Tag Archives: depression

thoughts on white picket fences

new amor mio

I read a post in this morning’s The Elephant Journal newsletter and felt moved to write. (This post actually started as a message to Waylon, but I’ve now rewritten it as a blog post.)

I was approaching 30 and felt much the same way about time shrinking. Back in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s I think maybe a woman’s time clock ticked a little faster than it does now (although in my case my mother was my example of what was possible – she had been an anomaly as she birthed me, in 1964, at the age of 45). I was intent on finding someone to share my life with because I felt that my real life – the one we’d build together – wouldn’t / couldn’t start until that moment that co-creative union occurred.

Well I’d finally met someone who I thought would make a good husband and a father some day – I’d scrutinized his family and how they related to each other (because much can be learned from family dynamics) and marvelled at how few vices he had (because I’d dated far too many pot smokers and party animals in my time). The fireworks weren’t going off gangbusters but I always figured that sex was something that improved with knowledge and intimacy (and I was right).

We married in April of 1993. I moved from Montreal to California, not to L.A. as I had initially expected, because my new husband had taken a job up in the south South Bay and he’d found us a place to live in Gilroy, garlic capital of the world. The truth was, I wasn’t prepared for the shock of marriage, for the trauma of moving away from the place I’d lived in for 29 years (which was so familiar that I could almost navigate it with my eyes closed), where my family (though dysfunctional) lived and for the loss of the friendships that I had, which had begun long ago and still thrived (the distance would make it much more difficult to maintain).

I think I knew almost immediately that we’d made a mistake. Although he was a good man, my husband and I couldn’t seem to communicate in a way that we both heard each other, in a way that we both felt held and safe to speak and listen, and we both lacked the ability to come up with mutually beneficial solutions. We were both intrinsically selfish. I had a long ways to go with growing into myself, and I really can’t speak for him. We plodded along; marriage was a life long commitment, to my mind, and I was determined to figure out how to make it work even if I had no idea what I was doing or how to achieve success.

My husband became a workaholic. Perhaps he was always one, but the initial distraction of having a regular sex life had come to wane and with other issues encroaching (financial ones, because money is one of the greatest sources of marital discord, probably right up there with sex) he threw himself into work even when he didn’t have to. I felt abandoned, mostly, and he became more emotionally distant.

Despite that, we decided after a couple of years that it was time to have a child. I’d turned thirty-one and by the time I got pregnant (it didn’t take long) I would be delivering right around my 32nd birthday. My son was born in 1996 by c-section, one week earlier than his due date because the doctor felt he would grow too large. We’d bought a home even farther away from my place of work; the house was in Hollister while my job was in Sunnyvale. Back in those days family leave was perhaps three months, from start to finish. My heart broke every day that I drove away and left my son with my very reliable neighbour, who had also recently become a new mom and my $100 a week for having her watch my son was helping to supplement their income. In many ways I felt envious of her, that she was able to be with her child (and mine) and have a husband who would step up to the task of supporting the family.

The gruelling commuting, heavy and demanding workload, nursing/pumping, care-taking eventually undid me. I held in until another move elapsed (this time back down to Southern California, where I had merely traded one long commute for another one and 500 more square feet of house to clean), and our financial stress (because I’d taken on being single earner so that my husband could try getting a freelance photo business off the ground without having any savings to supplement the lack of a regular second income) shattered what little composure I had left.

I had a ginormous meltdown. I was contemplating suicide, and admitting this to my husband was tantamount to saying “I don’t care about you or our son” and he thought I was the most selfish human being alive for even considering it in my thoughts. And there was the matter of dropping the financial ball and pushing our house into potential foreclosure (we sold before it got there, for a profit, but it marked our credit with a big black X and it was something that he never forgave me for). Things weren’t looking good. We split up shortly after and were apart on a trial basis. I think if I had not lost my job nine months in, and teetered on possible homelessness (because I couldn’t afford a decent place to live on unemployment), we may never have gotten back together, but we did.

My mother died shortly after we had moved back in together and I felt truly orphaned (my dad had passed away in 1991). I did a lot of self-exploration. Spirituality had always been of huge importance for me, but when death comes knocking, especially with the loss of significant people in our lives, we are compelled to re-examine our own.

I grew… the situation made it so. For several more years our relationship ground along, like metal to metal. I held out the hope that perhaps he would come to see me as an asset rather than a liability, but I felt intuitively that his feelings toward me had changed and he had lost interest in rekindling them. Our relationship finally ended seven years later when I finally had the nerve to ask him whether he still loved me, to which he said “I care about you, but I don’t love you.” I think maybe that was the crux of our relationship – we had become friends with benefits – and had created a child together.

After a 16 year hiatus, I returned to Canada with my son. I tried dating for the first couple of years. It was never a simple thing to do, but at this age I find it even more complicated. I’ve learned more about myself. The learning process is endless, but relationships are interesting beasts.

We want different things at different times of our lives but at their core, when all the other things are stripped away, we want only to be heard, understood and loved, despite our flaws, despite the angers and disappointments that come and wash over us when the expectations we have set for ourselves and each other fail to reach acceptable levels, when the kids are tucked in or are growing hair on their face and looking to launch themselves into their own lives and we find ourselves alone with each other or ourselves… that is all we want.

It is the most difficult thing to find, even if you are looking. For the most part, I think, the only way to find it is by selectively looking – or not looking – because looking too closely will surely show the things that you don’t want to see. The inevitable failings of every human being that is so much less than perfect.

I wish all you brave ones who soldier on luck, though…. from the heart. I hope you find that impossible love. I’ve yet to see it… I’ve yet to see others find it. Relationships take work, no matter how we cut it. They gain an aged patina and must be polished every once in a while to keep them shiny. Love is sustainable only if two people lean in to each other’s wholeness and pull each other through failings and triumphs with appreciation, kindness and compassion.

The picket fence vision was a far different experience from what I thought it would be. I had to factor in myself – who I am, at any given time – and the Other… who for so many reasons is unquantifiable… the “unknown” in a math equation.

I have learnt a lot about myself though. I’m at once humbler and more full of myself than I’ve ever been.

I know that gentle persuasion works better (with me and others) than does passive aggression or outright aggression. I can learn and lean in and feel safe even when exposed to someone intimately (not only in a physical sense).

I’ve learned that many people have a similar reluctance to allowing that breach to occur. And it’s probably the cause of most of what ails humanity – breaking down of a sense of community, and of having differing visions of what that entails. A distinct need for autonomy and self-actualization.

I entreaty you to enjoy your walk in this world… I know you do… but anxiety for something other than what you have is inevitable… we humans are always desiring things, even if what we have is awesome and once one desire is met another emerges. It is our duty to ourselves to visit these desires and determine whether they serve us well, whether they fit into the core of what we want from our lives, holistically.

I am fifty now and I still don’t know shit. After several attempts at dating I’ve given up on it – for now. I think I have more figuring out to do in relation to how I fit into the world before I want to explore that some more. It gets lonely, sometimes. And even peri-menopause doesn’t alleviate the longing for intimacy. But that will have to wait a little while longer until I grow up a little more.

Happiness to your heart and blessing on your feet…
Adriane xo

feeling and artifice…

A dear (not local) friend of mine commiserated with me about how it is common for people to not understand us even when we think they do. I know most people don’t understand me… parts, maybe, but all? Probably not. Many, though, are still accepting because they see my big glowing heart through the wyrdness. (cue: laughter)

Community… that’s always a tough one, especially for an introvert (which is what I am). Occasionally I reach out but mostly I don’t. Some journeys are not meant to be taken with others.

I think, sometimes, (well, no, I don’t think, I know…) I’m too raw and I share too much… people feel burdened by me, perhaps. I don’t want to be a burden, and I certainly don’t expect people to “fix” me or offer a fix… in fact, I really don’t want them to even try. Mostly I just want someone I can be in a space with (a creative one, if at all possible) and co-create with our hair down. I tire of the artifice.

I get that people are many-layered. I am no exception.

One of my former coworkers texted me this morning, chatting and then we got off to the topic of my going for job interviews (it was a gentle prod) and asked whether I was depressed.

Well… depression doesn’t ever leave me, really… it’s a blanket that I throw off to the side every once in a while, but it’s never too far from reach. I swap the thinner blanket, occasionally, for a thicker one, but it never truly goes away, ever.

It also doesn’t mean that I don’t find joy in everything – I do, daily. So very much wonder and gratitude… it’s an odd dichotomy to live with, and yet I do it.

I put my best face on for the world until I don’t, and then you see all of what creeps beneath the surface – always there but disguised. Perhaps that is the wrong term. I’m good at assimilating it into everything else. Otherwise I’d be the guy with the needle in my arm, looking for release from the pain that is an inevitable part of being in the skin I inhabit. All the time, to greater or lesser degrees. I’ve just found another way to cope with it that makes me able to function – and sometimes thrive – despite of it. Amazingly without addiction, though I can be prone to overindulging in things when there is a lot of a good (or sometimes not such a good) thing.

And it leads me to this: people who feel deeply either embrace what they feel (and often make good art as a result of that) or they evade it by medicating it or drowning it out with other things that distract and detract from feeling deeply. You either skim the surface or you dive below it.

While I’d like to think that we are unique in this, we all have the capacity to go that deep; it is a choice or perhaps a predisposition (but still something that can be cultivated if the curiosity and daring is there). It’s plush and richly pulsing in this place, drawing no distinction between what variables constitute the richness of an experience.

It’s scary, to be that sensitive, but also incredibly powerful. The world is experienced to such a deeper, greater, degree than that of most others. So we write about it, or make art to communicate it, and they get to vicariously experience what it felt like.

going mental…

Seems it’s that time of year, when things have been a bit too dark, for a bit too long. I read an incredible blog post today from Tam which spoke to that. We spend too much time and effort sweeping this stuff under the happy carpet, and it’s taken a very long time for those of us who spend our lives straddling that divide between lightness and darkness to feel less marginalized.

My son had been doing poorly in school for quite some time, and no amount of offering my assistance was helpful – in fact, on the day that I was supposed to be laid off from my job, his school had called me in for an emergency meeting with the vice-principal (thus delaying the inevitable by one whole day). My son was facing a temporary suspension with the ultimatum that in order to stay at the school there would have to be no more unexcused absences nor nonproductive attendance.

For some time now, I suspected that there were other issues at play, but each time I suggested he speak to a psychologist he shrugged and said he didn’t need one, and more recently that it would simply feel like an additional burden to attend to. I suppose this bleak turn of events finally convinced him to make an appointment so I dialled our EAP service provider’s hotline and he asked to meet with a counsellor (his first appointment didn’t actually happen until early December).

He is on the last few sessions and my extended healthcare has run out. The counsellor called me yesterday; we played phone tag a few times and finally ended up speaking today, chatting a bit about what is going on and what some of his concerns were. She said that he is depressed, mildly now, but it was more severe when he first started going.

I had issues with melancholy in my teens too, and well into my adulthood. In my twenties we had at some point determined that I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (which was helped immediately -and amazingly- with light therapy). I had what I semi-jokingly coin my big meltdown in my late thirties (which at the time was termed “Major Depression”) and I still occasionally have struggles with regulating my mood, though my coping mechanisms have improved immensely over the years because I’ve spent so much time on “self-help”, adjunctly assisted by occasional therapy.

One of my son’s issues at the moment is anxiety over our not having enough financial resources… for food… for a roof over our heads… etc. … as a result of my unemployment. Yeah, it kind of sucks to be unemployed, and yes, it definitely affects the ease with which we can carry on with our daily lives, but we haven’t come to the point of having to be concerned about losing our place to live (even though it is crazy expensive on our current budget).

She encouraged me to speak to him about it. Not to merely placate him by saying things like “things will be okay” but acknowledge that there will be some struggle and offer what the solution will be – at least enough of one to put his mind at ease.

I want to posit that this escalation of worry is partly his dad’s doing, in that he discusses with our son my seeming incapability of being an adequate provider, and instead of offering support and assurance, offers his criticism and discusses the hardship the current situation causes him due to his having to assist more during this time of heightened struggle.

But also I think that my son has had it so good throughout his whole life that he doesn’t know that so many people struggle like this every day, all the time. Worse, even. Many, many … much, much worse. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we live in a very affluent neighbourhood, and that most of the kids that he goes to school with are so spoiled that they have lost sight of what is important and meaningful.

I grew up with socio-economic diversity, and witnessed it daily with the kids I went to school with. I came from a middle class home but there were little kids in my first and second grade classes who were undernourished, unkempt and shabbily dressed. I remember one time a brother and sister were segregated from the rest because they were found to have head lice and the school didn’t want there to be an epidemic. Some of the other kids were unkind to them, taunting them after that. I felt like my heart would break when I saw how they were being treated and I went over with my colouring book and coloured pencils and we coloured together, the three of us; it was my way of showing my solidarity – that we are all equal and the same.

I want to say that in our society we will always have “enough” if we apply ourselves “enough” so as to go out there and not give up, either on ourselves or on the things that we believe in.

I want to say that we have people that care around us. Kind people, who will help us when we need it, not because we owe them anything or that they expect to be repaid but because we mean something to them… because of how we treat others, and how we offer support where we can and embody a generous spirit, always.

I want to say that this feeling of hardship will be a familiar one throughout life, whether it is of a material kind, or one of spirit (and that is the hardest of the two to deal with), and that resilience is the greatest trait that one can learn to develop in life, and like any muscle, it requires a working out in order for it to gain in strength and be able to provide support when one needs it.

I want to say that being grateful and remaining hopeful is most of the battle, and that kindness will always beget kindness.

And I want to say that I love him, and would take the food out of my mouth and the clothes off of my back before I see him unfed and without shelter.

My angel


This is Gabriel with his two birdie friends… Sky and Cloud. They’re sweet little birdies. This morning they were protesting about the clanking I was doing as I unloaded the dishwasher. Then I sat down to watch some TV and they hopped over to the lower rung by the door and were chirping at me in such a way as to indicate that they wanted out, now! and then proceeded to promptly poop on me. If shit is lucky, as my mom used to proclaim (though I fail to see how this would be the case), then I ought to go out and buy some lotto tickets, for I will surely win the big one this week. First I’ll take something for this blazing headache, though.

I got a report from the Grands last night, that Gabriel and Grandma were making busy in the kitchen, baking some mix cake. He loves to cook with me, he says, and so his great hopes for this weekend were to cook with Grandma. Grandma cooks about as much as I do, so it takes some extra effort to get her into the kitchen, but she made it, and I’m sure Gabriel will come home with happy stories tonight.

I have errands to run today, and some work around the house. I have to marble some paper, too… and see if I can assemble more of those books. Make a list of the folks who want the book and those who don’t. Pick up a tool so I can produce nice, even (and “fancy”) cuts into the watercolor paper I want to use for my next project (stay tuned). I need to finish compiling the worksheet for the accountant for the 2004 taxes and put together the 2005 expense sheet as well. The floors need sweeping and mopping. The carpets need vaccuuming. The dishwasher needs to be reloaded. Laundry needs to be done. I haven’t dusted in so long that I could peel it off of surfaces and use it as felt. Then there’s the matter of the sinks and toilets and tub. I plan big and accomplish small, but I suppose it’s better than not accomplishing anything.

So I’ll be off to Trader Joe’s in a bit, after I’ve cleaned out the fridge and assessed what we need for the week. This is where I ought to be menu planning, but instead I go to the store with the notion that I need to pick up enough “stuff” to make five or six meals, whatever that means, and end up a) spending too much money, and b) throwing most of the stuff out two weeks later, because we went to the Indian place one night and got pizza the next, ate at Claim Jumper the one after and … well, you get the picture. So I’m doubly broke, because I spent too much money on groceries I never cooked and then went out to eat on top of that. If energy wasn’t a factor, I’m sure I’d be cooking up a storm and the place would be spotless. It’s not just energy… it’s the lack of motivation. Who woke up and made *me* maid?

I wonder how I used to be able to do all of this? And commute 130 miles a day… and put it a good day’s work… and nurse (or pump) several times each day… and… … dang… small wonder I burnt out. And I did. BIG flame out. That was something to behold. And I had to deal with it on my own, because hubby was very much like a deer in headlights… “What do I do with a crazy person?” was his first (and last) thought… not “Geez, how can I help my over-extended wife?” Kick me when I’d down… I can handle it… and I did.

Thank goodness I had my little angel… I pulled through because somehow in the murk I was able to find the will to be there for him… nothing more, nothing less.