Sleep. The final frontier. That’s just a 3 am Kvetching I wanted to get out. I’m SO HAPPY to get to complain about sleep. Life’s good … that’s the important part of what I’m about to write.
I started studying happiness back in 2007. I was an inaugural member of the biggest positive psychology organization when only 4,000 people globally were signing up. I could have jumped in to the leadership, brown nosed the big shots ~ and don’t get me wrong, a majority of them are actually really nice and amazing people.
Then, in 2013, I was working on chapter four of my five chapter doctoral dissertation. I took the slow road, took out a boat load of student loans, got stone walled and delayed, gaslit and stalled then, ultimately, ran out of the ability to take out loans ~ when my then husband told me that he was in love. With his girlfriend. Of seven years. Seven of the ten years that I was married. I had to quit my doctorate in the final hour. I ran out of money. I ran out of steam. I ran out of hope. “Almost” is a disgrace in the academic world of PhD’s … they are embarrassed by you, even when you worked on the doctorate for 7 years. Flushed. All of it. Weirdly, the master’s degree no longer counted. Neither did I.
I didn’t know who I was anymore.
My life fell like dominos. In one year ~ I lost my marriage ~ I lost my home because of the divorce (I call it the divorceapocolypse) ~ I lost my job, but really gave it up because of the corruption ~ I aligned with someone I thought was going to save me, but instead turned into a nightmare ~ I found out something deeply dark and awful about my very sick father that shattered everything else ~ I sent my 15 year old daughter off on exchange, where she was brutally and violently almost killed, only to be blamed by the megalith organization for what happened to her.
I lost everything. I felt cursed. I felt like I was living in hell. The only women who reached out for a cup of coffee to see if I was okay, were in fact, asking me highly personal questions for gossip, and not at all friendship. I felt cursed. I felt like I was dying. No, I felt like I was being slowly murdered by grief. I had never in my life felt that level of emotional, psychological, mental, financial, physical pain.
The ex and his lady friend decided to campaign against me at the same time that my father threatened me, then decided to campaign against me so I wouldn’t tell his awful secret, while my former toxic co-workers decided to campaign against me … and the person who held the mortgage on the house I lost in the divorce, was also the old boyfriend who started calling me “whore” 25 years before because someone convinced him I had cheated on him. I didn’t. As a matter of irony, he turned around and decided to sleep with all the same women that my 1st husband had cheated on me with. Funny but true story. For 25 years, he held a grudge, then in the worst year of my life, he showed up again, as the one who inherited MY mortgage.
I lived in hell. It was like a nightmare version of those RomCom movies. My life was a RomCom but the Lifetime Movie Network type, and not the Hallmark Movie type I had hoped for.
I can laugh at all of it now. Today? I laugh at the insanity of it all. Back then? Holy hell it hurt.
The members of the small town community had a great deal of fun, using my tragedy and profound grief as their coffee house gossip.
They used my grief for their entertainment. Some of them worked for the giant healthcare facility, broke into my medical records and exposed my sorrow for laughs. They made fun of my children’s lives. They shunned me, and mocked me. They blamed and shamed me at every turn. In the school; in my insurance agency, where they sat around gossiping about my life with my ex. In the coffee houses. The man who cheated on me for ten out of ten years. Humiliating me for sport with the drinking buddies.
Life was intolerably cruel. Life was hard to live for a little over three years.
I broke down, had nothing, developed PTSD, walked around like a zombie and tried, without my success, to continue to wake up and get up every single day.
It hurt to breathe.
I was betrayed by every single person in my life.
I was told time and time again, “Are you surprised” when strangers or people I barely knew would actually stop me on the street to say, “So, I hear you’re finally divorced. I mean, everybody knew. You must have known.”
I was belittled, devalued, disrespected, called a “whore”, and even threatened several times with violence.
To add insult to injury, I was also going through menopause (this all happened in my 50th and 51st year) which I never got to celebrate or acknowledge.
And yet, I survived.
Today, seven years later, I’m thriving.
I pulled myself out of the most traumatic, painful experience I’d ever lived, with scars. I have scars, but I am here. I have residual nightmares and get completely triggered every time I see someone with a bulbous nose, full beard and stupid man bun (the one who was pretending to be there to save me was actually there to torture me for sport, violently threatening me several times before he moved on to his next supply).
The ex used to joke about a quote from The Sopranos, “It’s easier to kill ’em than divorce ’em”
The ex-friend just bashed his fists into walls, close enough to my head to terrify me, or smash his own head into things until he was bleeding, while raging in my face, until spittle hit me or threatened to kill himself if I dared to speak of things he didn’t want to speak about. My father just threatened me because I knew what sort of man he was, and he needed to discredit me. The family was split in two as I was ready to talk about it, while they wanted the secrets to stay buried with him after he died.
I lost my family because I knew that speaking up was the only way to heal. The entire exchange organization covered up the brutal things that happened to my sweet, loving, adorable daughter who was gullible, so they in their tight knit group, decided to jump on the hate bandwagon, discrediting me so nobody would believe me when I spoke up about the three other girls who were also brutally raped while on exchange. Nobody was allowed to talk about it.
The ex boyfriend needed to play the victim, so I wouldn’t be believed about the vile shit he had done 25 years earlier. All of them had females on their side. All of those females were what Dr. Ramani calls the Flying Monkey’s … who willfully and joyfully, take a person down.
This ALL happened in two years time.
I was living in a nightmare. I was living in hell.
Vampire movies made more sense, so I started reading and watching supernatural entertainment and literature. It actually comforted me and seemed more logical than the cruelty of real life humans.
It wasn’t one domestically violent person attacking me. It was 4-5 all at once.
The universe was insisting that I change.
The universe was screaming at me to change.
You can’t clearly study happiness while also living in hell. That’s what life felt like. I was in emotional pain 24×7. Yet, somehow, managed to hold on to three things.
- Fierce love for my children
- Fierce love of my connection to Universal love (God, Spirit, Angels, it’s what I believe in, you get to believe in what you believe in).
- A wicked dark sense of humor. I knew it helped trauma professionals. It helped me.
I applied the arsenal of happiness applications to my life at the same time.
That’s how I know they were sometimes, misguided by the pressure of tenure of the people who wrote them.
I had to leave the positive psychology field. I realized it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t complete. I had to leave academia. It was too soft. Too easy. My heart wasn’t in it at all.
The nightmare only ended when I started putting up boundaries, telling people to feck off and finally, started to get a solid six to seven hours a night sleep. I grew crispy in my personality. Who wouldn’t?
Sleep helped me to heal. Healing helped me to see. Changing careers saved my sanity and that … saved my life.
When I write about the dark parts of happiness it is from a place of surviving it.
This isn’t some catchy, kitschy book building opportunity. Clearly, this is the abridged version of three years of a person’s life. I own the part that I play, but I (we) can’t control what other people choose to do or say.
I made mistakes. Hindsight wants to change the parts of the story that my future self doesn’t want to think about but the past is the past. It’s nothing more than a ghost of who we once were.
It’s being bold enough to say, when I talk about healing, I know what I’m talking about from experience.
When I worked for an agency as a mental health counselor for domestic violence, I was in shock at what is being done for women and children. When I tried to have that change agent conversation with them, the helpers, they were not only not interested, they too, tried to trivialize me and my overpriced, many years of graduate education so that I would not be listened to, respected or valued as an expert.
We grow through what we go through. Never has a quote been so spot on accurate.
THAT was the moment I knew I had survived but more than that.
I had become a fully formed authority on surviving and thriving post-trauma.
I didn’t have time to waste in a place that I didn’t agree with and I sure as shite didn’t have the patience for the office bully and her petty games. No thank you.
I confidently walked away from people I know were missing the mark. I do still miss the really great ladies I worked with though. I so wanted to be friends with them. Their boss and my boss discouraged it. That’s how I know the gaslighting was real. The women were incredible. The bosses? Not so much.
The irony? I walked away from all of it knowing I was leaving without a single friend in sight.
The people who hurt me and the people who live in that same region of the country ALL have the same qualities.
They say things like:
- “Don’t tell anyone what you experienced here”
- Do not speak up or out
- Keep this to yourself
- It’s your imagination
- You don’t know what you’re talking about
- We know more than you
I don’t think all people fully realize when they are gaslighting when it’s a commonly accepted way of being in the world.
It is what it is and they are who they are.
It’s not them. It’s me.
I wanted more.
I wanted better.
Do you know how many women and children ~ and men, but they weren’t my clients so I can’t speak about their experiences personally~ have been told to feel shame or internal blame for shit that happened TO them?
I’ve been advised not to tell my story.
I’ve been warned not to share my story.
I’ve been threatened because of my story of surviving trauma. Some by people I know. Some by people I don’t know but who are the minions of the abusers who don’t know anything about me or my children.
Next time I write ~ I’ll continue to talk about the healing process but more than that. I wanted my readers to know that when I write about happiness, surviving, living with pain, and living with joy ~ they are from experience and education. I just wanted my new readers out there to know this part of the story. It’s NOT the chapter you are walking in on. Every great story has a back story.
It’s not the chapter you are walking in on. It’s the
The choice to share our stories is the bravest thing a person can do when they spent years being told they are not entitled to their lives, let alone love and happiness.
I found Daniell Koepke’s writing on Medium at a time, I really needed to hear it. I fully love her writing and work and recommend it for all survivors.
(c) @inkhoneypub @happinessnoir @K.ArenHenryMiller
Next time ~ I’ll talk about PTG Post Traumatic Growth ~ hope ~ love ~ and all the other good feels … but for now … I’m off to walk around in green space … or as we said in my childhood … go play outside.
p.s… even at the writing of this chapter ~ I can strongly head the cacophony of people I don’t even know or barely know saying, “How dare you write this for all the world to see’ but I know that’s just the trauma talking. Ghosts. They have to go live their own lives now. I wish them well. And not in a passive aggressive way but in a genuine, I hope you find a happier way to live sort of way.