Dear Dr. Archer,
I have lost myself, and have turned to food for comfort. This has caused hypertension and even more depression. I am currently on Social Security Disability, due to a mental breakdown. Here is my long and complicated story.
I was 23 years old in 1986 when I married a man 16 years my senior. He had previously been married four times. We had lived together for over a year, and life was good. As soon as the ring was on my finger, he became a different person. He felt he owned me and became controlling.
We moved from the west coast to Texas, his home state, with his dysfunctional family. I was cut off from my family and friends, becoming enmeshed in a world of alcoholics. I miscarried twice then had a daughter in 1991. He decided he had worked enough and chose to be a stay-at-home dad.
At one point I was working three jobs to pay the bills. Though I had good jobs before, once we married he wanted me to get a job fast. The quickest I could get was as a nursing assistant in a nursing home, which I hated. He tired of watching the baby and I had to put her in daycare. In 1994 we filed bankruptcy, as I couldn't keep up with the bills and his alcohol.
He learned about the local police academy, and he told me he had always wanted to be a cop, but couldn't because of height and weight limits -- he was too small. He wanted to enroll, so I added his tuition into our budget. After graduating, he got a part time job with an armored truck service, servicing ATM machines.
After graduating from the academy, he volunteered work for the local constable. A year later he found employment in a small town near us. In 1999 his younger brother, also an alcoholic and bipolar, graduated from the academy. On December 23, 2000 my husband was shot and killed in the line of duty. Our daughter was 9 at that time.
His brother was with him when he was shot. It was said they were ambushed, and they caught the killer. But rumors started that my brother-in-law had actually shot my husband. It was rumored we were having an affair, and he had killed his own brother.
NONE of this is true, but I learned about it when my daughter came home from school and told me. My daughter no longer wanted to go to school, not only because of the rumors, but she was scared something would happen to me.
The neighboring towns became divided, truth versus rumors. I was no longer "family," and one wife mentioned they were talking to an attorney about calling me an unfit mother. The survivor's benefits were in the six figures, so I immediately had a will drawn up putting my brother guardian of my daughter in case something happened to me. The family ceased their pursuit of custody.
My daughter had begun self-harming, and I felt the best thing was to return to my home roots of Oregon. I bought a home near where I grew up. Dad came from California to drive one of my vehicles, and on moving day the brother-in-law came over and pleaded with my daughter not to leave him. Dad told us to leave ASAP, he was so freaked out by my brother-in-law's behavior.
In Oregon, I was able to get my daughter off antidepressants, but I was having panic attacks. I'd drive around aimlessly, staying away from home, not wanting to be alone. Guilt set in, as although my life was better without a controlling man, I had loved him.
His daughter, four years my junior, had needed money and I helped her. I gave her thousands of dollars -- for a car and a down payment for a mobile home. She and her husband wanted more, but I refused.
In February, 2002 the murder trial began. I flew to Texas for a month. The guy was found not guilty by a jury of his pals. Yes, the Attorney General's office was so sure they had a slam dunk case they allowed one of the guy's drinking buddies and a friend of the family as a juror.
I was sick. I sat through a trial that left no doubt, yet had to return and tell my daughter we had been let down again. At one point during the trial, they showed autopsy photos of my husband, who had been shot in the face. I had to leave and was comforted outside by a lieutenant deputy. We became friends.
In October I received a call from this lieutenant that the killer was now facing federal weapons charges. He also told me he was divorced. We emailed and IM'd each other and decided we were in love.
In March he left everything he knew and came to live with my daughter and me. I had become a hoarder, and clothes, jewelry, toys were everywhere. My soul mate cleaned everything and hauled 32 bags of clothes to Goodwill.
He had me see a doctor while he got part time work as a major crimes investigator. He later testified at the federal trial, where the killer was found guilty of illegally carrying a firearm. The defense tried saying we were having an affair at the time and he planted evidence and the rumors started again. The killer was sentenced to prison until 2012.
My soul mate and I decided to move to Oklahoma, living on a lake and be closer to his family. I received counseling and was put on Social Security disability. In 2006 my partner for life had a heart attack and was given five months to live. My daughter, now 15, who loved this man like a father, presented him the paperwork to legally change her last name to his. He got sicker and sicker and my daughter began the self-destructive behavior again. She'd sneak out for sex, cigarettes and alcohol. She then entered the Air Force in 2010.
My love had, by this time, had another heart attack and was in hospice care. My girl was not doing well in the Air Force because her dad was dying. She failed, but was able to be home when he passed in December. Those two had gotten together earlier and purchased a home. He paid for half, and she'd pay the other half with his paycheck. After his death, his checks quit coming and she had no income. I tried helping, but got deeper and deeper in debt.
Her fiance’ eventually moved in, and took over the payments. But now I'm in such debt, I had to sell my boat and won't be able to make credit card payments until a lawsuit is settled. See, in 2009 a piece of an 18 wheeler came through my windshield, forcing me to have surgery. I found out my beloved's best friend was having sex with my daughter when she was 14. He knew she couldn't tell, as it would've killed her dad.
I want him to go to jail, but can't make my daughter go through a trial against a respected man in the community. I can't handle being ostracized by another community. My brother called, saying his wife of 20 plus years left him.
I don't know what to do. I can't get out and do anything, except I walk occasionally. I keep getting fatter and depressed. I haven't seen a psychiatrist since 2008, when he said he could no longer see outpatients.
I miss my husband, and feel guilty my daughter was molested on my watch. She has moved on, but I am falling back into the deepest, darkest place. I can't sleep longer than a couple of hours and am finding it harder to do everyday chores. I sometimes have nightmares.
As I said before, I turn to food for comfort, and I'm watching myself get fatter and fatter. Any advice would be good. I'd write a book, but I don't know how. I take Prozac 20mg, Abilify 15mg and Trazadone 150mg, but am still very bummed.
Please accept my condolences for the loss of both of your husbands. You have been through much, to be sure. I’m going to give you several pointers below, but the first thing you must do is see a psychiatrist again soon. You are on 3 psychiatric meds and these need to be maintained by an expert. Also it sounds like you are still depressed so a med adjustment may be needed.
I understand why you would find comfort in food, as you have had to cope with much. This is a common problem. Many people eat when they feel lonely, angry, bored, or sad. It may feel good at the time, but regrettable later. Let's stop it now, and find better coping skills for you.
Here are a few things that I believe will help you out. Try them, and don't be too hard on yourself. The more impatient you get with yourself, the longer this will take. This did not happen overnight, and it will not correct itself overnight. Patience and being in tune with your feelings will win the race.
**Express yourself. You mentioned that you'd write a book, but that you didn't know how. That's really an excellent idea, Lynn! You don't need to know how; you just do it. Write that book, or perhaps keep a journal. Expressing yourself on paper can help keep you in touch with how you're feeling, and also release tension you're carrying with you.
Drawing or painting is also a great way to express yourself. If you don't know how to paint, that's not a problem. No one has to see this. This is for YOU. Practice sketching then try colors, then perhaps paints. It's a process, and who knows? You might find something that really works for you.
**Sing and play music. Everybody loves music, and it's good for the soul. Sing in the shower. Sing while you do those chores you don't want to do -- it'll make the time pass quicker and you'll feel good while you do it.
**Reach for gum when you feel like you want to eat. This can actually make you become more aware of your harmful eating habits. If you feel like you must eat, reach for the phone and call a friend or your daughter. Talk it out -- having support does wonders! If you don't have someone to call, get online with a support group.
If you get to the point when you just need to eat for comfort, turn to a carrot, apple or celery. Schedule your meals every 2 or 3 hours. Smaller portions more often are better than 3 large meals.
**Walk. You said you do so occasionally. Well, start making this a habit. Thirty minutes daily, briskly if you are able, but don't hurt yourself.
You can do this, Lynn. It will take determination and effort, but it will be well worth it. Before eating, make sure you're eating because you're hungry, not because you're troubled. Make sure you're eating the right things, and be mindful of every single bite you put in your mouth. Is it mealtime but you're not hungry? Then don't eat. Wait until you're hungry. Food does not have to be your enemy.
I'd like you to reconsider your reluctance to bring this pillar of the community to court for molesting your daughter when she was only 14 years old. Your daughter is an adult now, so it would be something to think about. The reason I say this is that if he did it to your daughter, he may be doing it to other vulnerable girls, and that would be a tragedy. Ultimately, that is your daughter's call, but I think the two of you should discuss it.
Contact your debtors and explain your situation. They are likely to put you on a low monthly pay without interest until your lawsuit is settled. Then you can settle with them.
In other words, Lynn, don't sit back and suffer. Stand up and be active in your life. Only you have the power to say "Enough!" That time is now. You can do this, and I wish you nothing but good will from now on.