Conquer the Fear

I have always had a funny relationship with dreams. Not the kind of dreams where your mind tells you stories while you slumber, but the kind of dreams that you wish you could make happen. The goals that run through your mind constantly. The kind of dreams that make you think “it would be so cool if this could happen for me.” I have had a couple of those dreams, the kind where I constantly say “I wish” to, and I always wondered if I would be brave enough to try to make my dreams become a reality.

I have spoken about this before, but for as long as I can remember, my biggest dream was to become a writer. I don’t even need to be an extremely successful writer, but a writer nonetheless. I wanted to share stories, life lessons, and informative pieces. I wanted to be able to write something that someone out there could relate to. I wanted my words to start a dialogue between strangers, bringing all of us together in some sort of way. I wanted to come up with fictional stories that could captivate an audience and have them asking for more. I have longed for my imagination to take me to a place in my career that I could be proud of, but there was one thing standing in my way. Fear. 

I take that back. Fear wasn’t the only thing keeping me from trying to accomplish my dream, but it definitely was the biggest factor. I always told myself that if I were to ever try to make something out of myself through my writing that I would put every ounce of energy into it. Everything that I have would be dedicated to this one massive dream of mine. However, the circumstances that I was in both financially and mentally would prevent me from being able to do that, that is, until recently. 

Finances have been a strain for Stephen and me for many years. It seemed like every time we were able to save money and feel like we were finally getting to a place of financial stability something would happen that would wash that sense of security straight away. “It’s just a part of life.” “Welcome to being an adult.” “No one ever said that growing up would be easy.” That is what people would tell me about the unfortunate cost of being alive. Also, let’s not forget the worst day of the year for people who rely on medications to live: January 1st. Being a type one diabetic is incredibly expensive, and January 1st is the day that your deductible resets. It always feels like a slap in the face when you have to worry about paying for an insurance premium, a deductible, and the medication that you need in order to keep breathing. A major thanks to my pancreas for adding that stressor to my life. Anyways, I had to work at jobs that I absolutely loathed in order to get by, much like the majority of our society. While I would work, I would fantasize about one day being able to write and have my words be read by the world, but by the time that I would come home from work I had little to no energy to put into my dream. It was a vicious cycle. Work. Dream. Fantasize. Go home. Crash. Repeat.

When it comes to my mentality, I always wanted to have the energy to just make my dream happen. I knew that in order for my writing to flourish I had to put in the work. I knew from the beginning that if you want something in this world that it won’t be handed to you, and if you want it bad enough one day it could be yours. But you have to work for it. I never wanted anything to just be handed to me, but I was too emotionally drained to be able to work towards my goal. As I said, I HATED all of my previous jobs, and they made me feel worthless. I felt like such a disappointment, and it sunk my self-worth to basically nothing. I was already dealing with depression and anxiety, so feeling down on myself for my career left me with nothing. And when you already lack any sort of energy, when you feel like you are sucked dry of everything that you are, you just go into survival mode. I was a walking zombie, just living life on autopilot. When you are in that mode, you just don’t have the extra energy to put into “extra” luxuries, such as accomplishing a dream. You’re just trying to stay alive. 

Eventually, finances started to become better, and with a ton of work, so did my emotional stability. I entered the unexplored territory in my life where I had an option to quit my paying job in order to try to make my dream come true. I never, ever imagined in my entire twenty-six years on this planet that I would ever have this opportunity as an option, and now that it could be a possibility it scared the hell out of me. I started second-guessing if I could actually afford to quit my job, I wondered if it was the responsible thing to do, and I worried that my husband might end up resenting me for not going into an actual job every day as he does. I had developed all of this doubt to the point where one day I would talk myself up and say “I am just going to do it.” Then the next day I would say “I can’t do this. What was I thinking?” I was driving my husband insane with my doubt and fear, and finally, he just told me to quit my job and focus on my writing. It was kind of a “now or never” type situation. It is odd to me that after spending years imagining, hoping, and fantasizing about this moment that suddenly I was pumping the breaks. I think it is one of those things that you never think is in the cards for you, and when you finally have an opportunity to make it happen it puts you in a state of shock. And then that state of shock turns into doubt, and then that doubt turns into fear. But after talking to my therapist and doing some major introspective work, I made the decision to quit my job to attempt to make my dream come true.

It was scary. It still is scary to this day. As it stands, I am two months into what could be a life-altering choice that I made. But with that being said, I don’t think that I have ever been happier about myself. So here is the thing. I am not oblivious or naive to the fact that there is a high probability that nothing will come from this. I know that I am asking for a lot from the universe to give me the success that I desire from my writing, but I just want it so bad. I live for my writing. I live for my audience. It brings me so much satisfaction whenever I push the “Publish now” button on my website. It warms my heart whenever someone messages me about a piece that I wrote. I am thriving. I feel alive. My spark is growing larger and larger with each day that passes. Yes, as per usual, the unknown is terrifying. I do not know where this is going to take me in my life. But do you know what sounds even more terrifying to me? Not knowing if my dream could have been a reality. Always pondering the idea if I made the right choice by not running towards my lifelong dream. I will never regret the choice I made to try to improve my life by chasing my dream, and I will continue to thrive on it until the moment I draw my final breath. 

Fear was one of the strongest internal opponents that I have ever had to face, but man does it feel amazing to conquer that monster.

Dream, Oh Dream

****TRIGGER WARNING: PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THIS PIECE TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT.

Isn’t it amazing how one dream can ruin your entire day? Last night I had a dream about him, the guy that stole my security, amongst other things, and now he stole the opportunity for me to enjoy my day. I woke up feeling immediately anxious, and I woke up wanting to immediately break out into hysterics. I woke up wanting to die. 

The ironic thing is that it wasn’t even a bad dream. We were together, like in a committed relationship. I loved him and he loved me. We were laughing, having meaningful conversations, and even having consensual sex. The fact that I was so happy in this dream really fucked with my head, and the moment I woke up I felt sick to my stomach with disgust. How could someone who brought me so much pain be in a dream that could have been interpreted as something so beautiful? I felt so confused and overwhelmed, and it just added to the rest of the emotions that I felt. 

Usually, I take my time waking up in the morning. Since I loathe morning time and I consider it to be vile, it takes me some time to get adjusted. This morning, however, was not like my typical morning. Since I woke up feeling so awful from this dream, I already woke up fully awake. Plus, whenever I tried to close my eyes, all I could picture was him. Him and his grimy hands touching me, me smiling at him, me having feelings for him. Seeing those visions was too much for me to handle, so I decided to get up and distract myself. As luck would have it, I already had a therapy appointment scheduled for today, but I had a couple of hours to kill before that time. So I went to the store and walked around for a bit, picked up some medication, and then drove back home. 

My therapist has always told me when I am having bad thoughts to do whatever I can to distract myself. Whether that is writing, going out to the store, getting coffee, going for a walk or just hanging out with my animals, I need to just do something to distract myself. Since I woke up so anxious it was a goal of mine to try to calm down before my appointment, but I wasn’t able to help myself. After I left the store and pulled into my driveway, I just sat in my car. My anxiety was even worse than it was before I had left, and I felt as if it were physically impossible for me to move my body. Then my thoughts transitioned from thinking about my dream to what actually happened in real life. Thinking about what happened always does me in. My already horrible anxiety turned even worse, and for a moment, just a moment, I thought about how easy it would be for me to open my garage, pull in, and close the garage door behind me while leaving the car on. Obviously, I didn’t do that because I am writing this right here and now, but having those thoughts, as brief as they can be, still do some sort of damage.  

One of the biggest problems that I am having is truly moving on from that incident. I feel as if he has me in a chokehold, and after all of these years, my freedom is still at his mercy. I absolutely hate what happened, I hate him for doing what he did, and I hate myself for not being able to be strong enough to break free from his grip. In the past, I told you that I was fragile. Now, here is your proof. 

Luckily my therapy appointment helped me a lot. I told her everything that happened in the dream, how I woke up feeling, and how it affected my day thus far. One thing that was killing me that I needed help understanding was why I had that dream. Usually, when I dream of him I dream of what happened or scenarios that closely resemble what happened. But this was so different. You see, her answer was not as complicated as I thought it was going to be. She asked me there were any personality traits of his that could be considered “good.”  I had known him for a decent amount of time. I was eleven when we were first introduced, and the big incident didn’t happen until I was fifteen. So in that time frame, I saw things from him that I thought were great qualities, but at the end of the day, it was all a lie so that he could deceive me so that he could get what he wanted. He wanted me to trust him, and he was able to get that from me. So was he actually “good?” No. But the perception that I had of him was that he was. I told her about this memory that I have of him that I will never forget. My parents took a bunch of us to this fair that happens every summer, and I went off with him and his friend. I was wearing a skirt and a halter top, but I had to have been twelve at the time so it wasn’t too revealing. There was this one man that was running one of the game booths that just stared at me for the longest time. He and his friend didn’t like that, so they blocked his view of me in order to protect me. I just remember them both becoming visibly upset and rushing me away from that guy, and that is probably the one and only good memory that I have of him. That is the only time I remember him actually being genuine. 

So the answer ended up being pretty easy. I had a trauma and the body and mind hold on to that trauma. Supposedly, as an attempt to protect myself, my subconscious gave me that dream to try to push the negativity and the trauma away and to put him in a good light.  Dreaming of something that could be interpreted as “good” could help me move on from the bad. But I would like to give my subconscious a heads up about something. If given a choice, I really would rather not dream or think of him at all. So thanks for trying but next time just refrain from “helping” me. 

I don’t think that I will ever fully break free from him. That memory will always be there, however, I am learning that I have control over my life now. Whenever I think about him and what he did I can take comfort in knowing that he isn’t apart of my life now, so I don’t have to keep ripping open those wounds. Now is the time for healing, and although I will always have those scars, those scars will symbolize my strength.

You Don’t Know What Is Possible Until You Try

Growing up, my Mema would always tell me that I should publish a book when I was older. I was very fortunate when my parents divorced because I would spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house, and every night Mema would read me story after story until my eyelids felt heavy and my busy mind was feeling at peace. Mema would also tell me stories that she would come up with herself, as well as stories about where our ancestors came from. I soaked up every story like a sponge, and I am convinced that Mema’s gift for storytelling was passed down to me. 

I have always been quite imaginative. When I was young I was obsessed with American Girl dolls and Barbies, and the elaborate backgrounds that I would give each doll would often leave the adults in my life in awe. Someone, although I can’t remember who at this exact moment, recently told me that they would listen in on my play sessions because they were fascinated with the stories that I would put my dolls through. I could come up with stories in an instant, and they would be full of depth. My favorite time of year was when we could participate in Young Authors, which was where we were given a blank book that we could write down stories in as well as illustrate them ourselves. That made me feel so alive. Coming up with a pretend world with pretend people and bringing it all to life brought me so much joy and elation, and it also made me feel really proud of myself.

As I became older I learned of different ways to write down stories. One of my fondest memories was in third grade when we started to learn how to write an essay, and I remember writing a nonfiction essay about my aunt’s wedding. Apparently, I did well because my teacher read it aloud for all of my classmates to hear, and you could imagine how elated I was during that moment. My teacher loved what I had to say so much that she wanted everyone else to hear it, and that is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Although I am typically a humble human being, I do love when others enjoy my pieces. I always have loved it, and I always will love it. When someone loves and enjoys one of my pieces, it is one of the biggest compliments that you could ever give me. It brings more value to my life than platinum. 

As I got older, I never strayed away from writing. I would always type out little stories here and there, I would make an attempt at poetry every now and again, or I would just journal. In high school, I participated in journalism for three years, and although it was different than what I was used to it gave me life during a time where I felt like I wasn’t living at all. It gave me purpose, it taught me about deadlines, and it still gave me that feeling of happiness whenever I would see one of my articles in the school paper. It was magic for me. It was an outlet, and it showed me what gave me passion. Journalism was the best part of high school for me, and I will always be grateful for that. 

Once I graduated high school I went on to college, where I changed my major more times than I can count. At first, I wanted to go into journalism, but I was told it was a dying career and that I should avoid doing that at all costs. Then I wanted to go into education, but after speaking with a middle school teacher during my observational hours, she told me to run for the hills. I realized that education wasn’t for me, so I moved on to the next thing. My parents really wanted me to have a career in something that would pay well, but more importantly, would provide excellent health care. Being a type one diabetic is not cheap, and I need the best insurance plan in order to afford my doctor’s visits and medications. So for years I took classes and went into programs for different healthcare fields, and I was unhappy with every single one. It got to the point where I was spending all of this money on school and books and I finally just stopped going to school. I didn’t want to continue with school until I figured out what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In the back of my mind, I always think about going into a field that will pay me well and offer good benefits, but at the end of the day, nothing was going to give me that happiness that I desired. That is until I realized that there was something that I could do that I could love and be proud of. 

I love writing. I always have loved it, and I always will. I love having thoughts and writing them down, and reading it back feeling totally captivated. I revel at that moment when my family and friends read my pieces and enjoy them. Every time I press publish on my blog, that spark that keeps me alive gets a little bit bigger. I love creating and sharing, and I love connecting with others when I write something that they might relate to. What I am doing now is what I should have been doing all along, and although I can’t get the time back that I wasted trying to figure out what I should do I can embrace the fact that I have finally figured it out and I am doing it now.

You see, a big life lesson that I have learned is that you can hear and accept what people have to say to you when you are given advice, but you are the only one who knows what is truly best for you. Had I stuck on the path that I had originally taken, I would have not wasted all of that time in between. I always had that gut feeling that I would find my way back to storytelling, and it brings me so much happiness that I have found my way back to my passion. To me, hating my job and my life is too steep of a price to pay for having loads of money in my bank account. I am not oblivious to the fact that money is essential to living, but if you are willing to work at it, then following your dream can be possible. You don’t know what is possible until you try. This whole story leads down to one thing: Follow your instinct. Follow your passion. Follow whatever keeps giving your spark life.

Please Don’t Ask Me When I am Going To Have Kids

One of life’s biggest questions is “what are we doing here?” Some people think that they are here to help others, while others think that they are placed on this earth to follow through on a prestigious career path. Others might think that they are here just because their parents decided to fornicate one night and then BOOM. The evolution of cells that would eventually multiply and turn into you commenced. Correct me if I am wrong, but at some point in our mundane lives, we have questioned what we are meant to be doing. What is this big job that we were assigned to when we were given passage to life? You see, I indeed have asked that question myself, but I have known that answer for as long as I can remember. I was put on this earth to be a mom. 

I don’t know how to describe this feeling that I have had for all of these years. It has just been an overwhelming feeling of maternal love that flushes through my body and soul. I remember being incredibly young and playing with baby dolls just pretending to be their mom. I know a lot of young children do that, but I would get really into it. I would love those babies like they were really there. It might have been odd, but back then it gave me a taste of happiness. I was eleven when my youngest brother was born, and I cried the moment I saw him and held him in my arms. He was one of the greatest gifts that I have ever been given, and my love for him is strong. I used to love holding him, singing to him, taking care of him. And while at times he would drive me absolutely mad with his incessant and inconvenient crying, I still loved and continue to love him so incredibly much. I used to take him for walks around the block and imagine what it was going to feel like to be doing this with my own baby, and the thought would bring a smile to my face. 

When I was thirteen or fourteen I started losing a lot of my hair. I would be taking a shower and I would watch as clumps would wash down the drain. I thought it was odd, but at the same time I had really thick hair so I didn’t think too much of it. Then my periods started becoming incredibly painful. I remember crying in hysterics because I was paralyzed from the pain. It felt like someone took a metal rod and stuck it in a fire and then shoved it inside of me. The pain always traveled to my back, and the only thing that would give me temporary relief was the bathtub. My periods starting becoming irregular, and I just knew this was not a good sign. 

Every three to four months I have to go to an Endocrinologist for my type one diabetes, and at the beginning of each appointment they always ask me about my periods. So I informed the nurse about the irregularity of my periods and how incredibly debilitating they have been, and she informed the nurse practitioner of that information. When my NP came in to see me we dived into everything that was going on, including losing my hair. After talking for a bit she informed me that she thought that I had PCOS, and to go see a gynecologist to get an official diagnosis. So off I went to the gynecologist, and a couple of weeks later I got the call confirming the diagnosis. After the doctor told me that I had PCOS, my first question was “Will I be able to have children?” To which they said something along the lines of “The likelihood of you being able to conceive naturally with having PCOS, as well as type one diabetes, is unlikely. With medical assistance, you still might not be able to conceive, and if you did it would be considered high risk.”

That crushed me. I wasn’t even sixteen at that time, and finding out that I was most likely infertile stole every ounce of hope from me. The one thing that I have wanted, that one dream that I had held on to for years was ripped from me. I understood that they said that there was a chance that I could become pregnant naturally, but to a young girl, all I heard was that it was unlikely. I was immediately placed on birth control to help balance out my hormones, and I just continued living my life. It felt like such a slap in the face at the time having to go on birth control. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for another life at such a young age, but the idea of my body not wanting to give me the one thing I had always wanted and then being placed on a pill that would also prevent it just felt cruel. But that one phone call, that one diagnosis, and every gynecologist appointment haunted me. 

I had, and continue to have, these reoccurring dreams of me being pregnant, or having children, or me being in labor. The older I became, the more these dreams would play out. In my dreams, I am happy. I am embracing my pregnant belly. I am holding, sniffing, and staring in awe at my baby. I excitedly scream “my water broke!” to my husband. It is such an incredible feeling, and then I wake up and realize it wasn’t real and I just break. Every single time. My heart is just broken. I hate my mind for putting me through that torture. 

Now that I am twenty-six and married, starting a family is at the forefront of our minds. I am prepared to start taking the medications to help me conceive, and if need be, I am willing to try IVF. But IVF doesn’t guarantee a child, so fostering and adoption might be my answer. At the end day, I really don’t care if the baby is related to me biologically. My dream and my desire to be a mother could still be a reality to a child who I didn’t grow inside of me, and I know that I will love any child with every ounce of my being. I want to help shape and mold another person into a wonderful human being, I want to help them explore and find their individuality, and I want to help figure out what their dream is so I can help them achieve it. I want to show them what it feels like to be loved and I want them to see how special they are and how much value they bring to this world. I know that one day I will be a mom regardless of how that child falls into my arms, and I have never been more ready for anything in my entire life.

There is one point that I want to make clear in this piece. The fact of the matter is, yes I am getting older and I am at the age where I could start having babies. But unfortunately, my reality is that it is going to be extremely difficult to conceive on my own. Like I stated before, I might not even conceive with medical assistance. For someone who wants children as badly as I do, imagine how it must feel when people ask me “when are you and Stephen going to start having babies?” In all fairness, it is not like I wear a badge that says “I have fertility issues,” but I also don’t think it is acceptable to ask me when we plan on expanding our family. If I had it my way, I would have two kids by now. Just because I am a woman and am happily married doesn’t give anyone the right to ask me something as personal as when I am having children. What if I didn’t want kids? What if I just had an abortion? What if Stephen was infertile? You never know what a person or a couple is going through, and having them feel the need to explain their situation is so damaging and hurtful. 

I want nothing more than to be a mom. I truly feel like that is why I am on this earth. The reality is I don’t know when or how that is going to happen, but I hold on to the hope that one day my dream will become true. But in the meantime, please don’t ask me when I am going to have kids.

The Real Monster: Anxiety

I have never really been afraid of monsters. I grew up watching Jurrasic Park on repeat, as a child I would play pretend games with imaginary monsters that I would bring to life, and I was always invested in ghost stories. The things that gave me a true fright were things that could become a reality. For example, thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning would send me into a fit. I would hibernate in the basement clinging onto my dog Daisy in complete hysterics until I knew that the threat was gone and we were going to be safe. When my parents decided to divorce, I was consumed with making sure that my parents were okay. I remember always thinking about them and wondering if they were ever going to find happiness. I was in second grade at the time, but I was so consumed with what my family was feeling that it felt like it was eating away at my young soul. Little did I know that I was already being introduced to one of the scariest monsters to have ever existed: anxiety.

As I have stated many times, clinical depression is something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My mom even told me that she knew something was off with me before I was five years old, but back then mental illness wasn’t really something that was talked about. I remember seeing a school counselor for a short time when my parents decided to divorce, and then many years later going to see my first psychologist. Although it was many years where I wasn’t speaking to a professional about what I was feeling, I always knew something was off about me. As cliche as this is, I literally felt as if I lived in a literal world of darkness. I was consumed by sadness, resentment, and anger. I was constantly isolating, (although that has still not changed) and I never actively sought out friendships. I was content with being on my own overthinking every thought that I have ever had and accepting that feeling the way that I felt was normal. I remember being overly concerned for years about my dad. My mom was happy and in love with my now stepfather, and I wanted that for my dad. I would spend hours a day worrying about my dad and what his and our future looked like, to the point where I would go into a panic. I wanted the world for my dad. I wanted every bit of happiness that the world had to offer to him to be his. I wanted him to find a partner and to fall in love, and I wanted him to enjoy every moment of his life. I would think about these things constantly, driving myself absolutely crazy. So when my dad met my stepmom, I was over the moon with excitement because I felt like everything that I have ever wanted for my dad was happening to him. But then the worry of him finding happiness turned into worry about him losing it, and then I was consumed with worry that his relationship with my stepmom wouldn’t last forever. That constant worry wasn’t warranted though because they were and continue to be a healthy and happy couple, but I just wanted my dads’ happiness to be infinite. Looking back, I can now see that my worry about my dads’ happiness was probably one of the first anxiety-inducing situations that I was apart of, and I wish that it was figured out years ago that anxiety was one of the things that I was feeling.

As I progressed in age I, of course, came into more anxiety-inducing scenarios. One of the more traumatic things that I experienced that I still have trouble with was my sexual assault. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have learned more about that incident the older I have become. Looking back at what happened and after speaking to a couple of professionals about it, I have learned that I was essentially brainwashed, manipulated, and “trained” by this person since I was eleven to be a certain way with him. When the big incident occurred, I immediately broke down. I remember talking to my therapist at the time about it and her wanting to report it for statutory rape, but I wouldn’t let her for reasons that I don’t want to get into. After that happened I blamed myself for years for allowing it to happen. The big incident happened when I was fifteen, and it was just within the past year that I have been able to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I now look at the situation with complete disgust, and I can see it for everything that it was. I will say this though. After seeking out help for coping with what happened it almost makes me feel worse. I feel so violated. I feel like something was stolen from me. Every time I think about the whole situation I want to break down. This incident has a way to pop into my mind at the most inconvenient times, and what sucks about it is that when I think about it I literally feel like I am taken back in time and forced to relive everything that I went through. I can feel what I felt, both mentally and physically, and I feel frozen. My anxiety just completely takes over me, and I feel like I can’t breathe. My heart starts racing, and I need to remind myself that it isn’t happening now, it happened in the past. I would say my sexual assault is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety is so horrendous.

Although I have always been pretty content with not involving a lot of people in my life, I do feel like my social anxiety just keeps getting worse and worse. I don’t do well with meeting new people, in fact, I have had to have therapy sessions in preparation for meeting new people and for being in groups. I don’t really know what it is, I just get really bad anxiety around new people and big groups of people. I get anxiety while driving, while going to the doctors’ office, and even shopping. Every time I feel like something might be wrong with my animals my anxiety spikes. I feel like my life is controlled by my anxiety, and it makes me feel so fragile. My anxiety is one of the main focuses of my therapy sessions, and I feel with every session that I have I become one step closer to breaking free of my anxieties grasp. 

My anxiety and my depression have this hold on me. Every day I work hard to better myself, but I have my ups and downs. I don’t think I will ever be free from my anxiety, but I do think that with time and hard work I can handle it better. After everything is said and done, your life shouldn’t be controlled by monsters, but by you.

The Magic of Holidays

This holiday season was the first time in four years that I was able to spend it with all of my family members, and it truly was spectacular. When I was younger I would always correlate joy, happiness, love, and peace to the holiday season, and that was mostly because that meant that I was going to be able to spend quality time with my family. The number of laughs that we all share, the conversations about past stories that kept me completely enthralled, and just spending time with my loved ones always felt so special. The magic of Christmas was never about the gifts for me, it always stemmed from the love that I felt when I had my loved ones around me.

When Stephen and I made the decision that we were going to move down to Dallas we didn’t even think about what the holidays were going to be like. We had a dream to move and we were willing to sacrifice everything to make that happen, but little did we know that the cost of the dream of moving was exorbitant. We knew that leaving home and everyone else behind was going to be sad, but nothing prepared us for how truly soul-crushing and lonely that whole experience was.   

Being away from family was always difficult, but nothing made you realize how alone you truly were until the holidays would come around. I went from having an immense amount of excitement starting at the beginning of October to being filled with sorrow and dread. I am already a severely depressed person, so the thought of being alone during the time of the year that I used to crave just made me even more devastated. I had Stephen and my furchildren, with whom I cherish more than my own life, but sitting alone watching movies while everyone else was enjoying one another always made me sink into another low. Perhaps being alone made me realize as much as I always loved spending the holidays with my family maybe I also took it for granted. I missed the magic, I missed my family, and I missed that wholesome feeling that I felt whenever it was the holiday season. 

When Stephen and I made the decision to move back home to Chicago in March one of the first thoughts I had was “I can’t wait for the holidays!” The thought of being with all of my loved ones and feeling all of that love fueled me with eagerness and excitement. When the beginning of October came around, I started to feel that magic that I always used to feel growing up. When Thanksgiving finally arrived, it felt superb to actually get in the car and drive forty-five minutes to my grandparent’s house. Seeing my dad making mashed potatoes and having my Mema squeeze me the moment she saw me filled my heart with so much happiness. This is what I have been missing. This is what I have been wanting. This is what I have been desperate for. Then it was Christmas time. I have been filled to the brim with that magical feeling for a few months now, and this was the moment I have been waiting for. Christmas Eve and Christmas day was the happiest I have been for a very long time. I was with my parents, my grandparents, my husband, my in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Hell, people who I didn’t really know. But it was incredible being surrounded by all of these people just celebrating one another. When I was with everyone I found myself laughing again, telling stories about the past that kept me completely captivated and spending quality time with the people who I love so incredibly much. This year, the holidays felt exactly like I remember them feeling before we moved away, and for that, I will always be grateful and appreciate this time of year. 

The magic of the holidays doesn’t stem from the gifts you receive. No. It stems from the love that you feel when you are with the people you adore and cherish.

Divorce

My parents separated when I was in second grade, and their divorce was one of the best things that could have happened. I don’t remember much from when they were married, but the memories that I do have are not that great. I just remember constant fighting, and a feeling of unhappiness that filled the home.

I still remember the day that my parents officially separated vividly. I don’t really think about it that much anymore, because it was a day that I try not to recall. It was the day that my family was no longer a family, and it was the day that I watched my dad leave. Although he was not too far away from me, he no longer lived with us, and it tore me apart. It was a really intense day, and it will be one that I know I will always remember.

The divorce made a huge impact on my childhood. As in most divorces, my parents kept a lot of things from my brother and I in order to protect us. I don’t really remember my parents ever talking bad about each other, but there were a couple of slip ups made by both of them. A lot of the information that I have about their divorce and the causes behind it actually came from family members on both sides, which looking back at now, was wildly inappropriate. Something that still really bothers me is that a family member told me something that completely changed my view of my parents when I was in second grade, and if they would have done the adult thing and kept that information to themselves it would have saved me from a lot of emotional torment. I have come to notice that people are selfish in divorces, and sometimes they don’t care what the aftermath looks like as long as they can hurt the other person. I am sure that the family member who told me that information thought they were helping my parent that they are related to, but they ended up doing more damage to my brother and I than anyone else.

The divorce made me feel like I was living in a world of pure toxicity. I felt loyalty to my dad and I felt guilty that I still loved my mom. My dad never made me feel like I couldn’t have a relationship with my mom, so feeling guilty about wanting that was my own issue. However, as I got older, and as other people felt it necessary to tell me more things about my parents and what their relationship was like, I started to separate myself from my mom. When you’re a teenager, your hormones and emotions are all over the place, and the stuff that was said to me caused so many issues for me. I started to hate my mom, and that hatred was like drinking poison. I felt so disgusting inside, like my soul was rotting away from years and years of toxic waste that has just been piling up. I was an emotional wreck, and every thought I had was about my mom and my dad and the past. Those years where I couldn’t forget about the divorce were eating me alive, and no matter how much therapy I had I just couldn’t let go. It was as if the divorced handcuffed me to a life a resentment and hostility, and no matter who tried to help me they couldn’t break the cuffs. It was awful, but the worst part of it all was that I was the one that allowed that hatred to consume me.

I think it was in junior year of high school where I kind of had an epiphany. I just remember thinking about my parents divorce and how it had affected me, and I realized that by me holding on to this anger that I was torturing myself. I also thought about what my life would have been liked if my parents stayed together. It would have not been a good life, it would have not been a stable life, and it wouldn’t have been a life that would have resulted in my brother and I having success. My mom remarried and had another son, and I absolutely adore and love my step dad, Jeff, and my brother, Logan. My dad never remarried, but he has been with his partner, Tina, ever since I was in seventh grade. Tina has always been incredible to my brother Nicholas and I, and I will always be appreciative for that. If my parents had stayed together, all of these people that I love so much wouldn’t be apart of my world, and a world that they aren’t apart of is a world that I don’t even want to think about. After thinking about all of this, my world and attitude completely changed. It was like I inhaled in my last breath of toxic air, and when I exhaled, every negative thought about the divorce left my soul. I forgave the events that I hung on to, I became appreciative for the life that I was living, and most importantly, I invited my mom back into my life.

I know that my parents did everything that they could to prevent my brother and I from feeling the pain from the divorce, and as much that they tried, that pain was invited in by other people who couldn’t obtain self control. A lot of pain could have been avoided if people were respectful and kept what they wanted to say to themselves, but hopefully this was as much of a learning experience for them as it was for me.

My advice to parents who are going through a divorce is this:

  1. Don’t talk bad about the other parent in front of your kids.
  2. Don’t allow others talk bad about the other parents in front of your kids.
  3. Your kids can and will pick up on what you are feeling, so try to keep as much negativity away from them as you can.
  4. No matter what your kid tells you about how they feel about the divorce, put them in therapy. It will only be beneficial in later years.
  5. When you decide to separate, have a respectful sit down conversation with your kids to explain what is about to happen.

This list is just a couple of things that could help your kids during the process of divorce. As a child that went through this, I know that this could have helped me cope with my parents divorce a lot faster.

Now that I am twenty four, I have an amazing relationship with both my mom and my dad, as well as my step-parents. I am able to see my mom for who she is, and I am able to appreciate everything that she has ever done for me. It does make me feel upset that a relationship with her was robbed from me in the past, but that is why I cherish every conversation and hangout session now. My dad is still the dad that I have always known and loved, and I still treasure him as much as I did back then. At the end of the day, I am grateful for my parents divorce. I hate the way it happened and I hate the person that it temporarily turned me into, but all of our lives are better now because of it.