How Writing Brought Me Back to Life

Connect. Breathe. Say thanks. And, love.

Connect. Breathe. Say thanks. And, love.

I died a little the moment my wife told me over dinner she wasn’t sure she loved me anymore.

The world kept spinning. Life kept happening.

But not in my house.

I stopped living. Right then.

At first I was angry. Who the fuck does she think she is?

Then, terrified. What if she leaves? Oh my God. My life. My wife. My son.

Then, introspective. Hopeful. What have I done to cause this? What can I do to save it? How can I be a better husband? A better father? A better man?

But I never shook the fear.

Then I Secret-ed that shit into reality. She walked out.

Exactly 359 days ago. I’ll never forget.

The house was so empty. So quiet.

And then I died even more.

In the beginning, it was pure panic. I could barely move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus.

I started watching The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad on Netflix to fill the hours, but I would have to rewind things over and over again because my mind wouldn’t stay focused on the story.

My favorite fiction writing on television couldn’t mask the enormity of all that real life in my midst—the bare spots on the walls, the messier-than-usual house, and the dead silence that greeted me when I walked in the house or woke up each morning.

I was desperate.

I tried to drink it off with friends, but it was hard for me to engage. Drunken conversations almost always involved me reflecting on the state of my life.

I’d meet a pretty girl at a party or a bar, or I’d be sitting around with my friends with whom I was CERTAIN were tired of me bringing them down when I was around.

Don’t talk about your divorce! Don’t talk about your divorce! DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR STUPID DIVORCE, ASSHOLE!, I would tell myself over and over again.

Within five minutes, I’d have talked about the divorce.

It’s like I couldn’t help myself. It would just spew out of me. The animated corpse. A zombie with a fake smile.

We Need Connection

Like your brain. It’s one big thing. But really it’s a bunch of connected little things. And if those connections disconnect, you die.

Romantic partners require connection. If you become disconnected from your spouse or partner, the relationship will die.

We need—(I think. I don’t know. I just know what happened to me and assume it happens to other people, too.)—to be connected to other people.

I died a little on the inside during the 18-19 months in which my marriage was in limbo.

Life was not being lived. Sleeping in that piece-of-shit guest room. Cut off from damn near everything that mattered to me.

Just sad and angry and crying and scared.

And I was on life support those first few months after she left. Because, literally, every dream I ever had about my future went up in flames. 359 days ago.

And Then There Was You 

I withdrew from friends and family.

Became somewhat reclusive for the social animal I really am.

And I attacked the keyboard. It was awkward telling people at parties and other places how shitty my life was, but dammit, it was cathartic telling you.

It was therapeutic.

It was healing.

Most importantly? It created connection.

We need it so bad. Like oxygen. And water. And love.

The writing connected us. The feedback connected us. The ideas connected us. The emotions connected us.

And it brought me back to life. One published post at a time.

I became reanimated.

Like watching your own child grow, it’s so gradual, you just look at them one day and think: Holy shit! When did they learn how to run and jump and talk and think and teach us about ourselves!?!?

One day, I just didn’t post to the blog.

Not because I didn’t want to. I always want to.

But because I didn’t need to.

Because I’m kind of alive again.

Lazarus, come forth.

Never Stop Connecting 

As soon as I realized what Twitter really was (an amazing place to connect and exchange ideas, as well as a totally customizable real-time breaking news feed) I fell in love with it.

I’ve never had much to say there. But I used to spend much of my free time perusing my feed for breaking news and hilarity.

Of all the social networks that exist today, Twitter in my opinion best reflects humanity.

And I completely vanished from Twitter when I “died.” And like most things you quit, it’s easy to forget why you liked or needed something in the first place when you stay away from it long enough.

I created the @MBTTTR Twitter account a couple months ago, and it’s been such a treat being reminded each day what an amazing place it is.

So much life and laughter and creativity and genius is exchanged there.

My favorite writer on the planet, James Altucher (@jaltucher), follows me thanks to a kind and generous tweet from Michael Maupin, author of Completely in the Dark (@completelydark) who graciously spends more time than I deserve reading things I write here.

I can’t explain to you the depths of the purely heterosexual man-crush I have on Altucher. Him following me on Twitter is the equivalent of a high school basketball player being followed by LeBron James or an aspiring pop star being followed by Justin Timberlake.

Twitter offers a lot of gatekeeper-free access to some of the most-brilliant minds on the planet. Reconnecting with Twitter has breathed even more life into these healing lungs.

Thank you, Life. I’m so grateful for you.

But We’re Not All Writers

Not everyone is going to have the inclination to connect the way I did. To just send little pieces of themselves out to the world and see what comes back.

That way is not for everybody.

But we are all human. And I am right about that whole oxygen, water, love thing. Those are critical to being alive.

Just like connection.

So you must find another way. The way that works best for you.

I need it.

And you need it.

And we can’t spend enough time doing it. (That’s what she said.)

Maybe you feel dead like I did.

And maybe you want to feel alive.

Connect!

With your friends. With your family. With your co-workers. With strangers. With God. And if you’re not into that—with the universe.

Just say “thank you.” Try to mean it. Fake it ‘til you make it.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I borrowed a little bit of life from each person with whom I connected. And I continue to borrow that. But we can’t spend our lives taking and taking and taking.

So, we invite people to connect with us. And then they borrow a little bit of our life force.

Giving and taking. Sharing. Connecting.

Saving lives.

Making miracles.

Rising from the dead.

And then we’re all breathing again.

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46 thoughts on “How Writing Brought Me Back to Life

  1. …and seeing your healing helps other wounded bystanders rise from the dead too. Hope unleashed in the universe. One blog post at a time. Love This!

    PS – Fake it ’til you make it…(THAT’S what “she” said) ;-)

    Like

  2. neffy93 says:

    What an awesome post. It wins my blog post of the year award and it’s only March. Thank you for taking time to share bits of yourself with us, we are grateful for them too :D x

    Like

  3. I know that feeling. I don’t work outside the home, and some days I felt a total disconnect from society. My social interactions were limited to the clerk at the grocery store and the guy at the dry cleaners. I finally joined Facebook in 2009 and instantly felt such joy at reconnecting with old friends. Connections are not just important–they are vital. Loved your post. :)

    Like

  4. Nebulize says:

    Love this. So true.

    Like

  5. I LOVE this comment!!

    “Don’t talk about your divorce! Don’t talk about your divorce! DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR STUPID DIVORCE, ASSHOLE!, I would tell myself over and over again.

    Within five minutes, I’d have talked about the divorce.”

    this happens to me so many times.. (not divorce related but the thought process is the same!!).. it’s as if by telling yourself not to do something it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy… (facepalm).

    I like to think of these little connections with humanity as water droplets on a seed garden.. we need them so much otherwise the flowers (us) will wilt and die..

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m so glad you get it.

      I was always so aware of my status as The Guy Dealing with Divorce, and I didn’t want to be be all cliche and talk about it all the time, so of course I did.

      Like

  6. mewhoami says:

    Ah! My ears are bleeding! haha.

    You’re right about connections with others. That is a very important part of the healing process. Writing has become my best friend, and the blogging community has made it all so much more meaningful. As with many others out there, I greatly appreciate your writing and online friendship.

    Like

  7. JujyCakes says:

    thanks for writing this. i’m still in the dead, “Just sad and angry and crying and scared” mode. i’m not a writer. i’m a creative baker, making beautiful things that taste really good is my therapy.

    so grateful that you share as you do.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      As I’m sure everyone enjoying your baked goods feels about your wonderful talent.

      Thank you for what you give. You make people smile. And feel good.

      You pour yourself into something knowing it will be destroyed and eaten in a fraction of the time.

      That’s so generous. Thank you for that.

      Like

  8. This is a great post and describes exactly how therapeutic writing is. It has been my own life saving grace, writing for healing (getting it all off my chest), and interactions with other people in the cyber-world. There are two other reasons I have kept writing; and that is for the self-growth that has accompanied the reflective writing, and then the help it has given other people. It makes me feel better about myself that I am contributing to the well-being of others, even if only in a very small way, by someone getting a fleeting glimmer of hope in reading one of my posts.
    Thanks for reminding me how beneficial writing has been for me.
    So you see, you are in that fourth category for me today as I have benefited from reading your post :).

    Like

    • Matt says:

      :)

      Yay! You summed up quite well how I’ve felt about this entire exercise since starting in late June last year. It’s been a remarkable experience on many levels.

      Thank you so much for reading and writing this.

      Like

  9. Solving Maria says:

    This was an amazing post. I couldn’t agree more. 18 months ago my husband announced his affair and need for a divorce. I started writing about a year ago. Today, I signed the separation agreement and closed my blog Solving Maria. Now it’s time for a new blog, a new chapter so to speak. And I’ll write about it.

    Thank you for your post.

    Like

  10. garden2day says:

    Oh my. I was worried there at the beginning–I was reading the story of my life. :) Connection and sharing…so very important–the silence will drive one crazy. Do whatever it takes to get through. You broke my heart with the part in the guest bedroom. My husband was much too willing to take the sofa–he was the one who left the marriage.

    Too often the other person tells their mate they don’t love them or they are having an affair and don’t want to patch things up–they have been dreading saying it but as soon as they shoot the other, they skip off feeling so relieved…burden off the shoulder…check. Mate lying on the floor with gaping wound and they begin life anew and fresh. :(

    Here is to 359 days…may the next 359 days be more meaningful, more interesting, and with less thoughts of pain and past. Hugs…silly sounding but I wish you the best :)

    Like

  11. Aamiene says:

    Isn’t it so typical of us humans, that when we need other people the most, that’s when we withdraw. I have theories about that but I won’t bore you with them. This is another fabulous post.
    I’ve been away for a few days so now I’m trying to catch up on all my missed MBTTTR fixes. And you got older while I was away! Happy Birthday Matt :) I hope you had a wonderful day.

    Like

  12. Vince says:

    The “don’t talk about divorce” pep talks you had, I can totally relate to that. I only talk about mine when someone asks about it. I’m very much aware that not everyone wants to hear about it so I don’t bring it up. I’ve got a couple close friends who always ask me about it and that helps.

    Seems to me like you have made great strides over the past six or so months. This entry sounds like a man with a purpose, new outlook on life and someone who has found balance. I’m thankful for your blog. Man I can’t tell you how much it has helped me these past six or so months. I find strength in it and hope. Thank you, Matt.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I don’t want to get in the business of ranking comments or various situations I’ve learned about during this process. However. It means so much to me to read that from you. I know you had a brutal year and that 2014 has been equally hard, or worse. None of this matters if no one grows. If no one cares. And I’m mostly talking about me, but the hope is always that someone else cares too.

      Thank you for caring, Vince. Neither of us have any way of knowing for sure. But I feel certain that when spring rolls around next year, you’re going to feel infinitely better about your life.

      I will really look forward to hearing about that, too.

      Like

  13. nights7 says:

    It’s quite coincidental that you wrote about connection and the need for it; it’s something that’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I’m not good at finding ways to connect with people even when I crave the connection and really need it. My life seems like it’s structured to avoid human contact. I need to make a change, to find a way to connect, but haven’t quite figured out how or what yet.

    Also that whole “Don’t talk about your divorce! Don’t talk about your divorce….asshole” inner dialogue, I’ve totally been there. I was like that parent who talks about their kid to EVERYONE….ALL the time…. even when it’s clearly inappropriate or uninteresting. I knew it was happening but just couldn’t stop it. So glad I’m past that!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      As always, it’s really nice in an oddly comforting way to find out other people experience the same things.

      I know precisely what you mean about feeling like you have to make changes in your life in order to allow good things to happen.

      I definitely hope you can find a way to do that. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts and feelings on this.

      Like

      • nights7 says:

        It is. Misery really does love company….maybe because connecting with others who have similar experiences lessens misery. Maybe the saying should be Company relieves misery.

        Like

  14. samara says:

    I’m glad the borrowing and taking is helping you breathe again.
    Because giving sure didn’t work for me.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      But maybe it will.

      If you don’t stop trying.

      Things don’t always have to end shitty in brokenness and hate and divorce and disconnection.

      Sometimes, people persevere, and they are rewarded for their efforts.

      And they get what they want and deserve. And they live regret-free because they never quit.

      At least I think that’s true. I want it to be.

      Like

      • samara says:

        I’m not sure how you can feel that way.

        I persevered until it hurt. To the point where I can’t breathe.

        Sometimes, people persevere and get nothing but heartache.

        Because there were always be people who suck all the oxygen out and leave the rest of us gasping for air.

        And the only choice is to disconnect. And all you do is feel sick.

        But your answer protects the integrity of this blog, and that is always the most important thing.

        Like

  15. I can relate, but on a minute fraction of a scale. I just broke up with someone I was in love with, and the days since then have been filled with attempts to answer, “How are you?” with anything other than, “Okay, I guess.” I actually almost started crying during Zumba class last night. Zumba class!

    This was all because I hadn’t been communicating with the person I’d broken up with, and when we started talking today, even though it was just as friends, it was like someone turned the light on AND took the 100 lb. weight off my shoulders. It was all about re-establishing that connection. I’d lost my best friend in the process of breaking up, and I was missing that the most. When I realized that I could still have that, it made all the difference.

    Sorry, that was my equivalent of “talking about the divorce,” but I think it’s out of my system now. Was just trying to share that I can relate to your pain on a much smaller level, and can also relate to starting to feel alive again. It’s really an extraordinary feeling!

    And so sorry for missing your birthday, but I hope it was fantastic, Matt!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      My birthday was excellent, thank you. :)

      Don’t apologize for sharing your personal stories here! That’s what this is for.

      I’m very sorry to hear things didn’t work out as you preferred, but it is nice to hear you mention that reconnecting helped you heal a bit.

      Nice to hear from you, Gail. Here’s to spring finally arriving.

      Perhaps it will deliver some very good things.

      Like

  16. Agree with this so much. Connection is a genuine human need providing vital nourishment just as much food, water and air do. :)

    Like

  17. Nadia says:

    Holy shit. What a post. You just got one big fucking fan.

    Reaching out (in the blogosphere and personally) had helped pull me out of the depths so so many times. In one way or another, I suddenly met so many people who share or have experienced the same I have. I wouldn’t be here today without the love others have shown me.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Hi Nadia. :)

      I’m really glad you get it. I think even though we’re all playing in this same sandbox, we all experience things just a bit differently.

      And when I didn’t have the energy to face all the people I know in real life, and with all of my family living far away, this is where I poured myself.

      And I don’t understand how it helped or why it helped. I just know it helped.

      And I have to believe it’s because of all those connections. All those people who think and feel and say: “Yeah. I experience that, too.”

      Kind of like you just did. Thank you for that.

      And thank you for liking the post. It means a lot to me that you do.

      Like

  18. Wordsgood says:

    I’m so happy to hear how much writing and blogging has helped you. Connecting is terrifying (at times), hard, but oh so needed for mental health.

    A belated Happy Bithday. :)

    I haven’t been online much of late and missed a lot of posts. Must catch-up.

    p.s. Walking Dead…sigh. I find myself getting reluctantly sucked into that show, as my husband triumphantly crowed when watching it last night. First Star Wars and now this. There will be NO zombie related collectibles allowed outside his man cave! :)

    Like

  19. EllyWendy says:

    Holey moley, Matt, what a great post. Made me realize — and really feel — what an emotional desert I lived in for so long, and why I got so whacked out. When I think about all the hours I spent on self-help and therapy-related stuff — and the resulting library of stuff collected over the years — it kind of burns me up. Why didn’t you write this sooner and save me a lot of time? And shelf space?
    Kidding aside, congrats. This sums up so many life-giving concepts and in such an entertaining way. It’s lucky I’m on my laptop or I’d be trying to print the thing out ;)

    Like

  20. EllyWendy says:

    Reblogged this on Squirrelly Hollow and commented:
    The kid just says so much . . . I really admire not only his writing but his wisdom.

    Like

  21. GalOnTrip says:

    does your wife know that you blog about your divorce? and how much you regret that the marriage has turned to ashes?

    Like

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