Let me start with this: do not include your daughter in your divorce. Do not include your daughter in your divorce. Do not include your daughter in your divorce.
Now we can proceed.
I’m not going to discuss the events. I’m not going to discuss my feelings toward the events. I’m not going to discuss the shambles of a failing-after-twenty-five-years family.
Instead we’re going to talk about depression.
Everyone calls depression a “shadow” or “monster” or, as my minister puts it, “the big black dog.” But it’s not actually like that. Depression is the cousin who you see every once in a while, depending on how close you two are. Depression offers the comfort of familiarity for a time, until you two stop getting along of course.
My cousin and I rarely saw each other growing up, separated by 390 miles and awkward family tensions. But when all of…this? unfolded, she became my best friend. She knows my family – it’s small and we’re all each other has. So naturally I would team up with her. But when we were younger, we’d anticipate each other’s company like a dog for his owner after a long day’s work, except we became cats after a few hours and the claws came out and home we went.
So let’s return to that divorce thing. When you’re twenty-one, you’d think your parents’ divorce wouldn’t affect you the way it would if you were five. But the problem is, a five year old doesn’t know anything and thus isn’t included in the conversations. No one wants the five-year-old to think that Daddy is an abusive alcoholic, no one wants the five-year-old to know that Mommy had an affair – so why the twenty-one year old? Just because she understands the word “divorce” doesn’t mean she has to understand the underlying reasons for it.
Which brings us to this morning. When I was in the car with my best friends in the world. When I was in charge of driving us the seven hours it takes to get home from my grandparents’. When it took all I had to not swerve the car and hit a tree because my cousin was back.
(Aside: not my actual cousin, she’s wonderful)
I can’t explain why or how depression comes back the way it does, but it does. I know Mother had texted me regarding Father, sharing some things I really didn’t need to know but it was also related to me so all in all I had to be included. But all in all, the texts triggered the depression, which basically tried to push me off the cliff and I was holding on like Mufasa as Scar released him to the wildebeest stampede.
Point is, I choked down lunch, crawled through Walmart, had my boyfriend open my energy drink because I just couldn’t bring myself to, and tried to cheer up with our custom road trip playlist. I’m not sure what did it, but somewhere in there I was able to choke out a laugh and managed to pull myself back up.
I told you I wasn’t going to talk about my feelings toward the divorce. That’s not what this is. This is about a crippling (cliché, I know) disease that is triggered by my feelings toward the divorce. My brain spins with questions; is it adultery or alcoholism or abuse or hatred or disgust or all of the above and more? And when circling my thoughts, digging for answers or even a sliver of my broken hope, the depression tugs at my sleeves and at my heartstrings, begging for the attention I willingly give. Yes, I do miss it. Yes, I do crave it. Yes, sometimes I neglect to take my anxiety medication because I like the panic attack. But in this particular instance, when I was responsible for three lives for the next seven (ended up eight) hours, it was not the time to allow myself to break down.
My boyfriend will put it like this when we’re in public and he needs to panic: “I need to be okay right now.” I give him flack for it because I want him to feel safe and comfortable, but then I turn around and do the exact same thing. Later I tell him about what was going on during lunch, but I brush it off like it was no big deal and there’s absolutely no mention of the suicidal thoughts. So while I want to break down, I need to be okay right now.
And I think that’s how my parents feel. I don’t think they realize the effect they’re having on me by throwing me into this during my second-to-last semester of college. My grades are dropping and I’m not 100% certain it’s because I’m not studying enough. You just can’t take someone who is mentally unstable and throw rocks at them. The glass façade shatters and leaves shards everywhere which the person then steps on do you see my point?
The only time I’ve cried regarding it was because I was worried about my dog and how he’ll feel. That’s it. I’ve wanted to cry, I’ve wanted to panic, but all that comes is discomfort in my stomach and a few choice words. And apparently now potential suicide risk. But no tears.
There’s really no good way to end this, but I feel like I’ve said what I needed to say. I have my family at college and my family at church. I have my best friends and I have my cousin. Starting tomorrow I’ll have my dog for a week. I am safe and I am loved, not that those thoughts help the depression at all. But they’re something.
This feels like the worst ending in the history of endings, but the story is not over yet. Philippians 1:6
Positivity is a strange concept.
It can be elusive and hard to find, but it has the power to move mountains. The best part about positivity is that it is easy to find if you know where to look for it.
At this point it is a broken record, all of the quotes about happiness, about how confidence comes from within, and the concept that your thoughts define you. Though we hear them all the time, we rarely implement these sayings and adopt them as personal mottos. That being said, these clichés dictate my mindset.
I am a 20-year-old college girl navigating life and homework one day at a time. However, in addition to the constant stresses of being a college student, I work to support myself. When I am at school, I am completely self-sufficient, paying for everything that I need from books to shampoo.
I come from a single parent household that resembles the Gilmore Girls (although substitute their various gentleman callers for pets). As a result, I work as many hours as I possibly can.
I often have peers ask “Why do you work so much?” or “How do you get it all done?” and I occasionally hear statements such as, “I could never do what you do” or even, “You seem so okay with everything you have to do.” When sharing my story, people are most surprised by my lack of negativity regarding my situation, but this is purposeful.
Unfortunately, around the same time, my grandmother decided to walk away from my mom and me as well. My mom decided to move us to Minnesota so I could be around my aunt, uncle, and cousins, who my grandmother had cut off as well.
My relationship with my dad growing up was somewhat nonexistent, which was partially his fault, partially because my step-mother resented my existence, and partially because he moved back home to England.
Summers spent with him and my step-mom and half sister were generally pretty miserable. My dad was always preoccupied with his job and my step-mom was constantly criticizing how my mother (who I was, and still am, fiercely defensive of) was raising me, combined with some additional commentary on my looks or how my presence was an inconvenience. Needless to say, I preferred my mom, and even to this day she remains my favorite person.
Following my dad and step-mom’s divorce, my dad and I have attempted to repair some of the broken bridges. But this has presented challenges of its own.
So on any given day, you can assume I am rushing off to work, or returning home from work to do homework, or balancing relationships between my dad and sister, or missing my mom, all in the state where it all began. As overwhelming as it can be, especially now that I see my dad more often, I rarely believe that my life warrants the comments I get from my peers.
This is because while growing up, my mom stressed that dwelling on the negative things will only make them seem like bigger problems than they are. She instilled in me the importance of positivity.
My mom and I are both Christians and she often quotes Philippians 4:8 which states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
There are many bible verses that stress that what you think is what you become. If you seek out the bright side or silver linings in any negative situation, you start to change your outlook on life. Do this enough, and soon you’ll find that it becomes easier to see the good things that are abundant in your life.
Even while writing this, I recognize that my life could be so much worse. I have gained so much from my life experiences, including an amazing relationship with my mom, a strong work ethic, and an understanding that life is too short to be unhappy.
Changing your mindset can be incredibly difficult, because we seem to be hardwired to have pity parties on a daily basis. But you have to start with reminding yourself that there is nothing that you can’t handle.
In my opinion, the best way to do this is to start counting your blessings everyday. Having a good hair day? Getting a college education? Having someone in your life who cares about your well-being? Watching an episode of your favorite show on Netflix? These are all things to be happy about. Much like every cliché in the book, the small things are just as meaningful and important as the larger scale things.
Instead of focusing on what is going wrong in your life, think about positive outcomes for the situation you are dealing with. By dwelling on the hardship of it all you allow the situation to get the better of you. One of the best quotes I have found is by Henry Ford, who says, “Whether you think you can, or you can’t – either way you’re right.”
Believing in yourself and thinking positively can be life changing. Sooner or later that positivity that has the ability to move mountains translates into the ability for you to move mountains, or at the very least face any obstacle that comes your way.
Just recently, while attending my class in Organizational Behavior in Sport Management I was exposed to my favorite TED Talk once again. Simon Sinek speaks passionately in his TED Talk called “Start With Why”.
He makes you question everything you have ever learned about what you are doing and why you are doing it. All my life I thought I knew “what” I was doing. When people asked me I proudly exclaimed I was going to high school to attend college, and I would ultimately be the next owner of the Ferris family company.
It was not until I viewed this TED Talk back in my senior year of high school that I realized I could not explain why I was planning to take over Ferris Brothers Inc. When I viewed it again just recently, I was reassured as to why I was sitting in Professor Belzer’s classroom.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”, Sinek says repeatedly. If I wanted to go to college for Sports Management, I had to make my family understand why I was doing it in order for them to support my trek down the path never followed. So maybe I had not invented the next best piece of technology or crafted a detailed business plan for my own company; I still felt the need to make my family buy why I would go to school for Sport Management. Sinek says you must make others believe in why you are doing something in order for them to follow you.
Then one day, once I truly understood for myself, I decided to tell them why. I chose to be a sport management major because I spent my childhood watching my brother play ice hockey. In the midst of my youth, my parents divorced, turning my brother’s life and mine upside down. The only time my family acted as a unit was at my brother’s hockey games.
Never once did I think about the miserable divorce or the awkward silence in my house when my mom was not home to cook dinner at night. Watching my brother play sports brought excitement back into our lives. I looked forward to spending my weekends in the bitter cold ice rink with the love of both parents to keep me warm.
Becoming a Sport Management major would help me to create the same undeniably exciting experience that I had. A sporting event has the power to distract you from real life. It even has the power to turn someone who has never watched sports into the happiest fan in the crowd. The overwhelming energy of the players, the coaches, and the crowd is contagious. Most importantly, sports help you to accept that you cannot always have control over the outcome of a situation.
It’s interesting to note that people ask “what” you are going to school for, never bothering to dig deeper and ask why you planned to dedicate your studies to that field. Asking why reveals so much more about the type of woman I am, the background I came from, what influenced my life. Once someone hears “I am a Sport Management Major,” it is automatically assumed I am going to be the next Jerry McGuire.
They fail to understand my desire to cater to the fans instead of the players. They fail to understand the wonder a game can bring to an entire crowd of strangers, each facing their own struggles outside of the excitement.
The hardest part of deciding how my future career would look was finding out why I was doing it. The second hardest part what getting my family to understand.
If you are interested in learning more about the Start With Why Movement and how they inspire others to do what inspires them, see their website here.