Category Archives: Health

Meet The Day

A video came through on my Facebook feed today –  an old interview with the actor Pierce Brosnan where he talked about the grief he experienced when his first wife died.  How did he cope?  His response – With young children to care for, he just had to get up and Meet the Day.

I remember my mum asking one of her friends, whose husband died when their children were young, how she had coped. Her friend replied that she just had to get on with it.  She had young children to feed, clothe, house and bring up.  And, she admitted, in some ways it was perhaps easier than if he she had been left alone later in life. She had no choice. She just had to get on with it – for the children’s sake. Despite everything, she had a purpose. A vitally important purpose.

One of the challenges of senior divorce is that we are usually left with only having one person to look after.  Ourselves.  And as wives and mothers, we’ve always put ourselves at the bottom of the pecking order behind husbands and children.  With our children probably grown with families of their own by now, it can be hard to suddenly switch focus from being a wife and mother to being… ourselves.

And there are times when it’s all too easy to wonder if the fight is worth it.

But it is.  Truly it is.  If you are at the beginning of this journey, please trust me. When it first happened to me, others who had been down the same path assured me it would get better/easier – and they were right. It will take time, and there may be a few missteps along the way, but it won’t always hurt this much and YOU are worth it.

Pierce’s advice is good advice  Get up and Meet The Day.

Set your alarm. Get out of bed when it rings, and make your bed before you can be tempted to climb back under the covers and sleep away the day.  Have a shower.  Put your clothes on – nice ones, not your ratty t-shirt and jeans. Meet that day face on.

If the day looms empty before you – weekends can be the worst –  make a plan of attack the night before.
For example:
– Arrange to meet a friend for coffee.
– If you need to go back to work, work on your resume and contact the library to see if they offer any free workshops to help you update your skills.
– Get outside if you can and go for a walk.  Or a bike ride. Go swimming. Volunteer at your local dog rescue centre to become a dog walker.
– Do something creative – write, draw, paint, sew, play the piano, redecorate your room, bake a cake.
– Keep a gratitude journal – find 5 things to be grateful for that day.
– If you have to meet with your lawyer and find it overwhelming, ask a friend to go with you.
– If you find Morning Pages useful/helpful, start your day by writing in your journal

It’s hard.  Painfully hard – especially those first weeks, months, year – but you can do it.

You are stronger than you think.

Meet.  The.  Day.

 

 

Feeling Scared

My ex-husband had kidney failure. That meant he was on dialysis for almost four years until he got a transplant.  Dialysis three times a week, times fifty-two weeks a year, times four plus years…

How many times did I pick him up from the hospital?  Probably at least 300, whether it was sunny weather, or minus 30C and blizzarding.  Add to that the number of times I accompanied him to doctors’ appointments, or got a nudge in my back in the middle of the night when he thought he might be having a heart attack and needed me to take him to emerg, or watched over him after his surgeries and procedures, or carried his boxes of dialysis fluids and equipment from the basement to the bedroom when he dialysed at home, or picked him up off the floor when his blood pressure dropped so low he passed out, or helped him pump the blood back into his body when we had a power failure and the dialysis machine ‘died’….

For the fifteen years after his diagnosis, I was there as his support, his advocate… his ‘soft place to land’, my arms open to him when his tears came.  But that’s what you do, isn’t it, when you love someone.  You do it willingly and lovingly, wishing you could take their pain away.

Cut to today.

I’ve had a minor heart issue most of my life.  Apart from three visits to emerg over the decades, it’s been held stable by medication for 30 years.  But over the past couple of months, I’ve felt things weren’t quite ‘right’.  So I went to see my doctor today.  He’s not overly anxious, but he agrees things aren’t as they should be.  It’s been at least ten years since I last saw a cardiologist, so my doctor is sending me for a battery of tests. What happens next will depend on the results.  In reality, it’ll probably just mean a tweak of my meds…

I’ll be honest, I’m running scared.  What if it’s not just a tweak of my meds?

I started crying in the car afterwards because what I wanted – what I needed at that moment – was for the husband I thought I’d had to put his arms around me, hold me safe and tell me it will be all right.

But that can never happen.

I’m not alone in this experience, so I shouldn’t be such a baby.  Everyone who is on their own – whether from divorce, bereavement  – must experience moments like this where you just want that someone to hold you.  My own widowed mother went through major heart surgery when she was in her mid-70s.  My brother, sister and myself, gathered around, did everything we could for her… and I know she appreciated it. But I’m sure it wasn’t our arms she really wanted around her, comforting her.

I’ll be fine. I know I will. My kids and friends are there to love and support me.  But today I’m scared.  Today I just wish it was five years ago, before this whole divorce thing happened, and I could relax into one of his hugs, feel his arms around me, his breath against my skin… and feel I wasn’t – for today – quite so alone.

Can’t get you out of my head…

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It’s the way it sometimes catches you by surprise, isn’t it?  You’re living your life, getting on with things, and then you get an e-mail or hear word from your ex.  Your chest constricts, your head starts reeling, all those thoughts and feelings of pain wash in and you wonder… will I ever get him out of my head?

Wouldn’t it be great if – a la Harry Potter – I could just put a wand to my temple, extract all the painful memories and feelings my ex has left me with, and put them in a jar,  which I could revisit only if and when I wanted to? (Which would be rarely, if ever!!)

I’ve felt things building the past week, so I decided to make an appointment with the counsellor I saw back in 2016, when I was at my lowest. Kind of catch things before they got too bad.

I wrote to him beforehand – told him that on the outside of my life I’m doing fine, but sometimes the inside hurts really badly – and asked him for some strategies to help on days I find things really really hard.

This is what he suggested.

(Please remember I was in an upset state when I met with him, so I might not have remembered everything 100% as he said it.  This is my interpretation of his advice.)

The first thing he suggested was to actively stop when a thought about my ex comes into my head. He says some of his clients will actually raise their hand in a stopping gesture.  Stop and turn your thoughts around.

For example, think about the good things in your life now.  Things that you couldn’t do when you were married to him. For me, that includes the amount of travel I’m able to do now.

But…it still makes me think about ‘him’.  (He’s currently on a holiday with ‘her’.  A holiday he refused to take with me.  So this suggestion doesn’t work for me.)

The second thing he suggested, was to find a quote you like; something inspiring which speaks to you.  Write it down and carry it in your wallet, so it’s there if/when you need it.

Not long after my ex left me, I was talking to a friend I’ve known for over 30 years, but whom I only see occasionally.  He never liked my ex – the feeling was mutual – and his advice was to not to look back.  Keep looking forward.  Always keep looking forward.

I read recently that you feel sad when you look back and anxious when you look forward, so I’m going to try and stop doing both.  But the most important thing is not looking back into the past. Don’t look back.  Don’t you ever look back!

Which is ironic given that…

The third thing my counsellor suggested was something that really calmed me down.  He told me to think about walking into a house  Upstairs, there’s a corridor with four doors; two on the left and two on the right.

Go through the first door, and step into the room.  It’s a lovely room.  In that room, think of all the good things people have ever said about you in your life. Times when people have enjoyed being with you.  All things that are personal.

Then go into the second beautiful room.  This room holds all your ‘professional’ achievements; things like your high school diploma, badges from scouts or guides, music exams, university or college degree, professional qualifications.  Things you have achieved through hard work.

From there, cross the hall and go into the third room. This space contains your positive dreams for the person you want to be.  Do you want to be compassionate?  Brave?  A good friend?  A good grandparent? A painter? Climb a mountain? Run a mile in 10 minutes?

The fourth door opens into the bathroom.  This is where you get rid of all the s–t that you are still carrying around.

This is the strategy that I think will be most effective for me, and it got me thinking about a project my daughter did for my 60th birthday, just a few months after my husband walked out.  She contacted various friends, asked them what their memories were of me, and collected them in a box.

Here’s one from a friend from my nursing days.  Memories include the terrified look on our faces when we found ourselves sharing a bedroom for four having never shared a room with anyone in our lives on January 8th, 1973. Sitting in our tiny flat in the sunshine listening  to Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. Being able to pick up  where we left off without any difficulty no matter how long we have been apart.

I think I’m going to add to that ‘birthday’ box.  I’m going to make a second one of all my ‘achievements’;  my nursing diploma, my university degree, a speech award, my army ‘pips’, photos of my kids as babies, etc.

In a third box, I’m going to fill it with words like compassion, courage, laughter, love, sunshine, mother,  travel, music, grandmother, reading, rainbows, etc.  All things that bring joy into my life.

And then when those bad days come – as they do – when I can’t get my ex and his new wife out of my head, I will open those boxes and think of the people who mean so much to me, the things I have achieved in my life, and the person I want to become.

So yes, even though I’ve chosen my quote as  – ‘Don’t look back.  Don’t you ever look back.’  – I am going to look back.  But only at the good stuff.  Because who I was then is who I am now.

But I am going to look forward too. Because forward is where I’m going.

Where we’re going.

Travelling Alone As A Single Woman

I’ve always wanted to go to Israel, ever since I read Leon Uris’ book Exodus back in the late 60s. I even dreamed of going to work on a kibbutz when I was in my late-teens, but wars and life got in the way.

And then, this year, I finally got my chance.

But I was scared. Although I’ve travelled with friends and family since my husband left me, this would be the first time travelling completely on my own – albeit as part of a tour group.

So I sat down and went through my fears. Continue reading

Seeking Revenge

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.  Confucius.

In 1995, a woman in the city where I live – let’s call her Lucy – who’d been married for 38 years, was dumped by her husband for a younger woman. As with all women of that generation, Lucy had devoted her life to her marriage, family and his career.  Distraught by his betrayal and her pain, she shot him six times.

Lucy’s husband recovered and went on to marry his mistress. Lucy was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of temporary insanity and served time in a mental institution.  On her release, scorned by society and abandoned by many of her former friends, she struggled to rebuild her relationships with her adult children and find a purpose to her life. I’m not sure she ever did, and, sadly, she died within a few years, aged 66. Continue reading

Feeling Vulnerable

My back hadn’t felt good since a recent trip.  I’d lugged heavy luggage up and down way too many flights of stairs, and although the shoes I’d worn – with my orthotics! – were good solid shoes, they perhaps hadn’t been right for so much walking.  But I figured that things would sort themselves out after a few weeks back home in my normal routine again.

Wrong.

I was in my apartment one Saturday morning, bending down to pick something up, when my back ‘went’.  I sank to the floor, the pain so intense that I struggled to catch my breath.  My legs tingled and I felt panic rising.  Was this a stroke?  Was I going to be paralyzed?

I was at the farthest point in the house from a phone and I couldn’t move for the pain.  I waited about 10 minutes, trying to calm myself with deep breaths, then managed to shuffle on my butt down the hallway towards the kitchen and found my cell phone.  With that in my hand, I hauled myself on to a chair and sat trying to work out what to do. I didn’t need an ambulance, but I wanted someone to know what was going on, so I called my daughter. Continue reading

1,000 Days

On Friday January 19th, 2018, it will be 1,000 days since April 25th, 2015, when my husband ended our marriage.  A marriage that lasted 13,688 days – or thirty-seven years, five months and twenty-three days. (Not including how long we knew each other before then.)

1,000 days seems a good time to stop and take stock.  Where am I at this point in my life?  What have I come through?  Where am I going?

I’ll be honest, the first four hundred days were sheer hell.  About 150 days in, I can remember sitting in my rental apartment, wondering how much longer I could survive the emotional pain. I wasn’t sleeping, had no appetite, and the weight was dropping off me. How long until I started feeling normal again?  I asked friends who’d been through something similar.  They couldn’t – or wouldn’t – give me a time frame, but assured me I would get through it.  My grief was so overwhelming I wasn’t sure I could cope with such uncertainty. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and chose a place in the river if the pain became intolerable.

And yet… and yet… some amazing things happened to me in those 150 days. I discovered a strength I didn’t know I had.  I found myself a lawyer and apartment, and my friends and family rallied around me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It was spring, so I was able to walk in the fresh air every day and watch nature turn into summer. (The dramatic weight loss might not have been healthy, but it looked good!)  Continue reading