Being in Susie and her husband Bob’s garden will make you depressed to go back to your own. Everywhere you look there are flowers and berries, veggies and goldfish, and the most beautiful chickens. It is the perfect metaphor for the way Susie lives – bountiful with talents, gifts and generosity. The road was not always easy:
I am more than my anxiety and depression. I suffered for many years. As a result of positive changes in my life and medication, my sadness is behind me. I am 76 years old but I feel 45.
I was four years old in 1945 when my father returned from World War II. As a doctor treating the injured, he had been on the front lines for four years. He had severe untreated PTSD and chose to medicate with alcohol. When he drank, he was a tyrant. My mother chose to adopt a stiff upper lip and show a happy family front at all costs. My father died of alcoholism at 59 and my mother committed suicide at 55 years old.
As a child, the effects on me of the family disease of alcoholism showed itself in poor grades, low self-esteem, embarrassment over my father’s behavior, and an inability to express anger or sadness. I adapted to the family chaos by saying nothing and getting out of the way. I left home at 14 for boarding school.
At twenty-one I married a man of a similar chaotic family background and my unhappiness increased. I endured unacceptable behavior, and like my mother, I stuffed my true feelings and kept my cool for twenty years. Divorcing him did not solve my problems.
In my forties, after years of therapy and two hospitalizations for depression, I found hope and the seeds of recovery in Al-Anon, a 12-step program for friends and families of alcoholics. Following the Al-Anon philosophy, I was inspired to make healthy choices managing emotions, relationships and personal goals. Al-Anon saved my life. I eventually healed thanks to Al-Anon and the wonderful support of family and friends.
I love my life today. I am blessed with two remarkable children, a loving grandson, good friends, and a partner of twenty-one years, whom I deeply love. I continue to pursue the same interests I have nurtured since childhood: caring for animals, making music, painting, gardening, studying foreign languages and enjoying outdoor activities of all kinds. I am proud of my academic accomplishments and the many experiences of my teaching career spanning fifty-eight years, both here and abroad.
I have learned to accept all of my life with gratitude.
For more information about Al-Anon go to their website to find a meeting near you.
If you would like to share how you are more than your depression, grief, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder or OCD please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Writing Guide.