Monthly Archives: February 2014

Learning to Live (and Be) Alone After a Divorce

What would you do if everyone you lived with, your entire family (you can keep your pets) just disappeared and you were suddenly alone in your place. Indefinitely?

I’d never lived alone before I moved to Japan, and when I made that move I was facing so many of my biggest fears at once that my stress level became untenable. A year later, going through a divorce, trying to write a dissertation, moving back to the U.S., and dealing with PTSD while trying to live alone has been similarly “intense”. A book given to me by my yoga studio simply addressed a generic reader with these (paraphrased) words: “you’re doing amazingly. I can’t believe how strong you are.” When I read this yesterday, I was surprised to find myself spontaneously bursting into tears.

But I still make a lot of choices from a place of fear. I feel the dread start to rise around Friday. By my usual Friday night yoga class I’m a aching combination of terrified and depressed. My whole being seems to scream out for someone, anyone to come to my house and sit with me, to go grocery shopping with me ( a real loneliness trigger, even though I used to relish doing it alone), come to my favorite Saturday morning coffee spot with me… etc.

Thing is, I fired the harem (the guys I was juggling in the fall because I have a boyfriend now. No, it’s not T. It’s G- a new code letter!) He’s a visiting professor at a university in Pennsylvania until April. He is my dream man, seriously. He is the male version of me. We are so much alike it’s delightful and amazing and intense. But he’s up there and I am here. And I’ve never tried to navigate a relationship, particularly during the early stages, entirely via text messaging and email.

So this feels like something that on one hand is keeping me from engaging in the manic dating behavior that was my entire autumn. But it means that I have a lot more space in my head and my days. And I seem to use that space to mostly fall into despair about not having  a “family” of my own anymore. I even want to make kids appear out of nowhere so I’m not alone…

In general,I need less interaction with people than is typical (it drove J. crazy that just having him in the house was enough for me, and that I felt sitting in the same room reading different books was “spending time together”), but I seem to fall apart without that low-level stimulation much more quickly than everyone I know.

So, while mulling this over and doing net searches on loneliness, I read:

which helped a bit. I mean, I know I’m not alone in feeling alone, but I also don’t know how to reach out and ask for help from those who are around me every day (or my friends at a distance).

She writes: “I have learned that masking those uncomfortable feelings (my escapism being alcohol and meaningless dates) only leaves the pain unattended for a while longer.”

Yes… the dates and all of my other ways of staying busy merely meant that when I slowed down in January, I fell apart. Every night when I lay in my head was spinning. My mood swings were violent and frequent, and I alternated between feeling like a voice in my head was screaming, to obsessively visualizing breaking things or shooting them, to thinking that unless one is in a state of crisis, it’s impossible to get others to care… so I might have to try to kill myself for people to realize how bad it was. Or I’d have to call my parents and say “look, I’m not coping… I need someone to come here NOW.”

I’ve kept most of this from G. This early in a relationship, I was/am already showing him a lot of my damage. I didn’t want him to know that at times I am one text message from him away from loneliness-induced despair.

Last night, when I was too exhausted to do much else, I read this:

And actually, it helped. Unlike the other commentors, I didn’t think about the unhealthiness of not leaving your home for 6 months. I thought “Huh, what if I took a radical (for me) step, and tried to leave my home LESS. If I just did fewer things from a place of fear and desperation. What if I pretended my house was an isolated cottage in the mountains, a -retreat- rather than my prison, and a retreat for the benefit of my mental health and work productivity at that? What would this change?”

Because let me tell you, just letting myself -feel- the feelings of loneliness doesn’t seem to be helping. It has the effect of wallowing, for me.

What would I do differently if I wasn’t afraid of being alone? My entire life would be different, so this is a problem worth solving.

-I wouldn’t be afraid to tell the guys who keep hitting on me despite me saying “I can’t do this, I now have a boyfriend” to cut it out. Right now I’m afraid to lose them as friends because I don’t want to be alone… but who needs friends who won’t respect my boundaries?
-I wouldn’t make myself go out all the time– only when I actually wanted to. I would be able to say “You know, I’m exhausted. Why don’t I just stay home?”  (I am doing that tonight!)
-I would grocery shop without feeling sick inside watching all of the couples and families milling about.
-I would be more honest with people in general, because my fear of being left alone encourages me to avoid conflict at any cost
-(Past tense) I wouldn’t have stayed in a broken relationship for 16 years.
-I wouldn’t stress when G doesn’t respond to some of my texts. That’s just how he is; the sometimes-incompatible texting style is only a problem because we’re dating from a distance. I rely on external things and people to cheer me, when I need to learn to rely on myself, and to stay steady even when I don’t have someone distracting me from my own mind.

Amidst a lot of conflicting advice about it being important to “respect the process” of growth and transition, I find myself not wanting to “stay with my feelings”, but to change them.

So, I am not writing this from “my house”. I am now pretending it is a  wellness and work retreat space. Of course, if anyone has a REAL retreat/writing space I can move into temporarily with two dogs instead, I’d take you up on that 😉


I’m Up, I’m Down, I’m Over It

Ugh, I drank way too much wine last night (and somehow got talked into doing a big shot of rootbeer flavored vodka? ew. ew.) I feel like half the time when I am social these days, it results in me doing something I later regret, like barfing up and down the wall of someone’s bathroom.

But let me back up. [Warning: gross story ahead]

I was really psyched to hang out with a friend of mine, his twin brother, and brother’s girlfriend last night. But I had planned to shower at the yoga studio after class, then head down to the burbs where they live. Unfortunately, when I stepped out of the shower at the studio, I realized I’d forgotten to pack a pair of pants. I’d remembered everything else. Just not a change of pants. Since I do yoga in a heated studio (not quite “hot yoga”- Baptiste Power Yoga), my yoga pants were absolutely soaked. And I’d just gotten clean. I made up my mind that I would put the clammy pants back on, because what choice did I have? and then buy pants somewhere close to my friends’ house.

Turns out they live on the other end of Pearland from the Target, and by the time I got to the store it was already 40 minutes after the time I’d have liked to have been at my friend’s house. But I couldn’t spend the evening in wet pants. I just couldn’t. So I ran into the Target. Pants are tricky to buy at the best of times, but to grab a pair of jeans and hope for the best is near crazy-talk. I told myself that I could return the blasted things the next day, and fled with the closest-to-my size skinny jeans that I saw on the shelf, a bottle of wine, something passing for a sandwich, a banana, and a Ritter Sport marzipan chocolate bar (oh man.. marzipan).

I had to slither into the skinny jeans in the car. And oh my were they skinny. They looked a bit painted on, but they also made my ass look fantastic. Hey, I thought, I’m in the best shape of my adult life. I can pull these off. (They still want back to the Target today though- this divorcee has no money for extra pants right now.)

By then I was late late late. But we all sat around and drank wine, and chatted, and I was honestly feeling fine when the twins asked if they could practice massages on the girls (one is already a professional masseuse, the other is in school for it right now). They have a professional setup in the studio behind their house. In other words, pretty nice opportunity. So I lay down, hoping to get the tension worked out of my shoulders, and all of a sudden I had the spins like crazy.

“Stop thrashing and stay still”, T scolded.

I told him I’m usually a good massage patient, but that I thought I might barf. Nonsense, he insisted. But the room was still spinning. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, but seemed to be okay. Fine, back to the massage table. About 10 minutes into it the room was spinning viciously again and I knew I was going to be sick.

I rapidly lurched upwards, and tried to articulate that I needed the bathroom, but I was already throwing up in my mouth. I stumbled for the door, choked a bit and sprayed a touch of red vomit upon the door.

From there, I ran to the bathroom and essentially exploded. Wine everywhere. The room looked like a crime scene, and when I was finished being violently ill (stupid box wine), I realized I had to do a massive cleanup. I must have been in the bathroom rubbing at the walls for 20 minutes. The walls, the toilet, the plunger, the garbage can. Ugh.

I stumbled back into the living room, only to realize that I had thrown up down one of my shirts as well. I wound up forgetting my shirt at their house…

I cannot hold my alcohol anymore. And I’m 35, dammit. I’m too old for these shenanigans. Thing is, I really wasn’t trying to drink much- and T got similarly and accidentally blitzed (haven’t talked to the others), so I’m not sure what was up. I blame that evil root beer liquor.

Don’t know that I’ll be invited back there anytime soon.

I had to wait until 3AM to drive home so that I was sober enough to do so. And I still lay in bed like a zombie all morning popping ibuprofen.

I do think post-divorce I’m entitled to act out a bit, but I think I need to make sure it doesn’t involve much booze in the future. Wine sick is the worst for me. The most violently ill, and the most wretched hangovers.

My mood swings have also been violent lately, and I’m dealing with a lot of difficult brain stuff. So I’ll write a bit about that soon. And the wonderful boy I’m falling for- long distance, alas.