The Sixth Street Bridge

The Sixth Street Bridge
At the tender age of 17, I walked across this bridge, alone, into Downtown Pittsburgh, with $300 in my pocket that my mother had given me to get an abortion. I went into the Fulton Building (in the picture) and did what I was told to do. I didn't have a choice - if I did, I wouldn't have chosen abortion.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

26 years

I've been kind of obsessing over numbers lately, numbers of years since I've been with my husband (19), the number of years since becoming a Mom (11), the number of years I've lived away from the town I grew up in (18), and now the shadow of the most looming number is creeping nearer and nearer. Two weeks from now will mark the 26th year since my abortion.

26 years.

Seems like forever and yesterday at the same time.  When I began this journey, I had to sit down quite a few times and piece together a timeline to clear up the fogginess that 20 years of repression can cause.  Over the past several months, we've been doing some reorganizing at home and I've been coming across lots of memorabilia and keepsakes.  I found a box of all of my datebooks and calendars that I had kept.  I found my wall calendar from senior year of high school - one of those school year ones that start with August.  Right there in black and white on my calendar on August 22, was "AWS," in cute, bubble letters no less.  Allegheny Women's Services.

I didn't need the calendar to tell me that, but it was nice to have my memory confirmed as correct.  With grieving, I'm told, it's healthy to have a day to memorialize someone that you lost. A day to mark the occasion and then move on with your life I suppose.  The last couple of years I've tried by placing flowers at my retreat sight and on the memorial to the unborn at my church.  This year I'm not sure what I'll do.  I don't think I've really learned how to grieve at all.  I've never lost anyone close to me, my parents are alive and the only grandmother I really knew died when I was about 12 and it didn't really affect me much.  I don't have any experience with death or grief.

Lack of experience isn't the only thing that holds me back from grieving - I think that if I grieve for Grace that she's somehow going to be gone.  I ignored her for so long - I don't want that to happen.  If I grieve for her then I think I'll feel that she's gone and I'm trying to bank on the words of Blessed JPII that "nothing is definitively lost."  It doesn't feel right to grieve for her, when I talk to her sometimes.

Perhaps then, when August 22 rolls around each year, I'm not grieving for Grace at all.  Maybe I'm grieving for the loss of so many other things, things I've talked about on this blog of mine.  The loss of innocence.  The loss of dignity.  The loss of self worth.  I grieve for what the abortion left behind in me.  Fear of men.  Fear of doctors.  Fear of life.  I grieve for the life I think I should have had instead of the interrupted one I got.

The life I have now is pretty well blessed and I know that, but there is a part of me that's just, well... me, I guess.  I have talked about my struggle with depression a bit.  I've laid so much of my life out here on this blog, but it's difficult to talk about having a diagnosis of depression.  It's like an admission of defeat, of failure.  I've struggled with antidepressants for 20 years now.  How I need them. How I hate them.  Depression is a tricky, tricky thing.  It makes you feel horrible in ways very few people can understand and usually those closest to you have no idea what you are going through and how the simplist of ideas can become so twisted in your mind.  Sometimes nothing at all is easy. 

I tried to be medication free for a while and within just a few months of everything having time to be out of my system, the depression returned, with a vengeance.  I really thought I could do it on my own.  I choke on the words, but it seems that there is little I can do on my own at all.  After my abortion, I continued with my senior year of high school and left for college.  By the second semester of my freshman year, I had attempted suicide twice.  One not-so-serious attempt, and one pretty damn serious.   I had a third suicide attempt when I was 20 and soon after I voluntarily went for an inpatient hospital stay.  Through all three of those attempts and treatment, not once did I talk about the abortion.  Sometimes I wonder if I had been treated properly back then, maybe I wouldn't be where I am now.  I'll never know.

Suicidal ideation can be a very scary thing and it's something that you can't really talk about to anyone.  It's hard to talk about it without someone immediately thinking you need to be admitted to a hospital STAT.  That fear makes it impossible to confide in anyone.  It's possible to be depressed to the point of thinking of suicide and still function - I'm living proof.  But, it would be nice if I could talk about it.  For me, it's part of who I am. I just most often think that I am completely replaceable in this life and that the people I care most about would be better off without me.  Maybe those feelings will change, but I've had them all of my life it seems.  A feeling that I will never be good enough.  I will never be valuable enough.

So, what I'm dealing with are two very huge secrets in my life.  The fact that I have depression and probably always will and the fact that I had an abortion.  Two taboo subjects.  Two things that affect my life every day that my feet hit the floor.  It's exhausting sometimes to lead this double life of mine.  No matter how depressed I may be, no matter if it's the 26th anniversary of my abortion, I still have to get up, make breakfast, do some laundry, and go on with the day.  I can't wallow in it physically, so I wallow in it in my mind. I wallow in it emotionally. I wallow in it spiritually. But, I wear a mask for much of my life.  Sometimes, I wish I could take it off. 

It's for all of these reasons that I've decided to try a new medication.  Unfortunately, antidepressants take time to work.  I'm trying to be patient.  After a week, the constant lump in my throat seems to have subsided.  I feel a little, I guess it could be labeled as "better," but I'm not sure what better feels like.  I feel a little numb, but I may be mistaking normal for numb.  I'm going to try to give it a month or so and see.

I just wasn't any match for the depression that tears me part from the inside.  The medication won't teach me how to grieve.  It won't tell me what to do this August 22nd.  The medication won't give me back all the years I feel I've been cheated out of.  But, maybe it will help me to focus on something else.  Hopefully, it will help me to not wallow so much.  Hopefully, it will help to make these two halves of me whole.


  1. *hugs* Keeping you in my prayers

  2. a novena was begun for you today. and a candle lit.

    1. wow. humbled. thank you, truly.

    2. My dear precious lady, you will be in my prayers.

  3. He has so much in store for you. That has become so clear in the days of the novena. Much consolation and hope. An infinite number of graces for these days now and even more at that moment of reunion. Infinite graces now! His love for you and for all those for whom eight twenty-two is a black day on their calendars, marked or unmarked, is so intense. It makes any 'situation room' in the history of man look like romper room. And yet it is as gentle as the minute petals of the forget-me-nots. I beg of all the saints in Heaven that you will know this in such a profound way, this week especially, but in all the remaining days of your jouney until that reunion. There is much gratitude to Him for you. So much...Unable to express it, really, other than thru prayers and candles and tears. All unseen except by Him. Your voice thru these words since the launching of this blog has been as His presence to me, to countless more. Wth love ~


  5. Thank you for sharing this. I found your blog via Mark Shea and your story reminds me that we are never alone. This month it will be 30 years since my abortion. It's been my secret and only known by the priest to whom I confessed and received absolution. I have also suffered with depression all my life. For the last 10 years I have surrendered to the necessity of antidepressants in my life. It never goes completely away... but on the better days I remember that my emotional life always exists in an augmented form. I believe that we feel everything more than others do. It drives our passion -- whether that be for art, for music, for love. I believe that there is purpose for us all and on the not-so-good days I simply place my trust in Him. I pray for you and for the peace that lives beneath the pain. Blessings and thank you.

  6. Take heart - self knowledge is good!

    We - us members of fallen humanity, sinners all - use masks to protect our vulnerable psyches. that's where per-sona comes from, did you know, we are actors who sona/sound per/through? Our authentic self, our true identity is formed by respect for other areas than only our emotions tho' so don't despair: potency tied to physical health (fresh air, nutrition and rest -- or lack thereof that needs a remedy) competency tied to autonomy (moral free will in financial, legal, professional state-in-life -- or constraints thereupon that need unleashing) and our confidence tied to spiritual graces received (in prayer, meditation, love of neighbor -- or neglect thereof that can be alleviated).

    A dear now-deceased wise pastor told me that sensitive souls can suffer from excessive anxiety and can be plagued by depressive thoughts when they eat up anger by attempting to hide discord in relationships, a form of ignorance really, through a kind of pagan Stoic 'pride' in their own unworthiness. This mind map I found on a web site created by a Catholic High School teacher in Canada was very insightful for me -

  7. (contd.)
    We are vulnerable and can be wounded by certain circumstances, our natural human emotional response to evil follows one or both of two paths: our concupiscable appetites for self-comfort that we cannot satisfy sensibly directly results in sadness, and the virtue we need to develop to deal with this emotional strain is ... (if you follow the mind map to lower right - patience!) and our irascible appetite (for self-actuation) that cannot be resolved mentally through agency of interaction results in despair (map upper left). IOW being stuck in sadness can be a self-comforting appetite-misplaced: we can make ourselves sad by indulging in narcissistic self-reflection on the hateful experience that's unavoidable (ie why self-pity isn't virtuous even if it "feels" like it should be!) and despair can be the result of misplaced self-aggrandizing, thinking we can 'just do it' or achieve a difficult outcome that is unfeasible merely if we 'think strong' as the popular Nike and Lance Armstrong slogans would - wrongly - have us believe. Nike does mean "victory" but Christ is the Victor who shows us the way via infused virtues; fruits of the gifts of the Holy Spirit! A Catholic psychologist here in Philly Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons recommends working on our self doubts through the virtues as a practical path for healing
    (ie purifying memory of our vices) and rediscovering our true identity (as beloved sons and daughters of God who desires us for himself, each and every one. seen and unseen) I hope these links are helpful, meanwhile relax and enjoy August 22nd's Google Doodle marking 151st anniversary of French composer's birth, an animation set to Clair de lune, one of his best-known pieces.
    while contemplating the virtue of hope: we Catholics can celebrate not only the day he was born but also the day he entered eternal life - March 25th the feast day of the Annunciation, the day in our Lady's fertile feminine cycle when the moon shone brightest! Hope springs eternal ... for the soul is destined for it we seek it as our good with our hearts ~~ our concupiscible appetites ~~ and our heads ~~ our irascible appetites ~~ we can't help ourselves: that's what we are made for!
    God Bless you and your nearest and dearest, I appreciate your posting and allowing comments on this thread as witness to courage (ie fortitude in the mind map I linked to*) -- the virtue that helps encourage others in their own healing, a work of mercy indeed.
    *as well as witnessing to temperance by medicating wisely rather than resorting to self-medicating complications of addictive compulsion (perhaps in examining the chart in detail you'll discover other virtues you've not given yourself enough credit for - and self-love is very important to cultivate when fighting the battle with diabolical temptations to self negation, don't forget. The Deceiver would have us believe the lie that we're worthless - don't let encourage him by focusing only on your weaknesses, spend time counting blessings, I know it sounds trite, but gratitude is an attitude we can cultivate like all our appetites!

  8. p.s.
    'Memory and Identity' was the name of chapter in a book I recall by Pope JPII that struck me on my journey with depression and self-pity - he took a look at the concept for nation states (such as those former Communist bloc countries behind the Iron Curtain which he had had to live under) that have to face reconciling mercy for past structures of sin with hope for a more peaceful future with a hopeful 'purified memory' identity ...