signs, but by I was far gone to recognize them.