Thursday, September 23, 2010


My name is Amy, and I have depression.  For a very long time now, I have had this extreme urge to write a story or a book about my life. I have had all of the thoughts in my head, but no real inspiration to write them all down. Until now.

I have been using a social network called Twitter, and in the process of meeting people, I have found that there are many other people who have depression or other mental disorders.  I believe that in writing my story, I may be able to reach out to others and at the same time, help myself.  Writing is a therapeutic exercise for me, and I honestly believe that if I share my personal journey of growth and understanding, it might help someone else.

You see, I may be all together now and seem like I know a lot of answers, but it hasn’t always been that way. I haven’t always been so compassionate and understanding toward other people. From the time I was 16 years old, until my late early 30‘s, I made many mistakes, and I believed on several occasions that my life had no meaning, and that the people around me would probably be better off, if I just weren’t around anymore.

It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a lonely feeling. I cried a lot, and I acted out a lot. I felt as if no one understood me, and rather than trying to express myself in healthy ways, I rebelled. In the following chapters, you will see how horrible I became. It’s not something I am proud of, but it IS something that I can use today to help others. If it weren’t for our past, then where would we be today?

I am now a healthy woman, happily married with two beautiful children. I have been a special education teacher for students with behavioral disorders, a psychiatric technician on a mental health floor in a hospital, a program coordinator for a juvenile program, and a social worker in a nursing home. I have depression, but it is under control.  My goal in writing my experiences, is I want people to understand that just because times seem to be tough right now, it DOES get better. If I didn’t think that life could get better 20-30 years ago, I wouldn’t be here today. Back then, I believed the world would be better off without me in it.

That particular thought, is not true. It never has been, and is not true for you either. As you read my story, there are 10 questions I want you to think about. At the end of the story, I want you to answer them in your own way, and somehow, get back to me. Your answers do not have to be public. I will leave my email at the end of this story so you can tell me what you think. There is one rule, however. You CAN NOT tell me that you don’t know the answers, or that you don’t care. If you are saying those things, then you are not thinking hard enough. The questions I want you to really focus on, are….

1. What am I doing to myself and to others?
2. Why do I keep blaming others for my problems?
3. How can I change my life for the better?
4. Where do I see myself in 10 years? 20 years?
5. What do I want to accomplish with my life?
6. What are the steps I need to take to get there?
7. Who have I asked for help, or who do I need to ask for help?
8. Why have I been building these walls around me?
9. How do I start breaking down those walls, and letting others in?
10. What am I afraid of?

Please continue on.  This will be a very honest and emotional story.  One of which I hope you read with an open mind, and perhaps realize that you are not alone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brief Summary

During my teenage years, I don't think my parents really knew what to do with me. I think if they knew that there were places to put out of control teenagers (detention centers, group homes for at-risk adolescents, probation) like there are now, they would have done it. I was constantly grounded, and I was constantly rebelling against the rules. I acted out sexually, and I snuck out of the house practically every night. I became a pyromaniac (a person who is obsessed with fire), and I made horrible grades in school. I even ran away in high school and took the car for a week. I had an attitude of not caring about anyone or anything, but that was the furthest from the truth. I just couldn’t be honest about it. I didn’t think my parents loved me, and I certainly didn’t think they wanted me. That feeling comes from being adopted at the age of 5, and not really feeling like I was really a part of the family. I mean, how COULD they love me? I wasn’t biologically theirs. I was horrible in every way possible, but what I didn’t understand, was that my parents loved me unconditionally. No matter what I did, they were still there. I think I pushed their limits just to see if what they were telling me was true. As far as I was concerned, their lives probably would have been better if I had never been part of the family. Or so I thought.

As I got older and I wasn’t so controlled by my parents, I had a lot of boyfriends who were not good for me. I sought out men/boys who I thought needed saving. I was too giving and too trustworthy, and because of those traits, I was raped and I was with men who either physically abused me or mentally abused me. Both are not fun to live with. I didn’t think I was worth anything better, so I continued to go down the same path with every single person I met. I sabotaged myself constantly. I even tried suicide on several occasions, but was too chicken shit to go through with it. What I did do however, was get attention. Maybe that’s what I wanted all along. Negative attention is still attention, is it not? I wanted people to see me, even if what they saw was dark and ugly.

I stayed in college far longer than I should have, because I wasn’t ready to face the real world. I had jobs that started off well, but then I would slack off and would have to quit before I was fired. I married a man whom I thought I loved, only to be divorced 10 months later. It wasn’t until I moved far away from my comfort zone to another state, when I realized that life could be better, and it was up to me to make sure that life happened.

IT WAS UP TO ME. Do you understand that sentence? It wasn’t up to my parents, or my friends, or my ex husband or anyone else to make me feel better. I was in control of my destiny, and I was the one who was screwing it up. It was about time I figured that out.

I moved far away and I found some wonderful friends and an amazing man to whom I am now married.  We have two beautiful children, and I am in the process of finding out if I have been accepted to Graduate School to get my Master's in Social Work.  My life is good, but it isn't perfect.  It's a daily struggle but I have the support and love from important people in my life. 

The time is now for you. Don’t wait until you’re 30 years old to understand this message. Do it now. Do it for no other reason, but to make yourself feel better. If you get nothing else out of this story, please remember one thing. You have the power. Knowledge is power. You are the only person in the world, who can make your life the way you want it to be.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chapter 1 - In the Beginning

As I stated in the beginning, I was adopted at the age of five. I have no information on my biological parents, except that my mother and father were not married, and my mother was 26 years old. My biological mother gave me up as an infant, but as I learned later in life, she didn't sign the papers to give up her parental rights until I was five. So for five years, I lived in numerous foster homes spanning from New York where I was born, to Ohio, where I was finally adopted by a good family.

As a child, I learned not to attach myself to anyone because I knew that I wouldn't stay there for long. I built walls around me, so that I couldn't get hurt emotionally. It was bad enough not to have a real family or a real home to call my own. I had to live with people who would eventually end up giving me back to the caseworker who handled my case, or I would ask to be moved because I was not comfortable with the place I was staying (I say "place" because nothing is a "home" until you have one of your own).

I honestly do not remember much of the foster parents I stayed with, except for two. One was not a good place for me, and I felt utterly neglected. This family had lots of children and I did not feel as if I mattered, so I asked the caseworker to take me somewhere else, which she did. She was a wonderful woman, and the only one at the time whom I trusted. The second home I remember was in New York, and I even remember their names...Judy and Steve. I remember living in a big white house on a corner of a busy street. I remember that Steve had a big red leather chair, and I would put his slippers on the floor in front of his chair and give him the newspaper every morning. It's amazing the things you can remember or block, depending on the memory! Judy and Steve were incredible people, but they were just merely foster parents, and were not looking to adopt a child. I didn't know this, and was heartbroken when it was time for me to leave. I was crushed because I had let my guard down and allowed myself to love these people. It was so hard for me to leave them! I vowed that I would not let that happen again, and I would put up the walls that had protected me once before.

Right before my 5th birthday, I moved from New York to Ohio, to go live with a family who were looking to adopt an older child (this is the family who eventually did adopt me, and I proudly call them my family). I didn't know at the time that they were wanting to adopt at all. I just knew that they were yet more people to live with for the time being. I went because I had to, but I was still depressed from having to leave Judy and Steve.

The first thing I remember when I walked into their house, was the dog that only had three legs and who was barking at me from the sliding glass door that went to the backyard. I just stood there, staring at this animal (she was a boxer), and I didn't say a word. Her name was Deirke and was actually the sweetest dog ever. She had lost her leg several years before in Colorado where my parents and sister had lived, and had scared a burglar away from breaking into the house. He started to go through the window, and Deirka barked and would not let him in. Apparently he had shot her before leaving, thus having to amputate her leg. This did not stop her, however. She lived a long and healthy, productive life. She chased cars, she got into a fight with a porcupine and lost (my mom spent hours taking the needles out of her skin) and she fell into a coyotes trap. You would never know that she had been wounded however. She was very kind and very playful.

Next came the 10 year old girl who would become my sister. Her name was Kendra. She was excited, yet apprehensive about having me in her life She was the only child for ten years, and had to adjust to sharing her parents and her bedroom with a five year old! It must have been both exciting and frustrating at the same time. She never showed her frustration, however. If anything, she went above and beyond in trying to make me feel comfortable and to become my sister. It took a long time in order for me to accept her in that capacity. She would want to play barbies with me or read with me, but I would have nothing to do with her. In hindsight, that was not very nice of me at all, but at the time, it was just a way to protect myself.

Then there was "The Man" (that's what I called my father at the time). He was tall and had a deep voice, and I think I was scared of men in general (something I have apparently blocked out) so I just didn't talk to him until he talked to me first. I would wait until he was looking directly at me before I spoke or answered a question. If I was talking about him, I would refer to him as "that man" and never once said his first or last name. For me, I was protecting myself once again from being too close to him or Kendra, because it was safer that way. I didn't realize that he wanted to talk to me, and Kendra wanted to play with me.

The woman, on the other hand, was the one person I actually communicated with. She was nice. She stayed at home with me while "The Man" went to work and while Kendra was in school. She was patient and loving, and seemed to understand that I was holding back emotions that were very strong for me. I would cry at night because I was either scared or my legs hurt (growing pains, I figure now) and she would wake up every night and come to my room and rub my legs down and rub my back until I felt well enough to go back to sleep again. She comforted my fears, and I learned to love her very much.

In fact, I began to break down those walls which were keeping me from enjoying this family, and I began to love them all. I actually remember the day when my mother and I were walking to the car, and I suddenly stopped, and I stared at her. She asked me what was wrong, and for some reason, I just knew that she was going to take me to the caseworker, and I would have to leave again. When I asked her where we were going, she casually told me that we were going to be seeing the caseworker just to check in with her and tell her that everything was going well. I remember thinking that this woman was not going to just give positive information, she was going to get rid of me! So I timidly stated that I didn't want to go. I told her that I wanted to stay, and I stared at her. My mother stared back, with a half smile on her face. She asked me if I knew what I was saying, and I nodded. I said, It means that I would have a family and a home. I want to stay.

That's all it took. My mother and father had already discussed that they wanted to start the process to adopt me, but since I had just now stated my own feelings, the process began to start a little more quickly. My mother called the caseworker that very moment, and I was able to stay while the process of my adoption took place. That afternoon, my mother and I walked halfway down the road to meet Kendra from school. I was riding her tricycle. Kendra saw us together, and was extremely excited. She knew this was the day that I was to go back to the caseworker. When she got closer, she had both a huge smile and a frown at the same time. She yelled out, “You stayed!“ The next few words were, “But you’re riding my tricycle!“ Sibling love and rivalry started that very minute.

My parents told me years later that the caseworker would drop by unannounced just to check up on us and to see how things were going (basically the way the system is organized now). My father recalled a specific time when I was learning to ride a bike without training wheels. He was out there all day trying to teach me how to do it, and when he let go of me, I steered my bike right into a thorn bush and fell into it. I had many scrapes and bruises, and my father was petrified that the caseworker would show up that day and he would have to explain what had happened. We laughed about this story on many occasions.

During the adoption process, we decided to change my name. My name was Alicia, but because I was starting a new life over with this new family, we decided to pick another name, so that I would feel completely theirs. So, my name is Amy Alicia...we kept my original name as my middle name, and 30 years later, I have named my daughter after my original name. Her name is Alicia.

I remember very clearly the adoption process. I remember holding the hand of the judge and going for walk when he asked me if I knew what was happening and if I understood what it all meant. I remember looking up at him with my big brown eyes and smiling at him. I remember saying, “Yes I understand. I will have a family, and I will never have to move again. I want this.” The judge just smiled down at me, and from there the process began and the paperwork was signed. I don’t know the actual process and what it took from my parents. I know now that they were looking for a child to adopt as my mother could not physically have anymore children, and that both parents had wanted to adopt an older child. At the time of staying with them, I just thought they were another foster family and that someday I would have to move on again.

Once the adoption was official, the entire family went to the park. We laughed, and played and enjoyed our time together. I remember very clearly my father asking me if I wanted to stay at the park, or if I wanted to go get ice cream. I remember saying that I wanted to do both. I don’t remember what was actually decided, but I do know that it was a wonderful day and full of celebration.

The point of this chapter, is to tell you that even as a small child, I built walls around me to protect myself from getting hurt. That process continued while growing up, and I still have trust issues from time to time. I have a great fear that a loved one will leave me...either by giving up on me, or by death. Either situation is excruciatingly painful for me to deal with.

The next few chapters will be the gradual process of my defiant behavior and testing the limits of my aggravated, yet patient family. My depression didn't come full circle until my teenage years, but it is increasingly apparent to me now that it was just a matter of time before it surfaced.

Chapter 2 - Blending with the Family and Family Rituals

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chapter 2 - Blending with the family, and family rituals

I learned so much even during the first few weeks of living with them. I told my mother that I didn’t like vegetables, but I liked potatoes and a few other things. She would just smile at me, and explain that potatoes were vegetables. I was used to drinking soda pop on a daily basis and I was used to plopping myself in front of the television. I would assume that the television was a form of babysitting when I was in foster care, so it was something I was very used to. My parents limited the intake of my soda, and I was also limited to the amount of time I would spend glued to the television. Both parents were educators, so they spend time teaching me things, such as how to read and write, the environment, and other critical things I missed from traveling from one place to another.

We had morning rituals that make me smile to think about now. Rituals and routines may seem silly, but I had never had structure or a routine before, so something that happened in a “normal” fashion everyday was something I looked forward to. My father worked at Marathon Oil and was Vice President. He would get up in the mornings and have breakfast with us, and then he would leave. My mother, Kendra and I would go to the side window and wave at him every single morning as he drove off. A lot of times, my sister and I would have a spatula that my mother had just made cheesy bread with, and we would be licking off of it when we waved goodbye to him. One time, Kendra had accidentally laid the spatula down while she waved goodbye, and it landed on a cactus (my mother was a flower lover, and cacti was one of her favorites to have in the house). Without realizing what she had done, she put the spatula up to her mouth, and licked the cheese off of it, cactus needles and all. The poor girl had to stand still while my mother plucked all of the needles out of her mouth.

Other rituals included having dinner at the same time every night. We would all be together at 6pm and the television would be off. This was the time of communicating and reflecting how everyone’s day had gone. Everyone had their moment to shine and talk about school or work. The kitchen was a big source of togetherness as well. My mother was an excellent cook and my sister and I spent hours in the kitchen talking and doing homework as she cooked. She could make the entire house smell as if you had walked into a gourmet restaurant. She was amazing. She also liked to bake and make canned goods to store during the winter time. She had a vegetable garden and a flower garden and she definitely had a green thumb. I did not pick up those traits at all, which is disheartening. I would have loved to learn to cook like her, and have a green thumb like her.

Holidays and birthdays were celebrated as if you were the only person in the universe who existed. As I stated before, family togetherness was essential with my parents, so they made it a priority to make everyone feel accepted, special and loved.   Christmas was one of the biggest holidays for us and we celebrated it in style.  We would go together and pick out a real tree and my sister and I would argue over which one was the biggest. We usually chose a very tall tree, because my parents had kept all of the ornaments from when they were a child, so we had to have a lot of room to decorate. I remember the smells of a new tree and the pine needles constantly dropping onto the floor. We would spend hours placing ornaments onto the tree, because we couldn’t just put an ornament up without discussing where it was from. We had ornaments from my parents childhood, from when they were first married, from when my sister was born, from school, and a variety of other special ones we had to talk about. We would laugh and reminisce about special moments in our lives, and the entire house was always filled with love and peace. I hold that tradition close to my heart, and we do the very same thing with my own family. My children love to talk about the new ornaments that we get every year, and they are excited to see the old ones as well.

My sister and I each had advent calendars during the season, and would always look forward to opening up a new window. We would laugh and squeal and show our parents what was under the new window. On Christmas Eve, we always went to the midnight service at Church. We would be exhausted by the time we got home, which was usually a good thing for my parents since they still had wrapping to do. Kendra and I would go to bed and were told NOT to get up before 8:00am. Otherwise, we would be running downstairs to try and wake them up long before they were ready to be up.

We had a beautiful ceramic nativity scene which we put out every year. The only thing that we did not put out in advance was the baby Jesus. He was born on Christmas day, so the ceramic Jesus was packed away safely before His special day. A tradition we had in our family, was that the youngest child (me) would be the one to place the baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning. We would all stand around the nativity scene together, and we would say “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” Coffee was brewed, and breakfast was being made as the four of us would get ready to open our Christmas gifts.

We opened up our Christmas gifts one at a time. It’s not like how my family does it now, where everyone rips open their present, looks at it for a moment, and then goes on to the next one. No, my family took their time. The person who wrapped the gift, would usually write a hint on the card, and the receiver would have to try and guess what the hint meant. Sometimes we got it, and other times we didn’t. Once the gift was open, however, we would understand the full meaning of the hint. One person opened their gift, as the others sat and watched. We would all look at the present and talk about it, and figure out where it came from or why it was being given. Then the next person would open up their gift and so on. Opening gifts for us, was an all day experience. We would take a break sometime during the morning to have a big breakfast, and then we would get back to it. By mid afternoon, we would all be tired, and we would usually take a nap, or Kendra and I would be in our rooms admiring what we received. We made phone calls to family members thanking them for our gifts, and would wish them a very Merry Christmas. These traditions have a very special place in my heart.

To be continued....

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chapter 3 - Ohio

I only lived in Ohio for five years (5 years old through 10 years old) and I still consider it my home. This is where I began my new life. This is where I had a home with two parents, a sister, a dog and two cats. This is where I had friends, and this is where I felt the most stable. For the first time in my young life, I felt relaxed. I was no longer worried that I would have to move again, or that something bad would happen to me. If you were to ask me in 1974 what the most important thing to me was, I would have told you having my own home and looking at two people and without hesitation, calling them Mom and Dad.

To Be Continued....

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