Love and Loss

I originally wrote this in October of 2015.  We are engaged and getting married in July.

This past week, my girlfriends grandfather passed away at the ag of 85.  His health had been in decline for a couple weeks, and it was touch and go, for both him and his family.  I met him half a dozen times or so, and he was a very nice man.  Makes me wish my grandfather had lived longer so I could have more memories.  The memories I have are great, I just wish I had more.

My heart broke for my girlfriend, and her whole family.  I was with her Friday for the wake, and Saturday for the funeral.  Seeing her upset made my heart break, going back to his initial hospitalization.  Our relationship, now eight and a half months strong, has seen so many happy moments.  This was the first bad thing that has occurred, and I became one of her strongest support systems.  I learned that to comfort someone, words are not always necessary, simply being present and holding that person is sufficient.

The love for my girlfriend grew exponentially during this difficult time.  It is not necessarily how couples are during ththe good times, but how they handle the difficult times.  I was there for, comforted, and supported her.  This is true love, and she means everything to me.  I will marry her, and cannot wait to do so.  I will do anything for her, and I know the feeling is mutual.

Living through Adversity

Throughout my life, I have dealt with adversity, which is no different from most people. The most recent of these events, divorce, recently concluded. Some of them are amicable in nature, however, I was not so lucky. With all of the difficulties I encountered, I learned many lessons along the journey, lessons I hope can inspire others. As I reflect on the events of the past year and a half, I feel very strongly that I was given many gifts, as well as opportunities.

First, imagine a person making false statements and trying to bring one down at every opportunity. Envision an individual who tries to keep a son away from his father, and makes disparaging remarks about the father to the child. That was my life for many months, and I was on the receiving end of these actions. In retrospect, I have a much better relationship with my little boy having dealt with what was thrown at me. A gift that is absolutely priceless.

I learned, most importantly, that I was living with a person who suffers from mental illness. This mental disorder is the most prevalent of those diagnosed within the United States, affecting almost seven million adults. In November 2013, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This was a life-changing diagnosis, as I was able to put a name to what I had experienced for years. I was constantly on edge, and would worry more often than I care to admit. I would react to stressful situations, as well as situations that were not necessarily stressful, but I would convince myself they were indeed stressful. Think about worrying about situations that likely will not occur, but in my head I am convinced will occur, such as damage from a storm. The diagnosis I was given was a gift, and I feel it is one of the best I have ever received.

Thinking that it was in fact calming me, I would have a few beers every night, only to discover I was becoming more anxious. The first step on my road to healing involved cutting alcohol out of my routine, and my life. While not an alcoholic, my actions became habitual in nature, as well as an escape from my marriage. No longer drinking has had many positive effects. First and foremost, I am more relaxed. My memory, which had suffered, has come back at full strength. Another gift, one that provides positive vibes on a daily basis.

Through divorce, my support system (family, friends) is extremely strong and helped me immensely. There were times where I was unsure how I would make it through. Even now, with the financial ramifications, I question how I will ever attain certain goals. I take solace in the fact that everything always works out. I am fortunate to have my sanity, hope for the future, and people with which to share my thoughts.

I have recently found someone who I care about deeply, and truly love. I was not sure if, or when, I would find love, but I have. She is my soft place to land, and I feel emotions I am unsure I have ever felt. I am thankful for her, and am so lucky. She is a special gift, one I hope is in my life for a long time to come.

Lastly, I have struggled to find meaning in the divorce. I know everything happens for a reason, but what is the reason for all of this? With my enjoyment of writing, coupled with my budding interest and comfort in public speaking, i have been provided an opportunity. A gift, if you will. I have a voice, one which I would like to use to inspire, help, and motivate others. The lessons I have learned are immeasurable, and I utilize these lessons everyday.

I have been given many gifts, which I now want to share.

Lessons Learned

The area in which I am a part of at work performs lessons learned sessions quite often.  The sessions allow the individual to share successes, as well as obstacles and what was done to overcome those obstacles.  After enduring a divorce and numerous other challenges, I feel that I should have my own lessons learned session, except this one will be through writing:

1.  Utilize a “red stop sign” – If I begin to have negative thoughts, or say something I might regret, picture a stop sign.  This can help me redirect my thoughts.

2.  People are inherently good, although there are people who are bad, bordering on evil.  Therefore, it is important to really get to know your partner as well as possible.

3.  Having a solid support system is key – Whether it be parents, friends, colleagues, or a therapist; having people to talk to is imperative.  In my case, I had all of those.

4.  Whatever you do, do not lie – It is easier to remember truthful details than details filled with lies.  Lies will come back to haunt someone, which is what occurred with my ex wife.  An individual who lies loses all credibility.

5.  For those with children, never bad mouth the other parent in front of the child(ren).

6.  It is possible to find love again, although it might take time.  It has happened to me. 😃

7.  Seeing a therapist is vital if you are having difficulties.  I have noticed a positive impact on my life through attending sessions with an unbiased third party.

8.  If you have children, make them the focus of your attention.  Doing this can help keep things normal for them during an abnormal time.  Every child, and situation, is obviously different, but I found this strategy worked.

9.  Financial difficulties will subside and even out.  Financial difficulties do not define a person, how one approaches and handles difficult situations defines that person.

10.  Take the high road, always.

Happy Place

For those of us who have encountered challenging times, we need an event or weekend to look forward to or look back on with fond memories. These moments make us feel hopeful, with the realization that things may not be as bad as they seem.

For me, that weekend occurred this year in mid-May. My fiancée and many of her family members went to Georgia for the wedding of a cousin of hers. It was a long weekend, but it marked the first time I had been on vacation since my divorce. We left on a Thursday and returned home on the following Monday.

Looking back, the memories from those five days are important to me. The anticipation of waiting at Bradley to fly to Atlanta. Arriving at Atlanta’s airport, the rush of being someplace new, with the excitement of the coming days.

We drove through Atlanta to get to our destination, Lake Lanier. We relaxed by the pool for a good part of the weekend, had a cookout one night at our rented cabin adjacent to the lake.

The wedding, which was on that Saturday, was the best I have attended, as of yet. From the people with whom I was surrounded to the location on the lake, it was a wonderful day and night.

Coming home that Monday was tough, as it is when all vacations end. I have the memories from that weekend, and the hope that I will make more memories from vacations.

Dealing with Anxiety

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.  Having an anxiety disorder, while not the worst malady one can encounter, crippling.

For many years, going back to when I was 9 or 10, I would worry constantly.  For me, hypochondria was one way the anxiety manifested itself.  Every little ache and pain turned into a major ordeal.  I would even think that my heart was going to stop while trying to fall asleep, causing me to jump out of bed and walk around my room.

During middle school, I suffered from panic attacks on numerous occasions.  They would occur without warning, sometimes in home room or during a choral rehearsal or concert.  The symptoms were typical to a normal panic attack – sweaty palms, heavy chest, feeling like I was losing control.  There was no rhyme or reason to these episodes, and for so long I had no idea why they came on, or why they suddenly stopped.  The loss of control I felt was a precursor for the same feelings that would come about during my late teens through present day.

Constant worrying, which is a hallmark of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, is absolutely paralyzing.  From situations while driving, to dating, to worrying about situations that may or may not happen.  One example of a situation that I thought might happen, but did not, occurred prior to Superstorm Sandy.  A few days prior, I heard the probable wind speeds could result in roof and siding damage to homes.  I was worried sick, waking up in the middle of the night, that this would happen.  All of this worry was for nothing, as there was no damage to the house I was living in at the time.

Even though I have taken many positive steps to quell my anxiety, dealing with anxiety is a daily challenge. A tactic I have used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which allows an individual to change patterns of thought from negative to positive.  I try to have a positive mindset as much as possible, as I don’t have many negative aspects to my life. If a challenge arises, I now view it as a part of life and roll with it. Having that mentality has made all the difference.