In Part 3 of this series, I started talking about my story of being a military wife and how I didn’t get a foothold living here. This is part 2 of this story.
You know what happens when you loose yourself and fall into depression because you can no longer appreciate all the good things you have in your life? You stop appreciating everything and you no longer have any guidance in your life, no clear picture of what your life actually is and where it is supposed to go. I just started seeing all the bad things (that really weren’t bad) and was completely oblivious to all the blessings I had. In the middle of figuring out my to be a wife, mom, employee and student, I had lost myself.
I didn’t know what I wanted and where I wanted to go. Too much new had happened in my life, and I couldn’t find my way in this country. There was too much information and/or lack of information to making good decisions. I am someone who needs a blueprint, a plan, a clear picture of what to do, a strategic plan so to say. And I did not have the tools to do that. Even more: I didn’t even know what the tools were here and if and where they existed.
I was dealing all by myself with a baby and then a toddler. Don’t get me wrong, I adored my son (and I still do). But doing it all with no help (when you feel like you hadn’t been ready to do this in the first place) was really difficult. My mom wasn’t there to help; she was in Germany. My husband’s mom wasn’t there to help either. We did not have a community around us that would or could help us in a practical every day manner. We had to miss many a military function we really wanted to, and should have, gone to, because we couldn’t even find a babysitter in a church as big as ours was. And on top of that, my husband was gone half the time.
I think because I hadn’t planned on having a child for a while, I got postpartum depression (and wonder if that’s what had gone undiagnosed all these years and caused all the problems). I didn’t walk around as a woman anymore, I walked around as a mom. I was attached to a diaper bag and a stroller. Men didn’t look at me anymore and wink or whistle. They just saw a stroller now. That’s all that was left of me: A stroller. I felt like people stopped looking at me as me, they just looked at me as someone else’s mom. No more presents for me, just presents through me for my son. No longer did people inquire about how I was, they asked about Christopher. I remember having a breakdown in the middle of a mall because of all that. At the mall, I used to be a girl. One of the cute ones. In a cute outfit, with shopping bags in each hand. Now, I was someone else’s mom pushing a stroller. Instead of shopping bags, I carried a diaper bag.
I managed my days, sometimes just because I had to. I didn’t realize how badly I really felt. Outwardly, I was strong, happy, witty, engaged in activity. No one would have been able to tell what was going on inside. I don’t think my husband understood either. I don’t think I understood all the way. So I kept distracting myself, especially during those times my husband was sent away yet again. Often, I distracted myself so much that my son had to stay at daycare for 8 hours every day. And then I started distracting myself in the completely wrong way. I had gone off my emotional cliff so much, I was completely lost.
One day, when Christopher was 4, I sat down with him and had him drawing pictures. I asked him to draw what he looked like when he was sad. He drew a little guy with a frowny face and he said that was him. Immediately, I could see him start thinking some deep thoughts, and he started drawing something off in the corner of the paper. “This,” he announced, “is your work.” I was always gone for “work.” His sad little face, and this big consciousness he had about the situation, broke my heart. I vowed to become better, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t know how to be happy anymore.
That complete loss of myself started at 23 years old. And, both, my husband and I were simply too young and inexperienced, and too much on our own, to know how to turn this downward cycling situation around. And that’s how I got divorced and become a weekend mom.
Did I really ever have a bad life? No. Not at all. I had a husband, a wonderful son, military security, great health benefits, extra spending money, a beautiful single family home, 2 cars in the 2 car garage… everything missing was the white picket fence. Literally. We were the stereotypical perfect American family. Complete with the professional family portrait over the fireplace. I didn’t appreciate that. Being perfect was too much pressure. One thing went wrong, and everything after was going to be bad. That’s what happens when you stop appreciating what you really have. And bad things happen to you when you stop appreciating that all we have in this country is good things, tons of resources, the best of luxuries (yes, why don’t we considered filtered water out of the faucet a luxury… because you know how many people in the world don’t have any water at all?!).
I am looking back today and I wonder how I could have been so stupid. So ungrateful. So selfish. So blind. Having lost everything in life except for my education, though, I am now able to REALLY appreciate what I do have now. I went from a wonderful life to nothing. Loosing it all really makes you realize how precious all your daily luxuries are. It made me realize what a great life I had. And I no longer take all the good I have for granted. It’s like going through a war and loosing. Everything is destroyed. And now you have to get yourself back up and rebuild. That’s precisely what going through a divorce and loosing life as you knew it feels like.
After the life I had, I had to go back to living with a room mate, in a cockroach-infested apartment, on the wrong side of the tracks. Believe you me, I HATED my life. Now I really knew what a bad life really looked like. And guess what: Most people in the world would STILL consider that a luxurious life! I still had running, filtered water out of the faucet! I hated my neighbors, I hated the bugs and I hated having to have a room mate; but my basic needs were still taken care of. And I was in college about to graduate summa cum laude with my Bachelors degree. See what I’m saying? For MY standards, this truly was a bad life now. Having to rebuild from scratch after having everything you could ask for, felt (and still feels like) a mountain I wasn’t going to be able to climb. For me, it’s been hell. For a lot of the world, this would have still been a dream.
I noticed how I had become bitter. I had become angry with God, upset with the world. My mom, by nature, is a glass-half-empty person. So for the last few years, I had been doing my best to actively steer against this innate and taught attitude by really focusing on being positive as much as I could. It felt like it had become impossible now. How was I supposed to be positive in this situation? I was left without house, without money, without security, without a family, with barely any good friends, without a career, as a matter of fact, without a degree, and without my son. In a bad apartment in a bad neighborhood in a bad mood with an empty bank account. What was I supposed to do other than rebuild? So I decided to finally make things right. With this new perspective, I finally had the insights to know how to make things right. And how that happened, you’ll read next time, in the part entitled “I am still here.”