Category Archives: mental health

You Are NOT Damaged Goods

My hat is off to those women who have escaped an abusive relationship. Some have walked away (barely) and some have been pushed away. No matter how you left that relationship, you are free. You may not feel the exhilaration that comes with freedom, but in time, you will.

I experienced emotional abuse. It took a while to untangle the tentacles that accompany that type of abuse – co-dependency. But I did find freedom. Please know that in no way do I want to downplay the pain of physical abuse. I know it takes a great deal of courage to walk away from that.

For several months, I felt like I was damaged – could I trust my emotions? Could I trust that I wouldn’t get angry with Cycle Dude? Could I trust that he was where he told me he was? Could I trust that those texts were only from his children and not from another woman? Could I trust that he was not going to bad places on the computer? I had to make a decision – and I had to get help.

I had to make a decision to trust Cycle Dude. I had to make a decision to trust myself with him. I had to talk to someone about my battered emotions. I had to get help for PTSD. I am so glad I had friends to help me along the way. Encouraging Friend prayed with me, she cried with me and she sent me notes of encouragement. Practical Friend dug deep into my wounded soul and spread the balm of authentic friendship and love over the pain she found there. I am forever in these two ladies’ debt – they saved my life.

Dear one, know that you are NOT damaged goods. With time and help, you will be free again, you will be whole again and you will be able to love again. Give yourself the grace and time to heal. Hugs!! Stay tuned. . . .

(The photo at the top of this post is a white trillium – a wildflower common in the mountains of this part of the country. It is beautiful and, to me, it represents the purity of hope.)

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Everyone is Different

After ex’s initial foray into adultery, I began seeing a counselor. I saw her on and off for the next 10 years plus and into my divorce. When I finally divorced, she told me that on average it takes women two-and-a-half to three years to get over a divorce. It took me the better part of five years before I was finally able to let go of the pain of the divorce. It wasn’t until I saw another counselor for help with PTSD that I finally felt free of ex.

I remembered what the first counselor told me and I kept thinking, “Why can’t I get over this? Why is it taking me so long? She said between two and three years!” Sometimes, I felt hopeless. Then I realized that everyone is different.

For some women it may take less time to get over a divorce. For others, it will take longer. Why? I think your healing time depends on the size of your wound. One is able to recover from a paper cut much quicker than one is able to recover from a broken leg or major surgery. What happened in your marriage determines the amount of time it will take to heal from the divorce. If you experienced any kind of abuse – physical, mental, emotional, financial, verbal – it will take you longer to heal because abuse not only hurts your body, it hurts your soul. If you were in a co-dependent relationship, as I was, it will take a while to heal because you have to cut the chords that bind you to ex. You have to figure out a new ‘normal’. If you were betrayed through infidelity, it will take you some time to learn to trust again.

How long it takes you to heal from your divorce is up to you – no one else. There are three ways that I experienced (and continue to experience) healing from my divorce:

1. Support: I had two amazing friends who walked with me through the yucky years after my divorce. Cycle Dude was also there, but I kept as much of the yuck from him as I could. I did not burden him with how I was feeling. That was my baggage to get rid of before we got serious. I encourage you to find a support group or a couple of close friends who will be encouragers, accountability partners, and prayer warriors for you and with you.

2. Professional Help: Sometimes I just needed someone to tell me I was not crazy and would not run off the edge of the world. Sometimes I just needed someone to be objective, someone who didn’t really know me, to let me know it would be okay. Divorced women do indeed fight PTSD. Get help to heal.

3. An outlet: I journaled, I wrote poetry, I walked my dogs, I listened to music. If you keep everything that you are feeling bottled up inside of you, you will make yourself sick. He is not worth the price of your health. Physical activity is a good way to work off stress and anger. Getting your thoughts down on paper is a good way to decrease their negative power over you. Find something constructive to do with all that negative energy bound up inside of you. Let it out – but in good ways. You don’t want to hurt yourself (drugs, alcohol, overeating, not eating, etc.) or someone else because of those negative emotions. (Blogging in one of my outlets!) However, if you do find yourself in destructive behavior, please seek professional help immediately!

Remember that your healing journey is very personal – don’t let anyone put a timeline on your recovery. YOU are the one who is walking through this dark time. Dear one, know that you will come out on the other side of this a changed women (and hopefully for the better!). Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Divorce and the ‘M’ Word

Divorce is difficult enough to go through without throwing something else in the mix over which you have no control – namely, menopause. Menopause is nothing to be ashamed of – countless women have gone through it for centuries. It’s just something that is part of being a woman. But it doesn’t make things any easier when you’re already facing a difficult time.

What can you do to make this time in your life a little easier while you are also going through a divorce? Much of what I’ve learned is in hindsight.

1.  Visit your healthcare provider: Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy. For many women, HRT is not an option. This is something I stayed away from because of the high incidence of cancer in my family. If you are concerned about a link between HRT and the occurrence of cancer, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can also provide antidepressants to deal with the mood swings.

2. Explore different options to deal with mood swings and stress: Physical exercise has been shown to release endorphins, those ‘feel good’ hormones. WebMD states, “When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.” Walking is the cheapest form of exercise and can be done just about anywhere. Yoga is also an exercise that relieves stress and provides a feeling of peace. There are many different herbal supplements to try as well. This website is a good resource:  https://www.womentowomen.com/menopause-perimenopause/five-steps-for-natural-menopause-relief-2/

3. Talk to someone: Many employers have EAP benefits (employee assistance programs) that provide a predetermined number of free visits to a mental health professional. If your employer does not provide that, seek out a trusted friend or speak to your pastor or clergy member. It seems to me that our thoughts lose their negative effect once we voice them. When left alone, our negative thoughts can rattle around in our heads and grow bigger and bigger and do more harm. For me, it helps to journal.

4. Be accountable to someone: Whether it’s a friend, therapist or clergy member, someone needs to walk with you through this time. There needs to be another person who will help you put things into perspective. You will need someone to help you work through some big decisions. You can’t and shouldn’t do this alone. Find a support group to help you through this time.

5. Realize that there are many changes occurring all at the same time and be gentle to yourself: You will be dealing with lawyers (both his and yours), court dates, discovery, time off of work, property division, etc. There is a great deal of stress involved in a divorce. It’s easy to let things go – eating properly, sleeping, etc. Take time to be gentle to yourself. Take a walk in the park, bake a batch of cookies, read a good book, take a nap. You are not expected to be Superwoman when you are going through two major life changes at the same time! Allow yourself to have a day of doing absolutely nothing. Need to stay in bed and cry? Do it. Need a day of purging your home of all ex’s stuff? Do it.

6. Lower your expectations: Don’t expect ex or his lawyer to be kind to you. Don’t expect yourself to have all the answers. Don’t expect the judge to understand your emotions. There will be many rotten days as you walk through the divorce. Don’t expect every day to be sunshine and puppies. Your body is changing and your life is changing. Give yourself grace.

7. Do Your Homework: You know that your body is changing. Do your homework – talk to your doctor, research on the internet, talk to friends who have experienced menopause. I just signed up for a series of lectures through Myjob presented by Red Hot Mamas (http://redhotmamas.org/).  Find out as much as you can about menopause, its symptoms and how to deal with these changes (http://redhotmamas.org/menopause-a-z/survival-tips/). The more you know about how menopause affects you, the more you can control how you are feeling.

You cannot control your ex, his lawyer, the justice system, etc. Pay attention to what you can control and let those things be one less distraction as you walk through the divorce. Stay tuned . . . .

 

PTSD Post-Divorce

I recently came across an article on Huffington Post –  Divorce entitled, “What It’s Like to Suffer PTSD Post-Divorce” by Cathy Meyer (DivorcedMoms.com). I have blogged before about suffering from PTSD after my divorce. I was never diagnosed, but I had all the symptoms. I didn’t recognize what it was, so I never sought treatment. I saw my doctor for depression and was prescribed some antidepressants. Even though the antidepressants helped, I still suffered through PTSD.

Diane, the woman in Cathy’s piece, says:

“I feel as if I’ve been in the middle of a war zone for an extended period of time. I’ve lived with daily fear for years; there has been no relief because some sort of conflict with my ex was always lurking around the corner,” Dana says. “I didn’t have time to process one event before I was dealing with another one.”

I told a friend that I felt battle weary, that I was tired of fighting. Ex was never honest with me. I’d find out what he was up to by getting bills for porn movies on our cable, dirty magazine notices in the mail, adult club charges on our credit card statement. He always denied everything, constantly telling me it was all my fault. I lived like that for close to 25 years.

Diane advises to “know when to give up the fight”. Ex still owes me over $21K in alimony. He defied a court order, fled the state several years later and remarried. Will I ever see a dime of that $21K? Absolutely not! He is not worth the finances nor heartache of pursuing that money. Why? I know when to give up the fight. I have come too far in my divorce healing to let arsehole ex derail it. Diane also states:

“You can’t look to the legal system to protect you and the only way to win over someone who wants you to suffer is to give up the fight. Let it go, your health is more important.”

I am happier now than I’ve ever been. I am gradually working through the PTSD, though it has taken time, journaling, counseling, prayer, and trusting myself. One thing about going through this – the PTSD – is that on the other side, I will be, I am, stronger.

If you are going through, or have recently been through, a divorce and feel you are suffering the symptoms of PTSD (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20022540), I urge you to get help. Go see someone who is trained to help others walk through PTSD. Most employers have a benefit that will allow their employees to see a mental health professional for a certain number of visits for free. Take advantage of that benefit if your employer has it. Join a support group. Speak to your pastor or other clergy member. Like Diane said, “Your health is . . . important.” Stay tuned. . . .

 

Downtime

It was nice to be off work for the recent holiday, even though I had to take Personal Time Off. I went into work for a couple of hours because I had several things that needed to be done sooner rather than later. Cycle Dude and I went out for lunch and took a walk afterwards. Then I came home and vegged with the four-legged furry humans.

As I was driving around yesterday (Memorial Day), I noticed that the roadways were fairly empty – most people had gone to the lake or were out-of-town for the holiday. It was nice not to have to fight the crowds at the stores or on the roads. It was also nice just to have some downtime. Cycle Dude told me he’d like to take a Friday off soon and just stay home and do nothing.

When I was married and raising my children, I often felt guilty if I wanted to take some downtime and just do much o’ nuthen. The ultimate in downtime for me was painting my toenails. My ex-mother-in-law saw no use in my wanting to take some downtime – like go to the mall by myself or go out to dinner with some girlfriends. She always got angry with me if I mentioned anything like that. Yet it was okay for my ex-husband to go out for drinks with his buddies, or go play golf with work friends.

Downtime is important. When we work all week, we need to have some time to relax. Cycle Dude likes to read or go fly his model airplanes. We can’t go with a full head of steam 24/7 – we’ll get burned out, worn out and fall apart. Give yourself permission to take a day and just do nothing – don’t clean the house, run errands or do laundry. Read, nap, bake – whatever it is that you like to do in order to refuel. My ex-mother-in-law was wrong – we need time to ourselves, time to download, time to relax.

This week, give yourself permission to take a day and do absolutely NOTHING! It’s okay. Downtime is good for you. Stay tuned . . . .

The Doldrums

According to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, the doldrums is: a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls and light shifting winds; a state or period of sadness or depression; a state or period in which there is no activity or improvement. Ancient sailors were often terrified of the Doldrums because their ships could drift for weeks on end and they would run out of provisions. After the non-stop activity of the holidays, the first part of the New Year often seems to be in the doldrums. Or you may feel you’re in the doldrums after all the craziness of your divorce.

For me, all the years of fighting, lying, and wondering had finally come to an end. I was no longer responsible for anyone but myself. I did not have to defend ex anymore or make excuses for his behavior. My life was now just my life. It was strange to suddenly be in the doldrums, not expending energy anymore to try to save a dying marriage. I was finally able to concentrate fully on finishing my degree, see my daughter graduate high school and continue on to college, and figure out what my next steps were. The first couple of years after the divorce were the most difficult.

However, out of those doldrums I found peace – peace within myself, peace within my relationships and peace with God. I needed that time in the doldrums to heal. It’s okay to be in that place. If we are continually moving quickly, we never stop to allow God to do His work in us, we never stop to listen to ourselves and give the grace we need to heal. Know that when you are in the doldrums, you will not run out of provisions because God is there. You will not sail aimlessly for weeks or months (even though it may feel like that sometimes) because you have people in your life who care about you. Be at peace. Allow that period of inactivity. Give yourself the grace to heal. Stay tuned . . . .

Into the Light

I recently had someone contact me who did not like my blog and they had no problem telling me so in some very unkind terms. That’s fine – I am not looking for validation. If you don’t like this blog, don’t read it. It’s that simple.

It is my experience that if one allows one’s feelings to fester in the dark, they become such gaping wounds that the infection becomes inescapable and sends one’s health – both mental and physical – into a downward spiral. Divorce is painful and oftentimes, it takes a while for that pain to subside. We cannot allow others to make that pain worse. We cannot give them that power in our lives.

Expressing how we feel, through journaling, blogging, talking to a trusted friend or counselor, is walking from the darkness into the light. Enduring pain is like being in a cave, whether it’s the emotional pain of a broken relationship, loss of a loved one, shattered dreams, or the physical anguish of a terminal illness or injury. What lives in the cave? Bats, darkness, dampness, mold, dirt, cave crickets, etc. What lives in the light? Warmth, joy and happiness. Giving words to those feelings is allowing them to come out into the light, to decrease the strangle-hold they have over you.

Do not give negative people or words power in your life. Breaking those chains is one step toward (divorce) recovery. Keep going. You can do it! Stay tuned . . .