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Joan’s Story: Moving on after Divorce

When I first met Joan (not her real name), she was struggling. She had waited until her early 30’s to marry her dream man and was now waiting for the final divorce decree. She had been the child of divorce and wanted to be sure it would last. Her husband too had grown up with a single mother and agreed that they needed to put everything they had into making their marriage work.

But for a lot of reasons, they failed. Joan took that failure to heart. Somehow she made it all her fault. She became overly anxious about every little decision. She began thinking that her friends only hung around because they felt sorry for her. Slowly they began dropping out of her life. Joan’s crying spells, lack of self-confidence and constant anxiety over everything had driven them away

She managed to keep her job but was no longer on the fast track for promotion. Every day she expected to be the one laid off that week. And that anxiety continues for her. So far Joan still has a job but lots of her co-workers are gone.

When she finally decided to look for some help, she had gained more than 25 pounds. Many people eat when they are nervous and Joan was one of them. She felt alone. Her job was in a rut. And she was stressing her body big time. Luckily she had not made many even more poor choices to deal with her stress. She could have turned to alcohol/drugs or inappropriate sexual activity.

So we started to work without having to deal with the fallout from those negative choices. Joan quickly agreed that she wanted to do something more positive with her life. I started her out with something small. I had her call a really good friend who had been easing out of her life and asked her to help. Joan was to go for coffee with her and talk about nothing special at all. She was to ask her friend to get up and leave the minute she started crying or talking about her divorce.

It was time to move on.

It was time for Joan to reconnect with her old friends and her old interests. It has been months now since that first coffee date and her friend really did walk out as Joan started to cry but she waited on the sidewalk and they went to another café and Joan did better.

Joan didn’t keep all her old friends but she has a couple new ones now. She found that she wasn’t interested in all her old hobbies but again, she replaced them with some new ones. Every day she reminds herself that she can choose how she feels today.

Joan has learned some valuable stress reducing techniques and now when she gets anxious, she exercises (the weight is going down slowly but it is going down). She can go to a movie, or call a friend. But now she doesn’t whine about whatever is stressing her out. She just talks. And she has learned to listen. It works for Joan. She plans to keep on experimenting with new choices but relying on those techniques that have proven to be what she needs.

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