Eating Alone & Depression

I have a lot of work to do with myself. Writing down my thoughts has been extremely therapeutic for me, and the more I write, the more realizations I have – the patterns, the negative thoughts that were ingrained into my system that I didn’t even know existed. I’m doing my best to pinpoint the things that have been causing depression and doing whatever I can to lift my spirits.

Whether you’re an adult or a child, eating alone all the time can be depressing. When I was trained to be a home health care aide, we were told that it’s important to eat meals (or at least sit) with our elderly clients, because they tend not to eat as much when they’re alone, and they’re happier eating with other people. What is it about eating alone vs eating with others that somehow determines our happiness? Studies have found that people enjoy the general social aspect of eating with others. The only times I didn’t eat alone throughout my adult life was when I was in the army, married or had a boyfriend, or when my daughter was young and I had a regular schedule. Studies show that people who share meals with others tend to eat healthier and live healthier lives. I suppose that would explain one of the reasons I have been depressed for much of the past six years.

Except for eating at my grandparent’s houses or with my father when I was a child, I often ate alone growing up. If I didn’t eat alone, I was usually separated from the adults, or dinnertime was so miserable I’d opt to eat alone. It was either literally get yelled at for breathing or something else that is considered normal to anyone. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of my book, Unheard:

“Since dinnertime is dreadful, I hate evenings. Even when I am starving, I prefer eating by myself. I hate looking at him and watching him sit with his head tilted down towards the plate and scraping the food from his fork into his mouth without ever looking up. I try to speak and make normal conversation; he makes a point to say something to upset my stomach or tells me to shut up and eat. He finishes his food, gets up without excusing or cleaning up after himself, trots into the living room, lights a smelly cigarette, watches TV, and drinks beer. I guess he thinks it was a woman’s job to keep quiet and clean up after him.”

When something is “normal” for a child, they don’t always realize it’s not normal or healthy as an adult. I knew that what was happening to me didn’t feel right, especially when my friends did “normal” things, like eat with their families. I have never purposely separated myself from eating with others as an adult; it’s just that I don’t exactly have a choice when I’m single.

My daughter visited me a couple of weekends ago, and for the first time in a while, I cooked up a delicious shrimp and pasta dish. It was the first time I’d cooked a meal for anyone other than myself in months, and it was nice to share. When I was regularly dating, I cooked more than I was taken out, and I was perfectly happy with that, because I was happy. I realize that some of my happiest times are when I’m cooking and sharing meals with others (not being expected to, but wanting to), and that hasn’t happened regularly in two and a half years. (If you follow my blog, you’ll probably guess with whom.) I’ve also been more depressed in that two and a half years than ever, and I eat alone almost 100% of the time.

I try to take myself out to eat for lunch or dinner just to be in a social outing, even if I’m out alone. However, eating out gets expensive, and I feel that I can cook better than what is served in most restaurants. Plus, I love sharing my culinary skills with others. Like the studies have shown, it’s the socialization that I’ve been missing at mealtime and probably another reason my friends keep telling me I need a boyfriend. *eyeroll*

How I Lost My Virginity

Seeing the patterns of sexual abuse…

Shut My Mouth

This is probably going to be somewhat disturbing to some readers, so this is fair warning.

When I was 16, I worked with a guy that went to my school. For about a year he begged me to date him, but I wasn’t interested. Eventually, I gave in to him and he was my “first love” so to speak. He had a car, so we’d sneak off and park in wooded areas or parks to make out and have sex.

One night when I was babysitting he came to the house. We were on the living room floor (the person I was babysitting for was in her room asleep by then) making out. He was acting like an asshole, which was typical of him anyway, but here’s where this gets disturbing… All of the times I thought we were having sex, he wasn’t actually inside of me. I think maybe the…

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Dealing with Abandonment in Relationships

Looking back, I suppose I’ve always had some type of abandonment issue. If you’ve ever read my book, “Unheard,” you’ll have a general idea of my childhood experiences with abandonment. Beyond that book, I had never written much about my adult life, and writing helps me to examine things that I have played over and over throughout my life.

I moved to the Florida Keys in 2003 and was told by a family member that my father thought I had moved there to “become a lesbian.” This was a surprise to me, considering I’ve only dated men and believe that no one just “becomes a lesbian.” I thought that was absurd and ignorant, as it only went to show that my father knows absolutely nothing about me, nor does he bother to care enough to ask me a thing about my life. In fact, the last time we spent any time alone together was when I was about 12 years old.

My father hasn’t spoken to me verbally or seen me since my grandmother’s death in 2003 – and currently, we only live about 10 miles apart. I can only guess it’s because I don’t live the lifestyle that he would choose for me – even though I’ve done nothing wrong – and he just assumes untrue things about me. Religion has played a huge part in this, which is why I have rejected religion since I was a teenager. My father and I don’t share the same beliefs, and I do believe that my stepmother is an extremely huge influence on his decision making or lack thereof. The reason I partly blame her is because my invitations, addresses, and the same phone number I’ve had for 15 years have always been “lost”. The last time I heard from my father was in 2007 when I sent a wedding invitation that he declined. I never even received a card. And to top it off, he has also avoided his first grandchild, my daughter, all of these years.

Bringing all of this into consideration, I can see that many of the relationships I’ve had over the years have replayed the theme of abandonment. It seems to have either gone that way or the complete opposite – the suffocating type. I have yet to find that happy middle with anyone, and now that I see things for what they are, it’s difficult for me to allow myself to get close to anyone.

After reading this article, “The Five Signs of Adults with Abandonment Issues” – I recognize that I exhibit all five of these signs. I know I have insecurity issues at times, but I never understood why – and people have commented to me and often question me about this. I spend a lot of time alone, more so than most people and a lot more than most people think, especially since my divorce. I’ve made some pretty bad decisions or started having panic attacks after being dumped (“heightened emotional response”) or rejected in some way – or even having thoughts of being dumped or rejected. I definitely have commitment issues and fear getting too close – or quite the opposite of attaching to someone too soon, only to get dumped.

I mean, I always knew there was something wrong with me and felt like no one would ever love me, but this really clears up a lot. Wow, do I have a lot of work to do, but how do I fix these things? At least for now, I’m glad I can recognize these traits.

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 8

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 8 – told from a child’s point of view

Even though the visits become less frequent, I look forward to visiting Daddy, and I have already forgiven Bianca for butchering my hair. Their house is always warm and cozy. Bianca has down comforters and nice pillows and warm beds, and they have a warm fireplace for the winter, air conditioning for the hot months, and things that I’m not used to having. I am even allowed to take hot baths and sit in the tub for as long as I want!

I have wanted to shave my legs since fifth grade, because my friends are already shaving and making fun of me. Mom says I have to wait until I’m thirteen, but when I speak to Bianca about it, she gives me a razor and tells me to go at it. It must have taken me an hour or more, and I cut myself a few times, but I am grateful to be able to do at least one thing all of my friends are doing. Plus, I don’t have boy legs anymore.

By the middle of the summer between sixth and seventh grades, I decide that I want to live with Daddy and Bianca. They convince me that living with them will be better than living with Marcus and his drinking and drug habits.

I agree, but know that I will miss Mom. I hate the thought of leaving the babies and her alone with Marcus. What if something happens and she needs me? I hesitate calling Mom on the phone because I fear her reaction.

“I don’t want to tell her,” I say to Dad and Bianca.

“You’re the one that has to tell her, not us,” Bianca says.

I pick up the phone. Mom answers. I’m crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

“I don’t want to come home,” I say. “I want to stay here.”

I can tell she isn’t happy. But I also know that I might be in trouble if I do decide to go back home.

“Why don’t you come home and we’ll talk about it?” she says, but I feel that it is more than a suggestion.

My stomach knots. I can barely swallow. My heart races. I am scared to death and know I cannot turn back now. I cry harder. Daddy takes the phone from me. Bianca hugs me and says everything is going to be all right.

All I have to do is go back there to pack.

UNHEARD: a memoir Now Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 6

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 6 – told from a child’s point of view

Other family gatherings involve being with Marcus’s weird family. His father (whom Mom secretly calls Hitler because he is a tyrant and has a dark mustache) refers to all children as “rotten little kids”. I am no exception, but the name-calling doesn’t end there. Marcus’s obedient mother, Rose, is nice most of the time and tries to keep the kids as far from her husband as possible – and he sees to it she does just that.

Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t exempt them from being freaks. Marcus still refers to me as “The Monster,” particularly in front of his own family members, as if to impress them. They laugh and joke about calling me names; even when the babies were born everyone laughed and said they looked like aliens. I guess they think it’s okay and normal to make fun of people, especially small children. Sometimes Mom secretly looks at me and rolls her eyes, because she knows they are stupid and immature. Mom never really says anything, though. I think she’s afraid, so she pretends to laugh along with them. Rose does the same. I hate being around them.

Hitler has never been nice – never one kind word or gesture – nor does he ever speak to me except to bark out a command or an insult. Because he wears dark eyeglasses that hide his eyes, no one knows what he is looking at. Hitler served time in a Florida prison for embezzling money when he worked for the city. On top of that, he is weird and creepy and always stinks because he doesn’t wear deodorant. He isn’t very nice to the babies, either. When we moved out of their trailer and into the new ugly house, Mom discovered a peephole in the bedroom wall. Hitler had been secretly watching her.

Marcus’s younger brother, Melvin, is the only one in their family who is remotely nice to me. He flirts with me, and everyone else seems to think it’s cute and funny – even though I am only in sixth grade. I think it’s weird. Melvin is married to a teenaged girl from his high school. They’re going to have a baby together. Melvin also went to jail for tying up and having sex with a girl the same age as me.

Marcus’s older brother, Arthur, is just as weird as the rest of them. Most of the time he keeps quiet, but when he speaks he says stupid things. And he smells like a troll. Every time Arthur holds the babies under his arms, Mom has to wash their heads because their uncle does not wear deodorant. No wonder he never has a girlfriend.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 5

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 5 – told from a child’s point of view

Bianca has a way of making everyone believe her. She says she always cuts Daddy’s hair and her own, so I agree to let her cut mine after church. I look in the mirror a few times while she works on it, but I don’t like what I see. I think maybe she can fix it and allow her to keep cutting. But when I look in the mirror for the last time, I see that my beautiful, healthy, long dark hair has gone from being about eight inches below my shoulders to a shaggy, cropped mullet. I start crying, put on a painter’s hat, and run out the front door. At first I don’t know where I am going. Since it is only about two miles up the road, I decide to walk to Grandmaw’s.

The first person I see is Aunt Jackie.

“Oh hi, Susanna,” Aunt Jackie says. “I didn’t know that was you. I thought it was a boy walking down the road.”

I cry harder. I know Aunt Jackie doesn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but what she said is true. I do look like a boy. She hugs me, goes inside and tells Grandmaw about it.

“Why did she do that to your pretty hair, honey?” Grandmaw seems sad.

“She said she could cut it like I wanted it,” I tell her.

Uncle Charlie is shaking his head.

“That old bar whore can’t cut hair! She ain’t never went to school for that,” he speaks very loudly.

Grandmaw calls Daddy to come get me. Bianca gives him my things and makes Daddy drive me home alone.

“Your hair doesn’t look that bad,” he tells me.

I keep quiet the whole ride home. Mom is standing outside when we pull up to the house. I say goodbye to Daddy and he leaves.

“What did you do to your hair?” she looks horrified.

“Bianca cut it.”

“I don’t like it,” she frowns. “She should have left your hair alone. Why did you let her do it?”

“I don’t know,” I cry. “She told me she could cut hair. I thought she knew what she was doing.”

“She cuts your father’s hair and look at his!” She is mad. “She doesn’t know what she’s doing! That bitch!”

Mom stomps off to call Bianca and give her a piece of her mind, which usually means saying a few four letter words and mentioning Jesus Christ or God’s hamlet, even though I don’t think they have anything to do with it.

I want to go to school tomorrow, except that I don’t want anyone to see my hair. I pick at my arms, pondering what to do about it and decide that putting it up in pigtails will be the easiest way to hide the awful cut.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 3

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – as told from a child’s point of view:

Grandmaw got Daddy to go to a big church called Calvary where Aunt Marylou went, and he became born again. That meant that he loved Jesus, who was the only person to show him how Daddy was getting to Heaven. They told me I should be born again too, but I decided that I would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The spirit part scared me, because I thought that God’s son was a ghost. One night I was baptized in a big bathtub at the big Calvary church in front of a big audience. That’s when they handed me a microphone and I told them I love Jesus, even though I wasn’t sure I trusted Him, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t go to Heaven with the rest of my family if I didn’t do exactly as He said in the Bible. I think that water must have been dirty because I got sick a few days later. Maybe it was because my sins were still washing away.

I wasn’t sure I liked the Calvary church because it was boring and they made us read like they did in school instead of color and do crafts like some of the other churches we went to. Besides, they made me feel stupid when I didn’t know what some of the Bible meant.

I stopped liking the Sunday school after they asked us what we knew about Abraham. I raised my hand. I knew all about Abraham from school.

“Abraham was the sixteenth president of the United States!” I proudly announced.

“No,” the teacher scrunched up his face. “We’re talking about Abraham from the Bible.”

I guess he thought I was a dumb kid because he never called on me again. I liked the story about the president Abraham better anyway because he freed the slaves.

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