Captive

An enormous jar of marbles sat perched on a shelf in the depths of the basement closet. In the dark, damp and musty room full of laundry soap and tools, a jar filled with perfectly shaped orbs in riotous colors was held captive in an old Ball jar. She reached in and pulled the jar into a shaft of sunlight pouring through the basement window. She was below ground, sitting on the cool cement floor and enjoying the silence.  One small rectangular ground-level window provided a view of the deep blue summer sky. Outside, the day was filled with heat but the basement was nearly frigid. She held the jar up, using the bright blue sky as a backdrop. The sunlight caused those perfect glass orbs to come alive again. Their color returned.

She marveled that inside of the dusty long forgotten jar, a bit of magic had been caught and held hostage. Inside the jar, the marbles screamed for release. For sunshine. To be held in the hands of a child. To roll across the sidewalk and click against another once again. Inside, under that zinc lid and neglected in the depths of a basement closet, they were captive and forgotten. Possessed but unloved.

She heard her mother’s footsteps on the basement stairs, “Be careful those are Ron’s marbles and they’re very old.” That was enough of a warning. To lose even one of those marbles wasn’t worth his vindictive wrath. Once he possessed something, he made it clear that no one else was entitled to touch what was his. From experience, she knew that children were not immune to his spiteful revenge.

She turned the grimy jar and marveled at the stifled beauty within, “Why are they in this jar in the basement?”  Her question was answered with a shrug and look of confusion, as if her mother couldn’t understand why it mattered. She felt a wave of aversion, realizing that her mother didn’t recognize the disservice of capturing such beauty and hiding it away. She stopped asking questions, knowing she’d never get her point across but also realizing that the marbles were his to keep confined forever. And wasn’t she avoiding just that? She constantly bucked against his masochistic need to dominate what wasn’t his. Including her. She’d given up waiting for her father to rescue her. She realized, at fourteen-years-old, that she must fight her battle alone.

Spellbound by the marbles and his need to control, she spat on her finger and rubbed a circle into the grime of the Ball jar. Through that clean spot, the marbles gleamed. She stood and walked to the washing machine to retrieve a towel and polished the grime-coated jar. Once more, she held the jar against the rectangle of bright blue summer sky and slowly turned it. Inside, the marbles knocked against glass and clicked against one another, begging for release. I can’t help you, she thought, I can’t help myself. She slid the jar back onto the shelf and closed the door on the beauty that shone within.

This is a piece inspired by the photo prompt at The Lightening and The Lightening Bug. It is a memory. I don’t know what became of the jar full of beautiful marbles held captive. I eventually escaped.

Sometimes, it’s good to write about things other than “Mommy”… I am a writer, therefor I write what comes to me. If you enjoy my odd (schizophrenic) mixture of mommy horror stories and creative writing, please deliver a click on the annoying flashing box right down there. If not, click on the box to return to regularly scheduled programming…not really, but you will find oodles of cute mommy blogs, baby gear giveaways and people who really dig coupons.

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Sand and the Soul

My body rose into the air, heaved toward the sky on the crest of an undulating wave that brought me as close to flight as I’ll ever be. Just as quickly, I plummeted back toward the earth as the wave moved forward without me – pulled back where the world attempts to ground me, forever reminding me I belong on its solid surface. I tucked my knees into my chest, avoiding the sand beneath my feet and I hid behind the wall of water. There, in the trough of a chilly Atlantic wave, I relished precious seconds of freedom. Behind the wall of water I was unseen. For a moment, I ceased to exist. I was erased by the sea.

Treading water, I turned my body and faced the horizon to welcome another exhilarating ride skyward, realizing that riding waves still fills my soul with pure joy. The waves are a place where the darkness can’t reach me. The water holds both the joy and playfulness lost so long ago when the darkness began its slow consumption.

My face bore a smile. Unabashed, I played in the waves allowing freedom to wash over me, temporarily cleansing the darkness. I turned once again to face the beach and, there in the sand, I saw my little girls building castles and moats. Their presence suddenly made me aware that I must tear myself away and return to solid ground. I need to walk among them in the sand and allow my feet to sink into the earth, back on land where the darkness hovers, waiting to pull me down.

So this week, we want you to write about sand.
Yes…sand.

It doesn’t have to be summer-related, but the impending summer and my proximity to Lake Michigan and it’s glorious beaches are what inspired me to tell you to write about sand.

So.

SAND.

GO.






Shifting Gears

Something inside my head has shifted and the happy streak that I’ve been riding for the past few weeks has come to to shrieking halt. Maybe I’ve reached that point where winter has become just a bit too long. I feel trapped and then I feel guilty saying that I feel trapped. I have a beautiful family. Perhaps last weekend’s temporary single-parenthood paired with a week of school vacation has provided the perfect recipe a fresh bout with the blues.
Sometimes, I long for the spontaneity that was available in my old life, before children. I’d like to hop in the car and drive. I’d like to sit quietly in a movie theater, or walk in silence without worrying that someone is going to run into the road. I fantasize about going away by myself for a weekend and just doing nothing but read, watch movies, sleep and order room service. I just want to be alone with the monster that brings such despair. Sometimes I just need to escape and I can’t. Sometimes I just need silence.

Talk about a downer…Sheesh. Believe me, I want happy/funny to come back too.

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This is my brain on chaos…

At 9:45 a.m. on Friday, December 17, 2010 that carefully constructed, thin membrane that protects me from chaos, disorder and depression was destroyed. Having spent most of Wednesday night changing passwords and scanning my laptop to remove a virus, I was exhausted. Somewhere around Thursday, the kitchen began accumulating everyone’s clutter and the counter top on the island was barely visible. By Friday morning, in the 10 minutes before I was to head out the door for Gwen’s preschool Christmas celebration, Kate’s hand suffered a cut that her grandmother tearfully declared was in need of stitches. Kate sat before me looking freaked out and pale, with a towel wrapped around her tiny hand. Gwen’s celebration was in 20 minutes. I had just the one car. I can’t even begin to explain the meltdown that began in my brain.

I had to call David at work and ask him to come home to take Birdie to the hospital for stitches. As I ran for the phone to call the pediatrician, my shin connected with the dishwasher door that had been left open. I saw stars as I fell forward and screamed a loud, filthy word. My mother, still crying over Kate’s gash, left the room. The phone was thrown across the kitchen as I limped around trying to reign in my thoughts and walk off the excruciating pain in my leg. Unable to control what was happening, the chaos finally took me out at the knees. I felt the darkness that had been lying dormant begin to grow and gather strength. I looked at the clock and saw that I now had just ten minutes to get to Gwen’s party. As I limped out the door, my mother told me that I should rub my leg to avoid a bruise. I wanted to scream.

The drive to Gwen’s party was horrible. The guilt I felt over not being with Kate for a visit to the hospital and stitches was overwhelming. I beat myself up for allowing someone else to watch her while I got ready for the Christmas party. Under my watch, I can control what she touches and where she climbs.

Halfway to the preschool and running late, I realized that I had left the house without my camera. On top of everything, I wouldn’t have a single photograph of Gwen’s preschool holiday celebration. The darkness swirled with renewed strength and grew with each moment. I told myself to take deep breaths and let it go. I told myself that Kate would be fine without me. I tried to convince myself that calling my husband home for emergency reasons was acceptable. His company would understand why their Senior Counsel needed to leave. There is absolutely no inconvenience there, right?

Gwen was beautiful and silly with her construction paper antlers and her little nose painted Rudolph red. She sang and giggled. I don’t have a single photo. She gave me a precious gift, handmade for Christmas and ate treats with her friends and their little siblings. I wistfully thought of Kate and how much she would have enjoyed the afternoon. The darkness swelled and I winced as I thought of the battle ahead.

Suddenly David was there with Gwen and me. He stopped in to tell me that Kate’s gash was just a small cut. She didn’t need stitches. The drama and tears had only served to give me that final push into the depths of disorder and ultimately, opened the door to that monster called depression. I’ve been battling it all weekend. I slept for several hours yesterday afternoon after manically scrubbing the bathrooms. I’ve taken my medicine each morning. I try to get the monster back under control and I’m not sure I can. Trying to regain order in the house and get the kids reorganized is too much when I feel this way. I’m on edge. I don’t want to be. I wonder what it would be like to reach inside and rip this swirling, angry darkness from my body. What would it feel like to not revisit every painful word or clueless, selfish act? How would it be if I didn’t internalize the narcissism of others? What if I didn’t take so personally their patterns of selfish behavior? What would it feel like to be normal? How would it be to deal with only Joe’s ADHD and his organization and focus? How would be different if the people in our lives attempted to fully understand the quirks that each of us has?

This afternoon I will lace up my sneakers and run. Perhaps running will help.

On Running

January, 2001 was the month and year that I decided that the corporate legal world had seen enough of my talent. In January of 2001 I truly believed I was still that little pot-smoking hippie, outdoorsy chick who grew up in the Adirondacks but was forced to sell out to The Man. That was the month and year that my new fiancé said, “Sure, I’ll move to North Conway, New Hampshire because you once spent a day there in the midst of your previous unhappy marriage and thought it was idyllic.” Okay, well that’s not exactly what he said, but this is a blog, not a book.

In my 28 years, I had never encountered a person who accepted that the act of running away might be an acceptable means of therapy and rebirth. Then I met David. The love of my life that was, as I found out, a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. He wisely recognized that I was being suffocated by my own existence and that perhaps, running was precisely what I needed to do to find myself.

I had been divorced for exactly seven months. My ex-husband got my dog, the house, some friends and even a few of my family members in the settlement. Truth is, I walked and told him to keep it all. I was too exhausted to fight over a life that made me miserable enough to ponder death. Granted, I had hoped for a bit more support and understanding, but as Joe’s preschool teacher once wisely said, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” The problem with that sentiment is that I was upset. Somewhere along the line I had lost myself in my quest to become what everyone else expected me to be. I had lost my true self and the people who were supposed to be closest to me didn’t even know. Unfortunately, the last known sighting of the real me was a 19-year-old who liked to camp, smoke a little dope on occasion, write short stories and listen to folk music. I was under the impression that I was still a decent skier, which thrilled Dave because he’s an incredible skier and had spent several years doing just that in Sun Valley.

I had it all planned out. We’d move up to North Conway where we would ski. We would drive to the mountain in our blue VW van; we’d hang out and just…hang out. (I had stopped the pot thing by that point.) I’d be living the dream…living off the grid and returning to my roots. I’d start braiding my hair again and I’d wear fleece. I’d live in jeans and my Birkenstocks. I’d just ‘be.’ I happily boxed up my Jimmy Choos and invested in a new pair of ski boots.

We drove to NH in a blizzard. He drove a Ryder truck full of our possessions and I drove my little Honda with Rosie O’Kitty ensconced on the passenger seat. Six perilous and blizzard-filled hours from Brookfield, Connecticut, we pulled into our new home in the White Mountains. In reality, we had rented a shack. A freaky little shack in the woods because that’s all that would accept our dog on such short notice. (I wish I had photograph of the place to prove that I actually lived there.) Our previously delivered van was parked between some trees, which I assumed was meant to be a driveway. There was really just too much snow to figure it all out.

Dave began work right away, leaving me to my solitary existence. I was consulting for my old company and working from home. What this really meant was that I sat around in pajamas all day and lorded over the contracts for my old company. I deciphered legalese for non-legal personnel and sat through phone conferences while I watched the snow that continued to fall outside of my window. I also watched Regis and Kelly and discovered HGTV. I was alone in the woods of northern New Hampshire in a tiny shack on a lake where the snow never seemed to stop falling. It was uncomfortably quiet and the snow was clean. Pine trees were weighed down with mounds of snow and occasionally, I’d hear a muffled thud as a pile slowly slid from the boughs and hit the ground. I was alternatively freaked out by the solitary nature of my new existence and thrilled to have done something so spontaneous. My new-found freedom both thrilled and terrified me.

I braided my hair and wore fleece. I skied alone on a weekday after one of the biggest snowstorms of the year. The peacefulness and freedom I experienced on that day will stay with me forever. Despite the breathtaking peacefulness and freedom I felt on that day, I came to the realization that I’m a really shitty skier. Dave won a mogul competition and I skied on the long, winding groomers with old ladies and seven-year-olds. Dave skied the glades and I secretly cried because I was cold and my feet hurt. I silently freaked out on the chairlift as I took in the endless peaks of the White Mountain range and became overwhelmed by the vast wilderness that thrived beneath the carpet of trees. From that chairlift, it seemed that sea of trees and undulating mountains never ended. I found myself looking forward toward where I imagined Canada was. It was a beautiful, but somehow lonely expanse of mountains full of dark mysteries that terrified me. That vast, overcast view intimidated and frightened me. I often contorted in the chairlift, twisting to see the view to the south where I longed to see the buildings of New York. What had I done? I was stuck now, somewhere in the middle of who I once was and who I was to become, but I had no idea. I felt homesick but never wanted to go back.

I began living a rather hermit-like existence. I realized that I had no real idea who I was or what I was doing with my life. I was a blank slate and my only real connection to humanity was David. I sat at my computer each day, reading contracts and sitting through conference calls. I e-mailed my insights and opinions. I drove to the post office. I let the dog out. I stared at my face in the mirror. I drove aimlessly. I looked at my teeth. I inspected my skin. I started braiding my hair in intricate patterns. I read cook books. I was bored.Out.Of.My.Mind.

I craved a cocktail at a swanky lounge and I wanted to get there in a cab. I wanted to walk through the doors of Barney’s and inhale the heavenly scent of luxury. I longed to aimlessly wander the shoe department of Neiman’s and try on shoes I couldn’t afford. Unknown to Dave, I began to realize that Hippie Chick was, well…kind of an aimless loser who was better off dead.

Thankfully, somewhere around April the snow began to melt. We piled into the Vanagon with our bikes and explored the trails in the mountains. From my Santa Cruz Juliana I watched spring come to the White Mountains. I got muddy; I fell down a hill backwards and laughed when I stopped sliding. My braids grew longer. I jumped into the river with my clothes on. I drank cold beer on a porch with a spray dried mud on my back. I wore Birkenstocks and shorts every day. I stopped second guessing myself and began chipping away at the carefully constructed walls that it had taken years to build.

Once summer arrived, we spent our weekends hiking a trail to a deserted oasis on the river where we lounged on the rocks, swam and ate our lunch next to the crystal clear water. I rode my bike to the top of Bear Notch. I swam alone in a deserted lake and soaked up the warm sun from a raft surrounded by masses of trees and silence. That glorious silence forced me to confront myself and I haven’t stopped yet. I’ve discovered a lot about myself in the past ten years and I sometimes hate what I see.

We stayed there for only seven months. I’ve come to realize that my dream place wasn’t meant to be a permanent, but rather, served as a temporary shelter. Ultimately, David gave me the gift of escape and patiently waited nearby as I let go of my past. In that tiny shack in the woods, I confronted ghosts and tried to exorcise my demons. I discovered that I wasn’t who I thought I was and realized that I had no idea who I was to become. Sensing I was on the verge of a long process of change, I squeezed a bit of abandon and soul searching into seven short months.

I’m all for a posh get-up, some killer shoes and a filthy dirty martini, straight up, please. I don’t love red meat. Sometimes I enjoy a long, skinny cigarette. I still like running, but don’t always have the time. I like going to spas and salons, especially after a weekend digging in the dirt or splashing through mud on my bike. I can go days without makeup, but have been known to inexplicably crave a makeover. I like fancy underwear. I rarely wear shoes anymore, but knowing they are on stand-by in my closet is nice. I think I’m ugly, but try my hardest not to let you know that. I listen to the Grateful Dead but happily switch to Cat Power or Weezer or Pearl Jam… Jeans are my current uniform. I can’t relax unless my surroundings feel pretty and uncluttered. I refold the laundry that David already folded. Sometimes I don’t shower for a day and a half. I know that I don’t want to go back into the legal world. I know that I need to be creative to thrive. I feel completely socially inept at all times and I think you think I am too. Feet freak me out and so do men with long fingernails. I never think I’m good enough, smart enough, funny enough, pretty enough or that I’m a good parent or wife. I’ve battled depression for most of my life and I’ve grown tired of hiding that fact. My shack in the woods introduced the path to clarity. It was there where I finally began accepting that I didn’t need to hide my eccentricities and faults. I learned that I can never be perfect to everyone, but I never seem to be able to stop trying.

Monsters

Here it comes. The monster is creeping in and I realize that I haven’t fed it in a few days. With all of the medications I was taking for my sinus infection, I forgot four doses of my daily 25 mgs of Zoloft. I hate that I seem to be stuck taking a pill for the rest of my life to keep the monster at bay. I feel like I’m being held hostage. It makes me angry but I have no one or, for that matter, nothing tangible to be angry at. It simply isn’t worth it to forgo the pill, so I have resigned myself to the fact that it will be an ever present morning ritual. Brush teeth, coffee, Zoloft, breakfast for the kids, school bus… the alternative is unbearable.

This morning Joe didn’t want to go to soccer. An offhand comment was made about someone else’s boys who play and if he doesn’t love it by now etc…well, that comment just hit me in the wrong spot. It fed my monster the wrong kind food which started a downward spiral of self-loathing and a new round of internal ass kicking. Why can’t Joe be like the other boys? What have I done wrong? It’s my fault.

Yesterday, I finally handed Joe’s Vanderbilt Assessments over to his pediatrician. It was his 6 year physical. Joe has been diagnosed with ADHD. I know, millions of kids are diagnosed each year, but I took the diagnosis to heart. I knew it was coming. I privately cried because I know that ADHD often results in depression later in life. I have unwillingly bestowed my internal hell upon my innocent son and I blame myself for passing on my mixed up brain to my beautiful boy. As I spoke to the pediatrician, I watched Joe painstakingly draw yet another intricate monster, absorbing every word the two of us said. He knows his brain works a little bit differently…he’s told me. He is an incredibly smart and observant little boy.

My head has been spinning ever since the assessment was completed and diagnosis rendered at 1:45 p.m. yesterday. As usual, my outward demeanor was composed. I discussed the course of action we want to take (no meds for now) with the pediatrician. I explained that I have the same condition and expressed my fears about his future mental health. Our pediatrician appreciated that I had done my homework on the subject. She is pleased that I can help him through my personal perspective but I’m heartbroken; mostly for him and, admittedly and a bit selfishly, for myself as well. I can already recognize that his comfort level is highest when he is in a small group or alone. Like me. I can already see that he is deeply affected by hurtful words and mulls them over far longer than a “normal” person would. Like me. I can already see his frustration and disappointment if he fails and how he internalizes the shame. Like me. Every time I see the pain cross over his little face (and I’ve already seen it), I feel it too.
To add to my arsenal of information, I went to the website “Healthy Place”. It calls itself America’s Mental Health Channel. There I found the paragraph that I was looking for…what I couldn’t verbalize to Dave, but why I fear for Joe and his future because it was my experience:
“One prominent theory is that the relationship between ADHD and depression may result from the social/interpersonal difficulties that many children with ADHD experience. These difficulties can lead important others in the child’s life to develop negative appraisals of the child’s social competence that are communicated to the child during the course of ongoing negative social exchanges. With increasing age, these negative social experiences and others’ negative appraisals can adversely affect children’s view of their social competence, which, in turn, can predispose them to develop depressive symptoms. An interesting study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology was designed to test this theory (Ostrander, Crystal, & August [2006]. Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression, and Self- and Other Assessments of Social Competence: A Developmental Study. JACP, 34, 773-787.” http://www.healthyplace.com/adhd/depression-and-adhd/relationship-between-depression-and-adhd-homepage-toc/menu-id-360
That’s why I beat myself up about him not wanting to attend soccer today. I need to help him focus and, at the same time, I need to help David understand how my, no…our brains function. We need to teach Joe self checking skills, we need to help him learn to focus and stay on course, we need to help him channel his attention before he is left standing on the sidelines wishing he had joined in. We need to help him learn to be a part of a group and contribute to a team. We need to advocate loudly for him at school. He needs us to be his voice or he’ll become invisible. I need to make Dave understand the importance of these things that I know because I’ve been living ADHD and depression for my entire life. My ADHD was undiagnosed as a child. We now know that leaving the condition undiagnosed almost certainly results in recurrent depression (Bipolar Disorder) later in life. The two go hand in hand. What a lovely pair…

So as my façade of togetherness, still holding on from yesterday afternoon, began its slow crumble this morning. I realized that my own monster had awakened. I was suddenly getting caught up in negativity and internalizing harmless remarks. Dave and I argued about whether or not Joe should go to soccer and I desperately tried to impart that things are different for Joe. He’s not just another kid who doesn’t feel like going. My words just wouldn’t form in a way to make Dave understand, so I shut down, stopped coping and the façade crashed to the floor. My monster had broken through the restraints and made its first appearance in months.
Later, Dave called Joe downstairs for a family discussion about what it means to be part of a team and how we are expected to follow through on a commitment. I reminded him of our discussion with the doctor yesterday and I shared that I understand how he feels. On a level that he could understand, I told him that my brain and his brain work the same way sometimes. As he watched my tears begin, his own began to flow. Our eyes met in mutual understanding of the frustration and emotion that seemingly no one else in the house has to deal with or fully understand. He slid off his chair and came to my side of the table where we wrapped our arms around one another and hugged in silent understanding.
I’m off to feed the monster its pill and get it back under control before it becomes strong enough to completely submerge me in the depths of its darkness. Once I’ve beaten it back again, I will wage a war against the monster trying to get my son and try my hardest to keep him out of its reach.

And Further More…

What an amazing summer I had. Epic…cathartic even. I really didn’t intend on sharing such personal information. Historically, the picture that I’ve attempted to present to the world is one of perfection and anything that might be embarrassing was brushed under the rug. Who was I kidding? As if people can’t plainly read the expressions on my face. I’m so bad at hiding how I feel. I can’t be fake.

I guess there’s really nothing better than a simultaneous visit from your long divorced parents to wake up the past and force some realizations. As weird as it was to be sitting at the dinner table alone with my mother, father and baby girl, I almost wish that my brother and sister had been sitting there as well. What would it have been like to share a meal with all of the people to whom I am most closely related? How odd that I would have to ask myself this question in the first place.

I sometimes feel that I no longer know my family. Sitting at the dinner table with my parents on that summer evening, I realized that I am a complete stranger to my entire family. Maybe not a complete stranger, but I often feel that way. I’m not sure they’ve ever really known me or understood me. I’ve always been slightly alien to them. I never quite fit in and at some point, I just stopped trying to. I love them, but I know that I’ll always be the black sheep. The odd fit. To them, I’ll always be a little bit “off”. For the longest time, I thought it was my fault, or just bad that I was unable to fit into the core of the Hadfield nuclear family. I tried so hard to be like them that I was suffocating. I made horrible choices in my efforts to blend in, but always remained an outsider. How sad to be stuck on the perimeter, so doubtful of my self worth and place in the world that I wished to completely disappear. I was so angry that I was born to begin with.

It doesn’t matter how much you love someone or a group of someones, sometimes they just might not get you all. It has taken me almost 40 years to realize that this doesn’t make me weird or crazy. I’m just me and I am finally beginning to appreciate who I am. I’ve stopped trying to make them understand me because it just frustrates and angers us all.

It really is amazing how words affect people. How what I wasn’t able to verbalize 10 years ago is so easily expressed now in my writing. Maybe it’s all easier to talk about now that I have some distance between myself and rock bottom. I didn’t start my blog with the intent of divulging my deepest, darkest places but I’m not going to stop it from coming out. Consider it a bit of verbal vomiting. The best part about my recent bout with up-chucking is that I feel even better. I’ve said what I had to say and I said it for me. In the process, I  unwittingly crossed another hurdle. Either you get it or you don’t. My writing may simply be words on a page or something more meaningful. I’m not forcing you to take a position either way.

For me, one of the most frustrating parts of depression is the lack of education on the subject. If your brother/father/son was diagnosed with diabetes, wouldn’t you read every bit of information that you could get your hands on? Wouldn’t you actively discuss the disease with him and seek the best method of treatment to ensure a good quality of life? Unfortunately, there is still a huge contingent that views depression as complete and utter bullshit. Just about the worst thing that you can say to someone who is suffering from depression is, “Snap out of it” or “What do you have to be depressed about?” Really? Like we want to feel this way? As if we would choose to open our eyes on a random morning to discover that the darkness has settled over us like a suffocating blanket as we slept. Given the choice, I would much rather bound out of bed with a smile on my face and meet my friends for lunch. Instead, when I open my eyes I know that I’ll have to struggle to pull myself out of that darkness enough just to get through the day. The worst part is that the world is the exact same place it was yesterday…when I was perfectly happy. It frustrates me immensely to know that happiness has just slipped through my fingers again. I don’t choose to let it go, it just goes. Thank goodness that I rarely feel this way any more. I choose to take Zoloft to keep the darkness at bay. Thank you, Zoloft and screw you darkness.

Having spent my mid-twenties in a perpetual state of intense depression, I see things far differently now. The world I am living in is a far more beautiful place than the one I inhabited 10 years ago. How lucky my children are, to be growing up with parents who love and respect one another. Dave and I truly have an incredible partnership and our children get to witness this. With the exception of my Uncle Joe, I’ve never known a man so filled with love and support. Do we fight? Sure. We’ve had some good ones. Who hasn’t? Have we gone to bed angry? You bet. I’ve been pissed off enough to give him the silent treatment for a few days. I know there has been more than one occasion when he’s been less than thrilled with me too. We’ve been married for nine years. We have three children, ranging in age from one to six. We’re tired. We can barely spit a sentence out without being interrupted. Yet, our children see that we love one another, that we truly enjoy our time together. They see us sharing private jokes and laughter. They see affection and teamwork. They see acceptance and they know that we will nurture their interests without judgment or laughter.

So there you have it. Some verbal vomiting has led me to some brand new self-acceptance and forced me to acknowledge some painful truths. Such is life. My life is incredible and I’m glad to be alive!

Crazy For Feelin’ So Lonely

In my quest for self-discovery, there are some things that I need to blog about that aren’t, well…funny. I have some experiences that some people might not want me to publish for the world to see. After all, my memory of how things happened might not be flattering. Maybe what I’m about to write will just sit in the “edit” stages for eternity, waiting for me to click the “publish post” button and set it free. Maybe not.

I have a friend who is in the process of freeing herself. She’s sharing the painful experience of caring for her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Apparently though, the pain of the relationship didn’t begin with the onset on that ugly disease. Reading about the dysfunctional familial relationships of others interests me. I’m sure that on some level, it is a continuation of my sociological studies, but mostly it makes me think of my own circumstances. Which leads me to ask myself the following questions: Did I actually go to college to find myself through the experiences of others? Do sociological texts interest me because I’m still trying to find my place? Will I always be searching for the why and how of me?

Most of my posts have been snarky glimpses into my past. I tend to use humor to gloss over a childhood that was at times, really painful. Maybe it’s the rain today, or the fact that Patty (my above-referenced friend) has the courage to write about her mother. Whatever the reason, I’m feeling blue and it is about time to open this dark can of worms and throw it away.

Last week, my sister mentioned something about me always wanting to be a writer. It’s true. For years, I believed that to be a writer one had to experience life through travel and extensive education. You had to be interesting. Therefore, I would never be, could never be a writer. Isn’t it silly, how we belittle ourselves and our experiences?

Growing up, we all have aspirations. Sure, some are unrealistic. Of course I wasn’t going to grow another 5 inches, suddenly resemble Elle MacPherson and drive a Ferrari. Admittedly, that one was laughable. Ha ha. But what about design? What was so funny about that? Why was going to the University of Florida so laughable? Why was it so bizarre that I was interested in pursuing a career in journalism? Why were none of these interests encouraged? No talents explored? Why did they laugh when I mentioned college? I can’t imagine doing that to my children or for that matter, allowing someone who isn’t technically my child’s parent to do so.

Divorce is ugly, but kids are resilient. That’s what they say, isn’t it? I “get” the need for divorce. I’m thankful that my parents took that route, but in essence it was simply the lesser of two evils. If they had stayed together there would have been daily exposure to really unhealthy behaviors. Yet, my parents apart also meant that I was truly alone.

Of course, my mother had to work (and worked hard) to support us. I was 11 when they split and my world shattered. My father, who had been God-like to me up to that point, was unexpectedly and, much to my disappointment, quite human. My mother was trying to survive as a single woman and I felt like a unnecessary extremity, simply along for the ride. One day I was having a play date with my friends and, when I got home my mother announced  that we were moving away the following day. Just like that… we’re leaving your beloved farmhouse behind tomorrow, your best friends, your family. Death. That’s what it felt like. If it happened differently, I’m sorry, but this is how I remember it.  My sister was forced out into the world. She was 18. My brother went with my father. I was suddenly an only child, but had I ever been anything more?

I’ve always felt like the lone wolf. I found that in my immediate family, the best way to survive was to fly under the radar. If, by some chance they did notice my existence, my best bet was to make them laugh before I went back to my bedroom and escaped into a book. Books saved my life and quenched my thirst for something else.

Once that move happened I was truly alone. I spent entire days wandering around in a strange new town. I got myself to school and let myself in the door when I got home. When she wasn’t working, my Mom was trying to enjoy her newly single life. There were only a few boyfriends (one of whom later became my stepfather) and most seemed to tolerate my existence. I was part of my mother’s package. I knew this. Even at 11, I knew this.

One day, on my way to my new school I ran away. I had already missed something like 15 days and it was only early November. As I walked to school, I was overcome with the first feelings of overwhelming darkness. A hopelessness so powerful that I needed to escape, I needed to go back. Back to the farm, back to my father. I needed to run but here’s a little secret: you can’t outrun depression. Not the clinical kind.

I hid in a big tunnel that went underneath the Northway and led to the Prospect Mountain trail. Before I ran, I called my father at the State Police barracks and pled with him to take me back. I stood in a phone booth, 11 years old, sobbing. In essence, I was pleading to go back in time. What I didn’t understand was that I was really begging for someone to remove the growing ball of black desperation from my core. I couldn’t have explained this to you at the time. It took nearly twenty years to be able to verbalize “the darkness”. The darkness has been a nearly constant and unwelcome visitor since I was 11 years old.

I don’t blame my bouts with depression on my parents. I blame insufficient levels of serotonin and the faulty neurons in my brain. Its clinical and, come to find out, hereditary. I know that my maternal grandmother suffered from depression. As I’ve been told, she was diagnosed as “manic depressive”. These days they call it bipolar disorder. I have imagined generations of people in my family feeling this way, hopeless and black, but mixed with days of intense happiness and boundless of energy. We’re a never ending cycle of crazies stuck in a never ending cycle of crazy. Please, God let it end with me. I can’t bear the thought of my children quietly suffering in the way that I have.

Back when I was 11, depression was still a relatively taboo subject, especially in my family. I struggled through my pre-teen and teenage years desperately trying to feel, and more importantly, appear normal. My family situation wasn’t exactly stellar. My mother had seriously dated one man, then married my stepfather. During the whole dating and newly married process I was kind of left to my own devices. Sometimes I feel like I raised myself. I definitely felt like I was in the way and rebelled against the men who, it seemed, so easily influenced my mother’s thoughts and actions. Let’s face it, my stepfather isn’t really a guy who digs children, let alone teenagers struggling with undiagnosed depression and adolescent mood swings.

I don’t have many memories of parental involvement in my school career. Kids tend to go off the grid when their parents don’t show up for track meets or cheerleading or art shows. (Art shows where they won an award for a still life painting.) Teachers tend to lose interest in the kids whose parents aren’t involved. Kids who are bobbing along with no real idea of who they are or where it is that they are going tend to fall off the radar. That’s what I did. I quit track, quit cheering, and stopped pursuing anything related to art. What was the point? They had very little idea who my friends were, unless it was a friend who I could stay with for the weekend when they wanted to go away. I began questioning my worth and abilities. I was feeding the darkness with my teenage angst.

As college application time drew near, it was painfully apparent to me that none of the adults in my life were going to encourage my attendance. My pile of catalogs was met with disdain and laughter. I clearly recall my stepfather’s mean spirited chuckles at my choices and his questioning my ability to pay. It still enrages me. His choice (as if he had the right to make such decisions) was community college. The gist of his suggestion was that it was second rate, but that was about all I was worth and/or capable of. 40 year old Kelli wants to go back to 1987/88 and hug 16 year old Kelli. I want to tell her that she is an amazing artist and writer. That she shouldn’t quit track or cheerleading. That she is smart and capable and oh, don’t worry you’ll discover Zoloft in a few years to help with that debilitating depression. Don’t give up because your people don’t believe in themselves enough to believe in you.

Needless to say, the first year of my college career was a bust and, in my quest to run away from the darkness and find a happy place, I returned to Mahopac. (Actually, I was no longer welcome in my stepfather’s home.) My sister was there, my brother was there, my Aunt Rain and Uncle Joe were there, my cousins, my grandmother…it was my answer. They understood how unhappy my life was in my stepfather’s house. They supported my move and rearranged their lives to accommodate my arrival. I flew to Florida (where Dad lives) and went through an emancipation proceeding simply because I wanted nothing to do with my two selfish, narcissistic absentee parents. It was my statement to myself. I was 19 and, though I’d essentially always been alone, I was announcing to the world that I didn’t need their half-hearted interest any more. We could all just go on with our lives and stop feigning interest in one another.

I tried so hard to fit in somewhere. Anywhere. I was still existing as an outsider and seemed to feel more of a connection with people outside of my family. I dated an older guy who for some reason, my family believed was a “coke head” who was turning me into a drug crazed junkie. Untrue. I never developed a taste for illicit drugs and, had they really known me, they would have realized that hanging around people who drink to much or do drugs freaks me out. Silly, mean spirited, small town/family rumors.

Regardless, I met a different guy who was my own age and began dating him. This made my family happy. He looked like Matthew McConaughey, or so I was told. A bartender/friend of the family dubbed us “Ken and Barbie”. We had nothing in common. I was back in college, he worked in construction. I liked museums, books and art. He liked football. He hated my friends. My family LOVED him. Through their acceptance of him, I finally felt like I belonged. I was an idiot. We dated for 5 years and were married for 3. Three of the longest years of my life.

It was my own fault. I questioned the marriage months before the wedding and even returned the engagement ring shortly after we purchased our first house. My mother and my sister talked me out of calling the wedding off saying, “It’s cold feet”. I felt like an outsider again. I could see it on their faces…Oh jeez, Kelli is going crazy again. She’s being a bitch. What’s her problem? He’s so nice. She’s so mean to him. She’s so bad. She is worthless and we actually like him more. I married him.

It took me 2 and 1/2 years to realize that I was living with what had become a constant and crippling depression. I began seeing a psychologist, then a psychiatrist so that I could try prescription meds. Nothing helped except for that bottle of wine each night, or happy hour with my work friends. I dreaded going home. I wanted to die. Mind you, I’ve never been so depressed that I have attempted to take my life, but I have pleaded with God to end it for me. In my book, when you begin praying for death, its time to act. I decided to leave. A decision that was not met with support. At all.

I got an apartment in Greenwich, CT but had to wait two weeks to move in. With nowhere to go, I slept in my car for two nights and showered at the gym in my office building. Luckily, I worked for a hotel company, so for a few nights I stayed at the Sheraton in Stamford for the employee rate which still quickly added up. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what was happening and forced myself to sit in my office each day and act normal. In private, I was barely able to move.

Dave and I had professionally known each other for about 6 months at this point. I was his client. We had a good rapport. He’s the kind of guy who makes you feel safe and in my second week of upheaval, I confided in him. I told him my story. I told him that I was alone. It all sounds so pathetic now, the circumstances that brought us together, but he was literally my savior. He held out his hand when I had no one and expected absolutely nothing in return. He was attracted, but respected what I was going through and was prepared to simply be a friend. He had worked through his own hardship and was coming out the other side when we found each other. It’s funny how when you aren’t looking, love finds you. At my darkest, most alone time, God threw David in my path.

To this day, my family believes that Dave is the reason for me leaving my first husband. My first husband believes that Dave is to blame for my leaving. They all still stubbornly believe that I was having an affair. David has been accused of being “the other man” in quiet, “manly” confrontations at family gatherings. Someone in my family even referred to him as “the other man” at our wedding. He has never become confrontational in return. He remains unscathed and above it all. He loves me enough to tolerate not being accepted. He is the first person to recognize the extent of my depression and understand how tightly it holds me in it’s grasp. He seems to be the only person who understands that I left because I was severely depressed.

Together, we discovered that Zoloft combined with running is the most effective weapon in battling depression. Pregnancy and post-partum were a challenge. Ample amounts of sleep are a must and too much dreary weather is a really bad idea.

He has pointed out how easily old patterns of behavior emerge when I’m with my family. How to this day, they see what they want to see in me, and not who I really am. He has pointed out that when those old patterns emerge, I am almost immediately on edge and depression creeps back in. No, I don’t like be labeled the bitch/shopaholic/snob/loner and yes, I do become a bitch when those words are spoken. I’m tired of old labels. I never wanted you to make fun of what interests me. All I ever wanted was to be seen and heard, not ignored and interrupted.

So there it is. I just went public with some heavy stuff. If you’re still here reading, thanks for hanging in and I’m sorry if I brought you down. I’m not expecting a lot of feedback on this one, but I do feel slightly more free.