A couple of weeks from now, I turn 29. Nobody feel hesitant to make getting older jokes. Age doesn’t scare me. It might one day, but the day has yet to come. I value age because it usually brings wisdom and knowledge that I benefit from greatly. I know more of who I am now than I did at 19 when I got married.
My heart is kind of twingy and aching today. I’m going to open up a bit about something that not many people outside of my inner circle know much about, but I need to talk about it to express another problem I’ve been having lately.
So, last September, I was in the middle of my last trimester of my third pregnancy. I had a two and a half year old and a one and half year old running my house because I was exhausted and hot and just not so fun. My grandpa was sick, and my whole family was worried.
And my dad…..
My dad was depressed. Deeply, suicidally depressed.
My family doesn’t usually call mental health problems what they are because honestly, I don’t know that the majority of them even believe in mental health problems. Alcoholism, anxiety, depression, domestic violence. These were never terms I heard in my home. I didn’t learn anything real about these issues until college.
As smart as I thought I was, I didn’t know that my family history was littered with issues like these. Issues that had impacted me my entire life, when I just thought that maybe my family felt things more intensely than most.
I’d seen violent behavior, had cans of beer chunked at my head, been sent to check on family members to make sure that their spouse hadn’t killed them yet.
Even writing this has my heart pounding unusually hard. It makes me feel vulnerable. More vulnerable than my face or my words would tell you. But watching me closely and knowing me well, you’d probably see the slight tremble in my hands. You’d hear the catch in my voice. You’d recognize my attempts to deflect the intensity through a strange mix of humor and coldness. Distancing. Muting.
Distancing. Muting. These are what this post tonight is really about.
At this point in my walk with Christ, in my recovery, I’ve done a lot of introspective thinking and feeling. I’ve done a lot of expressing and confiding and confessing. I have my friend-accountability-mentor-priests. I have people who I tell things to.
But….as good as I might be with my words, I’m still really bad with my emotions.
Let me explain. I feel things very strongly. Deeply. It impacts my physical health. My mental health. Largely because I like to name my emotions while stuffing them. Shoving them forcefully might be more accurate.
I don’t like to experience strong emotions in front of others. I don’t like to cry with people. I stayed dry eyed through most of my grandpa’s funeral because I literally couldn’t grab a hold of the emotion. My sadness was a slippery, tiny thing buried down deep.
It’s been a slippery, tiny thing I’ve been burying about my dad too.
On April 16, my dad will turn 54. He’ll do it in a jail cell awaiting trial. His depression and lack of self care and alcoholism and overindulgence in emotion led him to hurt someone else.
This has been an exceptionally painful thing for my family.
Why is it so hard to write that? Why is it so hard to think it? Why is it so hard to acknowledge and accept this lump in my throat?
I’ve been good at being angry about this issue. At being hurt by it. At being overwhelmed and underwhelmed and a know-it-all and above-it-all, but….it is hard for me to just be sad.
And tonight I’m sad. And I’m trying hard to just feel how I actually feel. To not explain it away or inflame it into something bigger. I’m trying to experience it without muting it or stoking it. Without feeling too much or too little. Without thinking about it too hard.
So…how I feel right now:
- Like I’ve lost my dad over and over and over and over again
- Like I’ll never not hurt because of him
- Like every time I ever think about him it’ll largely be negative and without much hope
- Like I’ve never known him
- Like I know him to well
- Like I don’t understand him
- Like I understand him to well
- Like he’ll never really want to know me
- Like he can’t
- Like I’ll grow old and lose all the parts of me that he invested well in because he was the one that did it
- Like I’ll grow old and grow all the parts of me that he broke because he was the one that did it
Back in September, my dad shot someone. And he hurt many, many more without ever pointing a gun in their direction.
And now, he’ll be behind bars on his birthday. Isolated and alone. Afraid and sad. Hopeful and hopeless.
And now, I’ll be free on my birthday. But I’ll be without him. Afraid for him. Sad for him. Sad for me. Hopeful and hopeless.
And tears don’t do the feelings justice. And a lack of tears keeps the pressure bottled up.
And sometimes, words and platitudes and a positive spin do nothing. Sometimes, the stuck in the throat sadness is all that we get.
And I don’t want apologize for it. I’ve done that too much in my life. I’ve lived on the lie that my emotions were too much for other people. That I was less valuable as an emotional person than I was as an intelligent and rational person.
But this moment calls for a deep and abiding sadness. A mourning.
So this year, I’ll hear happy birthday constantly, and I’ll smile and I’ll feel joy. I’ll be glad to call myself one year older. One year wiser. One year smarter.
And I’ll also be sad.