A year and a half or so ago, I finally admitted that I needed some help. Sounds easy enough to do, but it’s something that’s never been particularly easy for me. I grew up feeling very alone most of the time. My relationship with my parents was fairly awful from around the age of 12 on, so I never felt I could go to them for help in dealing with my emotions. Hell, they couldn’t handle their own emotions, much less give me tools with which to deal with mine. We moved from Pennsylvania to Texas when I was 10. This move marked the beginning of a profound change for our family on many levels. While living in Pennsylvania, my parents had lots of friends with whom they socialized, so my memories of that time in life involve social gatherings and happiness in general for all of us.
Texas brought out the workaholic in my father. He had a higher-level managerial position and I’m assuming that along with the increased responsibilities came increased pressure. He came home from work, sat in the recliner and started drinking. We rarely had family dinners at the table (except on holidays); instead, we ate in the living room. My parents would sit in their recliners and he would complain about work and all the injustices thrown at him. Small wonder my mother developed ulcerative colitis eventually. Eating while listening to stressful conversation wreaks havoc on the body. This went on for years and I’m sure that’s still how they eat their dinner to this day. My dad was miserable and probably would have been diagnosed as clinically depressed had he ever seen a doctor about it. Of course, he never would’ve done that. He would have viewed it as a sign of weakness. For him, life was not meant to be a joyful ride; it was all about working hard and succeeding. My mom was and still is anxious. I didn’t realize it at the time, and it’s only now well into my adulthood that I fully grasp just how anxiety-ridden my home was. Mom never learned to deal with stress or conflict, and would worry herself sick over anything remotely stressful. Medication would have helped her immensely (therapy would, too). She taught piano from home, so she never fully had to deal with the stresses of the work environment. Her life revolved around her family, God and her piano-teaching. My dad was her king. You may find this hard to believe, but it never even occurred to me until adulthood that my father was not, in fact, perfect. He was treated like “The All-Knowing One” by my mom, and we were to see him as such, too. When he criticized me, even though I argued and defended myself at the time, I internalized it and believed that I really was “less than.” I’m forever trying to quiet that voice in my head that tells me that I’m an idiot, that others are more attractive, more intelligent or otherwise just plain better than I am.
I can remember hunting through my parent’s closet for the rifle I knew my dad kept there. I never found it, thank God. My angels were truly watching over me, because I’m fairly certain I would have used it. People I went to school with did. One survived. Instead, I would go into my room and get partially in the closet, sit on the floor and sort of rock myself back and forth and cry and cry and cry. I can feel that sense of aloneness now, it was so profound back then. Other times I would go into the bathroom and cry, and then I would stare unblinking into the mirror to get rid of the redness in my eyes. It was a trick I discovered that worked pretty well so no one would know I had been crying. I developed an eating disorder (bulimia combined with occasional anorexia), and the funny thing is that my mom eventually realized I was making myself vomit, but she never took me to a doctor or therapist for it. I fell hard for whatever boy I was crushing on at the time, and I see now that I was just looking for someone, anyone to really love me and “see” me. I met a boy named Tommy, and we dated through most of my high school years. That relationship wasn’t perfect, but he was older (already graduated), stable and kind to me. I broke up with him my senior year so I could go out with the girls and drink and just be shallow in general! The drinking turned into an addiction eventually. I always became violently ill when I drank, and I always drank to excess, even at the beginning.
When I was 19, I met someone in a neighboring town. My nickname for him was Eagle. I drove 30 minutes one way to see him, and spent most of my weekends with him. He was from a poor Mexican family, 26 years old and still lived with his parents. My parents didn’t know him, but didn’t like him for those reasons. Eventually, they taped a note on my door that I found when I returned home one night. It was titled “Truths and Consequences,” and basically outlined all that I had been doing wrong. It essentially said I had to stop seeing him or move out. So, I called him and asked him to get me, packed my bags, and waited on the corner at 2 in the morning for him to pick me up. I moved in with his family. Little did I know that he would turn out to be physically abusive…I won’t get into all the details here. It was life-changing in many ways. I finally came around and saw that I needed to leave, and my parents took me back. They even paid for therapy twice a month (imagine that), and I came to understand that I needed and deserved to be with someone who would value me and treat me well. Before long, I met Scott, who would become my husband.
A couple years into our marriage, I realized I was an alcoholic (my drinking became full-fledged alcoholism when I lived with Eagle) and started attending AA meetings. I met many wonderful people there, and I found my sobriety. I finished my college degree and we had our first child, and life seemed good. Scott and I were best friends, and while I see now I was not in love with him, I loved him as a person, as my husband, and as the father of my children. We had two more boys, moved around due to his job changes, and I thought everything was going well. I wanted to be and look perfect to the outside world. I stifled my hippie nature, developed a relationship with my parents and made my family my focus. If you’ve read my other blog entries, you know that I fell in love with a man I dated when I was 18. So, I won’t get into all that here, except to say that eventually I made the decision to end my marriage and live more authentically. That’s when the major depression hit. I was all wrapped up in my relationship with R, who loved me but didn’t want the same level of commitment. It really dragged me down to such a lonely place. I felt such love for him and because of that, all I wanted was to be with him and my kids and be a family. I’d gone through so much and finally found the love of my life! I wanted to celebrate it. He was in a different place at the time, though. He was being cautious, and he says now that his caution was because he knew we were going to be together forever, so he saw no need to rush it. He wanted to do it the right way, and we had all the time in the world. His distance brought to the surface all my insecurities, though. I felt, once again, “less than.” I believed (and still struggle with this) that I loved him more than he loved me. If he deeply loved me, he’d want to spend more time with me, right?
We continued with our relationship and I became pregnant. R moved in and we prepared for our baby. He was good with my 3 boys, and I knew he would be a good father. Our baby came at the end of 2009, and he was beautiful and sweet and a true blessing. My kids grew and flourished and we were a family. I finally got a new and better job, R stayed home with the baby (but the baby came to work with me until he was 6 months old) and focused on growing his writing career. Trouble began brewing, however, when my ex-husband stopped seeing this teacher he’d been dating since our split and hooked up with a 20-year-old. He was in his mid-forties at the time. He told me she was newly diagnosed as bipolar, and he began believing he was bipolar, too. Maybe he was. I certainly see now that something’s wrong. He changed, and he says he developed “balls,” but really he just became a bully. This was so unlike how he had always been; I didn’t recognize him. We were amicable at first, but it rapidly disintegrated. I’m sure she did not want him to have anything to do with me. Our interactions became combative, and he’d send me nasty texts and emails. We had never officially divorced, because I couldn’t afford it on my own and he certainly wasn’t going to push it because he’d have to pay child support. The need to get legal protection from him became clear, though, and I was fortunate enough to find a female lawyer who reduced her fees and accepted payments from me. During this time, the depression really reappeared and took hold. I was consumed with anxiety over my dealings with Scott and it affected every part of my life. When it got to the point that I was giving serious thought to jumping in front of a speeding train, I finally saw my doctor about it, and got on depression medication. She also prescribed Valium for occasional anxiety. I noticed my moods leveling off, and that was a relief. So, I didn’t have real highs anymore, but I didn’t have the awful lows either, so I didn’t mind too much. When things with Scott became too much, I’d take a Valium and get through my day. Finally, we were officially divorced. He could only contact me via the Ourfamilywizard.com website, and everything submitted there is admissible in court. So, no more nasty texts and emails. He could still act like a jerk in the Private Message portion of that website, but he kept it in check, so it was improved at least.
I still feel anxiety when I see that I have a Private Message from Scott waiting for me in the Ourfamilywizard inbox. I can’t help it. Maybe eventually the initial response won’t be one of panic. I hope so, at least… I communicated to him that I wanted to start fresh. Our boys deserve better than to have two parents who hate each other, and I certainly don’t need the stress, either. No one benefits from acrimony; it’s poisonous. In April of this year, I became pregnant. We had been trying for months. We wanted another child together, and we wanted our baby to have a sibling close to his age. After 6 months of trying, it finally worked! I’m 7 months pregnant now, and let me tell you, it’s been a struggle. Because of what I’ve read about taking antidepressants during pregnancy, I quit taking my meds at the start of the pregnancy. The mood swings have been awful. I’ve had a few bouts of the deep and painful lows. Not long ago, I was breaking down. It had been an awful day and I just fell apart. I was in the bathtub crying and Rich was beside me, bathing me and just being present. I’ll never forget that…I didn’t know how I would pull out of it that time, but I did. I’m still depressed, but not as low. I have good days and bad days. Once I have the baby, I’ll get back on my meds. I am definitely looking forward to the birth for many reasons, but being able to get on my medication again is certainly one of those reasons!
So, this is where I am in my life, and now you know how I got here. Today is an okay day. I’m tired, but I’m not breaking down. I have moments where I laugh and then the moments inevitably come when I cry, too. I see my blessings. Indeed, my kids are my great loves and so is R. I have a job, we have a home and we never have to go to bed hungry. I do my best to really “see” those things when the low points come. Sometimes the tears cloud my vision. I guess that’s all part of it…