Life has been rough lately, and I have been struggling to figure out why. I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, and I have little hope left in my heart these days. Everything seems to be a struggle: from making dinner to getting our two kids settled down for the night. I feel like an extra on “The Walking Dead” as I shuffle through life and all it brings. It started back in November with my husband. We were both crushed by the results of our state and local elections. A feeling of helplessness hung over our heads as we realized that the GOP would remain in control here in Michigan. The Michigan Republicans are decidedly unfriendly to LGBT people and to teachers. We are both of those.
We were also waiting for a ruling from the 6th Circuit Court regarding the repeal of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. I had joked via Twitter that we would probably have Ebola in Michigan before marriage equality, and one afternoon after the elections, that prophecy came true. No, it wasn’t Ebola, it was the 6th Circuit Court upholding the 2004 voter approved proposal against same-sex marriage. Tod, my husband, had not heard the news, so when he came home, I grabbed him and told him what the court had ruled. I could see in his eyes he was crushed. We hugged and then we bonked our wedding rings together like the Wonder Twins in solidarity. I knew that this would be the outcome all along. I had little hope of the 6th Circuit Court agreeing with the end of the ban, so when the news came, it was no shock to me. But Tod took it hard. He was sad and unable to deal with the feelings that this brought. I was proactive after the ruling and ditched a ton of my commitments in the community. I needed to focus on my family and bring what little energy I had into our lives to help keep us together. Tod went to our physician (at my prodding) and he got some help from the doctor and he is doing fine now.
As the month wore on and the holidays approached, I couldn’t shake the funk from my shoulders. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. I do however have access to the internet and I did some self-diagnosis over how I was feeling and it became clear to me that this wasn’t just depression I was dealing with, it was something deeper. I found Robert Hirschfield’s “When the blues won’t go away” at our local library and I discovered that I most likely have dysthymic disorder. DD (as it’s known) is a low level, chronic mood malfunction. It’s not as severe as a major depression, bi-polar disease, or other macro-behavioral problems, but it is real and persistent and does not usually go away on its own. DD can go on for years, and it’s often impossible for the person affected to know that it is going on. Now, before you panic, I have made an appointment with our doctor and I am going in for a checkup to make sure that I am okay. In Hirschfield’s book, he mentions that trauma in your life can cause this disorder and he urges self-reflection to sit down and find out what was causing it.
I did that, and for me, the tipping point came when our governor announced that he would not challenge the appeal on the 300 marriages that were performed when the window was open last year. That was great news for many of our friends who took advantage of the window and got hitched that Saturday. But for us, our marriage in California is still not legal in Michigan. The unfairness of it all sucks, and it hurts. I started thinking about this and I realized that for the past ten years, I have been living in a state of angst over gay marriage and how it affects me. I was heavily involved in the struggle to defeat Proposition 4 in 2004 and when it came to be, I was pissed. I retreated to my own little world and shut out the world. I didn’t feel wanted, I didn’t feel loved, and I didn’t feel like a viable member of society. At the time, Tod and I had only had a commitment ceremony to cement our vows, but with this prohibition on the books, it seemed almost impossible to do anything else.
But then there was a ray of hope, streaming in from the west. California had approved same-sex marriage and there wasn’t a residency requirement. We were elated at the news and made plans in 2008 to fly out to San Francisco to get legally married on the 7th anniversary of our commitment ceremony in 2001.
But then Proposition 8 reared its ugly head and it all began to fall apart just a few months after our big day. The voters in California approved it and we, as well as the thousands of other couples were left wondering if our legal marriages were still intact. We knew that they would mean nothing here in Michigan, but we took the time, the money, and the risk to make it happen, not only for us as a couple, but for our daughter as well (Eli was not yet in the picture).
You know the rest of this story, and you know how it all played out a few summers ago with the repeal of DOMA and Edie Windsor’s triumph before the Supreme Court. But it hasn’t been a success for us. We’re still waiting and the waiting and uncertainty is what’s causing this depression and angst in my life. There are serious ramifications for our family, both from a personal (my legal adoption of Eli) and from a financial standpoint (insurance, taxes, etc.).
It’s time for us to finally be able to say we are legally married here in the Mitten and get out of this depressive state. I see my doctor next week and I am going to share with him what I have found out about DD and hopefully he’ll be able to shed some light on my mental state and offer me some solutions. I need to get my hope back for the sake of my kids and marriage. I need to get my peace of mind back for my own sanity and general health. I can’t wait for June and the ruling from the Supreme Court. It is our hope that this cloud of inequality will finally pass and we can get on with our lives as a healthy, sane (?) and legally married couple here in Michigan.