I struggle with depression on and off all year, but once the dark days and long nights set in with late fall and then extended winter of upstate New York, it seems to be a sticky quagmire that I can get out of for short periods of time, and then am, for one reason or another, usually pulled back in. I think of it like a tar patch…
Lately, with being in the midst of the holiday preparations and people planning their family gatherings, how to surprise their children and spouses, taking family photos, going to parades, visiting Santa at the mall, I’ve felt more aware of the fact that I don’t have children and will never have grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.
When I was married to Vinny, I certainly wanted children. In fact, I had grown up talking about having a dozen children! I am from a small family – my mom was an only child and my dad had only one brother who had two sons. I can literally name all of the family without any trouble. Being with Vinny, I suddenly had an extended Italian family.
It was so much fun – new traditions, new (to me) family stories and legends, and Vinny and I started to create our very own Christmas traditions. He and his cousin and brothers always went up to Delta Lake to cut down their own Christmas tree. The boys would pick a ridiculously large one for their mother, who would scold them and chastise them once we took it to her home – and then the boys and their father would have to trim with abandon. One year, when Vinny and I were engaged and had our own apartment, we had everyone over for a breakfast of waffles before heading out. Vinny and I started to collect meaningful ornaments when we went out – I remember Peanuts characters made from glass that we got in Corning (we both loved the Christmas Peanuts movie), and ones we got in Vermont on our honeymoon. I was looking forward to passing these along to our children.
But, it never happened. I had had a couple of experiences – once before I met Vinny and once with Vinny – that were obviously a kind of miscarriage. I say “a kind of” because I didn’t realize I was pregnant and it was painful, scary, and sad – but it wasn’t as if I’d had the chance to really feel the baby, like other friends who have had miscarriages have.
Then, after Vinny, with my mental health such an issue, I thought about whether or not it would be “right” to have children. Would it be fair to my own daughter and granddaughter to saddle them with the disease that had been making me crazy and unhappy for so long? My daughter would have a 50/50 chance to get bipolar disorder. At best, her daughter, would have a 25% chance of it. I even talked it over with my therapist, psychiatrist, and OB/GYN. I’d have to go off of my medication for the duration of the pregnancy and my hormones would be off the hook PLUS I’d be affected by my bipolar disorder without the help of prescriptions. I recalled the way a friend I’d worked with at Camden Middle School, Woody, had told me about his wife’s pregnancy. She was also bipolar and had gone off of her medications while pregnant with their son. Woody said, after that, that he never wanted to be that afraid for his wife again.
I’m not saying that it was an easy decision – it wasn’t. However, for so long I’ve not felt like I had any control over my emotions and the bipolarity, that I just focused on myself – keeping myself sane, employed, housed, etcetera.
But now, with stability and a job I really enjoy, becoming closer to my family, I feel so alone. I am so sad that I don’t have my own family. I want a house or an apartment that feels like a home. I want to decorate. I want to put up MY ornaments and decorations. I want a child or children to spoil and dote upon. I want to create traditions with my family.
There are times when the wanting, the loneliness, overwhelms me with sadness and that tarry blackness. But, I’m going to take a friend’s advice and try to focus on making plans for what I’ll do – how I’ll start to craft my home and family when I can afford to – and that will start with adopting a dog. I hope to reach out to the Kramer Foundation – I like the two women I’ve met connected with it (Juli Lathrop, the owner, and Kim Stanton, a friend of Juli’s who adopted a dog that Juli rescued and now uses her dog Abby as a therapy dog in the community). And I’ll train my dog and see about getting it trained to help me, too. I can almost feel the joy and love for this dog in my heart already.
And now the sun is up – so I am going to focus on painting ornaments and getting errands done this Saturday – and getting out into the sunshine while it lasts.