• Our latest book:

    By Amy and Bernadette
  • Also by Bernadette and Amy:

Return to Real (and new) Life

So the Big Leave is over. We’ve completed both moves (youngest to his freshman year three hours away and oldest to grad school, 16 hours away). Tear report: I was able to choke them back at the actual moments of leaving, but scattered tear storms have been reported throughout the viewing area.

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

The emotional gash (“wound” doesn’t seem strong enough) I’m currently dealing with doesn’t bode well for the coming SAD season – and believe me, I’m noticing every minute of sunlight we’re losing each day as the calendar marches on. Nor does the pain of the goodbyes and the removal of half the family (okay, not quite half, but since there are five of us half would be gross) bode well for my husband’s round-the-year depression. He’s had teary moments in the last week, too, and that’s always scary for me – who knows where those moments might lead?

It’s early days yet, but I’m thinking hard about what I – we – can do to keep from sinking into what could be serious depression around here. My short list:
-volunteering at one of the schools our kids attended
-digging into a book Bern and I have been toying with for a couple of years
-supporting husband to the hilt as he explores possibilities for a much-needed career change
-getting our younger kids’ new concert schedules burned onto our calendar so I can look forward to those special events
-throwing myself into a second blog, at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com . I’ve been looking forward to that for several months now, and had a blast putting up my first real post today.

Hope our friends in the blogosphere will be along for the ride…


P.S. – Many thanks to Bernadette, who kept Depression’s Collateral Damage running at full speed while I was out of commission this week. 🙂

Keep on the sunny side.

It’s the day before The Big Leave, Part I. A day of frenzied packing, loading, and looking for Youngest’s essential dorm items that have been misplaced. At least I hope that’s how the day pans out; after already having one weepy moment this morning, I know it would help to be busy. And then comes the reprise on Sunday, as we head into The Big Leave, Part II for Oldest.

As I mentioned earlier this week, the husband has stepped up to the plate in order to take some of the burden off my shoulders. He’s maintaining his healthy place, and it couldn’t come at a better time. As close as my emotions are to the surface just now, I’m in no shape to handle his depression personna. I seriously hope that guy is out of the picture for the near future. I caught a disturbing glimpse last night of Mr. Depression’s hypersensitive, hypercritical, argumentative self, but thank goodness it was brief. A couple of hours later we were laughing together around a board game, and all was well.



That “Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde” thing that has long been characteristic of his depression. And I really need the lightheareted, kind, and supportive guy to be present right now. Keeping my fingers crossed.


The long and winding road

As expected, this is turning out to be a very difficult week. Three days away – and counting every moment in the back of my mind – from stage one of The Big Leave (youngest child moving away for undergrad, oldest child moving FAR away for grad school). It’s been a week of list-making, packing, and not a few tears (not to mention frenzied activity at work as I prepare to miss five days during the biggest crunch time of my year).

But something happened Monday night that took me by surprise. It came about when my husband and I sat down to talk over final details of the upcoming trips, at my suggestion. There were a number of decisions to be made, and I found myself falling apart over them. Obviously I’m in no state to make decisions this week, with my emotions frayed down to the last thread.



I managed to choke out a few words: “I don’t mean to be irresponsible, but I don’t want to have this conversation. I just can’t take one more thing this week.” And promptly started sobbing.

Here’s where the surprise came in. My husband, who has been swimming in the quicksand of depression for months – emotionally unavailable, pessimistic, irritable, self-absorbed – immediately stopped, gave me a hug, and apologized for not realizing sooner how torn up I was. He offered to handle all the details we’d been discussing, and simply sat with me and let me cry.

I honestly can’t remember the last time when my feelings were a topic of concern or conversation between us. The relief I felt at NOT having to be the responsible one, NOT having to hold everything together, was a much-needed gift. As was the return of the husband I knew (hoped?) was still there under the weight of all that depression.

And now, to get through the next few days. My most difficult goal to achieve is to do all my crying anywhere but our son’s dorm as we say goodbye.


P.S. I’m still holding onto that carrot on a stick of a second blog. Hoping it will be not only good for me to have a new project, but also of some interest to others. We’ll see. If you’re interested, you’ll find the first real post next week at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com.

A Different Empty Nest

A few day ago Amy wrote a post about empty nests and depression.  I know some of the surprising road that she will be going down.  Empty nesting is rarely an easy deal.  Every parent approaches it in a different way, and with depression in the mix, it becomes a gigantic crapshoot.

Now twelve years with my children on their own,  I find I still miss them, more on certain days than others. When I get to see them it is indeed wonderful, especially enjoying the people they have become and the friendship we have adult to adult. I have found time to pursue a great many interests from café ownership to writing to gardening, but by the same token, I have found it difficult to weather the ups and downs of my husband’s depression and the surprising things he says and does to deal with our empty nest.

Sometimes he becomes my new kid.  He becomes so needy and wants to be the center of attention –  the depression talking.  He will sometimes alienate in an effort to fill a need he has – again springing from the depression.  He makes family gatherings difficult by not participating….again the depression.

Now we are entering a new stage of empty nestdom where he has to face the fact that he is getting older and that has caused its own set of challenges when complicated by depression. He can’t see the value of exercise…after all he is getting old.  He feels his body is falling apart…..see previous sentence.  He’s always referring to the fact that he “only”  has x number of years left and woe is he!  He continues to look at everything as “having done that” and “nothing new under the sun.”  So much of this is caused by his depression.

Empty nest is survivable even with depression present.  I don’t, however, look forward to the problems that aging and depression will bring.  I faced it with my father.  I’ve faced it with good older friends.  I’ve faced it as a child with severely depressed aunts and uncles.  But I have never faced aging in a depressed partner.  What’s around that bend?  Is it a different kind of empty nest?  More later.

– Bernadette

Music therapy

I’m not a music therapist, and I don’t play one on tv. So I have no formal background here, just experience…

I wrote a few weeks ago about the fact that music has been helpful for my husband in getting him out to exercise. He’s found that new music with no connotations or memories attached helps him clear his mind and enjoy walking. That has continued to be the case, and I’m thankful.

My own “music therapy” is different. I’ve long had strong feelings about what music I need to listen to at any given time. Sometimes it’s based on what I’m doing (Nora Jones for writing lesson plans, Scott Joplin for cleaning the kitchen, lately Group Love for driving). Other times I’m pulled very strongly to certain music to help me through certain emotions. Excited about an upcoming trip? B-52’s. Out of sorts from paying bills? Soundtrack from “Emma,” “Pride and Prejudice,” or “A Room With a View.”

Singing at state solo and ensemble under adversity - broken piano and grumpy judge.

Singing at state solo and ensemble under adversity – broken piano and grumpy judge.

Recently I’m spending a lot of time listening to a very special set of CD’s we’ve collected over the last eight years. They consist of the recordings of concerts and festival performances our kids were privileged to participate in, including 7 years of all-state orchestra and/or choir and state large group ensemble contests. These are performances for which we heard endless rehearsing at home, for which we drove our kids many miles for auditions, which we heard live, and which still have the power to make me cry every darned time I listen. Especially when I get to the pieces in which they had solos. Priceless. With the clock ticking down much too rapidly toward The Big Leave, this large body of works helps me express my sorrow that those years are over, my joy in knowing that they receive such joy from music, my anticipation of more performances to come. It’s all there.
That's the boy, under the sign that looks like it's going to fall and slice his head in two.

That’s the boy, under the sign that looks like it’s going to fall and slice his head in two.

I find myself wondering what we’ll play as we drive the many miles to the new schools, what we’ll listen to while we’re building a whole bedroom full of furniture. I’ll be thinking long and hard about what music I’ll need to have along to get me through the long drives home, kid-free.

Through it all I’ll be checking in with our younger daughter, who, while we’re gone, will be getting all her new choir music for the new semester. She’ll tell me all about it and I can start looking forward to her first concert of the year. I’ll bug our son until he texts me back about his first lessons with his new vocal professor, his concert and recital schedule, and the first opera he’ll be auditioning for. Before long, our oldest can call us with details about her grad school orchestra audition (and probably quite a few details about her first round bio lab, which I will probably not understand).

The oldest and her viola, Chester.

The oldest and her viola, Chester.

Music will play an enormous role in getting me through this transition.


Beginnings and Endings

As a mom, I’ve always been acutely aware of the preciousness of every moment, every stage of our children’s lives. That’s not to say I’ve always enjoyed every single moment – there are quite a few tantrums, misbehaviors, and bad parenting decisions I’d like to have avoided entirely. But from the beginning I’ve had the sense that the time with our most bestest creations, our three kids, would fly by with breathtaking speed; that they’d be moving on to their own lives long before I was ready to see them go.

That has certainly been the case. In just over a week, our youngest leaves for his freshman year of college and our oldest leaves for grad school (thankfully our younger daughter has chosen to live at home for college – it’s a joy to have her with us still, though she’s got a very full academic, social, and community schedule). In my mind it was just a few days ago that they were splashing in mud pits in the back yard, covering Barbies in aluminum foil and launching them at top speed with a bungee cord, and filming their own versions of the Harry Potter movies.

As the day(s) of departure draw closer, I’m struggling. Tears are near the surface much of the time. And I’m already worrying about this year’s version of Seasonal Affective Disorder – my guess is that these life changes will make the season more difficult than ever. There’s definitely a “happy light” in my near future.

A post on “The Isle Child” hit me hard this week, as it addressed so much of what I’ve been thinking about. Check it out at http://islechild.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/the-940-saturdays-of-childhood/ and browse around while you’re there – it’s worth a good look.



We’re having “lasts” all over the place at this point. They started in the spring as we had our last moments and last events at the high school where we spent so much time over the years. This week there was our son’s last voice lesson at home (I listened carefully, enjoying his beautiful tenor/baritone voice, and knowing I wouldn’t hear it again until the first time I can make the trip to his university for a performance). Next week the lasts will flow constantly. I’m not sure Kleenex produces enough tissues to get me through the next couple of weeks.

Yes, I know there will be many “firsts” coming up, as well, and I will intentionally enjoy them as I always have. To be honest, I wish people would quit telling me that. I need to wallow for a bit. After all, a 22-year era is drawing to a close. It deserves some emotional attention.

But I don’t want to wallow for too long, because I know from experience that depression (the contagious kind that comes from living with a depressed person AND the seasonal kind that comes from my own body clock) is waiting to pounce. One way I’m planning to avoid prolonged wallowing and creeping depression is creating the diversion of a personal blog that I’ll debut once the two big moves are completed. If you’re interested, you’ll find it at http://momgoeson.wordpress.com/ For now it’s just a placeholder, giving me something to look forward to that’s fresh and new.

Here’s to all the first and lasts in our lives…

Counting Down

Obviously I’m not the first mom to experience life with an “empty nest.” I’m not even the first mom living with a depressed husband who has to deal with empty nest syndrome. But I”m pretty sure the existence of depression in our household is going to make this new chapter that’s looming even more difficult.

There will be, of course, the same kinds of things all empty nest-ers have to learn to deal with. Fewer people to share those inside family jokes with. Considerably fewer school events on our calendar (and yes, I really will miss those). No more impromptu viola, piano, and voice concerts in the living room. Silence from our son’s bedroom, instead of the latest Vlog Brothers video or Pentatonix track.

All this stuff is pretty typical. But throw depression into the mix, and I suspect things may head downhill pretty fast.

image credit to rakstagemom.wordpress.com

image credit to rakstagemom.wordpress.com

People tell me it will be a wonderful time for Bruce and me to get to know each other again, to discover the joys of being a couple, to go out for dinner, attend concerts, take vacations we’ve dreamed of. What they don’t realize is that when your life and your marriage relationship is at the mercy of depression, the picture isn’t that rosy.

We’ll have some good times, I’m sure. When moods are stabilized (and with SAD season only a couple of months away, I include my own moods in that concern), we enjoy each others’ company. We know plenty of tricks for having fun on a shoestring budget. But financially, we’re light years away from dinners, concerts, and vacations. And I expect we will continue to struggle through the ugly symptoms of depression and anxiety.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to deal with this new stage of life, and looking for positives to focus on. On that list:
-time for volunteer work I’ve long been interested in.
-new challenges at work and the time and space to be able to meet them
-surely a significantly smaller grocery bill (maybe we can even cut down from those SEVEN gallons of milk per week)
-creating a personal blog where I can pour out thoughts on life, the universe, and everything, and maybe keep myself occupied enough not to notice (quite so much) how much I miss our kids. More info on this new blog coming soon. I’m picturing writing my first post through copious tears on the way home from dropping our oldest off in her new home on the east coast.

You’d think that by now I’d be accustomed to adjusting every stage of life to the reality of life with depression. You might even think that after all these years it would get easier. That doesn’t seem to be the case, I’m afraid. So I guess I’ll just do what I always do: put my head down, plow through it, and hope for the best.

Empty Nest and You

With graduation season upon us, it is good to take some time to reflect on the empty nest – namely yours and those of your friends. Empty nest feelings hit us when the youngest graduates high school, or when the first child heads to college, or when every member of the family decides to live elsewhere. Time and again we have to cope with feelings of loss, of beginning again, of the angst that perpetual adjustment to changing relationships brings. Dealing with an empty nest, whatever the kind, is not easy and if we are not careful, it can send us onto the road of depression and too many of us are already familiar with that road.

So, if you are heading toward empty nest feelings, be aware that there are some things you can do so that you don’t plunge downward into depression. If you are married or in a long term relationship, reawaken that romance. Maybe on the ride home from dropping off the last child at school, you might rekindle that old flame by stopping for a nice quiet dinner for two. Granted you might only talk about the change, but that is good. Change is good and talking about it makes the change easier to manage. And stay open to that romance as you return and resume your routines.

Take time to reacquaint with friends you have left fall by the wayside. Go for coffee or have them over for tea. Friends are so important. They will be one of the few constants in your life and often the ones who have been through empty nests and can identify with your feelings.

This is also your time to plan how you will nurture your extended family. One of the things I took to doing was sending an email to each child each morning with a quote or little musings about my day. It serves to keep in touch without requiring any response but pays off in big rewards in other ways especially when they mention that you didn’t send one of your emails! 🙂 With so many things at our disposal – FaceTime, email, Facebook, texting – there is no excuse for not staying in touch or nurturing that extended family.

Best of all, this is a time to rediscover yourself. Often we mothers forget a lot a things about ourselves as a person when each day is packed with other people’s needs. When those needs are filled by others, that leaves time for us to remember and reacquaint with who we are. Watercolor, guitar, gardening….whatever the interest that is you, now is the time to pursue it.

And if you find yourself sleeping longer, uninterested in everything and waiting desperately for the call from Junior, it might be time to seek help because that empty nest has perhaps taken the plunge toward depression.

– Bernadette