It Gets Better

Image by Incessant Star at Deviant Art.

Image by Incessant Star at Deviant Art.

I read my text message and laughed out loud because my ex-wife wrote something funny.

One of my friends at the office asked what I was laughing about.

I told him. He smiled.

“You wouldn’t believe what a difference nearly a year and a half makes,” I said.

Sometimes my ex and I laugh about stuff.

The Darkness

There was so much darkness after she left. I freaked. Big-time.

Partially because something radical and different was happening, and change scares me. Partially because my little son wasn’t home all the time anymore and it feels like a piece of your soul is missing. Partially because the wounds of rejection run deep and can feel exactly like betrayal.

I was broken. Dazed. Crying, sometimes. It wasn’t pretty.

I have never gone back and read anything I wrote a year ago. But I think it’s all there.

Growing up, nothing extremely horrible ever happened to me. My parents’ divorce was the worst thing.

I grew up in this safe little Catholic school in this safe little Ohio town and had a safe little non-scary life.

Life had inadvertently pulled the wool over my eyes.

Then she left and started seeing someone else and I felt like dying.

Sometimes, I intentionally try to recreate the feeling because I don’t want to take for granted the peace I feel today. I NEVER want to forget how uncomfortable life can feel inside your own skin when you’re broken. Because that’s the fuel I need to build my new life.

The feeling is unmistakable and all-consuming. And you only know it if you know it. If you don’t know what it feels like to not be able to breathe because everything you ever thought was true just crumbled, then I really want you to keep your loved ones close, because you’re going to need them when it finally happens.

It hurts more than anything you’ve ever experienced. When you break on the inside. And the wounds are so deep they take an excruciatingly long time to heal.

But they do heal.

Sometimes my ex and I laugh about stuff now.

Clocks, Calendars and Fear

I was 34 when my wife left after a dozen years together. Mid-thirties with a son in kindergarten.

A single, graying, average-looking dad who just got dumped. My entire social network, altered overnight. My home went from a steady, warm, safe haven, to a quiet prison that felt much like a tomb.

I was (sometimes, am) afraid of so many things.

Who will ever want me?

How can I set a good example for my son?

What’s my purpose in life now?

Am I going to survive, financially?

Will I ever feel like myself again?

I wrote.

I read.

I watched a bunch of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.

I went out with friends.

I kept waking up each morning and breathing.

The clocks ticked.

The calendar pages flipped.

The sun kept coming up.

No Shortcuts

I don’t think so, anyway. I don’ t think there’s any way of cheating the process. When we lose things, we grieve. And everything I understand about grief and loss is that we all deal in different ways, but we all go through the same stages. Some of those stages take longer than others.

The five stages of grief are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance, and Hope

I wasn’t shocked when she left. The shock happened a long time ago when the marriage went bad. The denial, too. She’s not leaving!

I was wrong.

But I didn’t have any trouble being angry and feeling like a victim. That part’s easy.

In the bargaining phase, you long for the past, forgoing the present by focusing on what might have been.

Then you get depressed.

I got totally depressed.

I wasn’t moping around, like how I imagined depression to be. But just a deep emptiness and sadness. You tend to not give a shit about a bunch of things you used to. Simple things, really. All my old hobbies—my favorite sports teams, poker, cooking, etc. I just didn’t care anymore. They feel so insignificant after something monumental happens.

And it turns out this is completely expected and normal. And there’s no set amount of time. Everyone has to walk their own path. And it’s important to remember that when you’re feeling so shitty. The depression IS the path. It’s the way out of all the suck. Keep moving forward.

And finally, acceptance. Hope.

This doesn’t mean you’re all better. Woo-hoo! I accept it! I’m totally healed now!

I don’t think that’s how it works. At least not for me.

My world ended on April 1, 2013.

A life that only exists now as a high- and lowlight reel in my memory bank.

And now I have to build a brand-new life.

With new goals. New dreams. A new script. A new supporting cast.

And you know what? I’m going to.

It’s not like I ever had much of a choice, but when you’re walking through all those phases of the Grief Path of Suckage™ you don’t feel much hope or really anything at all.

When I felt like dying, the thing that made me feel best was connecting with people who understood. Via this blog. Via real life. Crossing paths with people with the same wounds and scars. Crossing paths with people who had been through the exact same things and would pat me on the back, reassuringly.

“It will get better.”

And if you’re still in agony, it’s hard to hear. It’s tricky when other people seem happy or peaceful or unaffected.

Don’t they know the sky is falling? Don’t they know the sun might not come up tomorrow?

They walked through fire.

And they emerged stronger.

Better.

Taller.

And I know there are millions of people out there now. Having trouble breathing. Crying and terrified.

It makes my entire body hurt to think about because that feeling is still like muscle memory, just below the surface. It can still be recreated in short bursts. And it’s horrible.

But it doesn’t last.

It can’t anymore.

Because one day you look in the mirror.

Hey! I know that guy.

And someone else makes you smile.

Hope.

And your child fills you with enormous pride.

Love.

Because real healing has taken hold.

Because you kept breathing.

Because clocks keep ticking.

Because the sun is indiscriminate and it won’t stop setting, rising and dancing across the sky for anyone.

Because sometimes my ex and I laugh about stuff—strangers, but strangers who don’t hurt each other anymore.

Because everything is going to be okay.

It really is.

It might even be amazing.

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18 thoughts on “It Gets Better

  1. AndiMirandi says:

    Reblogged this on AndiMirandi and commented:
    As I am sitting at my desk, teary-eyed and trying to fight the sadness, this pops up. Perfect timing, maybe. Not being alone, totally. It does get better.

    One of my favorites. <3

  2. completelyinthedark says:

    The Grief Path of Suckage™ crept up on me over the past two weeks. I’ve been a depressive (probably earlier, but diagnosed medically in 1987) for a long time now and a certain “bad event” in my life can send me into an awful episode. Hence the lack of relationships in my life because they can be volatile and people like me don’t do volatile well (unless we’re in charge of the chaos, then we go WILD with it).

    A few things changed in the past week: the end of my only PT employment (contractually agreed to end, so I knew it was coming), much similar-to-your-ex exchanges over this past summer, which gave me hope that we could still be “a thing” again (but I’ve decided against it because I’m not getting enough encouragement outside of laughter and smiles from her again, even after I basically told her in person I wanted to ask her out for dinner sometime soon) … so it’s a fine line between hope and fear.

    It’s been a challenge to learn who is really on my side and who is not. A friend texted me last night and wanted to know about the current episode. I asked if he could call me, which he did. We caught up, laughed a little and he stressed that he was available if I needed anything. THAT, my friend, is the kind of person I want in my life. Have to remember to stop blaming those who can’t do that and just appreciate the ones who can.

    Anyway, Matt, I loved this post. It hit so close to home about recent events over here that I had to chime in.

    Keep the faith, brother. We got your back.

    Mike

  3. jgroeber says:

    What an arc this year has been.
    This post was just beautiful.

  4. You have come a long way. I am happy for you.

  5. Nephila says:

    I hope you’re right Matt. But I keep seeing the healing castle off in the mist ahead and it’s all glued together. I don’t know that a glued together castle is a whole castle. Just don’t know. I almost feel like denial has to be the last stage as well, we can only really convince ourselves we are ok by going into a new, permanent denial. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for that.

  6. Jeff says:

    Please God….I hope so

  7. It’s been a while since I’ve chimed in here, Matt — mostly because I’ve been going through the very same thing. The VERY. Same. Thing.

    I broke up with someone six months ago, and I’m pretty sure these have been the six most difficult months of my life. I’ve never had issues with depression, but I have the last few months, mainly because I tried to stay friends with this person — good friends — at the expense of my well being.

    I finally reached a breaking point last weekend, though, and just this morning shared with him all of the hurt and pain and anger I’ve been carrying with me all these months. All this pain I’ve been bottling up in an effort to stay friends. I even used the word “broken” — twice. Because that’s exactly how I feel. Very, very broken. I’ve never felt this way before. Never. And I know there’s going to be a day where it will be a thing of the past — a phase I went through — but seeing you use that same exact word made me realize that day WILL be a reality. It DOES get better at some point.

    I couldn’t be happier to read that things are getting better and that there’s laughter again. You deserve it. As always, thanks for sharing!

    Gail

  8. You did really good. You touched a great number of people and hopefully will touch more. When my marriage finally really ended, after two years of living in hell I got a tattoo. It was meaningful about the end. I had been saving all the tattoo’s I wanted because he said to me, ‘If you get another tattoo, I will divorce you’. I had several when we marry, I didn’t know then he didn’t accept I was inked. So a week after he left I got the first, a month after he left I got the second, two months after he left I got the third, the day the divorce was final I started the fourth and now I am finishing the fifth.

    I like Ink. I have had the designs for years. When he left I changed them to have more meaning for my life now.

    Each time I finish one I am closer to fully healed, less broken.

    It gets better. It does in fact get fabulous. What ever you choose to do, it gets fabulous if you let the world in and you go out into it.

  9. tuttotace says:

    I really would like to believe in your words. What I know now is that I feel inside of me the violence of sadness, loneliness and failure, they hurt as a deep cut that seems has no intention to heal. Every time I believe to see a small light at the end of the tunnel I crash into something and suddendly everything turns dark again. I’m so tired. Nevertheless I’m so happy for your beautiful run Matt. I really am.

  10. Vince says:

    Yes those steps are so true but sometimes I feel them out of order still. Do you still have those moments?

    My marriage officially ended on the 21st of this month though I didn’t find out until a week later. I got the news via text from my attorney. What I felt was unexpected, relief and closure.

    I always look forward to your blog posts. They have been a huge help to me.

  11. Cole says:

    I always look forward to your posts. When you write I feel that you’ve taken a page directly from my own experience, highly relatable would be an understatement.
    Now, four years later, I have that new life you mentioned.

  12. Erika says:

    Oh man… I’ve been reading your blog (silently) since it’s creation last year and feel like I’ve walked this road alongside of you. Out of the blue, my husband told me he wanted to divorce at the end of March last year – less than a week later, I delivered our third (very much planned) child. The following months are a blur to me now, but in the moment I was positive that time had stopped and the world was no longer spinning. It took the strength in every fiber of my being just to make sure my children were fed, clothed, bathed, and emotionally supported every day. There were times I thought we might not ever make it out of that dark, desolate place. And then… it changed. I’m not sure how to articulate it because it just happened. Tiny breaths of hope were suddenly breathed into the incredible tragic mess my life had become. It felt miraculous actually. On Monday, 17.5 months into our separation, my husband finally served me with the divorce papers. I have a meeting with my attorney in an hour to make sure all looks good and if so, I’m signing and it’s done. And I’m walking away from it all with the peace and HOPE that can only come from experiencing something so completely devastating and surviving.

    • Matt says:

      Please try to imagine this comment meaning a lot to me. Like, making my entire day. Then make it mean a little more.

      That’s how important this is.

      Thank you for taking time to write this. I’m so glad you’ve been around for a long time, feeling and caring. Means the world.

      Everything is going to be okay.

      Actually. Everything IS okay.

      Thank you, Erika.

  13. Aussa Lorens says:

    Having been through a different set of shite storms, I wholeheartedly agree. It does get better. You just have to believe there’s another side to whatever you’re experiencing. Also: When I had to go through the testifying against my ex bit, I watched two seasons of Walking Dead back to back. I think there’s something very comforting about that level of destruction and ruin, haha.

  14. Int the words of Paul Butterfield, “everything is gonna be alright …”

    The cyclical mood changes of life drives us crazy, but at least we can look in the mirror and see that we’re still going on.

  15. kathshep says:

    When you wrote this about your little bit of healing, I thought: ‘Hey! Matt is getting better!’
    I also am getting better, and am considering inviting my ex to Thanksgiving this year. I feel better about this life, knowing that people are……….dealing with their wounds in healthy ways. Your blog really helps readers like me, so thanks for sharing. Thanks for being naked and vulnerable. I didn’t mean that in a sexual way.

  16. martha0stout says:

    You’re right, you look back when you’ve gone through the roughest parts and think, “I made it, I did that. I’m not done, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t come a lot farther than I ever thought possible.”

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