I couldn’t move. I just laid there. In the dark. Hour after hour, week after week. Waterfalls of repeated tears, adrenaline rushing through my veins. Constant nausea, couldn’t eat. The pounds were falling off. The room wouldn’t stop spinning around me. The pain was so severe it was physical. I could not hold my five month old son without someone helping me. Words came out slowly, and each one with a shiver. Mom just laid with me, holding me, sobbing together as I was shrinking into nothing.
The life I thought I knew was no more.
Sad? Understatement. Angry? Understatement. Broken. I was extremely broken.
Rock bottom: collapsing in the hallway after a phone call.
That’s how my ‘Dark Ages’ began 13 months ago. You wouldn’t have known me then. I wouldn’t have known me then.
Sociologists argue that this is a major difference between men and women: when men have a problem or are in a predicament, they look for someone to fix it. Solve the problem. When women are in that boat, they look for someone who can just empathize ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘I’ve been there.’ Sometimes ‘You’re not alone’ is all that’s needed.
I knew this from college. For me, no one could fix my problem and empathy made my problem worse. To know that someone else could have those same feelings made me even more depressed. That’s not what I needed. I didn’t know what I needed.
And now I do. I needed me.
It didn’t come easy figuring this out, and it took a very long time. The days were never-ending, and each night felt like an eternity being that there was no sleep, just racing thoughts and replays of every event over the last few years. Nightmares. I needed help, and lots of it. My family put the right people in place. A doctor. A counselor. A psychiatrist. I had a team.
After the first few weeks of my isolation, I walked outside. A steamy summer morning in South Louisiana. It was hard to keep my eyes open. I sat on the back porch at my parents’ home and felt the gleaming sunshine come across my cheeks. Subtle comfort. I knew God was with me. I never felt like I lost Him throughout my Dark Ages, for I had a strong foundation in my faith beforehand, but deep confusion was ongoing. What had I done to deserve this?
Perhaps this comforting sensation I was feeling was Becca’s presence, my 22-year-old sister-in-law who had tragically passed away 10 days before Holden and I moved back home. The time was difficult. There was mourning, and then there was realization and then peace. During my Dark Ages.
It was God that morning, and it may have been Becca. But there was comfort.
That comfort I felt made me feel like things were going to be okay, but I didn’t know how and I didn’t know when. All I knew was that I had to survive this. I had my baby boy to live for. He needed me.
Slowly, I started to leave the house. Little trips. Errands. This was extremely difficult, but I knew I had to do it. I didn’t want to, but mom dragged me. Both still crying. I walked into a Target for the first time in a while. Bad idea. My eyes zeroed in on a cute little pregnant woman with the basketball belly. One second later and the tears streaming down my face that hadn’t been washed in days. I hadn’t looked at myself in days. Had to leave.
A few days later, Walgreens. I was picking up one of my many prescriptions at the time and then it happened. A song, a simple reminder. Coming from the speakers. Had to leave.
Time after time, no matter where I went, it was the same situation. Bullets pierced through my heart repeatedly. All along, I focused on ‘firsts.’ I knew there had to be ‘firsts’ before things could get better. First time walking the dogs. First time to the grocery store. First time taking care of my son throughout the night when I was strong enough again to do so. That took me five weeks.
First time seeing someone I knew. A family friend, no idea of what had just happened. Came up to me and said jokingly, ‘there’s my future daughter-in-law!’ A comment I used to hear from him before and during the time that I was married. Had to leave.
Day after day. More firsts, more errands, more people. The presence of sadness and anger still overwhelming.
The anger was the worst. I was so mad. So extremely angry. And me, if there’s one thing I despise, it’s being mad at someone… This was a rough battle with my inner-self. Myself now still has the anger, but less and less every day. I felt like I didn’t have what I needed to forgive. And that made me feel like a bad person, still does from time to time.
First smile. Throughout it all, Holden was so innocent, so happy. No reality at all, but so honest at the same time. Every day was a new day for him. As overwhelming as the other constant, depressing emotions were, he made me smile. I tried to make it genuine for his sake, but it was difficult.
A priest friend of mine, a mentor, said that divorce is not a scratch, not a cut. Divorce is a deep wound. It takes a long time to heal, but there will always be a scar present.
Holden and I moved into our current house and out of my parents in early October, about five months after living in Baton Rouge. I wanted him to have his own home, his own room. I wanted him to feel valuable and fortunate. I wanted him to have memories in his neighborhood, in his house. The dogs also needed to get out of my parents house. I was nowhere near ready, emotionally. To be on my own. I assured my parents I could do it.
Lonely. Still sad, still angry. The first few nights were hard. Again, more firsts. All over again. Sometimes dad would have to come over, cry with me as I laid in bed. Mornings were still hard. Especially after long nights tossing and turning, no sleep. An hour here, full of nightmares, 20 minutes there. Luckily, Holden started sleeping through the night not soon after we’d moved in, but not so lucky for me. I found myself craving for him to wake up. Just so I could be with him, hold him, rock him in my arms, cry to myself trying not to wake him as the tears streamed down. I’d press my lips to his soft forehead and and not bring my face away for a while. Take it all in. Every breath. He saved my life and had no idea.
I’d make Holden breakfast when he woke about 2 hours before the sun came up throughout the fall and winter months. Watching the sun rise over the park behind my backyard fence was a beautiful bright pink painting. I’d watch from my kitchen window alone, as Holden was beginning his morning nap. This vision, morning after morning, was the beginning of hope for me. A new life, a new beginning. Hope.
New Year’s was approaching close. 2011 was coming to an end, and I was happy to say goodbye. A lot of traumatic events happened in my life during that year, and I wanted to move on. Wait, I was happy about something? There was actually something that I was looking forward to? (Aside from looking forward to Holden of course)…but something to look forward to for myself? Where did it come from? I don’t know, but I wanted it. I didn’t want to be sad anymore, I didn’t want to be angry. I wanted to smile, to laugh, to be social. I wanted to sleep! I wanted to stop hiding.
People say the better you feel, the better you parent. In retrospect, I’m angry at myself for taking so long to move on for that exact reason.
The ball dropped. I said goodbye to that year. I found me. I chose me. Like what was needed all along, but for some reason, the choice came finally. And surprisingly, it was somewhat easy to make, after being so hard for a while.
I chose to be happy, I chose to make an effort. I finally felt like I had the strength to overcome. For so long I had felt so weak and I was tired of fighting. Fighting every day. Not now. It was a new year. The sadness now was what was shrinking, not me. I was re-energized with every new breath i took.
I accepted what had happened. I don’t know why it happened, I don’t know why it happened to me, to my life. But it did happen. I was no longer ashamed, embarrassed. After all, I had nothing to regret. Well one. One regret. But not many more because I followed my heart. People say they want to live life with ‘no regrets,’ but it’s unavoidable. It’s human nature to regret, to learn mistakes. Free will. Personally, I believe that regrets make you stronger, smarter. You can’t expect to be a straight-A student through life. That first B+ that a straight-A student gets, and their life is over as they know it. I’d rather be a 3.4 GPA knowing that it took effort, took mistakes, took learning.
Holden’s first birthday. January 17, 2012. I went all out. From flowers to goodie bags, balloons to lemonade. It wasn’t ‘just’ Holden’s first birthday for me, for my family. Not only was it a day of celebration for Holden entering our lives, but it was, like New Year’s, a new start. An accomplishment of an ending to more firsts. The firsts that hurt so bad were over. First smile, first word, first step. They were over, and I was glad. I was glad to put a very hard year officially behind. My baby was one, and he was strong. He was healthy, he was happy, he was innocent. And he loved me.
The foundation of an unbreakable bond had begun. I knew he felt it too.