When one thinks of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, instantly the vision is that of a soldier in combat, a plane engulfed in flames careening to the earth or a natural disaster of such biblical proportions reshaping the earths landscape. Without a doubt it is easily justifiable that these experiences would result in tremendous psychological and emotional turmoil.
Let’s imagine Practice Wife Sue. Sue is knee deep in her own trench warfare family disaster the last 18 months. She wakes at 3am every morning, drenched in a cold sweat, she startles when the phone rings, dreads opening emails, has terrible dreams about losing the children while at Ikea, she may have gained weight she may have lost weight and either way there seems to be little joy left to her cooking as she once had. Bill’s start to pile up, voice messages unreturned, gym membership card is collecting dust and she has learned how to trim her own hair. As Sue’s thoughts become a jumble of lists and legal documents she is unable to recognize that something is terribly wrong. The Practice Wife is a nervous wreck, a shadow of her former self, hollow, save for the uninterrupted sense of foreboding which has settled uncomfortably in her belly.
This is real. This happens and now Experts believe that break-ups are taking a worrying toll on our health with symptoms such as panic attacks, insomnia and many psychosomatic health problems and are calling this condition ‘divorce stress syndrome’.
Michigan State University has recently published research findings from a 15 year study which reveals that those who divorce experience a more rapid decline in their health than those who remain married. Other studies suggest that men suffer more long-term health problem if they do not remarry, while women are inclined to suffer more seriously in the short-term.
Experts say that it is important for women to accept that they may go through a difficult transitional stage. Some feel that newly-divorced people go through the same stages of readjustment as those who are coming to terms with bereavement. Feelings of denial, depression, anger and acceptance are common but it is important to seek help if the feelings become overwhelming.
The worries which bombard people who are faced with life without their partner vary dependent on the age of the individual. For those with young children their concerns often center on raising their family alone along with natural feelings of rejection and failure. For older people it can be the prospect of growing old on their own and feelings of resentment having given the ‘best years of their lives’. Financial worries tend to fill the minds of most people facing life without their partner, especially those with young children.
It would appear that the attitude towards the stress suffered through divorce seems to be one of far better understanding and acceptance. High-conflict divorce is seen to be so stressful that it has been reclassified as one of the causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Women are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD under this circumstance having symptoms which include flashbacks, heightened anxiety, insomnia and psychosomatic illness.
The more “high-conflict” the divorce is, the more likely that the person who went through this terrible life event will succumb to this illness. And it can happen to anyone. Look at how Demi Moore, a wealthy, international celebrity has suffered from her anorexia, depression and even had a highly publicized seizure due to drug use. She has also tried to avoid the divorce and only recently finally responded to her divorce in court after she and Ashton Kutcher had been separated for well over a year. Why did she wait so long? It is called denial; one of many symptoms of PTSD.
In more severe cases following a really messy, drawn out divorce, the person may suffer flashbacks, panic attacks and an inability to maintain their careers and personal relationship. No matter what or how severe the warning signs may be, it is essential to seek help immediately.
The first thing to likely consider is intensive therapy. Only a mental health professional can evaluate your symptoms in order to create a plan to build the “road of recovery” from divorce. Sometimes medication, ranging from anti-depression to anti-anxiety drugs are in order, and some medicines can help with both at the same time. A prescription can be the bridge that a person needs in order to get through the process and come out the other side a stronger, wiser and happier person. Other things that a person can do is watch their diet, restrict alcohol intake, exercise, yoga and meditation.
The bottom line to a divorce is to protect your legal interests so that you have more time to work on “you.” A divorce is very much like the loss of a loved one, with one big difference; your spouse is still here, and if you have children, guess who you need to find a way to get along with this person (who is likely low on your list of “favorite people”) for the best interest of your children
Do not ever let divorce define your life. Check in with yourself constantly and allow time to process all the moving parts. The Practice Wife has much to give and much to share. Her story is important as is her mental health.
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Tomorrow’s blog…..”Everythig but the Kitchen Sink”