Posted 4/6/2009 8:43 AM (GMT -7)
I’m so glad you came here, and I hope you will continue to post about your feelings and your situation. My heart went out to you when I read your post, as I do understand all too well what it is like to suffer from anxiety, and to have an ongoing legal situation after a stressful and costly experience. I hope you don’t mind if I share my experience with you here, so that I can give you some background info and then tell you how I have learned to cope with it.
I have been in and out of court for what seems like an eternity because of my ex-husband’s misdeeds. I left him and subsequently divorced him because of his violent and abusive behaviour towards me. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life, and there has been some residual stress because of what he has done ‘after the fact’. Since the time that I left, he has sold the business we owned together behind my back and against court orders, and has done who-knows-what with the money (he claimed that he spent it all, but I have my doubts….it was quite a sum of money). He has completely trashed the house that we owned together, so that it is worth virtually nothing and cannot be sold, and this was following another court order to grant sole ownership of the property to me. And, to top it off, he dissolved all of our joint assets without my knowledge or consent and disappeared, leaving me with nothing from our marriage or our co-ownership in business, and also leaving his biological children without child support (and his first wife without any co-parenting support). The authorities have no interest in trying to discover his whereabouts, since he has apparently left the state that we lived in, and also because I am no longer a resident of the U.S. (I left the country for my own personal safety, and to be back where I grew up and would feel the least amount of stress that was possible). I am not in a financial position to fund a search with a private investigator. Furthermore, it is doubtful, given what has already happened, that I will ever see a dime of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that he owes me even if I were to track him down.
As you can imagine, I have struggled greatly with the unfairness of the situation….the lack of control I’ve had, despite winning each and every battle along the way in court……and the financial pressures of trying to pay off joint debts and legal bills (which he was ordered to pay, of course)….not to mention trying to deal with the incredible anxiety and PTSD I had following the violence and emotional abuse of our marriage.
I could not get through this without my wonderful therapist. She has helped me so much, firstly by assisting me in finding ways to ‘compartmentalize’ the stress around each and every court appearance. I understood when I read your post how it feels when the thoughts keep ‘popping up’ and how the stress can totally ruin your day. It has taken a lot of practice, and I still continue to work on it, but I am finally seeing some progress in my ability to ‘flip the switch’ and focus on other things. It is a matter of knowing that each time I have made a phonecall to my lawyer, or made a court appearance, etc., that I have done what I can do for the moment, and I mentally “put it in a box” and set it on the shelf, so to speak.
I also have developed a list of things that I can do to change my focus, whether it be to spend time on a pet project, or to go out for a walk with a friend, work outside in my garden, or go to see a movie or a play (you get my point here!). I used to think that by distracting myself I was ignoring things that needed to be attended to, but I finally learned that by focusing too much on the things that were bothering me, I was robbing myself of any and all enjoyment in my life, and crippling myself in my ability to cope with work or any other day-to-day responsibilities.
I know it’s all too easy for me to say, “put it in a box” or “distract yourself with something enjoyable”, but I promise you, I would not suggest these things if they had not worked for me (with practice and patience). I would also highly recommend that you talk to someone, professionally, and maybe see if you can start some Cognitive behavioural Therapy. I practice this with my therapist, but I also know from the posts on these boards that there is a resource called The Mood Gym, which is a self-help, online CBT program. (Oh, I see Nanners and Kitt have already mentioned it!) It would be worthwhile to look into it, especially if you don’t have access to a counselor right now.
In addition, I have found that relaxation breathing exercises, meditation, and even hypnosis have helped me greatly to decompress and focus on more pleasant things when the negativity is just overwhelming me. Don't hesitate to look into different alternatives to find what is right for you.
By the way, don’t be down on yourself for missing something ‘material’. Yes, money isn’t everything, but I do understand the loss that you feel when you work very hard for something and it is taken away from you. You have a right to grieve that loss, and to recognize the effort you made to achieve something you wanted for yourself. I hope very much that you will be able to move forward and find a way to cope with the stress of your situation. I can tell you, from experience, that it IS possible to find a way out of this. There is nothing that can fully explain why bad things happen to us, but there IS hope and help out there for us to find ourselves again and move into a new and better phase of life. I wish you all the luck in the world, P11, and hope you will come back and tell us how things are going.