‘A Very Lonely Time’
I remember feeling extremely sad from the age of nine. I preferred being at school. When Friday came and others looked forward to the weekend, holiday or summer breaks, I would dread it. I never knew what mood my mother would be in, overly happy and enthusiastic or withdrawn and mean.
I didn’t understand it at the time. I was the youngest of eight kids; the older siblings either moved out or didn’t come home until my dad returned from work. I was too afraid to get in trouble for not coming right home after school. I wasn’t allowed to join clubs or sports or play with the kids on our street. I grew up very lonely.
In the summer I taught myself how to climb a tree – though only on the days my mother was in a good mood and didn’t keep me in my room or lock me in the basement – and by the middle of summer I made it to the very top of that maple tree. There were times I wished I would fall, but then was afraid it would only paralyze me and I would have to be under the care of that woman for life, with no means of escape.
At school I would get in trouble for acting out or talking too much. I never learned how to socialize. When I turned eighteen, like the rest of my siblings, my mother told me to move out. I was not prepared in any way. I was an introvert, on the verge of panic attacks all the time. Extroverts offended me constantly. I didn’t fit in anywhere. I made the wrong choices picking men and relationships because I didn’t know who I was and kept trying to mold myself into something I wasn’t because other people thought my personality was weird or awkward. I was a good worker and desired to go to college, but never had the means or encouragement to do so. It was a very lonely time.
I have been married twice, the first time with no kids. My ex-husband would not let me go for counseling no matter how much I begged him and told him I thought I needed medication to help me be a better wife. He told me I would only end up leaving him. I left him anyway, because I didn’t think I could go through another ten years of being controlled and not seeing any ray of sunlight.
I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire and, six months later, I married someone I hardly knew, someone I thought was completely different from my first husband. I was wrong. The lies, the secrets started right away, and while I was pregnant he started physically abusing me. We went to ‘Christian’ counseling, but he didn’t change. I was expected to stand in the gap between my husband and Jesus in prayer until God finished his work in him.
After five years of marriage, our three-year-old son was diagnosed with non-verbal Autism. I was expected to figure out how it happened, fix it, bring him to therapy, take care of the child and the household. Again, it was a very lonely time. After eight years I said I couldn’t do it anymore, and they told me I didn’t have enough faith. They also said medication wasn’t the way to go.
I went to a technical school and got a job right out of school. The pay was okay and benefits were great, so I found a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. I got on medication and talked about stuff and started feeling empowered. I also put my youngest son with Autism on medication to ease his anxiety and behavioral issues. But eight years later the oldest one moved in with his dad. The youngest, with Autism, was getting too big and strong for me to handle his behaviors of biting and head-butting me, and his dad wouldn’t give any extra help. I ended up falling at work and breaking my legs. I was in the hospital for a few months and his dad then had to take in our son. Then, for whatever reason, he sued me for custody. He didn’t have to be so dramatic – we could have worked it out amicably, even though that is not his nature.
Two years have passed since then, and I visit with my youngest son (now seventeen years old) on regular basis. I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment like I started out when I was eighteen. I am still on medication and seeing my therapist regularly, but I still feel very lonely and I still don’t know how to socialize outside of work. People think I have my life together and that I am the friendliest most easy-going person ever. I am friendly toward others at the coffee shop, but that’s it. Fifty years old and I’m in the same spot as I was as when I was eighteen. It’s a very lonely time.
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