MY DARKEST TIME

dark and scary

Life is pretty good these days. No, actually it’s great. It wasn’t always that way though. There was a time, about thirteen years ago, when my life was a complete mess. Wait, that’s not true. My life wasn’t a mess. I was a mess. A complete disaster actually. My life was complicated and things hadn’t been going my way. Not small things either. Major life things.

Having bounced back from an ugly divorce, I had remarried a wonderful man, my son was in his first year of school and I had a great job. All was good. Then the other shoe dropped. The day after we got married in Hawaii, the company that my husband worked for relocated to Memphis, Tennessee. A great opportunity to move ahead in his career,this wasn’t something he could turn down. We made the decision that he would go ahead and take the relocation and I would approach my ex-husband on the subject of me taking my son to live there as well. Unfortunately, he didn’t agree, neither did a judge….or an appeal judge for that matter. In hindsight they were right, but at the time I was devastated. I just wanted to put the past behind me and start a new life.

So there I was, living in a rental home and sharing custody of my son with a man who not only resented me for trying to take his son away but was bound and determined to share all of that information with my son. As much as we hated being apart, the company had offered my husband an amazing position and even though it did have a finite time frame attached to it (four years) we were newlyweds who only saw each other once a month if we were lucky. I hated being alone and it wasn’t any easier for him. We had sold our townhouse in hopes of being able to make a quick move so half of our belongings were in storage. It was a nice enough place but it wasn’t home. On the outside I had it all under control. Taking my son to school, going through the motions of life but underneath I was floundering in depression, sleep deprivation and anxiety over my relationship with my son and my new husband.

dark and scary 2

At the worst of it I would lie in bed at night in the empty house and imagine that gang members were creeping down the dark driveway to break into the house and attack me. It was so dark, so specific, so violent.  Yet so real to me. I would open my eyes and tell myself how ridiculous it was. I would go downstairs and turn on all the lights, look out the window and re-assure myself that everything was okay. The coast was clear. Back up to bed I would go. Close my eyes and the exact same thoughts would invade my mind. Just as I got close to sleep I would hear a tiny creak and my eyes would fly open and my mind would be all in a whirl again. It didn’t seem to matter how tired I was, I couldn’t get the images out of my head.

I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep or the depression but my decision-making abilities were all but gone. One day I needed to go to the grocery store for dinner. I wandered around for almost an hour trying to decide if we should have burgers or pasta. Did I want something healthy or tasty and quick. I didn’t want to have to cook so maybe should just get something frozen.

I left the store with a loaf of bread.

Half way to the car I thought this is stupid and I should go back and just buy something. I turned around and headed back to the store. Half way to the store I turned around again and headed back to the car. Sitting in the car I silently cried. It’s just dinner. Why is this so hard?

Believe it or not I didn’t go to the doctor for what was really bothering me. I can’t even remember why I was there but it must have been pretty obvious that I was a mess. After writing me a prescription for sleeping pills and an anti-depressant he suggested I go and talk to somebody. What? No, I’m fine. I just needed some sleep and everything will be good.

At that point I was still in denial.

I couldn’t even tell a man I had known for years what was going on. He was great. He said okay well just go see this friend of mine and if she says your okay then you can come back and tell me I was wrong.

It was just what I thought it would be. A couple of comfortable chairs, books on self-help and lots of candles. Close your eyes and calm your mind she said. I closed my eyes but all I saw was movement. Grey moving shapes flashed in front of me. My mind wouldn’t, couldn’t, stop moving. Try again she suggested. I closed my eyes again. No, still can’t get the world to stop spinning. Opening my eyes again I choked back tears and everything poured out. I explained the last year of my life and how I seemed to have lost any control over what was going on. I wish I could say that after spending an hour with her I had a better grasp on things but that would be a lie. It took us months to get me back on track. The sleeping pills helped. Along with antidepressants and a lot more appointments in the room with comfy chairs.

So why, when things are so good do I go back to that time?  It was dark and scary and out of control. I go back because it’s important for me to remember that all of the Best Things in My Life were with me through all of it.  And they still are.  I just couldn’t see them through all the grey swirling movement in my head.

Divorce – Good, Bad or Ugly?

I’ve been through a divorce. Many of my friends have been through divorces. In fact, when I thought about it, I realized that quite a lot of my friends are divorced. Thirty five in fact. Some recently, some many years ago. “It’s an epidemic” one friend said. As all relationships are different, so are all divorces. So what makes one divorce good and easy and the other stressful and horrific? Or are they all just bad? Are divorces good, bad or ugly?

I left my ex-husband 17 years ago when our son was 3 months old. Mine fell into the “stressful and horrific” category. I was hurt after discovering that a past friend and co-worker was involved with my husband. When I think back, what I most remember was the overwhelming desire to broadcast to the world (preferably by a large, well lit billboard) that it was not my fault. For some reason it seemed really important to me. Was that normal? What is normal in a divorce? With so many questions running around in my head I felt the need to write.

I started by asking my thirty five friends to tell me what were the worst and the best things that happened during or as a result of divorce? The feedback was so interesting and passionate. Obviously this is something that gives rise to a fair amount of emotion. It’s not a simple question. There is so much more to it and clearly the women I know aren’t shy about giving me their opinions on how things went down.

For one friend the worst part was that her kids have been so affected by what had happened and they really had nothing to do with it. “They didn’t ask for this to happen”. They weren’t responsible yet they have to deal with the fall out. They are collateral damage so to speak. I think that is something that we would all agree on. Missing the kids was a big downside for a lot of people. Those long lonely weekends spent counting the hours until they came home from their dad’s. In hind site, it was a blessing that my son was so young when my divorce happened. By the time he was old enough to sort of understand what was going on, most of the bad behavior (not on my part of course) was over. Don’t get me wrong, we still don’t see eye to eye, but at least there are less issues to deal with than there were when he was little.

For those of us who have older kids graduating from high school or in university, I got the feeling that there was a huge sense of accomplishment. I think maybe divorced parents need to work a little harder in that department. Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m not saying that we are better parents than people who are still married. I’m just saying that we have more hoops to jump through in the parenting department. It can be hard enough to parent a teen within a solid marriage but having to do it with somebody you may not trust, respect or even like, can be a major challenge. To come through it with well adjusted kids is a major coup.

Some found that a year or two down the road they are better friends and closer to their exes than they ever were. This is not the norm I discovered. It is quite rare and, in of some circles, even frowned upon. Particularly if there was some sort of infidelity involved. That’s a whole different animal from just growing apart. Yet for some that’s really how things have worked out. “We’ve made mistakes, we’ve survived, we’ve moved on and we’ve discovered happiness.” Are they the lucky ones? One friend is even in the process of getting back together with her ex. Can you go back? I guess she’ll find out.

More often than not there is animosity, distrust and well, dislike. What’s odd, to me, is that even with these feeling raging inside us, our exes are still able to incite very strong reactions. Some might even say passionate. After a disagreement with her ex, one friend had a particularly strong reaction. “I got home and I stormed around the house and cried and yelled and when it was all over I was okay.” (Come on, we all did it at some point). We’ve yelled, sworn, cursed the day we ever walked down the aisle (in my defense I was foggy from cold medicine and Tylenol). You would think that we would know that it shouldn’t get to us. At some point you loved that person and perhaps it takes a while for the strength of those feeling to go away even if those feelings are anger.

I find it really funny that by far the best thing for most divorced women was that they now get to cook whatever they want. Or better yet, not cook at all. They felt free and independent. Able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. (Midnight McDonalds run anyone). Don’t get me wrong, these women were not in relationships that were oppressive. These are strong, capable women. “Neither of us knew how stressed we both were until he left. It was a huge relief.” Perhaps we were working so hard on trying to make the marriage right, that when we finally gave in, the freedom was a sweet release.

As an old friend and I were catching up over a couple of large glasses of wine in a noisy restaurant, I realized how deeply she felt her divorce. “I felt a huge sense of failure”. And she wasn’t alone. Why is it that even though our actions had not directly caused the split (and by this I mean that we weren’t the ones that slept with our secretaries) we still felt immense failure. Even marriages that ended simply because they grew apart, incited feelings of failure. Of course it doesn’t help when people’s first reaction is “I’m sorry”. We are so programmed to believe that when we marry, we have to do everything in our powers to make it work. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t really worthless and a bad wife, my ex-husband was just an asshole. Go figure.

Without question every friend I spoke to said that the best thing to come out of the divorce was the huge personal growth they experienced at the end of the day. Would they have felt this way if they hadn’t gone through a divorce? Hard to say. I know lots of emotionally evolved women who are happily married. I know this; the end of a marriage forces you to look not only at your relationship, but at yourself. You are on your own in the big wide world. Therapy, friends, family and wine were all cited as coping mechanisms in the first year. And while you may feel lonely at times, as one friend pointed out, you make it through. Sometimes it happens quickly and other times it takes years, but we’ve all made it and are, dare I say, better off?

As all people are different, so are all divorces. I’ve learnt that there are some common threads but, for the most part, we have all dealt with the end of a marriage in our own unique way. I for one, have learnt that nobody can make you happy but yourself. Others have discovered that they can love again. All have found a strength within them that they maybe didn’t know was there. Today I find happiness in the fact that I have been happily married to an amazing man for 13 years. They’re good, they’re bad and yes, they are ugly, but divorces happen. It’s what you do with them that can be The Best Thing in Your Life.