April 30, 2010

What IF?

It's National Infertility Awareness Week.

I can't say that I know what it's like to be infertile. But there are people in my life who face this heartbreaking disease every single day, and my heart is always with them on their journeys.

I saw this video here and just had to share it.

What IF? A Portrait of Infertility from Keiko Zoll on Vimeo.

I hope you will share it, too.

April 25, 2010

Poor old neglected blog

This past week ended up being quite the exciting one. Sickness descended on our house and kept us down for most of the week. By Thursday we'd turned a corner, and by Friday we were out in the world again. Despite the illness factor, things went pretty well this week. I'm happy to report that there were no meltdowns or tears or anything of the sort. (Well, there were plenty on Charlie's end, but what do you expect from a sick baby?) I don't know if I'm "cured," but I'm doing really well handling things. I feel good. I hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying that.

Yesterday was a day of clarity. Honestly, I wish I could hold onto those days forever, because it's damn rare that I feel that I can see anything clearly. For the first time in months, I feel that I can see beyond the depression. There is hope on the other side of this mess. But first, some housekeeping, both literal and metaphorical, is in order. I will be getting rid of all the stuff that's dragging me down. It's going to be difficult to sort through it all, but you know, I feel up to the challenge.

We went to look at a house today. It's the first place we've liked enough to apply for, so our application is going out in tomorrow's mail. We've already started making plans with the new place in mind, even though we may not get it, and it feels good because we definitely need that forward momentum. I'm hoping that everything works out. This house is much different from the one we're in, and most people will probably think we're nuts for wanting it. But we are embracing change. And sacrifice.

There are so many things to say, to share. But it's so hard for me to find the energy to blog, because it's going in so many other directions these days. I think we're on the verge of something really exciting, though. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really can't wait to see where life takes us.

I don't have any new photos of Charlie, since my laptop hard drive is currently full. But here's one from December when he was six months old. I'm editing photos from that month, and it's amazing how much he's changed.

I can't believe it's already the end of April, and we're hurtling towards his first birthday in a month and a half. Where does the time go?

April 18, 2010

Sunday Night Randomness

Hi! I haven't been here at all. As much as I enjoy blogging, it really seems to just not be on my radar these days. I'm going with it and blogging when I feel like it.

Our trip last weekend was really good. This past week was good. Tonight we went to family dinner, and for the first time in a very long time, probably since Charlie was born, I didn't feel anxiety-ridden. Major, major improvement there, as a huge feature of my depression has been my crippling anxiety in all kinds of situations that I never felt anxious during before. It felt good to really let go and not be so guarded. I laughed a lot. It felt so good to laugh again. (Not that I stopped completely. But there have been a lot of furrowed brows.)

I have so many pictures to share, but my hard drive on my laptop is pretty full. I'm going to have to do some sorting and editing and burning to disc in order to upload my current pictures.

I've gotten pretty sick of Facebook being an outlet for other people's intolerance and hate. I've even started speaking up. Of course, that does no good. So I've started making good use of the "hide" feature. It's like all the intolerant people of the world just disappear. I like it.

Roy and I have been unplugging from the internet every night since our trip. We went that entire weekend without internet access, and it was truly lovely. I feel a lot calmer than I did before. As much as I love the internet and all it has to offer, it makes me a little crazy.

It's mid-April. Where oh where does the time go?

I'm hoping that next week is a good one. I seem to have good weeks followed by bad ones, but I'm hoping the pattern changes.

I hope you're all doing well tonight and that the upcoming week is good to you.

April 9, 2010

Unlock the Silence

I was so scared to post yesterday. I make it a rule in my life to be honest and open about how I'm feeling, but there are often things I don't share because they aren't terribly relevant. And then there are things, like my history of sexual abuse, that are tough to share because they are so personal. And this is the Internet. And there is such a thing as oversharing. And perhaps my post from yesterday falls into that realm. But I can't think too much about it now, because I have no regrets about telling my story, painful as it is. Because it is, unfortunately, very relevant to what I'm going through right now. And well, encouragement and support from others goes a long way. Thank you so much for listening.

I feel that, in telling my story, or at least the gist of it, I have breathed new life into this blog. I don't feel the need to be silent anymore. I'm not really a silent person; I mean, I love to talk, but it's actually in my nature to pull away from others when things get really, really hard. But sometimes a person's just got to reach out, either by clicking on "Publish Post" or writing an email or making a phone call.

We live in a culture where people constantly guilt and shame us into looking on the bright side. We're uncomfortable with unhappiness; we think that we should always be counting our blessings and being grateful, and yes, we should make it a point to remember the good things in life. But we should never, ever try to gloss over the bad or to ignore the places that hurt. In the long run, it doesn't do anyone any good to "don't worry, be happy." Life sucks sometimes. It doesn't mean that it's always going to suck or that there aren't moments and places of happiness amidst the suckage. It doesn't mean that we constantly should be negative. But there's nothing wrong with saying, "I'm having a really hard time."

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that I appreciate your comments so very much. You all are very wise, much wiser than the people who have told me, "You've just got to choose to be happy." Um, what?! Really?! Do people really think I don't want to be happy, that I'm perfectly content to feel crappy, that I love talking about my problems? I'd love to poop rainbows if I could, dammit. Depression isn't a choice.

No wonder people don't talk about how they feel. No wonder they always apologize for being anything less than ecstatic about life. There are actually people out there who think that if you're depressed, you can just stop being depressed. And well, that's total bullshit.


I did end up writing Charlie's ten-month letter to him. I cried the entire time. I worry constantly that my depression will affect him in some way. I try my hardest to keep the tears under wraps when he's around, because I know babies pick up on that stuff, and I don't want him to feel scared or anxious. I am eternally grateful that he is too young to really remember this. I am also so, so grateful that he is such a happy, healthy, and wonderful baby. I have no doubts that he is thriving, and as wrong as I am feeling these days, it's a lovely reminder that there are some things that I'm doing right.

Yesterday in general a whole lot of tears were shed. Roy and I have made the tough decision to move. This has been extraordinarily difficult. I love our house. Moving in was a sign that we'd arrived. The reality is that we may end up back in an apartment. I have nothing against apartments in general. I lived in them for years. I guess I just never anticipated moving back into one. It feels like a step back, even though I know it's a good one to take. I'm looking at it as an adventure. It will give us the opportunity to really pare down our belongings. We'll probably even get rid of our TV, as we almost never use it. Even more important, we'll be able to save some money. We have a huge amount of debt to pay down. We'll never be able to move on from here if we don't pay it off.

I haven't given up hope of finding another house with cheaper rent to move into. It is relatively easy to find options for living these days, but it seems that the good houses are taken in an instant. We've been looking all week, and it's discouraging to see how quickly the good properties go and how many scams are out there.


We're heading out for an impromptu trip this weekend. Roy and I love California's central coast, and so that's where we're headed. A trip like this is absolutely not in the budget, but we're doing it anyway. We really need to.

I haven't really touched on this subject, but Roy is also having some major emotional stuff going on. Quite a pair, we are. It's hard to see my husband be so sad and so down on himself, when to me he is the most wonderful man I have ever known. We are taking care of each other; despite our mutual depression, I don't feel our marriage is in danger. We've been talking a lot and spending a lot of time together after Charlie goes to bed. This week we watched Fried Green Tomatoes, and I swear I cried through the whole thing. It'd been years since I'd seen that movie.

Anyway, I'm very excited about this little getaway, so excited that I've accomplished more this morning than I have all week. I can't wait to be there and to take a million photos and to hold my baby and be with my husband without all this crap weighing us down.

I hope to have some awesome photos to share with you next week. Enjoy your weekend!

April 8, 2010

10 Months/Identity Crisis

Ten months ago today my son was born. Normally I post a letter to him here, but I am unable to come up with the words. I am buried under so much other stuff.

I've decided to do something a little daring and very, very personal. I'd like to share my history of depression here, in pretty painful detail. I'm not sure what the outcome will be, only that I can't keep hiding behind this screen pretending that everything is okay. I feel that my blog is dying, because I myself, or the Leslie I used to be, has died. I'm not sure who I will end up being or what will become of this space here. I am in this awful in-between state, and wow, it just sucks to be here.

These words, they've been wanting to burst out of me since November. They need to be said. I hope that you'll be gentle. I'm not looking for pity. I'm not sure what it is I'm looking for, only that I know I need to share this. I'm tired of feeling ashamed.

(The paragraphs in italics below were written on November 10, 2009, which is a pretty significant anniversary for me.)


Who am I?

How many times have we asked ourselves this question? Me, I've asked it multiple times. I asked myself that question today, and here's what my 30-year-old self came up with.

I am the daughter of a man who was left empty after surgery to remove a vascular brain tumor. I was three years old at the time, and so many of my first memories are associated with my dad's illness and recovery. I remember throwing up in a drugstore bathroom in Houston, the city where my dad was hospitalized and treated. I remember blue curtains in our hotel room. I remember my dad's snake-like scar on his head from where they operated. I remember how my dad threw up quite often at dinner once he was home and recovering. I remember swallowing some of my dad's pills on accident, and I remember big hands in my mouth trying to scoop out the chewed-up bits. I remember fights, angry fights full of screaming and tears and threats of suicide. I remember the heaviness of depression that invaded both my parents.

Despite all this, I grew up a pretty happy, well-adjusted kid - on the surface, at least. I got good grades, was involved in lots of activities, had no real problems making friends or acquiring boyfriends, got into a healthy amount of trouble in high school, but underneath it all, I was beginning to boil over and fester. Looking back, I don't really think I had the coping skills to really understand and deal with what had happened to my dad and how it had affected our family. Naturally, that came later, after I became someone else.

I became someone else on November 10, 1997 - the day I was raped. I was an 18-year-old college student, fresh out of high school and ejected into the real world. My entire life up until that point had been built on denial, and becoming a rape victim forced me out of my safe little bubble world where everything was okay as long as I didn't think about it. I was overcome with anger, sadness, shame, guilt, and hatred towards myself and the world. I almost immediately began to self-destruct, thus leading me to make some of the worst decisions of my life. I entered into a state of deep self-loathing, and I stayed there for several years. Those four years are what I call my Great Depression. Looking back on them, I don't remember many good things. I do remember the rawness of everything I felt. The world had changed, and I had been born into emptiness. Everything that I had built had fallen apart.

Being raped forced me to think, to feel, to become. I will never say it was a blessing in disguise. Because it wasn't. It was quietly violent and shameful and dirty. It was the most horrific thing I have ever experienced. But out of all the pain grew the woman who moved to California, finished college, married a wonderful man, and birthed a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Through all the tears, the rage, the sleepless nights, the thousands of angst-ridden poems, the four years of therapy, I became me.

But who is that?

I used to know that pretty well, but now I've realized that I don't. Not anymore. Because then Charlie was born. And I don't think I really understood right away how much his birth had transformed me. I still don't think I've completely grasped it. I am a different person. And while I am over-the-moon happy with Charlie, there's a black cloud called Traumatic Birth Experience hanging over me. And honestly? I think that Charlie's birth has led to postpartum depression.

The further I get away from Charlie's birth, the more parallels I see between it and my rape experience. There were the cries for help that went unanswered. The real fear that I wouldn't make it out alive. The knowledge that I was completely powerless and that my body was not my own anymore. In the OR, I was strapped down, out of my mind with pain and fear, and there was not an ally to be found anywhere. I was separated from the people I loved while a man cut me open and took out my insides. And when I came to, I was not the same person anymore. A fundamental part of me was missing.

Someone took what should have been an empowering experience and made it ugly and violent. In doing so, I was stripped of all my power and agency. I will never have that experience back; I will never be able to make it right. Am I sad? You betcha. Am I angry? FUCK YES.

After I was raped, I went looking for the part of me that I lost but I never did find it. In time, something else grew in its place. I feel that the same thing will happen in regards to Charlie's birth. That I will come out of this a better person. I hope so, because honestly I do not like who I am right now. I don't like this sadness, this anger. This alienation. This bloody mess.


I was in the middle of writing this when I got the news that my dad has been moved into a nursing home after a series of alarming incidents. I found out this information through email, and I instantly deflated. And burst into tears. And made frantic phone calls.

As problematic as my relationship with my dad is, I am not ready to face the fact that his condition is (probably) rapidly deteriorating. I find myself wondering if I should prepare for the worst. But there are no answers. There are never any answers.

And that's the kicker. There's no closure. These events, they just linger on and on. I never get to close the Book of Rape and proclaim it done. I never get to say, "Yeah, it's real tragic what happened to my dad, but I got over it." And I will probably never understand why Charlie's birth had to unfold in such a horrific way, and I know I'll never be able to say, "I'm just so grateful to have a healthy baby that all the birth trauma I went through means nothing." These are things that will always remain with me, that I will carry with me for the rest of my days. Most days, they'll be just a normal part of the burdens that life offers us, and I will be okay.

And then there are days like today. Twelve years after rape, and my dad's on the verge of I-don't-know-what, and my Cesarean scar burns with anger and shame. I feel like things are falling apart once again, and as prepared as I am for this, I'm just not prepared for this.

Today I don't know who I am. I don't know if things will be okay. What I do know is that these same damn annoying wounds hurt - they hurt so badly.


As you can see, life has been unbearably tough lately. Of course, I am so grateful for all that I have, but things do feel like they are falling apart. Because, you see, the past has a way of worming its way back into the present. It is so damn maddening to know that we can do all the right things and work our asses off to heal and become better people, but that something can happen to take it all away. It sucks that often those who hurt us the most get to go on and lead their oblivious lives, while we are left cleaning up the mess. The hardest thing is that I am back to feeling so hurt and scared that there is no doubt that I am nothing but a victim, when for years I struggled to become a survivor. I prided myself on surviving being raped and all the emotional fallout that resulted from it. That pride is gone. I have been stripped of myself. I have so many moments when I don't know how I will go on. I love my son, I love my husband, I love my family and friends, but they can't save me. The only thing I can do these days is take baby steps and hope that in those small movements lies the key to healing.

Thank you for letting me share.

April 6, 2010

Happy Easter!

It's a good thing Charlie won't remember this Easter, because it really felt like a fail to me. It just seemed to sneak up on me, and before I knew it, it was too late to make any plans. Still, we did make it to see the Easter Bunny at the mall. Charlie was traumatized, so much so that he actually pushed the Easter Bunny away (see the fifth picture down).

And just in case you were wondering if he was really upset:

We got invited to an egg hunt on Saturday, but we had plans to celebrate Roy's birthday by going to the zoo. Those plans got delayed by a memorial service for a family friend who lost her mother, but one of the cool things about the gathering was that there was a mini egg hunt for all the kids.

Charlie got two eggs. Great for eating!

Matching hair:

On Easter we briefly entertained the notion of heading out to LA for the day, but we just didn't feel like it. Instead Charlie stayed in his pajamas until 5 PM, upon which time we dressed him in his very hip Easter outfit and took him outside for photos with his awesome Easter basket.

I bought Charlie this cute little rabbit hat, but it didn't really fit his big ol' melon:

As you can see, the Easter Bunny was very generous, and Charlie was not at all traumatized by that.

I was a little sad on Easter because it was Charlie's last first holiday. My baby is growing up and will be a year old soon. Still, I can't wait for all the holidays to come, even if I fail at them like I did this Easter.

April 3, 2010

Hold on to Your Friends

I love this song by Morrissey. Because there just might come a time when you need some friends.

My English teacher during my senior year of high school told us that if we could count on one hand the number of true friends we had, then we were truly blessed. Even back then I knew she was right.

It's also true that times of extreme hardship in life make it very clear who one's friends are. As I've begun to face this depression I'm in, I've gotten some wonderful messages of hope and love from people in my life.

When I was writing my dissertation, I was hit with depression, and it's the most humbling thing I've ever experienced. People who haven't been through depression have no goddamn clue how paralyzing it is. People use the word "crippling" to talk about depression, and I found that to be exactly the right word. We always think that if people are just strong enough, they should be able to push through anything, and as a result, we get disgusted with ourselves for not being able to move through the depression. But that's bullshit. When you're *crippled*, when your legs are broken, it doesn't matter how strong they are. Being strong has fuck-all to do with getting through depression. We don't get through by being strong. We get through by healing, by not being crippled anymore, and that's not something we can hurry.

One of the worst things about depression, and god knows there are plenty of bad things about it, is how it feeds on itself. Because we're disappointed in ourselves for still being depressed, we feel worse, so we prolong the depression. So don't let yourself be disappointed. You are crippled, and there's nothing you can do until you have healed. Don't feel bad about that. You can't hurry healing.


I know you are in the middle of something unbelievably murky and painful right now. What you need to remember (mentally only if it can't get through emotionally) is that this stuff is not you. It's around you, it's affecting you, it's making you feel like less than the person you want to be, less than the person you are. But it is not you.

You are made up of so many wonderful things. The bright happy shiny sparkly rainbow-pooping unicorn things that make people laugh and helps you connect with strangers in an instant. That's who you are. I know it. Even if you can't quite see the end of the tunnel yet, it's there. I'm here for you until you are on the other side and while you're still in the tunnel. I'll keep pointing the light until you get annoyed and smack me with your lantern (my, aren't you well-outfitted in this little metaphor). You are still you.


If I've had any major (or not so major) epiphanies in the last couple of years, it's been finally understanding that lows are a normal and necessary part of the journey. For the longest time, I kept waiting for things to be right, to be better, and to stay that way. And I always felt terribly disappointed each time I encountered a bump in the road. I felt like it was a setback. But in reality, the bumps are inevitable, and they sometimes suck; but they are temporary. There are highs mixed in with the lows - sometimes as rewards for our hard work and efforts, and other times as fortunate windfalls. We've got to soak up all the strength and energy from those highs to endure the inevitable lows, which are also sometimes of our own doing, but sometimes just circumstantial. And when things suck so bad that we can't tell which is which, we're blessed to have people around to comfort us and tell us it'll be okay. It will, Fwend.

I love my friends. And I'd be lost without them.

Thanks for the continued messages of love and support as well as all the thoughts and virtual hugs. Lots of love to you all, because really, love's the only engine of survival.

April 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Behbehs

Roy is 31 years old today.

We've had a lot of ups and some downs (especially lately), but he's my best friend and my rock. He's the most wonderful daddy and the most loving husband. I couldn't have asked for a better person to share my life with.

Happy birthday, my love. I could never even begin to say how much I adore you.