The Mistake

I am the youngest of six kids. When I was born in July of 1981, my Dad was 48 and my Mom was 43. My siblings were 20, 19, 18, 17, and 14 years old.

It is shocking to me the amount of people who, my WHOLE LIFE, have said, immediately upon hearing this information, “Oh, so you were a mistake.” Sometimes instead of “mistake” the word “oops” has been substituted, but still, the sentiment was the same.

Of course, I get it. Fourteen years is a long time. I welcome exclamations. Appropriate responses could include “Wow!” or “What a big family!” or “That’s a big age gap!” But maybe, and I’m just riffing here, but maybe you shouldn’t call someone a “mistake,” like ever, maybe. Even if you’re thinking it, don’t SAY IT! Keep it in your thought bubble, as they say at my son’s school.

Like, how exactly should I respond to that? “Yup! Totally not meant to be. It’s a wonder I can even do anything around here being all mistakey and stuff. Just going to head over here to the Island of Misfit Toys…”

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ah, the depression and therapy is making ALLLLLLLLLL sorts of sense and it’s only her fourth post. Katie, you can start saving all those co-pays, I understand the root of all your issues!”

But surprisingly, from the very beginning, these words—though having very destructive potential—miraculously never impacted me. For all of my shortcomings and immaturity in a variety of arenas, not to mention being overly-sensitive at times (lots of times, Rick might say!), I have always had an amazingly mature perspective on this one. For some reason, I always knew that this kind of statement said nothing about me, and everything about the speaker. After all, who says that!??! (It turns out, a lot of people.)

My sense of security in this area stems from the two greatest parents, Tom and Alice Morris. My parents made it very clear that, technically, none of their children were planned. As Catholics and the OG Rule Followers, Rulio Iglesias and Rulia Louis-Dreyfus, they put it all in God’s hands.

Now, I’ll take a step back and give you this: When three of your siblings are in college and two are in high school at the time you are born, you are a bit of a… surprise. And that’s the word I use. Surprise. See the difference?

Mistake. SURPRISE!

Mistake. SURPRISE!

I hear “mistake” and I think of grubby elementary school worksheets with smudgy pencil marks that have to be erased.  But “surprise”? That’s like, colorful balloons and confetti! A surprise party! And trust me, I’ve been a party.

Over the course of my life, I’ve learned more about the details of the story. My Mom, being positively GERIATRIC at age 43 was at a higher risk of having a baby with a genetic abnormality because of her age. And on top of that, she also suffered from ulcerative colitis (similar/related to Crohn’s disease) so there were some major health risks that would come along with this pregnancy. She was heavily advised by her doctor to have an abortion.

Now, Alice wasn’t having that for even a split second and she made that very clear to her doctor. For that, I am grateful. But I can appreciate that, at that moment, life took a rapid hairpin turn right back to the starting line of parenthood. For over two decades, she and my dad had worked very hard together to raise their wonderful kids. They were almost there!

While my Mom (a nurse by training) was at home running the show, my Dad was making the benjamins as a middle school math teacher. Together in their “off hours” (if parents even really have those) they also worked on their side hustle, a group tour travel business, which was really taking off. They were finally getting to be in a financially secure place, starting to travel themselves, and beginning to put their retirement plans into place. As we ALL can imagine, traditionally retirement plans do not include a smart-assy, shrimp cocktail-eating, demander of cotton stirrup pants because jeans feel uncomfortable. Traditionally.

Now the logical trajectory of this argument is for me to now say, “And WHERE WOULD THE WORLD BE without Katie Morris Feeney in it!??!” But I also have enough perspective to say, I’m just a person. I’m insignificant to most. I haven’t found a cure for cancer. I don’t have the solution for world peace. I’m sitting here right now (on January 17) looking at my Christmas tree because I haven’t even taken that down yet. (Don’t judge.) But I can make my small mark, have my small ripple effect on the world.

Speaking of Christmas (excuse the out-of-season reference, but this Christmas tree is right in front of me) isn’t that the reason, for decades upon decades, people love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life? Through George Bailey, we’re reminded that we matter. We make an impact. Our reach might not be the whole town of Bedford Falls, but we affect our close circles nonetheless. After all, “No man is a failure who has friends.”

Having depression and going through those ups and downs, I work very hard to keep that thought top of mind. Though somehow the “mistake” language never got to me, depression did. I have felt the low lows, the negative self-talk, and the feeling that I don’t matter. You’ve probably seen the quote, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”  When you’re feeling down, especially with depression, it’s really easy to focus on the just being one person part. It’s much harder to remember or believe that to one person, you may be the world. You may not even notice who you are impacting.

I’ve been on the receiving end of one of those random acts of kindness—you know, when the person ahead of you in the drive-thru line pays for your coffee? (I know, I know… I have a coffee problem…) I have to tell you, that really put a spring in my step for the rest of the day. It made me appreciate the importance of the little things.

It got me thinking, Isn’t that enough? Aren’t we enough if we can just make a moment in a day better for someone else? I sure hope so, otherwise I have some serious brainstorming on world peace to do… But it’s definitely an approach that has helped me crawl, inch by inch, out of the darkness. And sometimes, when you focus on helping other people, you start to feel better yourself.

As Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.” We’re not all going to do big and important things that change the world, but we can absolutely do little things that positively impact those around us.

And on that note, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Christmas tree to deal with!

Get yourself a therapist


In my first post, I shared that I have anxiety and depression. It’s not particularly easy for me to put it out there, but I think it’s important to.

Am I the most anxious or the most depressed person out there? Probably not. I’m just saying I definitely experience anxiety (sometimes about things that make total sense and other times about things that aren’t really logical) and different degrees of depression as well. Sometimes depression is situational and expected, like in the aftermath of my Mom passing away last year, and other times, it hits me for no particular reason at all.

In the same way that I take medication to treat my Crohn’s, I also take it to help with my anxiety and depression. And yet for some reason, I’ll talk about taking prednisone or Stelara for Crohn’s ‘til the cows come home, but I’ll drop my voice to a whisper if I’m sharing that I take shhhhh medicine for <exaggerated mouthing> de pre ssion and an xi e ty.

So the stigma’s still there. I try to fight it, but I feel it. But I figured I would take this opportunity to share a little piece of advice: Get yourself a therapist.

I mean it. I think there are very few people who DON’T need to see a therapist for one reason or another. It is one of the best things I have done for myself. I like to think of it as a spa for the spirit. Of course, there’s the whole insurance and financial piece that can make it difficult to get the ball rolling, but if you are the only thing standing between you and therapy, I’m here to tell you: get out of your own way and go for it.

One of the best “gifts” a close friend gave to me was the gentle push to find a therapist again. She knew I had seen one in college and early adulthood when I lived in the Boston area, and that, when I moved with Rick and Ryan to California for a year, I took a break. After we returned to the east coast, I got together with this friend and she reminded me that, now that I was going to be settled again, it might be a good idea to find a new therapist in New Hampshire.

And I’m so glad she said it. I wasn’t opposed to it, I was just kind of in my not-going-to-therapy groove and it just hadn’t really occurred to me.

Finding a therapist is definitely a task. And even when you find someone on paper, it doesn’t always mean that person is a good “match.” You should really connect with that person – and sometimes that takes a few sessions to figure out if it’s a good fit. If you not “ vibin’ ” as Ariana Grande would say, then you start over with someone else. thank u, next.

It’s kind of like dating. Except when you’re dating you don’t usually frontload all your issues into the first 45 minutes of meeting someone…usually.  That’s a post for another day. And it was three dates in, okay!??!

I’ve stuck with therapy even during “good” and “uneventful” times, and I’m happy I have, because that support was already in place when things got harder. If you’ve been thinking that you would benefit from therapy but you’re feeling pretty good at the moment, it might seem counterintuitive, but this would actually be an excellent time to get going on it.

Sadly, my local community is reeling from a recent middle schooler’s suicide. And this isn’t unique to my town. We all have to start approaching mental health differently.

In an attempt to do so, our school district is having a speaker come to talk to parents about signs of emotional distress, which I think is wonderful, and I’ll take any help I can get. The more information, the better. But wouldn’t it be great if we were tackling mental health before it got to a level of distress? If our mental health was treated as important as our physical health? If check-ins with therapists were considered preventative care like dental cleanings? And if that all started really early on in life, like well-child visits/annual physicals?

I’m also going to propose this: maybe we need to lead by example. Maybe the best gift you can give your child or children is going to therapy yourself. Why? It sends the message that you deserve to take care of yourself. And that mental health is as normal and important as physical health. Secondly, it can help to make your relationships and your home environment healthier, and that’s good for everyone. And third, your child or children will see that if they are struggling with something, if they have things they want to discuss privately with a professional, it’s okay.

Also, this doesn’t just apply to parent/child relationships. You may influence a co-worker, a bestie, a bae, a roommate, a significant other, a frat bro, your hair stylist, a barista, a gym buddy, or dog park friend to seek help, by your example. That doesn’t mean you have to shout it from a rooftop, either. But you might share it with select, trusted friends (like your favorite barista–Shout out to mine, Andrew at the Target Starbucks!–) at the appropriate time.

Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re weak. Or crazy. Or weird. It doesn’t mean you had a bad childhood. Or that you have a troubled marriage. Or that you’re on the brink of suicide.

It does mean that life is hard. Relationships are hard. Not having a relationship is hard. Illness is hard. Parenthood is hard. Work is hard.

Going to therapy has helped me more than I can say. And I hope that, if you’ve ever thought that it might be helpful for you, that you’ll join me. Not in one of my sessions, though. That would be weird.