The Aftermath: This is All That’s Left.

this-is-all-thats-left-announcement-chic-stealsThis has been an enormously difficult post to write, and I have struggled for many, many months over what to write. What not to say, what to reveal, whether I should, whether I shouldn’t.

I have been hinting numerous times over the past year that something awful has been happening in my life, something personal that threatens everything I know and love. This is what happened in 2014:

On May 12, 2014, my husband for 10 years, partner for 14 (all of my 20’s and half of my 30’s), person who I wrote about my love for and commitment to in this post on our anniversary, and father to our dear 8-year-old son, left us in order to move in with his affair partner.

This was someone who he should absolutely not have been involved with in any way (regardless of the violation of our marriage vows and our trust in him and all that) – but it was someone who both professionally and legally he had absolutely no business being involved with at all.

It blindsided and absolutely devastated me.

There had been hints of difficulties leading up to him walking out; he had expressed being unhappy but wouldn’t cite what it was exactly that was wrong. I had been struggling for 4 years with being hypothyroid and being overwhelmed with the symptoms of endocrine system collapse in 2013, and had tried to getting healthy the priority for some time. I had not paid enough attention to him, he said, I had made him feel like I did not care. I had been focused on eating right, exercising, and trying to get a job so I could build a career and help support our family.

I worked as hard as I could once he expressed this to me to fix our relationship, to make him the number one priority, and to show my feelings for him. He responded by becoming increasingly withdrawn and angry even over the smallest thing, putting me down in front of our son and saying nasty things to me, and “working” longer hours.

When I found out that he had only been working an average of 11 hours a week and had instead been spending the remainder of his time elsewhere with someone else doing certain things – and the horrific details of what he had done, it was the worst shock I ever had in my life.

I could not eat or keep food down, I could not sleep more than a couple hours a night due to anxiety, stress, and shock. I lost 7 pounds in the first 10 days. Everything I ate came up again. I survived on oatmeal for weeks, since it was the only thing I could keep down. I was overwhelmed with panic and anxiety, having no idea what was happening and what was going to happen. I ended up losing 27 pounds total over the next 4 months, having panic attacks in the middle of the night, my heart pounding, unable to draw breath.

In addition to my husband very suddenly leaving, he began levying numerous threats towards us,showing up at the house unexpectedly, coming and going as he pleased, removing possessions in front of our son (whom he told that “Daddy’s job requires me to work a lot of nights, so I’m just staying at a hotel near the airport rather than make the long drive home”). He told me that I had to leave the house, our home, and go live with our son in an apartment. He told me that he would be taking our son to Japan and that I would never see him again. He hid all his wages in a secret bank account so there was no money coming in from him. I couldn’t use any money in our bank account for food or gas to take our son to school, because the mortgage was auto-withdrawn from that bank account and would default that much sooner if I did.

I’d been a stay-at-home mother for 9 years, as required by my husband and his parents, who told me repeatedly over the years that a mother’s place was in the home, raising her child, and that I should not work. I had nothing to survive on except the money I made from this blog. I began selling things on eBay so I could buy food for my son and me, gas to take my son to school, and cover his therapist’s bills. I desperately searched for work, applying to any and everything remotely related to my skills and background, but with no recent work experience or references to vouch for me except those from school, I had very few options. What stay-at-home mother with no recent work experience could go from earning only a couple hundred dollars a month on a part-time blog to instantly earning $50,000 a year?

I begged my husband not to do this, to work on our marriage, to reconcile, to do what was in our son’s best interests. He would not listen, and insisted his own life was his biggest priority.

On August 29, 2014, he filed a petition for dissolution of marriage with the Oregon court.

I was plunged into 7 months of unbelievable insanity, where my husband assisted by his lawyer (who had convinced him that this was how it was done in the United States: hire a lawyer, and you can dissolve your marriage for only $2000! – LOLOL) embarked on campaign to completely humiliate and financially devastate me in every way possible.

My husband (who was a Japanese national, having gotten his green card through me) never disclosed his international stocks, his bank accounts, his credit cards, or his position at his father’s company in Japan. I disclosed every penny I had (which only amounted to a few thousand dollars) – so on paper I looked like I was the one with all the money. I was denied from the Oregon Bar Association’s Modest Means program (that provides lower-cost attorneys) since my case involved international issues and was far too complicated for anyone to take one. Instead, I had to hire an international family lawyer to fight the egregious lies being recorded about me on the paperwork he and his lawyer and filed, to prevent any sort of international kidnapping, and to protect me and my son’s most basic rights. Oh, and since Oregon is a no-fault divorce state, everything my husband had done was immaterial in a court of law.

I begged my husband to not do this, to stop with the lawyers, to not financially devastate me because in the end I would not be able to take care of our son and keep his life stable, that our little boy would be the one who suffered the most. The person I was still legally married to sneered that he had to use a lawyer to protect his interests since I said crazy things like I would get the house, I would get child support, I would get spousal support. I pushed and pushed to just hire a mediator and saved money. He was, as he had been for years, still living off his parents’ credit card and money, he said, was of no issue to him: his parents were rich and could pay as long as it was necessary.

On March 27, 2015, I was forced to accept a settlement where I got a completely inadequate amount of child support (since my husband was working only 19 hours a week when it was assessed). I did get a lump sum spousal support (instead of monthly since he refused to agree to it) which went to cover bills and debts and refinance the house, and, most importantly, I got the house – and was able to make stable the only home my son has ever known, so he can grow up here with all his friends in our neighborhood.

It was either accept the settlement or pay another $20,000 and force it to Court, where the judge said she would be deposing my father-in-law as to the full extent of money my husband had been using. My husband said that his father had lawyers in Japan and would fight it. I could choose to rip apart his family and their privacy to lay bare the full extent of his resources in Japan – and get the judge to award me some of those resources on paper, that in reality I would likely never see – or I could fold and accept a completely inadequate offer, which included no other support or obligation to helping pay our son’s school costs, daycare fees, sports fees, or even support for the dog that he left with me (since the girl’s place that he moved in to did not allow dogs).

I could stand or I could fold.

I stood for my marriage, my vows, and my family for as long as I could.

I looked around, and I was the only one standing.

So I folded, and did to my son the unthinkable, the unforgivable as a parent. I signed a document that split our family into two, that now drags my son from here to there and back again all within one week, that destroys his template of a marriage and an unbroken family. I had absolutely no choice to do this to him, and the guilt will haunt me for the rest of my life.

And here now, is The Aftermath.

I survived. My son survived.

I came out of it in one piece (though often I never thought I would), with the support of family and friends, some whom I will be indebted to for the rest of my life.

I lost social circles, in-laws, people whom I trusted. I found family, friends, and people to trust. I found support where I never thought I would find it.

The person I used to be married to still sees our son once a week or so when he is around. Apparently he’s quit his job and after a month of traveling around the world, he’s now a month in Colorado training for a new job.

But it doesn’t matter. I secured my son’s home, my son’s school, his routines, and his life. After working 4 part-time and freelance jobs to make ends meet, I finally have a full-time job that I love and that I can support myself with. Most of my possessions I still have. I’ve sold what I don’t need or want, and cut back. I’ve cut our monthly expenses as far as I can go. I am surviving.

I felt I needed to share with all of you, my readers, the truth of what happened, of why I’ve slowed down in blogging, why it has been immensely difficult this past year and a half to write about fashion and DIY and what had begun to feel, to me, like very trivial things when my life was being turned upside down.

I am not saying that I was good and the person I was married to was bad, because nothing is as simplistic as that. There were things that I could have done better, ways that I could have prioritized my relationship more, old hurts and difficulties I should have dealt with earlier in order to improve our relationship. I could have communicated better. But I never would have chosen this as an option for dealing with a tough relationship, especially once there was a child involved.

It is very difficult putting myself out there on the internet like this, showing how vulnerable I am to the world. But I am done keeping other people’s secrets.

All I know is this intensely personal and difficult experience has allowed me to grow and learn about strength and resiliency in a way I never could have, and provides valuable life lessons in moving forward. Of course one of my major reasons for not putting it out there was the potential harm to my son, in him finding out the truth about what his father did. I still have to lie to my little boy every day (as dictated by all the parenting books, therapists, and advice out there): in verbally accepting full and equal responsibility for what happened in our family, in never saying a bad word about his father, in never sharing the gory details and instead sympathizing with the pain my son still experiences. Someday I will share with him and answer his questions honestly in order to hopefully impart life lessons about choosing the right person for a long-term commitment, someone who shares the same value system – and how to make a commitment actually work for the long term.

Someday I will know how to impart those lessons.

Just not today.

Thank you for reading, and for sticking with me and this blog through the slowdown of posts, the lack of good advice, and the overall somber and melancholy tone over the past 18 months. I appreciate each and every one of you so much, and it is in part due to this blog and my dear readers that I made it through to the other side.


How Do You Maintain Your Life While Facing Stress? 5 Ways to Deal When It Seems You Just Can’t

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It’s the age-old question, even more relevant today when so many of us are engaged in multiple, simultaneous projects.

I worked a 54-hour week last week at work.  We had a shoot at the studio, which went into a second day.  Many other things also happened in my life right around the same time (kind of like how November 5, 1955 was the date the whole universe hinged on in the Back to the Future movies…Dec 6-9 for me was that same critical hinge-worthy time period).  Last week was the most physically and mentally grueling week for me ever.  (You may have noticed I posted one photo on my blog of me smiling on the set…and then nothing for 3 days.)

When I’m under a lot of stress in one part of my life…I have to pull back on the other parts.  Put the blog posting on hold, forget about that face mask, pile stuff into my corner of the office and leave it there.  Stop answering email for a couple days.  Stop paying attention to what I’m eating and just eat when I’m hungry.  Put the workout routine on hold.  It’s as if I just don’t have the head-space to deal with anything else except what’s going on in front of me, stressing me out.  And many things fall by the wayside during that time.

If you’re anything like me, this might be how you deal as well.  Here are some tips for keeping up with the things that do matter to you (even if they seem like added stresses whilst in the thick of things):

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1. Make a List

Figure out everything that’s still on your plate besides what’s stressing you out, and designate it either:

  • Keep Up With It
  • Put It On Hold
  • Drop It Completely

Seeing your task list written out like that, and giving yourself permission to do away with to-do’s (or even just delay them), can add some calm in a world of chaos.

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2. Pull Back on Your Commitments

For your “Keep Up With It” tasks, further break them down into tasks that you can keep up with in only a minimalistic sense.  If you have to be making daily dinners for your family, can you just heat up TV dinners or work with pre-cooked ingredients or dishes that take only 5 minutes?  Can you plan out your week of dinners to make it easier?  Can you post a single photo on your blog of a “wishlist item” instead of an entire post?  Now is the time to pare down and to become a total slacker.  What can you get away with by doing the bare minimum?

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3. Talk or Hang Out With Someone Not Involved in What’s Stressing You Out

Your friends and family can often be a great source of help, even by just being around someone who isn’t caught up in the madness.  Even if you’re just dishing about Kate Middleton’s latest outfit or your friend’s last horrible date, chatter that isn’t focused on your issue can help free up your mind from its mental hamster wheel.  Even just 10 minutes can make a huge difference.  Laugh, cry, shout, give advice…get caught up with what’s going on in someone else’s life for a few moments, to take a step back from what’s going on in your.

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4. FORCE Yourself to Make Some Me Time

It doesn’t have to be a huge amount; just whatever time you can afford to spend on yourself.  A nice bath.  An episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.  A chapter in a good book.  A face mask (which I didn’t even have the presence of mind to do last week *ahem*)  Even 10 minutes of exercise – a quick stroll a couple times around the block – is actually doable and will do wonders to improve your mood.

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5. And, if nothing else, a deep, deep breath and some EFT

I’ve been using a 7-breaths technique to gain calm (breathe in for a 7-count, breathe out for a 7-count, seven times).  Repeat as necessary.  However, I’ve recently discovered EFT and have been absolutely amazed at the results.  It works by stimulating nerve receptors in the skin by tapping them (the same as with acupuncture), thus creating an interrupt in the body’s creation of negative emotions (which are, in actuality, just chemicals released by the brain and other organs, flooding the body and affecting heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, etc. negatively).  Just try it and see.  Even try it with a completely negative attitude, convinced it won’t do a darn thing for you.  You may be surprised.  (Read more about EFT here and here if you’re interested.)

Edited (12/31) to Add:

6. Ask for Help from the Important People in Your Life

Sometimes it’s really, really hard to admit to your friends/parents/significant others/kids that you really can’t do it all.  Asking for help sometimes feels akin to admitting that your not superwoman/superman…but sometimes you just have to ask or else go utterly crazy.  And the people who really care about you, whether they are friends or family or co-workers or the person you’re dating, will probably be okay with doing something to help you out.  Hub can make dinner one night – it’s not going to kill him.  Maybe instead of you sending a holiday card to your parents’ friend maybe they could just write a greeting from you into their yearly card.  Maybe a friend could drop your Goodwill donation off instead of you doing it.  Etcetera.  It definitely takes a village, and if you’re at your wits’ end don’t be ashamed in asking for little favors from the people in your life!  (But conversely, be prepared to return the favors at another time. 😉

How do you cope with major stress in your life?  I’d love to hear your tricks for staying sane amidst utter insanity!

Stay chic~