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A peek inside our day, the fourth hour | dooce® dooce® » I'm Heather B. Armstrong. This is my website. » A peek inside our day, the fourth hour
  • Former Homecoming Queen

    I feel like we are long lost relatives. Though you are about a foot taller than me=)

    I too act under the assumption that I need to be perfect to keep it all together, that my parents’ divorce was my fault. Nowadays, it’s more “if I don’t put those dishes away before bed my son will turn to drugs and end up in a cult.”

    Almost daily you remind me I’m not alone in this weird brain of mine. Thank you, and I hope you know how much you help.

  • sebeckley

    You are totally not alone in this. Superherojewelry is going through a similar thing.

    And I just recently had a near death experience that (finally) allowed me to realize that yeah, BAD S**T has happened to me. And that’s ok. Because I am strong and I can heal.

    It doesn’t matter that other people have it worse. The reality is that the only way to get to the other side of the trauma is to acknowledge that it was bad (really, earth-shatteringly bad) and that you are _not_ a bad person for having that trauma and having that trauma make it hard for you to function.

    It should make you a little crazy to survive a painful divorce. It it didn’t, you’d be a sociopath. Embrace your humanity and frailty. Then figure out how to heal and move on.

    Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Be ok with being human and being hurt. We have all been there.

    You think the pain will destroy you, so you minimize it, but if you surrender to it and walk through, there are elephants and modern furniture on the other side.

  • imPLANTed

    Thanks Mir#20 for your comment. I have a ten-year old who I’m trying to break the news to.

  • mydeaddogma

    No doubt circumstances, responsibilities, and past experiences influence mood to varying degrees. And talk therapy can definitely help with coping and perspective.

    Unfortunately for many of us however, the ultimate determinant is brain chemistry — and the best we can often do is to utilize all available aids and focus on simply putting one foot in front of the other. The brain-chemistry-impaired version of AA’s ‘One Day At A Time’…

    Lucky people with ‘good’ brain chemistry may see lack of appreciation or ingratitude. Those of us not sharing their good fortune understand, empathize, and pray for strength for your continuing Step-By-Step walk. God bless.

  • round_2

    *Punched in the gut*

    I have never posted ANYTHING on a blog before today. This post has cleared up some emotional cobwebs.

  • helixiafox

    Oh, my dear. It’s great that you are aware of the problem, of course it is hard to fix. Divorce is incredibly traumatic for kids and we live in this weird society where we are expected to pretend that nothing effects us ever, or that it’s no big deal because someone else has it worse, when in reality we really need to mourn the innocent we lost, even if it was because of something seemingly ‘small’. It can only be measured by the effect it had on you.

    I knew for years that being sexually abused as a child probably messed me up, that I had varying degrees of attachment and intimacy/trust issues, but it didn’t go away until I buried myself in therapy and crying constantly and being extremely vulnerable. Mourning, hating the people who let me down even though some of them are still the most important people in my life and even though they only did the best they could with what they knew. And then slowly gaining a sense of entitlement and taking care of myself. In my case, the depression and anxiety that had followed me since I was a little girl then ceased. But don’t get me wrong, it was by no means easy or pleasant and certainly this isn’t the way for everyone.

    It wasn’t your fault, but only you can convince yourself of that. It’s YOUR journey and it’s a very difficult one. Take care of that ten year old girl.

  • Erin Human

    Oh man… I am struggling with similar issues lately. I love my life, but somehow the mere fact of being a parent now means old family/mother/me issues are repeating on me like a bad meal. It’s precisely BECAUSE I am otherwise happy that this is torturing me. I don’t have a therapist, but perhaps I should…

  • dfunkmcgunk

    I am sitting here speechless, which is a first for me. I could have written this same post (with slightly different details, obviously).

    I know what it’s like to feel responsible for your entire family. I felt that way growing up, and I feel that way now, and the weight of it all can be unbearable.

    Everyday, I fear that we will lose our jobs, become homeless, and be forced to sell dreamcatchers on the venice boardwalk (please LAWD don’t let that happen!). The anxiety and stress I’ve put on myself over the years weighs me down and I feel like an old woman (and I’m only 30!).

    The question is: how do we stop thinking like that? We’ve spent the majority of our lives feeling responsible for everything and everyone that we neglect ourselves. We are stuck in our ten year old minds. I sometimes liken myself to an animal – I am just surviving, not really living. I’m happy but it’s always in the back of my mind that pressure, that stress, that anxiety of being the caretaker.

    It’s exhausting!

    You aren’t alone in feeling like you are responsible for keeping everything together. We need to remember we have great partners who can share the “burden” and we aren’t responsible for everything. We have many people in our lives who wouldn’t let us fall.

    xo
    dfunk

  • Funnygirl78

    Your breath-taking honesty and courage is amazing. Love.

  • SamarZ24

    Wow….I don’t even know what to say, except that in some small ways, I understand. I hope you know that you’re not alone, and I hope you feel better soon.

  • slappyintheface

    A great friend of mine once told me, “You don’t have to get over it, you just have to get on with it”. She was right …. oh so right. Everything in our lives doesn’t have to be solved or have an easy answer. Shit happens and sometimes you just have to address it and then get on with it. In the “crappy things lottery”, I won big time, but I am slowly learning to come to terms with it, learn from it, and use it to help others. Life goes on.

  • Heathers Garden

    Heather, I’m sorry you’re having a tough time right now. Living in the joy of the moment isn’t always easy for me either, but it’s so wonderful when I do. Big virtual hug from me to you. –Heather

  • JourneyBeyondSurvival

    How comforting is it to you that you are not alone?

    Not very? Oh. YEs, I can relate to that to. But, I believe that everyone has their pile of problems, and I believe they all-cumulatively-over our lives are hard.

    Why does this matter? I doesn’t.

    It does make literally going crazy over my infant daughter, then being right about her disability, and watching it strip her of skills manageable. Why? Because the hardest part of my whole life has been my mental illness. By far.

    Mental illness is the great equalizer because nobody sees it, I don’t want just anybody to know about it, and I don’t get sympathy. Everyone wanted to help when my daughter needed a wheelchair. But, when I wanted to stay sane?

    Yeah.

    Like I said. I understand. Heather Armstrong? You do whatever it takes.

  • Janice

    You have been a very good girl for a very long time. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to admit you hurt. You can crawl into the Internet’s lap and put your head on it’s shoulder and have a good cry. Your tears are welcome here.

  • Debbie7

    Thanks for being honest, I’m in a very similar place myself and in my marriage as well. I’m so, so grateful that we are fortunate enough to be able to go to an excellent therapist.

    I’ve been reading since before you were a “brand,” and I love your evolution. I hope that you can be proud of it and of yourself. You really *are* “like, a MAGICIAN” here, every day.

  • nluvwthmybstfrnd

    Thank you for posting this and making me feel like I’M not alone. Isn’t it weird how the past (that you weren’t even aware of) can come up and slap you right across the face when you’re least expecting it? And it sucks when you realize it wasn’t so sudden after all. That it has actually been a pain in the ass all along. That it has affected every aspect of your life. I KNOW. I hope that by facing the past, you’ll be able to keep it there once and for all. Sending you hugs, Heather.

  • lisdom

    I don’t want to get too personal here, but I think to some extent, most of us will have some major issue that holds us back that is pretty directly related to our parents. For me, it’s being incredibly afraid of being poor. Thanks for sharing, and I hope that just sharing it with us, and inevitably with your parents who read this blog, will help to heal some wounds. Maybe try to put yourself in Leta or Marlo’s position, and imagine them blaming themselves for any issues you and Jon have with each other. Seems silly, right? Doesn’t mean you don’t still struggle, but hopefully it could give you perspective while you’re getting through this. So encouraged by your honesty. It helps us all realize we’re not alone.

  • nakedjen

    This is so honest, so bare, so naked, I just wish I could come over, wrap you in a warm blanket, give you the sprig of mint for you tea, and then slap you with a major high five!

    Bravo, Heather, for saying it out loud. That took major balls. Balls you have had for far longer than you know. xo

  • ozonelayer

    You are so brave and honest. That is your brand, and the reason you have so many readers. Thanks for sharing this. It made me feel a little better to know that I’m not alone in my misery, no matter how happy I should be.

  • karenarens

    No matter how much we love our kids, it’s impossible to get it right everytime. When we don’t, it can impact them in ways we can’t imagine. Just acknowledging that 10-year old girl and the responsibilities she tried to take on even though she was only a child is a hard first step. You’ve taken it. Continue your journey, because you have to know there’s a better place at the end of it. You’ll get there, just keep that better place in mind when the journey gets rough.

  • WindyLou

    Heather –

    I don’t know what difference, if any, it makes to you that I never knew that you were so affected by your parents divorce. I, and others, only saw the amazing girl who conquered everything in her path and achieved EVERYTHING with such ease and grace. I’m so sorry that I was too busy hiding my own pains to notice that you were doing the same thing.

    For what it is worth now, I hold you up to my 12 year old step-daughter as a poised, intelligent, successful and beautiful woman who is able to balance her work and her children, and still have lots of fun to boot. I show her that coming from a divorced family might hurt way down deep and might always be there inside but that it doesn’t have to ruin your life, that you can still have good, healthy relationships even if your parents didn’t get it right the first time. I also point out to her that you TALK and SHARE and that those things help work past the pains of bad things that happen. My goal for my stepkids is to come out of their parents’ divorce as whole as possible. Having a strong and courageous example to show them helps me teach them that their lives are going to always be a work in progress and that there are always good and happy things that will happen along the way. Thank you for being that person.

    With love,

    Windy

  • bee

    I just had my meds adjusted, love my therapist, do all the right things, and still get sucker punched by my inner 11 year old every so often. I am in the midst of medium grey after a spell of black.

    Lots of hugs, (martinis for me), mint tea for you, and hang in there!

  • girlfriday

    Heather, we are all behind you in the fourth hour.

  • trickygringo

    “I know my pain is relative. My life is good. I am blessed beyond measure. We are lucky.”

    This just makes it so much worse, doesn’t it? I have directly witnessed real third world problems and all I have now are privileged american problems. Disfigured and crippled for life because no one knew how to set your broken legs properly? Daughter died because the tape worm decided to bail and suffocate her? Well I have to pay a late fee on registering my car because the state of California is mean.

    You feel there is simply no excuse for feeling this way and you can’t stand the thought of complaining about it.

  • sizzlesays

    I read every day but rarely comment but had to today because I relate to this and appreciate reading it so much. I’m trying to admit some hard things to myself in therapy too. We’ll get there. I know it! Don’t give up on you.

  • krislee98

    I very much appreciate your candor. I can very much relate to the dichotomy of being the provider, the one-who-has-it-all-together and the person who doesn’t believe any of that.

    Again, thanks for sharing this and putting this out so more folks can get in touch with that little one with her hands on her hips and her lower lip quivering who lives deep inside of us.

  • Kievette

    My parents divorced when I was 14. I’m the oldest – my sister was 9, my brother was 7.

    I’ve been reading your blog faithfully for the past 5 years, and something in the way you write has always resonated with me.

    Reading this post, I think it’s because of that common brokeness. I also feel like the world will fall apart if I’m not doing my best to save it.

    My dear husband, he is so patient, but his parents are still together so he doesn’t quite understand why certain parts of me dysfunction the way they do.

    It’s helpful to read stuff like this and be reminded that other people went through a “smooth” divorce and got beat up, too. It helps me give permission to allow myself to still be hurt.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • meffams

    This is why I love your blog. You mix the hilarity of every day with the heartbreak of every day with thoughtful, beautiful writing. I love laughing with you, but I also always learn from you and I think I love that more. My goal is to be as honest as you are in your posts, because I think if more people, and especially women, were that honest as much as possible, we’d all feel a lot less miserable and lonely.

  • tinaxduzgen

    Oh. Oh how this hits home for me, so hard. This: “The past that I have not ever addressed or even known to address. The past that suffocates me as I struggle to change what it did to me.”

    Yesterday, I dealt with this, all day. All weekend, actually. And it is so frustrating to see, to know that something is affecting (effecting? Feh, I don’t know which one is right, oh well) you and have it be SO difficult to overcome. To “fix”.

    I have watched my past interfere with my present, my relationships boil down to unremarkable vignettes featuring “this one time” or “this person did this”, with gut reactions and feelings.

    It is a struggle, every single day.

  • Kristabell

    I think it’s a life lesson we all go through as human beings, accepting our lack of control, the ambivalence of this world and how to be okay with ourself when we are finally alone to face that final darkness. I hope the best for you in your therapy. Depression is a beast that must never be underestimated and I’m glad you take the steps to keep it at bay. May you be filled with peace dear Heather!

  • MJBUtah

    I read that and had to come over and make sure you had comments turned on, because so many of have been there and are still there and sharing helps. So does a good cry once in a while. It would also help if it would stop snowing around here and actually be spring!

    Take it easy on yourself, because right now YOU are doing the best you can with the tools you have on hand. And it’s none of your business what everyone else thinks of you.

    The only brand you should worry about is Russell Brand, because really that guy is too funny. Seriously.

  • knolting

    As several people have already said, you’re not alone. I’m a child of divorce and I acted like it didn’t bother me for a very long time. I didn’t really realize it had affected me until I started trying to build relationships myself. It’s hard, but we, the internet, are here for you! (with extra commas no less)

  • PrettyGirlMyers

    My parents finally divorced when I was 15 after several years of “making it work for the kids”. Now, 20 years later, none of those kids that they were trying to make it work for has any idea how to be in a relationship. As much as I try to brush it off now as no big deal, those years when they were breaking up, getting back together, trash talking each other, making me take sides, and abusing each other all around have left a pretty significant mark that I don’t show to too many people.

    You’re not alone in this, even thought it sometimes may feel as though you are.

  • coffeemomma

    The thing that sticks out at me the most about this, is that somewhere, somehow, some jerkface seems convinced (and maybe has tried to convince you, too) that because you work hard and do well at that work, that you do not deserve to hurt or be heard about it.

    Bullshit.

    Thank you for sharing, for continuing to share, and please be well.

  • mybottlesup

    ugh. yes, yes, and yes… all of this is so spot on and i’m sorry for it and for your ache right now… which is what made me so grateful for your archives a few months ago when i was in my hole of STUFF, and emailed you to thank you for your archives.

    you’re not alone.

    also, ugh, BRAAAAAAAND!!!!!!!

  • francabollo

    There’s probably nothing I can add here that someone hasn’t written in the earlier comments. But I’m sure you never tire of receiving a simple, heart-felt “thank you”. These posts are important.

  • hmccreary

    This just brought tears to my eyes and I wish I could hug you. Just because other people have problems that seem way worse than yours doesn’t make yours any less real and painful.

    I’m sure you know that but I feel like maybe you need more people to tell you.

    My problems are completely different from yours and I’ve found myself lately trying to just ‘chill out’ because there are so many horrible things happening all around the world so it can’t be that bad right? I convince myself of this and then 5 minutes later I’m back to feeling exactly the same.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Steve O

    I was 12, the only child when my parents relationship began falling apart. This was the beginning of what no doubt was the scariest, most unstable, and most uncertain time of my life. Three years later I was on my own at 16 without a clue as to what fate and destiny had in store for me.

    I survived and my parents are gone now, but I can look back fondly on many of the good things that happened, and still tread into things occasionally I don’t want to remember.

    There were times when my only friend was perhaps a talking twig, but later on it all worked out and then of course the reality’s of my new adult responsibilities came into the picture and of course complicated things even more! LOL – - anyway I spend a lot of time now wondering about what am I supposed to do with all the neat stuff and toys I’ve accumulated over a lifetime!

    And I don’t have a clue. Arrrgh!

    Sometimes the best therapy is to just take a moment and count ones blessings. At least for myself.

  • Phoebe Fay

    “…that dark demon has returned and is trying to convince me that it’s not worth climbing over the next obstacle. Give up. Lie down and cry. Stare at the ceiling until every limb goes numb”

    This is my biggest fear, that it will come back, no matter what I do. I’m afraid I’ll be smack dab in the middle of my life being AWESOME, and that horrible darkness will sneak in and steal away my ability to feel the good.

    Knowing that people like you and the commenters here face it and keep on going helps me so much.

  • dooce

    @Mir and others who are wondering…

    My parents really did the best they could with us during the divorce. They remained friendly. They never argued about visitation or money concerning our needs. We came first, and even at that young age I recognized this.

    I think the damage was done before the divorce. I actually wished they had fought in front of us and not behind a locked door. Because then I could only wonder what was going on and what I could do to fix it. So many nights they locked themselves in the bedroom and screamed at each other. It made me feel helpless.

    And then I would see my mother in the morning, her face clearly tired and red from crying, and I would ask, “What’s wrong, Mom?”

    And the answer was always, “Nothing.”

    She was lying to me, perhaps thinking she was protecting me, but all that did was make me want to make her happy. How can I make it so that my mom doesn’t cry?

    She was absent emotionally from our lives for about a year before the divorce, and I realize I mourn the loss of that connection. Because I was doing so much to try to help her.

    And then my father let his sorrow spill all over me in a bit of an unhealthy way. Again, I was the one taking care of him, trying to make him happy.

    If they weren’t happy, the family would fall apart. Therefore, I HAVE TO MAKE THEM HAPPY.

    After the divorce I wish they had sat down with me to talk about my feelings more, but every discussion was always preempted with, “Your mother and I are doing the best we can for you guys. You know that, right?”

    So I never got to say, no, this sucks. I’m hurting and it’s not okay.

    For the longest time I did some amazing gymnastics to get around the fact that the divorce has had such lasting repercussions on my relationships. I began reacting a certain way to Jon in the last year, and in the process of getting to the bottom of it, I realize that the source of it was when I was forced to take care of my father.

    The dynamic between me and Leta can be traced to the yearning I had for that connection with my mother.

    I don’t want to blame them, because they really were just doing what they knew to do considering the pain they were in. I just want to recognize the source of my behavior and strive to be better. Strive to react in healthier ways and move forward.

    I hope this helps.

  • TxSuzyQ

    So. Can. Relate.

    Twentyfour years ago, my parents divorced and the day my Mother told me is a day I’ll never forget. I just knew it was somehow all my fault. Today, I know that isn’t even the slightest bit true, but OH THE BAGGAGE I HAVE BEEN LUGGING AROUND for TWENTYFOUR LONG YEARS.

    It did, however, get a bit lighter when I let my Mother know how I felt about it all. It wasn’t pretty, but I needed to say it. Oh how I wish I had said it a little nicer, but I needed to say it and I did. My poor Mother was hit head on with with a huge load of projectile verbal vomit! It helped me quite a bit, but a therapist go guide me through it might have been a little easier on my Mother.

    Maybe John isn’t the person you need to say it to? Could be one or both of your parents… Or perhaps a “stand-in” parent? That way you can get it out without the stress of having to actually say it to them.

  • imPLANTed

    Thanks Heather. I immediately connected with “Mir.” What you just said helped tremendously. More than you will ever know.

    This was just the kick in the butt I needed to make that phone call to my therapist to learn how to cope with my divorce for myself. That line about your mother becoming emotionally distant smacked me right upside the head (lovingly, of course). I’ve started down that path with my son and need to stop that.

    Much love and thanks!

    Barb

  • FinsterSpinster

    I’ve had similar struggles, but please know there is no need to apologize here. The people who compare your issues to others around the world can go suck a bag of dicks. Your struggles are valid and we (your faithful readers) care very much about how you are doing. One of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog is because of your honesty. Writing can be therapeutic, I hope that you can find a different kind of therapy here. In the meantime, I should probably find a way to afford therapy for myself, lord knows my parents’ divorce royally fucked me up too.

  • tallnoe

    I will not cry at my desk.
    I will not cry at my desk.

    I must get myself to a therapist. I must.
    I know it’s not a “bad” thing to be in therapy, but it’s something I’ve ignored for 25 years, can’t I just ignore it more?

    Thank you for sharing, and I know that my parents’ divorce ended up for the better, but gdamnit, it was hard. And then what came next was also hard.

    And I don’t know how to have a good and healthy relationship. So, I give you props and again, thank you for sharing your story.

  • cinderellawasdelusional

    When you shove that goo-covered ball of unconditional love out of your hoo-hah you’re automatically branded with the world-on-your-shoulders, I’m-responsible-for-everything, I-can’t-feel-shitty-about-my-life-because-there’s people-living-under-plywood-and-newspaper-in-152-degree-heat-with-kids-whose-best-friend-is-a-nostril-fly-named-Earl mentality. Thing is: if they’re your feelings, your heart, they’re valid. As mothers we think we have to bear the burden of everything life throws at us with quiet and earnest resolve and be-damned if we dare to ADMIT that perhaps things have actually been damaging to us. We need to give ourselves permission to feel what we feel and do something about it.

    First step, Heather? Admit to yourself that the damage that was done to you by what life threw at you is valid and that you have permission to feel it – and using disclaimers when you admit it out loud is killing that part of you that’s actually believes it’s a problem. Own it first, and know in your heart that it’s OK and you’re on the next step toward healing and the ability to feel true joy again.

    You made a pretty significant step by just voicing it outloud to a zillion people and for that you get major snaps. Very brave.

    I’m going to punch anyone in the weiner who tries to give you shit for it…

  • tlkaply

    One of the hardest things for me to really get ahold of was the idea that everyone could do the best they could with what they had and I could still get screwed. Something in me just resisted the idea, I think because it led to the belief that very little is in my control, an idea that physically hurt me.

    Now, for me, it is a gift, because I learned that I could Weeble my through life, that no matter how hard I am knocked down, and it can be plenty hard, I can also get back up. And that worrying about the being knocked down part was, well, pointless.

    Good luck, dude.