As most of you know, Sky and I were gone this past weekend. (I hope you enjoyed all my guest bloggers.) We attended an Army Strong Bonds weekend (a kind of marriage workshop/retreat). Would I recommend the retreat to other military spouses? Definitely. Did Sky and I have a good weekend? Definitely not.
It started out well. After checking in at the hotel, we tried to find an inexpensive place to eat dinner, which was the one meal of the weekend not provided by Strong Bonds. A Google search led us to an Italian restaurant with twinkling lights and enormous portions. Once we partially finished our servings, we got out an umbrella and took pictures despite the occasional thunder and the chilling raindrops. Sky braved all sorts of mud on the riverbanks to take a few shots of the skyline and river, while I stood on a pile of bricks in my high heels. When we walked downtown and took pictures of a beautiful, old Catholic church, a huge clap of thunder left me clutching him tight and letting out a ridiculous scream on the sidewalk.
The next morning, we sat in a large room with a few dozen other couples. Workbooks sat on the table in front of us. The chaplain began speaking, and we watched videos, had discussions, and were supposed to complete sections of the workbooks. But all the topics seemed so trivial to me. I thought to myself, "I am sitting here learning how to have a 'good fight' about household chores, and my heart is broken." I found myself longing for our problems to be that simple. One of the first things on the schedule was a giveaway of books based on the length of time married. I think the couple married the longest was 30 some years. I thought, "Sky and I will never get there. Maybe we won't get to the end of this year. How on earth do people stay married that long?" So I started crying. Luckily, we sat at our own table so no one noticed, but throughout the rest of the morning, tears flowed at completely inappropriate times. When it was time to go through the workbook, I completely blanked, frozen and unresponsive. It was like the words didn't even make sense. Sky got frustrated with me. The books sat in front of us unused, while every other couple in the room talked, read, wrote, and made progress.
Shortly after lunch, there was another break. Sky went outside to smoke (which is something we constantly fight about), and I ran up to the room sobbing. I sat in the bathroom and cried. I walked to the bed and cried. I decided I didn't want to go back or see anyone, so I locked the hotel room door and I cried and cried. After a few texts from Sky that I left unanswered, he pounded on the door. (For the record- yes, I was a total mess, and completely childish. I knew it then and I definitely know it now.) To make a long, embarrassing story short, I opened the door and told him I was not going back to the workshop. But after more crying, he talked me into walking downstairs.
On the way there, I stopped into a bathroom. I looked in the mirror and felt disgusted that I had already ruined the weekend, that our chance at a peaceful getaway was long gone. We won't get another chance to be away for months, maybe longer, and it was too late. When I walked out, there stood the chaplain next to Sky. "Would you like to talk a minute?" We sat in the hotel lobby, and he asked us what was going on. We gave him a 30 second briefing on the past year. He said we should try to come back. He told us that he has seen problems that are even worse. He prayed with us, and then coaxed us back.
As soon as we got back inside, the other speaker began talking about the very subject that is causing me so much pain, and once again, I lost it. Once the day was over, the chaplain apologized to me, saying he didn't know that topic was being discussed as he led us back. We went back to the hotel room, and I fell asleep from the pure exhaustion of being so emotional. I had no idea crying could take the life out of me so much.
When I woke up, I realized that we had missed the dinner that had been provided. The only thing we had in our room was a bag of chips I had brought from home. Here's the blunt truth that is embarrassing but part of our lives: we did not have money for another meal. We have around $50 on our food stamp card to get us to the end of this month, so even a trip to Walmart was out. We decided we should probably start eating even cheaper meals, like ramen noodles. We were still overdrawn and behind on bills whether we ate or not.
So I sat there crying about eating chips for dinner. But it wasn't about a silly meal. Because then I began thinking about Millie and how much I missed her, and I cried thinking about how many problems we have and how she deserves so much better. I cried wishing that I wasn't alive to go through so much pain, and to bring a baby into the world when her life has already been so topsy-turvy. I cried because I am so incredibly tired of crying.
And no one can give me the answer. That is the most frustrating thing of all. No one can tell me how to fix it. All I know is that we spend so much energy every day trying to not get a divorce that any kind of romance or friendship seems to be miles away. Maybe it's normal to spend certain seasons of your life in more of a survival mode than a truly living mode. But how can anyone live their whole life like that? How can anyone be that strong?
I have struggled with depression nearly my entire life. I'm used to it, you could say. I think it was always more of a chemical thing than a life events thing, though. Sure, I've had rough times, and I haven't enjoyed them. But most often, it was something that made me feel really down even when things were fine. The problem now is that things are not fine. Obviously, I am in the midst of depression, and it feels like it's swallowed me whole. And what is so exasperating is that I want is not extravagant or silly; a happy and calm marriage that lasts until we're 105. A peaceful home. A successful, happy daughter. A college degree in journalism that leads to a good job (with a full scholarship and money for books). Enough money to not worry about week-to-week survival. I do not know how to get a single one of those things.
People have told me, even recently, that I inspire them. For the life of me, I don't understand. I don't feel a bit inspirational. I feel helpless and hopeless. And I know that any admiration of me will be lost once I hit the publish button on this screen, but the truth is that I'm weak. I can handle physical pain with the best of them, but I am a wimp when it comes to emotional pain.
Many of you read Jessica's letter this past week, just as I did. When a blogger shared her P.O. box where letters could be sent, I planned to write her a long, encouraging letter. I want her to know there is hope and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But this morning, I realized I couldn't send it, because I can't even reassure myself of those things.