Father's Day, Minor Setbacks and Small Victories

So, apparently I was a little naive about this whole depression "thing."

It's not really a "thing."

I have depression. It's not a phase. I've probably been dealing with it in random ways my whole life, without ever really realizing exactly what I was...or was not...dealing with.

I've been having a bit of a terrible time this week. It was set off by a specific incident that I wanted so desperately to let go of but I can't because anxiety.

Apparently anxiety doesn't like to let go of anything. Anxiety holds on to the one incident and then grabs a few others for company and I've had a hard time trying to focus or be productive or stop crying or just. be. normal.

When I was very little, I loved my family. And then my family betrayed me. My parents inflicted one hurt after another, and deep Southern roots require all relatives to keep up appearances and deny, deny, deny and I kept trying to love them until finally...it just hurt so much less to just walk away.

After that, I would just create families for myself...and to me, the people I surrounded myself with would feel like family, but of course, most people actually have real families so it was always a bit one sided.

And that has never, ever changed. So I feel betrayed when people who were never really more than acquaintances fail to treat me like a long, lost family member. Which is silly, really, but my family history has wired me a little bit differently. A little bit weird.

I expect too much and I don't really know how to stop expecting too much.

And then, when I drop my guard, and I'm all in with someone I think, oh god...you are really just loving them too much and this is going to end SO horribly for you...so then I retreat into myself for a minute, which I'm sure is just awesome for the person on the receiving end.

"I really loved you yesterday, but today I'm scared of you, so please go away. I'll try to love you again tomorrow."

Anyway, with little, stupid (but not really that stupid)  things triggering anxiety attacks and mother's day and then father's day...I just kind of...have not been feeling that great?

My dad died a few years ago...and every year I spend some time just being really sad about my dad. I wrote a lot of this shortly after my dad died, but the thing is...it applies every year. Sometimes on the anniversary of his death, sometimes on father's day, sometimes on a Wednesday just because it's a Wednesday and something reminded me of him.



My dad...

My dad broke my heart on a regular basis. I knew him for a little while when I was a kid, and then he was gone. I knew him again in my early twenties, and then he was gone. Then I knew him again and I really liked my dad. Like - I LOVED him. He was funny and smart and easy to talk to and I thought, "wow. I have a dad. For real... I have a DAD." And then I called him...and called him...and called him...I got worried, because that's what I do...and I called him...6 months later he called me back. He was sorry; he just got distracted and forgot about me.

Right. He forgot about me.

…and then, months later, he was back. To tell me that his wife had died and that he was broken hearted and that he was also dying…of hepatitis C, of Crohn’s Disease, of diabetes and skin cancer and liver cancer and a broken heart…and that he really wanted to see me. I didn’t even know if any of that was true…I still don’t. I cried on the phone with him and didn’t bring up the past and invited him to stay with my husband and I…to MEET my husband and hung up the phone feeling so sad but excited to see my dad again.

And then nothing.

One day, I found out he had made the 8 hour trip from Minnesota to Illinois and was less than a half an hour away from me. I called my dad and we spoke for a couple of minutes and then he got distracted and said he would call me right back.

And nothing.

So I called the next day and we spoke briefly and he got distracted again and said he would call me right back…again.

And nothing.

Rinse and repeat…for 3 days. And then I found out he had left…gone back to Minnesota without so much as a word.

I was most definitely hysterical and cried for hours because my father could make an 8 hour trip to be a half an hour away from me…but the extra half an hour to actually see his daughter was too much. A completed phone call was too much effort.

...at that moment, I felt sure that my father could care less about me, and it broke my heart.

And two years later my father broke my heart for the last time.

Because he died.

After that last trip…where he was going to call me back…and he was going to come and visit…and I guess he just forgot about me again…

We never spoke. Nothing. No letters. No calls. Nothing.

It was hard not to feel small and worthless and really, just like garbage. Even if you can talk yourself out of it after a couple of minutes, and recognize your self-worth…for a couple of minutes….you really feel like garbage.

But I loved my dad. Like so many of us…I loved my fucked up father.



And after the last time I swore that that was it. I was never going to let him hurt me again and he could go to hell and I had enough love in my life without his stupid ass screwing me up every 6 months….

But...I miss my dad. I’ve missed my dad for a really long time, even before he died. He was smart and funny and handsome and good at a lot of things and not so good at being a father…but I loved him. I missed him for a while and I pretended like I didn’t because it’s painful to miss someone that you’re not sure even cares about you…but I missed him all of the time. I wish things would have been different.



My father's funeral was...traumatic. My mother was horrible. She said and did lots of terrible things but probably the very worst was saying that it "doesn't matter if we split your father's ashes - they just throw all of the bodies in the crematorium at the same time anyway - you don't even know whose ashes you're going to get."

She's awesome. She says really awesome things like that all of the time.
After my dad's funeral and when I came home, I spent lots of time walking past my dad's picture, and debating on whether he looks happy now, or if he still looks sad. Wondering if his eyes were following me, and being reminded of creepy Jesus pictures from church, whose eyes always followed you, watching every single thing you did...

...thinking, and by the way Jesus, where are you? God always seems to comfort people in books and in movies...in real life, I felt empty...and lost....no comforting hand of God on my shoulder, no farewell glimpse of my dad in a dream.

I spent a lot of time wondering why I even bothered asking God for anything, ever...

I sat at my dining room table with a large plastic bag full of my father's ashes. I stared at them and lifted the bag in my hands, feeling the weight of the dust that was once my father. I decided that I didn't care what anyone else thinks and that this was my grief and I would deal with it in whatever morbid way I wanted to...and I took a handful of my dad's ashes and let them sift slowly through my fingers. I took a small piece of bone from the ash, held it between my fingers and stared intently at it, willing myself to feel a connection to the dead. It didn't work. I didn't feel feel anything but sad...and a strange fascination with what was once the bones of my father.

...I did not feel the ghost of my dad nearby. Which made me cry...huge, mascara colored tears running down my face, as the ashes of my father sifted slowly through my fingers.

I whispered to myself "there is no one here"...I felt sorry for myself...I asked God to pleasepleasepleaseohplease just let me say that I'm sorry and that I didn't know and that I would have done something if I could have I swear I would have I just didn't know and I'm so so sorry and can I please just have him back for a little bit so I can say goodbye because ...I was so very, very sad. I was so very, very sorry.

I didn't know. I didn't know that depression made my dad crawl inside himself and stay away from me. I took it personally. I was hurt. I was angry. I didn't know.

I didn't know he was so sad. I didn't know that sometimes loving people is scary and difficult and weird and sometimes you push them away even when you don't want to.
I know now. I know exactly what that feels like.
Sometimes, I find myself thinking that he will come back. It will be a while, because he always disappears for a while...and then he comes back. I think that he will come back, and it kind of shocks me when I remember that he won't.

It hurts. It hurts every single time.

And so...father's day is sometimes a struggle all on its own, even without everything else going on in my head. And this week was just kind of ...existing and breathing and putting one foot in front of the other was just really hard.

BUT...because I know...for the most part anyway...what I'm dealing with, I'm still being proactive. I made myself a promise that no matter what each day brought during this time, I would try to do one thing each day that would make the next day easier, and other than that, I wouldn't put any pressure on myself to do anything. So that's what I'm doing. Making the bed. Grocery shopping. Organizing my office. A lunch with friends. Small victories. Small steps forward.


Also, as I was getting pictures for this blog I found the eulogy I read at my dad's funeral, which included a story about a Christmas that we spent together...




Eating sushi and drinking apple martinis on Christmas night in Los Angeles, on the Sunset Strip. Mickey Rourke walked in, which thrilled my dad to no end. My dad and Mickey Rourke actually hung out all night, arguing who was going to buy who a drink...and my dad kept patting Mickey Rourke on the back and exclaiming "You're Mickey Rourke!" At one point I tugged on my dad's arm, "Dad, stop it, he KNOWS he's Mickey Rourke!"
Shortly after, I heard my dad saying again, "You're Mickey Rourke!" I made fun of my dad a lot for that, but truthfully, I did the exact same thing when I met the guy who played Greg Brady. Just completely awestruck and over and over again telling him "You're Greg Brady!" 

I am totally my father's daughter - depression, anxiety, ugly feet, and the complete inability to remain even slightly composed in the presence of celebrity.

And underneath the eulogy, a letter from my dad, from so long ago, that I'm so lucky to have today...




Small victories. Little things that count, that make the hardest things a bit easier.




I miss you, dad, and I just wanted to let you know that your daughter loves you.

2 comments:

Amy Kennard said...

I barely know you and I love you. You're my spirit sister. Not many of us can - or will - express that raw emotion for everyone to see. It should be seen. Kudos to you, my friend.

D Kindhart said...

Oh My, What beautiful writing.
Honest and open and wow