So much of my anxiety is anticipatory. Like 90% of it. I know this, yet it is really hard to control. It is almost impossible to tell myself to just simply not think about something. It would be like me saying to you, “close your eyes and DON’T think about the color blue.” ALL you are going to do is think about and imagine the color blue. Since so much of my anxiety is related to travel and most travel or trips or drives are planned and not spontaneous, I suffer from anticipatory anxiety almost constantly. If I am invited to a dinner or event, I anticipate it for the days leading up to it. I overplan, checking Waze and other maps to see how long it will take to get there. I overthink all the different things that could go wrong or the elements I can’t control.
Even with horrible anxiety and panic disordered, I have always been pretty independent. I preferred (and still do prefer) to drive somewhere alone. I never want to be a burden to someone or ruin their time by having anxiety. My sister went away for a weekend over this past summer, during the same time I had a negative reaction to a new antidepressant, and I had the closest thing to a nervous breakdown I have ever experienced. It is still hard to think- or write- about. My sister has been planning a girls’ weekend trip to Florida for the first weekend in December (like fly out Friday and home Monday) and I have been soooooo anxious about it. It has literally ruined the entire month of November for me. I just think over and over, like a broken record, that I don’t want her to go. Selfishly, it isn’t that I think something will happen to HER, rather it is that I think something will happen to ME.
I have never been or felt so dependent on other people. I never had this kind of a reaction to someone else going away. I was desperately hoping for something to happen to prevent her from going, but I also knew that wasn’t fair to her. She didn’t ask to be my person like this and she is a hard-working mom who deserves a fun weekend away. It has been difficult because she is the person I am closest to and who I would confide in the most about these things, but I don’t want her to feel guilty about leaving me or me being upset.
The most confusing thing about this is that I don’t logically know WHY I need her so much or why I am so afraid for her to be away. But, like most people with anxiety, I know that logic really goes out the window. My therapist has pointed out many times that I am actually the one who does things almost daily for my sister, whether it is babysitting my nieces, running errands, picking something up for her, helping her with something at her house, etc. I do a lot for my sister and yet I feel this immense panic at the thought of her being far away.
It is frustrating because I don’t need ANOTHER thing to be anxious about. I have enough things already and now it feels like I am adding something new to the list, while still not making a lot of progress on my existing triggers.
Like most teachers, I tend to kick off my summer with ambition plans. THIS summer was finally going to be the one where I focused on my health and practiced self-care. I was going to make myself a little daily plan that included hitting the gym and eating well. I was going to read a ton and walk a lot and go in my pool and see my friends for lunch and do some small house updates, etc.
Well, to say that things did not go as planned would literally be the understatement of the freaking century. I am not a person who does well without routine and since I didn’t have a job to wake up for (or kids to take care of or really any other responsibilities besides feeding my cats), I ended up lounging around a lot. And then that turned into staying home more. And then THAT turned into me getting more anxious when I DID have to go somewhere. Only a few weeks into my “relaxing, self-care, healthy me! summer” and I told my therapist that I thought I needed to go back on an antidepressant. This was not a shock to either of us because my issues with agoraphobia started to spiral out of control in the spring, after two years of covid giving me a completely valid excuse to not have to go anywhere. I guess I convinced myself that I was going to use my summer off to work on getting better and expand my comfort zone, but then the opposite happened.
I went to my doctor and she prescribed me Prozac. I have taken a few different medications over the past two decades, so I was open to trying something new. I have a lot of medication anxiety (which is the literal definition of irony when you need medication because of having anxiety). But I knew that I needed to go on something and I accepted that. The first couple of days were fine. I had a little dry mouth and lost my appetite completely. I can definitely afford to lose some weight, so this side effect wasn’t a deal breaker.
After only being on the medication for a week, my sister left on a four day vacation with her family that was about a five to six hour car ride away from the town we both live in. I was anxious about her leaving. She has always been my “person” (or if you are a Friends fan…my “lobster”), so I was uncomfortable about her being so far away, but I tried not to burden her with my fears because I was happy she was taking a well deserved vacation with my nieces and brother-in-law.
She left and I COMPLETELY LOST MY SHIT. I honestly don’t even know what happened. I have had panic attacks obviously, but they usually hit and then subside. I have had lingering anxiety, but even that eventually has a period of relief. I had what felt like panic attacks 24 hours a day the whole time she was gone. I have never experienced anything like it. I completely shut down and wouldn’t talk to anyone. I could not get off my couch. There were times I wanted the blanket off my legs and I couldn’t do it- I couldn’t muster the energy to peel the blanket off of myself. I didn’t eat, hardly drank water, and just felt like I was having heart palpitations. I obsessively thought about needing to go to a mental institution or the hospital. I desperately wanted her to come home. No one else could soothe me at all, not for lack of trying. I felt like I was crawling out of my own skin and I was terrified about what was happening to me.
I called my doctor, who told me to stop the Prozac. I somehow survived the weekend and my sister came home. I thought that as soon as she was home, I would immediately feel better. I didn’t. It’s been another week now and I am just starting to feel a little better. I still am having SO much anxiety and am taking Xanax several times a day. I have had a bunch of extra appointments with my psychologist. I even went back to the doctor and unfortunately, my primary care physician was on vacation and I saw another doctor, who told me to (and I literally quote) “bake a cake for your sister and read The Secret” and then she patted my arm and said, “you feel better, right? Ok good”.
I desperately tried to find a new psychiatrist and it was SO hard. It really made me realize how messed up our mental health care system is. And I am privileged enough to have health insurance and the internet and the ability to make phone calls. My appointment isn’t until Tuesday and I am just trying to make it through each day until then.
I don’t know if it was a negative reaction to the medication or just complete fear of being without my sister, but I was genuinely so scared and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I still do not feel right. I am still so anxious. It is not completely crippling like it was last week, but it is there- steady and festering. I am scared about what to do next. My mother came to my house to sit next to me and make me shower and I remember saying to her that I promise I would never hurt myself, but that I can now understand why people do. I wanted the panic and fear and pain to end. I still do. I literally felt that I was going to die.
I feel like this all just sounds so stupid and is just not capturing how bad I felt. But I guess those who know, know. I still don’t feel like myself. I worry about the damage I did to my relationship with my completely normal and not mentally ill AT ALL boyfriend, who was so sweet and caring and probably shit scared. I know the feeling of helplessness that comes when you are the one having to deal with this. I am sure he sees me differently now. I worry about the stress I caused my family, the burden I have placed on my sister, the guilt that I have or will negatively influence my sweet little nieces.
I hate this. If I won the billion dollar mega millions lottery yesterday, I would trade the winning ticket to make this go away forever. Every shooting star, ever birthday cake candle, every time the clock shows 11:11, I make the same wish: please make my anxiety go away. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of it. I realized this week that I have suffered from anxiety and panic and agoraphobia for almost HALF OF MY LIFE now.
So, my only plan now is to try to stay busy, make myself eat and drink enough to stay alive and make it to this appointment with the new psychiatrist. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I keep seeing my friends’ pictures on social media of them being at the beach or on vacation or at a concert and I have shut most of them out and when they ask me what I did over the summer, I am not sure if I should be like “had a total nervous breakdown”?? Maybe I should actually read The Secret and learn to bake so I can just say I did that (I kid). I have always been my own worst enemy so I am trying to just go easy on myself, but it is really hard sometimes to just hate the mental illness and not actually hate me.
I babysat my little nieces the other day and I asked the four year old if she wanted to FaceTime her grandmother. She replied, “Mama’s dying”. I couldn’t help but laugh. My mother had a stomach virus, so I’m sure she FELT like she was dying, but she certainly is very alive. I had to explain “exaggeration” to my niece. We then got ready to FaceTime my mom to say hi. Before I could finish setting it up, my niece continues with this:
“My uncle is dead.” I know my sister talks about my exboyfriend/her uncle/her godfather with her a lot and has explained death in a child appropriate way to her. Her paternal grandfather died before she was born, so they talk about him often.
“I know. Unc did die,” I responded, not really thinking too much about it. But then she continued, “Do you want to know how?” That stopped me in my tracks. “How?”, I asked, having no idea what her response was going to be. She confidently replied, “he drank too much alcohol.”
Now, obviously she was repeating this from my sister. My niece is four and does not even know what alcohol is. I was very shocked at her response and didn’t know what to say, but luckily the FaceTime call connected and she started talking to my mom, the conversation already forgotten (by her).
When my sister got home from work I told her about the conversation and we talked about it. First she seemed surprised too and thought maybe my niece overheard an adult conversation, but later she said that she does try to tell her the truth about questions she asks. I wasn’t mad or anything, more just surprised I guess.
My sister and I have had discussions about eventually talking to my two nieces about alcoholism and how much to actually tell them about our father. They LOVE my dad. They only know their Papa as a sober man. And I hate to admit this, but one of the driving forces in my breakup with M. before he died was not wanting my nieces growing up with an active alcoholic in their lives. I am so close with them and spend so much time with them, I just do not want them exposed to alcoholism as children. I am relieved that they do not have anyone in their lives now that drinks.
But I also know that there is a genetic element to alcoholism and it is important for them to know the dangers of addiction. I don’t think they necessarily need to know everything from our own childhood or about my dad being abusive. I feel like that would just be so damaging to them. Growing up, my paternal grandfather was one of my very favorite people. He passed away when I was 12 years old. Many years later, my mother confessed to me that my grandpa was very much like my father- that he was an alcoholic and very, very mean. Obviously he was able to control that when I was around him because I had no idea. I felt so hurt, betrayed, and angry when I found out and I think it marred his memory some. I hated thinking about him in a negative way. I am very appreciative that my sister involves me in these decisions, although I would obviously support her and I know that as their mother she has the right to make all of her own decisions when it comes to the girls.
Last night my sister called me, whispering into the phone. “Tony’s dead! What should I do? Should I go get another fish to replace him or do I just tell her?” Tony is (was?) my niece’s blue and red betta fish. She said she was going to talk to her husband when he got home and they would decide what to do. I quickly googled an article from a psychologist about what to say to children when pets that pass away and sent it to her. It said that most children can handle the loss of their pet and it is important for them to talk about it, feel sad, etc. It is a part of the circle of life.
When asked my personal opinion, I half jokingly said, “well if you can tell her the truth about her Uncle dying, I think you can do the same about her fish.” I guess it kind of bothered me more than I thought that she knew the circumstances of M’s death. But I think more than anything, I just still feel so sad. It’s still SO hard. And I am glad that they still talk about him and loved him so much. I want his memory to stay alive and for everyone to remember him. It is coming up on the one year anniversary of his death and it still feels so raw.
❤️ This post is in memory of Tony 😆 He was a really cool little fish 🐟
One of the things I have had a lot of difficulty with since you passed away is the fact you did not have an obituary. At the time, I think your parents were so overcome by grief and the logistics of dealing with your apartment that they just were not even able to think about that. I know you said you did not want a service, which I reiterated to your mother, but I never imagined that you would not have an obituary. I kept waiting and checking online to see if one was posted. It feels so unfair. You had so many accomplishments, so many people who cared about you and it feels like your family just wanted to keep your death so private…almost like they were ashamed of you. I have never been ashamed of you, my love. Meg passed away a couple of weeks ago. She suffered much the same way you did and her family wrote and printed an obituary. She deserved that. You deserved that.
Many people, including my sister and my therapist, have recommended that I write one for you. Not to publish or for anyone else to read, but just for myself…and for you. I have put it off because I thought it would be too hard, too sad, but in a weird way it wasn’t. I kind of enjoyed writing it because I am proud of how much you accomplished and it reminded me of so many of your wonderful qualities. Just because someone struggled with addiction and mental illness does not take away from all of their positive traits and doesn’t diminish their achievements. Those things ultimately did not define you. But these things did:
Son of C. and C. Brother to A. and her husband, D. “Funcle” to G. and J. Godfather to M.E.J. M. is survived by many cousins, friends, coworkers, and the A. family.
Growing up in BT, M. attended MLHS and the U.D., receiving a B.A. in Sociology. He later attended W.U., receiving an MBA. After successfully becoming a PMP, M. landed his dream job with MLB., where he was able to travel to Europe several times.
An avid Yankees fan, M. attended games regularly. He loved bowling (and once scored a 298!), scuba diving with his father, and listening to music. M. could often be found sitting on his deck, smoking a cigar, and streaming a baseball game, while simultaneously blasting songs by The Rolling Stones or Biggie Smalls. M. was famous for his extensive shoe, sneaker, and watch collections and loved showing them off with pictures on Instagram (#sofreshandsoclean).
M. is predeceased by his grandparents and his beloved black Labrador retriever, J. No doubt she was waiting to greet him, and they are now reunited, playing ball for hours, taking long hikes, going for rides in his truck, and swimming in a beautiful lake. M. loved dogs “more than most people” and volunteered with the SPCA. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in his name to that organization.
My sister had a baby girl one week ago. I am so excited to be an auntie again and my new niece is absolutely beautiful 🙂
Of course my parents are also very happy and have been spending a lot of time at my sister’s house. However, my father has been really upsetting and annoying both my sister and me. My mother swears up and down that he is sober. I have my doubts. But even if he is, he definitely has some of the characteristics of a dry drunk. He has a tendency to snap in anger, he calls us derogatory names, he says inappropriate things and he talks INCESSANTLY. Like a full minute cannot go by without him hearing his own voice. It is incredibly irritating.
When my first niece was born, my mother would come down almost every day alone. My father was drinking heavily at the time so he would stay home. It was such a wonderful time for my sister and mother and me. We really bonded and enjoyed every minute with the baby. This time, my mother brings my father every time she visits or babysits my niece. I understand why she does- he doesn’t want to be alone and she is afraid he will drink.
My sister is feeling very vulnerable after just giving birth. Her fiancé is at work all day and she is breastfeeding the baby. She confided in me that she feels uncomfortable doing so around my dad and wishes that my mom would just come visit on her own sometimes. It is not that we don’t ever want to see our father, but I know we both miss the time we used to have alone with my mom.
I mentioned this to my mother the other day and her reaction was kind of surprising. She basically stated that she can’t come down without inviting him (yet she goes shopping every Saturday with her friend while my father stays home alone). She basically said that they are a package deal.
I talked to my therapist about it and she suggested the reason this is so upsetting is because all throughout our childhood, my mother always “chose” my father over us. His needs always came first. And now she is doing that again. I understand that my sister is grown up, but she is still a girl who just wants her mom and my father cannot be adult enough to accept that. Instead, he would take it personally and be offended. Everything is always about him and revolves around his feelings.
Growing up, I never viewed my mom as part of the problem. I always thought about her as “one of us”…a victim of my father’s alcoholism and abuse. And although it is true she was, she was also the adult and we were just small children. We did not ever have a choice. Even if it would have been incredibly difficult, she did. And she still does, but now so do we. Last week my father called me a scumbag. Today he angrily called my mother a “bitch” in front of my three year old niece. My sister finally said to him that if he is going to get angry and use language like that, he shouldn’t come down anymore.
My sister and I are on the same page. We both do not trust my father. His sobriety is too new, too fragile. His past behavior proves that he cannot he trusted alone with a child. That makes me cringe just writing it, but it is true. Even if he physically does no harm, verbally he is constantly insulting people, mostly women. He is sexist and perverted and rude and misogynistic. My mother failed to protect us from him and although I do not carry the resentment I probably should for her, I will be damned before I let him repeat that cycle with my two innocent, precious nieces.
Tomorrow begins my 21st year of teaching. I honestly do not know where the time went. This job is truly one of the loves of my life. I often say that it was more of a “calling” for me, because I never considered doing anything else. There have been A LOT of ups and downs throughout the years, but I love teaching as much as ever.
This is going to be a really difficult and unpredictable year. I pride myself on developing relationships with my students and it is going to be challenging to do so from behind a computer screen. I feel a lot of sadness…for the students who are missing out on a “normal” high school experience. For the kids who can’t play the sport they love or participate in the school musical. Several of my close teacher friends needed to work remotely from home, so it is depressing to think about going through a school day without seeing them, or really socializing with any of my colleagues. No more Friday night football games or happy hours or eating lunch in the teachers’ cafe or stopping in the office to chat with the secretaries. I feel like this is going to be a very isolating year. We are supposed to enter school, go directly to our classrooms, teach our classes and then go home.
On top of that, my niece is starting preschool and it is still kind of a shock every time I see a mask on her little face. It is so exciting that she is starting school, but I wish she was entering during a normal school year, so she could have recess and play and eat lunch with other kids her age.
No matter what, the show must go on and as a teacher one of the most important lessons I will teach this year is how to make the best of things. And I have a feeling I will be leaning a lot this year myself. Even on days where I might have to put in extra effort, I am going to try my hardest to be a positive influence on my new group of students. At the very minimum, they deserve that 🙂
This might be the hardest month yet to write a blog post for me. I have never missed a month without writing at least one entry. It has been hard to find a topic during this horrible time…with the coronavirus and people being ill and losing family members and being unemployed. I don’t want to complain because I am healthy and getting a paycheck. I have racked my brain to find something to write about that is not negative or offensive or insensitive and I finally thought of a topic…deer skulls.
In the northeast region of our country, it is very common to see deer everywhere. Just on my two mile drive home from my sister’s house last night I think I counted 8 of them. Some people think of deer as a nuisance because they cause car accidents, while others appreciate their beauty. When I think of deer, I think of a specific memory with my father. It was a singular moment so insignificant in my life, I am surprised I even remember it at all.
One day, we were exploring some trails in the woods behind my childhood house. My father and I were walking ahead of my mother and my sister and my dad was pointing out various wildlife and plants. A squirrel would skitter along the path and he would shout “squirrel!”. He warned me not to touch poison ivy and explained how to identify it (a skill I still find useful as I am VERY allergic).
“Whoa! Check that out!” My dad pointed to something round and whitish on the ground a few feet in front of us. As we got closer, I realized that it was a skull of unknown origin. A dead person! was the first thought I had until I realized the shape and size of it could not be a human. My father, in true dad fashion, leaned down and plucked it off the ground with his bare hands. He turned to me with a sly smile and then reached his arm out to try to touch me with it. I jumped a mile and screamed, “groooooosssss!”.
My father carried the skull all the way home and by the time we arrived, he had determined it was from a deer, even though there were no antlers attached. By this point, my initial shock faded and I was pretty interested in the skull, with its gaping eye sockets and teeth still attached to the jaw bone. He soaked the skull in soapy water and cleaned it, while my mother disapprovingly kept asking, “what are you going to DO with that thing?” After the skull was clean, I was so fascinated with it that my father gave it to me. This is most likely the strangest “gift” I have received. I sat for a half hour just wiggling the teeth, until one popped out into my hand. I was able to put it back into place with much satisfaction.
I kept that deer skull on my bookshelf for many years. Once I got my own apartment, I decided that it did not really fit with my decor scheme and that it was weird to have to explain to people why I had a deer skull in my home. I gave it to a science teacher at the high school where I teach English and he gladly displayed it in a case in his classroom. Over the years, once in a while, I would pop into his room to look at the deer skull, the memory of that day running through my mind.
Children remember the strangest and most random things. My niece is only three years old and probably won’t remember anything from this time in her life. Or maybe she will? My sister and brother-in-law are both unemployed and home with her all day now. Maybe she will remember making tents out of all the couch pillows, baking cookies with my sister, or helping her dad rake sticks in the backyard? I have a very poor memory and cannot recall much from my childhood. And unfortunately, by the time I turned twelve years old, my father was a full blown abusive alcoholic, so there were not many happy memories made during my teenage years. Yet, there are these random moments, burned into my memory, that I fondly remember. My dad was fun (and cool!) at one point during my childhood and now that he is sober, I hope that my niece will make memories with him that she can look back on someday to remember her grandfather.
My deer skull still is on display in the science lab classroom. I am sure over the years, many students have seen it and assumed it came from a school supply magazine or they really do not think much of it at all. Some of them are my students as well and they have NO idea that they are looking at a piece of my childhood…a tangible, albeit very odd, reminder of a happy memory with my father.
I have always believed that people show love in different ways. I love mailing greeting cards for every occasion possible…it is one way I let the people I care about know that I am thinking of them.
During the 41 days my father was in the hospital and nursing home and ever since he got home a week ago, my mother has been glued to his side. Without knowing it, both my sister and I spoke to our respective therapists about my mother’s weird devotion to him. He has treated her so badly for so many years, it is hard to understand why she even cares about what happens to him.
However, my sister and I were at the hospital and nursing home all the time, too- even when he had psychosis and was acting so horribly. We brought him milkshakes and food he liked. My sister brought her toddler to visit “Papa”. We basically all put our lives on hold to take care of him. Clearly this is learned behavior because I did the same thing when my exboyfriend was in the hospital for 28 days…I sat by his side, putting my life on hold.
I have never doubted that my father loved me (and my mother or sister). I never doubted my exboyfriend loved me either. They both just had such a hard time showing it because of their addictions to alcohol.
My dad showed me love by providing for our family, for making sure my sister and I had every opportunity possible, including going to college. He showed love by making sure we had a beautiful home. He showed love by buying my mother, sister and me matching bracelets for Christmas one year. He showed love by building me a dollhouse that I can pass down to my niece. He showed love by crying when I told him I was miserable and getting divorced. He showed love by helping me with my mortgage for the summer so I wouldn’t have to worry about money after my boyfriend moved out abruptly.
My exboyfriend showed me love by supporting me working through my anxiety. He showed me love by convincing me to give up a summer job that made me unhappy. He showed me love by getting me “just because” flowers. He showed me love by sending me cards, because he knows I love getting mail. He showed me love by embracing my sister and loving our niece. He showed me love by caring about my mother.
Neither of these two men loved me in the ways that I necessarily wanted or needed, but they showed me love in the way THEY knew how and I try to be appreciate of that. I am very happy right now to be with someone who is able to show me love in the way that I need (physical affection, open communication, security) and who accepts my love in the way I give it.
I can’t wait for 2019 to be over, especially November. It has never been a particularly good month for me, but I always looked forward to Thanksgiving. It became even more fun when my boyfriend moved in a few years ago. We created a new tradition where we would prepare the turkey the night before. I would make herb butter while he searched around inside the bird for the bag of giblets, which he seemed to always have a hard time locating. He would then rub the butter on, making corny jokes and pretending to run after me with his disgusting hands. We would spend the night together and the next morning, I would put the turkey in and start cooking. My family arrived early. Once we sat down to dinner, he would take an annual photo biting into a turkey leg. My mom always sat next to him at the table and would always lean in to be in one of the pictures. I have a picture of him from each year with a turkey leg. The first Thanksgiving he ate with my family, my dad was looking all around the table for the oversized meat serving fork, only to realize my boyfriend was eating his meal with it.
When we broke up a few months ago, one of the first things I said to my sister was that I was not hosting Thanksgiving this year. Luckily, she bought a house and so it seemed like a natural transition to move the holiday to her place. I am just dreading it. Everything about Thanksgiving reminds me of him. And it is especially difficult because I keep imagining him alone. I know that it is really his own fault that he is, but it still is really hard not to feel sad about it.
Each year, my sister and I attend a local craft show. There is a woman who will personalize Christmas ornaments with names. Each year, I bought a different one with his and my names on it. Last year, it was two little wooden stockings hanging on a mantlepiece that said “and the stockings were hung…”. The red and white stockings had our names written on them. This year, I was looking at the ornaments and noticed the same ornament, but with a solitary stocking. “and the stocking was hung…”. I wanted to get it, but my sister said it would just make me sad to see the ornament on the tree with only my name and a singular stocking. It was just another reminder of everything I have lost this year and how alone I am now.
When I got home from the craft show, I pulled out the box with all of my Christmas ornaments in it and went through them. I took out all of “our” ornaments, but he also had some ornaments of his own, two in particular that were from his godparents when he was a baby. I am hoping to be able to enjoy Christmas more than Thanksgiving, so I decided to mail him the ornaments now, rather than letting them just wait for me to discover them again when I decorate the tree. I packed them up carefully and went to the post office, where I proceeded to cry the entire time. It was like another piece of him gone, another reminder that our relationship is permanently over.
I was not expecting a response from him. He had messaged me a few weeks ago saying he missed me and I did not respond. I found out his grandfather died last week and he did not tell me. It was difficult, but I decided not to send him a sympathy card. We truly have had no contact. However, he did text me and it was not to say thank you. He demanded that I never mail him anything ever again and if I find something else of his in my house to discard it. He also accused me of knowing that he was at 90 days of sobriety and that I was purposely trying to upset him.
I talked to my therapist and told her that my intentions were not the way he interpreted them, although I can see now from his perspective how it might have been difficult to open a package from me, not knowing what it was. I truly thought he would want those childhood mementos and I also really wanted to get it over with as far as returning them. After thinking about it for a while, I have to admit that maybe a subconscious part of me wanted to hurt him. I certainly would never, ever do something on purpose to tempt him to drink and I find it unfathomable that he could even consider that. But I am still hurting SO badly and I feel like I never had the opportunity to really be able to tell him that. I know he knows he hurt me and I know he is sorry, but I do not think he really understands the degree to which I have been affected. I doubt he knows that when I close my eyes at night, I picture his limp body on the hospital bed, with tubes and wires all over him. I feel so traumatized by the experience. I really don’t think he knows that. I think he thinks that I am heartbroken by his unfaithfulness and hurt by how his family treated me and angry about his lies and those are all true, but he cannot possibly know what it was like for me to sit in that hospital room day and night for almost a month, not knowing if he would survive, but also knowing that if he did, our lives would never be the same and our relationship was over.
Growing up with a violent alcoholic father made holidays very unpredictable and often very volatile. I could write ten different stories about ten different horrible things my father did to ruin holidays while I was growing up. I am sure most children of alcoholics can do that. When I took over Thanksgiving and started hosting it at my house, it became a holiday that I could control. It became less about stress and more about the traditions that my ex and I created to prepare the meal. There were never any issues (my father is usually well behaved when he is a guest in someone else’s home). My family would arrive early and leave early and he and I would watch a movie or take a nap. It was just…nice. I feel like I am going to see the turkey leg this year and just bawl my eyes out. I miss him so much. It is so, so hard to not know what or how he is doing. He lives so close, but I feel so far apart from him now. Our lives have moved on separately and now there are things we don’t know about each other. His grandpa died (which I only know because my best friend is his cousin), he started a new job (someone told me he posted on Instagram), I am sure there are things I don’t know about at all. He doesn’t know about the problem I had with a student at school. He doesn’t know that my sister had a miscarriage last week. He is still the first person I want to call when something happens. I just can’t. It just all hurts so much still.
I bought a journal on Amazon at the recommendation of my psychiatrist. It is a gratitude journal where each night you can write three things that happened that day that you are thankful for. I plan to start using it because it is easy to slide down into the rabbit hole of sadness and self-despair and depression and only think about the bad things. I know I need to start recognizing the wonderful, beautiful, happy moments that have been overshadowed for so long.
So, to practice…today I am thankful for:
The hysterical “30 Rock”, which I binge watched all day while grading papers
My sister’s house being a five minute drive away, so I can see my niece every day
Nyquil (bc I am sick and I know it will help me sleep tonight lol)
Normally, my boyfriend and I do not go to my parent’s house on Christmas Eve, because they come to our house on Christmas Day. The past couple of years, my sister, her fiancee and now their baby still go up there…I think a lot of it is out of obligation on my sister’s part and so my mom is not alone with my dad on a holiday. Over the years, I have opted out, mostly because my boyfriend doesn’t enjoy going there and because my dad is a wildcard when it comes to his drinking, although he usually stays sober on holidays and if he knows he is seeing family.
For the past few weeks, my boyfriend has had a tough time dealing with his depression and my mother has been very understanding and supportive of him. I think to show his appreciation, he surprised me by suggesting we go to my parent’s house to surprise them on Christmas Eve. I told my sister we would be there about an hour after them (we both live about 45 min away from my hometown) and to keep it a secret. My boyfriend bought my mother a beautiful plant and I picked out a couple of special gifts to have my family open early. I was actually looking forward to it- my parents have a beautiful home with a big fireplace and I knew how happy it would make my mom to have us all there together.
As my boyfriend and I were getting ready to walk out the door, my sister called me in tears. “Don’t come. Dad’s drunk.” I hung up with her and burst into tears. I should not have been surprised, but I was really disappointed. And I felt so bad for my sister, who tries so hard around the holidays to make everything festive (and we were supposed to celebrate her birthday, too- my sister said there was a homemade birthday cake for her on the counter). What made it 1,000 times worse was my mother was crying as my sister left (she literally walked in the house, my dad was yelling, she saw he was drunk and immediately left.) My mother NEVER cries. To know that she got everything all ready, made appetizers, baked my sister a birthday cake and waited anxiously to see her granddaughter, just to have my dad ruin it by drinking is so sad. Even though I am sure she was heartbroken, she told my sister to leave and go home. I called my mom to see what was going on and she kept choking back tears during our conversation. But she also told me not to come- that my dad didn’t deserve to have his family around him if he was going to act the way he does.
My sister sat in her car in their neighborhood, unsure of what to do- she felt too guilty to leave my mom alone on Christmas Eve, but didn’t want her 18 month old daughter exposed to my father if he was belligerent. After I finally called my dad and assessed that he did, in fact, drink, but was not “that” drunk, my sister decided to ignore my mother’s pleading and went back. My boyfriend and I jumped in the car and got there as fast as we could. I was definitely anxious on the ride there, imagining the possible outcomes in my head. I guess we figured if my dad started acting up, we could all just leave. Luckily, he behaved himself for the most part and the night was salvaged.
It just sucks. I just wish I had more normal family and a dad that wasn’t an alcoholic and holidays could just be less drama-filled. I know everyone has issues with their families and no one’s is perfect, but when I talk to my friends or look on social media, most people appear to have relatively normal families and holiday celebrations. I am so grateful it turned out okay and that my mom was happy in the end, but I know in the back of my mind that night could have ended very differently and it definitely put a bit of a damper on Christmas.