“Where Is My Wonderful Life?”
This isn’t the 36th Christmas I’d imagined for myself. Missing are the Norman Rockwell home and picket fence. Missing is the Prince Charming. Missing is the sense of being appreciated… and loved.
Tinsel, bows, plastic Santas, and paralyzing ADHD unhappiness.
During this jolly holly season, old demons and relentless memories resurface daily. The winter blues are back.
Remember the Christmas when you strolled Central Park with the boyfriend? Remember the year you and the sister schlepped to Queens, where the mother made you all go to church and asked if you had Bible-loving boyfriends, too? What great memories. Well, not exactly. But they still get me all melancholy.
Besides, I am the queen of comparisons”, addicted to fixating my gaze on others’ well-manicured lives and moaning, “It’s not fair, I want a piece of that, too. Why can’t I? I am well aware that all I can do is change myself and keep my fingers crossed. The game isn’t over yet. Lately, though, I’ve found myself randomly dissolving into tears.
This is my 36th holiday season and isn’t the sort of Christmas I would have imagined for myself at this age. I had imagined the Norman Rockwell home — scenes of feeling needed, wanted, and loved by a family and a whole community.
Instead, I continue to fly solo and feel exhausted doing so, especially since I see no signs of change on the horizon. But the problem and the strength of ADHD is a sort of steely stubbornness. So if I don’t have a boyfriend, I will keep searching and dreaming and hoping, and continue to tell myself that I am the captain of my fate.
The aunt and I went Christmas shopping on a recent Saturday. She is exactly twice my age and we are actually quite similar in our speech, personality, and mannerisms. We settled into a coffee shop for a pause between errands, and I slowly shared with her my personal and professional struggles. And how I feel my personality and childhood hang ups have somehow contributed to these deep-rooted problems and a seeming inability to move forward.
I told her about the counselor I’ve been seeing once a week, but told her he was a priest to whom I’ve been donating a small amount a week. Baby steps, baby steps. “Well, what’s his advice?” she asked.
“He told me to see a psychiatrist, that they could help,” I said.
I paused, ignoring her poker face, and then went about telling my aunt in a hurried fashion how popular ADHD therapists are in the U.S., especially in New York. Maybe drugs would help at least calm things down, I said. No big deal.
If she was shocked or surprised, she didn’t show it. Perhaps she’d known for a while that something wasn’t right with me. Maybe she and the grandmother realize I’m an unhappy person with deep roots attached.
“Well I’m not a big believer or fan of doctors or medication,” she said. “I believe that there are things that we need to try to change ourselves, and I’ve seen you get better over the last year or so.” She was trying very hard.
We bantered for a bit more about fate versus self-determination and then she shared something shocking about herself: “When I am very worried, unhappy, or anxious I take half a pill and it works,” she said. It dawned on me she’s taking an anti-depressant. She had once asked my father if I could try the pill, but he said that my problem was different.
I must be really bad shape.
I turned the conversation to the holidays, and after we paid the bill I reflected that my aunt never advised me to stop seeing my “priest,” who I am sure she knows is really a shrink.
Then I turned to her and asked if I could try the pill — just half — sometime. She nodded yes and I caught what looked like tears in her eyes.
“Just don’t tell your father that I gave it to you.”