My mother passed away when I was 19 due to…well, it’s complicated. Kidney failure? Maybe. Liver failure? Maybe. A heart attack coming off her dialysis machine? Certainly. It’s not easy to lose your mama at 19. It’s not easy to watch your father lose his wife. It’s not easy to watch your grandma lose her daughter. Nothing about it was easy.
But time passed, and I was okay. Not that I didn’t wish with every fiber of my being that she was still here, and had been present for my college graduation, wedding, pregnancy, and to see her precious granddaughter grow up. But I was okay, maybe because I still had a parent left.
On August 30th, 2008, I received one of those phone calls you never want to receive. My uncle told me that my father, who was in the hospital post-op from a routine polyp removal surgery from a routine colonoscopy, was not expected to live more than a few hours. I lived in Seattle, WA. He lived in Corpus Christi, TX. There was no way to get there in less than 24 hours, but I did all the things to get there as fast as I could.
Miraculously, he survived another four days.
I got a phone call at 2:00am from Nurse. Nurse said, “I can’t tell you what to do but you should probably try to come.” BFF and I drove to the hospital and arrived at 2:13am. Daddy’s stats were dropping quickly. I climbed into his bed and laid with him. At 2:15am, he died.
On September 4, 2008 at 2:15am, I became an orphan.
So, you know how I’ve mentioned (and my blog site’s byline reveals) that I am recovering from anorexia AND depression. This is when the depression really kicked into high gear. With no family, I was utterly alone. The hole in my heart literally ached with chest pains. I had daily panic attacks. With a Masters degree in hand and a job in my field, I quit one day and took a job shelving books at Barnes & Noble. The depth of grief and loss and utter sadness was more than I felt I could handle.
I didn’t belong to anyone. I didn’t belong anywhere.
Being an orphan has left me with these unbalanced relationships in my life. This may not sound like a big deal, BUT IT IS. Without my own family, I look to others to fulfill that need. And it doesn’t work. It’s not anyone’s fault. No one can be your family except your family. The motto I have used to describe these unbalanced relationships is that I’m “always invited, never expected.” (Sometimes, I’m not even invited.)
For a decade, I have tried to belong somewhere. I’ve had holidays with Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins. I’ve had special occasions with BFF and her family. I’ve tried to make more intimate friendships. I now have a husband and a daughter. This helps. But there’s still a hole, particularly as I try to navigate the rest of my life leaning on unbalanced relationships without feeling like a massive burden.
For the past decade, while some symptoms have let up, I have sunk deeper into depression. I live across the country from any family or close friends. I joke about Seattle’s weather, but Seasonal Affective Disorder is legit. I also veered away from my Christian faith.
In January, when I was diagnosed with anorexia, I was also diagnosed with depression. The more immediate illness that needed attention was the anorexia, as it was actually endangering my life. However, the treatment I have sought has been holistic, recognizing that eating disorders almost never exist in a vaccuum. I have met with therapists who try to help me uncover what has happened to bring me to this point.
You probably wanted me to say something about how I am enlightened about the causes of my anorexia and depression. I’m not. I’m seeking, but haven’t found many answer yet. I’ve returned to my Christian faith and believe that God has given me an inner peace that I haven’t had before. This is critical on my recovery journey, though hasn’t been “the cure”. This road is non-linear, as I have mentioned. Another thing this road is is dark. I drive my life in the night, sometimes with an extra fog or thunderstorm thrown in. My headlights sometimes stop working and I’m enveloped in it. As when driving in dangerous territory, I pray a lot. I keep driving and the lights flicker back on. I’m hoping someday I will have driven through the night and be greeted by the sun.