Do these attributes ring any bells for you, as they do for me?
Every now and then, a flood of very ugly, bitter memories overwhelms me. This week has been one of those seasons. I hate it when it comes, but there it is. This morning I woke up, feeling much better after talking with a lifelong friend, last night. I called this process “lancing a boil.”
The years immediately following DH’s leaving me were more horribly difficult than I can begin to describe. In common parlance, I had a nervous breakdown. Okay, for the sake of accuracy, I’m told there’s no such thing, medically speaking, as a nervous breakdown. The term is a sort of lay umbrella term that is so nonspecific that it doesn’t really mean anything. It covers dozens of situations and so becomes pretty meaningless. The neighbor who had a bipolar episode requiring hospitalization could just as well be said to have have had one as I could, dealing with the nightmare stress and anxiety of going through the separation and discovering DH is gay.
More, at the time, I was under the impression that a nervous breakdown meant someone had been found curled up in the fetal position mumbling incoherently to herself, and couldn’t be pulled out of it. I wasn’t nearly so bad, I thought; I was functioning (more or less). Besides, I couldn’t think of things like that, there was too much at stake, I had a family to take care of, and I had to keep going.
But this is what I experienced. I am sharing so that others going through this can know they’re not losing their minds, but experiencing something not at all uncommon among us:
* I couldn’t concentrate. This was particularly inconvenient since I was in college at the time, and English majors read a lot. I’d look at a page for long minutes and not be able to figure out what it said. I’m not really sure how I was able to graduate and keep a B average.
* My mind was all over the place. Mostly, as I remember, was a litany of “I’m so afraid” or “I don’t know if I can do this” sorts of thoughts. Worse, a lot of my thoughts, and the interior voice that comes when one is reading silently, were screaming at me.
* I wanted to sleep all the time. Sleep was an escape. Plus, I was so, so overwhelmingly tired all the time. I could drop off to sleep so easily, and I hated waking up and having to be in the real world again (I still love to sleep, my dreams can be so entertaining! but I am also glad to wake up again.)
* I felt tense and anxious all the time. I came to refer to it as feeling as if I were living on the epicenter of an earthquake. Every single thing I did, no matter how normally inconsequential, seemed to loom in front of me as possessing potential for catastrophic consequences. I was certain that whatever I did, even to choose the pink button-up blouse over the blue knit pullover, would be WRONG.
* I couldn’t cry. I just couldn’t. Still don’t. I pretty much isolated myself with my children and tried not to go to pieces. Complete isolation was impossible, being in college, living on campus in married student housing, having children. But I curtailed a lot of activities and kept to myself, still and quiet, as much as I possibly could.
* I felt on edge, had “the jitters,” all the time. No respite. For years.
* I had already established overeating, and eating the wrong foods, as a way of self-medication during the bitterly unhappy marriage. This continued through the Dark Days following the separation and the discovery that DH is gay. I’m not sure it actually increased, but it might have done.
* For months, people urged me, “Don’t deny the rage.” I didn’t know what rage was — until a horrible tragedy befell a friend, a year after DH moved out, and the cork popped. Once it popped, there was no shoving it back in, and I seethed and boiled and simmered with rage. It wasn’t just that I developed a short-fused temper (also connected to my fear of catastrophe striking again at any minute) but my usual sense of humor turned sharp-edged, sarcastic, “black.” The negativity and resentments came out sideways. So did an overabundance of profanity. Frankly? I didn’t like myself at all during this time. But I couldn’t seem to stop.
These things I simply attributed to “stress,” but it was stress to the breaking point. For fun, I took one of those “stress tests” that assigns number values to different stressors — highest number for the death of a loved one, down through a series of other situations to more minor situations like car repairs. A test similar to this one. The test warned, if one scored above an 85 over a six-month period, one’s health might be in jeopardy from excessive stress over the time indicated. I scored 320. Okay, I stretched the six months to 18 months or thereabouts because most of those issues were still currently causing problems. But that was still a frighteningly high number.
Being unable to recognize what was going on, I didn’t seek professional assistance. I’d already dropped out of therapy because DH cashed and kept the Blue Cross/Blue Shield benefit check that was supposed to have gone to our therapist for “marriage counseling,” and I was terrified of debt. I didn’t realize that I might be in need of medication to see me through the worst of it. I couldn’t see that continuing in therapy would have been a very sound investment for my recovery and my future life.
I had no family support. None. Due to problems in my own family, some of which deserve a post of their own, I had no help or support whatsoever from my parents. My evangelical church, which DH left as soon as we separated, was no help; the pastor laid the whole burden of blame on me. The support and encouragement I did have came solely from the college community, from faculty and administration who knew me.
It’s hard to look back and to see just how bad things were. I shed a few tears, yesterday, thinking what I’d had to go through, and how utterly alone I felt (and, in fact, was). “Bleak” skims the surface, and I don’t know of a better word to describe the experience — a thesaurus of words, maybe, would be required.
A regular divorce is bad enough. Stress enough. But a divorce PLUS the discovery that one’s spouse is gay? The world that I thought I knew was suddenly revealed not to have actually existed. The most essential realities of my life suddenly — not true. Or vanished altogether. The world had collapsed, a new world had to be recognized, and I didn’t know who I was in this unfamiliar place. I was terrified of failure, but failure seemed inevitable.
This is NOT the end of the story — but it will suffice for now — again, as an assurance to other women going through this nightmare: your experience is not singular, you are not in completely unchartered territory, although it’s not a well-travelled path. You can survive this. You can probably come out of it better than I did. Take comfort from my experience, and learn from my mistakes.
(To be continued – – – God’s Grace Carries Us)
I’m only on Ch. 19, but I have to get in this review now.
I’m blessed to call Moira Greyland one of my friends. We met on Facebook through mutual friends; she is the daughter of gays, I am the ex-wife of one. We have exchanged numerous comments and messages; a number of months ago, she became my voice coach, and we have talked numerous times. She is a joyous woman, enormously talented, expert in several fields, energetic, cheerful, and beautiful.
She is also a walking miracle.
And a very fine writer.
Moira’s parents were famous writers; I’d come across Marion Zimmer Bradley through her Mists of Avalon (which I bought but never could get into, and eventually threw away), but I wasn’t acquainted with the name of Walter Breen until I met Moira. Both Marion and Walter were brilliant and famous in their respective fields; I was surprised to learn that she was one of the cofounders of the Society of Creative Anachronisms, and other Faires.
Walter, it turns out, was paranoid schizophrenic. Marion didn’t have a formal diagnosis, having never been institutionalized, but my hunch is that it would have been very bad, had there been one. Nevertheless, both of them were brutal child molesters and abusers. Moira was raped by both her parents, she watched her father bring into their home and seduce dozens of young boys, her mother go through bouts of insane and irrational rages. How she has emerged from that hellhole to be the vibrant and powerful — if sometimes shell-shocked — woman that she is leaves me in utter awe.
There are moments in this book of wry humor (Walter would have sex with “anything with a pulse” — in my head, I can see and hear Moira speaking those words). There are recountings that are so carefully navigated to avoid the salacious but still leave one wanting to scream with fury, to reach through the pages and to rescue that little girl she was. Moira had told me she has panic attacks in the shower, and now I fully understand why.
But the book is more than just her story; it is also the story of the fomentation of the gay rights and pederasty movement (I’m sorry, the two really are inescapably linked — and Breen wrote about “Greek love”) out of Berkeley in the 1960s and 70s. Walter’s schizophrenia thankfully left him incapable of playing the system by self-editing his thoughts and words, any more than his impulses, he was very vocal in his advocacy of sex with children, and wrote about it, and his words and attitudes have been recounted by more than just Moira, which allows us to see the train of thought of an active pederast. His testimony in the criminal trial that put him in prison for the rest of his life was appallingly candid; he actually seems to have believed he could persuade the judge that he was in the right in seducing young boys, that he was doing them an enormous favor. Moira weaves others’ writings, remembrances, and testimony through her own story to demonstrate that these events she recounts were not the creation of her own mind but a well-documented, publicly-known “secret” in the various communities where the family were connected.
There are hard paragraphs to read, yes, but overall The Last Closet is a story of survival and of triumph of love. Moira shows us the brokenness that each of her parents brought into their marriage, and the tragic and twisted love they shared (they were so in tune with one another on many levels, that they would regularly buy one another the same gift). She shows us her carefully-forged escapes and survival techniques.
As I said in opening, I’m on Ch. 19. But I know how the story will end, because I know Moira: in triumph.
Right now, The Last Closet is only available in Kindle format. It will be available in hard copy soon. And — I don’t know where she’s going to find the strength to do it all — in audiobook. Yes, Moira’s going to record it herself.
My friend Gina – her husband left her about ten years ago for another man – ugly, ugly situation. Her doctor gave Gina something to “help her relax.” The drug was Ativan — and he’s had her on it for EIGHT YEARS.
There’s something unconscionable and unethical about putting a patient on an addictive drug for that long.
And did Gina need it in the first place?
Look, of COURSE your nerves are shot — you’ve been living with a homosexual – a misogynist – for how many years? And now you know the insanity you’ve been blaming on yourself (and he’s probably been blaming you for) is because he’s homosexual? and the earth is rocking and rolling under your feet and you don’t know which end is up and at any minute you’re absolutely sure you’re going to toss your cookies?
WELL, DUH — of COURSE YOUR NERVES ARE FRAYED. OF COURSE EVERYTHING AROUND YOU IS GOING BATSHIT CRAZY.
IT is — not you.
And so you toss your cookies. Is it really the worst thing that can happen to you? Personally, I think continuing to live with a psychologically abusive and severely disturbed spouse is far, far more undesirable.
Look. You can take the immediately easy way out and medicate with booze or prescription drugs in order to numb the immediate oh-God-I’m-losing-my-mind feelings. But I’m telling you, you’ll still have to face the music when you sober back up or the prescription expires. And if you’re on the junk long enough, you’ll have compounded problems, coming off the crutch AND facing your reality all at one time.
Problem is, the crisis doesn’t go away just because your brain checks out for a while. It will sit and wait for you, however long you try to run away from it.
It’s a LOT easier to grit your teeth and just body-surf through the batshit crazy until you can find some terra firma to plant your feet on. It takes ten times as much work to pull yourself BACK together as it would have done simply to hang on for dear life in the first place. Yes, that’s a borrow from Mockingjay — in which book too damn many needles are used to get Katniss and Finnick — to CONTROL THEM instead of healing them. Because, dammit all, it’s so much easier to drug your way through a crisis than it is to have to think and work your way through. Until you sober up and the emotional upheaval is still right there waiting to say GOTCHA!
Stay sober. Honestly.
I’m reading some excerpts here and there — not specifically from Freud himself (yet) but synthesized through others. An interesting point that I felt worthy of sharing (and inviting discussion) is that one writer, in a post on a NARTH page, asserts that Freud did not see homosexuality as a mental illness, per se, that is, not on the same level of illness as, say, schizophrenia. Instead, he saw it as more of a developmental disability, an indication of an arrested emotional development, “an intermediary stage between self-love and heterosexuality.”
I don’t know about heterosexuality being a “stage.” Every little boy I’ve ever known, no matter his age, has been fascinated with women’s breasts.
But the idea of homosexuality being a condition of arrested emotional development intrigues me. It certainly fits in what I’ve observed in gay behavior, not only my ex-husband’s but others’ as well.
What’s been your experience? Does this resonate with you? or do you think it’s a bit far-fetched?
I questioned why the professional community taxed with screening gender reassignment candidates has not been more capable of recognizing the severe dysfunctions operating in the LGBT community, particularly in those lesbian households that are putting little boys on the transgender trainwreck. But perhaps the answer to that lies here:
“. . . the aggression shown by the LGBT community toward people who question whether children should prepare to have their genitals surgically altered and be injected with massive doses of hormones is such that clinicians are terrified to continue searching for the truth.”
The original article is available from the Wall Street Journal, but they demanded I subscribe before I could access the article. I’m not in the market for a paid subscription of a work I only use a few times a year, rather than daily, cover to cover.
The LGBT community certainly is aggressive, even hostile, in the face of opposition. Last week I posted a story by Janna Darnelle about her experiences divorcing, or being divorced by, a man who’d decided to come out of the closet. Later in the week, this article appeared with an update, revealing that, in the aftermath of Janna’s article’s publication, and widespread sharing on the internet, the Gay Mafia has gone berserk with trying to punish her.
I highly recommend Rivka’s update, full of great information and insights such as this one:
“You want to marry a man and you are a man? Society does not owe you women’s children, women’s eggs, or women’s bodies.”
I would add, ” . . . or our hearts and souls.”
While it might be debatable, just whether, to what extent, and in what order of events homosexuality is a mental illness, I think it’s quite certain that our marriages were very sick.
Living with a gay man is not an easy task, or a pleasant one. The first manifestation of this is a dearth of physical affection and intimacy. It’s highly revealing that one of the first things ex-wives want to talk about, when we find one another, is sex. Rather, the utter lack of it. It’s as if we’re grasping for reassurance:was my experience unique? is something wrong with me, or did you go through this, too?
One woman told me she could count on one hand the number of times she and her husband had sex – although they were married for more than seven years. My own husband would flinch if i demonstrated the most benign and nonsexual affection by resting my hand on his shoulder or his arm: “Don’t do that!” he’d explode. “You know that bothers me!” When he would condescend to hug me, it was done gingerly, actually touching me as little as possible, as if he were afraid of catching something.
For a woman who is as affectionate in nature as I am, and who came from a family of very affectionate people, that hurt terribly. It hurts all of us.
We were ignored, rebuffed, as companions as well as lovers. Our husbands didn’t mind talking about their work – a topic in which they could dominate and control the topic and our participation was severely limited, but they didn’t want to really communicate with us. Our husbands have used a lot of mechanisms to shut us out, from television to workaholism to spending all their spare time with their buddies …
And did you know your husband’s friends? Because I never met mine. They were “some guys I know through work,” but I never met them, or learned their names, or anything else about them. He never liked the men we went to church with. He complained they were snobs, while I thought they were terrific fellows. Now I realize that he – so many gay men – have to cut others down because they’re so insecure in their own tenuous masculinity; the men in our church, straight men, were a threat; through them he might be found out for what he really was.
And, of course, for so many of us, all these issues had to be our fault.
We’re women – we are created to adapt and to yield. When we are said to pour our selves into a relationship, it’s true: we adapt to fit the mold we’ve chosen. So when the “mold” kept changing and pushing us away… what’s wrong with me? became the relentless cry of our hearts.
Discovering our husbands are gay doesn’t quiet that cry, as noted by the point, above, that we seek reassurance from one another that our situation was not unique, and therefore was probably not our own fault.
So now we must take stock, recognize that it’s not us – if we’d been perfect, it would not have been enough! – and begin the process of recovering our own serenity and wellbeing.