Dear Annie: My ex and I got married when I was 19. We stayed together for 10 years, during which I was dealing with untreated depression. That did not make life easy for either of us. Eventually, he left, leaving me to care for the kids. He gave us some financial support but was not present in their lives.
Unfortunately, I did not give my kids the attention I know now they badly needed. I was preoccupied with my worry about being alone forever. I have tried to make up for this since, but my daughters still harbor a deep resentment for me. I have told them numerous times how much I regret my behavior and offered to hear all their sadness as a consequence of my actions without trying to defend myself. But they have both cut me out.
My son, the youngest, is still in my life and has reassured me that I was not a terrible mother. He also suffers from depression, and for years he abused drugs. I blame the fact that he had no father in the home for those important first years.
Even after all these years, I am still preoccupied with my time married to my ex. Random thoughts are always about him — what could have been — and I always feel on the verge of tears.
I’m about to turn 70. Is there a way to finally put this behind me? I’ve had much therapy over the years but still revert to the pain and sadness about the childhood I was unable to give my kids and the loss of my marriage. I think that if I go into therapy again, nothing will change. But should I try again?
— Regretful Mom
Dear Regretful Mom: To the question of whether to try therapy again, my answer is always yes. In your case, especially so. You’ve been dealing with clinical depression since you were a teen. That black dog, as Winston Churchill called it, can’t just be shaken off. Therapy won’t wash away all your pain and regret, but it can help make your feelings more manageable and life more enjoyable.
Additionally, in light of your son’s drug abuse, you might benefit from a support group such as Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org), LifeRing Secular Recovery (www.lifering.org) or Families Anonymous (www.familiesanonymous.org).