Tag Archives: depression

Smile, Though Your Heart is Breaking: My Memoir

The older I get, the more visits with the parental unit become concrete episodes of psychological disorder ripe for analysis, versus emotional jabs to the heart. An obese, hot-tempered and narcissistic father dying from not one but two-types of cancer yet beating the odds thus far despite terminal illness, and a mother who has no ability to process emotion and who lives solely for capturing life in posed photographs where everyone looks happy, never mind how they actually feel.

When I hear of yet another occurrence of my father jabbing my mother with his cane or throwing her phone against the room, shattering its screen, or him calling her any number of degrading terms, I can’t help but blame the victim, or see them both as victims, as she has no ability to empathize with others, only to nag and focus solely on the illusion of happiness in moments captured on camera with no context to the disorder and discomfort underneath.

If I were to write a memoir, perhaps its title would be – Smile, though your heart is breaking. I had rationalized throughout my life that every family takes photos, that smiling and looking pretty in pictures was a normal part of life – which is it, if not to the extent of addiction to photographs without having the ability to live in the moment. The measure of the success of any life event or family outing could be measured in two ways — did my father not have an outburst, and did my mother capture photographs of everyone smiling at the camera with our eyes open and teeth showing just the right amount.

Yesterday, I had to stop my father from flinging across the room the $700 point-and-shoot camera I had purchased as a gift to my mother for the wedding. At dinner with my grandmother, sister and parents, my mother asked the waitress to take a photo on her phone, which inevitably didn’t come out that great because it was dark and the phone doesn’t take good pictures, so she asked the waitress to take another photo on the camera instead. This prompted my father to threaten to toss the camera across the room in a way where you knew he was serious. His mother luckily talked him down and the photo was taken by the waitress, albeit with my father purposely with the back of his head to camera.

Earlier in the day, a friend from childhood came over to visit. She was in town as the same time as I was by coincidence, but she actually had planned to see my parents at the time when she didn’t know I would be there. She came over and talked to us for a bit – time wise it was not ideal as we had to leave for dinner with my grandmother. We had to say goodbye and get going to be on time, but of course, my mother needed to take pictures of us smiling for the camera. My father nearly struck her with his cane, but company was present so he somewhat behaved himself. He took a swing as to threaten, but did not get near her.

I hear that this year when they were at their winter condo in Florida, with no one watching the moment, he struck her on the side. She knows that’s not ok, but at this point it’s just her life.

Mom complains about going to the hospital with my father for his surgeries, and shares that she is not looking forward to “taking care” of him if (when) his cancer gets worse. It breaks my heart that she can’t empathize or sympathize with her husband of all these years, of another human being who is dying of cancer and who has his best years behind him. But then I remember all the things my father has done to her, and I can’t blame her for her reaction – though it would be the same if he were a loving, kind man, she’d still only care about herself. She’d still complain about how the events are harming her life, not showing any modicum of care for another human life.

Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking. — I see my family infrequently, and when I do, I always remember why I moved so far away. I wish I could have a close relationship with them, but that just isn’t in the cards…

I knew, getting out of the car, that my jeans had shifted too low and my shirt to high, and my stomach, plump with the roundness of a long winter’s depression and its related binge eating, was protruding in a non-flattering fashion. My father, of course, had to comment. “I am going to say it,” he said, and I knew what was coming. He paused, for a moment, clearly about to say I look fat but instead shifting the language to say “you should change before we go to grandma’s, she won’t appreciate how you are dressed.” I took a deep breath and said “I just need to pull my shirt down,” and left it at that. Years ago the comment would have been more direct towards my weight gain, but I think at this point since I have a husband he doesn’t bother me with that, only the inappropriateness of my clothing choices, despite having just traveled to visit them.

I know it could be worse – much, much worse. I’ve heard stories of friends who have parents who have done horrible things, or who just weren’t there at all. Parents who were divorced, who got remarried, who dated abusive men or women and alcoholics and drug addicts. Plenty of people are born into much worse situations – perhaps into loving families, but in areas of the world riddled with war. Few, in th history of time, come from healthy, stable families. Some do. And those who come from stable households often struggle with life when it gets rough unable to handle any imperfections. Perhaps in a way being hardened early is a blessing as life only gets more emotionally challenging over time, with the loss of loved ones built into not one the status quo, but the inevitable.

I’m trying to break free of all of this to find myself – before I have my own family. I have a wonderful husband who is everything to me. As I said to a friend the other day — one can be grateful and still miserable. Today, that’s me. Grateful, but broken. Appreciative, but empty. In awe all that I have, but have long forgotten what happiness feels like, my mental definition of the emotion locked in as a moment where I tilt my chin lightly downward, pull my shoulders back, open my mouth slightly with lips tilted upwards at the smile, and wait for the flash to capture the shell of a person who appears to be having a wonderful time.

What Does it Take To Be Successful in this Business?

Removing myself from the equation, I ponder what persona would be successful in a role like my own. I seem to care far too much personally about everything I do, which renders my work occasionally high quality but too often belated.  The quality, the “artistic merit” of the work is not valued – only its completion, it’s project management of other people playing their parts and getting their projects done faster and more effectively than anyone else, or at least making it seem that way while in reality surviving on little sleep to make sure everything gets done and no one has to ask twice regarding the whereabouts of a deliverable.

It’s the alienating daily experience of being an “NFP” in a strictly “NTJ” world… welcome to Silicon Valley, oh sensitive artistic one.

Everyone appears to be satisfied with this world, stressed, maybe, but focused, determined, and given those drawn to this industry are the types who always got A’s on their exams and submitted every last ounce of extra credit assignments possible, I feel like a complete outsider. I’ve never actually fit in anywhere, so the outsider role is at least my status quo. As I observe those in the world around me and age in the industry where I’m no longer the youngest in the room (now, far from it), I feel even further removed from the center of gravity here. I’m off kilter, wobbling about and hoping no one notices I’m slipping sideways, that is, until the inevitable face plant. Continue reading

Time to Move On… But Where To Go?

I thought maybe, just maybe, with a new boss and a more focused role I’d be able to keep my head down and get my shit done and I wouldn’t be a total train wreck. I knew that was highly unlikely, but the hope was there.

The historical self-sabotage rears its ugly devil head yet again, and I’m on the fast track out of this org, as soon as my superiors have enough documentation on the things I do wrong and enough new resources to manage the pieces I still run so nothing so much as briefly falls apart in my absence. The clock is ticking and soon my time will be up. Continue reading

Exhausted and Fully Into That Next Phase of Life

Looking at the thinning skin on my hands, the creping around my knuckles and veins starting to show through my translucent skin not only in color but texture, I know I’m well into adulthood. My wedding earlier this year was a bit of a shock as it was the end of a prolonged young adulthood, years of being stuck in that obligatory urban millennial purgatory of minimal responsibility outside of paying one’s bills and getting a modicum of sleep every night.

Then, poof, I’m a married, working women with no more childhood romantic notions to play to, no more weddings to plan, no more wonderlands to chase. Not yet a mother, but the same age of many peers who have children approaching puberty, I am still childfree and tired nonetheless from stressing out epically over job after job where I can’t quite perform at the level required for success, only relentlessly tread to try to stay above water. Continue reading

The Comedy of Attempting to Find an In-Network Therapist

Depression isn’t like cancer. There’s no scan you can get which spots a tumor and clearly requires treatment. It sits with you for years–on a good day you may not even remember you have it, then suddenly a dark cloud forms over your head and no amount of fun activities or success can shake you of overwhelming, suffocating sadness.

I’m fortunate enough today where I have health insurance that covers mental health–well, sort of. It is supposed to be $20 a session for in-network therapy, if only in-network therapists actually existed. I’ve written about this before, but after giving up on finding an in-network therapist I decided to try again. I pulled up my insurance company’s “find a provider” website and started searching names of psychologists both close to my house and my work, and put in a bunch of calls hoping one would actually be open and available at a reasonable time to meet weekly. Continue reading

Needing to Escape But Nowhere to Go

Getting a job isn’t easy, but it appears based on my experience and half-way decent interview skills, I am able to get offers. This already makes me so much more fortunate that 99.999999999999~% of people in the world. Yet every day I work in corporate-esque America, I feel my soul being sucked out of me in its entirety. If only I could fake it like so many people around me probably do, then I’d be doing so well. I’m saving boatloads of money per month (given my relatively low cost of living in a high-cost-of-living area), and I have a job that provides substantial autonomy and seniority —

I could do a job for a short-term project — say, 1-3 months of figuring out a business problem — but staying in the same role for years has me driving home from work everyday thinking I’m going to look back on my life and this will be all I’ve done — whatever this is, it surely won’t matter in the grand scheme of things — I’m just a cog in the machine and a poorly functioning one at that (with all sorts of poorly fitting parts clunking away trying to make my little piece spin) and after now 12 years of trying to push forward I am just collapsing under the weight of adulthood. Continue reading

Fuck The People Who Know What They Are Doing.

How do you go from wiggly, smelly, crying newborn to a pretentiously proselytizing expert on any given subject matter? Perhaps you have spent years researching — gathering data, processing hundreds of thousands of bits of information to determine some remnant or possible truth — and then you put on your adult hat and you know your shit and you believe you are no longer a weak child but some godlike creature that knows more than others do. You’re fucking awesome.

I’m not awesome. I barely get by and I try to get things done and sometimes I manage to bs my way through things just like everyone else – however, I’m so very aware of how much bullshit is applied at any given time, and have no ability to translate that into some sort of forged confidence. I watch leaders be leaders and they seem to know so much more than I do, are so much more sure, more confident, more put together and prepared — less emotional, less empathetic (albeit the best leaders have enough fake empathy that the majority believe they have a reasonably high EQ) and that’s it, they’re successful, they move up the career ladder all they way through retirement learning $150k than $200k than $250k then $500k and $1M and on and on and they pay for a fancy house and nice dinners and perhaps designer clothes and a personal trainer and a nanny and private schools and one week trips each year to some exotic destination that they end up working from anyway and eventually they retire and join some non-profit board or two in order to feel useful unless/until they die and that’s that. Continue reading

A Directionless Sort of Hopelessness

If there is one thing I miss about being a child, it is that feeling that everything you’re doing adds up to something. There is an irreplaceable sense of anticipation for the future, and that future keeps on coming. As an adult, now approaching my mid 30s, I’ve lost all excitement for what’s next. I don’t think that’s depression, it’s just life.

Perhaps a part of me is excited about this hypothetical “house and kids” future, but I can’t let myself get too excited about it because both variables of that equation are proving more and more unlikely. Kids? I need to lose a significant amount of weight before the doctor will give me medicine that will give me some tiny chance of getting pregnant without reducing my chances of miscarriage. House? Unless I win the lottery, or find a more sustainable-yet-equally-well-aid job, it just doesn’t make sense to commit to paying $6k+ a month for the next 30 years, not including taxes and repairs. Continue reading

Life in a Fragile Bubble: Trump, The American Dream and The Coastal Elite

Life doesn’t get any easier. As miserable as I was as a child, I now understand why all the adults fancied the idea of returning to those years so much. Not only did life move slower then, it also was a long, arduous climb up a mountain with the promise of fields of splendor on the other side. It seemed childhood was for fun and games but life itself truly started past the peak of that mountain—the entry into adulthood.

I could have been born in Africa or Syria, and not even had the privilege of a childhood. But my privilege is who I am, and it shaped how I feel today—this lack of ability to wake up at 6am and work out and commute an hour or more to work and sit at a desk all day completing tasks to help a company grow that may or may not work and smiling and small-talking and politicizing and head back towards home and spend an hour or more in commute and arrive home exhausted to a husband I rarely see and have no time to be a wife to and repeat this five days a week so that when Saturday arrives all I want to do is sit and stare at a television or sleep or avoid doing any of things that need to be done at home, and all this is before I have the responsibility of children in my household which would undoubtedly add a whole new layer of exhaustion and love and sense of failure and questions of purpose—another peak I’m slugging along towards now, trembling at seeing what is on the other side, and equally terrified to never see it. Continue reading

Suffocated by Adulthood: Failure to Thrive

I’m in trouble, yet again, for failing to plan appropriately for my projects and getting them done on time. I deserve to be let go, and I probably will be, and if I’m not I’m wondering if I have the capability to be organized and plan more effectively, gain consensus and get shit done so at least I can keep my job. Odds are not looking good.

I found out today, in a senior team meeting, that my new boss was hired this week. I wasn’t surprised, through some rudimentary sleuthing and typical paranoia I knew the hire was imminent. I’m not upset by the hire itself, nor being removed from the entire process of interviewing the candidate. What makes me saddest of all is what that means in terms of my own success in my role, or, let’s be real here, lack there of. I’m lucky to still have a job, and know I won’t be around for long–in a brief meeting with my boss today I was told my role would be shrinking further… Continue reading