Help me get through the next few days, please
May 31, 2018 12:09 PM   Subscribe

My husband told me today that he wants to end our nearly 30-year marriage. The timing and circumstances of this, and the way he did it, couldn't be more devastating. I will lose not only my husband but nearly every other good thing in my life. I feel like I'm having a breakdown. I'm gripped with fear and panic, pacing the floor, can't eat, can't sleep, running to the bathroom. Can you please give me some practical advice and words of wisdom for just making it through this week?
posted by johannsebastianbachpuppet to Human Relations (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I ended my 15-year relationship in recent years. The best advice I have is to be gentle with yourself, and accept help as much as possible, even if that's usually hard for you.

Get a therapist if you don't have one.
Get lots of sleep
Don't judge yourself for your feelings - you'll have a ton of them, let them wash over you and feel them.
Take your next steps one at-a-time. You don't have to have a whole life plan, just a "for now" plan.
posted by nuclear_soup at 12:15 PM on May 31, 2018 [10 favorites]

Also, get a lawyer ASAP.
posted by elphaba at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2018 [43 favorites]

Reach out to your support network, or, if you feel they are not possibly not supportive or healthy for you, get an appointment with a therapist. Make an appointment with a lawyer, a short one, just so you get the basics on what NOT to do (in some jurisdictions moving out of the house courts against you, for example). If you are employed, call in sick. Go to your doctor to get a short-term disability note so you can off for a while if you need (everyone is different - some over-work during divorce, others took six months off during theirs). You may want to see about medication to get you through this crisis.

A word about your support network; people can be weird about divorces between couples they know. Have one or two “can tell anything to and they will take it to the grave” friends or professionals but otherwise don’t involve anyone else. The biggest reason an amicable divorce blows up because people get over-involved if their own lives are not healthy and make your divorce their hobby with gossip, drama etc. You WILL get through this.
posted by saucysault at 12:39 PM on May 31, 2018 [12 favorites]

No words of wisdom, but alternate nostril breathing helps me when I'm panicking.
posted by stellaluna at 12:42 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you are going through this. While the emotional aspect would benefit the most from therapy, some practical steps may help to stay physically healthy through it, as that could greatly impact further your emotional state.

Sleep would be the most beneficial and probably hardest to do so taking something over the counter, like melatonin, could aid with that.

Easy, comforting meals that can be consumed fast and don't require the help of a big appetite ( I'm an expert in this by nature): Greek yogurt with fruit or honey, soups, especially cream based ones or even microwaveable ramen to which you can add a handful of fresh veggies while cooking or after, smoothies with either protein, milk or yogurt, and a lot of fluids when eating seems impossible.

If you need some distraction from the overwhelming feelings for a bit, binge watch comedies, or read whatever genre of books/magazines you find fascinating enough to absorb you.

If you have the means and time, indulging is some self care such as spa, hair salon or even a couple new clothes can help with feeling a bit better, they're both distracting and enjoyable usually.

The most trusted only of friends and family, if possible people you know that not only truly care but you also trust that their judgement is sound enough to offer sage advice or a beneficial way of listening.

And once your head feels clear enough to deal with it, legal advice would be the first priority I think. And as mentioned above, if you can afford to take off work do so so you can focus your energy on handling this.

Best of luck.
posted by ariadne_88 at 12:43 PM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

I was broadsided when my husband of 16 years announced it was over. It's like a death at first. Give yourself permission to feel shitty; it's a terrible thing. Try to breathe, sleep if you can, cry and yell, call someone to be with you, if you're able. Don't make any decisions, just take it hour-by-hour. So sorry you're going through this. I'll be thinking of you.
posted by XtineHutch at 12:47 PM on May 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

Science says being in a forest dramatically lowers cortisol within 40 minutes. Get outside to a park or green space.
posted by jbenben at 12:55 PM on May 31, 2018 [22 favorites]

Call a lawyer and make sure leaving the house won't be an issue down the line.

Do you have one close, really friend or family member you can crash with, even for a couple days? I walked out of my first marriage so it was a little bit different but a very close friend basically told me I could sleep in her guest room for as long as I wanted to. I needed that space, away from home, to cry and freak out and scream and rock with pain in for about a week. If you don't have that, could you afford a hotel room or Airbnb for a week, and have a close friend check in on you?

Prepare to take a couple weeks off work. Talk on the phone to family who you know will be supportive.

Remember: a man who will do this to you is not a good thing in your life. You will get through this. It will be painful and frightening and insane, but you will get through this. Find a shoulder to lean on. If you need to Memail me to vent, do so.

I'm so sorry this is happening to you.
posted by Everydayville at 1:06 PM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

Breathe. Seriously, take slow, deep breaths. Watch or read something so engrossing that you forget for a while. And yes, get a lawyer. Talking to a lawyer, and finding out what your rights are, can go a long way towards reassuring you that you will survive this.

Then, as soon as you feel able, take a class about something you’ve always been interested in - glassblowing, wine tasting, audio engineering...something that will open up a new world and new people to you. Most people look back a year after a big breakup and realize they’ve become a whole different person - a new, improved version of themselves. The sooner you start that, the sooner you’ll feel better. Plus, the classes give you something to look forward to, and they’re something you’re doing for you, and not for anyone else. You may not feel up to it - do it anyway.

Another option is to give yourself a mini-makeover. People in long term relationships get comfortable, and tend to let things slide. Get a new hairstyle, or some nicer clothes, get your teeth whitened - something that you can look in the mirror and say “Hey, I look GOOD!”

If doing those things aren’t practical, for whatever reason, try to do something that has the same effect. Start an exercise program, start eating healthy, get some library books about something you want to learn about, or watch YouTube videos. Basically, improve yourself in ways that make you happy.

Also, chocolate. I’m not even joking.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:07 PM on May 31, 2018 [12 favorites]

Get a lawyer and take stock of your finances.

Ask your doctor if she can give you a prescription for anti-anxiety medication.

Exist in the moment. Practice self soothing. Be kind to yourself. For me, the first few weeks after losing someone is about getting through the day in any way possible. One day, I just sat in one spot all day. I could get no relief in the moment. I sat there and felt all of the emotions wash over me. Know that there is hope. You will not feel like you feel now forever. Although I have not been in your exact circumstance, I've despaired and come out on the other end. It's possible for you too.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:10 PM on May 31, 2018 [10 favorites]

Excuse yourself from a stressful situation and go outside. I usually pace, but standing and rocking back and forth like you are holding a baby works, too.

Listen for birds. Count their songs if you like. Feel the air coming in and going out while you breathe. See what’s there right before you. Feel the fabrics on your skin.

Methodically, one part at a time, relax. Feel the difference between tense and relaxed.

What were you thinking about just now, those thoughts racing through your head? Try to rephrase them in positive, or forgiving, forms. Think that thought for a bit.

Before you go back in, decide what you’re going to do. It’s ok if that is “I will make this decision later.”
posted by bigbigdog at 1:41 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

It will get better with time. Right now I'd recommend exercise. It can help your anxiety and it might help you sleep. I'm not sure what else helps in the short term. I would advise against any major changes, or even small changes, such as a haircut. This is a major life event. Small pick-me-ups are good, but you are experiencing a great loss. I've read many recommendations NOT to make any major decisions after a life-changing event. Unfortunately, you just have to move through it. When my husband left me I was devastated. I did get over it, though it felt touch and go for at least a year. What helped me was not being alone with my thoughts. Reach out to friends and family for support.

One thing that struck me in your post is that you say you will lose nearly every other good thing in your life. I don't want to minimize your pain, and it may be true that you will lose things that are very important to you. But you can't know the full effect yet. You may not lose all that you are afraid of, and it may be that you will gain things as well.
posted by bluespark25 at 1:48 PM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I’m not sure what I’m coming here to say. My partner of 28 years and husband of 12 left me three weeks ago.
I don’t know how I went to work. I kept going to cry in the bathroom. I pooped like crazy for like two days. I started a really heavy period two weeks after a light one. I went to the grocery store and felt like I was staggering, like I looked demented. I can hardly remember those first few days.
I have dear friends, but none of them live nearby. I feel lucky that I had already planned a trip to follow my favorite band around to a few cities with some of these friends. I turned 50, saw four concerts in three states in a week, and spent countless hours laughing, crying, laughing and crying.
Here’s what I’m trying to do: Not make any wild decisions immediately. We live here because his family is in the area. I always wanted to move. I’m definitely not running off to live somewhere else for a year or two. I’m not going to get a broken-heart tattoo. I’m not moving to a different apartment until I’m sure I should for financial reasons. Like, sit tight. Hunker down. Keep yourself safe. And grieve. Grieve like crazy. Let yourself. It’s like someone died. I never thought I’d go through any part of my life without him by my side. Like with death, I kind of know that I will be okay someday. But I don’t want to be. It feels like a betrayal. It’s okay to have all the feels. All of them. It’s awful. Walk. Go to the park and the nature preserve, the ones where you won’t run into many people to notice that you’re crying.
Just try to hang in there. Day by day. I feel you. Hugs if you want them.
posted by Occula at 1:52 PM on May 31, 2018 [58 favorites]

Lean on your friends. I got an announcement like that from my husband of (at the time) eighteen years, two years ago, and something I still remember as lifesaving is a friend having come over and cooked me dinner (fried okra. Excellent fried okra). I wasn't telling people what was going on yet, but I asked her to come over and it was very important remembering I had people who weren't him who would be there for me.

And you don't need to hold it together for people. Slightly later, after I was telling people, I had friends who I got tears and snot all over, repeatedly, who have never given me the slightest sideeye about being a mess. This sort of thing, you're allowed to be a mess.

(I am so sorry this is happening to you. If it's any comfort at all, two years out, I'm very happy, and while I don't know your circumstances, I bet there's a way for you to make that happen for yourself as well.)
posted by LizardBreath at 1:54 PM on May 31, 2018 [9 favorites]

Some self-care is practical, like getting a great lawyer ASAP (make sure that they're a certified specialist in family law/divorce - info available through your State Bar referral service if you're in the US) and see several for free/low-cost consultations. Also, do not get talked into leaving the marital home.

Then, see friends, see your therapist (or get one), and try to go walk around in nature a bit. Swimming and being in water helps me a lot (showers are great for this). The shock and betrayal of this will fade, but it's hard to imagine that right now. Just know that you'll be in a vastly different place 1 year, 2 years, 5 years down the road. You'll survive this and it doesn't mean that your life is over. It can feel like that now, and that's OK. Just know it won't feel like this forever.
posted by quince at 2:11 PM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hi, this question was me when my spouse suddenly left me (after ten years instead of thirty). I was blown away by the compassion and good ideas there and it may also help you. Feel free to message me if you want to chat with someone in a similar situation.
posted by centrifugal at 2:12 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

What I did when something really, really bad happened:
- As soon as I could, I dropped everything that was not vital. I delegated things that needed to be done, and postponed eveything that could wait. And there are lots of things that can wait.
- In order to do this, I let people know what had happened. This made them more likely to step in. It also made people say 'Let us know if there is anything we can do'. If people say that to you, take them up on it: ask them to cook for you. A meal is comfort and nutrition. You need that right now. Bring tissues.
- I could not sleep. So I decided that food was the second best thing, and gave myself permission to eat the more expensive but relatively healthy ready-made salads and other easy but fresh foods. Things that I like and are nutritious but that I normally consider too expensive.
- I found some eye and ear candy on YouTube and played it over and over. As often as I wanted. Which was very often. I just let the pretty sounds and sights wash over me.
- I allowed myself to cry.
- I wore the same clothes every day (trousers and a hoodie; it's a good thing I have plenty of hoodies). I did not care what I looked like as long as it was clean. It's one less thing to worry about.

My heart goes out to you. It's going to take a while, but this shall pass. There is a good chance you'll come out happy on the other side, even if that is hard to believe right now. Be kind to yourself, and allow friends to be kind to you, too. Hugs, if you want them.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:33 PM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry! You might read the first chapter or two of When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. It has good advice, and she starts the book with a story about her own divorce.
posted by salvia at 3:06 PM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry. I've been there myself and there is nothing we can say that will make it better.

1. It will get better. I promise.

Don't be bullied. He's had time to prepare, you haven't. Do *NOT* move out of your house. If he wants to physically separate, he can go. Hire a lawyer of your own. Do not agree to using the family lawyer together. You need someone on your side. Insist on having the time to get your feet under you before you make any big decisions and definitely before you make any concessions.

Lean on friends and strangers too. Now is the moment. The best advice I got during my divorce went something like "don't be afraid to burst into tears. odds are, there's a middle aged woman in the room who has been through the same thing." And it was true! Do prepare to lose some mutual friends. I hope that doesn't happen to you, but it happened to me and it really sucked.

Walk, don't drink. I tried the drinking. Walking worked better.

Memail if you just need to talk. It sucks. But there is life and happiness on the other side.
posted by frumiousb at 4:30 PM on May 31, 2018 [11 favorites]

My wife of 17 1/2 years did this to me in early 2016. Like you, I was gobsmacked and didn't expect it. We have five kids and I moved from Kansas to Oregon so she could be near her family, so I suddenly found myself alone 2,000 miles away from everyone I could lean on.

I won't sugarcoat it: it was hard. It still IS hard, more than 2 years later. And last week she married the guy I considered my best friend, less than 9 months after the divorce was finalized.

That hurt too. Like a fresh whack from the betrayal stick.

But it does get better. The misery softens and life becomes something new and different.

I have two pieces of advice:

1) Distance makes getting support difficult. I locked down my security settings on Facebook and de-friended anyone connected to my ex, then used that site as an outlet. I was honest about how I was feeling day-to-day and seeing support from family and friends all across the U.S. made a huge difference. I also ended up getting lots of care packages/gifts that really helped. So use technology to help with your emotional support.

2) Don't mask your feelings with drugs or alcohol. I drank for two years straight and my body still regrets it. It made the days go by faster and helped me sleep, but it ultimately is a downer and only adds to the depression.

If you want to talk or need further support, I'd be happy to help.
posted by tacodave at 4:44 PM on May 31, 2018 [17 favorites]

Nthing everything said here, and I'm so sorry you're dealing with this.

One thing that might help right in this moment, just to get you out of the panic headspace, is the "Oh F#@& to OK" Speed Drill, from the book _Just Listen_:

1) do not deny that you're scared or upset. Identify your feelings and acknowledge them ("I am feeling abandoned and scared"). If you're alone, say it out loud, because just the act of speaking can start calming you down

2) close your eyes, breath deeply through your nose, and let go of the emotion you just named. keep your eyes closed as long as it takes to feel that let go

3) keep breathing slowly and deliberately, and count yourself down from Defcon 1 to Defcon 5.

4) eyes closed, start to think of useful actions you can take (call a lawyer, start looking for temporary housing, etc)

5) open your eyes. start doing what you think you need to and can do.

I cannot express how valuable this sequence has been to me.
posted by hanov3r at 4:46 PM on May 31, 2018 [11 favorites]

Breathe. In for 7 counts, out for 11 ("7-11 breathing"). It prevents hyperventilation and encourages relaxation.

Get a lawyer ASAP. (While there are some organizations out there "certifying" specialists in divorce or family law, for the most part, in many states lawyers do not bother with such rigamarole and there is really no reason whatsoever to insist on one, as opposed to one that is generally experienced with your kind of situation. It is not at all comparable to board certifications for doctors.)
posted by praemunire at 5:06 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

There is a lot of good advice here, but I want to share a trivial, silly tactic that has saved me from the abyss in times of similar trouble: bloopers. Specifically, bloopers from the American version of The Office. I watched them like medicine during an especially brutal time and they are pure escapism. here are two hours of The Office bloopers.
posted by lizifer at 5:40 PM on May 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

Another vote for not drinking. Much better to get a prescription for just a couple of real sleeping pills. The idea that alcohol will help you get to sleep is very tempting but it is the biggest lie in this situation. You'll wake up at 3 am feeling terrible.

If you can, have a friend or family member come to stay with you. Let your spouse stay at a hotel.
posted by BibiRose at 5:56 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Beta-blockers (atenolol, propranolol) might be better for your anxiety than sleeping pills. They're not sedatives and you can take them to stay functional during the day.

They help alleviate anxiety and panic by inhibiting the physical symptoms, so you don't get stuck in the loop. You do need a prescription for them, but they're not addictive and commonplace enough that it shouldn't be a problem.

Wishing you luck and strength.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:39 PM on May 31, 2018

After 15 years and 3 kids together, the youngest of whom was still an infant, my ex-husband convinced me to move across the country, then suddenly began raging at me out of nowhere in front of the kids. My first thought was he has a brain tumor or is having a midlife crisis. A few weeks later, he walked out on me in my strange new city, after having successfully gotten me right where he wanted me by tricking me into a very vulnerable situation where I had very little local support and suddenly had no income. He’d been planning it for ages, yet he seemed to be going insane — it was mind-boggling to witness his complete personality change towards me.

During the divorce, it came out that he had had many affairs, and was absolutely masterful at manipulation and deception. Most of our mutual friends took his side, and probably still think he’s a great guy and that I’m crazy and did something to deserve the abuse. I had to let fake friends like that go. A tiny handful of my people showed up to my life at that terrible time. They had me. The ones who didn’t have me kept asking me what did you do to make him so angry?

What helped me get through this shocking scenario was to hire the best bulldog divorce attorney who the family court judges trust the most and take all of her advice. Secondly, two books were helpful “Leave A Cheater, Gain A Life” by Tracy Schorn aka The Chump Lady (she has a great blog community) and “Runaway Husbands” by Vikki Stark. You are not alone. This is a thing that happens, but when it happens to you it is so blindsiding, isolating and horrible that you may feel like the only one in the world living this type of hell. This is truly an epic mindfuck you are going through. Extreme self-care is required.

Please know that life is going to actually get better on the other side of your divorce, once you are rid of a person who —I’m just guessing by the way you wrote the question here— deceives you in ways that will keep being discovered, and does not have your back because they are all about themselves. Memail me anytime.
posted by edithkeeler at 2:31 AM on June 1, 2018 [19 favorites]

Walking outdoors has been my salvation during my darkest days. As mentioned above, in nature is even better. You can be alone and sit down and cry or scream or yell in a forest, but just good fast walking or hiking is the main thing. You burn off energy, can focus on things, and nature can be very soothing imo. It’s like things become clearer when I’m upset and walking around. I’m so sorry you’re suffering right now.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 7:55 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am so, so sorry this is happening to you. Right now, you are in crisis, so I'm glad your focus is on surviving the next few days. Thinking beyond that will be very overwhelming, so try to stay in the present.

I highly recommend you go talk to a doctor, and preferably a psychiatrist, about getting some medication to help you through this. Your body and mind are under extreme stress, and while you *could* get through it without meds, why suffer more than you already are? You might consider a sleeping pill, a small dose of a benzo (Ativan, Xanax) to help with panic attacks or help you sleep through the night, or even starting on an SSRI if you have a history of depression or anxiety that might be triggered by such a terrible event.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Let those closest to you know you're in crisis and tell them what you need. When something similar happened to me, I asked one friend to come over and make me mashed potatoes (true story), another for a daily phone call, etc.

Try to eat and drink a little bit, even if you don't feel like it, because dehydration and/or low blood sugar will make you feel so much worse. Drink your calories via smoothies or milkshakes.

When I was in crisis, I was so distracted I couldn't read or watch TV. But I found that the combination of doing a jigsaw puzzle and listening to a podcast was MAGIC. Keeping both your hands and your mind occupied will help pass the time.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 9:03 AM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. I made it through the first week and can eat a little and sleep a bit more now. I've spent hours walking in the woods while telling my dog all about it, and I've lost all the weight I've been wanting to lose, so that's something.
posted by johannsebastianbachpuppet at 4:56 PM on June 7, 2018 [10 favorites]

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