I am an only child – an accident. My parents were married, but my mom never hid the fact that she’d never wanted kids. She said she was glad she had me; I was the best thing that ever happened to her, but that she never wanted kids.
I guess when you’re young, you say things you shouldn’t.
My mom got married at 17, had me at 19. She says it wasn’t young at the time, but yeah, it was.
She got married to get out of her mom and step-dad’s house. Married a guy hoping another guy she had “loved” before would come rescue her.
She didn’t plan on staying married. But then I came along; she tried to make it work.
I was blessed. Two weeks later, she met, and we moved in with, the man who would become my step-dad – the only dad I’ve really known.
Life was good. I was loved. There were fights, but they stuck it out.
When I hit 5th grade, my mom started talking up boarding school. Started looking at different schools for me. Figuring out how to afford it. I didn’t understand, but I was young and it sounded like an adventure.
Talk of it fizzled out. Life continued.
One of my chores around the house was the dusting, which included moving all books and magazines to clean under them. One day, I found a spiral bound notebook with a green cover.
I flipped it open. It was my mom’s handwriting, full of information about boarding schools:
“I want to find a Christian boarding school for Charity so when I kill myself she will be with people who can take care of her.”
My world changed that day. And I couldn’t tell a soul.
I’d been snooping. I’d read my mom’s journal. But now I knew there were dark things in my mom’s life.
Honestly, I’d known that as long as I could remember. I don’t even know how young I was when she told me about trying to kill herself as a teenager.
But that was then…this was now. I had to take care of my mom, but keep our family secret. What would people in our Church think, at my small Christian school, how could I tell anyone without confessing that I had read my mom’s journal?
The years went on. I thought about it sometimes, but shoved it down. I graduated from school, went off to a small Christian college. Found out other families were messed up too. Maybe mine was pretty good.
I got a summer job at the same place my mom worked between during summer break. I hated it, but it was a job.
My mom wasn’t in good shape. She was sleeping and crying – a lot. She wasn’t eating much. I got her up for work in the morning, ate lunch with her to make sure she ate. She went to bed as soon as we got home.
I took care of the house, then would head off to bed until I heard my dad come in late at night. I would get back up and talk to him. I figured somebody in the family should be talking to each other, they obviously weren’t, so I decided I better.
A bright spot of that summer was dreaming about going to graduate school.
The end of the summer came; I went back to college. I went early to get settled in and start working. My dad drove down to help build my loft and get my stuff set up.
He had said he wasn’t coming; he didn’t see a point in going to college, I was old enough to do it myself (um, old enough, but definitely not big enough to build that loft).
The only thing I remember my folks talking about that summer was fighting about whether or not he would help me move back to college.
To be honest, I felt guilty, but free to be going back to school.
Then, I couldn’t get reach my mom. No matter what time I called, she never answered.
I tried other family members – no one answered, until my cousin did on Monday night. When she said, “Hi Charity,” I heard my uncle yell in the background, “whatever she needs, tell her we will help.”
That seemed weird, I didn’t need anything, I just wanted to ask my mom a question about my car insurance.
“Your mom is in the hospital. She’s in a coma. They pumped her stomach. I found her in the chair. She had taken 150 pills after I told her I was leaving her Sunday night.”
I said I’d drive home.
“No, just stay at college, there is nothing you can do.”
By the time I got off the phone there was nothing I could do. I just sat there.
Thankfully, my roommate talked me through getting dressed, each step. I missed my first class. All I could see was my mom sitting in that chair, taking those pills.
I couldn’t tell a soul. What would everyone think?
I went to class, I went to work. My roommate kept my secret.
Three days later I told a friend. In class. In a written note.
The demon of depression was alive and well in my family and now people knew my life wasn’t perfect.
She came out of the coma. She was in the hospital a few days. My dad tried to stick it out for a few months. I told him I would come home at the end of the semester to take care of her.
He didn’t make it through the end of the semester. She moved out.
When I asked him why he gave up, when I begged him to stay until I finished that semester, he said, “but you’d been talking about graduate school. I was afraid you wouldn’t come home and I couldn’t bear the thought of staying in the marriage that long.”
I worried about my mom. I cried, I didn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw her taking those pills.
Slowly, she got her feet under her. They divorced. She started dating and met her now husband. It seemed like third time was the charm.
I was terrified of becoming like my mom, but at least she had beat the depression.
Fast forward 15 years.
I am battling my own depression, but unlike my parents, I am getting help. I am fighting. If my mom could beat it without help, I should be able to with help, right?
Just after Christmas, my phone rang. It was my mom. Her husband wanted her to tell me she’d been really depressed again. Crying all the time. Doctors wanted to put her in an intensive outpatient program, but insurance wouldn’t cover it.
My world crashed. Thoughts of reading those words in her journal came back.
Images of her taking those pills invaded my mind. She hadn’t tried to commit suicide – yet – but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
When will the phone ring again?
How do I protect my girls when that day comes?
I’ve lived in fear of my mom deciding I wasn’t worth living for as long as I can remember. I have lived knowing that I have to protect her.
I don’t want my girls to worry about me like that. I don’t want them to feel like they have to take care of me. I fight every day to change myself for them.
Tell me, Band, how do I rewrite my girls’ future when my past is coming back to haunt me?
Unlike many other stories here on The Band, my ex-husband didn’t beat me or abuse me, but I during my marriage, I started to lose my sense of self.
I went to a therapist a few years into our marriage for some issues that were mine, and in therapy, I came to realize that he had some issues, too. I had some issues with depression which I worked through with medication and my therapist.
My ex used to give me grief for going and working out – complaining that I “never spent any time with him,” although he spent hours a day glued to online computer games. He also had anxiety and some Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but never wanted to admit it.
When our son was born, I did more than 95% of the parenting. I was a single parent who happened to be married.
He installed the security system for our son’s daycare, and, three weeks later, it was broken into. So he was called in the middle of the night to go to the daycare and make a DVD copy of the security video for the cops. This event apparently triggered flashbacks of the trauma that occurred several years earlier, when he walked in on someone burglarizing our house.
A month after the daycare break-in, he had a huge breakdown. We’d gotten a baby sitter and gone out to have a few drinks – nothing really crazy. That night was spent with him curled in a ball on the bathroom floor as I tried to calm him down. Eventually, he agreed to allow me take him to the emergency room for help. He was agitated, irritated, and anxious. They sent us home, advising us it was a panic attack, and told him to see his regular doctor.
He promised he would see the regular doctor and he did…but he refused all types of treatment – no drugs or therapist for him. He told me he knew his triggers – he had it under control. But I began to notice his behaviors getting worse – he didn’t like being out at night. He didn’t sleep well. He didn’t like being home at night when I wasn’t there, if I had a work function to attend.
He complained that we didn’t have sex enough. I worked a full-time stressful job outside of the home and came home every night to perform the majority of childcare and the house.
He liked the money I made, but never let me vent about my job, like a partner is supposed to do. I spoke to my OB/GYN about medication to help to increase my sex drive. My OB told me that I also needed to have consistent time to myself every week to recharge – just an hour or two would do. So I told him that. He told me our schedules didn’t allow for that, even though for years he had gone to a foreign language class once a week and, at one time, also had two evenings each week to himself to play online games.
That was the last straw for me.
I began to sleep more. I stopped taking care of myself. So I called my OB and resumed my medication. I told my friends what I needed to do and they hashed through all the good, bad, and ugly issues with me, strengthening my purpose and resolve.
We tried marriage counseling, and the counselor affirmed my concerns regarding his anxiety issues. She helped give me the courage to walk away.
I did not want to be a statistic. I got married believing it was forever. I loathed the thought of letting go of that dream, breaking up my family. However, I knew that my son deserved to know his mom was happy and healthy.
And I am. I’m off my medications for anxiety or depression, though I wouldn’t hesitate to call someone if I needed it. I have a great support network of family and friends who all helped me through the rough transition.
My divorce was final on December 14. I walked down those steps outside the courthouse and wasn’t sure how to feel. It wasn’t exactly something to celebrate, and part of me mourns what I lost, but I know that I can move forward now.
It’s time yet again for another “Ask The Band” Friday post! We are always gratefully accepting new submissions for the burning questions you may want us to help you answer. You can submit through this link or anonymously through this link.
Dear The Band,
If anyone could share some helpful hints or ideas for my Ask The Band question, I would be ever so grateful.
I have a 20 year old child who is suffering from major depression. As a result he sleeps all day and night, isn’t able to work, and if he does get a job, he only keeps it for short periods of time.
His depression has been getting worse and worse since graduating from high school. Shortly thereafter, his dad and I separated and are now divorcing. That’s a lot for one kid.
My sweet son is a very empathic, old soul, and a lost soul who’s is not adjusting well to life after high school. He misses being surrounded by his friends now that he’s in the adult world. See, he was the one everyone went to for help and now no one is even looking for his friendship anymore.
I know that he has a myriad of other contributing factors that set him up for this depression and the divorce isn’t helping.
I’m typically a tough love, in your face, suck it up buttercup type. That said, I have also struggled with severe depression, so I know the ropes.
I’ve tried to give him tips and ideas of things to try and he refuses my advice. He’s not trying anything to improve his situation.
If anyone has anything to add or ideas to try to help him, it would be greatly helpful and appreciated.
It’s Mother’s Day and I’ve spend most of the day in tears. I ‘d been looking forward to it; even had some cool plans for spending the day with my daughters. Those plans went sideways shortly after breakfast.
I left my husband this week, a planned separation which took several months to execute thanks to our housing situation. As far as our daughters are concerned though, we’re still a team working together to make sure they’re happy and healthy. This week we’ve been ultra-focused on our daughters and the new adjustments.
With all our attention on our children, we didn’t pay much attention to the other members of our household.
When I got home from work on Thursday, I realized one of the dogs hadn’t eaten her breakfast. Not unusual, sometimes she leaves her food until late, so I wasn’t concerned. Friday night, she still hadn’t eaten. This time, I brought the black dog into the light in the kitchen, and took a good look at her. She was gaunt, ribs and spine sticking out alarmingly.
She clearly hadn’t eaten in days.
I called my ex and we agreed to flavor up her food with broth to get her to eat. We assumed it was stress from the separation. I sat, hand feeding the dog until she finally ate her food. Same deal on Saturday and again this morning. The gauntness was less pronounced, but I noticed other symptoms: a little bloating, weakness in one leg.
This morning, my ex came to get the girls for church. As he was petting her neck, he found it. A golf-ball sized lump hiding under her fur. Another closer to the other shoulder.
He took the girls to church while I took the dog to the vet. The emergency vet gave me her early findings. My 9-year old lab has Lymphatic Carcinoma. Cancer. X-rays indicate that it may have already spread to her organs, and possibly bones as well.
Some of you will read this and know the pain and horror I felt. Others, not so much.
It may just be the dog, but it’s my dog, one we raised (along with her litter-mate) as a rescue puppy. A pet who loves me unconditionally, knows when I’m sad and has comforted me upon many occasions. Knowing that I couldn’t put her through chemo brought me to tears.
If it really is cancer, the right, most humane decision is to put her down before she begins to suffer too much.
This cancer diagnosis capped the end of an incredibly horrible week.
A week which included leaving my husband and walking away from my daughters for the first time with the new custody sharing schedule. I kept telling myself it would be just a few days, just like a business trip. It wasn’t though. Being separated from them felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest.
A week where the bank finally approved our short sale, but gave us a short 30-day deadline to close escrow. A week that saw a solid, approved plan to move into a rental home go awry as the owners of the rental we’re moving into reneged on the deal at the last minute.
A week that ended with learning my daughters and I would be homeless come the 31st.
Ironically, the owners of the rental reneged because we had one too many dogs. A massive wave of guilt washed over me as I wondered if maybe this would allow the deal to go through.
I think the dog knows what’s coming. She’s been rather chipper since we got home from the vet. It’s prompting my 6-year old to try to convince me that the hard lump on her throat is smaller than before so that maybe she doesn’t have to die tomorrow. I’m in one of those horrible waiting periods where I want to convince myself that it’s just a bad infection, one which we can treat with antibiotics and TLC.
Maybe our regular vet will disagree and give us a different diagnosis. But, we have to be prepared for the worst.
I’ve always been relatively smart. My elementary school wanted me to advance to 2nd grade during Kindergarten. I was in Beta Club and always enjoyed school. Then, in the 3rd grade, my parents split up. I vaguely remember an incident where my dad hit my mom. They got back together when I was in 6th grade. But, things weren’t going well.
We moved after 6th grade. My best friend had moved away a year earlier and I had a hard time making new friends in my new town.
I was smart… and smart kids aren’t the cool kids.
So, I dumbed myself down.
Things weren’t good at home, either. My parents were not happy and it showed. My mom had a meeting with my teacher’s my sophomore year of high school to discuss my poor grades and my English teacher told her it was because I was bored with school. It was too easy for me, and I had given up.
To this day I can not guarantee that it was an empty threat.
After we moved, everything about me changed. I became my mother… she gets upset too easily. She’s depressed. As far as I know, she’s not gotten help for it and she’s always telling me to stop getting “into tizzies.”
I’ve been in some bad relationships where I was used and cheated on and emotionally abused. I was called a “butterface” (everything is okay about her, but her face), ugly, and fat. I think the worst thing people made fun of me for was my nose. It’s on the larger side and now every time I look at myself in the mirror all I see is that damn nose.
I’m engaged now and I love my fiance with all of my heart and I know he loves me, too…but there’s this voice that comes out every now and then and eats away at me.
That voice says that he deserves someone beautiful and he’s going to find her and leave me. My self-esteem is not great.
I trust that he loves me and won’t leave me… but that voice in my head won’t shut up.
The best way to describe how I feel is when you go to a store like Best Buy. If you go to the back of the store where all the TVs are, and you put each TV on a different channel and close your eyes. All those voices, all the things running through your mind – and I can’t make it stop.
My self-esteem is so very low. I can’t even make simple decisions like what I want to eat for dinner. If I go to make a speech or presentation in class, I get so shaky I can barely stand up, let alone speak. In some classes I can’t understand the material, so I cry.
When Tony asks me what I don’t understand so he can help, all I can muster is, “I just don’t understand.”
What’s the most important thing I don’t understand?
Why I went from a smart, outgoing kid to someone who wants to hide in their room with the lights off.
And, then there are days when I feel great and nothing is wrong and I just say to myself, “it went away like usual. See? Everything is better. Sometimes people just get sad.”
Until that voice in the back of my head finds those remotes again.
Three years ago, my husband attempted to rape me. I didn’t really think of it that way at the time. I did shove him off me with a hand to his throat, and he was extremely angry. A few months later, he completed the rape.
He’s always been terrible with boundaries and when I would say no to sex, he would keep trying until I gave in. I didn’t like it, but didn’t recognize it as anything more than annoying.
It was a red flag I guess, but didn’t seem like “real abuse” because I wasn’t being harmed.
We have managed to stay together, but, as you’d expect, It hasn’t been easy.
He still struggles with boundaries, which are obviously so important to our relationship. Unfortunately, he will touch me sexually even after I’ve explicitly said that I don’t want to be touched that way (when my anxiety is at a high I do not want to be touched at all; much less sexually).
He’s started having sex with me in his sleep despite me saying no – when he’s aware of what’s going on he stops, thankfully. When he is very much in the mood, he won’t come to bed with me because he’s afraid he can’t control himself. I suppose I should just be grateful that he stays away but I don’t like hearing him say he can’t control himself. It freaks me out.
He has been (for the most part) patient and understands why I’m like this now. He’d do absolutely anything to make me happy.
I feel guilty because a large part of me hates him. He has told me that he doesn’t think about the rape unless I’m struggling, which is devastating to me. Something that changed me at my core so much. Traumatized me. Destroyed trust, my ability to enjoy intimacy, gave me massive, crippling anxiety and he…?
He doesn’t even think about.
We are in marriage counseling again; but we haven’t yet told the counselor what happened.
We’ve only had two sessions so far, and I haven’t been ready to discuss the rape.
The counselor is giving us all these tools to work on things and I just…I don’t know. I don’t know how to make it work.
I can’t afford to care for my kids alone. I’m a stay-at-home mom, no good work experience, no family to help me out. I MUST make this work.
And my husband really does try to make me happy and I feel so guilty that he can’t.