Dear Divorced Dads,
In January 2015, as the NFC championship game played, I made a decision that altered the fate of my children and I, divorce. Before you jump to conclusions about my decision, know that it was two years of fighting with myself to do what I thought was right, stay in a loveless marriage for the sake of my children. In the end, on that fateful Sunday, I walked out of the home I bought eight years back and never looked back.
Immediately following removal from the house around 11:00 am, I drove to a bar/pizza bar and drank myself into a drunken stupor until it closed at 1:30 am. While there, I called my sister, brother and uncle to tell them what I did. All of them were shocked and disbelief, and hearing that I wasn’t myself, my sister drove down to join me at the bar.
I wasn’t hasty in my decision to leave my children by divorcing their mother but no mental health professional could not have prepared me for depression that rushed me like a linebacker in full pursuit of the quarterback.
In the months that followed, I ended up at some bar about 3 or 4 days a week. I stayed until I couldn’t remember anything, often waking up in my car the next morning in the parking lot of the bar I was at the night before..
Guilt ate at me. I tried to recall the memories of my kids and focus on the good I did for them, but I always came back to the feeling that I abandoned them. Or, how I was a deadbeat dad.
Several family members tried to console me by telling me things will get better. But nothing anyone said or did could stop me from feeling overwhelmed with self-hate and depression. On a couple ocassions I didn’t want to live. I thought maybe my children are better off without me.
Fortunately, whenever I strayed too far to the left with these thoughts, I visited my kids, finding refuge and hope in their smiles, their laughs and seldom cries that said, “Daddy don’t leave.”
Nothing is worse than hearing the cries of your children and not being able to do anything to help them.
In that great time of pain, the only way to deal with the world collapsing around me was to write. The poem below is evidence of such a time when depression took over me:
Depression is a thorn
pushing into my side,
It digs deeper
as the light dims
in the place
I lay my head,
I wield hope
for a future,
Where my arms
hug and caress
the warm fragile bodies
of two who carry my name,
In darkness I sit
As day becomes night
and these thoughts
in the loneliness
sitting next to me,
This roller coaster
I sit in the front seat of,
Is a thrill ride
I did not seek,
It is admission to such a park
I long to void,
I shall close my eyes
and dream of future days,
When a smile adorns my face
in the presence of they,
Who delicately hold my heart
in their loving embrace,
…my precious children.
It doesn’t matter how much time passes but when I read this poem, I’m feel the pain I endured. Thankfully, I am no longer depression’s prisoner, so the poem is a barometer of my growth.
Finding the Silver Lining in Depression
In the months following my separation from my kids, I endured lonely, quiet and painful times in a baron apartment. I felt emotions I didn’t feel since I was child when my mom abandoned me.
There were plenty of days I looked into the mirror and saw a stranger staring back at me. It kept asking me who am I, what do I want and what do I believe.
My time in the dungeon of loneliness was valuable. I learned how to overcome my guilt. I learned how to open up my heart and admit my wrongdoings. I learned my worth. I learned what I want in a woman, discovering who I really am.
This tumultuous, unforgiving place called life will eat us up and spit us out without warning. It will force us down roads we don’t want to travel. It will break us and it will build us back up.
Life is a roller coaster ride of ups, downs, sharp turns and unexpected dips without divorce and fatherhood.
If we allow it to, depression will kill us. Guilt will kill us.
The continual thoughts of what we could have done better will also kill us if we dwell on them.
As a man who’s endured two divorces, it is important for me to keep my eyes looking forward. I have to silence the failure of my past because thinking of of that will only lead down a path that will hurt those I love now.
When faced with winning back children due to a divorce brought upon by us, we must be strong, bold and honest with ourselves. We must learn from our mistakes and grow from them.
We owe it to our children to be present and alive in their life. We must silence the negative self-talk and of our past failures. And, it doesn’t matter what their mother says, we will always be our children’s father.