Oh, Shenandoah, I’m bound to leave you

When I left the marriage, I did not leave him with any option. I signed everything off, including my car and our house on a golf course, and claimed no possession to anything that we owned together. When I came to him at such a young age of 21, I came with nothing, so I wanted to be left with nothing. My urge to free him from my depression and to free myself from all earthly attachments were so strong, no one could talk me out of it. As a matter of fact, I did not consult with anyone. It was an act born out of my unstable manic mind, controlled by the influence of the medications I was on then and many New Age readings. I was seeing visions and hallucinations. I was seeing our tragic future approaching fast. I had to get out fast. Or so I thought.

The day we got married in Korea, we flew out of Seoul to a small island down south for our honeymoon. I remember that day very clearly. It was a memorable day. I had a wedding ring on that my mom and dad insisted on buying us. All I wanted was a thin gold wedding band that my husband bought me, but older people like to wear these huge rings on their fingers in Korea. My grandma and mom both have giant gold rings that cover a third of their fingers. So mom got us giant wedding rings at her brother’s jewelry shop.

We got on the plane when it was nearing dark. Everyone had the small reading lights on overhead. There was a woman sitting next to me with her hands resting on her legs comfortably. I couldn’t help but notice the gold ring on her finger, reflecting the reading light coming from above. It was the exact same ring that I had on. I didn’t know the significance of that moment then, but seven years later, that event would eventually shape my fate. The reading light was reading my future and I didn’t even realize it. Right then, a flight attendant was walking through the aisle handing out newspapers. I requested one. I shouldn’t have.

On the front page was the article about a woman, Andrea Yates, from Texas who drowned her five children. Postpartum Depression was in the media spotlight. I didn’t know much about depression then even though I was clearly suffering it since my teenage years. The story horrified me. I was haunted by that tragedy for weeks, months. It left a very strong impression on my mind. Later, I would return from Hawaii to stay with my sister for a few months after her third child delivery. My own sister was showing signs of postpartum depression. I wouldn’t let that evil disease ruin my sister and her family. It already ruined mine; and to think that I didn’t even need to go though the experience of giving birth to be afflicted by this horrible illness.

There were many revelations that came to my crazy mind in the year of 2008 but one that sealed my fate was that of Andrea Yates. I saw myself on the same path. Somehow I was heading to that same ending, and I was afraid, genuinely afraid in unutterable, extreme fear that if I stayed and had children in that setting, I would end up drowning my own children, too. That wedding ring on my finger that some random woman had on, and the article about Yates I read afterwards were all telling signs to me back then. But then with that same mind during those times, I believed that I was the reincarnated version of Anne Frank-I don’t even remember what brought that conclusion-, also that I was harboring the soul of an infant who only lived 6 weeks and my responsibility was to live out her incomplete life. Soul possession? Could be that. Early onset psychosis? I would never know. Because what happened is that I dropped everything, and pushed the “format” button fast. I wiped out everything.

Years of formatting rolled on, painfully. You think formatting your computer hard drive is complicated and time-consuming. Try formatting your entire life. I bet you won’t be complaining about your computer problems anymore.

During my healing years, I had many helps along the way. But the most realistic, constructive help came from my guy. Despite the fact that I had made no requests on the property or alimony, in the end, he offered to pay me monthly payments to sustain me for three years. Believe it or not, that money was the last issue that we wrestled with because I refused to accept. He begged me to take it. I guess he was moved by compassion. But over time, it sort of became like a payment. I came to think of the monthly payments from him as a penalty he was paying for his lack of soulful involvement when we were together. That may be part of the truth. But just like it takes two people to make marriage work, it takes two people to ruin it as well. The real truth is, he knew that I was not right in my brain. Something everybody in my family knew except myself.

What have I done? 

4 years later after the divorce took place, I am still asking that question. I probably will for the rest of my life.

But when my guy told me recently in the email that he is the man he is because he met me, because of what we went through together, and thanked me for everything because he is happy with the person he has become- I knew that I can now stop asking myself that painful question.

Instead, I now ask: What will I do?

And the answer is, I will write him an email back.


Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you.
Away, you rolling river!
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you,
Away, I’m bound away,
‘Cross the wide Missouri.

The white man loved an Indian maiden,
Away, you rolling river!
With notions his canoe was laden,
Away, I’m bound away,
‘Cross the wide Missouri.

Oh, Shenandoah, I love your daughter,
Away, you rolling river!
For her I’ve crossed the stormy water,
Away, I’m bound away,
‘Cross the wide Missouri.

Farewell, my dear, I’m bound to leave you.
Away, you rolling river!
Oh, Shenadoah, I’ll not deceive you,
Away, I”m bound away!

‘Cross the wide Missouri.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Having experienced post-partum depression twice, I understand how the thought of possibly going through it would have frightened you. Thankfully for me, a husband who recognized that something was wrong, a wise doctor and my own awareness that things weren’t right helped me both times. Most women, with proper treatment, recover and go on to lead happy lives. Thank you for talking about it.

  2. lilyboat says:

    what frightens me now is my dangerous thought pattern I exhibited back then. Believing that everything is a sign is just not a normal way of thinking. 4 years later, I am able to recognize the fault lines that threatened my well-being. It took me that long but now I see! Better late than never! I praise the Lord for sending you proper help along the way and a supportive husband! But most of all, self-recognition is the key. You are such a strong person.

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