I realized today that it has been a week since I have written anything. Part of my promise to myself when I started blogging, was that I would keep it up, no matter what. I have learned that with certain things in life, follow through is most important when it is least enjoyable. For example; in my years as a substance abuse counselor, one piece of advice I fervently offered to those in recovery was "Those times when you don't feel like going to a meeting is when you really need to get there." As a member of Al-Anon, I have found that premise to be true there as well (fodder for a story some other time). So today of all days is not the time I want to write, but probably exactly when I NEED to do so.
You all know about my daughter, Paige. She is child #3 of 5 in our family. She and her two older brothers are products of my first marriage. When Paige was approximately 18 months old, I made the leap to leave an abusive marriage and start over with my kids, aged 4, 3 and 18 mos at the time. I quit my job, filed for divorce and enrolled in college all in the same month. Looking back, I'm not sure if I was really brave or really crazy.
Flash ahead about six years and you will find me remarried, with a master's degree, living in a nice house which my husband and I owned, two more children, and the happiest life anyone could ever imagine. Seriously. All we lacked was a picket fence. Having five children at home was a daily challenge, especially since my husband and I both worked outside the home. Challenges back then included things like a flat tire, siblings fighting, finding something for supper, a sick baby, etc. Perfection in every way.
Which brings me to today. Big house: gone. Foreclosure. Nice vehicles: gone. Repossession. Credit: destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt, living at my mom's, falling apart. How does one go from there to here in a matter if about six years? Well, turns out it wasn't too difficult.
In January, 2008, my healthy, fit husband had a heart attack. What a blow. It rocked our family to the core. He was no longer invincible and no longer himself. I don't intend to take his inventory for him here, so I will stick to my facts as I remember them. After the initial heart attack, there came more and more health issues and he eventually lost his job. My husband never missed a day of work. That job was a large part of his identity, and it was gone. Having our income cut in half, other things had to go also. Cars, leisure activities, peace of mind, ability to financially and physically balance life, we lost all of it. My house that I loved was gone soon as well. With the house went my front porch swing where I napped, my flowers, garden and the tree I planted when I got my Master's degree.
Bruised and bloodied, we moved into a rental house to try to pick up the pieces. My oldest son went to live with my mother because we were out of room and out of patience with one another. Sparing the gory details, we continued to lose so much mote. Our marriage was barely hanging by a thread, the kids were struggling, we were financial disasters, and work was difficult for me to balance with all of the stress at home. I had just started a new, better job when the infamous night in January came into being. Add to the balance now an emotional train wreck. I would call it a perfect storm. I had nobody to make sure I was taking care of myself or shoulder the majority of the burdens.
Now would be a good time to tell you that everything worked out. But that would be a lie.
I'm writing today on my phone which is due for shut off, while sitting st my mom's. My oldest two children are adults and on their own mostly. I am unemployed due mostly to my inability to care for myself emotionally while holding everyone else together. I lost my job the day Paige and I returned from New York for the 20/20 interview.
I'm a mental health "professional. " I violated the cardinal rule of my profession: take care of yourself so you can take care of others. I have been in this field of work for ten years. I specialized, ironically, in trauma therapy. I have heard stories that would make a normal person lock themselves in a closet and never come out. Day after day after day. I had no idea the toll it was taking on me and it ultimately cost me my job and my professional integrity. I spent a few days in the mental health unit where I used to work, under the care of a psychiatrist who was also a colleague. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD. My family is in shambles and I am not quite sure where to start the process of recovery. I know it must start with me.
I have a tattoo on my arm with a picture of a weeping fairy. It has a paraphrase from Dante's Inferno around the picture. It reads, "True sorrow is recalling in misery a time when you were happy." More true words were never spoken.