Fear and Loathing- In My Marriage

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It’s been almost a year since my almost official ex moved out. For years I sat on the fence feeling trapped in an unfulfilling and stressful marriage.   It was only after a dramatic spiral into pain pill abuse (following years of surgeries that helped  lead to it)  and depression and finally months of reflection away from my husband, that I was able to come to terms with my situation.   Nothing changes if nothing changes.  I had reached such a low point in my life that ironically, became the catalyst for being able to face my fears in leaving my husband.  I’d already hit my rock bottom.   I’d gone back and forth so many times I felt like a jury deliberating on a murder conviction.  The evidence was strong but somehow, the verdict still not clear.  Life would never be the same after I made my choice and I knew things would be tough for a while.  Not just because of the emotional impact it would have on my children and our families, but I had not really worked much after my second marriage and fourth child was born.   I did not know where my children and I would live, how we would survive financially or what I would do for income.

And though I had no financial security, no money of my own I knew that it was fear that had paralyzed me and kept me bound for years and that I could not live in it anymore.  If I could not have faith in myself and my abilities, what was the whole point of existence?  I didn’t want to simply “exist”.  To just get by.  I wanted to live.

My mother did not support my decision to leave my husband as my “life would be so much easier” if I did not have the financial stress of being a single parent and I’d have more support with raising the kids.  Aside from a few good friends and some credit cards, I was on my own.  I took a leap of faith.  A big one.

It’s been almost a year, but still I sit here in awe as I reflect back on how insurmountable the situation seemed at the time.  My thoughts had turned so negative and had been brewing for so long, that they truly became my reality- what seemed like a difficult albeit doable situation, seemed so dark and hopeless at the time.

I doubted my ability to persevere yet again from another collapsed marriage ,yet because I had stared death in the face earlier (from major adrenal fatigue syndrome from all the stress and pills), I knew that the minute I chose life just months prior after a situation forced me to stop taking the pills, I refused to go back to living it the way I was.  I refused to continue to live my life as it was simply because it was “easier” so long as I popped a few opiates to dull the pain of my reality and make it tolerable.  I was not honoring my soul or that of my husband’s in “sticking it out”.  I also became convinced that I was not doing my children any favors either.  There was no affection, no warmth and we were hardly a good model as husband and wife for them.  It was a relief to gain this insight as it tore my heart out to break up the family when I first thought of leaving.

And so we talked, as we had many times that year and he moved out.  He was fair in the maintenance and child support- unlike my first husband, but despite that, I fell short each month and relied on my credit for the deficit.  In a very short time my debt had gotten out of control.  There was not enough money coming in the door to keep up.  I was nervous, but I knew this may happen going in.

I remembered much of the reading I had done during the “growth  days”, as I refer to them now.  A time I was soul searching and deliberating tirelessly on whether to leave my marriage.   I decided to test out all the recommendations I had researched in overcoming my depression.   Journaling, meditation, EFT, a gratitude rock, energy work, intense workouts, etc., etc., I read tons of self improvement books.  Byron Katie, author of “Loving What Is”, spoke a lot to getting to the bottom of the beliefs you hold onto. The beliefs, not facts, she says, are what keep us stuck.  Take a belief you have (for example “How will I raise the kids alone” or “I could never support us”) and pose these questions:

1)      Is it true? Will I really have to raise the kids alone  (Their father may not be living with us but is still around)?

2)      Can I absolutely know it’s true? Is that a verified fact

3)      How do I react when I think that thought? Completely freaked out and overly- responsible

4)      Who would I be without the thought? Much more relaxed, less anxious and… free

 

 

What I found when I did this little exercise was that all the fears I’d had in leaving my marriage were based on beliefs (possible scenarios) not facts.  Those limiting beliefs came from insecurities in my own ability.  Those beliefs would only become my reality if I continued to hang on to them and allow them to determine my destiny.

I listened to this brain chatter and realized I was really selling myself short.  I’d had a good career that supported me and my three children prior to my second marriage.  I owned a nice home, drove a nice car and had been supporting my first three kids alone.  That was a fact.

I was intelligent, passionate and creative.  I had evidence of this based on my career and ability to persevere from difficult situations in the past.  That was also a fact.

It also helped to ask myself the question “what if everything I feared came true?”  When I really thought about it, the worst case scenario I came up with was that my children would have to temporarily move in with their father until I got on my feet and I may have to live in my Suburban for a while, showering and dressing at the gym (if I was able to hold onto a gym membership).  Granted this scenario was a bit extreme, but if it came down to it was an option and I could do it.  My kids would have food, shelter and love and I would have the ability to go out and find work.  Is it ideal? No.  But would I be safe, somewhat warm (it was winter in CO at the time) and in a temporary situation?  Yes.

I also gained some comfort in knowing that while I looked for work I would continue to honor my entrepreneurial spirit and continue to work on building a business I’d started that would support other woman that faced the long road I’ve walked twice now.  I could sit back and mourn two failed relationships and their impact on the kids and just accept our fate, or I could use the experiences in a less wasteful way that might be able to help me empower other woman to embrace and then create their own destiny.  If you can for a moment believe that there are no coincidences in life, all these painful experiences ended up being a gift.  If I chose to look at it that way.    I could suck on a bitter lemon for the rest of my life feeling victimized or I could make some lemonade with that lemon.  It was a conscious choice that was mine to make.

So here I sit 11 months later.  My credit has run out.  My debt has mounted.  I just sold my favorite True Religion jeans (granted they were small) and Coach boots on eBay to pay for groceries this week but you know what? I had them to sell and I am grateful for that.  I shopped for an interview skirt at Saver’s the other day- my old work wardrobe long gone (and also too tight!) I pulled out grocery coupons for the first time.  I purchased non-organic chicken and borrowed $7 from my eight year old son to pay for his brother’s lunch during driving school the other day. I have $35 to last me and my kids a week.  It is about perspective- this scenario could be a Stephen King story to some women, and a dream to others.  I’ve had more options than many and I am grateful for that.  I also chose to see it that way and it made things seem a bit less challenging.

So I have a worst case scenario plan, and it’s in a Suburban.  But more importantly I have the belief in myself again I had lost somewhere behind an addiction, a dead marriage and my own self imposed limitations.   I am free from the fear that held me prisoner. I’m back and I am in the process of building the life I have dreamed for myself and for my children.  I am making a conscious decision to not fail and to create my own happiness.  There is no other option because I have refused it.

You know how in the past you’ve purchased something, usually a book or motivational program hoping it would change your life and then when you were done reading it, the high you experienced during the “lesson” would level off within in a few days and you’d go back to thinking and acting like the same person you were before? I personally have experienced this time and time again.  You  actually  have  to step  out  of  your  comfort  zone  and  put  the  lessons  into  practice.  You have to do the work! It’s not the reading and studying of the material that guarantees you success, it’s the re-wiring of your brain that will change your life.  If you want to change your life, change the way you think.  I’ve read it time and time again and when I finally put it in place for myself and put the lessons into practice, everything looked so much different.  A really good different!

By: Thelma 4/2013

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