To Anonymous

During my first wedding reception, a guest took my husband and me aside and told us to always be kind to one another. At the time, I thought it was a strange comment; we were in love, so of course we were going to be kind to one another.

Last week, an anonymous person made the following comment on my blog: “Really you are full of crap. You really need to be honest as to why your marriage didn’t work out and what you had hoped to gain from this split.”

In my blog “If I Would Have Stayed,” I wrote about choosing my older children over my husband. I also mentioned that there were other issues.

When we first started dating, there was that blissful feeling of being swept away. We talked for hours, went for walks, went running together, and went on several dates. We had the occasional disagreement, but overall, we got along and enjoyed being together.

Two years later, we got married, he adopted my three girls from my previous marriage, and within five years, we had two more kids.

Between work, caring for children, and lacking sleep, our lives became regimented and we stopped having fun together. Conversations that were once easy became a chore. I felt that any time I spoke about my day or my interests, I was met with hostility and immediately shut down. In essence, any kindness that existed at the start of our relationship had vanished.

I also felt that I had molded myself so much into his life that I lost who I was. Before I met him, I played the piano, figure skated, and socialized. After we got married, I still skated a few days a week for a few years, but I stopped playing the piano, and I rarely socialized with other people.

The marriage should have ended earlier than it did, but I was stubborn. When we got married, I made a vow to myself that I would not go through another divorce, so I accepted the life I had chosen.

He was unhappy, and every day was a struggle. I felt I could handle it impacting me, but I could not handle it impacting my older daughters.

As to what I had hoped to gain from the separation, I hoped, above all, to gain peace in my home, and I did that. I also hoped to untangle myself from a lonely, unhealthy marriage, so I could break free from the drudgery of day to day existence to live a life filled with a sense of wonder and passion.

And I did that as well.

Since my separation, I have cried a lot, and I have laughed a lot. It’s great to feel again, and lately, it has all been laughter. I do not feel sad, nor do I feel like there is a void in my life. I am happy with my ability to navigate my own life and to create new experiences for myself; I am satisfied with my life.

As for my ex and me, we completed our last mediation meeting last week. While the whole process was exhausting, it was better than fighting things out through lawyers. Not only did we deal with custody arrangements and the division of assets, but also parenting plans, communicating with one another respectably, and how to introduce new partners to the children when the time comes. While the latter is not an issue for either of us right now, the advice made sense: wait six months after dating someone, so the relationship is stable; and inform the other parent forty-eight hours ahead of time, not for their approval, because they really have no say, but to mentally prepare them.

Our final meeting was amicable, and he took me out for supper afterwards where we were able to have a conversation without any snide remarks and criticisms. I was even able to tell him about my trip to Hawaii I took with my oldest daughter over spring break without him getting on my case for spending money. That was the kindest we had been to each other in years.

To Anonymous: Did I provide you with a good enough response, or are you searching for something else? If you still think I am full of crap, please let me know. I am curious as to why you think I am dishonest with myself and why you think my marriage did not work. I am also curious about what you think I hoped to gain from the separation. All insight is welcome.

Thank you for reading.

If I Would Have Stayed

My ex and I have nearly completed mediation. While it has been exhausting, I remind myself that dividing up equity in a house and a pension plan are first world problems. When my first marriage ended, there was nothing to divide because we did not own a home, nor did we have any savings; we each left the marriage with our respective student loans.

My fear with separation was the impact it would have on our two younger daughters. It was difficult for a while: Olivia had moments of irritability while Sophia, my little rebel child, decided to be horrible at bed time.

We have seemed to move past all that, and both girls seem a lot happier now.  On Friday morning, I overheard them talking to one another about whose place they were at this weekend. What struck me was how normal their conversation seemed, and for the first time since the separation, I fully felt like they were okay. Then I dropped them off at after school care, I gave them hugs, we all smiled, and they said, “We’ll see you on Wednesday, Mom.”  I was happy to see them in good cheer.

I know their father cares for them, and he does a lot of activities with them. I appreciate that, and I know the younger girls love him a lot.

And, their father has told me that he is a lot happier since moving out and his health has improved due to leaving a stressful household.

So, good for him.

Our marriage broke down for a number of reasons, and he would give one story while I would give another. From my perspective, we had two completely different ways of handling stress. His way was to get angry and let it out of his system, so he could feel better, not realizing the impact it had on everyone around him. My way was to not let everything get to me, remain calm, and maybe shed a few tears now and then.

He adopted the older girls not long after we got married, and they are girls who have not caused any problems. They were all honors students, two were valedictorians, they all had part-time jobs and contributed half their pay cheques to their university funds, they have all gone to university, they did chores on the weekends, and they were never lippy or rebellious. Instead of showing appreciation for what they were doing right, he always focused on little things they were doing wrong.

Simple things, like chores and car rides, became a battle. He believed that kids should just be expected to do chores without being told and without any extrinsic motivation. I believe that the best way to motivate kids to do chores is to set a good example by doing chores the same time they are, and to take them out for a hot chocolate or lunch afterwards.

When the kids were in junior high, he believed that they should be taking the bus everywhere and not getting any rides from parents. I explained to him that having that time in a vehicle with a child is a great time to bond, and if I feel like driving them somewhere, I will do so. It became a battle every time, leading to stress for both of us.

Birthdays and special occasions were also stressful. I feel it is important to celebrate, and he never felt that way. While I was in good cheer during those times, he was always grumpy, and I felt like I had to be a mediator within my own family.

Those are just a few issues, and I know they seem kind of trivial. We were in counselling for a long time, and it did not seem like we could get anywhere. In the end, I wanted a home that was peaceful. Also, I knew that the older girls would be moving out in a few years, and I wanted them to feel comfortable coming home for visits. I did not see that happening if I would have stayed with him. So, like the mama bear that I am, I chose my kids over my husband.

 

Okay with That

Five months ago, I wrote a blog titled “Cling to this Life,” sharing my experiences of being a suicidal teenager due to a mood disorder, and my fear of the stigma associated with sharing my diagnosis. I appreciate all the people who thanked me for writing the blog. My motivation was to illustrate that a person does not have to be defined by a diagnosis; it is possible to get better and to go on to live a happy, healthy life.

I know I have blogged a lot about crying due to the circumstances of my current life, and I have had friends and family ask me if I am depressed and feeling sick again. I appreciate the concern, and while I do feel sad sometimes, I am not clinically depressed.

When I feel sad, I cry, go for a run, listen to music, play a musical instrument, dance, write, or call a friend. Then I feel better.

When I was severely depressed, I often lacked the motivation to cry, go for a run, listen to music, play a musical instrument, dance, write, or call a friend; and when I did find the motivation to engage in any of those activities, I felt like I was just going through the motions. Nothing helped me to feel better until my mood would swing and I felt high, but it was still not a sense of feeling happy and feeling better. The best way I can describe it is the feeling of not really being there.

My older daughters have commented that I tend to zone out at times, appearing absent-minded. It’s not because I am depressed; it’s because I have a lot on my mind. When I was in graduate studies, one of my professors made the comment that when she was doing research, the milk would often end up in the cupboard while the sugar would end up in the refrigerator. While I am not doing any kind of research right now, I am busy with work, my kids, and mediation to develop a separation agreement. So, I might be lost in my thoughts from time to time.

The good news is that I do not cry as much as I used to, and overall, I have adjusted quite well to my new life.

I have been hurt, though, by some stigma that still surrounds mental illness.

For starters, I had someone tell me that if I used to have thoughts of killing myself, it’s not much of a stretch to think that I would have thoughts of killing other people; therefore, I am dangerous to others. That’s a ridiculous comment; I am a gentle, sensitive person who can’t even eat red meat. I internalize everything; therefore, the only person I was ever a danger to was me.

Another comment I have received is that medication is not enough to control my illness; I must have psychotherapy as well.

Affective disorders are complex; there are various causes and treatments. In my case, I have a family history of bipolar, and lithium is a medication that has worked. Within two weeks of starting lithium, my thoughts of suicide went away and my mood swings stabilized to the point where I felt normal, so I’m not too sure why I would need therapy when feeling normal. If I could control my illness without lithium using cognitive behavioral techniques such as positive self-talk, I would be happy to do so. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful with that in the past. I am not going to mess with something that has kept me healthy all these years.

The implication that I need therapy is that my illness is not under control. That is coming from a few people who disagree with me about certain aspects of life, and it is mean-spirited. I have been single for half a year now, and I am experiencing new things in life. Not everyone is going to like me, and I am okay with that.