How Divorce Prepared Me for a Pandemic

My COVID quarantine experience started in a very similar way to many in the United States…In March, on a Friday, we were informed through our work emails that the governor was going to be shutting down everything for two weeks. It was the end of the work day and most of the teachers in my building had already left – we had just started Spring Break. I was still at school grading student notebooks so they could be done before I left for my trip to Nashville the next day and I didn’t want that part of my grading hanging over my head for the next week.

The feeling of uncertainty and waiting to see what would happen loomed as we were updated every two weeks with continuing shut downs. Working in education, this added to the stress of the end of the school year. As we drifted through summer closer to the start of school, so many questions lingered about whether we would open, if we would be full remote, in person, or some hybrid version of this. The answers to those questions came and we are starting the second quarter of the semester today.

Again, this experience is not unique. Teachers, administrators, parents, grandparents, students…we know the story of the schools and how it has affected all of us. We are now 7 months in. As we progress through discovering more about this virus, more and more studies are coming out about how people are stressed (cracked teeth from jaw clenching, sleeplessness, etc.) and that anxiety and depression are on the rise in all age groups.

What I have found though is that I am not experiencing any of that. At first, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t having as difficult a time as so many others seemed to be….and then when I was listening to a news story about the cause behind all of those things, it hit me. I had already spent the past 2 years experiencing all of the emotions so many people were feeling now.

For 2 years my world was filled with anxiety and uncertainty, starting with the discovery of my husband’s affair. The overwhelming emotions of trying to save my marriage, the complete and utter focus that took shook my world – it was the only thing I could focus on.

When it became clear that he didn’t want to save our marriage, my world was rocked again when my financial situation faced an immediate and drastic change – lawyer’s fees, being cut off from credit cards and the Health Savings Account, finding new housing for myself, a new car payment…I faced sweeping changes as so many do now. I scoured Facebook marketplace to find the items I used to have, but now needed to find quickly. I was counting pennies to make sure I could pay my bills each month while still trying to save. I went without just to stay where I needed to.

As I tried to navigate my way through the divorce, and often times the glimmer of hope of reconciliation that would be given to me, my emotions were on a wildly swinging pendulum. I experienced soul-crushing pain that would cause me to start crying at the smallest of things; I found solace in small moments of peace; I created an escape in the books I read and shows I watched; I tried to disappear from my life through running…
The anxiety I experienced caused my appetite to wither away to almost nothing and I couldn’t sleep so I would arrive at school before the sun. I became ultra-focused on my work because it felt like the only thing I had within my control.

But I also found healthy ways to cope with all of the uncertainty that was in my life – I continued going to therapy with the specialist that was our marriage counselor; I started going to yoga; I learned to ask my friends for help; I created new friendships; I created new routines for myself; I cherished the things that brought me peace (and hopefully joy); offering selfless acts towards others brought more positivity into my life; I started writing to share my story with others in hopes they would realize they were not alone.

The pandemic and quarantine may not be hitting me the same way, but that’s because I just spent years facing everything that everyone else is now facing. I say this, not as a way to brag that I’m doing okay, but to offer some hope to those who are facing a rough time. Life never stays the same, but

I was able to find a way through the darkness and I know that you will too. Find peace in the small things and hold on to hope.

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