Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “post-divorce depression

Of Course You’re Not Happy With Me, We’re Divorced

my jackass sequence to recovery

And I want to do better, and I want to not enjoy just a smidgen of her troubles… But she can still make me madder than anyone else on the planet. And that’s understandable, she’s my ex. Legends about the evil ex abound. There are even Twitter hashtags devoted to the cult of the ex. Of course, she’s not that bad. (On Twitter see #thatswhyyourmyex)

My unvented anger became anger pointed inward. That’s one definition of depression: anger pointed at yourself. And I just about rowed that boat over the waterfall of darkness.

In fact, in this fourth year since our divorce, I am working to release her from the evil ex moniker. But a little healthy anger can sometimes help, if we know how to use it appropriately or dispose of it. Keeping your anger inside is a known stress booster, it shortens your life and lengthens your belt size.

I’ve been framing up something I’m calling The Divorce Recovery Roadmap, and anger plays a very critical role in this growth through and ultimately freedom from anger at your ex. I believe anger is part of the engine that got me out of my depression. When my world was shattered, even if I was complicit in the dismantling, it wasn’t until I found my anger, and began to voice it, that I started to recover my authentic self.

I’ve talked a lot about the self-awareness part of my recovery. And I will state it again as clearly as I can. Divorce has been the most devastating event in my life. And it has transformed me, sometimes by fire, sometimes by tears, back into the happy and creative individual I was before the divorce, maybe even before the marriage.

When I started this blog, even as I was still living under the same roof with my ex-y, I tapped into the vicious anger that was brewing inside. “What? You’re fucking giving up on me?” I wanted to rage. But I wrote it instead of yelling it. And it wasn’t all pretty. In fact, some of it was hurtful and spiteful. As if I wanted to say, “If you’re taking me down, I’m taking everyone down with me.”

But the fight wasn’t with my ex-y at that point. The fight of your life, the recovery from the wounds of divorce, is with yourself.

In that summer of discontent, when I had lost everything and was living with my sister, basically homeless, I raged. I wrote the FUCK YOU that I couldn’t say. I got a few pats on the back for the blog and pressed on, and eventually found my voice, with The Off Parent.

Then she found out about the blog and called me on the phone.

“I found The Off Parent.” she said.

“Okay.”

“And I want you to take it down. It makes it too hard to trust you. And we’re trying to raise these two kids together, and it’s just too hurtful.”

At that moment, I was so distraught at my situation, and my self-pity (we’ll get back to that in a minute) that I simply said, “Okay, I’ll take it down, now.” And I mothballed the blog.

What was not apparent to me at over the next month of so, was how quickly my unvented anger became anger pointed inward. That’s one definition of depression: anger pointed at yourself. And I just about rowed that boat over the waterfall of darkness. I didn’t get suicidal until the following summer, but I lost touch with my anger at her. Healthy anger. Anger that needed an outlet.

In order to flip your life back to ON you needed to commit to Massive Action. You had to commit to doing EVERYTHING all at once to get well.

I crumbled. And maybe that’s when I hit what alcoholics refer to as rock bottom. Because I started feeling really sorry for myself. I started placing the failure and blame on myself, on the things I did or didn’t do. When, in fact, I made numerous pleas with my ex-y to stop and reconsider her request for divorce. I wanted reconciliation, I wanted change. But I didn’t want a divorce.

I had been exposed to the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous a long time ago, when I started attending ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings, back when that movement was emerging. And some of the principles I learned, still guide me. But in my despair I grabbed onto two AA principles that lifted me back from the dead, even without this blog.

The first principle was Self Pity. It is one of the core shames we learn when we are raised in broken or breaking homes. As we uncover just how horrible things have been, we begin feeling sorry for ourselves and our plight. (This is magnified 100-fold for folks battling alcohol addiction, so I don’t mean to make light of it.) In my case, as I was in my sister’s house, basically breaking down mentally, was this sorrow at what had become of my beautiful life. My regrets and should’ve-dones became like a mean Greek chorus shouting me down as I tried to find my footing as a single late-forties man. Man In Divorce, it’s a thing.

I started reading some recovering alcoholics notes on the web. I attended a few AA and Alon meetings to remember how miserable I was, and how far from those darknesses I still was. And the idea of getting over my self-pity, my wallowing in my own stew of misery, was a good one. I wanted to comply, to shake it off, and to grow up and grow a pair, but it wasn’t that easy. Those AA slogans are great when you finally believe in them. Initially they come across as unhelpful platitudes. Still I grabbed on to the life ring of Self Pity and waited for someone to pull me back to safety.

Of course, that’s not really what happens either. Not in real life, anyway. So I slogged on. Read some AA material and tried to apply the maxims to my life. Live and let God. Giving up my pain and process to my Higher Power and all that. But it wasn’t until I hit the next gem of wisdom that I finally got moving.

I was reading a blog about recovery and the phrase that struck a nerve with me was “Take Massive Action.” The idea is, in recovery from addiction it is not enough to go to meetings, say the sayings, read the literature, you could not dabble in your recovery process if you were serious about getting well. In order to flip your life back to ON you needed to commit to Massive Action. You had to commit to doing EVERYTHING all at once to get well. And leave no little pockets of doubt that you could fall back on later.

I needed to build and agree to my own Massive Plan of Attack. Here’s what I did.

  1. I enrolled in an Aikido class that was a few miles from my sister’s house and I agreed to go to class 3 or more times week.
  2. I enrolled in a divorce recovery class that started in two weeks, based on the book When Your Relationship Ends.

And two weeks later I was already feeling the changes as I attended the first night of the divorce recovery class. And when I started hearing this masterful gentleman talk about the divorce recovery process I knew I had hit a vein of gold. Here were 20-or-so men and women in various stages of divorce and willing to admit that things sucked and we needed help.

The very real, very visceral, and transformative power of that night of anger, brought me back to life.

And that first week after the class we were required to call at least two other classmates and check-in on the phone. I remember really hitting it off with the first person I called. And as we chatted she let me know she was a recovering alcoholic. She became one of my champions in my Massive Action campaign.

I called her a few days after our first phone call and said, “I don’t want to go, and you don’t need to call me back, because I’m going to my Aikido class right now. I’m not happy about it, but I wanted to let you know I was going. Fuck.”

(People in that class liked to cuss a lot. And fuck seemed to be one of the best words in use. Maybe because none of us were fucking.)

And so my massive action plan began to take shape and I began reshaping my relationship to the divorce. More importantly, I began reshaping the relationship to myself.

About seven weeks into the class comes Anger Night. Essentially you go through a process of expressing all the “fuck yous” you need to by writing a letter. A letter you never send, of course. And then you share your letter with some of these other people in your class.

I was sad and overweight when I started my massive action plan. And by Anger Night I was at least in motion, but I was still pretty depressed. But the night after the class, when we were given the assignment, to write the real letter, I came uncorked.

That night, in the process of writing out all my fuck yous and complaints to my ex-wife, I reconnected with the healthy part of the anger. The part that I had been stuffing and hurting myself with. The fury, once unleashed, became unmanageable. And I wrote from about midnight to about three in the morning. But I was transformed.

When I accessed my anger that night, it was like a switch had been thrown on inside and the power to my healthy system was restored. The transformation was notable. And four weeks later, when the good doctor was looking for facilitators for his next session, he invited me to be one of the shepherds. What an honor and a validation for the work I had done.

By the end of the class I was on a roll. I was negotiating a new job, I was still hitting the mat in Aikido several times a week, and I was beginning to feel like “life” was possible again. I’ve never looked back at that letter. It’s still here, on this computer, somewhere. But I don’t need to read it. The very real, very visceral, and transformative power of that night of anger, brought me back to life.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: Santorini’s Donkey sequence via creative commons license


Another Single Father’s Day

doing dad's day - team dadIt’s been three years. In posting about divorce and dating I’m here to say, the transformation in the last three years has been amazing. I don’t think it was the only way to go, but when the other person decides they are DONE, there’s really only the “business of divorce” left to take care of.

I’m struggling a bit, still. BUT, I’d have to say I’m on the happy side of the recovery process. I did wake up this morning with a huge panic, thinking my depression had just jumped on my ass while I was sleeping. (I do recall an epic bad dream.)

I’m happy to report it was only a momentary freak out. Probably based on the beginning of summer, and the fact that I was behind on one of my work projects. Because when I start feeling REALLY GOOD, I can also start fucking up. [Not this summer — my mantra — not this summer — not this fucking summer.]

It’s the end of day on a long Friday, where I’ve been up-and-at’m since 6 am. I’m actually going to the semi-annual divorce recovery graduation party tonight, hoping to introduce myself to a woman I crushed on last year, but didnt’ get to talk to. I was at the party with GF #1. Anyway, it’s been a long road. BUT, TAKE HOPE.

There is a way out. There is life beyond divorce. And there is happiness beyond all the grieving that must be done. Here are my last three Father’s Day posts. I expect I’ll write a real post in the next few days, as well.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Update: As I introduced myself this evening to the crush she was getting her purse to leave. “I wanted to say, Hi. I’m J from Facebook.” She connected after a few seconds, and remembered that I had attempted to connect with her after the last graduation class. I said, “It looks like your leaving.” She smiled, “Yes, I’m going to my boyfriend’s house.” BOOM. … Next.

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i could be back here in an hour

shaking off depression

 [from The Black Pages – poetry]

i am down but i was up just a little bit ago
feelin high singin songs smiling through the light in the hotel room window
but now i’m down, can’t find what’s on the ground in my mind
i’m underneath, in-between, i’ll be right back with who i really wanted to be tonight

if you’ll excuse me please, it won’t take but a day or two or a week

sometimes
when i hit it just right
i could be back here in an hour
swimming in the pool
i could

but nothing is cool about this foolishness today
nothing is colder than the grip of icy fingers across the back of my neck
i won’t be down for long, cause i don’t play this way
but when i can, i let the time and the rest and the touching lead the way

just wanna be with me, wanna be talky or play a game?
ya wanna go fishing?
go somewhere different
we can have coffee in a new cafe, everyday, don’t ya think?

cause there’s nothing to be done for it that ain’t already be done
there ain’t no vibe that a kicking rock song can’t find an edge
something so pretty, something of sparkling bliss
that can pick me up, take me out of this state

i’m a bout half as tired as when i went to sleep last night
all the words and projects and figuring it out
never gave my gentle thoughts equal time
i’ve been like this before, and if i can move beyond the bum
i can sometimes find my way into fascination

fascination and creativity are doors out of this hole i’m in
singing connects all of my arts with word, soul, resonance, breathing…
performing for people sets me free, shows all of my parts

9-7-09

a poem, written fragment of hope before the demise…

This is a list of todos to help with my emergence out of depression was ahead of this love letter to myself:

MUSIC
TENNIS
SEX
PLAYING WITH KIDS   and FAMILY
swimming
seeing live music 
performing music
writing music 
writing 
poetry 
publishing

The blue dots represent parts of my life currently reactivated today 5-27-13. With a little bit of effort and good fortune I could light up the other tasks shortly.


Breaking Up and Getting Over It: Someday We’ll Know

creative commons useage http://www.flickr.com/photos/34864643@N00/4649142787Tonight was one of those nights when you see your ex, and you think, “Thank god I have been released.”

It’s not that she’s suddenly become unattractive. Or that she’s doing a bad job at being a co-parent. (Hammering me for money is another thing altogether.) But there’s a hardness that I hadn’t noticed before. She’s gotten too thin. And kinda mean looking. (This is not meant to be a rag, sorry.)

She also looks very professional, and I am grateful that she seems to be thriving in her current job. As we no longer combine forces, she no longer has my sympathies, but I respect her hard work. She’s always been a dedicated worker.

But tonight, watching our son perform in orchestra, I was glad she came to sit next to me and then decided, “I need to be closer where I can see,” to move towards the front. I had a nice side view of her intense face. She was staring into her phone. (Seems to have become more and more the mode for her.) Perhaps she was exchanging chats with her lover. Perhaps racy emails with her girlfriends. Who knows. But what I saw was a complete disinterest in what we were doing at the school. It was a check box. A task that needed to be completed at the end of the school year, like so many other tasks. And it was the last event that was keeping her from her night with her lover, before a weekend where SHE HAS THE KIDS.

It really must be odd, and I don’t know the feeling, of wanting to be elsewhere when your kids are around.

I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

My daughter said something tonight, about how there was never any food in the house. “L the babysitter always goes to the store for dinner stuff, and there’s never any left overs.” Now, my daughter, who was saying this, has a tendency to be dramatic. But she was sharing a glimpse into the life that my ex-y has constructed.

I know it well. When she got on the work train, while we were married, there were many times when it was assumed I would feed, read, and put the kids to bed. I was being her “wife.” Well, I was grateful again, that she was employed. And I would do whatever I could to make a nice house, a nice leftover plate for her, and a bunch of smiling (from bed) kids for her to return home to.

And, god knows, there were even more times when she was performing this type of 100% parenting for me, while I was working late. But there was some different tone about the entire thing.

For me, it was more acceptable. Like the man at work, the wife at home making dinner. While I spent a number of years at a large corporation, it was a lot easier for her to work less than full-time, and spend a lot of extra time with the kids, at their school, doing projects at home.

When she was working late, by contrast, it was kind of dramatic. Like there was some great urgency that was keeping her at the office. And some sense that it was quite unfair for her to have to be working so hard.

WAIT A MINUTE!

That was MY INTERNAL VOICE saying those things. It’s dawning on me — right this very minute — the resentment I was feeling was not about her attitude, it was about mine! WTF? Seriously? I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

Maybe she played into my shame, a little. I don’t know. But I can now see this was MY SHIT not hers.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter.

I’m wondering if my scoffing at her taut looks tonight is also a product of my shame. I’m asking myself, “Sour grapes?’

I don’t think so. BUT, she was the best thing I’d ever had up to that point. She stayed with me through the toughest times in both our lives. And then she gave up on me.

No, for that I won’t be forgiving her. For the release from a sexless and joyless marriage, I have to thank her. I won’t be putting up with that again either. Ever.

And that’s the wonderful thing about the story. Even if I don’t know the ending, what I do know is the possibility is out there. GF #1 showed me what it feels like to really be adored. I CAN HAVE THAT AGAIN. And I actually deserve it.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter. I am always complemented on my POSITIVE ATTITUDE. “You’re so positive.” or “So much positive energy.”

It’s not exactly the same thing as irresistible, but I’ll take positive right now. And that’s the side I’m showing my kids.

The ex-y also asked me if I would let the kids know about the money shortage as well. As if she needed me to fess up to my own contribution to whatever struggles they were having about “stuff.” I spoke to them tonight about my current situation. I said we could not go to the BBQ place for dinner, because I didn’t have the money for it, and I had plenty of food at home.

“Why don’t you have any money?” my son asked. It was just a point-blank question, no real emotional inflection.

“I have three clients that owe me money right now. And it’s not like I don’t have any money, it’s just that when things get low, I really don’t spend money on stuff like eating out, when I have food at home.”

That satisfied both of them. My daughter, who has become somewhat obsessed with Starbucks, was quiet.

I am positive. I am certain I will continue to dig out of the financial hole the divorce and my subsequent low-times wreaked on me. All systems are go, the work is ahead, the clients are happy. (Affirmation: no low-times this summer.)

And I am positive I will find a more compatible mate. Now that we have this kid thing sorted out, there is only the relationship between me and this new person to sort out. I don’t need anything from them but adoration and the opportunity to adore them back.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: creative commons usage – medusa

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Someday We’ll Know – The New Radicals


Loneliness. Fessing Up When Things Hurt for No Apparent Reason

a nice walk at sunsetToday was one of those days. Nothing really happened to make me sad, but dropping the happy bubbling kids off at the ex-y’s house today I felt the depth of pain again. And maybe I have to come clean, maybe I need to look at my loneliness for a minute rather than skate over it in the name of exhaustion, too much work, apathy, and entertainment.

I don’t want to write about missing my kids. I want to go off and queue up a Game of Thrones episode and relax and forget about it.

I felt the pang of anxiety for the first time in months last week. I was dialing in some financial details and realized the bulk of the work that was materializing two months ago, had still failed to produce the steady income I needed. So I’m back against the wall, it’s the new month, and I still owe half of last month’s child support payment.

It is hard to share that. I’d rather curl up and be depressed. Maybe this is too raw, unedited… I can feel the emptiness and hopelessness that comes as part of this new planet I have landed upon. At the moment, I’m blogging, not writing the story. But perhaps the voice can come through and punch me back into gear.

At the moment it is exactly TWO WEEKS since I started this post. And the anger, vibrancy, and passion has veered off course into self-doubt and sadness.

Check list:

1. Exercise. YES

2. Eating well. MARGINAL

3. Sleeping well. YES

4. Keeping up with work. MARGINAL

5. Loneliness quotient: VERY HIGH

Dammit. I do not want to be here. I’ve called my support team. I am looking at what is going on with attention to ACTION rather than RUMINATION. And now as the sun is going down, I’m gonna have the 2nd walk of the day. A short one, an appreciation.

I’ve fallen down, but I am also in the process of getting up. Again. We get up again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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How Much Longer Until I Feel Better? (Post-divorce Depression)

when will I feel better after divorce?

One a day, or one day at a time, is the only way to think about recovery from divorce. Recently a trusted friend said that we DO need to take vitamins, that there were some key elements (in the general population’s diet) we were just not getting from our diet any more. And while I’m certain she was thinking of something more holistic than one-a-days, the price and convenience was right.

Each day, I dutifully swallow these little green happy pills. And I can’t help but wonder, “When are these new minerals and vitamins going to kick in? When will I feel better?” (Of course, if you need real happy pills be sure and talk to your doctor.)

There is no map out of this land of confusion. You press on, day after day, because you must, because there are people [kids in my case] counting on you.

There are going to be good days and bad days. And even when you feel completely free of the influence of your ex-y, something will happen, a trigger, a song, a restaurant, a movie, that will trigger you feelings of longing and loss again. It’s okay, it’s good to feel into those deep feelings in the moment, and then move on past them.

For me, the routine is the thing. I’m usually up by 6:00 am when I do my creative writing. (I developed this habit when I needed time to write and I would wake up before the entire house to get an hour in before I needed to wake everyone else up. It was always a little like being Santa Claus. Every one was soundly dreaming away an I was up making coffee and lunches and sitting in my comfy chair and writing. It was a golden moment.

And I enjoyed the routine of getting the kids out the door every day, for school. I was the breakfast dad. And I’m sure, from what my kids tell me, things are a bit different at the old house now. My son told me he shared with my ex-y about how I get them up in plenty of time to listen to some music and roll around in bed before having to get dressed. There’s always music in my house.

I do have to get the work done, so I can keep the house, and keep making child support payments, and eventually catch up on my taxes and credit cards.

So now there are 4 or 5 days in a row when I don’t have them to wake up, when they are with their mom. I still get up at 6 and write. And even by myself, even on weekends, I love this time alone. And I think this blog, this writing about it, has brought me up and out of any lingering sadness completely. Not so sure about the One-a-Day vitamins. I think my friend was imagining a more holistic vitamin. (grin)

So I’m up and at it early every day. And not that it’s getting really damn hot during the day, I try and get my walk in before 10 am as well. There is no question that the walking has helped a lot. Not with my buddha belly (yet) but certainly with the energy and confidence that comes from “doing what’s good for you.”

And today, just for a moment, speaking to my son on the phone, I wanted to be with him rather than where I was. I could’ve changed my day and done something else with him, but instead I stuck with the plan. I do have to get the work done, so I can keep the house, and keep making child support payments, and eventually catch up on my taxes and credit cards. Onward we go.

And walking down the road or trail with my iPod blasting, I can imagine that I will come through all of this in a better place. (Hey, maybe that One-a-Day is working.)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Followed by the Black Dog (of depression)

the black dog disappears

He came out of nowhere with a grin and a wild look in his brown eyes. The black dog began following me this morning on my walk. It was as if he was lonely for someone to cruise around with, and he took my singing with the iPod as encouragement. And he was like a shadow.

So much of the time recovering from divorce is about recovering from depression. “Clinical” or “temporary,” depression is a bitch. It keeps you in bed when you should go to work. It makes you eat crap when you should really start watching what you eat even more carefully. And for me, the worst part, it makes ME isolate like a motherfucker. That’s the killer for me.

I’m not depressed at the moment. So I am able to see and respond to the black dog [sadness] with an open hand. My energy level is high, I’m walking, so that’s good, and the music is weaving its tentacles in my brain and I’m feeling quite buoyant at the moment. So where did the black dog come from?

One of the most pivotal moments in recovery is admitting to yourself that depression is a problem. For me, isolation is pretty deep on the list of symptoms. By the time I’m isolating and fucking up at work, the other mechanics of depression are in full bloom.

My check-ins look kind of like this:

  • eating
  • sleeping
  • sexual desire (even masturbation can be a positive sign)
  • laughing or playing
  • calling people back
  • spending time with friends

When any of these balance points gets way out of whack I’m heading towards a wrestling match with the black dog. The last real battle lasted 4 – 5 months and could’ve easily killed me.

So when the black dog of depression is showing itself, I try to take evasive action as soon as I can.

Evasive Actions:

  • go for a walk
  • play a game (online with others if I can’t be with real people)
  • clean up my diet (it’s amazing what junk food and sugar highs can do to your overall life-performance)
  • see if there’s anything pornographic that interests me (if I can get an erection, at least I know I’m alive, I have a desire)
  • call one of my D-buddies (“Um, I’m just calling because I don’t want to call, and I don’t want to get together for lunch or anything.”)
  • meet with my counselor or doctor (talky therapists are critical, and meds doctors are too, if you’ve ever had deep bouts of depression)

The most important thing for me is to stay out of the isolation chamber. That is where I slowly, patiently, kill myself.

So this morning, I’m not feeling much charge from the depressive side of my life at the moment, and the black dog is more of a friend and companion. He won’t come close enough for me to pet him, but he smiles at me just the same. He keeps his distance, I keep singing along to the music on my iPod, and we mosey on down the road together.

And then out of nowhere appears another set of black dogs. The twins from down the street. These guys I know.

the twins from down the street

For a minute I’m not sure if the black dog is going to gel or fight, but I keep walking, imagining they’re going to work it out between themselves.

I look back about 5 minutes later, to see if the black dog is still with me. The three dogs are doing some sort of ecstasy-daisy-chain-circle-dance, They are lost in their dog-ness.

I am happy the black dog has found better companions. I’m not afraid to befriend him. The converse is true. Depression is part of loss. And if you are FEELING the divorce, you will probably feel depressed.

For me, this blog became one of my re-stabilizing forces. I write to process. I write to learn and make sense of what is happening. The first time, when my ex-y asked me to take it down, I was depressed. What I realized only later, was that I was in the early stages of depression. By shutting down the expression of my anger, sadness, and loss; by killing this blog, the first time, I actually hastened my own slip further into darkness.

Today the black dog (of depression) is my friend. I will see him again from time to time. He will travel with me for a bit. And we will part ways when one of us has a more interesting opportunity.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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