Former Jersey City resident Lorne Jaffe experienced moments of terror as a stay-at-home dad after his daughter Sienna was born two years ago. Having grown up battling anxiety and depression, he had days marked by joy and other days marked by fear during his time with his baby.
He worked through many of his harrowing experiences first on posts for friends on Facebook and eventually on his blog, raisingsienna.com.
This past February, he spoke at a convention of “dad bloggers” in New Orleans and began drawing in more readers, all as he felt pressured to write frequent entries. He had a lifelong dream to be a writer, but felt unworthy of success. Still, with therapy and support, he’s persevered.
Just a few weeks before this Father’s Day, he realized a dream of becoming a published writer. Two of his essays appear in a new book of essays called “Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood.'
Jaffe grew up in Little Neck, Queens and graduated from the University of Michigan, then moved to Flushing. Around 2002, he wanted a change from Queens. He had a friend in Jersey City so he moved here. He stayed for 10 years.
“Jersey City impacted my life tremendously because it was the first time I truly lived independently, as in, not near my parents,” he said last week. “So I grew up quite a bit as a person. In my 10 years there, I got married and found out Sienna would be born. I also started to break through the depression that’s held me captive most of my life after having a nervous breakdown in 2010. I wonder if I would have reached that turning point had I remained in Queens.”
He had gynecomastia, male breast enlargement, which contributed to his shyness.
He remembers being inspired: “I was a five-minute walk from the Loews Landmark Theater in Journal Square, one of the most special places I've ever been, and I miss it tremendously. I'm a huge film buff and got to see classic films in a true movie palace as well as attend special screenings where stars such as Celeste Holm and Piper Laurie talked about their experiences. What a magical place! Also loved all of the farmer’s markets. We had to leave Jersey City for Douglaston, Queens to move closer to my parents because we needed their help when Sienna was born.”
Jaffe’s essays, like many in the book, tell of the highs and lows of his experiences with his daughter. The first essay, “The Places My Mind Goes,” explains in detail how his mind works and how he “could go from calm to full-blown panic attack in seconds thanks to racing, negative thoughts, and how I have to fight through such things more than ever now that I’m a father.”
That essay opens up with him waking up in the middle of the night with thoughts of suicide. Then his mind races to not being good enough, never being able to afford a house for his daughter to grow up in, and other concerns.
Yet, the second essay, "Over The Moon," is about, as he describes it, “the first time Sienna really noticed and recognized the moon and how simultaneously, it was the first time I was able to see the world through her eyes...with wonder.”
Jaffe writes with honesty on his blog about the roots of his own depression, and about his family. Among his youthful tribulations, he had gynecomastia, male breast enlargement, which contributed to his shyness and vulnerability to bullying.
“I developed it at 11 because of a hormonal imbalance and didn't have it corrected until I was 29,” he said, “so it pretty much infiltrated every aspect of my life and identity. I want to continue to shed light on the condition because studies have shown it leads to depression and even suicide and sufferers need to know there are survivors and it can be fixed.”
Today, Jaffe is still a stay-at-home dad, husband to wife Elaine, who he met when he was working at New York University, and is planning to attend another dad blogger conference soon. He hopes to publish a memoir about his experiences.
He had advice for others enduring similar struggles: Ask for help instead of keeping it to yourself.
“It's a very hard habit for the depressed person to break because naturally we keep everything inside,” he said. “Talk to people, especially those in similar situations. Not only does it help you learn you're not alone, you wind up meeting some extraordinary people and friends.”
“Dads Behaving Dadly” was published by Motivational Press in Florida. For more information, see dadsbehavingdadly.com. You can look Jaffe up at raisingsienna.com.