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Flashlight Experience

From: Melinda    
City: Phoenix
State: Arizona
Contact information: confidential by request

Aaack!  What happened?

My husband left me after 22 years of marriage. I had no warning, I thought. Looking back, I knew in my gut that something was wrong. I just passed it off saying all marriages are that way. After that many years the affection just isnít there. I hadnít let myself go, I still had my looks and my figure. Other men looked at me, so I thought I was still attractive Ė until my husband left me. 

Did you see it coming?
I had no warning, I thought. Looking back, I knew in my gut that something was wrong. I just passed it off saying all marriages are that way. After that many years the affection just isnít there. I hadnít let myself go, I still had my looks and my figure. Other men looked at me, so I thought I was still attractive Ė until my husband left me.

How did it affect you?
I stayed in bed for days and cried. When I ate, I threw up, my pain was so intense. I couldnít understand it. My friends meant well, I think, when they called and said I was better off without him, and I would be better in time. I didnít want to be better in time, I wanted to be better right now. I wanted my marriage back, I wanted everything back the way it was. I hated people telling me thatĒ everything happens for a reasonĒ, and ďevery cloud has a silver liningĒ, and  I'd get through it.  I felt miserable and it felt like no one understood me. I just want to scream at those people. Canít you understand, your remarks feel so uncaring. I need you to listen to me. Only now I understand how they couldnít . They were afraid of really feeling my pain. I didnít understand why those platitudes angered me so much until I read the definition posted on your web site. I looked it up in the dictionary just to make sure, and my dictionary says the same thing.  A trite statement said as if it has significance. Through my divorce, many of my friends who only had platitudes to give, fell by the wayside. They had no patience (or was it fear) for the difficulties I had.

Then when my husband filed for divorce papers, he immediately wanted me to get out of the house. He wanted to move in with his girlfriend. Now I was humiliated too. I didnít know where to go, or what to do. I hadnít worked more than part time jobs in years. I didnít need to, as my husband took care of everything, and I helped him a lot. We were a team, I thought. I had no money. While I was in bed being emotionally too sick to move, my husband emptied the bank account. The day I found that out, I also ended a friendship with someone I had known for years, when she told me that wouldnít have happened if I had just got out of bed and taken the money out first. She didnít understand when I told her that she had no comprehension of how debilitating this shock was to me. Telling me that I brought this upon myself was not the help I needed.

What did this experience initially do to you or cause you to do or feel?
Before this happened I thought I was smart and capable. I had even started a small business of my own selling home decorating crafts during the holidays. Suddenly I couldnít keep any good thoughts in myself for longer than 5 minutes. The person that I had trusted more than anyone, had betrayed me at the deepest emotional level. Friends either didnít have the time for me, didnít have the understanding, or worse, blamed me for the breakup. I hated hearing how I must have done something to cause this, even if it were true. I didnít need to hear it now. I also didnít need to hear how I would be better off without him. How could anyone say that, when I was hurting so bad. It was like a death to me. A death of all my dreams. When I was a child, I dreamed of my Prince Charming. I dated him all through school and them married him right out of school. We had two wonderful children , now in college, and I thought we would be happily ever after. All that was gone and I didnít know what to do with myself.

Were you alone, did you have support, did you have to find support? What kind? How?
First Step:
A friend of mine gave me her strength when I didnít have any. I sat down with a her and started talking about and writing down how I wanted my life to be. She emphasized how important it was to start looking towards what I wanted if I wanted to get there.

The first thing on my list was to find a place to live.. I knew I had to move out, and I had no idea where I would go or how I was going to take care of my needs. My friend continued to help me look forward, and at the same time she was compassionate with my feelings.

Then the first thing on my list showed up. Another friend made an agreement with her husband to let me move into their 2 car garage. They moved their cars out and cleaned it up, put a fold out couch/bed in there, a TV and a portable closet. I could use the kitchen and guest bathroom close to the garage door into the house.  So right after my husband told me to move out, she showed up with a couple other friends and a truck. They packed stuff and put it in the truck. She walked me through my house when I cried and asked me about different items. I didnít want to take anything, I was afraid of making my husband mad. And I was holding onto the hope that this was not real, and he would come to his senses and it would all be better again. My friend was kind during all this and kept telling me it was okay to cry, and if it worked out, I could move the stuff back in. Okay, that helped, even though deep in my heart, I knew the truth.

How did you react immediately after this event/experience?
At first I was crying all the time, but when we started packing things from my house,  I began to feel a little stronger, like I was fighting back a little. I did a few things, a little revengeful. I took half of every pair of his socks and shoes, so nothing matched. I removed the light bulbs from everything and the batteries from every electronic item in the house, and took all the remote controls with me. I took all the food, and the entire wine collection. I left one beer and some cheese, but unplugged the refrigerator, and all the other appliances. The ones I didnít take. The furniture I didn't want we turned most of it upside down.  My friends loaded so much into the truck that I had no plans on where to put it. They divided it up and kept different things for me in their garages. I only took some of my clothes with me to my new garage home.

What did you do next?
After the move out, I cried for days. It was sinking in. I was hurt and scared if I could take care of myself. My children called wanting to know what happened. Even telling me how angry their Dad was for what I took, and how could I? He didn't tell them he took all the money. They were torn between us, and it made me feel even worse. My friends came by to see me and would listen to my crying.  When I would take a breath, they might make a small suggestion, such as telling me to shower and they would take me to lunch. A step forward: I hated leaving my new little home. I didnít want to see anyone, but they helped me little by little.

Next? What happened? Step forward, same or step back?
I had no money. My friend suggested I add this to my list, and state how much I wanted and when. I wrote down a small amount and I needed it now.  Another Step: I embarrassedly asked for money from friends, something I never thought I would do. They seemed excited to help me and generously gave what they could. They always made sure I had enough to eat and my cell phone was paid, so they could reach me. About a month after I moved out, one of my friends suggested I sell the things I took with me. They would be a reminder of my past, and might give me the money to move on. I didnít want to, but I needed to. Another Step: I ran ads in the paper and reluctantly sold a few things, and the wine collection. Collecting wines was my husbandís hobby, and he was very mad I took the wine so that felt good. When he took me to court and tried to get his wine back, it was all gone, so I sent him a bottle of cheap wine instead. I did have to give him back his shoes though, and all the remote controls. He tried to take my car, but the court wouldnít let him and made him pay for it and the insurance instead until our divorce is final. That gave me a little breathing space. 

When I got the divorce papers, I felt like my life was over. I went to a local bar by myself and got drunk. The bartender wouldn't let me drive home, and somehow got my friends phone number and she came and got me. I was too drunk and crying so much I don't remember if I gave him the phone number, but I must have. I was hung over real bad the next day, and crying all the time. That night I stayed in my little garage home and got drunk again. I called my husband on the phone and screamed and cried at him. I called back so many times, I think he left the phone off the hook. A friend, recovering alcoholic, suggested I go to a support group. I got mad at her, because I wasn't an alcoholic, I was having a bad life. She told me it didn't have to be an AA meeting, just one where maybe I could meet some people like me. Next Step: She is a good friend, so I said I would try but we couldnít find any support groups for divorced women, so I went to AA meetings with her. I couldnít relate to the people with drinking problems, but some of them also had other life problems that helped me to hear I wasnít alone. That helped a little, but not enough. Another friend suggested therapy, which I definitely refused. I wasnít crazy. I believed only crazy people went to therapy. Then she told me that she had been in therapy, and I always thought she always had it totally together and she was such a strong person. So I thought more about going myself. Next Step: I looked on the internet for a referral and found a therapist that had a sliding scale payment. That was important since I didn't have much money. I didnít like the first therapist I saw so I didnít go back. After urging from my friend, I tried again and this time I liked the therapist. She seemed understanding but not babying. She let me cry, but didnít let me feel guilty for it. I saw her a few times, then she suggested I might consider a different kind of support group instead, with other women like me. I didnít like talking about my problems, even to my friends, so the idea of talking to strangers didnít feel like something I would do. My therapist had already been a great help to me so finally I agreed. Another Step: The first group was shocking. Some of the women I hated right away, because they didn't seem to have any problems. They were all talking about how they were changing their lives and my life was a mess.  Because of my friend, I kept going. It was amazing how my opinions of these women changed over time. Then I started talking in group about me and my life. It wasnít easy, but I felt safe here. The women didn't try to fix me, they didn't judge me, instead they kept talking to me about what did I want next in my life and writing it all down on my list. I had already started somewhat of list, so I carefully wrote down what I wanted and thinking I didnít see how this would help. These women seemed to find it helpful, and I wanted the joy they had, so I was willing to try it. They also talked a lot about forgiveness, and I kept thinking that would be a "cold day in hell". Emotional Step: In therapy I learned that I have always felt I needed to be married. I learned that wanting and needing are two separate things. The needing to be married kept me from seeing the signs that something was wrong in my marriage. The needing to be married caused me to change myself to always try to fit what my husband wanted. The needing to be married made me always put myself second to anything my husband wanted. This, I learned, was one reason it was so hard to take things when I moved out. I am so grateful for my friends. I had always believed that I was supposed to adjust myself for my husband, and that he had the final word. Thatís what my parents did. Another Step: Because of therapy, I felt strong enough to sell all the things I had taken with me from the house. They were part of a life I wasnít in anymore, and I wanted a new life. If I met someone new, we would collect our own memories. With those thoughts in mind, made it easier to let go. My children didnít make it easy on me. They were attached to some of the pictures or china and stuff. Another Step: I let them have what they wanted.

We also want to know what you did, that didnít help. And why.
I used to be good at holiday craft making, and I used to love doing it Ė I thought! I started researching crafts to work on and discovered I did the holiday crafts for my husband. His mother loved the holidays and always decorated the house to extremes. I did the crafts to decorate our house, and did extra to sell. It was that extra that gave me ďmeĒ money to but special gifts at the holidays. That was an eye opener for me. My husband had controlled our money all along, and it took this to show me how I had lived on a allowance. That might be good for some people, but it no longer felt good for me. Next Step: I started making home decorating crafts for me! I started with things I wanted in my garage/apartment. I made a few things for friends as thank you. Then I made a few pillows, matching table linen sets,  and other small things.  Another Step: I took some to local stores and sold a few. .I signed up for a swap meet and took a car load of stuff. It was kind of exciting. My own little business. But people at the swap meet werenít interested in what I had and I didnít make any real money. I got discouraged. The retail stores were nice, but they had to make a profit too, so they only bought the stuff that was low enough priced to resell. I got even more depressed. I was on the couch or in bed crying off and on after this. I had no energy to go anywhere or do anything.

We want all the specific steps and results that let you from point A to point W.
Another Step:
I cried at my women's support group that nothing was working. One women kept asking me if what I was trying to accomplish was on my life. They kept talking about this list, and writing stuff down. One woman gave me the book It Works with Simple Keys, and asked me to just read it and try it for 2 weeks. I agreed and the group helped me to fix my life. One of the women suggested we have a party and they each bring other friends and maybe I could find other customers. So we did. The first party we had 15 ladies show up and 2 of them wanted me to make things for their homes. One of them wanted me to make gifts for her to give away. We asked the ladies who didnít buy if they would each tell one friend. Most said they would. We had a second party, and 5 new ladies came. One more new customer. Again we asked them to each tell one friend. I say ďweĒ asked, but it was really my friends doing all the asking, because I still wasnít good at asking people. I have learned to be better. A lady at this party asked me if I could make something custom for her. Of course. Now I was branching out into new areas. Another Step: I found a local community college that had a class in interior design and I am almost done. I have learned a lot of things about concept, color and design. My teachers have complimented me on my work. I am proud of myself here. 

Another Step: I keep a journal now. Something I have never done. Some nights I would write how much I hated the world or how scared I was. I wrote about my true friends, and  friends who went away that couldnít understand what was happening to me, good and bad. In the book I read, there was a instruction to write the bad stuff in pencil overwrite the bad stuff with thick black marker with good stuff. It made me feel a lot better than just writing down all my sadness. So I still do this. Another Step: I wrote how I told my friends what I needed for support and how their words made me feel. That was a huge change for me. I was watching an Oprah show last week and her guest said something like, if you donít tell your friends the truth about yourself, then how can they can cheer you on. Another step: I forced myself to ask my friends to help me with my craft business idea. I told them I was scared and feeling insecure. We got closer and they cheered me on. I wrote this in my journal too. I write about my changing relationship with my children. They are getting better at understanding this divorce but sometimes they are mad at me and sometimes they are mad at their dad. Another step: We went to therapy together a few times, so we could talk about it with the therapist as a coach/referee/interpreter. My oldest daughter is proud of my changes, my youngest is closer to her dad. That is hard for me and Iím working on it. Another step: I read a lot of books looking for answers and support. I still re-read the book my friend gave me in support group and another helpful book I read was: How to Survive the Loss of a Love, by Peter McWilliams Then I read Obsessive Love : When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go by Susan Forward, then I read the book Letting Go: A 12-Week Personal Action Program to Overcome a Broken Heart by Tracy Cabot. I tried to do what this book suggested, but it was hard and I canít say I did it in 12 weeks. Another step: I read the book Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward to help me with my Children and my family. Another step: A friend gave me the book One Day My Soul Just Opened Up, 40 Days And 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength And Personal Growth by Iyanla Vanzant, which is like an inspirational journal book. Iím still reading this one. At the time I started doing my crafts again, I read Feel the Fear and do it Anyway by Susan Forward. Another step: Now I am reading Facing Love Addiction, Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love by Pia Mellody, and A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. I also have read The Courage To Trust: A Guide To Building Deep And Lasting Relationships by Sue Patton Thoele. I found most of these books from my friends, my therapist and from the Oprah website and from a nice salesperson at the bookstore.

I want a good relationship with a man that lasts this time and I have him defined on my list. I am learning from my past and paying attention so I don't make the same mistakes. I am learning the difference between having what I want, and settling for what shows up. With therapy, good friends, my great support group and reading, I now believe (a little more) that I can have this. I want to understand more how to financially take care of myself. Another step: I am enrolled in a financial class to understand the best way to set up my small but hopefully growing business, and make investments that will help me in the future. Since I have always been dependent on my husband financially, I'm learning how to be have a relationship with a man and not need him to financially do it all. I have learned how I gave up my goals when I was married because my husband controlled all the money. Another step: I am looking at why I have always believed this way, do I really want to change, and if I do, then how can I and if I don't, then what do I do? I spend less time on the why and more time on the what I want now. Iím learning who I am everyday and I'm moving forward.

Point W Ė Whew!
Where are you now? How has this experience helped you, changed you, etc
Another step: I stay away from some old friends who wanted to control me and tell me how to live my life. I stay in close contact with the friends that helped me see what was best for me and cheer me on to where I want to go. I have made new friends from my support group. They all encourage me to keep writing more things on my list. .Another step:  It has been almost a year, Iím not there yet, but Iím on my way. Another step: Next week, I am going apartment looking so I can give my friend her garage back.

Another step: oh yea, and Hell is beginning to get cold. I'm learning forgiveness, first for myself, and then others.

* Discussion with Melinda, we have added the bold indicators in her story to help the reader identify her steps..


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