I saw a request for hopeful stories a while back and thought I could write a post. I’m in a pretty good spot lately. Holidays can be dicey for me emotionally, but I’ve largely reclaimed them and have enjoyed them in my own way the last several years. When I was a teen that was not the case.
My parents & step parents had all had their own issues, and holidays were not a joyful experience for many years. There was fighting, too much drinking, domestic violence, emotional abuse and lots of crap. So I really did not look forward to them at all. My stepfather had narcissistic personality disorder and when I was around, I was often the scapegoat. There was a lot of pressure to do things exactly “right” and that just didn’t go well for me (not that walking on eggshells goes well for anyone).
When things got really bad, my mom and I would go to a double feature at the movie theater & hope that he had calmed down by the time we got back home. My dad was often in manic episodes or hospitalized during the holidays and he spent a few years in prison, so, while he was by nature a very kind person, he just wasn’t there for me during those years.
Holidays got a lot better for me once I moved out on my own. I have tried really hard to make my home a safe, stable, and peaceful place to be. I’ve been through some bouts of depression, some great therapy, and many hard years of figuring out how I feel about stuff and how to set boundaries with my family. For me, things got a lot better when I decided to no longer have a relationship with my stepfather. There was a lot of guilt and hard feelings involved, and years of pressure from my mom, but I knew this was the right decision for me. I had an awesome therapist to help me see the guilt trips and gaslighting. Unfortunately, my decision made it hard to maintain a relationship with my mom. Some family members just thought I was making a big deal out of nothing (for the record, they never lived with him).
There were about five years when my relationship with my mom consisted of very brief meetings at restaurants after several hours’ drive and her trying to bully me into seeing him, saying he had changed and was doing better. I’d say I was happy for him but that I still did not want to see him. Part of me would have loved to reconcile, but a wiser part of me knew that he would never be able to change enough for me to have a healthy relationship with him. After 20 years of second chances, my heart could not take any more manipulation.
We did not talk on holidays, and sometimes she just wouldn’t show up at all and wouldn’t answer her phone. There was a time that I didn’t see her for two years and we don’t live that far apart. I understood that she was in a very challenging relationship, but I still felt rejected and heartbroken. My life was moving forward, but each time a new milestone passed, I felt that rejection come right back in. During this time I stumbled across Band Back Together, and I drew so much support from the posts and resources here.
These days, my relationship with my mom is in much better shape. My stepfather passed away almost three years ago. I am not saying that is a good thing, because I would never wish him or anyone harm, that is just what happened. It has been very hard on my mom, who is aging and now lives alone, but the silver lining for me is that I get to have a relationship with her again.
There are still lots of difficult feelings there, but she acknowledges that the way he treated me was not okay and he didn’t start to get his shit together at all until I was at least 30. I try not to talk about him.
Now she takes time to visit me (and other family members), and she isn’t worried that he is going to blow up on her for spending time with other people. We are still cautious about holidays. We’ve tried two Thanksgivings together and they went well. We may not be picture perfect, but we do enjoy each other’s company. I’m almost 40 and I still feel like I’m constantly working on boundaries. I still have challenges with anxiety/depression. Sometimes life makes me want to crawl into a blanket cave for a week.
I love that being an adult, I can choose how and who I will spend a holiday with. I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to have a relationship with my mom. This one thing is going well and I am grateful for it.
I am depressed. Very depressed. So depressed that I would like nothing more than to stay in bed all day drifting in and out of sleep. Thoughts of suicide have flitted across my mind. But don’t worry, I am in no danger of staying in bed all day or committing suicide. I have children – two little boys that I love very much.
My children are the reason I get out of bed every morning. They are the reason that I will never commit suicide. I get up partly because I have to go to work, that place that sucks forty hours from me every week and ensures that I can support my children. The other reason that I get up is because I usually have a small (almost three!) child yelling for me to do so. He’s rather hard to ignore.
The reason I will never commit suicide (other than my dislike of knives, guns, ropes, and overdosing on meds) is that I want to watch my boys grow up. I want to see what kind of men they will become, the people with whom they will fall in love, what kind of babies they will have. I also realize that the only person that suicide “helps” is the person who committed it. Everybody that cared about that person is affected. I don’t want my little boys to grow up without a mom.
So, I’m not going to stay in bed all day, and I’m not going to commit suicide. I’m glad we covered that. So how else could my depression manifest itself? Cutting? Nah – I don’t like pain or blood. Anorexia? Nope, unless giving up all food but cheesecake and chocolate counts, and then I might reconsider… Bulimia? I can’t make myself throw up, but tequila helps (please know that I believe eating disorders are very serious, and am in no way making light of eating disorders or people who have them, I’m just trying to explain why I would not go down that path). And speaking of tequila, what about becoming an alcoholic? I have enough liquor in the house (I think my husband is trying to tell me something). While I have gone out drinking due to depression in the past, I was young and single. I didn’t have children who needed me sober. So that’s out, too.
So what do I do, other than just be depressed all the time? Well, I’m very irritable, I’m tired all the time, I lack motivation to do things I used to enjoy. I want to spend all my free time clicking mindlessly on Facebook (hey, my frontier/city/cafe/island/farm/mafia are all extremely important, they need me). I have stacks of magazines and books I haven’t read. I’ve gained weight. I’m uninterested in sex. I get headaches a lot (including two migraines so far, which are a new development).
I’m exercising and counting calories. I’m depressed that despite my hard work, the scale isn’t really budging. I’m on medication, which I don’t think is working. I see a therapist every other week but I haven’t really delved into my issues, and instead focus on my relationship with my oldest son (which is material for at least a few posts).
Nothing seems to be working. I’m depressed and it isn’t getting any better. There’s nothing in my life that is really a cause for my depression. My marriage is fine, my children are healthy and smart and beautiful, I have a good job, a nice house. So why, why am I so unhappy?
It could be the fact that it’s hereditary (special shout out to my parents). It could be the fact that it’s winter, and a lot of people get depressed this time of year. It could be that despite nothing being really “wrong” or “bad” in my life, nothing is really great, either. The one bright spot is my youngest son, who is totally a mama’s boy, and his hugs and kisses and love is often the only highlight of my day.
I’m so tired of being depressed. I want to be happy.
Some days it’s easy to ignore the realities life throws in your direction. Other days, reality hits you so hard it’s difficult to breathe.
As I was lying in bed last night, I thought about what it would be like to lose my dad. He’s always been there, calm and ready to listen. My mom and I talked on the phone yesterday. He seems to be doing better, almost as if nothing happened. But something did happen. We just don’t know what or how much damage it may have caused. Maybe it was nothing and we’re making it out to be more than what it really is. But what if we’re not?
She talked about finding his life insurance papers and needing to start making funeral arrangements. Sounds grossly morbid, but when my grandmother died, she had most of it already planned (burial plot, casket, funeral home, etc) which made the process for my mom and my uncles a little easier to bear. So I suppose that’s what she’s doing as well. It may help in the process of mentally dealing with the impending loss.
I was born to parents who didn’t want me so my adopted mom and dad took me in when I was just a baby. They’re all I’ve ever known. My dad started a new family after the death of his first wife. He supported my mom in the decision to adopt two children and start over late in life, even after having four children of his own. My mom always said he was so supportive. He would get up early in the morning to get me out of bed and walk me around their apartment and tell me all the stories about the photos hanging on their walls so that my mom could sleep just a little bit longer.
The age difference between my mom and dad has become more pronounced over the last several years, but even more so now. He looks like an old, sickly man instead of the strong man he used to be. It’s terrifying to imagine what losing him will be like. Maybe we’re all getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe he’ll be fine for a long time still. Who knows? With all the advances of modern medicine, people still die of terrible things while taking dozens of pills until they finally just give up. Sounds deeply depressing, but it’s true.
I talked to him on the phone last night, and he didn’t even mention that anything had happened. Denial maybe? Or he just doesn’t want to talk about it because it’s scary thinking about the future. I desperately want him to call my cell phone and leave a message. After last week’s Postsecret update, so many people have voicemails from lost ones so that they can remember them and hear their voices. The cell phone carriers also work with people to get those messages saved so they will have them forever. I want that.
Thinking about the past, there aren’t that many photos of us together. We weren’t much about taking photos when we got older. Regret surrounds me. All the what-ifs and should-haves. I get the sinking feeling that the sand is slowly coming to an end in the hourglass.
It brings me back to the death of my grandma a few years back. It was the only death I had been keenly aware of and I was present for the last few hours of her life. I remember it vividly. We knew she was sick and wasn’t getting better. She took a turn for the worse when I was getting ready to visit my college of choice for undergrad. It was a Spring day in April 2004. Spring was coming and the forsythia was blooming. I remember thinking how beautiful it was and how she would have loved to see them in full bloom. We got back late that night, and I went to visit her in the nursing home. It was like I entered an alternate universe seeing someone I didn’t know gasping for breath. It was horrifying.
I’m scared. I’m not ready for this. Not yet. I really didn’t think it’d be so soon.
**Editor’s note: This thing’s been sitting in drafts since January… So when I was looking for something a little less heavy for the site, I thought it fit the bill nicely. Please enjoy some random silliness!**
You are seeing this because you need to see something fun, kinda sparkly, and full of magic. Also, kittens. We got you, boo
I would ride this thing everywhere. EVERYWHERE..
Sugar on sugar on sugar!
Oh Em Gee, the cute.
First, we party…
then we cuddle!
Then we find someone else to clean up the fUckiNg kItcHEN JEFF!
Don’t look at me like that. Don’t judge me.
But I will judge you, thanks.
And here’s a balloon full of my exhalations. Enjoy!
June 7, 2020 at 1:00am, an hour before my shift at work, I got a phone call no one wants. It was my dad: I answered. “Mom died” he said tearfully.
I felt my stomach drop. Impossible. How could she be gone? I was stunned. I immediately stood up, gathered up my work stuff (knowing that I wouldn’t need them that morning) to meet dad at the hospital.
Mom had been in the hospital for a UTI for the past week. Her condition had been stable but she was pretty out of it. Because of the virus we were unable to see her in the hospital or at all because she lived in a nursing home. We had done window visits, and dad talked to her on the phone, but it wasn’t the same. I attempted to Facetime with her (earlier that week) but she was pretty out of it My mom had MS, so her health was always on a roller coaster. I kept thinking how we managed 3 years since the last hospital incident when things were close then. I thought we had more time.
The drive to the hospital (also my employer) was a blur, I was trying to reach family members to let them know what happened. All I knew is that her oxygen levels had dropped. “There had to be more”, I thought. I made it to work hurrying into the office to deposit my keys, tell my coworker where I was going, and grab a mask. I met dad out in the ER and we hugged. Going up to the floor where mom was seemed so unreal, like a dream, a really horrible bad dream. I felt nauseous and almost like I was back in time to when my sister died 7 years ago and we went to see her, then almost 20 years ago when my grandfather died. I was not ready for this.
When we approached her room the nurse was so kind, just explaining what happened (the same thing my dad had said), and the nurse added that mom kept saying “Go away” to her. That gave me indication that she knew it was her time, she was tired, and my sister was waiting for her.