New Englander finds love and hope in East Tennessee

KNOXVILLE – What would you do for love? Would you leave your lifelong home to live in a distant land? That’s what Caly DePalma has done, and she radiates happiness because of it.

Living in Burlington, Vermont, in a marriage that brought her little happiness, Caly found herself with low self-esteem, little energy, and no drive to achieve anything of her own. Her sweet son, Jordan, was the bright spot in an otherwise unfulfilling life.

Born the eldest of three in Pleasantville , New York , Caly’s childhood and early life included a love of animals and nature that resulted in obtaining her degree in animal husbandry from State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill. Her love of horses and educational preparation made her the perfect pick for working the horse farms of New England , which she did for ten years before meeting her ex-husband and marrying him in 1990.

Leaving her lifelong vocation, she became a full-time wife to her IBM-employed husband. The couple moved to Burlington, Vermont, where Caly’s son, Jordan, was born in 1991.

Then her nemesis appeared, an adversary that etched away her energy and her peace of mind. Slowly, but surely, life became a daily struggle as if she were walking through swamp mire with weights on both ankles. She bogged down and finally came to the realization that she needed professional help with her problem and sought out counseling in 2002, which was when she was diagnosed with dysthymia, or chronic mild depression.

“Symptoms plagued me for many years, but my depression itself often kept me from seeking help; finally, after a low episode in my life, I was diagnosed with dysthymia. I was relieved there was finally a name for the feelings I was having. I was also glad that the doctor didn't look at me like I was crazy for asking for help,” Caly recalls.

Slowly, through a combined therapeutic approach including counseling, medication, and exercise, Caly began to live life again. Her outlook and self-esteem improved to the point that she had to deal with the one thing in her life that she had known since her high school days – her lesbian identity.

Seeking community and support online, she joined in discussions on the Lesbian Life board at iVillage, making friends and growing her self-confidence.

Caly’s suggestions for people suffering with depression include a message of hope.

“Remember that there is a rope hanging down in that pit you are in at the moment, and that you can climb out and conquer this illness. It will take time. Depression is not an illness that you develop overnight. You may not feel better in four weeks or four months, but you will feel better,” advises Caly.

Caly has certainly done just that. She moved to Knoxville in 2004 to be with the love of her life. The haunted look of chronic depression gave way to a beaming smile and a feeling of self-acceptance. As she goes about building her life in East Tennessee , Caly offers a lovely example of how repression of sexual orientation can lead to mental health problems and, conversely, how acknowledging one’s sexual orientation can free you to find true happiness and self-actualization.

In her own words, “Clear are my eyes now, full of the sureness of me.”

Look for more of Caly’s poetry in future issues of the Gyrl Groove newsletter available online at
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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