Written by Alex Evjen
This post was written to contribute to the topic of Personal/Real Talk for the What Lola Likes blog by Alex Evjen. All facts, opinions, and professional tips are Alex’s.
It has almost been three years that I have been sharing my journey through separation and divorce. Women have come out of the woodwork in similar places unsure of what to do. Many of them have written to me in the first days and weeks of their husbands sitting them down and telling them they are leaving.
Even though years have passed, I remember that day and the weeks Even though years have passed, I remember that day and the weeks following all too well. They remain the hardest weeks of my life to date. The shock and the trauma of learning about an affair and my husband’s desire for divorce was so overwhelming that I was physically ill to the point of barely keeping food down. This post is for those women and future women who will find themselves in this situation, as well as for the friends that will walk them through it.
THE FEELS: A list of physical and emotional changes during the first weeks…
I was numb. I was like a ghost walking around my home. I could barely engage with my kids. My kids would ask me to repeat things multiple times. I was so numb that I barely have any memories from those six months leading up to signing divorce papers. I would barely show any emotion because my body knew it wasn’t safe to do so. My kids needed to know I was ok, and they were too little to understand what was going on (ages 1.5 and 3.5). It was only when I was alone that I could completely fall apart and cry.
I began having panic attacks. I started hyperventilating to where I couldn’t control my breathing for 5 minutes or so. Scariest shit of my life. I thought I was having a heart-attack and dying. Anytime I was close proximity to my ex-husband they would start.
My hair started falling out in clumps. The stress that my body was carrying began acting out through my hair. When I would brush or wash my hair clumps would fall out. A month later, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s disease and CREST syndrome. They think it was caused by the stress of a traumatic event.
Loss of appetite. I was physically ill. I started throwing up, and I couldn’t eat. I went from 128 to 118 in a matter of weeks. I’m 5’8″. That’s pretty thin for me.
I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted from so many sleepless nights. I would fall asleep fine, but I couldn’t stay asleep. As soon as 2:30am or 3:30am rolled around I would wake up suddenly. They say that this type of sleep pattern is often caused by anxiety.
GI tract was aggravated. Though this is embarrassing to admit, I ended up with diarrhea every day for a year. It finally went away when my stress levels went down.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, please know that you are normal. It’s horrendous, but there is hope. It doesn’t last forever, and there are things that you can do to help.
HOW TO HELP: practical tips and ideas to help yourself or others around you when facing this trauma…
I got a counselor. Part of your panic is that you don’t know what to do. You don’t know where to turn. You don’t even know what to say. Counselors and therapists are safe people to share everything with. They will help you figure out how to get mentally stable and survive in a healthy way.
I told my best friends and my family. Though I was embarrassed, I needed to tell someone. I couldn’t face it alone, especially with two kids. By telling my circle of trust, they were able to encourage me with phone calls, text messages, come sit with me and hug me. Just be sure to avoid sharing with people that are going to be divisive and thrive on the drama. That’s not what you need during this time.
Made an appointment with my primary care doctor. I shared with my doctor what had happened, and she prescribed Zofran for nausea. It helped me have more of an appetite. I also got anti-anxiety meds to use as needed. I would also recommend getting an STD test if that’s applicable to your situation.
Eat liquid foods. Peanut butter, banana and chocolate smoothies were the only thing I could eat. I found that smoothies, juices and protein shakes were easy ways to provide my body with healthy nutrients and protein. I stuck to the less acidic options overall.
I got childcare. Babysitters and family chipped in to help give me some time to be alone and cry. This also kept the kids having fun. My oldest still remembers these weeks, sadly, but my little guy has no recollection of it.
Go worship. My faith is what sustained hope for better days and is what continues to sustain me. Connecting with God, praying, singing and listening offered me peace in the midst of the chaos. If you believe in a higher power, it’s definitely worth exploring your spirituality during this time.
Journal. You’ll want to text and talk to your spouse, but I would advise only doing that when you are stable to avoid more damage and hurt. Your brain does need to process everything though, and sometimes talking it out with people or trying to do it all in your head can be more chaotic. Writing things down helps keep your mind focused on the issue. It also is a very beautiful experience to look back and see progress years later.
Avoid oversharing to kids. We sought out advice from therapists specializing in childhood development when all of this happened, and I am really glad we did. Don’t wing talking to your kids about why divorce is happening. Seek wisdom from professionals that will help your kids adjust the best through this process. Make sure both parents go together. It will help get on the same page about how to manage this trauma as a family.
No need to make lawyer calls right away. Don’t panic! Divorce proceedings can’t happen without you. Ask for a month of time to catch your breath, sort your emotions and feelings and needs. However, if you are unsafe, worried about your finances or need clear boundaries, you can always start with mediation and switch to a lawyer if you can’t create boundaries and peacefully. In some cases you may need a lawyer immediately, but make sure to ask around for referrals before doing so. Every state has different laws, so be sure to check out your state’s divorce laws first too.
Avoid triggers. I only watched happy sitcoms for a long time. The airport was a hard place to be for me because it was a lot of happy couples and families. Avoid places and things that are going to send you into panic and trigger your grief. Romantic comedies, plot lines with affairs, etc. aren’t the best content to consume while in pain over your marriage from my experience.
Set boundaries. After such a big violation, you will probably need to create some boundaries to help yourself feel safe. Ask for caps on spending (i.e. no purchases over $200 at this time), contact only through email or text so you have documentation, different living or sleeping arrangements, privacy while getting ready, a childcare plan to make sure responsibilities are shared, etc.
Exercise. Let your stress out through exercise. It’s good for your mind and body. It also helps regulate your breath if you struggle with panic attacks.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m so sorry this resource needs to even exist, but just know that you will be okay one way or another. Take it one day at a time, and rely on those that love you and care about you. You can also follow my own journey over on Instagram at @avestyles.
Keeping authenticity and integrity a priority through the past 10 years as an influencer, blogger and creator, Alex Evjen has brought her audience along through the woes of divorce and into a new journey of redefining her future. She is a single mom of two kids living in Chandler, Arizona and more about relationships than the bottom line any day of the week. Alex also happens to be one of Business Insider and InStyle Magazine’s Top Pinners, has helped countless brands such as Target, Home Depot, and Anthropologie create digital content that keeps consumers wanting more and making products fly off the shelves and is now the Creative Director for Roadtrippers overseeing film and photo production.