Your questions answered with Leanne Hall, psychologist, personal trainer & health and nutrition coach.
Hi Leanne, I am 23 months down the track of my separation and feel I’ve hit a plateau. I thought by this point I’d be feeling free and really getting on with my
life yet in actual fact, I don’t know what I want, where I need to be, and I am overwhelmed to the point that I can’t seem to function effectively. I’m not sleeping and in the morning I wake feeling heavy and unmotivated as it’s all too much to cope with. I feel that the world is waiting for me to make a decision, to do something, to be something. But I don’t know what and I don’t know how. Do you have suggestions for how I can get through all this? How can I make it easier to
progress into my single life and feel somehow comfortable?
The fundamental problem you’re facing is one of expectations not meeting reality. When people separate they create an idea of what life will be life when they’re single. They look to the media, friends, family, and a whole range of sources to create this idea, but these ideas may not match reality, especially when children are involved.
When you’re partnered with children you can also over-invest in the role of being a wife and a mother at the expense of your core identity, so when the relationship ends, you’re left questioning who you are – that is overwhelming on its own without also trying to balance what’s best for your child.
Basically, you’re in the middle of one giant hurricane, and my answer is this: You should be overwhelmed! You’re not even two years down the track yet and everything you’re feeling is
a normal part of adjusting, so here are some strategies that can help you with that adjustment:
1. MAKE SURE YOUR EXPECTATIONS ARE REALISTIC AND SUIT YOU
It’s positive to have a goal to help you through a negative experience, but remember you need to readjust it regularly.
Challenge your expectations and make sure they’re right for you. Reflect why you think you should be free by now. Why do you feel like the world is waiting for you to make a decision? Is it realistic? Where did that idea come from? Why does it have to be correct? Can you re-frame it?
Everyone is different and everyone’s experience is different. Don’t think you ‘should’ be over it if you’re not over it. Sit with it, then let it go and move forward.
2. GET THROUGH SEPARATING FIRST
Real emotional separation and feeling like you can move on with your new single life doesn’t really happen until all the financials, child arrangements and property settlements have been finalised, so move forward through these processes as quickly as you can. Don’t get tied up in hate and blame – let go, forgive and accept.
3. LOOK AT YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
Who are you hanging around? Who are you listening to? Do they serve your best interests?
If you are spending time with people who are at a different life stage, they may not know what’s best for you right now. That doesn’t mean you have to end friendships, but just be mindful of advice from others whose lives and experiences are considerably different to your own. It’s also a great idea to seek out new friends who are in your situation and can relate more to where you are now.
4. GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
The most important relationship in your life right now is the one you have with yourself. You need to invest in that. Quarantine time for yourself every single day, at least ten minutes, and do something that makes you feel REALLY good. This slowly rebuilds your self esteem and brings you in line with your values. Once you do this, you’ll be more able to take the big steps you need to take to create your new life.
5. HAVE AN OUTLET
You need an outlet where you can be honest about how you feel, where you can fall to pieces and it’s contained away from your child. Have a place, a person, a time away from your child where you can just say ‘This is all crap’ or ‘I don’t know if I can do this!’. It’s normal to have these feelings and just because you feel like you might fall apart, doesn’t mean you’re going to.
6. BE HAPPY WITH WHERE YOU ARE
Stop thinking about where you should be and connect with where you are and what you need to do now. Take one day and one decision at a time. Sometimes we don’t know what the right decision is, there is no obvious answer and we can get so wrapped up with what might happen, but sometimes you’ve just got to pick a decision, get behind it with everything you have and hope that it’s the right one.
Life is never perfect. Living a life that’s in line with our values and goals is what we’re all after, so try to ease off on the pressure, invest in getting to know yourself and see if things don’t start falling into place!