I have been in therapy since about April of ‘05. Before therapy my reaction to my depressed or anxious moods was one of powerlessness, “Oh, no, I am getting depressed again” like it is an inevitable roller coaster that I will have to powerlessly ride. But having been in therapy, seeing how things can be perceived differently, I have a new perspective on my depressed mood today. There is a reason why I am reacting this way. What is the reason? How can I react in a healthier way?
It was very upsetting in my therapy appointment yesterday to have my feelings validated that my relationship with Charles is not going well. It was easier to deny the reality of it when I could just joke around about my “barely existent boyfriend” Reacting that way made it feel like I was upset with the “circumstances beyond our control.” But when forced to truly look at it, plain and simple, Charles isn’t investing in the relationship. He is throwing out some “I miss you terribly”-s but that’s all he’s putting in.
Using the skills I have learned in therapy I have to face that this isn’t acceptable, and I have to believe that I truly deserve better. I need to examine: How can a woman float along for 3 months being basically ignored by her boyfriend and at most let out a peep of “would you please send me more e-mails?.” How does a woman survive in a situation like this? How? Practice. As an adolescent, I lived alone with my dad, but he had no involvement in my life but to pay the bills. I am used to being ignored and alone.
My mom was dead, and my dad was basically also dead. He was passed out every night on the front porch. When he was passed out I couldn’t ask him for help with my homework, and he never asked me if I did my homework. When he was passed out he couldn’t clean our house of squalor, and he never made me clean my room. Passed out he couldn’t protect me from predators who would want to rape a 12 year old girl, and he never talked to me and warned me about the predators who ended up statutorily raping a lonely and desperate 12 year old girl. My mother died by accident, my father died on purpose.
Starting at 11 when my stepmother left I did all I could think of to endear myself to my dad so he would make me a priority, after all, I worshiped that funny and creative man. Yes she left, which was sad, but him and I would pull together and make it, and we would become closer. Instead, he started drinking a tequila sunrise every night “to relax.” Just as I predicted, he became addicted. The tequila sunrise a night quickly became two. Then there was no grenadine, then no orange juice. Next thing you know the cup became unnecessary too, I can’t remember if he kept the bag around the bottle while he drank it.
Having a passed out person as your sole parent is quite a challenge, especially when, like me, you wanted so desperately to be “normal.” So during the years of cajoling my dad to make me do chores and make me finish my homework, I started an elaborate game of “pretend” where I played the well adjusted daughter, and his role was of the parent who gave a shit if his daughter lived or died. He loved this game, he loved (and continues to love) taking credit for my successes. “I must have done something right” has come out of his mouth far too many times. My favorite memory of the “loving family game” was when I had to remind him to put an ad with my baby picture in the back of my senior yearbook saying how much he loves me and is proud of me. In the ad, he wrote the weirdest phrase…”Now it’s YOUR turn, Peanut” What did that mean? “I am passing the torch to you, Diana, now it’s YOUR turn to give up on life and it’s YOUR turn to abandon your responsibility.” Or maybe there was a punctuation error…maybe it was intended to say “…now, it’s YOUR turn…” meaning “Remember now, it’s YOUR turn to be your own parent. I put in at least 40% effort at being your parent for 10 years, its YOUR turn. It’s your life anyway, why should I waste my time caring about how you turn out? I would really prefer to sleep on the porch.”
And when I tried every which way to explain to him that I really needed his involvement in my life, could he please take parenting classes or something, I earned the role of “Another nagging woman.” He even would mock me for being emotional. When I would plead for some attention and rules he would say those cruel, indifferent words: “I trust you.”
Charles knows that I won’t cheat on him, he told me: “I trust you, Diana.” He doesn’t need to remind me that I am loved, because he “trusts” that I will be there when he comes back. He doesn’t need to give me the attention that a woman needs from a man, because he “trusts” that I won’t go looking for it somewhere else. I appreciate being trusted, but I would appreciate more that he behaved as if I was worth protecting. But the feeling that I am “worth protecting” is one I last felt when my mother was alive. I knew very strongly that I should be “grateful” for the attention granted to me by my father and stepmother. And when she left, my father drilled the point home that I was not important enough to be protected, just tolerated and “trusted.”
Charles still has the chance to step up to the plate and show he gives a damn. But if he doesn’t, it’s not a good idea for me to relive my adolescence and relationship with my father through him. That is what people who don’t resolve their childhood issues do. They set themselves up to relive them, thinking that by “fixing” the current situation they will fill that gaping hole in their heart. I know now that that doesn’t work. I am in therapy now, I don’t want my life to be controlled, or ended, by anxiety and depression anymore. I have lost too many years of my life to misery and fear.
I have thrown down the gauntlet to Charles. He can choose to be the man I deserve, or I will find another man. I only had one father, I did all I could to find someone else to raise me, but it didn’t work, I was stuck with what I had. But I am not stuck now. I am not forced to take scraps of love when I deserve true love. I am not doomed to a lifetime of being undervalued like I was as an adolescent. My father abandoned me and failed me, I am not going to abandon and fail myself.
Depression is not inevitable.