You haven’t heard from me in a while. My colleagues haven’t heard from me in a while. My closest friends haven’t heard from me in a while. My parents have heard from me, but not as often as they should. The truth is, I haven’t really heard from me much. Not in about a year.
Just under one year ago my divorce became final. Final does not seem like it should be a relative word, but I am finding that it can be. No matter how much of a relief it may be to move on from a bad marriage, no matter how exciting it may be to reestablish yourself and search for a healthy and happy new love, no matter how empowering it is to see yourself through your own eyes again, it can be challenging to look at age 40 having to start all over again. Financial change. Lifestyle change. Identity change. Parenting change. It can be a bit much.
And so divorce block sets in.
The divorce is final. The papers have been signed, stamped and stored for safe keeping. The custody schedule is set and rolling. The heart accepted the end of the relationship long before anything was even filed, so there should be no more “getting over it” to do.
Except there is. Each day begins with a full agenda, an overflowing to-do list, and the energy of a 5 year old. You start working diligently and get done with the urgent items that came up so quickly you couldn’t even add them to your list. You switch your attention for a few minutes to grab another cup of coffee and check recent emails. And then suddenly, as quickly as the energy of the morning came, it is gone. What should you do next? The to-do list reads more like a “why-haven’t-you-done-this-yet?” list. How can it all possibly get done? And when? There is so much internal pressure to enjoy the time with your kids, so it has to be done before they get home. And since that time “should” be completed devoted to them, you have to make sure to have some “me” time, right? That is what everyone says – make sure you have your me time! Of course, there are also those friends you promised to stop neglecting once the divorce was “over.” And the work to catch up on, and the bills to pay and the car to have serviced and the dentist to see and and and and…
So about 10% of all of the above gets touched, you call it a bust, feel like a failure for not being past it all yet, eat a candy bar and go get the kids from school.
I could probably play myself my very own smallest-violin-in-the-whole-wide-world right now.
The DSM-IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) contained something known as a “bereavement inclusion” couched in the criteria for diagnoses like Major Depressive Disorder. This essentially stated even if someone met the criteria for a serious mood disorder, the diagnosis should not apply if they recently faced a significant loss such the death of a loved one or a divorce. This was amended this past year in the DSM-V to give the experience of bereavement and grief its own category termed Adjustment Disorders. There has been some controversy about this re-categorization revolving around the politics of big pharma, insurance companies and the ethics of labeling.
It is my own feeling that for someone who has experienced a traumatic life transition and is having difficulty moving past it, the fact that bereavement is acknowledged as needing an inclusion or category at all is a relief. Whether someone recovering from a divorce needs a diagnosis and meds or just some yoga and a massage, there is no denying that the adjustment period doesn’t end when your papers are stamped by the judge. That is actually when the second adolescence begins. Your hormones are wacky and you have to decide what to do with your life. Then add the pressure of being an adult with your own kids to support, and the intensity builds and builds.
I am breaking through my own divorce block bit by bit, and it is daunting. All I can do is remind myself that I grew up once, so I can surely grow up again. I can enjoy the moments when I push through, and try to remind myself to gently accept that I did not make it farther today. And I may just need to keep my very own smallest-violin-in-the-whole-wide-world by my side for those moments when I need to laugh at my own self-indulgence and take a coffee break. Feel free to borrow it if you’d like.