April 19, 2011

Strong Bonds

"All morning I struggled with the sensation of stray wisps 
of one world seeping through the cracks of another." 

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.


16 kind comments from you:

Michelle said...

You start by taking one step at a time and fixing the things you can fix. Are you seeing a doctor about the depression because that is right where I would start. And all of those things that you want for your life CAN be had, it just may take some doing to get there.

Sending you lots of warm thoughts and hopes for you.

Kaylee said...

You inspire me because you are real and honest. And that is a beautiful thing. We need more of it in this world.

Sorry to hear that your weekend did not go as you longed for.

Praying for you, for it's all I know how to do.

Clearbluewater3 said...

like Kaylee you inspire me because you are open and honest about your hurts. You are raw and real its amazing. I love that you plod through, that you're trying not to get a divorce when divorce would be easier, that you're making an effort when so many don't.

As for encouraging Jessica, I think telling her that in the midst of your hurt and your uncertainty you still have faith for her and for yourself that you both will get through this, that you wont let each other get the point that its not longer worth going on. Sometimes Misery just loves company. To be supportive you don't have to be Susie Sunshine, you can be Susie Sunshowers.

I heard a quote yesterday that made me think of you "Be patient and be strong; someday this pain will be useful to you."

Mrs.B said...

Like the above you inspire me because you are so honest and open about what you've been through.
There's a lot of people out there who would have just given up on their marriage but you, you are trying hard to make it work and I admire that so much.

Dr. Army Wife said...

By hitting publish, you didn't lose my admiration - you gained it. You are honest and real, and you are much stronger than you think you are. I'm sorry you had a difficult weekend. Hugs.

Alana said...

I'm so sorry your weekend didn't go as planned. Thank you for sharing. A lot of people wouldn't be as brave as you--to be so real and vulnerable.

Definitely will be keeping you in my prayers!

A Boring Girl said...

Erika my love, I am so sorry you are having to deal with all this heart ache. I hope that this storm starts to let up and gives you a break. You are doing a fabulous job with sweet little Amelia she could not ask for a better mom. I love you bunches and bunches.

Gaile said...

Depression sucks. Constantly fighting to save a failing marriage WHILE battling depression sucks even more (sadly, I can say this from experience).

One question, almost an aside, that popped into my head while reading this: why do we all get so dang EMBARASSED about being broke? My monthly Bunco night is coming up, and I'm considering skipping it because I don't have the $11 buy-in and am too EMBARASSED to borrow it from anyone. Sheesh.

Anyway, the main thing I wanted to say is GOOD JOB, at least you guys WENT to the retreat and are TRYING. Keep your chin up, keep plugging away at this, and *if* you succeed your daughter will thank you for it one day.

Praying for you guys!

Beka said...

well, speaking of not being qualified, i'm not a wife or a mom so i feel kind of lost as to what to say.
sometimes things in life seem so muddy.
i'm in a light-hearted situation right now that i'm not going to blog about because the certain people visit my blog, but heck is this situation MUDDY.
sometimes, all we/i can do is hope that i can do my best, and sometime along the way SOMETHING will be a little clearer.
i don't know what i'm looking for or what to say.
but i realize...there's only one place i can look.

annoyed army wife said...

Oh, Erika, my heart is absolutely aching for you. I have so much respect and admiration for you. You are working so hard to save something so precious. You are shouldering so much right now. I wish you could catch a break and the blessings you are wishing for would just rain down on you. I'm sorry you hurt so much.

Elizabeth said...

Many of us in the milblogging community know on some sort of level what you're going through. You're not alone .. and I'm so sorry everything went horribly wrong at the strong bonds. I hope you can get through all the things that are hurting you with ease.

Anonymous said...

sister :-) we also are broke as hell. :-) I dissolve into tears unexpectedly when talking to friends. and I found a great website that shows you how to live on 100 a month for grocceries. I admire you, and the way you speak. Your words are filled with emotion and honesty, and I'm proud to be in your family.

Mrs. H said...

You just listed why you inspire ME.
You can tell yourself you're weak.
I can't admit that to myself many times. I sometimes hide in my SHAME that I can't be honest to myself.

You bear your soul more than anyone I've ever had the privilege of reading. And it's true, it's PRIVILEGE to read every word that comes onto this screen.

It's scary not knowing you have enough money. Mr. H's mom told me that when her and her husband had 3 kids, Mr. H's dad was still in school, working part-time, and Mr. H's mom wasn't working. They lived with $400 per month.

I am honestly and sincerely praying for you....the flood gates are open, but I'm sure of it...there is a rainbow at the end. It seems relentless...but there is a time and place for everything.

Don't forget: you're beautiful, you're human, and are having a hard time. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Keri said...

Money problems are the top reasons why couples fight. It causes more stress on me than anything else. When your mind is wrapped up in other things, you can't focus on repairing things. Start by writing your feelings to each other. That's something you can do and get your points across, and then it gives you someplace to start from to have a discussion.
I am crossing my fingers for you...we all go through these rough patches.
The Glamorous Army Wife

ines said...

I'm so sorry you are going through this. I wish I could reach my arms out to you through my computer screen, but then that'd be kind of creepy :) <-- hope that made you smile :)
you inspire because you are honest. you are yourself. you are real.
feel better and if you need to chat let me know and i'll be there for you!

Julia said...

Erika, broke I know...Depression I know even better, and being depressed about being broke is tough. We get a whopping $16 a month in stamps. :) Yeah, can't do anything but smile about that. Bunny bread & bologna baby! Hang in there. I sit & cry for no reason. I hang on when I don't want to. I act "childish" about a lot, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed. The only thing I know to offer is this: When you can't see the light, I will hold your hand in the dark. Hoping some light comes your way, but until then, I understand & you are not alone. ~Julia

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