Since my divorce about four years ago, I’ve learned more about myself and life than I did during my first 41 years of life. I was with the same man for almost 20 years. I hadn’t worked outside the home for almost 14. I had a cushy, comfortable life that was literally gone with one conversation.
I remember being paralyzed with fear on the night my ex-husband and I decided to divorce. The thought of not seeing my kids every day, being financially independent, and the only adult in the household was beyond scary.
I didn’t think I could do it. Any of it.
He turned to me and said, “You will find some doctor or lawyer who will take care of you, I’m sure.”
In that moment I realized something: I, in no way, wanted someone to swoop in and take care of me. I wanted to do it myself, even though there was a lot in my head telling me I’d fail.
I needed to figure out how to work, take care of my kids solo, adjust to a new living situation, all while dealing with the fact I wasn’t going to be married any longer. Those emotions alone will take you for a dangerous ride.
And finding another person to come take your husband’s place isn’t the way it works anyway. Sure, it sounded easier, but you know what feels a whole hell of a lot better?
Taking control and doing it yourself.
That’s not to say you will have it figured out any time soon. The divorce process is just that: a process. It’s going to take time, and it will be hard. You are going to have to learn to ask for help and find new ways of doing things.
But you can (and you will) get through it. It’s doable, and you are capable.
First, make a list of things that are important to you; then try not to swallow them all in one bite. I’m telling you (from someone who’s been there and tried to make everything okay overnight), the key to doing this is taking one tiny step at a time.
Get out of bed, and think about the next thing you need (or want) to do. That’s it. Don’t try and figure out your entire day. And please, don’t try and figure out your next year.
Only think about the next thing, whether it’s something small like getting in the shower or something big like looking for a job.
Do not sit in front of your computer trying to put together a resume and wonder how you can ever let another man see you naked.
Don’t wonder what it’s going to do to your kids’ mental health while you are trying to look for a new place to live.
This is hard, I know — but your brain won’t be able to handle all the “what ifs,” and before you know it, you will be experiencing a level of anxiety you didn’t know existed. We are not wired to try and control so many things with our minds, things that in real life, we don’t actually have that much control over.
Do you hear me? One thing at a time.
Take care of yourself. We all know it: you cannot take care of others if you are depleted. This is not the time to sacrifice that. Yes, it’s a change and hard on the family, but you will make it harder by not taking care of yourself. You need it now more than ever.
Stop, talk to a friend, ask for help, seek therapy, buy something that will lift your spirits, make your favorite meal.
Even if you don’t feel like doing these things, try and do a small one and watch your happy feelings multiply because you are taking action. One good thing usually leads to another.
After my ex left, I forced myself to buy new bedding and get something to help me sleep. It worked, and because I was sleeping better, I felt a bit better each day.
The biggest thing you need to do right now is remember even though this may be the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through, you can do it, and there are people around who want to help you. Let them.
There will be tears, setbacks, and hard days. It’s okay to not be okay, and to make mistakes, and to learn as you go. Don’t be hard on yourself; the process is difficult enough without the self-ridicule.
My divorce made me realize how much I trust myself. It was a long haul, and I still have days where I feel horrible and miss my old life. That’s just my reality; it may not be yours. However, I know that no matter what comes up, I can handle it because I’ve shown myself I can.
And you can too. I promise.
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