“For the last 3 years my mom and I have made a costume a day for my son Sawyer, and my husband takes photos of our creations. When people find out about our costumes the first thing out of their mouths is ‘why?’ I typically give a throw-away answer like ‘because I’m crazy’ or ‘because I don’t sleep,’ but that’s not the full truth. I have decided to share my story because I am a big believer in honesty and even though it’s painful, it’s mine.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad owned the oldest home salvage yard in Texas. My sister, brother and I grew up in a nice neighborhood in a beautiful house with great schools. We had everything we needed and nearly everything we wanted. Even with all of that, I’ve suffered from depression for nearly my entire life. I was 14 when formally diagnosed but I’ve had a hard time regulating my emotions from the time I was 8 on. I never really felt like I fit in with my peers. Maybe it was because I was a year younger than my classmates or maybe it was because of my dysgraphia (a learning disability that affects handwriting and fine motor skills), or maybe it was because my dad was the ‘junk man’ in a neighborhood filled with white collar professionals – the fact is, I just didn’t fit the mold. My amazing parents did all they could by getting me to the very best specialists and doctors. They loved me unconditionally and were my biggest advocates, but even with all their support, I still had my issues. Somehow, I got through them. I got through high school, went off to college, fell madly in love, got engaged, moved back home in April of 2012, bought a house and became my dad’s business partner. Life was good and I was happy. It seemed like everything was going to plan.
On January 26th, 2013, my father was murdered. It happened on a Saturday 6 weeks to the day before my junkyard wedding, and instead of going to our scheduled cake tasting that Monday, we were planning a funeral. Instead of going to dancing lessons for our father-daughter dance, I was writing my eulogy. It sent me into a deep depression. When I lost my dad, I didn’t just lose a parent. I lost one of the few people who loved me just for me, and it wrecked me. I felt like my world had stopped spinning but I didn’t have the option of crawling in a ball. Instead I had to figure out how to keep running a business. I had to plan a wedding at my family business. I had to figure out what to do with my childhood house.
Obviously I had help, but at that moment in time I felt so alone. My mom who is without question the strongest, kindest most loving person I know, my incredible siblings, my at the time fiancé and I made it all work, but the crushing feeling never went away. We had planned to go to Paris for our honeymoon but after all that happened it was no longer a possibility. A kind friend got us a hotel room in New Orleans and we went there instead. I had my first real breakdown there as I realized that nothing was ever going to be the same. I was now a business owner with $800,000 of debt left over from my father, and as I sat in our hotel room looking out over the French Quarter I felt hopeless. Darren (my husband) held me and tried to make me better, but there wasn’t anything he could do to take my anguish away.
I am a planner. I like lists and order. I don’t do well with change and I like to have a plan from A-Z. Losing my dad wasn’t a part of my plan. I was supposed to be my dad’s business partner, have a kid at 28, take a year off, swap my starter home for my childhood home and then take over the business. I wasn’t supposed to be the girl whose dad was murdered. It wasn’t something I had ever prepared for. None of my worst-case scenario plans had accounted for it, nor had they prepared me to be in so much debt. My dad used to sing ‘Beautiful Boy’ by John Lennon to my little brother and it contains one of my all-time favorite lyrics: ‘Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans,’ and that’s exactly what happened. All of my beautiful, well thought out plans became impossible. My world was in a tailspin and I didn’t know how to fix it. Side by side my mom and I handled the business. We chipped away the debt and turned things around. We proved people wrong and kept things going but I was still so broken. The loss of my father left a giant hole in my heart and I came to the conclusion that the only way to be happy again was to have a baby. My thought was that if I had something else to love I wouldn’t be so sad, which is a good idea in theory but it didn’t quite work out the way I planned.
It took me over a year to get pregnant and with each failed pregnancy test I felt even more hopeless. Not only could I not control my sadness, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. When I finally got that double line, I was ecstatic. I felt like I finally had a win. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy. I was sick the entire time and not just kind of sick. I lost 15 pounds in my first trimester from throwing up so much but I knew it be worth it because the end result would lead to happiness. I just told myself every day that as soon as I had my baby I would be happy again. It was worth the heartburn, the sciatic nerve pain, the constant vomit, swollen feet and stretch marks.
Only it didn’t work out that way. I was madly in love with Sawyer and believed he was my biggest accomplishment, but the hole in my heart was still there. I didn’t suffer from typical postpartum depression. I didn’t feel like I was unworthy or that I was a horrible mom. I was just still sad. There were days I looked at Sawyer and cried because my dad wasn’t here to know him. If anything, having Sawyer just made the loss of my father harder. He would never know what my dad smelled like or how one of his hugs could make the world seem better. He would never know what it felt like when John Hargrove entered a room and feel the energy change. How could I be okay when the man who loved me so much wasn’t here to meet my miracle?
In July of 2016 when Sawyer was 7 months old, I had a dream. It was one of those weird ones where things don’t really make sense and the colors are all wrong but somehow still feels so real. My dad and Sawyer were in it, and in the dream Sawyer was dressed up like a penguin and dad told me how cute he looked. He told me he was proud of me and that he still had my back and that I needed to live in the now, not the ‘could have beens.’ The next day I woke up and decided my dad was telling me I needed to do something that made me happy. When my mom picked me up that day for work (we carpool together), I told her I wanted to make a Halloween costume a day and that I needed her help. I’m going to interrupt my very long story to express that none of the costumes would be possible without my mom. That woman is a whiz with a hot glue gun, a master of felt and a genius when it comes to visualization. I couldn’t do it without her. My mom didn’t once tell me it was a crazy idea.
She started brainstorming and got just as into as I did. We made my lists and started crafting. We spent weeks making them on the same table that we used to eat family dinners at. With every cut of fabric, I started feeling more like my old self. I laughed more and began to see the joy in life again. Instead of trying to fix everything, I did something that made me happy. I did something just for me.
By the end of that first October of costumes, I felt whole again. As a huge added bonus, it turned out that the costumes brought others happiness as well which is why I decided to do it again. If my mom and I crafting silly costumes brings just one person pure joy, then all the hot glue gun burns, hours of thought and the month of a very cluttered dining nook is worth it. I don’t know how much longer we will continue doing them because it’s really up to Sawyer at this point, but as long as he is enjoying it we will keep doing it.
I’m not going to pretend that making costumes took away every bit of my sadness, but without them I don’t know where I would be right now. Depression is a bitch and there is no shame in it. I am no expert and in no way am I recommending making a bunch of costumes, but I can say that for me, the way I found happiness was to do something I loved. It didn’t matter to me that when I told people about it they told me it was crazy or that it was a waste of time, because it gave me a purpose.
So there you go y’all. That’s my story. It’s not pretty but it’s mine, and I hope by sharing it maybe it will make others feel less alone in their struggles. I promise there is a light at the end of the tunnel and as my dad used to tell me, ‘it will all be okay.’”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Hargrove, 29, of Dallas, Texas. You can follow their costume adventures on her Facebook page. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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