Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Heartache and Depression

Update 2016: This article was featured in my book
"Saying NO to Suicide", with added commentary.

Something happened to me over the summer that I never expected: I became a divorced dad.

Lonely Shoes
It's hard to say exactly what went wrong without airing dirty laundry. I'm OK with you seeing my dingy socks, but I'm conscientious about you seeing my Spiderman Underoos. I also don't think it's fair or respectable to cast my ex's undies to the four corners of the earth. Let's just say that there was a profound breakdown in respect and trust, and the rumors of my alliance with the Lord of Evil are exaggerated. Hopefully, that's vague enough that nobody will take offense.

Well, there is this LIST out there I may one day talk about. I hear it's pretty big, details my crimes against humanity, and requires a forklift to move about. If I ever get a hold of it, I'm sure it will provide material for this blog until the end of time—or make me scratch my head and wonder why anybody would spend so much time making a list of thousands of things I've allegedly done wrong instead of helping me fix things.

At any rate, I slipped into the deepest depression of my life last May. I didn't know it at the time, but that feeling of hopelessness I had was caused by my marriage dissolving like fizz in an opened bottle of pop. Truthfully, my ex-wife has been waffling between happily and horribly married for ten years, and with the encouragement of peers and family she made the announcement on July 31st that she wanted a divorce.

I tried as I did in the past to save things, but this time as I prayed for help I knew that there was no help coming. She had made her choice. I then made the choice to finalize the divorce as quickly as I could manage with no recriminations and acrimony. I still gave her opportunity after opportunity to rethink her decision as I worked with a mediator and clergy, but she was resolute. On our 23rd anniversary, we were in a lawyer's office signing papers. I got the minivan and the Kitchenaid mixer. She got the old apartment with its heaven-like fiber optic internet connection of transcendent speed. We have joint custody of the kids. That's the biggest win—for all of us.

After 19 years of being the full-time custodial parent, saving us thousands of dollars in daycare costs, but with no finished degree or recent job experience, I could go off on a tirade about injustices and betrayals and anger and GRRR and ARGH and WHYOHWHYOHWHY, or I could focus on the things she felt I did wrong and the things that I agreed with her about, but what I choose to share is how I'm keeping myself from being suicidal, and how I'm separating being sad from being depressed.

Step One: Keeping Busy

I may be home alone in my apartment today as my kids spend the next two weeks at their mother's, but I am surprisingly upbeat. Not having-a-great-time-wish-you-were-here upbeat, but more like not-ready-to-die upbeat. It's a notch above despair, but I'll take it. I am now blogging again for over at ADDaboy!, and I also their TV & Radio show producer, finding interesting folks for them to interview. The first person I found is being interviewed right now. It's challenging finding people who aren't terrified of being outed because of mental health stigmas, but I know in time I can make this work well. I'll also be doing some freelance work for them if things work out, and I have my book that has patiently awaited my renewed attention.

Step Two: Maintaining Good Sleep

Being without the kids since Sunday has punched my sleep schedule in the gut, but I'm done being winded and am prepared to retire to bed early again tonight. I discovered that I never truly tried to sleep. I would get bored and wander off to find something to do. This time, I have made rest a priority. Eliminating sleep deprivation has made a profound difference in my life.

Step Three: Allowing Myself To Be Sad

Hey, I got dumped after 23 years of love, forgiveness & sacrifice. It hurts. A lot. It hurts worse than when my brother died. I hurts worse than anything I have ever experienced in my life. You think maybe I'm going to be a little sad that my best friend no longer loves me? You bet. And I do myself no favors by denying those feelings because of a misguided effort to prevent Depression. Sadness is a response to tragic or disheartening events; Depression is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and misery that pulls my heart to the grave. Sadness invites comfort from others; Depression compels me to drive others away. When my thoughts are tainted with hopelessness and dreams of death, I know they are induced by Depression and I fight them off. When I pine for the marriage lost and wish things had turned out differently, or even burst into tears, I know it's a response to the tragedy I'm living through. I allow it to happen.

Man, I haven't cried this much since my parents wouldn't let me watch the Red Sox compete in the American League pennant game in 1975. So stoic for so many years, and only now has the water works started to trickle and stop again. August was a wet month.

Step Four: Thinking Forward

I can't do anything about the past. If I did anything wrong, epiphanies and insight can only be so useful. I try to learn from my mistakes and move on. Dwelling on the past with "If ONLY" thoughts will only cause pain. I can't change the past. I can't change the past. I can't change the past. But I can change the future. That's where I am focusing my energies now. I have a new apartment, and I have strived to make it a home for my girls. I worry about them, and I worry about making money and that's it. Once I succeed at surviving, I will focus on living. And then maybe planning again. I'm giving myself time.

In all of this turmoil, there are a few upsides. With no money in the bank, I have a balanced bank account. I've lost an AWFUL lot of weight. I have a new pair of pants. My home is neat and tidy without any kids running around. I may have finally overcome my lifelong fixation with blondes. And I understand pain so well now that my writing is bound to show increased depth. We'll see.

For now I am simply looking forward to having my girls here again, and maybe have enough dough to take them out for a treat—maybe even smile again. Sadness will be a constant companion for the time being, but Depression doesn't have to be. Too many little hearts are counting on me.

And now you know. Welcome to my Life2.0.