Permission to be Sad

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Today I had an appointment with my therapist. I started seeing her last summer when we began fertility treatments in earnest, because I knew it was going to be a difficult time. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with depression and I’ve seen a smattering of therapists over the years since I was a teenager. In fact, I spent a few years on Celexa, which I found very helpful during some difficult life transitions. I strongly believe that everyone – especially those of us with a history of depression – stands to benefit from a bit of mental hygiene in the form of talking through our feelings.

So, even though I had stopped seeing my therapist in December when I was finally pregnant and feeling great, I kept her email address on file. Last week I noticed I was experiencing some of the signs of oncoming depression – feeling flat and slow, with racing thoughts and an unwillingness to smile or engage with other people. This isn’t my first time at this particular rodeo. So, even though I felt better the next day, I set up an appointment.

An ongoing struggle for me – and one I’ve talked about extensively with my therapist – is feeling a lack of community where I live. My entire family lives a continent away and the few cousins we have in the area, though wonderful people, are older than us and in a different stage of their lives. I’m a fairly introverted person by nature and haven’t had a lot of success making friends here. The women I’m friendly with through work or school are great, but I’ve struggled with making the jump from “person I hang out with before class” to close friend. The women I’m closest to are probably my sister – who I text with daily but see only a few times a year – and a few college friends who I care about deeply but see even less often. The distance is so tough.

Over the last few years I’ve become more of a loner. I enjoy spending time with my husband when he’s not working. But my difficulty in cultivating and sustaining adult friendships pains me, and I felt it most acutely at my baby shower two weeks ago.

It hurts to admit that because by all accounts, my baby shower was a wonderful event. My parents, sisters, and in-laws all took time off to fly across the country and put on a great party for us. It was so special to see them and spend time together. It’s for that reason that I don’t feel like I can talk to anyone about the fact that when I think about my shower, the memory is tinged with sadness – because it really drove home the point that I don’t have a community of friends here.

When I started sending out invites I cast a fairly wide net. First and foremost I invited the women I worked with at my most recent job – a close-knit group that made me promise to let them know when I was having a shower because they definitely wanted to be there. In fact, I scheduled the shower on a Sunday – even though it was harder for out-of-towners – because I know it’s the only day they all had off, and soon after I sent their invites they told me they were psyched they could all make it. Next, I invited a group of ladies I’ve become close with through a local alumnae club; then, another group of friends from my graduate program. There were others, too – people I’ve met here and there. It seemed like a good group.

Ultimately, of all those people, only two showed up.

One – the only one of my work friends to show – brought her boyfriend, and spent the majority of the time sitting with him in a corner before making a hasty exit.

Some people sent their regrets in advance. One, pregnant herself, told me she wished she could attend but honestly wasn’t up to it so close to her own due date.

Worse were those who never bothered to RSVP at all – and worse still were all the people who RSVP’d yes and simply never showed up, with not so much as a texted apology after the fact. And that pregnant friend who told me she wasn’t up for socializing? I can’t say it didn’t sting when I saw her on Facebook a week after my shower, enthusiastically offering to bring dessert to another friend’s shower the next day.

A few days after the fact, when one of our cousins told us he and his family had left early because his teenaged kids were so bored by our shower – that was the icing on the cake. I know a baby shower probably isn’t a teenager’s idea of a great way to spend a few hours, but really?

Of course there were great parts of our shower. We had family there, as well as some older friends of the family and some of my husband’s coworkers. My mother and sister did a phenomenal job planning it. We received lots of heartfelt gifts and love. And honestly, it makes me feel really shitty to complain about an event thrown in our honor, or to bemoan the fact that people had other things to do besides celebrate us, us, us. But really, that isn’t even what I’m sad about. I don’t care whether or not people brought gifts or lavished us with attention. It just sucks to find out that people you considered friends – people you had made a priority – don’t feel the same way. I admit that I feel angry at some of them – especially those who committed to coming and no-showed – but it’s not really these people I’m upset with. I feel sad that when I give birth in a few months, we won’t be bringing our baby into a local community filled with friendship and support. Our baby shower was a stark reminder of that, and it hurt so much.

We’re incredibly fortunate to have family that loves us and supports us and can’t wait for this baby’s arrival. There will be visits and Skype calls and pictures emailed every day. But it won’t stop the loneliness of knowing we probably won’t have anyone visiting us in the hospital, or dropping by with a casserole, or insisting I get out of the house for a girl date to quell a bad case of baby brain. When I go into labor we’ll call our pet sitter, email our parents an update, and head to the hospital alone.

So, what to do about it? I’m going to do my best to make some other “mom friends” through the plethora of parenting groups here in the area. I figure that in this city of transplants and workaholics that I’m not the only one in this particular predicament. I’m going to do my best.

But today, at least, my therapist asked me to give myself permission to be sad – without qualifiers or second-guessing. So here it is: I wish things were different. There are lots of days I wish we had never moved here. I wish I could get over my shyness and fear of rejection and just ask someone to coffee, just like that. And I wish, sincerely, for things to get better.

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