Don’t Tell Me To Cheer Up

Written by Hollye Dexter

Greetings from the pit of despair. I’ve fallen into a black hole of my own making and I can’t get up. Where’s the life alert for that one?

Usually I’m pretty strong. I have a big life, with a lot on my plate, but I balance it well most of the time.

Some days I crash.


Today is a bad day.

But the people in my life expect me to be strong and centered. Always. When I’m not, I find myself alone. People pull away from me. It makes them uncomfortable to see me down. The message I get is Go back to being how we expect you to be.

Sometimes its just not possible for me to wrap it up and put on the brave face. Someone dropped a boulder into my still waters, The ripples are still reverberating, and all the muck at the bottom has been stirred up. So I isolate. And I write about all that muck.


Muck you, muck!

No matter how much therapy I’ve done, there are days it gets to me that I have two living parents who don’t want me in their lives. I’ve been estranged from my mother for seven years. And not because I’ve done anything to her. I was a good kid, never in any trouble, not into drugs, never got pregnant or brought any grief to them. No. My sin is I spoke up against abuse that had happened in the family. I had the nerve to speak the truth, and was banished from the kingdom of dysfunction.

Today is one of those days when I can’t shake the image of my mother staring into my eyes with pure hatred. I was her mirror. All of her disappointment and anger at herself was projected onto me. No matter how good a girl I was, I could never fix it. I performed, I excelled, I tried to shine as best I could, but I couldn’t ever change what she saw in that mirror- me. And I have the unfortunate added bonus of looking just like her.

Instead, she adores my brother. He has been a drug addict since his early teens. He was in a lock down rehab high school, and has been in and out of jail and rehab all his adult life. He has threatened her life with physical violence, punched and kicked holes in the walls of her home, cost her thousands and thousands of dollars in bail money and court costs. Yet he is the one she loves.

My father doesn’t hate me. He is ambivalent toward me, at best. He abandoned me when I was three years old. I found him when I was thirty-nine. When I asked him if he had ever expected to hear from me, he said, “ I always thought I’d get a phone call one day, and someone would tell me that you were dead.” So after leaving me in the situation I was in at three years old, he assumed I’d end up dead but still made no attempt to find me. He added, “I’m glad your mom decided to keep you.” Gee thanks, Dad.

I’ve spent the last seven years trying to build a relationship with him but he doesn’t return my phone calls, doesn’t acknowledge the cards and gifts I send. If my sister-in-law or stepmom answer the phone and physically put the receiver in his hands, he’ll talk to me, say he’s sorry for never calling, and tell me how much he loves me, but if I stopped calling and showing up on his doorstep, he would simply let me slip away. Again.

Is that love?

Today I am swimming in this emotional muck. Drowning is more like it. What can I do.

Write about it.

Write about how much it fucking sucks that I have two living parents who don’t care about me. Write about how much it hurts that until I met my husband, I never knew what it felt like to be loved or to have someone in my corner. Write about how mad I am at myself for holding on to some kind of stupid hope that if I was a good enough person, I could fix it all. For me this is a pain that never goes away. I vacillate between sadness, anger and apathy, but it’s always there.

It’s my pity-party and I’ll cry if I want to. So what.


But in our society, we don’t like people to be sad! God forbid. Get some Zoloft, Prozac, whatever it takes – make it go away! Don’t talk about it, don’t show it, and for god’s sake, don’t feel it! Cheer up! Be strong!

God it makes me crazy! We stuff our feelings and anesthetize ourselves with prescription drugs, alcohol, food. Look at us! We are dying of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and stress. I don’t want to be numb to my life. I want to hear the message in my pain and learn from it. Letting the waves of sadness wash over me is a necessary part of the healing process.

I am grieving the loss of two living parents. So let me be sad today. Don’t tell me not to be. Don’t tell me to be strong. Don’t tell me to count my blessings. Let me find my own way back to strength, in my own time. And what ever you do, DON’T TELL ME TO CHEER UP.

And I know that in a few days I will brush myself off and get back up again, just like I always do.

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