You mentioned in one of your comments that your DDay was in November of 2006 – how long did it take for you to stop hurting? I know everything with Mike is hopeless and that there’s no going back. I’m moving on with my life and I’m NC but I hurt, still. I cry, still. I’m 53 days into NC (the second round) and I still have this hole, this void, right in the center of my body. I know that Leah and Mike are probably doing mondo bondo now and everybody is being their best sparkly selves and I know, “who cares” anyway. But I hurt, I just hurt.
How long did it take for you for this to just go away? I feel like I’m doing all the things I should do…. connecting with friends, dancing (again), I’m going on 20 pounds down… going for 25!!! which will be great! Teaching, volunteering, but it’s like I’m just putting one foot in front of the other and I spend a lot of time on the verge of tears. When I catch myself obsessing, I make myself think about what I want from my life and would I really want the same relationship back? And the answer is emphatically NO! I know that in my logical mind. I know it! But I miss him terribly, at least what he was while we were together. That sparkly Mike. The relationship….. not so much. I know its fucked up.
I guess the holidays don’t help so much…. When does this go away?
I don’t know which Tuesday, but if you need a definitive answer — Tuesday.
When does the pain go away? I couldn’t say. It’s entirely up to you. It’s such an individual thing. For some people, especially those who have children with one of these freaks, probably never entirely. Every time you have to co-parent, or your kid lies to you and does something familiarly shitty, you’re probably reminded of what youthful riches you wasted sharing your life with one of these wing nuts. The pain isn’t acute, it’s just a dull throb. A reminder. A bit of shrapnel from a faraway war that’s lodged in one of your vital organs. You’re going to live, most days you forget it’s ever there, and then some days something aggravates the injury and you remember.
But trust me, the whole choking grief, missing them, sobbing crap — that goes away in pretty short order. You’re a couple months in. I’d say it’s still acute, by 6 months you’ll most likely be all better and have forgotten what the hell you ever saw in him. Your new life, over time (dreaded time), just eclipses your old life. Do you remember the joys and sorrows of the fourth grade? No. Exactly. It’s not really relevant to who you are now, a lot has happened since then. Your job is to FILL your life in. Don’t be passive in the face of this grief.
It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. You need to trust that if you keep doing them, you’re going to heal.
When did I feel better? It was gradual. Some days in the very throes of it, I felt almost delirious. Like I was in a free fall. A sort of — I embrace the chaos! Music was more meaningful, colors more intense, kindness was deeply, hugely appreciated. I don’t know, I was probably in shock. Everything was just very, very intense. I remember that.
It was a slog, I made a lot of stupid, chumpy mistakes (the wisdom you see compiled before you today). But really, I didn’t start to truly heal until I moved out on him in 2008. Divorce, separate space, no contact. Even then I fucked up a couple times, but I got back on the wagon. Really, I needed distance to heal. I had a very full life. I was a single mom, with a full-time job that had me traveling quite often. I had friends, I did art, I had freelance writing. Busyness helped. Dating after divorce helped some.
Getting out of a bad relationship is really like kicking a drug. The irregular rewards of being with a sparkly person is addictive to your brain, there’s science on this. And there is your own fuckupedness that keeps you stuck. You think this person is the best you can do, you loved the myth of them, you were abandoned as a child, whatever. You probably have something you need to do some therapy about — and I encourage you to explore what that something is and work on it HARD.
Other things that help? Exercise. Oh that’s so boring, everyone says that. But it’s TRUE. MOVE YOUR BODY. Go for a walk. Dance. Take a class. Just get the fuck out of your head. Also, when you miss sex, work up a sweat some other way.
Perspective. Mike is a shitty person and you wasted a couple years with him. Epically tragic in the face of other tragedies? No. Employ shame. Are you Catholic? You’ve got a head start on us if you are. Do a little monologue (imagine a stern nun) “Who do you think you ARE, Erika? There are orphans in Tanzania with REAL problems. Mike is luxurious, first world problem. Mbeki should be so lucky as to have a problem like Mike. Mbeki has no drinking water, can’t go to school, and his mother is dying of AIDs.” The nuns would say suck it up, Erika. Or give it to Jesus and pray. Maybe it’s the same thing.
Take inspiration from people who’ve survived much worse things, and gone on to kick ass. Nelson Mandela did 27 years of hard labor on Robbin Island. When did the pain of being unfairly imprisoned go away? Oh who the hell knows, he got out and became PRESIDENT.
Yes, you don’t have to be as saintly as Nelson Mandela, but my point is, he didn’t waste a lot of time on self pity. He was working. Making a plan to be awesome. Transitioning a nation to democracy.
Feeling terrible about Mike doesn’t hurt Mike (or Leah his next willing victim). It just hurts you. Yes, you have a right to hurt, and you’ll grieve, but don’t lose sight Erika that there is WORK to do! Work on yourself, work on getting that great future together. You have to will yourself to turn your energies towards yourself now and do that work. With any luck, over time, you’ll lose yourself in it. And one day — it will be a Tuesday — you’ll wake up and realize you don’t hurt any more.
Finally, I leave you with the erudite Stephen Fry. A man for all his fabulous success suffers from manic-depression and had a suicidal break down years ago. I very much like his take on self pity. Watch, enjoy, let Mike and all those other sparkly turds go — and Merry Christmas.