In Mental Health on August 1, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Dear Yenta,

I am not happy. I have an amazing son, good job, a beautiful home to live in, but every time I try to smile, tears fill my eyes. I try to blame this feeling on my divorce, my paranoia that my co-workers hate me, or the fact that I have given up on pretty much every dream that I have ever had because I am so tired all the time, but pushing the blame on things does nothing but remind me how pathetic my life has really become. I’m lost in a life that keeps spinning and piling up on top of me, and I don’t know which way is out. What do I do?

– Out

Dear Out,

Step one: take a deep breath. When life starts to strangle you, teeny tiny baby steps are the only way to dig out of the hole. I would say start by taking inventory. Pause after your darling son is asleep and take notes on a number of things. A) Who do you have in your life that you CAN trust? That you CAN lean on? Seeing who these people are on paper is a helpful reminder that you aren’t alone. B) What have you done right, and well? This can be things that seem small but are really huge, like sustaining the life of a healthy child. This is a giant accomplishment. Note the little things, he is clothed, he is fed, he is not ignored. You would be surprised by how important these things are.

An inventory is really a way of gently shifting a mindset. If you think you are falling in a hole, it will be easier to lose your grip. But if you believe you are grasping and climbing out, this will begin to happen. It sounds like you have had a real run for your money in the past few years. Another inventory you can take is on how to begin to be gentle and loving with your exhausted self. Keep tea stocked. Take baths, invest in bath salts. Find a massage school near you and get a cheap treatment while a friend babysits, maybe offer to buy them a massage in return. Money doesn’t buy relaxation, investment does. Treat yourself with care in those tiny in-between moments when motherhood and work are not taking the reigns.

Do you have health care from your job? Can you find a therapist to support you, while you are supporting your family? You would be amazed how nice 50 minutes about you a week can feel. Also, stop, notice, breathe and write. Write it all down. Get creative, get crazy, work out all that divorce angst bottled up inside what looks like a perfect exterior life. Purge the feelings so you can be present, and see how wonderful you and the life you have created are.

And finally, re-visit your dreams. You are not dead, honey, just raising a child alone. As shut as all the doors seem, you need to be patient and remember that time brings change. Think of Langston Hughes and “A Dream Deferred.” List those aspirations that you think you completely lost, and remember that in time your son will go to school and become more independent and your dreams, on layaway, will explode again. Also, remember how you once dreamed of having children, and now you do! Enjoy that precious child.

Your 28-Year-Old Yenta

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
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