It was exactly like those initial weeks after divorce.
I couldn’t describe what was wrong. None of my feelings made sense to me. Intellectually, I thought my body was overreacting. But our insides—all the invisible stuff that makes us, us—have a funny way of not always doing what our brains think they should.
I was robbed on a work trip to Las Vegas. They took my phone, the cash I had on me, and my shoes. I learned after visiting my bank once I got back home that they had cleaned out my checking account through a series of ATM withdraws and Venmo transfers.
I can’t prove that I was drugged. But given that one minute I was with friends listening to a cheesy Vegas cover band before leaving to use the restroom—and the very next thing I remember is waking up five hours Iater in a hotel stairwell several miles away, and apparently providing strangers with the private banking information and phone passcodes they needed to clean me out financially—I’m continuing to operate under that theory.
At the end of the day, some dickbags took my phone, wallet/money, and a pair of shoes.
People have been killed for less.
From a certain perspective, you could say I’m lucky to be alive, and that I’m fortunate to have ended up at my hotel, even if it was in a dingy metal and concrete emergency stairwell.
So why do I feel this thing I don’t have a name for?
On the surface, it’s a ridiculous comparison, right?
Divorce is hugely disruptive. Your person leaves you. Your entire life changes overnight, forever.
This was NOT that.
So why? Why is it feeling the same?
Divorce was my first encounter with inner brokenness. Things were dark and heavy and ugly and painful and scary and broken, and there was nowhere to run.
That was its defining characteristic. That you took it with you everywhere, no matter what. It greeted you in the morning. It sat on your chest as you tried to fall back asleep in the middle of the night. It sat next to you while you were driving around. It poked you and asked you to pay attention to it while you were trying to watch movies or sports. It inserted itself in your conversations with friends and family while you were just trying to have a good time like you always had.
It built and built and built until the only thing left to do was cry like a child.
And you kept waiting for it to go away, but every time you looked in the mirror, you could still see it hiding behind the dead eyes of the stranger in your reflection.
I don’t know what to call this feeling or how to categorize it.
So, I’ve always just called it being “broken.” I was once a certain way. Something that felt normal and right. And then suddenly I was something else. I was a different way, and everything about it sucked more than the old way that I’d gotten used to for 34 years.
Finding my way back from that is one of the most significant things I’ve ever done. It’s perhaps my greatest personal achievement, because I didn’t know the human body could do that, and I didn’t know whether there was any coming back from it.
But You Do Come Back
And it’s happening again.
This robbery thing broke me again for a few days. It happened last Friday. Yesterday was the first day I felt like myself again. It was the first day I was brave enough to have calls with coaching clients.
I was shaken—not just by the incident—but by the idea that I was once again feeling things in the invisible places with no means of fixing it, and nowhere to run away from it.
Feeling 80-percent regular yesterday felt like winning the lottery.
I still have no money, no mobile banking ability, and no driver’s license. But at least I get to be me again.
I’m so grateful it only took a week.
How to Recover from Divorce and Other Trauma in 3 Steps
I’d written it before, and I recognized this was an opportunity for me to try to practice things I’d preached.
When everything is very bad, we’re simply trying to survive. To return to a sense of normalcy.
I reminded myself there was no Skip or Fast-Forward button to push. That the only way anywhere sustainable is the long way.
I remembered that I only had one job. Just one.
My only job was to breathe. Just one more breath. Once I’d completed that task, my only mission was to do that again.
One more breath.
When you breath enough times today, tomorrow always comes.
And after enough tomorrows come, you find yourself further down the trail—finally a safe distance from the shitty, life-wrecking thing you were trying to escape.
Or maybe more accurately, you carried the shitty, life-wrecking thing with you as you continued down the trail, but you finally made peace with the idea of setting it down and moving forward without it.
I don’t pretend to know.
I just think there’s something important about breathing when it’s difficult to do anything else.
To recover from bad things, the three steps are:
- Love yourself.
I repeated it like a mantra six and a half years ago when I didn’t know whether I’d wake up the next day, or whether I even wanted to if there was no hope of that feeling going away.
Just breathe. Everything’s going to be okay.
It never happened as fast as I wanted it to. There are no hacks. No cheat codes. No magical workarounds.
There’s just the long way through. Never easy, but always simple.
Breathe. Just one more time.
I’ve breathed millions of times in my life with zero awareness that I was doing so.
So if I do it on purpose? If I try hard? I’m confident I can always take one more.
And after breathing enough times, you get to be you again. You get to wake up tomorrow where the best thing that ever happens to you might happen.
Tomorrow is a gift waiting to be opened.
When you’re ready.
You will be.