Apr 30, 2009

Depression Hurts

A lot of you have seen the commercials on T.V. about depression and it’s symptoms. But I realized this weekend that recognizing the symptoms isn’t enough. My counselor told me some time back that he thought I should see my primary doctor about meds for my depression, as it was coming out mostly as anger. But I have been extremely hesitant to do so. Mostly due to a mental barrier about medications.

Mindy was at one point or another on pretty much every anti-depressant available and some helped; some did not but they all had side effects. I’ve never had a problem with drugs of any kind, but I saw how they grabbed hold of my wife and wouldn’t let go and that scares me. Do I think it’s a reasonable fear? No, not really. There’s also the fact that I was in the middle of an adoption and I didn’t want to give the other party any ammunition to work with; I didn’t want them to get any ideas that I was in any way less than capable of taking care of all of my children.

But I guess that plays into my fairly extensive knowledge of, and complete lack of understanding for, depression. I’ve seen it’s effect on my family and I’ve read several books about bipolar and depression; knowing how it could affect someone doesn’t really help me understand it any better. I know it in my head, but it doesn’t translate well past an intellectual comprehension. I just want to fix it. Add in the fact that it seems to be a “popular diagnosis” lately that everyone is depressed and needs meds bothers me. Not to mention that the pharmaceutical companies aren’t even always sure how the meds work!

Of all the conversations I’ve had with widows and widowers over the last several months no one has mentioned anti depressants. I only know of one other person that took them so I just figured most of us fit into one of two categories on this topic; 1) they didn’t need and/or didn’t want them or 2) they just didn’t want to talk about it. If they felt anything like me they probably didn’t want them. It’s like announcing that your now officially a crazy, nut. No offense intended to anyone else that was just my perception. But I guess now…ha, I’m a crazy nut. My doctor put me on some “crazy pills” and I’m supposed to “…feel better soon. In one to three weeks.” I don’t know that I feel any better yet (it’s only been a few days)….but I have a headache, and dry mouth; both of which are listed side effects of this particular crazy pill. The side effects are said to subside within the first week, so I’ll continue for a few more days but I wasn’t thrilled to get on this bandwagon to start with. But the doc said that most depressed people have a hard time realizing they are depressed. So I figure, if I really do feel better then all is well. If not, throw away the crazy pills and go back to being me. No harm, no foul; or so I hope.

If any one is concerned, yes I researched the pill and the side effects before I started taking it. I’m probably bent a little towards OCD when it comes to pills and prescriptions. That would be a side effect of the last seven years of my marriage. I won’t even let my Teen get her own antibiotics out of the medicine cabinet, I feel more comfortable administering all the meds. Maybe now I’ll feel more comfortable in general; we’ll have to wait and see. At least for now I’m not making the pharmaceutical companies any richer; I’m just using the samples from the doc’s office.

If anyone out there in Widowerland has two cents to share about anti depressants I’m curious to find out how they have, or haven’t, helped any one else.

Apr 24, 2009

Have a gap, need a bridge!

I never understood why Mindy, or anyone with a mental illness, couldn’t just “get better”. It was as frustrating for her, not being able to get me to understand, as it was for me to not “get it”. Not that I really understand it now, but I do have a more appreciative perception of what she went through. A lot of our disagreements were from our inability to bridge that gap. She had a need she couldn’t explain, and I couldn’t wouldn’t see her need. I tried everything I could to help her, sometimes to her extreme disagreement. I just never could make it work because I didn’t understand the real problem, not like I do now.

I feel like the roles are reversed a little now. Not that I’m mentally ill or anything (although most days I don’t feel far from it!) but I can’t seem to find a way to fit back into “normal life”. My boss at work has been great at giving me room to work out family issues but I can tell it’s wearing a little thin. I just can’t seem to stay focused on work. I get the small trivial tasks taken care of easily but if there is something to be done that requires a few days of attention it’s very difficult. I want to be able to stay up late and write a little code to catch up, like I did in my life of before. I want to be out mowing the lawn and suddenly realize that I should have used some other pattern, run in and refactor what’s been done; I just can’t. I don’t have time to mow the lawn, I pay someone for that now (which I would never have done before) and my nights are consumed with three little people that don’t care much for coding. When they go to bed, on a typical night, I clean up from dinner, throw in a load or two of laundry, pay bills and if I’m lucky get to bed about midnight. I don’t sleep well, and it’s hard to drag myself out of bed the next morning. I’m up to get the kids off to school then I’m off to work; rinse and repeat.

Is this typical?

From those I’ve talked to it is; especially for widow/ers with children.

In dealing with life as a now single spouse, it appears that developing a feeling of split personalities is quite common. It could be in varying degrees but with the outside world pushing you to “move on” you put on a mask that becomes your public persona. The private side of your life grows behind the mask, away from the mostly well intentioned, uncomfortable public. At some point these personalities must come back together but for now it’s yet another gap I’m unable to bridge.

Unwilling to bridge.

Apr 21, 2009

The next phase?

I took the kids out to Mindy’s parent’s house this past weekend and we had a great time as usual. It had been raining the night before and things were a bit muddy…so naturally my tomboy Teen had mud on her clothes within minutes. Captain Sugarbear got to work building a “house” out in Grandaddy’s shop while Princess entertained herself. As we sat down to dinner things seemed more surreal. Mindy’s parents joked and teased one another, all in good fun, and in my mind I could hear Mindy jumping right in with them. I was listening to her laugh along with us. It made me laugh…more than I think the situation called for but it felt good.

I’ve spent the last several months missing her, thinking of her, dreaming of her; the dreams seem vivid. It’s odd that in my dreams I usually wake up to her laying next to me and my first thought is never how or why, but what will we tell everyone? In one dream I woke up (for real, not just dreaming) worried about how to repay the insurance money now that she was back with me…yeah I know! But that evening at dinner with her parents was the first time that my mind spun around like that; the first time my missing her wasn’t just a memory but more like a dramatization of a memory.

The next day was a very long, depressing day. I didn’t do much. No laundry. No cleaning. I didn’t even make it outside until we went for some dinner. I had this overwhelming feeling that I wanted to talk to someone. I picked up the phone and started to call several people, but I never did. I really wanted to talk to Mindy. I want to hear her voice tell me that I can keep doing this day after day. I just want to hear her voice.

I find it ironic that some days I’ll get compliments from friends or family about how well I’m doing. “Your kids are so wonderful, your doing a great job!” or “Your an amazing father, just look at how great those kids are.” But the truth be told, they are amazing kids and they’re doing a wonderful job with me; keeping me in line. We’ve had to deal with typical childish issues and teen drama, but they haven’t once gotten upset with me for how things are working out. I really don’t think I’m so amazing; although it’s nice to hear. I think if it were not for the wonderful children Mindy left me with, I would be a complete nut! I probably already am…they just make me hide it a little better.

It seemed, for a few weeks, like grief was giving me a little more space. I had more good days than bad and the bad days weren’t too terrible. I thought maybe I was onto a new phase of this whole ordeal, and I guess I am. Just not the way I was expecting. Now it seems like more reality has set in. The surreal feeling that she’s gone is fading away. Now when I feel her void it really hurts. Now when I want to remind her of that inside joke, or talk about our favorite TV shows it hits pretty hard. I started a new book we’re studying at church and I want to talk to her about it. I just remember how it was, usually after a couple of months of arguing and bickering over nothing, when we would have the most amazing conversations about anything and everything. The first little late night chats would be my indication that her mood swings were going the other way, so try not to screw it up. Maybe I just started to forget how bad February was, or maybe these past few days really are worse. I don’t know for sure. I do know that it’s harder to get out of bed and more difficult to not just collapse into a world of my own.

Is this the next phase…are there really any phases at all? I think not. I think it’s just a big blur of thoughts and emotions that seem to come in waves. Some times the tide is high, some times it’s low, and then there’s all the in between. But still just comes in waves.



Now Mom, I know your reading…and you just got off the phone with me back in the real world; well a few hours ago. I know you could tell I was having a bad day cause you asked me several times how I was doing. You only do that when you already know. But I just didn’t want to try to let it out. I don’t want everyone to worry about me. I know the kids and I are going to be okay (Romans 8:28 says so) and every day I try my best to connect with them and draw them in close. But this is my place to be weak…this is my place where almost no one knows me and I can sit alone in the glow of this monitor and push my thoughts out onto the web and I can be mostly uncensored. So don’t worry, I’m okay.

Apr 17, 2009

Quit trying to define me!

Last night was another session at The WARM Place and I was so rushed to get everything done and get there on time (a big thanks to Aunt Jen again for helping!) that I didn’t really put much thought to what the night might entail. We all got there a little early which was great so the kids had a chance play and relax before we headed in had our pot luck dinner. This week, and last, a few new families joined our group; it’s nice to not be the latest addition anymore.

As the evening progressed the conversation was started by reading fortune cookie sized pieces of paper with certain emotions listed on them; I know it seems a bit corny but for a room full of grieving spouses it’s a great way to get things moving and since the crowd is made up of people with losses that are still fresh and just a few months from the event as well as those a few years removed from their day we get some really good perspectives on various common problems like insomnia, children’s anxiety, etc.

When it came to me I just started venting about the elementary school and all that I posted about before. I honestly expected to hear something along the lines of “Well, what did you expect? They were late like 35-40 times.” Instead I inadvertently started a group wide vent on how public schools just don’t understand what kids go through after losing a parent or sibling. And it seems that school tardiness is much like sleepless nights and other common widow/widower issues; it just comes with the territory. The other common thread is that public schools are just not equipped to deal with kids in these situations. I’m sure there are some that are, and have wonderful programs that help kids but from my experience and what was shared last night the majority definitely are not.

I already have a meeting with the school principal to follow up on our terrible conversation and I had already planned to educate her on who the real parent is and it’s not her or the school. But I must say that after last night I feel so much better about making my case. I want the school to understand what my kids are going through and have some consideration, but I’m not asking for special treatment. I don’t expect them to place them in some category of “special kids” but I do expect them to understand that at no point ever should you harass a child for the actions of the parent. There can be exceptions to the rules, especially if the rules are inadequate and need to be modified.

I guess my contempt for this school administrator is because she tried to identify with me when she had no idea what it’s been like for me. Then told me that the school was trying to be “merciful” with us; as if they are some overseeing power that governs my life. She put a label on me based on her own narrow minded views and expected me to fit her perception. I don’t want her to define me or my children and then expect us to fill, or squeeze into, her definition. I want her to keep my children safe when I’m not there and have the teachers teach them the curriculum without putting in any bias. I am a widower father of three very intelligent children but I will never fit her myopic vision of what that means!

My life still floats by in a fog, my days run into one another and blur together. My nights are long and lonely.

This is grief.

This is my journey through it.

This is not who I am.

Apr 13, 2009

Easter…as we observed it.

As has become tradition we spent Easter Sunday at my Mother’s but this year because of the rain we hunted eggs indoors. Looking back I feel somewhat accomplished; my kids were dressed for the occasion after some struggling, and we made some good memories that will help make each new year a little easier I hope.

My Teen is a little self conscience about her legs, she has eczema and it seems to concentrate below her knees; so getting her in a dress is tough. Not to mention she’s a bit of a tomboy so wearing a dress isn’t her favorite anyway. I manage to get her to wear a long skirt with hose so she complained all day to anyone who would listen. I know it comes with the territory but this teenage girl, “I’m the center of the world” selfish behavior is really getting on my nerves. I love her to death, but some days I wonder what am I doing raising a teenager on my own? The first few times she complained about her clothes it irritated me but as the day went on the continuing theme was everyone telling her how pretty she looked and that she should wear dresses more often.

Score one for Dad.

Princess is the opposite; she loves to wear dresses and be very girly. Our issue was picking the dress. I picked out a dress for her to wear over a week ago and she talked about it everyday. Then Easter morning she decided she wanted to wear a different dress. It was cold and rainy out and she wanted to wear a dress that was made of light material and was sleeveless. In the end she conceded to wearing the original dress and didn’t think twice about it the rest of the day.

Now the easiest of them all…my Sugarbear. He’s in such a hurry to grow up and get big and that can be a little frustrating when he thinks he can do things he’s not quite big enough for; but quite often it helps since he wants to be so independent. True to most males…he could care less what he wears. I laid out his clothes so he could skip the task of picking them out himself, but mostly so he wouldn’t come down in shorts and a grungy T-Shirt. He got himself dressed and ready to go and waited on me to sort out the girl’s issues so we could leave for Church.

View Easter pictures

Once everyone was dressed and ready we headed to Church and then to my Mom’s house. The kids had such a good time playing with their cousin and hunting for eggs. We had the traditional ham and I ate way too much; to the point where I was sleepy and a bit miserable the rest of the day, but it’s hard to pass up home cooked meals these days. The kids all got pretty wound up on candy and I left my three with my Mom just before the sugar crash because I have to work today but they are out of school. My nephew had his sugar crash right before Uncle Ryan and Aunt Jen left so I’m sure he had a nice long nap in the car. He’s so adorable!

Easter turned out to be a nice relaxing day of fellowship and family. The significance of the day pressed on me pretty hard in our Bible study class as I intertwine Jesus’ life…God’s ultimate plan, and what that means for us now that Mindy is gone. But all in all it was a good day.

Apr 8, 2009

This is me screaming!

Today started off normal enough. The alarm woke me from by brief sleep at about 6:50a so I got up and laid out the kids clothes. They got dressed while I rummaged through their school bags to sign forms and get caught up on how well they are doing. I rushed them to school and we pulled up right at 8:00a…late again.

As I headed in for work I smell something burning and see smoke from the front of my car… just what I needed. The belt is busted so I turn back and head for home hoping to make it before the battery gives since the alternator is no longer running. I make it home and the downhill slide begins. My truck is in the garage with a bad battery, the van has a leak and overheats, and now the car needs a new belt. The upside is that it’s nice out so I can take the Harley to work but it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

As I’m getting ready to leave, the second time, I get a phone call from my little one’s school principal. She’s decided they have been tardy too many times and that school starts at 7:45a, not 8a as posted everywhere and commonly known. So I tell her politely that I’m trying but 12 – 14hrs of sleep a week is tough and I haven’t found a good schedule that works. She tells me she understands and proceeds to let me know that the children will be disciplined.


I concede that I’m horrible about getting them to school on time, not to mention she thinks school starts 15 minutes earlier than is noted on any documentation I’ve seen, but to tell me that you are going to punish my children for actions they are in no way accountable for is crossing a line with me. I’d like to say I gave her the what for at this point…but for some reason I could hardly understand what I was saying on the phone through all the crying which quickly ended as she tried to talk over me. We both got louder and louder as I explained that I understand and appreciate her position on the matter but that she will not discipline my children for events out of their control. We bounced the point back and forth; she apparently doesn’t know what “I UNDERSTAND” means. She tried to tell me that she understands my “situation” and has had an experience in her family. Because the conversation was already deteriorating  didn’t say it out loud but I wanted to ask “Why would you patronize me by telling me you or someone you know lost a spouse like I have?”

Really, your spouse had bipolar disorder and your marriage was a roller coaster?

You too feel guilty cause you remember the days when you didn’t want them around but would now give anything to have them back?

You are stressed to the max at trying to manage your new life in the timeframe of the world that says you should be okay by now while trying not to blow up at every little stupid thing that is said to you?!?!?

At the end I just thanked her for her time and we parted. What else was there to do?

There are others out there in my “situation” but I can confidently say this principal, or anyone she knows, is not in that category. By her attitude and response I would be very surprised to be proved wrong on this.

I spent the next half hour or so being angry at everything. I was so pissed that the principal is so obtuse and myopic. I’m mad that Mindy isn’t here to help and I’m frustrated that I have way too many vehicles and they all have problems. I punched at the bed…that didn’t work. I punched at the wall…that didn’t help either.

This is one of the days where I just pray for wisdom and patience…what else is there to do?

Apr 3, 2009

Split Personalities

I'm tired of feeling like I no longer own my life; at some point "just going through the motions" starts to feel a lot like living in someone else’s shoes. The lack of self confidence mixed with the intense anger just barely hidden from the world, and the surprise attacks from everyday routines that suddenly are no longer routine are enough to make you wonder if you are going insane; developing a split personality disorder.

There are moments when life has a glimmer of normalcy; there are moments of hope. But the contrast that now exists between these moments and those when I feel the world should be standing still has become expansive. I look back at this past weeks and I feel like two different people; I've been the exhausted, grumpy, and frustrated Dad but I've also been a guy out with friends listening to bad live music and talking about anything except me. The time I spent with friends is easier, but time with the kids taking care of daily responsibilities is more comforting.

I know there is someone out there that is having a more difficult time than I am, and I try to remind myself of that. But for now it doesn't help. I just feel uncomfortable in my own life. It’s so disastrously ironic that the person I would trust to talk to about all that is going on in my head is the subject of all that is going on in my head. Mindy was the one that had a way of making me feel okay about almost anything. There was a level of intimacy there that could communicate past verbal and visual cues. She could hold my hand with a tone of emotion that could fit almost any occasion. She could brush her hand across my shoulders and convey empathy and compassion, or concern and a little anxiety.

I don't want to live in the past but I feel border line obsession about keeping her memories vivid. As life continues to move forward I feel torn between finding some level of emotional intimacy with a good friend and the complications that brings when I still feel married. I'm not married, but even saying out loud doesn't make it seem any more real. Mindy's parent's stirred these thoughts along and until very recently I really thought it was outrageous; is it? I don't want to be like my father who, in my opinion, is just clinging on to someone out of fear (that's another story). But if someone can help me clear the fog in my head...do I dismiss that for the sake of the fog in my head? Does it resolve the feeling of living as two people or further the issue?

A good friend, who recently ran into some personal difficulty himself, reminded me that time will help; I hate that saying. Time alone heals nothing it's what you choose to do in that time that determines your outcome. Life's choices aren't always easy and throw in the fact that I'm the sole provider and protector for three innocent (maybe not my Teen) lives and at times I feel like Atlas with the world on my shoulder. With all the help and support from my family that is still my burden to bear and I do it gladly. Time will never bring Mindy back...children are always children and time doesn't change that either. They will grow up but they will always be my children.

I was hoping that I would find answers as I wrote, sometimes I do; not this time. Maybe next time I’ll let the other guy in my head write more so I’m not so bent towards the half empty glass. But then pessimism and paranoia make for more cautious decisions, or so I like to think for now.