Self Destruct?  Not Tonight.

by Carolyn on November 14, 2009

I can feel it coming.  Can you?

My self destruction is looming in the corner.  Taunting me.  Ready to take over at  my slightest concession.  This is what I do.  It’s what I’ve done.  It’s who I’ve been.

I’ll tell you a story.

There once was a girl who had her whole future laid in front of her.  It was beautiful and it was bright; like a Monet painting or a summer’s day.  But her new found independence and the challenges of her environment acted like a magnifying glass, illuminating the holes in her self worth for all to see.  With her confidence laying in shreds, self doubt ruled supreme.  She convinced herself of lies and parroted them to anyone who would hear.  She clawed at her facade, desperate to maintain her impenetrable mirage.  Suddenly she was drowning.  Drowning in expectation, self loathing and fear.  And in the end, gasping for air, she simply walked away.  Away from anyone who’d ever loved her.  Away from herself most of all.

That was me.  And that’s not what’s happening now.  That was….extreme, even by my standards.  But the experience taught me something invaluable.  It taught me that you can walk away from it all, but what you are so desperately trying to get away from is not so easily escaped.  Because I succeeded in leaving loved one’s behind.  I succeeded in turning my back on my future.  But those expectations, self loathing and fear that felt like hands holding me under, were not so easy to shake.  It was if they were literally shacked to me.  It didn’t matter how fast I ran or how far I fell.  Finally, I came to the realization that they were mine, my hands.  I was drowning myself.  And that’s when I found the strength to fight them off.

But although I’ve never imploded to the extent I did then, I find myself still engaging in a similar cycle.  It always starts the same way, with doubt.  Then the affirmation of said doubt.  The feeling of defeat.  Then the drowning.  Always the drowning.  And just as a drowning victim will take the fastest, most direct path to oxygen; I do the same.  It usually involves an exit strategy.

I’m trying to remember why I started this place.

I was having trouble.  I needed to write about it.  I needed to know I wasn’t alone.  I had a hunch that there were a lot of people straining to cope within their family dynamic and living lives impacted by the same things that have impacted mine.  I’d searched and searched for somewhere that I could relate to and came up empty time and time again.  So I started this site.

I never expected to be learned from.  I never intended to teach.  And so, my seeds of self doubt have been laid.  The drowning is sure to be next and that scares me.  Drowning is scary, you know?

I taught in my field for a lot of years.  Standing at the front of a lecture hall or classroom teaching concepts, theories, and techniques.  Things I knew like the back of my hand.  Things I had studied and practised.  Things which were solid and research based.  I loved teaching.

But this thing.  Divorce.  It’s legacy.  It’s impact.  None of it is solid.  Not much is really research based.  And even that which is, has either too many variables or a body of conflicting research standing as it’s counter.

There isn’t much that’s scientific about human emotion.  Trust me, I know.

I feel completely unqualified.  In my head it sounds funny.  Thirty years experience as a child of divorce and yet I feel completely unqualified to speak to how children of divorce feel.  But this is my self doubt.  And the more interview requests I get, the more I feel that magnifying glass highlighting my flaws.  The drowning is coming dammit.  It’s just a matter of time.

And yet this time, something is different.  For me.

When I was going through the ‘In Search of Me’ exercise a while back, I answered the question, do you have a passion?  I answered that I really didn’t.  I mentioned that this place was too new.  That I couldn’t tell if it was my passion or not.

I can tell now.

I won’t give this place up.  What I’m doing is important.  To me, even if not to anyone else.  If I can help one fellow grown child of divorce, divorced parent, step parent, or divorced child; all the drowning in the world will be worth it.  I’m not going to give this place up.  I’m not going to permit my self destruction.  This piece of me will not implode.  Hey you over in the corner?  Take a hike.  Your services won’t be needed here tonight.

I’ll be honest, I’m struggling.  But I see what’s coming with clear and open eyes and although it’s scary, it helps me too.

For I know that what I really need to do is keep my feet planted, my focus sharp….and maybe invest in some good scuba gear.

Even a snorkel might do.


{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peggy November 15, 2009 at 2:38 am

Hi Carolyn,

I was you years ago. How well I remember that drowning feeling.

Have you ever read “What to Say When You Talk To Yourself” by Dr. Shad Helmstetter? It’s PHENOMENAL. The negative chatter inside our head will keep us stuck forever. That’s its job. Our job is to kick it to the curb so that we can live life to our fullest potential.

As a yoga teacher, I fully understand the purpose of yoga. It’s not about the poses or doing the perfect triangle. Yoga is the cessation of the mind stuff.

It’s all good :-)


2 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Hi Peggy, Thanks for the comment. I will definitely check out that book. And I totally agree with you about Yoga. I remember feeling so grounded and centred when I was practicing it regularly.


3 Peggy November 15, 2009 at 2:39 am

(It would help if I finished typing my website URL…)
.-= Peggy´s last blog ..Music As My Writing Muse =-.


4 Charlene November 15, 2009 at 8:46 am

You’re definitely not alone – on a couple of levels. I started my blogging journey writing a lot about my dysfunction and growing up in a family of divorce. Though maybe I didn’t call out “divorce” explicitly, it’s clearly there as a source of the myriad of crazy emotions (then and now.) Those childhood experiences let to a variety of adult decisions and learnings which led me to where I am today… which I *think* is a really positive place. And yet, although my main message now is to share life balance strategies (how to do it all and not lose our minds), I SO know that feeling of self doubt you describe. How am I REALLY an expert?? What about when I get it wrong or don’t have it all together?

In the end, I think we just need to go back to doing it for ourselves, let it be what it is… and if it helps people, well – cool. Icing on the cake!
.-= Charlene´s last blog ..Five Ways to Steal Back Time =-.


5 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:25 pm

“In the end, I think we just need to go back to doing it for ourselves, let it be what it is… and if it helps people, well – cool. Icing on the cake!”

I couldn’t agree with you more, Charlene. Thanks for stopping by!


6 Urchin November 15, 2009 at 3:27 pm

When I first came here I didn’t expect to find someone with whom I could relate so readily. Someone from a completely different background, but with scary-similar results. I didn’t expect to find myself sharing so much of myself. And that scared me.

I don’t feel like I”m drowning, but occasionally (more often than I’d like to admit) I will feel like I’m suffocating. There’s so much negative in my head, so much self doubt and the always ready to tear-myself-down bits of me that have been ingrained into my psyche over the years. Most things are automatically my fault. Whether it’s true or not. “Phantom Issues” Conan calls them, though they don’t feel so phantom when they’re the ones overtaking your thoughts and crushing you beneath their weight.

If, however, you do start to drown, you’ve got a community of readers here all willing to throw a lifeline I’m betting. You can have my proverbial kayak if it helps keep you afloat, bobbing along in this sea of words you’ve created.


7 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Thank you, Urchin. Your words are so comforting. I too was surprised by the common threads between us.

“Phantom Issues” I like that term, it is so accurately descriptive. Thank Conan for me!


8 Eva Gallant November 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I was divorced 30 years ago. I spent 4 years as a single mother with 2 sons. After four years, I remarried and have been married to a wonderful person for 26 years. My sons are grown, and although they delayed marriage until their mid to late twenties, they are both happily married, successful in the careers, and wonderful dads! So grab that lifeline girl! No Drowning allowed here.
Good luck in your journey.


9 jule November 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Thank you. You give me a lot of hope. I am going through divorce now & worry for my children’s future. Iam glad to have your you, your sons & Carolyn to prove to me that I can raise my daughters to love, marry & have children.


10 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Of course you can! And as a loving and concerned parent you will help your daughters to understand, express and work through their feelings with regards to your divorce. You will get them through this.


11 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:38 pm

But here’s the thing, Eva. I am in a strong marriage as well. I am successful in my career too. And if I do say so myself, I’m a really good mom.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there is still all this ‘stuff’. And I’d be willing to bet that your sons have some ‘stuff’ too. (who doesn’t, right?) A year ago, My mom would have probably responded in a very similar way after reading this post. I can just imagine her thinking, “well, my daughter is doing great”. And that’s the tricky part. Most of us ACOD’s are functioning. Most of us are able to marry. Most of us are employed. Most of us are good parents.

But that doesn’t negate the negative internal emotions so many of us still have (such as an inability to be vulnerable, perfectionism, people pleasing…I could go on and on) all tied to one thing – divorce. And I wish less parents would tout how well their children were doing (my kids fine! They get good grades, have friends, hold jobs, are married, etc, etc) as proof that they’ve dealt well emotionally with their divorce and instead thought about things like ongoing conversations and the actions they’ve actually taken to help their children through the emotional landmine, as said proof. Because we children of divorce tend to be a pretty obedient bunch. We know the expectation is that we do those things. And the fact that we do says very little about whether we’ve actually dealt with our emotions or not. There needs to be a shift in the thinking of divorced parents.

I’m not saying children don’t heal from the after effects of divorce. But while many parents are telling themselves that their children of divorce are doing just fine and pointing out all the evidence to validate their belief, many children and adults are actually still struggling.


12 Peggy November 18, 2009 at 3:12 pm


I’m going to split hairs with you for a second. Those issues aren’t just tied to divorce. Divorce sucks. I give you that. My parents divorced when I was 8. Dad got custody because my bio mother was unfit to raise snakes. She was physically abusive. As the oldest and only girl, I bore the brunt of her beatings…and took a few for my brothers.

Dad got custody in 1971. Dad remarried when I was 9. I acquired a stepmom, two older stepsisters, and another younger brother. My dad was my stepmom’s third husband. She adopted me and my brothers when I was 12. I had to stand in front of a judge and agree to this, not just for me, but for my three brothers as well. Dad and Mom divorced when I was 27. Mom married #4, dad married #3 – they both got divorced…AGAIN. Dad has been married to #4 for 11 years and mom has been married to #5 for 11 years. My parents have been married nine times. Geez.

Those feelings you have – that *stuff* you have isn’t just from divorce. It’s everything that’s been programmed into you since you were in the womb. Check out Dr. Bruce Lipton’s “The Biology of Belief.”

My girls still struggle with the my divorce from their dad – not so much because of the divorce, but because their dad fell from grace and shattered like crystal on tile. They struggle with his lies and his conditional ties for approval and love. This is not a divorce issue but a relationship issue.

I would encourage you to really dig deep and check out Bryon Katie’s “Loving What Is” – what strikes me is that you have yet to reach a place of acceptance so that you can move forward instead of staying stuck…

.-= Peggy´s last blog ..The Stepmom Inoculation =-.


13 Carolyn November 18, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Thank you Peggy again for your comment. But the point of the post and the point of my response to Eva’s comment come from two different places. The post was to recognize a pattern of behaviour that I have which may or may not be related to divorce, but that I recognize and am making a decision to change. My response was simply to state that I don’t believe you can point to a person’s accomplishments as proof that they are doing well emotionally. It’s a fallacy that I think too many divorced parents believe, because that’s easier than rolling up your sleeves, getting your hands dirty and really doing the work with your child to ensure they are doing okay.

I do take exception to your thinking I’m stuck. I’ve come a long way through this process. I don’t just write to attest to my own healing but also to show how I’ve struggled, so others can relate. I generally write about things here in the context of divorce. This is not an all encompassing personal blog. All of my issues, accomplishments, recognitions or struggles don’t get dealt with here.

I created this space as a forum to acknowledge the effects of divorce. There are enough messages of ‘Hey, get over it. Move on. Look at me, I’m doing just fine.’ out there for us. What I found to be lacking were messages of ‘Divorce hurts, whether it was for the best or not. Divorce in and of itself, as well as it’s aftermath leaves a lasting impact that fingers it’s way into all facets of your life, and it’s okay if your struggling because you are not alone.’

I’m adding my voice to the latter.


14 Peggy November 19, 2009 at 9:53 am

Hi Carolyn,

I need to get better at how I write things. We all get stuck. I get stuck, you get stuck, cars get stuck. Even if you are half way out of the mud, you still might be stuck. It’s not a bad thing or a good thing. It just is. Divorce does hurt and it has far reaching impact. I’ve watched my parents do it more than once. I went through one myself ~ my girls were 15 and 18. My exhusband told my girls, “I’m over it, now you get over it. And if you can’t get over it, you have a problem” (that’s how he dealt with things.) I’ve spent the last six years as a mom teaching my girls emotional intelligence (or at least trying to).

I write for stepmoms – remarried life is full of guilt, anger, resentment, stuckness and struggle. Trapped in old patterns of behavior, believing false truths, listening to old tapes.

With the divorce rate at 50% for first marrieds and 65% for remarrieds, there’s a lot of hurting people out there.

The blessing of struggle is that there is hope. We are made all the better because we see the struggle to the end. (Joan Chittister, “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope.” Great book, I highly recommend it)
.-= Peggy´s last blog ..The Stepmom Inoculation =-.


15 Carolyn November 19, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Thanks Peggy. Your insight is always both respected and appreciated.


16 Angelia November 15, 2009 at 11:22 pm


You have helped me, by just being you, and knowing another person has felt the same way as me, being a child of divorce. You’ve helped me knowing – I’m not alone and I thank you.

I am a runner. Oh, I am different now and have been through enough to know myself better, but in the back of my mind, I still feel that girl poised and ready to bolt.

I’ll just have to stop her and you will just have to have your life vest on.

.-= Angelia´s last blog ..Sunday’s Healthy Reflection =-.


17 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Exactly! Recognizing the pattern of behavior really is the first step in preventing yourself from repeating it. Thanks for relating to me. It means the world.


18 Fruitfulvine2 November 16, 2009 at 4:41 am

Wow! What a journey. I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through. I remember when my parents divorced, one of the guys who went to church with me told me that a lot of people in the village were saying that I was going crazy because they saw me taking lots of walks. For me, walking and praying were the ways that I coped. Thank God I was not going and did not go crazy but it was a painful time boy.

Continue to help those who need it. Don’t walk away if this is your calling for this season of your life. Others need what you have to share.

I came over via SITS. Have a great day!
.-= Fruitfulvine2´s last blog ..Bible In One Year #270 =-.


19 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Thank you!


20 Renee November 16, 2009 at 8:35 am

It seems like you shouldn’t have to speak on “what children of divorce” feel, but rather what YOU, as a child of divorce, feel. Because that’s what you know, and it’s important and meaningful. And just speaking your mind will resonate with others in your position. Everyone’s experiences and feelings are different, but they all have a common thread.
.-= Renee´s last blog ..The Winter of My Content =-.


21 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I agree Renee. Sometimes the pressure of speaking for others is what I’m bucking. Because I only know what I’ve been through and how I’ve felt or how I would feel in a given situation. We really are all so different.


22 Renee November 17, 2009 at 7:51 am

And that’s all you need to do. Just speak for yourself.
.-= Renee´s last blog ..What’s Age Got to do With It? =-.


23 Olga November 16, 2009 at 12:56 pm

found you from SITS!! What a great post!! You are a gifted writer and I can relate on many levels! I found my rescuer in Jesus! It took me a long time but when i realized who i am in him people and what they think or don’t think of me doesn’t matter as much! stop by anytime
.-= Olga´s last blog ..Multiples and More Question of the Week! =-.


24 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Thanks Olga! I only wish my concern was merely about what others thought about me. Because what I think about myself is a much weightier issue.


25 Tammy November 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Get that snorkel or whatever you need to keep your head above water. We won’t let you drown…
.-= Tammy´s last blog ..He’s Still Preoccupied With Number Eighty-Five =-.


26 Carolyn November 16, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Thanks Tammy. ;)


27 Eyes Wide Open November 18, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Welll….I’m a bit late here, but I’m playing catch-up. I thought this was a beautifully written post. I’m just like you with the exit strategy, but the older I get the more I see that running away isn’t actually accomplishing anything (except the immediate sensation of relief).
I found the reflections on how childhood experiences of divorce shape a person’s adulthood – even well into their adulthood – really eye opening.
BTW, LOVE the new layout!!!
.-= Eyes Wide Open´s last blog ..Jealous =-.


28 Carolyn November 18, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Thanks EWO! I’m glad you liked the post and the new design!


29 WhiteSockGirl November 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I feel extremely unqualified to comment on your post but it so beautifully written….

But I have something for your on my blog. It is fabulous. And it is bitchy.
.-= WhiteSockGirl´s last blog ..Absolute Bitch Fab! =-.


30 Carolyn November 18, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Oh my goodness! Thank you WhiteSockGirl! I love your new design! What an amazing job.


31 Theta Mom November 18, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Carolyn~ I blogged about this recently. This whole experience blogging is such a process and it’s never static; I was recently on twitter and someone listed me as a ‘review and giveaway’ blog and it bothered me because I am so much more than that! It made me realign my priorities and focus. Of course I will still perform the reviews/giveaways, but I will never let that be the staple for my existance in the blogosphere. I agree with you…you have to blog for yourself and your own passion/writing and the rest will fall into place. Stay afloat mama, cause I love your blog!And it feels soooo good to be back, especially now that I’m a WP girl. ;)
.-= Theta Mom´s last blog ..Blogger Was Like a Really Bad Boyfriend, So He Finally Got the Boot =-.


32 Carolyn November 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Your blog is looking great on Thesis! Trust me Heather, you are not just a giveaway blog because I don’t read those. :)


33 Amy Gray Light November 19, 2009 at 12:23 am

Divorce – been there, done that. A month later turned 30 and was convinced life was over. It’s 18 years later and I am married to a fabulous man. Motto: this too, shall pass… the years pass and you grow older you become more authentic and comfortable in your skin…blessings


34 Carolyn November 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Thanks Amy.


35 Caroline November 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

I enjoyed reading your blog today. This was a very moving post. There are so many people who will benefit from your words…and I admire you for being able to be so honest with your emotions. Writing about them will help so many people..and that is a real gift.

(saw you on SITS this morning…thanks for letting me stop by)
.-= Caroline´s last blog ..What Artist Resonates with You? =-.


36 Carolyn November 19, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Thanks for stopping by!


37 Bianca November 19, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Wow…that was a very emotional post. I’ve been where you were in my college days, such a dark time. Thank you for being brave enough to post something so personal!

Bianca’s latest blog Chicken and Kiwi


38 Cristin November 19, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Hi Caroline,

I found your blog on Twitter Moms. I am not the child of divorce, but I teach many teens who are. I am going to pass on your blog to them when they come to me.

You have a beautiful way with words. Great blog! I am just getting started in this blogging world and need to do some designing. You have inspired me. Thanks!

.-= Cristin´s last blog ..We can dance! =-.


39 Mimi November 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I get like that quite often. I also respond to certain situations way more volatile than I should. I am always ready to just quit and walk away, rather than to be the one who gets walked away from. I’m pretty sure it has to do with being a child of divorce. It’s odd. I never thought it would be, but the more I talk about it and read others’ experiences, the more I realize it is. That’s why I like your site!
.-= Mimi´s last blog ..Vervet Monkeys =-.


40 Carolyn November 20, 2009 at 11:43 pm

It’s so neat finding the common threads strung between us ACOD’s, isn’t it?


41 Mary November 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Hi, I found your blog through Sauce. Writing will help you get through very emotional times. You are so brave to write about it, and your honesty is refreshing.
.-= Mary ´s last blog ..Mary: What the Babysitter Found Out =-.


42 Carolyn November 20, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Thanks Mary!


43 Tammy November 25, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Great post Carolyn. You will never drown with such a great husband. And know that your true friends will always be there even if you need time for yourself.

Ps wishing we could be at Nolan’s party but florida was calling us!


44 Diana March 18, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Hi Carolyn,

I am so happy I found your website. My parents have always had there differences and fights my entire life and now they are going to get divorced sadly, I am an only child, barely 17 and I thank God for people like you that can share their experiences. Divorce I know can be painful and what you went through after as well but you survived and that gives other hope like me.

Thank you so much



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