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

Posts tagged “divorce depression

Alone is Different Than Aloneliness After Divorce


There are hundreds of times during the day that I miss my kids. (The ex, not so much.) And on the days when they are not coming home to MY HOUSE, well…  I can choose to be sad about those days, or…

Alone I have all options open to me. My time is my own. While I still have to make money (and now, supporting two households, it’s even more than it was when I was still married) the time back, the time I would never have been able to negotiate during my marriage, is a great thing. When I’m up, that is.

When I’m down, all time away from my kids is sad time. However, I understand that a whole bunch of that is MY SADNESS, and probably has very little to do with my kids or my divorce.

When I’m DOWN, alone-ness is hard. The things I try to remember are:

  • It ends, I will feel better
  • If I can exercise, even walking around the block, it is better than moping
  • Eating is essential, and eating better is even more critical when you are self-medicating
  • I’m better off not sharing this deep and existential pain with my kids (they will have plenty of time to learn about it for themselves, and they can read my writing about it, LATER.)
  • Getting enough sleep is essential
  • Laughing (movies, games, social media) is good medicine for the mind
  • Waking up at your normal time (not sleeping in unless you are sick) and shaving and taking a shower is good for your body and mind

When I’m UP, well, there’s no lack of projects and activities that I want to get to. I do have to reign in a few things in my UP mode as well.

  • Getting enough sleep is essential (staying up one night in an inspirational fit is okay, two nights is a problem)
  • I still have to do my WORK and pay my BILLS (those things often bring me out of my dream-like creative state, but they must be done)
  • I have to prioritize my time (all play and no work, all fresh air and growth work without any billable hours will get me into trouble pretty quickly)

So today, Sunday, I am still balancing the creative big ideas and the need to get a few hours of work done before Monday morning. And that new guitar sitting over there looking quite pretty and seductive, will have to wait until I get my Dec. hours billed.

I’m alone, but not lonely. And I’m grateful for that. And that I know the difference has had a huge impact on my approach to the feelings of Alone-ness vs. Aloneliness.


The Off Parent

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image: loneliness, ktoine, creative commons usage

I See You – Losing that Loving Perspective


At some point in the relationship, my ex was no longer seeing me. She didn’t listen to the songs or poems I was writing. I was unable to reach her by asking for what I needed. She was gone in some fundamental way.

The most basic need I think we are all trying to fill is that of being seen. Being embraced for who we are, for accomplishing or failing at our ambitions, for our good deeds and our strengths. When two people begin the courting process, we are trying to see ourselves reflected in the other’s love for us.

A whole bunch of the courtship is our own projection and song of desire we are projecting on other person. We are self-creating the fantasy of who this “lover” is and all the ways they complete us. A feeling of fulfillment, the fulfillment of some long unmet needs, all being showered down upon us in the radiant attention of someone else’s love. And then there is the rest of life.

I sing the song of myself all the time. I project a wonderful life story on the woman who speeds past me in the black Audi with bike racks. I plug in my projection of who she is and how she will be amazed at the new song I have written her. And I’m sure at one point, my ex-y, pre-kids, pre-major-adult-responsibilities, saw me.

My mom has a picture of me at that time. My girlfriend-at-that-point-in-time and I had gotten a Boston Terrier together. In the picture I am holding the tiny dog and looking pretty pleased with my life. It was the only time in my life that I had shoulder-length hair. This is who my ex-y saw and crawled into life with. This younger me, with long hair, and ambitions to “make it” as a musician. And she was an artist too. We were artists.

As time progressed the real world set in and our first child brought more realness than we’d imagined. She took time off from work, I was self-employed and working in the garage of the new house, in the dream neighborhood, that we’d purchased for the kids. “For the kids.” Okay, it was for  us too. There was a part of it, dream fulfilled, that we had moved into a sweet neighborhood with sweet schools and a sweet tennis/swim club just down the hill. It was a sweet moment.

Things got more and more real. I had to provide financially on a different level than I had ever had to before. We were happy in our little dream and we were working hard to keep it warm and fun. And of course we had the baby boy. The amazing baby boy.

And I recall the exact moment our second child was conceived. We both did. It was a mid-May afternoon, the weather was just moving from crisp to hot and my then wife, came home from her part-time work, and she was standing in the opening of the garage door, in her professional attire, looking like the very hot woman I had fallen head over heals in love with. The baby was inside asleep. It was a perfect moment. We made sweaty hot love with her on top of me, mostly still clothed, sitting in the chair at my desk. We both enjoyed it. An ecstatic moment.

Already, we were conscious of wanting another child. The baby had been so fantastic. And wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have a girl too.

This time the pleasant valley road didn’t go so smoothly. After our first proud sonogram at the regular ob/gyn’s office, we were given pictures of our baby girl [YAY] and the number for a pre-natal specialist. A few of the numbers were off.

Way the fuck off. And thus began the roughest moments in my life. Our daughter had a rare disorder, a blood incompatibility with my wife’s blood. The weekly doctor’s visits, with their go-nogo diagnostics were almost unbearable. But what do you do? You can only bear it. There is no RESET button. You can’t go somewhere else and hope things get better.

Our son was amazing. Our nanny was amazing. Our doctor and our pre-natalogist was amazing. It was all fucking amazing and terrifying.

And about this time, the twin towers were taken out and all of our lives, the entire planet, were stopped and changed. But the doctor’s visits still had to go on. And even though each of my consulting clients froze every cent of my income overnight, I had to press on with “what’s next.”

Neither of us knew what was next. But it was probably during this period in our lives that we began to lose track of each other. My spiral into despair and struggle was not a pretty one. And she soldiered on. She was amazing. I tried to keep telling her that without sounding desperate. I tried to be strong, and I guess I was, but everything was kitty-wampus and upside down. We do what you do. We pressed onward. We fought to keep our daughter, we blessed my wife’s part-time employer insurance that covered the entire 6 months of pre-natal care. We hovered around our son and each other. And we pressed on. And maybe we broke.

Our daughter was born healthy and feisty one mid-morning in November. And she was a miracle. The blood issues that might have been present didn’t show up on any of the monitoring machines. We had made it through the dark. We were through the initial shock of it all [birth, 2nd kid, 9-11] and turning the corner into the next stretch and headlong into some very dark woods indeed.

The very real work of having a family, working to keep a house and keep our sanity during such a trying time led to some pretty serious consequences. I will admit to having some sort of nervous mid-life break down. Somewhere in my fears my brain had decided it was no longer a productive part of my body. So we, my wife and I, were both in deep reality-bites mode and moving quickly into WTF mode.

My recovery was not easy. And the toll was paid on my wife, my son, and my new daughter. And the toll was taken on my life expectancy, as I continued to struggle for what I wanted to do now that my business had been blown up by 911. And the bills, mortgage, and doctor appointments never slowed down. It’s like my life had taken a stall, but the rest of reality kept barreling right along.

But as I recovered parts of my spirit, as my trusting and happy self re-emerged there was a long distance between my wife and I. We’d both been through hell. She had stayed sane and dealt with it. And I had exited in some psychological way and left her with all the work. [That’s not quite true, it’s not like I left or died or anything, but my 110% self was tucked away somewhere deep.]

And so in trying to make it forward we stopped listening to each other. We tried, but the noise the fear and the pain was too loud. And we struggled on. We both stuck it out. What choice did we have? Divorce? It wasn’t in my vocabulary. Depression. That one was familiar, unfortunately.

And our little unit survived. Scarred and weary, but we survived. And when the joy began to return, the true gut busting joy, I started feeling and acting on the hopefulness I felt. I’m imagining my ex-y never got back to that joyful trust again. She did not respond to my affections in the same way. She wasn’t supportive of the music I was creating as part of my recovery. I’m pretty sure she only listened to them when I sat with her and made her see me and hear me.

I was looking for something like a healing between us. I was expressing my ouch and my yay. She was not listening. She must have been listening to some other internal voice of her own. And the warnings and trouble overwhelmed the positive memories. Perhaps she never trusted me, or allowed the feelings of love to come between us, again. (Sad.)

We want to be seen. More than anything in the world we want to just be seen for what we are and what we have accomplished. I tried to thank her for her support and celebrate our rebirth. I sang to my kids. I sang to others. But she had lost the taste for my voice. And perhaps it was over for her, long before it was expressed as a desire for divorce. I kept singing. I kept writing poems. I kept playing and enjoying our kids. And she continued to maintain and increase her distance from me. Perhaps even from them, in some guarded way.

I writhed a bit. Our last Valentine’s Day as a married couple was a complete miss. I posted a geeky love poem on my blog. I was sure she would see it. She was working in Search Engine Optimization, so I SEO’d the post with her name and my name, thinking that might get caught in her filter. She did not see it. I kept it as a secret not as a trick, but as a way to surprise the heck out of her when she “discovered” my love poem.

I followed through on Valentine’s Day morning by letting her sleep in while I made pancakes and entertained the kids. [That this had become more and more of a pattern, might have been a clue as to her state of mind, but I was happy to give her some extra rest.] When she woke, I made her some coffee and breakfast. And I had a gift and a card for her. The kids had cards for her as well.

Her Valentine gift to me was a bit odd. She gave the me book of The Fighter. And her card said something about me being on FIRE and her like ICE. She was saying something about how our opposites were still good together. But I don’t think she meant it. I was more confused than encouraged. I wanted to understand the hint, but I couldn’t get past the pugilistic book. How that exemplified her love for me, was unclear.

I was still writing love letters and she was giving me a book about a boxer. Clearly we were not hearing or seeing each other with the same hearts that brought us together, eleven years earlier.


The Off Parent

image: down left up, jane rahman, creative commons usage

Followed by the Black Dog (of depression)

the black dog disappears

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.


The Off Parent

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Depression is No Joke: Suicide is Not the Answer to Any Question or Problem

get help for depression in your divorceAs I’m thinking about some of the darkest times in my life, the fall from having it all to having nothing was the harshest thing I could imagine. There were moments…

(Disclaimer: I am not a counselor or mental health professional. I am not offering advice on how to treat your depression or suicidal thoughts. I am saying GET HELP and GET IT NOW. See also the Divorce Reference Library page)

For now, here are a few things I learned about depression.

Your brain is fooling you. You can no longer trust your own thoughts. Even the negative thoughts are not accurate. What was critically important for me was to realize when I was getting depressed and go into humorous observation mode. “Wow, my thinking is really fucked up.” There’s nothing funny about depression, but sometimes if I could amplify my dark clouds to the ultimate extreme I could remind myself how silly my thinking could get. I mean, I was probably not responsible for nuclear war. But that’s how it felt sometimes.

Soft thoughts about suicide are actually suicidal thoughts. Harder to admit the word “suicide” into my vocabulary. But I had vague ideas about jumping from a bridge or crashing my car at high-speed. And while those are called “ideation” they ARE actually suicidal thoughts. Take them seriously. Again, remember, your brain is crazy at this point. Even odd thoughts about how you “might” kill yourself are actually thoughts about killing yourself. I know that sounds kind of circular, but it’s easy to discount the “concept” rather than the “plan” of killing yourself.

Tell your care team about your “ideation.” Even the littlest thing can be a clue into what’s going on in your brain. And once you get over the hurdle of talking about it, you can begin to disassemble the issues and problems that are making you consider that ending your life might be a solution to ANYTHING. It’s not a solution!

If you ever find yourself with a plan, call 911. Do whatever it takes to get yourself to share your planning with someone else. This is serious. If you have a plan, call your healthcare provider now. If you’re plan is in motion, call 911. Only you can take the action to prevent this.

Everything else can wait. Everything else, every problem, every situation, can wait for you to clear your depressive thoughts. There are a lot of helpful things you can do to move forward and out of depression. I have some powerful references in the Library. But for now, just know, that ANYTHING you do to stop your depressive acting out is worth it. Ice cream, funny movies, computer games, whatever it takes to break the spiral of dark thoughts.

Isolation is your enemy. Those dark thoughts can seethe and spin unchecked when you are staying in bed or blocking and not returning phone calls. What you need but can’t seem to ask for, is companionship. Just another soul to be with, to check in, to ask, “What are you doing tomorrow.” Do what you can to find that one person who understands. And then thank them for providing you with a check-in. That’s all you need at first. A “check-in.” Someone who is going to call and who you cannot block. It sucks, but the longer you dig in to the darkness the harder it is to pull out.

In my case I used some of the 12-step literature to help bootstrap myself back out of my dark cave and into recovery. The concept of MASSIVE ACTION really spoke to me. The idea being, that little incremental steps were not going to be enough to pull me up out of depression. So I signed up for a divorce recovery class (10-week counselor-led group) and joined an Aikido class. And every day, I made a plan to get out of bed and out in the world for a healthy lunch.

Just beginning these commitments toward health signaled to my depression that I was not going to take it lying down any more.

Some people have the idea that depression is a weakness. That everybody should be able to pull themselves up if they wanted to. Fuck that. Depression is a real beast. If you’ve never felt the weight of the black beast on you, you are lucky. But if you have dealt with, or think you may be dealing with depression, GET HELP.

You don’t have to do it alone. And trying to do it ALONE might even make things worse. The shame of depression is still real. But you cannot let it prevent you from getting the help you need.


The Off Parent

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See also: Followed By the Black Dog of Depression