It’s Gray and Personal

I remember sitting at a psychologist’s office in New York City on a beautiful spring day, with the gentle sounds of piano from a far-off CD player faintly humming in my ears, the scent of my herbal tea mingling with the many complementing scents of the potted flowers and vines lining the open, and large for Manhattan, window. It was a totally comfortable type of place, the interior designer obviously knew their stuff. But I was still a jumble of nerves– not because I was new to talking about my problems, no, but because the first session is always the hardest. You are inviting someone in to look at your life, your feelings, your failings and strengths, and allowing them to make a judgment. That’s nerve-wracking. I had been to 5 imagestherapists/counselors/psychologists in my life- one all through high school because I was caught one too many times eating lunch alone in the library, one for a year at college because I was a very caring residential assistant, another at graduate school because my nutritionist believed I was depressed, another in NYC because my doctor was quite certain I was depressed, and the last in Germany for aiding in my adjustment. So you see, I’ve got loads of experience with this type of thing.

It’s not particularly hard for me to describe what I needed from these professional listeners during those different periods of my life. It always has, and always will, come down to my desire to feel connected to my family. I love family, I’m a family oriented type of person; I want to be surrounded by love through the thick and thin. I need unconditional love, loads of hugs, support and people to share memories with. But as it stands now, I’m more or less estranged from my dad, my Mom (the one who I connected to the most) passed away 7 years ago, and my sister and I have a relationship that is so complicated and convoluted from our clashing personalities, I could make a very tame- but still emotional, Lifetime movie of it. Petty arguments before my time distanced quite a bit of family and that never quite healed, and once I tried to make a go of things, I somehow failed to make strong bonds that could withstand the flimsiest of infractions. As for friends, it’s like testing a batch of pasta by throwing it against the wall; one -maybe two, might stick but the rest fall down leaving little watery traces. And that’s what I tried to say to this guy in NYC, while trying to nonchalantly drink my tea and not let the tears fall. He sat back in his chair and told me that none of this is my fault,  I got a raw deal, I was seeking something that didn’t exist in my DSC_5319family and I was a walking ball of hurt. And then I cried. I cried so much, I never went back.

I’m totally hurt. I want a family like the ones you see in dramedies; big, complicated but loving. I want someone I can call for advice who can remind me of that time I did that thing that was so stupid and relevant to the problem I’d currently face. I want to laugh and feel like I belong. Especially now— especially after moving to Germany and feeling even more disconnected from the world I knew. Especially now that I have this beautiful bouncy, and busy!, baby and my overworked, stressed out,  but wonderful husband, and I have few people to share the little stories of our lives together with. On one hand it’s my own fault; I could have tried harder to make more friends, I could have pretended that some of the friends I did have (and have now lost) cared about me as much as I cared about them, and I could have been less…. everything. Know what I mean? But on the other hand, sometimes people are just assholes and I can’t change that. I can’t click with everyone, and I can’t force something that just won’t work.

So it came as no surprise when, a few months back, my doctor over here told me I’m suffering from postpartum depression. She asked about my support network (don’t really have one). She asked me who I confide in– I said no one I feel comfortable with yet, not anymore, at least outside of my husband which stands to reason that if my husband and I argue, I have no one to sound off on. She asked if I want medicine (no), and then told me to get involved in mothers groups and do many baby activities. But the thing about ppd is that you are depressed and/but responsible for a tiny human being that you simply adore. The world seems gray and although that baby is a beam of sunshine, sometimes the grayness wins. You are so, so tired– things you used to be able to do seem like pushing a boulder uphill. Now it seems all my energy goes into making sure the baby has the best day ever, every day. And I’m kinda succeeding at that. But taking care of myself just isn’t a motivation when I feel so busy. I am more involved, I’m getting out of the house, and yes, I’m still tired, and there are days when food doesn’t touch my mouth (yet my girth remains unchanged). I can’t plan anything at all. I’ve been without my special shampoo for months, my clothes aren’t hung up in the closet, they are next to my side of the bed where I can go through them and find the least dirty thing to wear, my coat has lost a button months back, and and and…. I’m a new mom to an almost 1 year-old. These things are typical.Following-the-gray-clouds

The most difficult thing though is the constant feelings of doubt, whether it’s parenting or personality,  waves of self-loathing, and just feeling all around overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, there are way more moments when her sunshine breaks through and dissipates the gray, and I smile and laugh and love my life because I have two amazing people that make me honored and special to call my own. But the gray always comes back, and it has gotten better…. but I need more people. I need a network, I need the love and laughter, to be understood and appreciated for who I am and not who I should be. I know this now. I can’t do the casual thing anymore with fair weather friendships and call it the real thing. I just don’t know how to do this, mostly because I just don’t know how/who to be over here at the same time without coming off as a desperate weirdo. There’s got to be a way, right?

P.S. Sorry if this post seemed nonsensical, this has been weighing heavy on my mind now for so long, it was time to let it out. Thanks for reading and for some of you, commiserating and relating.

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12 thoughts on “It’s Gray and Personal

  1. Dearie, I may be forever away physically (so no Olaf warm hugs from me) but I will always, ALWAYS be there for you as a crutch, sounding board, mischievous partner in crime, confidant, friend…and FAMILY member anytime you need it. ♥♥♥ I do mean anytime. I wish, for your sake and mine, you lived around the corner so it would feel more real to you instead of distant, but know that no matter the that distance, I will always be here.

    P.S. I’m still waiting on that Skype date….

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate it more than I can say! And we should have a skype date soon!! Much love and thanks!

  2. You express yourself so well. A lot of what you are going through sounds typical for new mums but it’s made harder by the fact you live abroad with little support. The only advice I can give is to really force yourself to get out there more and go to meetups and hopefully you’ll be able to make some new friends that way. Maybe one or two evenings a week your partner could mind the baby and you could try to meetup with people that way. But I agree, real friends you click with are really hard to find! Virtual Hug!

    1. Thank you so much for the advice and response. I did take what you said, and put it into action. I started going to meet-ups, playdates, walking more. It all really helped! So thank you again and I am so grateful for your advice!

  3. You will always be considered by me to be part of the family, always remember that. It is important to be socially connected and have a support system. I am always a comment away Ally. If you need to talk I am here.

    1. Thank you, Debbie! It was and is a hard time, but I’m really appreciative of your kindness! And will do!

  4. Hi Ellie

    I’ve been reading your blog since last week and, needless to say, I was and still am so fascinated by it I read everything backwards. I just love the vivid and funny way in which you narrate your experiences. Some made me laugh so hard, cry, smile & some gave me a lot of WTF moments. I’m sorry that you are currently feeling so blue & I’m sending you lots of hugs & love. I believe you are a strong, beautiful, intelligent, loving & awesome woman/mother/wife & friend. It takes a woman of strength &courage to move to a foreign country all in the name of love and I’m pretty sure this too shall pass & you’ll come off it a much better person.

    Just some advice that my dad gave me once when I was histerical about some ill treatment that my stepmother (believe me she was & still is “Cruella de Vil) was dishing out to me on a regular basis and I felt that she doesnt even try to understand me or how hurtful and mean spirited she was to me. He said, my dear child, as an 18 year old you may not want to hear this but here goes: the world has billions of people from different backgrounds with different personalities/characters/agendas/issues/etc and there’s only one of you. Dont you think it’d be better for you to just try and understand them rather than expecting them or tryin to let them see what a nice person you are as some of them are absorbed by their own issues to realise your kindness? When you do that you’ll be better equiped to deal with them effectively as individuals with less frustration as you’ll soon understand why they are behaving in a particular manner. This will give you a choice in terms of accepting things that you cannot changing, working on those that you can and forgiving the “Cruellas” who either know not what they are dong or are victims of their backgrounds/ignorance/upbringing/low self-esteem/ etc.

    I’m not an expat (I was born/bred & live in South Africa but I travel a bit sometimes) but believe you me, I can relate to most of your experiences. I’ve been to Germany (Frankfurt & Munich) on business plus vacation and I was a bit unsettled by the way people stare at you without being embarrassed about it, bumping and pushing you without apologising, not so great service at some of the decent restaurants but I soon got over it as I realised that I cant change them (as it might be a culturally acceptable thing or a german thing to do) and I will not let it bother me as we also have certain behaviours in my country that surely drive foreigners nuts. For exampe, Germans are very punctual its scary whereas South Africans (specifically blacks) operate on what is termed “african time”.Trust me its very annoying, not cultural but very common. Consequently, if you are very german about punctuality & you don’t apply my dad’s advise, you could cut off great/loyal friends who would move mountains for you believing they are disrepectful and self absorbed.

    Lastly, just so you know, this is the first blog I’ve ever commented on. Your stories/experiences & the love you, your g-man & your child share touched me. I’m a hopeless romantic & an eternal optimist. I could go on forever.

    PS: I’d love to chat to you some more via email if you’re interested. Have a good one.

    Regards
    Pelz

    1. This was such an awesome (AWESOME!) comment! I read it several times over the last two months without commenting because even commenting seemed to take a lot out of me! But thank you! Goodness, it was such a treasure to get this in my inbox. Yes, we should chat!! I appreciate all of your kind words and advice, and I’ve been putting them into action. And I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed reading my posts and that you took your time to comment. It made a world of difference to me. Thanks again!

  5. Further to my earlier comment I thought I should clarify a few things:

    1. Apart from the few things I outlined earlier that initially irritated me about Germany there’s a lot of other things that I really like about Germany such as the way pedestrians stick to traffic rules, how beautiful and clean the country is, public transport that is easily accessible (in my country a car is not a luxury for the middle class but a necessity though I cant explain our obsession with German cars), beautiful men, people who make cycling look so cool even when its raining, Bundesliga (& F.C. Bayern Munich), my two hilarious German friends, German cars/engineering and a whole lot more. Overall, I like Germany.

    2. Not all restaurants rendered a below par service the service ( we do also experience appalling service in my country sometimes) as we also got decent service in other restaurants and had some interesting conversations with the owners and or waitrons.

    3. Not all south africans are tardy about time. In fact we mostly try to be there on time and more often than not we achieve this objective, especially when it comes to work. However, when it comes to social life, there’s always gonna be that one friend or relative, at the very least, who’ s gonna rock up an hour later.

    I’m sure you can tell Im new to this blog commentary thingie.

    Cheers.
    Pelz

    1. You did well! I know Germany has it ups and downs, just like everywhere else. Your comments are perfect!

  6. Hi Ellie. I cannot imagine how it is to be somewhere that’s not home with a baby, without a long-standing support network and with lots of things that are the unknown. I moved to Munich in my early twenties, young and naive, and with the option of returning home to my parents if things didn’t work out. It was a hundred times easier.

    I wish you all the very, very best.

    xx

    1. Thank you for this, and I’m sorry I’m responding months later! I think it’s hard to just not have a support system, regardless of baby or whatnot. It’s good to feel connected and know that if you need help, there is always someone there willing. Thank you for commenting and I wish you all the very best too!

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