It’s an incident in my life that offers a small explanation about why I have struggled with feeling “good enough” all my life, about why I still have times when I feel worthless and hopeless.
My therapist told me that those worthless and hopeless feelings are at the center of my chronic depression. That’s what we work on during our sessions together, when we analyze specific personal interactions and role play, where I practice being more assertive and strong.
I’m telling this story so you can understand the things that can play into depression, including chronic depression.
Perhaps you can see yourself in this situation and know that you are not alone.
My parents were not evil people. What they did to me through the years was wrong. What they did to me was probably what their parents taught them to do. That’s not an excuse, just perhaps a bit of a reason.
This story takes place in the kitchen in our farmhouse. I don’t remember exactly how old I was. I was probably 8 or 9 years old, definitely under 10 because we moved from that house when I was 10.
The kitchen in my first home, the white frame house with the red tin roof, was the center of the household. We had no formal dining room, so we ate in the kitchen. When company was there, it wasn’t unusual for them to sit around the kitchen table drinking coffee and talking.
The distinguishing image of that kitchen for me was the floor. It was made up of linoleum squares, alternating green and yellow.
It was a real green, not an avocado 70s green, and a real yellow, not a gold yellow.
The squares were perfect squares, not rectangles. They were about six or seven inches on each side. The entire kitchen floor was covered with this pattern.
It was in the evening. We had been somewhere—probably church, probably a revival service. We—Mama, Daddy and my second brother and me—were standing around the kitchen having a drink of soda before going to bed. It was probably either Pepsi or Dr. Pepper, because those were the sodas that we usually had in the house.
I was drinking mine from a Dixie cup. We had a dispenser of the cups in the kitchen. What probably happened was one bottle of drink was opened and shared in Dixie cups, with Daddy drinking what was left from the glass bottle.
I remember laughing. I don’t know if I said something I shouldn’t have or if it was my laughing that was wrong.
But suddenly Daddy’s hand was in my face. His open hand slammed into my nose and mouth.
I remember how numb my face felt. I remember crying and trying to drink my soda from the Dixie cup through lips with little feeling. I don’t know if I was ordered to finish my drink, if I really wanted the drink, or if I was being defiant in continuing to drink, like being slapped in the face wasn’t going to stop me.
Why do I remember that when I was spanked and slapped other times during my childhood? I don’t know. I remember the numbness of my face so much, and the difficulty of drinking from the cup with trembling lips.
The slap seemed to come out of nowhere. I wasn’t anticipating it, so I must not have realized that I had done something, or said something that would make my father mad.
I usually knew if I was treading the line of making one of my parents mad at me and was putting myself at the risk of being spanked, slapped, or yelled at.
When I told this story to my therapist, he asked me how it made me feel.
It made me angry. It made me feel defenseless. It made me feel like a terrible person. It confused me. It made me feel worthless. It made me feel hopeless.
I do not want to feel that way now, and I am working on that. My reaction to my childhood is not going to adversely affect my whole life. I am going to beat this depression.
What are you determined to overcome?