Tag Archives: stay at home dad

Down With the Thickness: Writing, Family Life, and Dealing with Depression

DWTT Final Cover

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and actually wrote something. My last blog post was in September. Before that I’d only done one other post for the entire year, which makes me incredibly ashamed of myself. I’ve toyed with edits on my new novel off and on, but I haven’t sat down and really tried to write since I got married. I’ve been telling myself it’s because I’ve been adjusting to my new life as a stay-at-home dad. It’s been an experience and my kid can be a handful. That’s true, but it’s not the real reason that I haven’t been writing. It’s taken me months to really nail down exactly what my problem has been, but for the past few days I’ve come to the realization that I haven’t been writing because I’ve been struggling with depression and thus have been actively avoiding writing, or really anything that requires motivation and a sense of self worth outside of the things that I HAVE to do.

That realization surprised me.

Struggling with depression is nothing new for me. I’ve battled it my entire life. For years I couldn’t go more than a month or two without depression rearing it’s ugly head, and a few times a year those funks would dip low enough where suicidal thoughts would come and go as well. The thing is I haven’t had a bout of depression that bad in over a year. I had honestly thought that I may have finally slayed the beast once and for all once I got married. For as long as I can remember the one thing that I’ve wanted more than anything was to get married and have a kid. I always felt like that achievement would be the crown jewel in my life. It’d be the key to my happiness and once it happened all the feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and all that other junk that depression likes to torment me with would all be rendered moot.

In a lot of ways I was right.

I’m happier now than I’ve ever really been in my life. I don’t feel lonely anymore. I don’t feel completely worthless or like I’m unlovable. My wife is the most loving, supportive, and understanding woman I could ever hope to find. My kid is an adorable, smart, hyperactive, spoiled pain in the arse and I love him more than I thought it was possible to love another human being. The fact that he isn’t my “blood” doesn’t factor into it at all for me. He is my son in every way that matters and both he and his mother are the answers to decades worth of prayers, wishes, and hopes. I couldn’t ask for a better family.

Which is why this current bout of depression has caught me by surprise. The depression has evolved. This time it didn’t attack me in the way it used to. Before, depression would come on hard and fast and put me on my ass for days. The world would go dark; I’d be a moody pain in the ass; and after a few days I’d emerge exhausted mentally and emotionally, but generally intact. But all of the old stuff that it used to use against me doesn’t work too well anymore, so it’s found new avenues to attack that are more subtle. In fact, I think it’s been something that I’ve been struggling with for months and I just didn’t fully recognize it for what it was until now.

Getting married hasn’t eradicated my insecurities or made the world a perfect place. My wife and I have had several very stressful things we’ve had to struggle with already. That’s just life. We’ve gotten through them together and we haven’t let those things affect our relationship. In fact, it’s only made our relationship stronger. That’s how marriage is supposed to work. That said, while the old insecurities may have been hammered down by the love of my new family, new ones have taken root and sprouted to take their place.

I have medical issues. They’re issues that are genetic and thus they are issues I’ll have to deal with for my entire life. They’ve caused a lot of physical problems, problems that have gotten progressively worse in the last couple of years.  As a result I’m unable to do much in the way of physical activity, I’m in constant pain, and I’m unable to work.  The dynamic in our house is my wife works full time and I stay home and take care of our little Tasmanian devil. I try to do things around the house: take care of the dishes, keep the house from being a complete disaster area, cook on the days my wife works, etc. I can’t do everything I want to do. I get tired and my body rebels on me after only short bouts of activity, so something that normally would take maybe ten minutes might take me half an hour or better. In a given day if I’m able to empty and load the dish washer, make dinner, and keep our kid from doing something that might hurt himself or others I call it a win. I’m not writing all this to throw myself a pity party or to garner sympathy. I’m just providing a bit of perspective.

I know that times have progressed. Gender roles aren’t what they used to be. I know that it is just as okay for me to be a househusband and stay at home dad as it was for wives to be housewives and stay at home moms. I know that having my wife bringing home the majority of our income doesn’t make me less of a man. I know that my wife understands my physical limitations and that she knows that I do the best I can with what I’ve got to work with, and that I work hard to provide for her in other areas to make up for what I lack in being able to help in the physical ones.

I KNOW all of this. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still bother me. That doesn’t mean that depression can’t use it as ammunition to assault me, and it has, because I was wrong.

The “war” with depression that I thought I won wasn’t the real war at all.  I’ve realized what anyone who has battled depression all their lives can tell you- it’s what Superman would describe as a “neverending battle”. Once you win one skirmish the enemy will find something new and attack again. It’s a war that you only win when you’re on your deathbed surrounded by your family and other people who love you and you realize that despite it you still lived a full and mostly happy life. It’s a war that you win by refusing to let IT win. Now I’m in a new battle with depression, but now that I’m aware of how it’s attacking, with the help of my loved ones, I’ll win this one too. Then it’ll be something else, but that’s okay. I have a family and friends that love me. I have a dream of becoming a published author.

I have things worth fighting for.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re struggling in the neverending battle yourself. Maybe you’re in the thick of it and it’s hard to see around you. Maybe it’s hard to focus on what you have to fight for. Just know that you aren’t alone and that the only way you lose the battle is if you give up and let it win. Don’t give it the satisfaction.

Carry on.

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Down With the Thickness 2: Stay at Home Dad Boogaloo Part 1

DWTT Final Cover

I know this site has been really quiet these past few months. I’ve got a very good reason for that: on April 1st I got married to the most wonderful woman on the planet. Yes, that’s right. My wedding day was on April Fools.  We eloped, so the responses when we announced the good news on social media and through phone calls was about as entertaining as you’d expect. Every anniversary from here on out will be a ton of fun as well, I’m sure.

My wife has a four year old son. We’ve been dating for three years so I’ve been around since he was a year and a half, so this isn’t an entirely new experience for any of us. There isn’t a time in his life that he can remember where I wasn’t a part of the picture. The only real difference is I’m around all the time now as opposed to just a few times a week. I didn’t think that the difference would be that huge of an adjustment. Boy was I wrong. I worked as a youth director for close to a decade. I’ve designed and run after school programs, summer camps, and various other types of youth programs. I’ve been around kids, taught kids, practically helped raise other people’s kids my entire adult life. Again, I figured helping to raise a step-son wouldn’t be that much harder. I moved in like I was the new sheriff in town, completely confident in my ability to be a stay-at-home dad.

Boy, was I REALLY wrong there, too.

Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between taking care of someone else’s kids and taking care of your own. For one thing, when it’s someone else’s bundle of joy you get to send their little whiny butts home at the end of the day. I’ve always been a pretty solitary person but I enjoy being with the people that I love. My wife is my best friend and I enjoy her company most of all, even if it’s just sitting on a couch together doing absolutely nothing. That said, when you’re married with a young kid very seldom do you have ANY time alone. At all. Not even in the bathroom when you’re taking the browns to the super bowl. No, I’m not kidding, single folk.

Not. Even. Then.

That’s been a huge adjustment for me. I didn’t realize just how alone I was and how much I’d gotten used to it until I got married and moved in with my new family. Now from the moment I get up until the moment my son goes to bed I have a tiny hyperactive person, often literally, all over me. My only breaks are when I can get him to play in the bathtub (hooray bubble bath and toys!) or to take a nap (prepare for war). Before my idea of relaxation was to spend an entire day reading the new Dresden book or playing a video game. Now my idea of a relaxing vacation is parking in the Dairy Queen parking lot and eating a chicken strip basket while listening to an audiobook for half an hour.

That’s not to say that the experience thus far has been bad. Far from it. It’s just been…tiring. More tiring than I was expecting. Like I said, there has been a period of adjustment for us all, along with all the other fun trials and tribulations of everyday life that crop up. Trying to get student loans taken care of and all the fun red tape that comes with it. My wife has switched jobs. I’ve gotten hurt a few times in the last few months- my knee and my back- reminders that I’m not as young or spry as I used to be, which is made even more difficult and frustrating when it keeps me from being the dad that I want to be. I’ve also had to get to know my kid all over again under a different paradigm. He’s just now developing a little personality and learning to communicate and I’m used to working with slightly older kids, so it’s been difficult to adjust my expectations from him. I don’t want to be too hard on him, but at the same time I don’t want to be a push over either. He is a super smart kid. I mean, REALLY smart. With that comes the ability to know how to get your way and he is not above using emotional manipulation to his extreme advantage. He’s also so smart that it’s hard not to get frustrated with him quickly when he has difficulty with “simple” things that you’d think he’d catch on to right away. That’s not his fault, it’s mine, and it’s something I’ve had to try and avoid doing. Patience is definitely something that I’m working on.

A lot.

My experiences with kids has certainly helped, but this new sheriff isn’t exactly Buford Pusser. It’s been a learning curve, and one I’m still riding. I’m going to make an effort to update here more often about my experiences as a new dad. As for the writing, I finished my latest novel and am in the process of working up query letters to send out to agents. It’s slow going, for obvious reasons. That said, I really think that this book is “the one”. It is I think, by far, my best work to date, and responses from test readers has been really positive. Hopefully I’ll find an agent, and shortly after that a publisher that feels the same way.

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