March 26, 2015

Tears

Already thirty minutes late, I just now got an email from my independent study student saying he isn't feeling well and won't be coming to my office today. I've received nearly a half dozen similar emails from students so far today, likely since they have an exam this afternoon.

*sigh*

The rest of today (and every day lately) is crazy, so I'll use the time for some updates.

It seems like lately, I get into a good streak for five or six days, then get caught in the undertow of a wave of feelings and anxieties. I'm in good company - everyone keeps saying that a divorce is one of the most stressful events of someone's life, so I'm not alone in feeling overwhelmed sometimes. That said, what is critical is how I react to stresses. I simply cannot allow food to be my drug through this - for my health as well as for my wallet. I've been trying to write offline, trying to paint and be creative, trying to reach out to friends and family instead of raiding the fridge or pantry.

Some days, it works. Most days, even. But it's those rare occasions when even the most positive and uplifting message feels like it isn't enough - that's when I need to look deeper, look wider, look at the bigger picture. If hunger isn't the problem, food cannot be the solution.

This leads to a bigger source of anxiety: the craving I have, and have always had, for a normal relationship with food. Watch any movie or TV show, read any book. Someone has a bad day, they don't want to cook dinner - they go out to eat ... and it's always comfort food. A breakup? That's a pint of ice cream, or baking cookies. My issue is, I don't stop at one - one cookie, one meal, or even one day. I enter a binge cycle, and I get frustrated and angry with myself for not feeling in control of food situations, which only makes it worse. By the time I work my way out of it, I've gained weight, I feel bloated, and I am even less happy than before.

Yesterday, we had a fight. A real one. A big one. Like we've never had before. It got ugly very quickly - yelling, name-calling. The complete opposite of the first few days, where we maturely agreed and decided on things. But more people know now, and everyone else's opinion on our situation is starting to influence both sides. We really lost our tempers. I put Noah to bed, went to Target for diapers, and ended up sobbing in the frozen food aisle.

I think I forget that sometimes, the most powerful and helpful thing I can do for myself is to simply cry. Release the feelings, flush out the stress and the anger. Allow myself to actually feel my emotions, rather than try to bury them under food.

Last night, as I browsed the aisles for something for dinner, it hit me. For the first time since telling Matt that I wanted to end things, I cried. Really cried. Maybe it was realizing that I said hurtful things that I can't unsay, even if I apologize. Or realizing that this is serious, that this is over, and that the next few days, months, years are going to get tougher before they get any easier. That I'm going to have to be the strongest I've ever been.

I fight the urge to call myself a failure. Right now, everything seems worse off than it was 5 years ago. I've regained all but 45 pounds of my initial weight loss, my relationships haven't been satisfying, my marriage failed. I'm a mother to an amazing little boy, but even that causes feelings of failure - since experiencing my parents' divorce, my main goal in life was to make sure that never happened to my children. He's so little, he doesn't have a clue yet about what's going on. But he will someday. And I don't want him to hate me for the decisions I knew at the time were what had to be made.

As I left the store, I got a phone call from my cousin Sarah, and as always, she had brilliant, gorgeous advice for me. This is your life, Mary, she said. There's no right or wrong answer. True learning comes from failure. This is not the end of your journey - if anything, the book's starting to get good again! 

As always, she's right. It's not the end of my story, just the end of a chapter.

When I got home, I put the food in the oven, and gave Matt a hug. I told him, I'm sorry I said those things, I didn't mean them. I was angry. I'm overwhelmed. I'm keeping my emotions bottled up when, now especially, I need to find ways to let them out. I don't hate you, I never did. I'm just frustrated, and trying to do what is best for all three of us.

We held each other, and we cried. I wish we could have made this work, I really do. I loved him once, and he'll forever be an important part of my life because of Noah. But I know that it's not a healthy situation right now, that we aren't healthy people right now, that what initially drew us together isn't enough to sustain a marriage.

March 20, 2015

Beginnings, endings, and beginnings

In late May or early June 2011, I was nearing my 150 pound weight loss goal. I was on top of the world, and thought that I might be open to seeking a partner for my journey. I had tried a few months earlier, with poor results, but now, almost 50 more pounds lighter, I felt ready. Or at least readier. I was young, healthy, and living in an incredible city. Everything was happening for me - I looked good, I felt amazing, and I wanted someone to share that with.

One night, I grabbed a postcard and a "Hello! My name is" name sticker. I trimmed the top off the sticker, scribbled down an honest belief, and mailed it in to PostSecret.


Only a few weeks later, I went on a first date with the man I would eventually marry. But by the time the card was posted to the PostSecret website a few months later, we were no longer together - in terms of our relationship as well as geography. It was a Sunday morning in my apartment in California - I went to the site, saw my card, and wondered if it would ever be true.

I still wonder that now.

Last night, I told my husband that I had contacted a lawyer's office, and that I was looking to get things started in pursuit of a divorce. I've been doing research on the process, and as long as we can come to a mutual agreement on things, it shouldn't be too complicated or too expensive.

He was shocked, but not surprised, if that makes sense. Last September, I had told him that I wanted to separate but that I would allow him to stay living in our apartment while he got a job and figured out his next steps. We talked a lot, we cried, we made promises to communicate more and seek counseling. But after that night, nothing changed. And situations got worse.

It wasn't one thing that ended the marriage, it was a lot of things. Some little, some very big. And I'm sure I'll be exploring and writing my way through that more as I work through my recovery and healing process.

Immediately after telling him, he called a few family members, which upset me - that's exactly why this is happening, because he talks to everyone except me about our issues. Before discussing it at all with me, he had already received advice and harsh words from people who know little to nothing about our situation here.

And that's an interesting thing, too. When I told my mother and sisters, the reaction was a sigh of relief and finally in unison. Because I've opened up to them extensively. Matt doesn't communicate with me, but he doesn't communicate with his own family either. So to them, of course this was a complete shock, it seemed to come from out of nowhere ... because to them, it did.

I don't want this to become a Matt-bashing space. This blog is the story my life, with a close focus on my journey to health, and I want to keep the relationship talk limited to what is crucial for my health - physical and mental. I don't want to say we are parting as friends, because honestly, as much as I wouldn't call the way we've been living and interacting a marriage, I wouldn't even say what we have now is a close friendship. But we're far from enemies, and we'll hopefully each emerge from this in a far better state.

I think the idea that people come out of a marriage as enemies is one that terrifies us both. It happened in both our parents' marriages, and we both grew up damaged by the effect that the fighting and pettiness had on us. I urged him last night: during this process, we have to communicate, it's important now more than ever. And please, please, keep in mind: ours is not our parents' marriages, this will not be our parents' divorces. We have the chance to walk away from this with as much of a feeling of peace as we can, all things considered. The key is going to be communicating - that's been the key all along.

Since making the decision to reach out and figure out the next legal steps, I've felt more and more like my best self - I've made good food choices, I've been consistent with workouts, I've slept better. I told Matt, that's another positive to separating - since we've been together, we've both struggled not only with our weight, but with disordered habits. We don't support or encourage each other - we trigger each other. Besides mental health, having a bit of distance between us will be good for our physical health as well.

I've been reaching out to friends and family, hoping for strength and guidance through this. I know I can survive this - my sister Lisa said, no one ever died from getting a divorce - but I am still nervous and anxious. I have had a few good days this week, but that's because everything is new. Everything is still talk. But within the next few months, half of the bedroom will be empty. Half of the bed will be vacant. There will be holes in the walls where his pictures and artworks were. Traces of him everywhere. And that's just the usual end-of-relationship emotions - there will also be lawyer meetings, new bills, and trying to balance being a single mom who works full-time and still makes time for her son and for herself.

My dad calls stuff like this "going through the mill." You're going through the mill, he says. Life is throwing something at you, and it's going to be tough for a while, but the only way out is through. It's a feeling I've had so many times before, it's just the situational specifics that keep changing. I didn't think I could lose 150 pounds, but I did. I didn't think I could become a mother, but I did. And right now, even though I worry that I am going to wind up defeated by this - I know, deep in my heart, I won't.