When I first realized my marriage was over I thought about what life would be like without my spouse. What changes would be made to my family now that we were a family minus one. What would it be like sleeping in bed alone? Never having someone in the house to delegate tasks I realllly didn’t want to do to? What about when bedtime gets bad and I could use a hand, but that hand lives somewhere else now?
I wondered about losing a spouse and partner in the home and what that would mean for our dynamic and how our home would function now with one less person. But I took me a while to realize that in divorce, you lose so much more than just your spouse.
You lose friends. People pick sides. Whether they intend to or not, they seem to feel the need to form alliances and mutual friends tend to lean one way or the other. Many of my ex-husband’s friends were made during our marriage, which made this especially hard for me because in my eyes, they were just as much my friends as they were his. But they didn’t see things that way. I lost a lot of friends, which in turn meant I lost a lot of support I could have used.
You lose your confidence. Nothing makes you question your ability as a human being like realizing you made the CATASTROPHIC desicion to marry the wrong person. If your divorce is ugly and harsh, like mine, it chips even more away at your self-esteem little by little as you wonder how you could have stayed this long, how this man you shared your life with could do and say these TERRIBLE things about you, and how stupid are you that you didn’t see him for who he really was sooner? You question your judgement, your ability to move on, you wonder if you find someone new if you’ll make the same mistake(s) again. You feel fragile. Broken.
You lose your family. My ex and I were together for 12 years. His family became part of my family. And whether or not we had a great relationship, they were still family. And they are always family to my children. But during (and even after) divorce the relationship changes so drastically. They are no longer people you would want to turn to in crisis. You don’t want to confide in them or rely on them any longer. You feel like they are judging you. And you know that they are on his side, they are HIS family in blood.
You lose time with your kids. You know you’ll have to split holidays and birthdays. Share special days throughout the year or spend them in awkward silence with your future ex, but you don’t realize how much that time really adds up and how much it HURTS until it happens. And it doesn’t get easier. The minute they leave, you miss them. And the minute they get home, you’re already worrying about the next time they will leave again.
You lose STUFF. It sounds like a #firstworldproblem to be concerned about material things, but it’s true. You lose your favorite couch or your best towels. You lose your house when you’re forced to sell it and split things down the middle. You lose your credit limit because it’s no longer a shared entity. Your cars, your plates, your blender, you lose HALF OF EVERYTHING. And you don’t think about this at first, but rebuilding an entire life from 50% back up to where you left off can be hard (and costly) to do.
Which means, you lose money. Between splitting your finances and your assets, you also spend thousands on attorneys, mediators, babysitters to help you get through it all. You spend so much money on divorce that the idea of getting divorced ever again means you’ll probably never accept another proposal because you can’t risk the financial hit it sends rippling through your accounts.
You lose your pets. Maybe you are the one who keeps them, but in divorce pets can’t live in two places at once so one of you will be bound to lose your furry friend’s companionship on a daily basis. In my divorce I was so worried about my children and what would happen with them I didn’t even think about my animals until my divorce was almost finalized. They weren’t an item that came up in our talks with our attorneys and if you ask me, that’s not right. My pet stayed with me, but he’s not the same. He lost someone too.
Divorce is hard. It turns your world upside down and forces you to find yourself all over again after years of thinking that this is your “forever life.” Everyone around you gets effected by the residual effects of your mood, your change in lifestyle, your new independence. But you don’t think about how much you really LOSE when you decide to call it quits. It’s more than just the partner you’re divorcing. And that part hurts enough.
It’s been years since I have had a major attack. One that made me consider the scary scenario that I may actually be dying. Knowing that I experience these types of attacks, I am usually able to talk myself down. To remind myself of what this really is and that it will pass. Everything will be ok.
But tonight, I was completely taken by surprise. I had just finished up dinner and done the dishes. I was getting my kids finished with their baths and ready for bed. I was getting ready to finally RELAX for the day. And suddenly it hit me. It came out of nowhere. In an instant I felt like my entire world shifted.
My vision changed, just slightly. I felt for a split second like I was floating, but not in a good way. In a way that made me feel like my equilibrium was shifting rapidly. And then fear set in. I was scared. My throat was tight and my body felt weak. I was sure I was going to pass out. My heart started racing and my mind and my body went into flight mode. I wanted to run but I also wanted to go nowhere at all.
These are all common symptoms I have experienced in the past with a severe panic attack. Attacks that I was having on an almost weekly basis. Attacks I had started to attribute to my failing marriage because coincidentally after my divorce was finalized they seemed to vanish. At least at the severity they had be coming in.
My attacks in the past had landed me in the ER a number of times. Convinced that something catastrophic was happening to my body, only to find out, every time that I was having yet another panic episode.
But today, after years of being able calm myself down and talk myself out of these situations before allowing them to escalate to something unbearable, the unthinkable happened. I was scared.
If you’ve ever been scared about anything at all, you know the feeling. You know that rush to run. Get the hell away as fast as you possibly can. But what happens when the source of the fear is inside your own body? In your mind? It’s your heart, your shallow breath, your clammy hands? You can’t run from that as hard as you may try.
You try to count your breaths, you take deep, melodic ones in hopes that your heart will catch up with the rhythm and they will slow down in synchrony. You walk around, you lay down. You close your eyes and pray for this to stop. And the panic becomes overwhelming because you now start running the terrifying options through your head. Could this really be something more serious this time? It doesn’t seem to be going away, does that mean I AM dying? My body feels tingly, my head feels light and empty. Is this what a seizure feels like? Could I be having a stroke? Maybe it’s a heart attack? Should I call 911? What if I wait and it’s too late?
Meanwhile, my boyfriend is trying to help and it’s relative to when you have a significant other with you while you are delivering a baby. EVERYTHING they try to do is annoying and hurts or pisses you off. They want to help but they simply DO. NOT. GET. IT. Tonight, mine looked at me like I had completely lost my mind. I felt like he didn’t believe that in my head, what was going on was very real and VERY frightening. And it hurt. It hurt so bad because I just wanted to feel like someone understood how scared I was feeling.
And it’s not his fault. How would he understand if he has never experienced this in his life? He wouldn’t. Yet it hurt because you just want someone to tell you that you’re not crazy, but you ARE ok and that it will pass. And someone who can’t do that you just want to go away. Leave you be so you can work yourself down off the ledge and feel better.
It took hours tonight. I ended up falling asleep after and that’s really the only thing that put a stop to it. When I woke up, I felt slightly better. It was a relief. But now I’m going to live in fear. Worried about the next attack. Tonight’s attack seemed to have no obvious trigger I can put my finger on and that scares the ever loving crap out of me. Next time this happens will I be at school pickup? At the grocery store? Will I be far away from home and have nowhere to retreat to when what I really need to is hide in the fetal position and convince myself that life WILL go on for me?
And then there is the guilt. I feel bad for not wanting or need to accept help from anyone tonight but really I couldn’t take it. And what little help I did accept was from me ordering people around to do things I thought might make things feel better. And then swiftly to go away because it wasn’t helping. Or their presense alone was exasperating every symptom I was having.
My son came into my room in full doctor garb to give me a check up and I had to turn him away with a promise that he could finish his full exam later that evening. But after I woke up, he was already in bed. And I felt terrible about that.
I feel like now I am going to live my life in fear like I did years ago when these attacks came regularly. Scared to leave the house in worry that this will happen in public, that I will be driving and have to pull over. That next time I won’t be able to calm myself down and I will take a trip to the ER instead. I was close tonight.
Feeling like your mind and body are betraying you is the more terrifying thing. You start to feel like you have to live in a bubble because the one thing you rely on most, your intuition, has betrayed you. You can’t trust your instincts anymore because they are sending mixed, jumbled, and fucked up signals.
I hope the next time I’m able to calm myself down faster. I’m able to remind myself that even though it might FEEL like this is the end, it’s not. And I hope that it will gradually be less and less until I go another few years without another excessive episode like tonight. Until then, if you suffer from panic attack, I see you. I feel you. And I trust you even if you don’t trust yourself.