Recovery

I feel like yesterday was the first day in a long while that I have had a sense that things are going to be okay.

Thursday was a public holiday here in Australia, and I had a rostered day off on Friday. I was originally meant to be going out west with my 2 younger kids and boyfriend for a camping trip and to attend a festival plus a few other things, leaving on the Friday. However the previous weekend (easter weekend), the boyfriend and I had been to Canberra to attend another festival, staying in a motel there and going out to dinner and doing a few other things. Originally, I had not wanted to go to Canberra, realising that it was going to be expensive. But then the boyfriend said he would pay for accommodation, so I agreed, even though that does not sit comfortably with me. As it turns out, I offered to pay half anyway and the weekend trip cost me quite a bit of money.

And there was my budget for the trip with kids gone. So I texted him and apologised, that we couldn’t go, I had spent all my money for it. And also that I just can’t afford to keep taking weekends away that cost a lot of money. He has continued to text me all weekend to come for the day, just come overnight and he will pay for it, but I have said no. Because I know he will start hinting that it is costing him a lot of money and I will end up paying for it anyway. The kids did not want to go up just for a day – the travel is too far. I feel guilty about letting him down, but I can’t also keep living as though I have all the money in the world to spend. I had a little bit of money set aside that was going to be for a trip to Japan for me and the kids. It has gradually been whittled down so now there is not even enough to book flights for us, and now I need to save all that money up again.

Anyway, Thursday was spent not really feeling like doing much, but I had made my list of a few simple jobs to get done, and started working through those. Friday I spent the day pretty much reading all day, interspersed with a few jobs.

But I got a bit of stuff done. Mostly I worked on my bedroom, which has been overtaken by a pile of clutter comprising of laundry that needed sorting and things that I didn’t know what else to do with. Now my room is a fairly pleasant place to sit, and it’s where I am right now.

Friday night I took the kids to see Avengers: Endgame, yesterday we took a bushwalk and today will be a bike ride. I’ve done groceries, folded clothes, even baked a cake (!!) This morning I will mow the back lawn (did the front the other day) and fix my bike prior to the scheduled bike ride.

So I feel like I am on the path to recovery. I am still a bit fragile following the bit of a breakdown I had a few weeks back, but I’m getting better, I think. And I am sober. I had got up 26 days before I drank again, and now on day 5 today.

Things are looking up

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Prodigal

I reckon the most common sentence on blogs will be what I’m about to write.

“It’s been a while since I have been here.”

My guess is because people start blogs when they are emotionally overwrought and they have nowhere else to turn, and their thoughts and feelings need an escape route. So they start a blog, hoping that someone out there somewhere will understand or empathise or commiserate. And then the high emotions pass and so, too, does the blog.

I am no different. I’ve started – and deleted – blogs many times. For some reason I didn’t delete this one. I was surprised to discover it was still here and saddened by some of the stuff I had written.

And here I am again, emotionally overwrought and the boring saga that is my life continues.

To update: I am now officially as divorced as someone who was never married can be. I have a busy life raising my kids 50% of the time, working full-time, I have a rental house and furniture. It is not the greatest furniture and not the greatest job, but it’s what I’ve got. I have a boyfriend.

I still have depression. It crept up on me on its tippy toes a few weeks ago and *bam*, whacked me over the head. In retrospect, I realise that actually the past few months I have been like Dory in the movie – “keep swimming”. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I’ve had some really happy times in the past 3 years despite the difficulties of adjusting to single parent life. But more recently, once that adjustment period was over and we got to the maintenance phase and I looked around at my life and I felt that things weren’t that great.

There are parts of my life that are not great at all, but I just had this idea that if I just keep going everything would sort itself out. Then I started realising that I needed to take time to sort some of this stuff out. Then I realised that I don’t have the time to sort this stuff out. I don’t have the time to just enjoy my kids. My life is so fast and so busy that I feel like I never even have the chance to relax.

I’m so busy when the kids are here that I feel like I don’t have the time just to enjoy them.

I’m so lonely when they are not here that I stay late at work and distract myself with crap activities (for example drinking) so I don’t feel their absence.

The time I spend with my boyfriend is so busy, busy, busy that I half-resent that I don’t get to just stop and be.

I have so much on my plate at work and it is incredibly stressful and I receive little support from management to achieve it. At my last performance review it was noted that I need to do some postgrad study, so I enrolled in a Masters to commence this year, just to give myself some added stress.

I have no support network. My family (mother, siblings) are not supportive. I no longer have any close friends. I used to think this was because of them, now it has slowly dawned on me that it is because of me.

My eldest kid revealed he has depression.  I really can’t blame him with a mother like me.

And then I had a smallish nervous breakdown. I kept it to myself – well, I didn’t really have anyone to share it with. But I had realised I was drinking (again) as a form of self medication and gave it up. Of course when you do that you are faced with reality, and the reality was that I was deeply unhappy with my life as it was panning out. I spent a few days going to the bathroom at work and just sitting their sobbing, then going back to my desk and the stupid stressful work I had to get done. And getting home at night and crying when my kids were in their rooms but pretending all was good when they were around. And generally being not particularly useful to anyone.

The extreme of this subsided after about 3 days, but that feeling of overwhelm and despair and feeling dead to the core has stayed with me. Life is an effort at the moment and I have to make myself lists to get anything done. Today there were 4 things on the list to do when I got home and so far I have done 2. I may not get the others done. Being at work, while a struggle, is actually better for me because I have to put on my fake smile and for a while I believe I am okay, and start to think, “Oh, I might be better now” until the sinking feeling hits me again and I realise that I’m not.

And I know I need to go to my doctor and get a referral to a therapist and possibly get some antidepressants. But I can’t. Because my priority at the moment is to get my son fixed. And the fact is I am a single parent with limited income and I can’t afford to fix us both, so he gets priority. I have an appointment for him next week with a social worker who will hopefully tell us the best way forward to get him treatment.

So for me I will just try to do what I can by keeping busy and active and not drinking (I am nearly 2 weeks sober at the moment).

And in the meantime I will just keep swimming.

 

 

How does love end?

I’ve been reading a lot over the past several months – years, really – about separation and divorce and the end of relationships.

I guess it’s different for others. But the couple of people I have mentioned my impending relationship breakup to are concerned for my wellbeing. They’re asking if I’m okay.

And I am. I know I’m only at the very beginning of this whole deal, but all the books and advice and articles talk about the grief I will be feeling at this stage. I guess I do a little. I’m definitely sad now I’ve finally admitted that yes, this is the end. But it’s not overwhelming. Yet. It’s just … melancholy. But I’ve had much more grief-ridden times over the past few years. Not that I want to go dragging up past hurts but there were times when I sobbed to myself because I knew beyond a doubt that I would never be first and foremost with my partner; that there would always be something more important. I’ve cried knowing this man would not be the father I wished for my children; that again, there would always be something more important. I’ve cried knowing that he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide me with what I need in a relationship. And I’ve cried many, many times doubting that he has ever loved me.

I have done my grieving in  a hundred small ways over the years. And each time, I guess the grief has chipped away at any love that has been there.

And now all I’m left with is a sad ending. And I know it is time to move on.

On knowing when to go

Last night I had that conversation. The one all unhappy couples avoid.

I’m going to have to go back and re-read some of my previous posts.  I took a brief look at my most recent (from May this year) and I can see how stuck I’ve been for a long time.

I’ve read and re-read piles of separation and marriage and divorce help books.  I’ve been through that horrible cycle of ambivalence over and over.  I’ve chided myself for being immature and told myself that this is what relationships are all about. Enduring shit, you know?  I’ve told myself I’m being selfish, that I need to put my kids first. I’ve wallowed in guilt for even thinking of putting them through the crap we would no doubt have to go through.

I’ve smothered those screaming voices in my head and my heart as much as I can, stomped them down into the pit of my soul and convinced myself that it’s okay. We can make this work.

And it works for a little while. Until the cycle begins again. Anyone who’s been through it knows what I’m talking about.  All the articles and books and blog posts you read about the whole relationship ambivalence cycle liken it to a rollercoaster ride, but I beg to differ.  It’s more like the Rotor. That cylindrical ride which spins around so fast that you find yourself pinned to the wall and completely without any control.

After going through this cycle numerous times this year (and it gets longer and longer each time, I’ve noticed), I finally took myself off to a relationship counsellor. I had a couple of sessions with him, and he suggested bringing in my partner for joint counselling. And while at the time I started seeing the counsellor I was feeling quite strongly that I should end our relationship, I agreed, as I figured it couldn’t hurt.  My counsellor had suggested a particular program that he runs, where we both complete an online questionnaire about the relationship which he then assesses, and then we come into counselling and work on the issues that have been highlighted.

So I suggested to my partner that we either need to do something about the relationship or end it (he agreed and said that he’d considered a separation himself). So we agreed to do this questionnaire. The counsellor sent it to us both and told us that when we’d both completed it, he’d be in touch to arrange our first session.

I completed my questionnaire within the first couple of days.  As we were told, it only takes about half an hour to complete.  But a week went by and then a few more days and I still hadn’t been contacted by the counsellor regarding the joint counselling session.  And I started to think to myself how bloody typical this was; my partner obviously hadn’t prioritised the issue of counselling, instead preferring to sit in front of the tv rather than take action.

And then after that initial reaction, I started to feel a huge sense of relief.  I started to feel thankful that he hadn’t done the questionnaire, and feel hopeful that he would just forget all about it entirely. I felt absolved and that all my doubts about our relationship were correct.  And I knew then, without a doubt, that I didn’t want to work on this relationship.  Emotionally speaking, I have left it a long time ago.  The reason that we never seem to make any progress on reconciling and building a happier relationship is because in my heart of hearts, I don’t want to.

And I don’t know when this occurred, but it just did, somewhere along the line.  All the times I’ve convinced myself that it could work and I’ve still stopped trying is because I didn’t really want to.  I’ve been fighting against myself.

So last night, I sat down with my partner and I told him how I’d realised I didn’t want to go through with the counselling.  I told him that I don’t believe I am prepared to work at fixing things.  I told him that I think we need to separate.  He asked why and I told him I didn’t really have the answer, but that I’ve been fighting against that feeling for a long, long time and I finally need to trust myself.  I apologised for being a crappy partner and for putting our family through the crap that we are about to go through.

It went better than I expected.  I anticipated yelling and disdain and harsh, angry words. But he wasn’t. He was cold and angry, which he has every right to be, and I expect that he will be for a long time yet. But he didn’t rant, he didn’t rave.

And he didn’t protest that he loved me. I think if he had, I might not feel so confident this morning that I am absolutely doing the right thing, or I might at least feel a little guilty.  As it is, I feel bad for the pain he and I and the kids will probably go through over the next couple of years, but I don’t feel guilty.  I went to bed before him last night (we’re still in the same room) and he came in and slammed things about a bit (which is what he does when he’s cranky), but I was awake from around 3-ish for a couple of hours and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. At least, he was snoring away like he normally does, so I figure he’s not too disturbed.

So I don’t feel guilty. I know that I am making the right decision here, as horrible as it is all going to be.  I believe that ultimately we are all going to be happier.

That said, I know that the worst is yet to come.  I’m not congratulating myself just yet; there is a long, long way to go.

Faith

I’m not a religious person.  I was raised Catholic, but stopped believing in a higher entity a long, long time ago.  There are times I wish it wasn’t true; that I could lay my problems at the feet of some deity and have them figure it all out, but alas, it is not the case.

So, I have to sort my problems out myself. With the help of some experts; I’m a big fan of self-help books.

I’ve read books — recently and not-so-recently — about divorce, separation, marriage and what-have-you, to try and help me sort through my feelings.   They all talk about this cyclical emotional state I’ve been going through, and the descriptions are dead on. The mental tension builds up until you reach this crisis  point. You feel like you can see the way ahead.  Then the guilt and bargaining starts — maybe I should try X, or maybe I didn’t do Y well/hard enough. Then the tension eases and you are back to where you started until discontent sets in again and the tension starts to build.

And it’s exhausting.  It really is.

Today I have been ruminating on the guilt that hit me yesterday. I have a habit of looking outside myself for the answers; to see if someone else knows.  So I read stuff on the internet about people who have divorced or separated, and the reasons they did it.  And when I read around, it seems some people have really chosen some arseholes to be married to. And that makes me feel guilty because, honestly, my situation is not as bad as theirs.  I’m not being beaten, or raped, or verbally or mentally abused. He’s not a lazy bum who sits around all day drinking beer. He’s not cheating.

And I feel guilty because there seems to be an unwritten rule somewhere that unless it’s, like, really bad, you should keep on trying.  And I’m not.  And I don’t want to. Which makes me feel even guiltier.

So usually when I get to the bargaining stage of this cycle, the guilt wins.  I tell myself that I’m crazy. There’s no problem, it’s all in my head. I even started on that argument again yesterday, but then I forced myself to examine my reality as objectively as I could.

There is one, key, core issue at stake here. I no longer want a relationship with my partner.  I’m happy to co-parent. I’m happy to let him have the house (for a small price).  But I no longer want him. And it’s not because he’s bad or I’m an unappreciative bitch or anything like that; it’s just that we have, rather boringly, grown apart. Both of us could probably point to a hundred little indicators along the way here, but honestly it doesn’t matter. There were choices we made and here we are.  Honestly, we didn’t too bad a job, and if we both liked one another enough to share a companionable relationship, we could probably keep going for another twenty years. But we don’t.  We just don’t. We’re not only not in each other’s orbits; we’re not even in the same solar system any more.

And that makes me feel sad.  I’m sad that he will be hurt.  I’m sad that he will feel rejected.  I’m sad that I am closing the door on this era of my life.  It’s going to be a huge wrench, and a huge adjustment for us all, but I firmly believe that ultimately it is the best decision for all of us.

Because I might not have faith in a god, and I might not have faith in the internet, and I don’t always have faith in the self-help books, but for the first time in my life, I need to have faith in myself.

 

Guilt

Every time I voice my feelings about my relationship (even if it’s just on an anonymous post on the internet), I’m immediately overcome with guilt. This is happening this morning so I really desperately need to sit down and capture it, so I can process it and help myself understand better.

This post is not going to make sense so if you make it through, I commend you!

There’s a part of me that starts talking me down off the ledge. The relationship is workable. He’s a decent guy. You can get along if you try.

And all these things are true. So I start to wonder if this is all in my head.  Because the fact is that I am *not* trying at the moment. I haven’t been for some time. And even when I’ve tried, it has been kind of half-hearted. So when my efforts to salvage the relationship stop for whatever reason – I got distracted, I thought I’d wait and see what he’d do, we had an argument, whatever – and we fall back into our usual unloving status quo, while it’s upsetting, I think I am secretly relieved.

Because it feels like vindication.

This morning the guilt has me asking why. Why do I think this relationship is at its end? What is it I am not happy about? Why am I not happy? Why do you think there should be more than this anyway?

I can come up with every justification in the book, but that that’s because I think I am always looking for signs that the relationship is doomed. He does something annoying/stupid/selfish, and it’s like “See?? I told you so!!”

So why?  Why???  I need to list this, for my own sanity.

  1. Because we live completely separate lives.  He does his thing, I do mine.
  2. We don’t communicate.
  3. I am not a priority for him. He makes arrangements (financial, social, etc) first, consults me second.
  4. There is no affection.
  5. There is no sex. I can’t remember the last time we had sex. Maybe a year ago?
  6. He has given me exactly 1 compliment in the past 15 years.
  7. Our political leanings are very different, and when I hear him voice his, I actually hate him.
  8. I find him uncaring.
  9. There is no companionship. There is no companionable sitting on the lounge together watching tv or a movie.
  10. We spend no time together. No dates, nights out, weekends away, holidays together that don’t involve the kids.
  11. I don’t think either of us enjoys each other’s company (see 8 and 9 above).
  12. I don’t think he likes me all that much. Which may be a projection, because I’m not sure I like him all that much.

Now, I’m aware that all of the above don’t necessarily spell the end of a relationship. but there’s one key item that overrides all the others.

13. I no longer want to try and fix it.

Which leads to:

14. I don’t think I love him.

 

The struggle

I have found myself reasoning that I am the only one hurting from my unhappy relationship, so it’s better for all concerned if I stay.  I have been willing myself to accept the relationship for what it is; to accept that a marriage (or marriage-like relationship) cannot possibly meet all the demands we make of it these days.

And then the rebel within me screams that, no actually, everyone is hurting.  My children are being hurt by seeing this held up as an example.  They are hurt by the snide comments from both of us.  They are hurt by having a mother with a dark and angry core that is capable of erupting from time to time.  My partner is hurt by having a spouse who doesn’t love him.

And the rebel screams that I shouldn’t accept this relationship for what it is.  It’s not love, it’s not friendship, it’s not companionship, it’s not respect, it’s not affection, it’s not intimacy.  And if it’s none of these things, then what is it?

So I start to believe her, but then the coward chimes in with what sounds like common sense.  Have you really done all you can to save this relationship, the way the books say you should?  And then I have to stop and ask myself if what I have done is enough.

The efforts to make this relationship something better stopped when I stopped.  I stopped asking for my needs to be met and they weren’t. Any improvements continue only as long as I am the one who makes the effort. When I don’t, we revert to the seriously sub-par status quo. Is it enough? Is it enough of an effort? Is it okay if I stop? Is it okay for me to give up when I am the only one who cares?

Somehow I can’t quite give myself permission.

I want one of those people that you see in death scenes in movies where the person has been in a coma for a while and their loved one is sitting next to them crying and saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay to let go. You can leave now.”

And I know that the only person who can give permission is me, but if it came from someone else it would be a huge help.