According to the Mayo Clinic, Manic-Depressive Disorder is “associated with mood swings that range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel euphoric and full of energy.” But you don’t have to be diagnosed with a disorder to experience the highs and lows that come with divorce. This may be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to go through, and you may be so down that random bursts of what seem like actual happiness may startle you. You may even wonder if you’re going mad, with these unexpected feelings of elation, even excitement for the future. Or, maybe you thought you were going to be happy after your divorce, since it was your idea. You had looked forward to the day when the papers were signed and you could move on with your life. Then, it hits you out of nowhere. You have a sinking feeling in your stomach and a terrible, deep, unexpected sadness. Maybe all of this was a mistake.
The Excitement of Being Single Again!
When my ex-husband first moved out, I was not happy, per se, but unusually elated at the idea that I could be single again. We had grown so far apart that I thought only of the more exciting life I would lead once he was out of my way and the arguing that stressed me so much could finally quiet down and leave me in peace to pursue my own goals. I envisioned taking creative writing classes on the weekend, which is something I never would have done as a married woman because I was always involved in family activities. I saw myself going out to wine bars with friends when I wanted, staying up late to watch what I wanted on TV, and not caring if dinner was ready by a certain time, if at all. I even looked forward to sleeping alone, and never hearing him snore again or being awoken by him getting up for a 2 a.m. glass of water. I felt this way for several weeks.
Extreme Lows, and Wondering if the Divorce was a Mistake
Then, on what was otherwise an ordinary Saturday morning, I turned on the espresso machine, stood there staring it for a minute, and burst into tears. The house was eerily quiet. It was that moment in the morning when you’re first really aware of yourself and your life, before the activity of the day begins and you are off to the market or answering emails. There is a stillness that can be unbearable. I felt in that stillness the incredible sadness of the breaking apart of my marriage. We used to have coffee together most mornings, especially Saturdays. Now, I would never hear him greet me with his usual, hopeful “buongiorno principessa” while I clumsily tamped the espresso beans. I would go to the market alone, and buy food for only myself, and dine alone. Maybe I’d meet someone again one day, but that idea wasn’t comforting at all, because that person wouldn’t know me the way he did. I felt as though he had died, and even though he now lived a mere twenty minutes away, we were a world apart. And I blamed myself. I blamed myself for not appreciating what I had at the time, and for being angry when he clinked his spoon against the bowl. Was it really so bad? I would do anything to hear his familiar snoring again, but I would go to bed that night and be alone, and sleep in silence. What all this meant, of course, was that I missed him. I panicked.
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Accepting Your Feelings and Finding Peace in the Moment
Something that shakes your whole world, that separates you from the person you have shared years of your life with and all those memories, is going to make you unstable. And it’s ok if you’re unstable, and that one day you may miss him horribly and the next feel elated with the sense of possibility. All of those feelings are valid, and there is no hard truth of whether you should or should not be divorced. It’s what you can bear at the time. There was a reason your relationship wasn’t working. And even if one day you may find each other again, it will only be because you took this time to live apart. If you never find each other again, or at least not in the same way, then you will still go on. You will find a new life, and it will be the one you had such high hopes for in all of your manic moments of joy. You will take the writing class, and one day, find a new special person to share Saturday morning coffee with. He or she won’t know know you like he did, that is true. But neither will you, because you’ll be a different person, who has made it through the good and the ugly sides of divorce. So hold onto that, and know that with all the highs and lows, you are still exactly where you need to be in this time of your life.