Divorce is one of the most painful experiences of one's life.
This is her story:
I grew up in a Christian household.
My father is from Texas, my mother from Alabama. Faith is a big part of our family. My family and parents are amazing and supportive in every way - they'd give anyone, even a stranger, the shirt off their back. They have beliefs about a number of controversial issues but remain open to discussion and always respectful of other people's beliefs.
I went to a Christian school, where my mother happens to work. It was small but a lovely community - everyone was friendly and kind. I attended school with some of my peers for thirteen years! Sure, we had a few "bad apples" but they were few and far between.
I attended church with my parents every single Sunday. During the summer, I attended Vacation Bible School - a day camp and bible study - and was a member of the Retreat Leadership Team in high school. We'd plan Bible Studies and events focused around our faith. I enrolled in a very Christian University where I received an excellent education and was, once again, surrounded by faith events, night chapels, and church on Sunday.
I saw our Christian group as a community of loving, caring people.
Then it all changed.
I married my college boyfriend, whose father was a pastor, almost immediately out of college. We didn't always see eye-to-eye but how many couples do?
On the surface, his family seemed as kind and accepting as mine. Below the surface, the smiles and kind gestures belied a nasty history of horrific things I wish I could forget.
...but my new husband was different, right?
Without going into much detail, it was worse; much worse than I could've imagined. I was told things no one should hear. I was chided for being a science major. I was shamed for listening to secular music and questioning "truths." Before I knew it, I was embroiled in a very abusive relationship.
My "perfect life" facade crumbled.
It was like I'd been blind for nearly six years I was part of this new family and suddenly my eyes were opened. When they opened, I was disgusted.
These people paraded around as a wonderful Christian family were anything but. It was nothing like what I was used to. My Christian community was awesome and this was just an isolated issue, right?
Just as my eyes opened to see my new family as they really were, they also saw my Christian "community."
I was in an abusive relationship with a very Christian man who frightened me; my safety and sanity. Divorce was considered a non-option - divorce was sinful and I was wrong for considering divorce, but I did anyway.
I realized I didn't want to live my life in fear and I planned to rely on my supportive of my Christian community during this tumultuous time.
Upon announcement of the "divorce," my previous life also crumbled. People I'd considered friends said:
"Divorce is wrong. You HAVE to stay."
"You will be tainted and no one will ever want to marry you after being divorced."
"You'll never be the same."
"You should go to counseling instead."
"Every marriage has problems. You just need to work through this."
"You're being selfish."
"I'm praying for you."
I couldn't believe it.
My ears were still ringing, my foot throbbing after my last "incident" with my husband, and my supposed best friend tells me to stay. Through the fear, through the tears, through the pain.
And when I did, my departure from my marriage included my "friends." People I'd called friends told me that I was no good; I was worthless; I was a terrible person.
My social calendar dried up. I was no longer invited to parties. I was no longer called to chat. Before the divorce papers were filed, I'd get phone calls all day from people trying to sway me from divorcing my abusive husband.
Once the papers had been filed, my phone was silent excepting the calls from my ex, which I let go to voicemail. I couldn't listen to the voicemails as his screaming found me shaking with anxiety.
I made new friends. I met a wonderful man who loves me for who I am. A man that loves me not in spite of questioning nature, but because of it. My parents and family remain accepting. If it's possible, I love them even more now.
Of all the loss and all the pain, I feel the most betrayed by my previous life. I feel lied to. I was told of love; of acceptance; of faith.
Little did I know that the price for this was the unwavering belief in exactly everything I was told. Little did I know that the moment I questioned, the moment I stepped outside the happy little box, I would no longer feel that love.
My new friends said:
"I'm going to let you stay with me as you're afraid to go home."
"I'm driving you to work to help you save money as your husband took all of it out of your account."
I'm going to listen to you pour your heart to me as long as you need."
I'm giving you my shoulder to cry on."
I was told: "I'm praying for you."
Over the years following, my faith has changed.
I don't feel the how is relevant, suffice to say things are much different today. My parents remain a wonderful, supportive part of my life and as a small, glimmering reminder of Christianity.
Through the divorce, I lost most of the friends I'd known my whole life. They disappeared back into their world and left me with tarnished memories and a Facebook friendship or two. I'm deeply aware that not all religious groups are like mine was.
It's been a struggle, but I'm happy with my life.
This is my simple religion.
"There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." -Dalai Lama
Have any of you, The Band, been through this sort of behavior following a divorce?
A little more than a year ago, I was a victim of workplace bullying. The bullies got me fired from two jobs and as a result, I had a mental breakdown. It wasn’t pretty.
I’ve worked in one specific field for the last ten years, but I promised myself I would never go back to it because they had ruined it for me. I let my certification lapse. I gave up. If it weren’t for the love I got from The Band, I don’t know how I would have survived.
Today I am going back to work.
Not just any work, either. I’m going back into my chosen profession and I’m excited about it. I love my job and always have, even when it was stressful and exhausting, so going back to it is a wonderful feeling.
My dose of happy is my new job and the knowledge that the bullies may have hurt me, but they didn’t win. I won’t let them!
What's your Happy?
Don't think you have one? Look harder. Something will make you smile today.
We want to know!
Share it with the world on your blog and then link up below, tweet it out (hashtag #DOHMonday #WithTheBand) or share it on Facebook. Whatever you want to do, do it. Just find a bit of happy in this Monday!
Sometimes, we at the Band know that part of owning who you are is admitting it to the world.
It's one reason why we at The Band work tirelessly to break down stigmas and find the ties that connect us all, the ties that remind us that we are none of us alone. Please join us in standing tall and proud as we tell the world who we are.
What are you, The Band, The Face Of?
I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
You wouldn't think so, just by looking at me. Hell, most people in my daily life don't know. Surely you can't tell by looking at my home. It certainly doesn't look like the stereotype tells us it should. (Thank you, Hollywood.)
I have not always had OCD tendencies, I wasn't born this way.
I developed OCD as a coping mechanism for dealing with my untreated anxiety when I was a teenager.
In my family, we don't talk about mental illness. It's not okay to talk about needing help or that something might not be right in your head. I was raised that if the doctor said I had anxiety, well then, I just needed to pull on my big girl panties and deal with it. Having a mental illness meant I was just being a sissy.
So when my doctor did tell me that I had anxiety at the ripe old age of 15, my parents looked at me with exasperation and left me alone. There was no therapy or anti-anxiety medication. I was just supposed to deal.
I tried a number of things that failed before falling into a nasty neurotic spiral. I can't pinpoint exactly how it happened but I can distinctly recall spending an entire weekend deep cleaning my parents' house. I scrubbed the grout in the bathroom with an old toothbrush until my hands were blistered from the bleach. I cleaned the stove inside and out. I even alphabetized and cataloged all of our VHS movies. (We had over 500.)
Of course, no one said anything of my weird behavior. My family turned a blind eye as I tried vainly to exert control over my surroundings.
In hindsight, I know I did it because I desperately needed something I could control. My mind was spinning, reeling, and I was lost. Since I couldn't control my thoughts or the paths they took me down, I cleaned. I organized. I mated all the unmatched socks in our laundry room.
So why doesn't my house look clean and organized now?
A number of reasons, really.
I have RA, which makes deep cleaning difficult. I also have a lot of stuff. Or rather, my fiance and I have a bit more than our one-bedroom apartment should be able to hold.
But mostly, I have a slightly better grasp on my anxiety. I don't have huge tailspins anymore. Well, not often.
When I do? I have a few other coping mechanisms in my arsenal to employ.
I sing. I craft. I write.
But sometimes, I clean.
I am the face of OCD.
Mental illness can evolve and change throughout a person's entire life. Often, new symptoms can appear or worsen.
This is her story.
Growing up, one of my best friends struggled with her family life.
Her father is a bipolar schizophrenic who has attempted suicide several times. After the divorce her mother struggled with drugs. My friend is an bright, intelligent, driven, talented young lady, but this post isn't about her, really. I love her dearly, but one of the biggest roles she's played in my life is opening my eyes to how difficult life can be for those who love individuals with psychological health issues.
I'm bipolar with the added bonus of recovering from bulimia and anxiety. I found out when I was 19. I'm 22 now, almost 23. I managed to get my college degree and now I have my dream job. I moved to a new city. I'm living on my own, proving I "can do it."
Except, the "crazy" is changing.
Where once self-awareness and self-care were enough to keep me fairly stable through my ups and downs, I think I'm hitting that place where my disorder matures into what it will be for the rest of my adulthood. I was warned this might happen, that I might hit a groove and become "stable" for some time, but that my brain wasn't fully matured and therefore my chemical imbalances might change.
My cycle is off.
My emotions are...something.
I don't really have words for what life is like.
The objective part of my brain says, "Things are going pretty well." I have friends, in my new city and back home, and in other places, that show me often and profoundly how loved and valued I am in ways small and large. I have the job that every recent college graduate dreams of, the one that blends my passions with my skills into an amazing sort of this-is-meant-for-me thing.
I found a church that I absolutely love, full of loving, welcoming people who legitimately care about me. I have volunteer projects I adore, that help remind me how fortunate I am. I've even lost weight! Thirty pounds, actually. Five more pounds and I'll have lost all of the weight I gained during my collegiate battle with bulimia. (And, it's been lost the right way...the healthy way.)
Things are good.
Except my brain isn't good. My brain is awful, actually.
For the last two, almost three years, I've had the relief of being unmedicated. I made the choice to go the "sheer willpower and stubbornness" route of mental health because I had two years of my life go down the drain when we couldn't find the medical cocktail that worked for me. I either felt too much, was spending too much time at one end of the bipolar spectrum or the other, or I was feeling nothing at all. I even got addicted to a particular fast-acting anxiety medication that stole several months of my life.
I knew I'd eventually have to try the route of medication again someday, but knowing it might happen doesn't mentally prepare you for the day it actually comes. I'll be talking about this with my therapist at our next appointment.
While not every day is good, there's good in every day. Life unmedicated hasn't been unkind to me.
I don't think this is an option anymore, though. I'm reminded of what a lifelong diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be.
I feel fear.
Not anxiety, not stress.
Fear, legitimate FEAR. I'm 22, I'm young. I want to meet someone, get married, maybe even someday have a family. I want to move out to the country, have a ragtag pack of dogs, maybe some horses and a few cows.
I want to live my dreams and fulfill my goals.
I think back to the stories I heard about my friend's dad. He was bright, passionate, engaged, popular, a pillar of his community, until he began exhibiting symptoms. Then, over a multi-year period, he became the person I knew.
All those terms are ones that have been applied to me. Is this the start of the avalanche? Is this where a lifetime of being a burden, being someone else's inconvenient responsibility and source of heartache, begins?
Most days, I'm very, very good at finding the silver lining.
I'm an optimist by nature, even when I'm on the low end. But, these last few days, it's all replaced by the turmoil of emotions I can't control, and fear. Fear of the future and what I'll become, and fear of whether or not medications will work or if this is really the earnest start of my troubles.
Someone once told me that you only know me as much as I want you to.
I've been thinking about that a lot lately. It’s true. I only let you in as far as I’m comfortable and when I meet someone who wants to be let in, I freeze up. I choke.
I’m very guarded. I’m afraid that if someone truly gets to know me, they will find something they don’t like and get the hell out of Dodge, leaving me with an empty chest, a broken heart. Was I abandoned as a child? No. Did I have an unhappy home life? No. Did I have anything traumatic happen to me as a child? I suppose.
I was always a little wild.
I was a difficult child to handle. I was willful, loud, and precocious. I FELT so much, but at an early age, it was drilled into my head that you keep your feelings to yourself. Ladies act a certain way. Maybe it was my stuffy Anglo heritage. Stiff upper lip, child. Never let them see you sweat. Don’t cry, only babies cry. You’re too loud! Stop having so much fun. I was the black sheep. I didn't fit in. I was different.
I was always a creative person, a person full of passion, until I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression in my 20’s, after a bad breakup. It’s amazing that it took so long for that diagnosis since I’d been dealing with emotional issues since I was a child.
They put me on medication and slowly but surely, I felt the creativity and passion being drained from me. They told me I was doing better and I believed them. I was in a fog, a bland and boring fog. I was numb. I was tired of feeling SO much that it was a welcome respite. I learned to cope and for years, I let the medication stuff my feelings down my throat, keeping everything inside so far down that I forgot myself.
I LOST myself.
A few years ago, I decided to stop the medication. I was tired of not FEELING anything. It’s taken a couple of years for me to feel like a real person, but what I’m left with now is that I don’t know who I AM.
I seemingly lost that creative, passionate, and wild little girl. She peeks out every once in a while and I promptly shove her back down into my belly before anyone can see too much of her, but she’s had enough of that. She wants to live and breathe on the outside.
She wants to speak, to be heard, to be acknowledged. She wants to let her hair down and dance wildly without a care. She wants to be loved so passionately that she can’t think. She wants to live a life full of joy, passion, and creativity.
Every day, I try to let her out a little more. It’s hard because the people that I’ve known for decades don’t know this girl. She’s been hidden for so long. Am I afraid that I won’t like the real me? Yes. Am I afraid that others won’t like the real me? Petrified. But I’m done with putting others' feelings in front of my own.
It’s my turn.
I’ve waited so long for this and I deserve it.
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