My issues; I don’t know if I am depressed or just sad

I wish all my readers a happy new year. We had a good holiday, and although I only took one week of leave, that week was well spent with Megan and Aishah who came to visit Josh and I.

The time spent with them was not without its problems though, and this brought some things to my attention. Maybe on some level I knew that something was wrong, but I didn’t know how wrong it was.

The time spent with them was marred by Josh’s poor behaviour. Not only was he jealous of his sister and the attention she received from me, but he was mean, selfish, and spiteful. His behaviour was so bad, Megan and Aishah ended up leaving and I had to drive them to the airport on New Year’s day, even though the original intention was for them to stay a week longer. Megan wasn’t blameless herself… It felt like she spent too much time on her phone, such that she didn’t spend enough time engaging with us. It’s the little things… when you are present and engage with the people around you, you talk about things, you relate to them, you have a relationship with them. When you don’t, you’re almost not there.

I’ve described myself as happy, even until recently, and now I question that. I was happy three years ago, when Megan arrived in the month that Aishah turned four months old. I was able to quit my meth habit, and have not resumed it. (And never will.) Aishah was a pleasure to raise for those first two years when they lived with us, and she made me happy. She’s intelligent, inquisitive, and a joy to be around. Having her here again for a short while brought all that back, and having them leave took it all away again.

I still have Josh, but he is a difficult child. He’s moody, always complaining that he is bored, and seldom appreciates anything. But he was fine until a couple of months ago. It wasn’t this bad for most of the year, and in fact things were going rather well, which gets me to what appears to be the root of the problem…

Just the last couple of months, Abbi, his former foster mother and my former sister-in-law, has been visiting every Wednesday. She took it upon herself to collect him from school, since she stays just down the road from the school, and this allows him to spend time with his cousins. Then she brings him home so that his cousins can spend some time with my mother – their grandmother. But this is when his bad behaviour started and now it is out of control.

I have a few problems with this: Firstly, I know that she would not be comfortable if I collected her children from school and drove them anywhere, yet she started picking Josh up without consulting me, and assumed it would be OK, just because he stayed with her for a few years. That sets a double standard. And near the start of last year, she once called me to say, “Josh’s schoolbag is looking raggedy and some of the other parents are complaining. It would be awful if somebody called welfare.” So without saying a word, she is giving the children a message, telling them a story that I am unstable, cannot be trusted to drive them, but she is fine. I take things like this very seriously.

Secondly, there is the psychological aspect of this on Josh. By seeing them so often, he is reminded that he used to stay there. It makes him miss them more. That’s how it works. When you don’t see someone so often, you forget. This is also something that makes my getting him back commendable. The psychology of having a child removed normally leads you to forget them, rather than make you try harder to get them back. I got him back in spite of the effect removing him had on both of us. So having him see his former foster mother too often makes him miss staying there. It makes him remember that she was his “mother” for a while. It undoes all the progress that I have made with him. I think mostly it is this that is affecting his behaviour. He was fine until these weekly visits started.

Thirdly, on other occasions when he sleeps over at either Abbi or my brother, he is forced to say his prayers every night. This is also undermining the progress I have made removing him from religion, and is causing him confusion. No doubt they would say that he is not forced to pray, but the fact is, when there, he feels compelled to behave as the other children behave.

Now Josh refuses to listen to me or my mother. If he wants something and I say no, he complains that, “You say no to everything. I want to live with Abbi because she doesn’t say no to anything.” That’s not true, of course. I don’t say to everything, and she does say no as well. Also, whenever I go there, I can hear her voice even from outside the house, shouting at the children, all the time.

And over Christmas, Josh not only got his one gift from me, he received several from Abbi as well as her friends and family members. This, after he already has been spoiled rotten by them. He has hundreds of toys, far more than most people… so many that he does not appreciate anything. I was not brought up like that. On top of that, he was mean to his sister and wouldn’t let her play with his toys.

Back in October when we went to his former foster mother’s house for a Halloween party, I was reminded just how different her and her friends are to me. As a few of us sat outside around her swimming pool, a couple complained about the #FeesMustFall movement, saying some dismissive things about the people who are trying to get affordable fees. It’s easy to be dismissive of people who don’t have anything, who live in poverty, as you sit around your pool on a property that you own. (Or someone else’s when you also own property, but you get what I mean…) It’s easy to dismiss others who have to fight for equality and call them entitled when you have plenty. Those people, those Christian people, are the epitome of white privilege and that is not how I want my son brought up. I always feel totally out of place around such people. I do not belong there, and neither should my son.

It’s OK to have stuff. It’s not OK to think that you are entitled to it. It’s not OK to be dismissive of underprivileged people. I would prefer to give most of his toys away to the needy, but he seems to be too attached to them at the moment. Attached, and yet ungrateful.

Another interesting thing happened at that party… At one stage the children were splashing too much in the pool. Then Abbi threatened them (light-heartedly) and said that all the children could get a hiding just like her children. Interesting, because at court when I got Josh back, my brother tried to prevent it, by claiming untruthfully that our mother, who stays with me, is abusive. He even told Josh and me that if ever our mother hits Josh, he will call the police and get a restraining order, because spanking a child is illegal, and get Josh removed from me. Double standards much? Josh has told me that both of them spanked him, and when he got a demerit at school, Abbi’s father once made him choose between being hit with a belt or wooden pole.

I think I have to put a stop to those weekly visits. They are causing chaos.

But more than that, there is my feelings, my feelings of loss and despair after Aishah left. It brought everything back, the heartache of losing her after initially raising her for those two years. She isn’t even my biological daughter, but I love her just as much as Josh. She is very special to me, and this has brought my lack of happiness to my attention. I thought I was happy. Now I’m not so sure. I’ll have to see how things go, if my feelings improve in a couple of weeks. If not, maybe I am clinically depressed, and maybe I need help.

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More about my sadness, and a thank you for the support and advice

As anyone reading this must have noticed from this and previous posts, I am struggling at the moment. Not struggling with my recovery, but struggling with what to do with my time and how to handle my life changing as it has lately.

I’ve said some nasty things about my ex lately – the reason being that I am hurt. It’s a normal response and the purpose behind such comments is not to spite her, but to clarify the effects of her behaviour on me. After all that I did for her and her daughter those 19 months, what she’s done is not only hurtful, it is insulting. I thought we were on the same page, that getting our son back was our mutual goal, not just to be clean and sober, and while I appreciate that she wants our son to be back with me alone, I do not understand how she can be so happy to give up on him – again. (She’s still staying in Johannesburg, not far from me. Wherever she is, if things don’t work out, I wonder if she thinks she can come back yet again? I am tired of being told how stupid I was to take her back so many times, and that I would be an idiot to do so again.) So while I agree with what a family member has told me, that blogging negatively about her can be counter-productive, I can’t help it. I am blogging about the effects of her choices on me and our son. (Not to mention her daughter.) Those choices she has made affect me directly, and further, my response to her choices is something that I have been judged harshly for, for years now, even though all I’ve done has been with the best of intentions, for our son, her daughter, her and myself. It hurts that she does not seem to comprehend just how much and how many years I have sacrificed.

People always tell me to focus on my son, because that’s what my recovery is about. But unless you have had your own child removed, you can never understand that it doesn’t work that way. Having your child removed is an intensely demotivational experience. When the child is gone, no matter how much you love them, and no matter how hard you try to focus on that child as a goal, you gradually forget what you should feel. You almost forget that you are a parent. You feel worthless and a failure, but mostly, when the child is not there, you do forget. It sounds horrible, but that’s just the way it is. I anticipate some serious disagreement with these statements, but the fact is, this is the way it works. It’s counter-intuitive in that everybody expects that a parent will be able to focus on getting their child back to such an extent that it will drive them to do whatever it takes. The reality however, is that when that child is no longer with you, the drive to get that child back fades. Unless you are in this situation, understanding it is probably impossible.

On the flip side, having your child with you does drive you to do anything and everything to be the best parent you can be – and as I now know, even somebody else’s child can be a driving force. But then people argue that your motivation is not the child, that you are using the child for yourself. (In my case, to stay clean. But this isn’t true at all. I knew several people in active addiction who had their children living with them. I saw what it did to those children. I don’t want my son with me to “keep me clean”. I am already clean. I want him with me because he is my son and I love him. He is supposed to be with me, and there is nobody in this world who will be a better parent to him than myself.) It’s an argument that makes no sense to me. It’s an insult to my intelligence, and it assumes incorrectly that I am now that same person I was back then when I was using drugs. Not only am I not that person, but also I am better qualified than anybody to teach him just why he should never, under any circumstances, try any such drug himself. I used to phrase this differently. I used to say “Take away my reason not to use, and I will probably use because it doesn’t matter anyway.” That is no longer my argument because I will remain clean either way, but the gist of it remains. Not having my child with me, even though I am clean and sober and perfectly stable, leaves me depressed. I feel as though my sobriety doesn’t matter because I don’t have him with me anyway. Unless he is with me, this is all for nothing.

I only see my son twice a week; the rest of the time I need something else as my focus. As much as my ex used me, I also used her, used my relationship with her daughter as something to focus on, and consequently when my son was not with me, which was most of the time, she was my focus. (“She” meaning my ex’s now two-year-old daughter, my son’s half-sister.) She also became the external trigger for my internal happiness. With her taken away, I still have an improving relationship with my son, but I have all this time that I used to devote to her, which is gone, along with my sense of well-being, my sense of security and stability, and my happiness.

Also, I was focusing on both children. Even when my son wasn’t home with me, she would ask about him all the time. Every time I fetched her from crèche, she would point down the road I would turn into when fetching him. She’d cry on the days that I didn’t fetch him, and I’d have to explain to her that she wasn’t seeing her brother that day. Thus my devotion to her also helped remind me how important my son is to me. It made me unable to forget my feelings for him, which unfortunately used to happen in the past. Every evening at home, she would sit on my lap at the PC, and navigate the photos and videos of her brother. She’d watch some videos I took a year ago of him playing soccer, over and over again. I treasured this time with her. It was the highlight of my day, every day. My issue is that this special time with her, which was most of my time at home, and was about the two children together, is gone, and I have not replaced it with anything meaningful. (Although I am looking into finding ways of occupying my time, they will never have the same value to me emotionally.)

That is why I am sad. I’m not sure if my sadness is normal and to be expected, though I suspect to some extent it is, or if I am really depressed. But right now it feels like, the world was a vibrant, colourful, beautiful place, until about two months ago. Suddenly the world is a dull, emotionless place, desaturated into shades of grey where life and love used to live, and I am a pale, gray-scale reflection of the person I used to be. That’s how I feel, like a monochromatic two-dimensional illusion of myself.

Before, I could always detach from my personal issues. Lately, I can’t. The court case coming up next Monday is a major stressor for me too, and I am not sure how “normal” my response to the stress is. In addition to everything else, I have to deal with all of this. In the past I would have anaesthetized myself by using drugs. I don’t have that anymore, and in my almost two years of sobriety, this is the first real difficulty I have had. That is, I was not prepared for this. My recovery was easy until now because I was happy. As much as I stress that I will remain clean, I also have to acknowledge that all of this is a real risk for my recovery, however small, and that now, more than ever, I have to focus on my recovery again, which is something that I deemed unnecessary months ago.

But I would like to thank the support and advice from my friends online, especially Arnott who has given me some good advice of Facebook. And my brother (and also his girlfriend), with whom my relationship is improving. For a long time, I thought that relationship was beyond repair. I appreciate the advice and support more than I can say.

Sometimes the brightest light might shine from the darkest place, but my batteries are losing their charge

I’m not at work today; I’m on a day’s leave. I’ll get to why in a bit…

Where to start? I’m miserable, absolutely lost and depressed lately, as I have mentioned (after my ex went on a “holiday” to Cape Town that wasn’t really a holiday. She had no intention coming back, and so I am without her two year old daughter, around whom much of my life had come to revolve for the 19 months that she was here.)

But that’s not all. On this coming Monday is the family court case involving our son, who should be back with us but instead the foster care will be renewed for a further two years. I’m not 100% sure I understand why that is, since we did everything that was required for reunification to proceed. At least we did, until my ex left. (I’m not complaining – I will get him back, just not as soon as I thought.)

But it isn’t the first time she’s done something like this. Originally at the end of 2010, when we were still in a normal relationship and our son’s foster care was not formalised, she ran away to Cape Town just two days before he was going to be reunited with us. At the time I did not handle it at all well. Not knowing where she was, I filed a missing person’s report and my brother and I went to every nearby hospital looking for her.

I became almost suicidal and could not handle life on my own. I didn’t relapse immediately but it was just a matter of time. Then I found out that she was in Cape Town and had used, and talked her into stopping and remaining drug-free for a week so that when she returned (with a ticket that I purchased for her), she would be “clean”. That idea didn’t work out so well. We both relapsed together and I could not stop completely until many other things had happened and it was September 2013.

This time I am again not handling the situation very well but in a completely different way. I haven’t used, and will not use, but all this is getting to me and I am struggling to focus at work, struggling to motivate myself to do anything at all. This weekend she plans to visit so that we can go out together with both children, but someone has questioned her sobriety. (Rightly so, I suppose; but I believe that she is clean.) I suggested to her that she does a test, but I do think it is unfair that she is expected to do one but nobody has asked me. Yes, everybody knows I am clean and I am grateful to have regained some trust, but I still feel bad for her. It feels like a double standard, so I decided to do a test this week. I was going to do one on Friday morning, but would’ve had to take time off work. Being off anyway for today gave me a chance to do it without having to rush back to work afterwards.

But in the meantime, I have been struggling at work. I have a ridiculous deadline: Four projects in two weeks. Realistically that may be out of reach even under normal circumstances, but as I am right now, being unable to concentrate and focus due to all of the stress (and since I want to keep this brief I haven’t written about all of it), meeting my deadlines is quite impossible. My boss was overseas for two weeks so I couldn’t tell him about this drama happening in the meantime, but I did tell him yesterday. I told him how I am struggling, how I got very little work done yesterday – almost nothing. And he suggested that I take a day off. It’s only one day, but here I am.

I wonder how other people deal with such stress? I don’t seem to be handling it at all well. I’m still clean, but that seems insignificant if I am unable to detach from my personal issues at work. Every time I try to focus, my mind wonders off to never-never land and when it returns, hours have passed. Yesterday I only got into some sort of a zone where I made some progress at work around 4PM, but it was progress I should’ve made at around 9AM. And of course, I felt mentally knackered and didn’t want to be there.

Anyway, here’s a test I did this morning. At least the court accepts SANCA tests, but as I say, my sobriety is not an issue. There is no chance that I will ever use meth again. None! It does piss me off that this time is passing so slowly. I’ll be two years clean on September 4th. That’s only three months away, but a long and annoying wait for the next milestone.

Edit 2016-02-16: Someone from SANCA Phoenix House caled me because two addicts used my negative test to forge test results for themselves. I am thus removing all tests uploaded to this blog.

Feeling numb

I’m feeling numb. After a good day spent with my son yesterday, I am still suffering with the sadness I’ve felt lately. It can’t be helped – there are a hundred and one different reminders of the little girl I grew to love and whom ‘round my life revolved. Everything is different now and I have all this time that I used to spend with her. Today I went to Edgars to buy a new pair of jeans, but everywhere I go there are others who have children around her age. Every child carrying a balloon is a ghost of her memory and every ghost of every memory is a wave of teary-eyed pain and melancholy threatening to drown me in a sea of sorrow.

I wrote this post intending only to share these mind-numbing videos I’ve been watching – more ghosts from my past when I listened to such music. Yet the words that flowed by accident above sum up my mood so much better.

Anyway, I stumbled onto these via reading a fellow atheist’s shares on Facebook.