A bit sad

1:00pm

I have felt a bit sad today. It’s a weird feeling. It’s vague hopelessness. Like a little voice saying to me, “nothing is good and it never will be”. I don’t have an effective outlet for this. They are ways to distract myself from the voice. They usually work and I end up forgetting it is there. But it’s still there…I just can’t hear it. It’s on repeat: one day they are going to grow up and leave, then what are you going to do? Keep going to work…for what? So you can accumulate more money? Then what are you going to do? You come home every night to an empty house. Do you think that is going to change? You have no one to hold at night. No one to tell you it is going to be okay. She left. You are alone.

Something is wrong

12:00pm

I am still not feeling right. I ate lunch, surfed the web a bit and still have this nervous feeling in my chest like my heart is racing. I just checked my pulse, it is 69 bps…super low and super normal for me. I’m going fucking mad. My head feels super loose and foggy, like I am just short of being dizzy a vague disoriented feeling, if that makes any sense.

I want to go home but I am afraid to be alone. I am going to wait for Lisa to get back to me and just keep my head down and work through the rest of the day.

What is happening?

10:00am

I am getting a sinking feeling in my chest again. Not as intense as it has been but it is getting worse. I think something might be wrong with me. I think this is what a panic attack is. I am short of breath and my heart rate is elevated. I just sent my therapist the following email:

Hi Lisa,
Ever since I went to Chicago over Thanksgiving I’ve been having a really hard time. Just feelings of being overwhelmed. I’m not sure what is going on. I’m in this weepy, about to cry at any moment place. I’ve not been sleeping and thought that might be it. I slept well last night and felt better until about 15 minutes ago and now I feel like I’m back to where I was the last few days. I don’t feel right. I feel like I did when we first met those few months back in August. Is it normal to have these kind of “relapses”?

What a difference

7:30am

What a difference a day makes. I have struggled for days with depression. I was texting with a friend last night trying to get my brain under control. I realized I hadn’t had a good, full night’s sleep in almost a week. I took some Advil PM and went to bed early last night. This morning I feel brand new. I slept through the night and didn’t dream about anything (especially Michelle). I still have a touch of fog on my brain from being tired but I’ll clear that up tonight by getting to bed early again.

I am so grateful this morning. I am grateful my mind is quiet. I am grateful I have the tools to do that for myself. I was starting to get worried and scared yesterday that something was wrong with me. I guess there is, I have anxiety. I was worried it was more than that. I spent the majority of Monday and Tuesday holding back tears. I cried driving in to work yesterday and I cried coming home that evening. I cried making dinner. I cried listening to a sad story on NPR. I was starting to feel overwhelmed by this grief that was all over my body. I had this sense of being completely alone and hopeless…like the sadness was just going to get worse or never stop.

This grief and depression is a problem with a simple solution. Take care of yourself physically and the mind will follow. I will continue to work the problem. Tonight I am going to exercise, spend time with my children, have a healthy dinner, read, and go to bed early.

9:30am

Chicago was a completely fucked weekend. I had a complete melt down that went into Monday back in Omaha. I was fucking miserable there. It was an unintended exercise in masochism. The only thing I enjoyed was my morning run through down town Chicago and seeing Hamilton. The rest of the time I was sad and lonely. I missed my kids and I missed Michelle.

To top it all off, I found out Friday night she is in a new relationship. She went to the Nebraska football game in Lincoln with him (which was odd as she despises football) and posted pics on Facebook. I went off the deep end and sent her a series of ill-conceived text messages.

Me:        You should probably update your relationship status to whoever that guy you’re with instead of me…don’t you think? It makes me sick how happily you discarded us. We were a family and you moved on like we meant nothing.

Since when do you go to fucking football games?

Your little hipster boy looks ridiculous. Let me guess…is he a vegan, barista at a coffee shop that only uses locally sourced coffee beans? You’re tragically and transparently hilarious.

She read the messages and took down the post immediately. Sunday morning I thought better of sending  it all and sent her the following message:

Me:        I know you won’t respond to this. I wanted to apologize for lashing out on Friday. I am sorry I said those things. I was only trying to be mean. It serves no purpose.

You look happy and content with your new life. I am glad for you. I am still working on my “moving on”. It is mostly going well with a few bumps (Friday would be one) along the way.

I still regret what happened to us and wish I could go back and change it but I know that isn’t what you want. Dennis and Brad still miss you being their step mother. So do I.

Again, I am sorry I lashed out Friday!

I know I sound like a crazy person for saying this but: I still love you so much! Take care of yourself.

I have been a mess since Friday night in Chicago. I feel like I am on the verge of tears 90% of the time. It feels like the work I did with Lisa and on my own has been erased. I feel like I am mid to late August with my emotionality. What the fuck?!?! I really felt good about things. I missed Michelle but it was fading. Writing this journal entry I have gotten weepy twice. This is bullshit!

More insight

8:00am

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving next week with my long weekend in Chicago. I’m worried I’m going to get bored while I’m there. I’ll pick up an extra book just in case. Friday after Hamilton, I think I’ll take an architectural boat tour. I have this nervous fear my parents are going to “surprise me” by coming out. I hope they aren’t coming. I really want the solitude right now.

I have been thinking about the right way to structure/organize my thoughts about Michelle. I need to frame them differently. I need to stop thinking about our happiness. I need to remind myself she doesn’t want a family. More than that, I need to remind myself what my friend said the other weekend about hoping we don’t get back together. That was/is a paradigm shift for me. It brought all of the things Michelle did or didn’t do into focus. She took me for granted and I feel taken advantage of. She never really was bought into our relationship.

All her blame and anger are a smoke screen for her guilt. There is a part of her that hates she wants to be free of our family. We would still be together if I was able to move. She would have worked on our relationship if she could say, “I want to move to (insert city)” and I was able to do it. I can’t though. So she tells everyone what a piece of shit I am as the reason we broke up so they don’t know she really broke up because she doesn’t want the obligations and limitations of living her life with the boys and me. She can’t have the adventure and excitement she wants while being with us. She isn’t willing to postpone that till after my boys are grown and gone…she wants it right now.

Okay…giant sigh…that feels right. My life as a father doesn’t offer flexibility or adventure and Michelle wants adventure (right now) more than she wants us.

All of this doesn’t mean I don’t miss “us”. I miss the joy, laughter, love, care, sense of common purpose, sense of family, fun, ease, touch, tenderness, our conversations, her kiss, watching her love my boys, feeling her love me, making love, holding each other…I miss “us”. I have never felt closer to another human being as I did to Michelle. I have never been that intimate with another person. It is a once in a life time type connection I doubt either of us will ever find again.

None of this negates my controlling behavior. It was there! It was a direct result of my anxiety, my anxiety was exacerbated by my drinking. Controlling behavior was a way to eliminate the outcomes in life I was anxious about. Drinking helped numb the anxiety. It was a vicious cycle. I would feel anxious and drink to mute that feeling. Drinking lowered my inhibitions and allowed me to be more controlling. The longer I went in life drinking, the more I needed to drink to get the desired effect. The more I drank the more I felt the need for control. I went further and further down the rabbit hole. I feel like I have broken the cycle. I am clear headed. My anxiety is manageable because I am addressing it not muting it. I address it with exercise, meditation, reading, and writing. I have dealt with toxic relationships. I have worked on creating healthy boundaries (for me and my children) that do not sacrifice what is good and healthy for me/us to what makes other people happy.

I thought for a long time my anxiety stemmed exclusively from my relationship with my father. It doesn’t. It is rooted in bullying from when I was a child. There were some pretty traumatic things that happened in the 7th grade. It made me anxious to be at school. I felt powerless. I internalized all of it and told no one. I was afraid I was going to be bullied again all the time. It’s why I hid in the library at lunch from 7th grade until I was a Junior in high school. If I wasn’t where the bullies were, I couldn’t be bullied. It was my first attempt at controlling and it worked. It reinforced that if I could control things, I would be safe. Never addressing the root trauma allowed the controlling behavior to leach into most of my life. Drinking magnified it.

What I am about to say is very difficult. I have never articulated this before (not even to my therapist). I have had a substance abuse problem since I was 19 years old. I have self-medicated my anxiety for 24 years. From the first time I felt the wonderfully numbing effects of smoking marijuana in mid-September 1993 to August 1st, 2017 (when I quit drinking) I have used marijuana and alcohol to tune out the deafening noise of my anxiety. I used to call it “turning my brain off”. The never ending scroll of “what if’s” would just stop when I was high or drunk. They were manageable when I was controlling and in charge of the outcomes in my life…but they were silent when I was high or drunk.

I feel so much better now. Now I know what to do. Now, I know what is real and what is my anxiety screaming nonsense about the end of the world. All of this insight is the only positive thing to come out of losing Michelle. Losing her was my rock bottom. It was what inspired me to change and work to be a better man and father.

16 years ago, I did what Michelle wants to do. I moved to a big exciting city (San Francisco), worked, and advanced my career. It was a scary, wonderful adventure I’ll never forget. I didn’t have anything tying me down. I was single. She is right at the same age I was when I did that. Our age difference doomed us. If we had been married, she would have stayed with me and been bitter at how her life hadn’t been the adventure she had envisioned. We would have been divorced in 10 or 15 years.

Maybe one day she will look back on our time together without all the hate and rage she has. Maybe she can admit being a family with the boys and me wasn’t important enough (I say this without judgement) and not have the guilt or loss she is carrying around. At this point, who cares really? I have a good life. I have great kids. I am healthy and I’m working on staying that way. I love Michelle. I miss Michelle. I wish we could work through all of this and be together but that will fade over time. In 10 years, we’ll remember how we felt but the feeling itself will be worn down.

Getting better

I wanted to change

for three. I should work for the

two who deserve it.


8:30am

I am surprised by the amount of boredom that comes with sobriety. I am bored…all the time! When I would normally stop off at a bar/friend’s house for a drink is just dead time. I can’t tell you how many times I say to myself, “now what?”  The better I am emotionally, mentally, and physically…the more energy I have. The more energy I have, the more I am bored. There is only so much laundry to be done, I can’t clean the house all the time, the dog won’t go on endless walks, there are only so many books to read, so many movies to see, I can’t play games on my phone endlessly, I can’t work out more than once a day, it’s too cold to play golf…I am just bored, a lot. Looking at this from the outside I can see someone posing the question, “does being bored make you want to drink?” It doesn’t. That’s good.

Of course I think about Michelle and what we would be doing together. I’m not sure why I’m bothering talking about that…silly.

My therapist thinks we have reached the end of her usefulness. She pointed out several things that are different since we first met:

  • Grief has moved (mostly) to acceptance
  • Stress and anxiety are way down
  • I am effectively using tools to manage the anxiety that remains
  • My desire/need for control has abated
  • I have been sober for 15 weeks

Consequently, I am happier than I have been in years…happiness is my “starting position”.

I have to agree with her on all fronts. I know I feel sad from time to time. I think about and miss Michelle in my life every day. Knowing she is happy and grateful to be free of the boys and me hurts and makes the “missing her” worse. That said, I wake up every morning feeling good. I don’t feel like a different person…just a better version. I started out doing this for Michelle (I could have become the embodiment of everything she wants and she still wouldn’t be with me. She left because she doesn’t want roots. She wants freedom.) This change is ending up being for my children and myself. I like this version. He is kinder, gentler, and more patient. The boys like it too.

 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

4:00pm

I feel like Hedwig did in the last scene of Hedwig and the Angry Inch when he wanders out into an alley cold, alone, and naked. He is completely exposed and disoriented. He stumbles a bit but he keeps moving towards the end of the alley. In that moment, I feel hope for Hedwig. He is leaving this dark place and moving towards something better. Watching it, you get the sense that Hedwig is going to be okay.

I am nervous. I feel naked, exposed, and vulnerable. Even when I stumble, I want to keep moving forward. Luckily it is the only direction available to me.

Monday

stars are out shone by

the sun as what’s wrong with us

should be by our love.


8:00am

I was super sad and lonely this weekend. I binge watched Netflix. Friday, I made a nice meal, put on a warm fire, and sat on the couch watching the show till just after midnight. Super sad.

Sadness comes and goes. I didn’t have the boys this weekend and I didn’t have much going on socially. Maybe next weekend will be different. I just need to remember the more time I put between my relationship with Michelle and now…the fewer bad days/weekends I will have.

It still seems unreal we aren’t together. It is just wrong the boys and I don’t have her in our life. Enough said about that…she is gone because she wants to be gone.

 

A poem for Friday

This poem by Kipling has meant a lot to me (especially the line I highlighted in blue) the last few months:

                                         If

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!