The stress of getting divorced makes everyone question their sanity!
Ever since you found out you’re getting divorced, your mind has been running 1000 miles an hour. Your thoughts are bouncing around like a superball in a small room. One minute you're feeling angry and frustrated. The next you're cataloging fears about what the future does and doesn’t hold. Then you're experiencing grief over what's been lost, or wondering how your spouse could give up, or fretting about how this is going to impact the kids, or feeling anxious about whether or not you’ll survive your divorce, or concerned over what people will think, or wondering if you’ll ever feel “normal” again.
It’s bad enough when thoughts like these happen one or two at a time, but that’s not what’s happening. You’re bombarded with these thoughts and emotions one after the other with little or no break in between.
As crazy feeling as this storm of thoughts is, it’s pretty typical for someone who’s getting divorced. Divorce turns your life upside-down and inside out. How you thought (assumed) your life would be is not what’s happening now. And this complete upset of what was your normal life is what has your thoughts in a tizzy because divorce is threatening and it’s kicked off your fight-flight-or-freeze response.
This response is supposed to keep you safe from all threats. And ideally it is only meant to be used for a short-term threat – something that’s happening for just a few moments.
The difficulty is that divorce isn’t just a moment in time. It’s a process – sometimes a long drawn out process. When you’re getting divorced you’re locked into your fight-flight-or-freeze response because you have so many questions and worries aren’t being immediately resolved. You’re mired in uncertainty so your body responds by continuing to pump out the neuropeptides and hormones that keep you hyper-alert in an effort to ensure your survival.
But the longer you’re stuck dealing with the threats and uncertainty about getting divorced, the more difficult it will be for you to get over it and move on with your life. You wind up stuck in emotional reactions instead of being able to respond to situations in ways that promote your healing.
Some of the typical difficulties you’ll experience when your mind is overwhelmed dealing with the threats of getting divorced are
- An inability to think clearly – much less plan for the future. This is because when you’re struggling with a threat to your survival, one of the things that happens is that the part of your brain responsible for planning is pretty much off-line since it’s not needed to deal with an immediate threat.
- Insomnia which means you’re having one or more of these symptoms – difficulty falling asleep, waking up often during the night and having trouble falling back asleep, waking up too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking. This type of secondary insomnia is pretty common for people getting divorced.
- A barrage of bizarre and unsettling ideas that appear as possible solutions to stop the pain that goes along with getting divorced. Some of these ideas could include intermittent thoughts of suicide (if it’s more than an occasional thought seek help immediately) and wishing your ex would just die because it would be easier to deal with than the divorce. As crazy as they may sound, they’re also pretty normal.
- Getting sick. When you’re stressed out for extended periods of time, your immune system can’t keep up with all the hyper-alert systems you’re firing off – especially if you’re not getting enough restful sleep. So your immune system breaks down and you wind up getting sick or having strange, stress-related things crop up like heart trouble, gastric distress (think ulcer, IBS, reflux), rheumatoid arthritis, losing your hair, etc.
Luckily, you don’t have to continue living like this when you’re getting divorced.
By creating pockets of time when you purposely turn off your fight-flight-or-freeze response you’ll give your mind and your body a chance to relax. And THIS is how you get through your divorce more easily and know you’re not going crazy.
Some of the ways you might turn off your fight-flight-or-freeze response are to meditate, take a few deep breaths, talk with someone who knows how to help you shift out of your distress, immerse yourself in another activity, exercise, get a massage or even listen to calming music.
Be patient with yourself as you try different things to calm yourself as you’re getting divorced. You might get lucky and find a way to bring yourself a little pocket of peace immediately or you might have to experiment a bit and even try things more than once before you find what works best for you.
But no matter how much you worry that you might be losing your mind along with your marriage, chances are you’re not. What you’re going through is just what you go through when you’re getting divorced.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are struggling with getting divorced and don’t know how to stop the pain. You can join my anonymous newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more support and ideas for feeling better after your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.