Tag Archives: Divorce

Death and Taxes

#5 in my ongoing book series; original post August 16, 2013

This book was originally called “Death and Taxes,” a spoof on the ironic realities of dating in today’s American post-divorce shark pool.  At the time of my divorce, I was a consultant for several Washington DC arms merchants, and my friend Denise was an IRS official.  I was “death,” and she was “taxes.”

This was supposed to be funny because we were such soft-hearted, loving women; that is, two of the world’s worst co-dependents. It had the potential for a really wild movie script. Some day…

BrousBlog5a Ben Franklin“Our new Constitution is now established,and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” — Benjamin Franklin, 1789

We crossed paths the week both our marriages collapsed in 2006, raw, uninformed, and in extremis, at a women’s divorce law seminar just outside the Washington, D.C.  Beltway. “Unfortunately, Virginia is not New York or California, community property states where each gets half the assets,” the female lawyer announced. “In Virginia, ladies, you are basically up a tree. If you go to court, the legal fees will cost you whatever you get from a settlement–and then it’s a black box what the judge will do.  He could easily make you pay alimony to your husband.  If you don’t go to court, you might not get anything, either.”

On that unstable note, Denise and I looked at each other and said, “Doesn’t anyone want to network?” Nothing, in short, was certain–except Death and Taxes. We started to meet ad hoc in restaurants and call each other late at night for moral support.

The first thing we noticed was that neither of us had children (after her 20-year marriage and my then 26-year marriage to my college beau). This detail had hitherto escaped our attention. Had I focused on it at the outset, I might have had an earlier clue that something was wrong, not just with my ex, but with my ability to attach. Until I addressed me, anything else I did would lead in circles. But I didn’t.

Instead, we did what everyone else does: we blamed our spouses. They didn’t want children; they were the problem. Later we realized that these were men who couldn’t attach. Women at the legal seminar would ask each other, “why did you get divorced?” and the cause was always the same: inability to attach.

For example, Denise benefitted financially from her marriage. She would wow visitors from the women’s center with tours of her stately home with swimming pool near the CIA. Her antique tables were piled high with albums of photos of their exotic international travels.

But ascending to the second floor, she would escort visitors to a certain room. Inside, all four walls were filled with rank upon rank of book shelves, shelves along every inch of wall. On the shelves were arrayed: Teddy bears. Rows of pink Teddy bears. Rows of blue Teddy bears. Calico Teddy bears. Teddy bears in cowboy suits. Teddy bears dressed as firemen. Purple People Eater Teddy bears. Teddy bears in tuxedos and top hats and sequined gowns and tiaras. Naked normal Teddy bears.

Denise got to where she developed a dramatic flair for all this. She would silently allow a gal to enter the room, take in the scene, let it sink in, pause, then sweep her arm in the grand manner and proclaim: “And this, is Donald’s teddy bear collection.” Donald was her ex.

Clearly, Donald had better uses for his time, than attaching to Denise. One fine day, he summarily left her for his dental hygienist. She never saw a thing coming and wept for months.

It wasn’t until years later that we realized: he never presented her with the challenge to attach, so she stayed and stayed–until he made it physically impossible for the relationship to go on. Not she.

In a sick system too long

No one at the women’s center could believe the situation I stayed in so long. My ex was sweet during our early years in New York, but once he moved us to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, away from the mobility of the subways, he had me where he wanted me and lost interest.  Larry literally got in his car and left one morning and never came back until past midnight–for years.  I was lucky to see him on Sundays.

Larry had his businesses, his political ambitions, his expensive tennis and other sports, and I was the junior partner assigned to support his mission. I got to be the out-front sales gal and fly around the world doing international economic consulting, while he stayed in his office behind the scenes. In my ten years of global travel, he never made a single trip with me; there was no one with whom to share all those memories; he’d hardly look at the photos.

BrousBlog5b Cat You got a Puppy I’d return from two weeks in Tokyo and Seoul to find that the litter box for our two good-sized indoor cats had not been touched by human hands since I’d left. The cats, at least, had the presence of mind to feel abandoned.

With all his high-level talk it never hit me, but by the mid ’90s, it would have been clear to anyone with eyes to see: under all the words, Larry lived by the law of the jungle. He had less than zero regard for my personal welfare. One day I got a lucrative consulting gig, and before I knew it, he’d quit working and had me out paying the mortgage.

Soon he had me working two jobs, 14 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week. This went on for ten years. The money was gambled away in his business and political schemes; periodically he’d present me with his credit cards run into the $20-$30,000 debt range and say “take care of it.”

I began to suspect something when I finally googled “marital abuse” and read on a George Washington University women’s website that domestic abuse comes in many forms. I was shocked to read that it need not be obvious physical beating or rape, but that there are such things as purely emotional, verbal, and financial abuse which are still abuse for sure. I’d been clueless. “Whu Nu? He was the Prime Minister of Burma after U Thant,” became my running gag on myself.

While it was dawning on me that I was in deep kimche which could not be thought away by singing “Stand by Your Man” another ten years, Larry began taking the equity out of our home. Late one night, he demanded I sign a $280K refinance. When I refused and tried to leave the house, he got physically brutal, bellowing “You’ve got to protect my credit rating.”

I ran for the bathroom and locked myself in, but never thought of calling 911 on the man I loved (never even crossed my mind another two years). At dawn, I crawled out, signed the papers, then looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and said, “You just signed your life away because you’re afraid to be alone at this age.” I was at the women’s center in days.

Why try to change death or taxes? I’d lived for years as though abuse in relations was just as inevitable. “You’ve been in a sick system so long, you’re numb to it,” Dr. Henry Cloud says; “All your life what was done to you in the name of love was the furthest thing from love.”1 In fact, I was so numb, so frozen, that I was dissociated.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized: But he never presented me with the need to attach, and so I stayed, no matter how miserable I was. And stayed, and stayed, until he made it physically impossible to go on. Not me. He had to beat me into leaving.

Who Dunnit?

Next I blamed the economic decline for badly impacting men. The stealth cause of America’s 50% divorce rate, I thought, must be the economic dislocation tearing society apart. Just as the stock market did not look good, I decided that neither did the guy market. Men were too depressed, too stressed out or too emasculated by the rotten economy to connect emotionally.

BrousBlog5c Work ItI wrote the preceding sentence in 2006, and on the surface, it’s stood up well. More recently this has been dubbed the “mancession,” recession for men.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, between December 2007 and June 2009, jobs held by men made up 70% of all jobs lost, to the point that TV sitcoms about men posing as women to get hired such as “Work It” have emerged.

Men, when all is said and done, have the need to be builders. They are not all hunters or predators. It is men who build sailing ships and cities and airplanes and travel to the moon, and write things like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which require tremendous courage–all of the things which I admire so. We just don’t see a lot of women doing that, because women have a different, important job. A real woman ought to recognize, applaud, and appreciate men for doing their job. But what happens when the economy dies and we pull that rug out from under a man’s feet?

“You betcha! This was a matter of reality and necessity in my generation,” exploded one retired engineer who spent a lifetime building missiles at Boeing, upon hearing my theory. “The Cold War was for real; we had to make those rockets work–or Americans could die. Take away the sense of national mission, and you pull the rug out from under a man’s sense of potency. Do that, and how can men have the self-respect to really love a woman, especially when the women are not as connected to the economic reality and do not understand what is going on?”

Yes, it’s been a nasty economy. But what went wrong with these marriages?  Who Dunnit?  Let the reader beware.

This book spills out onto the page, how I found out the hard way. You will see through my eyes exactly what was in my consciousness (and it wasn’t much at first!) as I walk you through events as I experienced them. You’ve got a ring-side seat in the first row of my astonished brain as I enter a maelstrom which would make Edgar Allan Poe pass out. I do this to you because otherwise you will neither understand nor believe what happens as this mess unfolds. There is no other way to make this story credible.

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This is part one of Chapter One of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book every Friday, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes
FN1  Cloud, Henry, PhD, “Getting Love on the Inside,” Lecture CD, April 2002),   http://www.cloudtownsend.com/resources/, {Co-author with Townsend, John, PhD, of the bestseller “Boundaries,” Zondervan, 2004)

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The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder

How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all

Brousblog1a Perry brains X-secAre parts of your brain dark?  Silly, you say.  Well, did you ever have a broken heart?  Closer to home?  Hey, I had such a successful global career that I didn’t know it for decades, but parts of my brain were dark, and my heart was ‘way far broken.  [3-Year-Old Child, Left: Normal; Right: attachment disorder [FN1]]

So goes attachment disorder – and it turns out maybe 50% or more of Americans have some brand of it.  No wonder we’ve got a 50% divorce rate and a government that can’t seem to function (not to mention the ratty odds in internet dating). [FN2]

Science has only recently demonstrated that unless kids (and other mammals) are given deep emotional connection (“attachment”) from birth by parents or others, infant neurological systems just don’t develop well.  The infant brain literally requires programming by an adult’s eyes and facial expressions to begin to program its own neurons.

When a mother doesn’t respond to her baby with strong positive emotions (she’s being battered, has stress at work, is unable to attune to others), the infant’s instincts read that as a survival threat.  This floods its bloodstream with fight/flight stress chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol.  But a baby is helpless to use these to act in self defense.  If some adult doesn’t make the baby feel safe, stress chemicals overwhelm its brain and within 45 minutes the baby goes into clinical shock (dissociation). [FN3]

What began as emotional stress ends in physical brain damage.  We can now do brain scans showing that whole chunks of neurons in some brain regions don’t fire.  I felt this as “parts of my brain are dark.”  There is literally a “hole in me.”  You can see the black holes in the brain scans above.

The resulting attachment disorder causes intense emotional pain to be transmitted by the brain stem to the neurons around the heart and other viscera, producing, literally, a broken heart – and it hurts, big time.

This means a lot more of us do need to have our heads examined; we need help!  Yet, it is definitely not “all in our heads.”  Attachment disorder is a medical condition at the interface between the emotions and the body.

I performed with apparent success as an international business gal and opera singer (in several languages) for decades, without the faintest notion I might be shrink fodder.  Suddenly in 2007 I was in divorce from a 27-year marriage to my college sweetheart which left me bankrupt. I ran like hell, 3,000 miles from back east to California.  Then both my parents died and I had two bad rebound affairs – five life disasters in 18 months.

It felt like being hit by two cars, two trucks, and a jet airplane. I came to where my father died in 2008, and I couldn’t cry.

“You need to have your head examined,” me, myself, and I decided. I saw one therapist who listened helplessly, a second who said “grow up,” and then I read enough studies on the incompetence of psychotherapy to barf.

So I quit therapy in 2009 and opted for do-it-yourself.

Brousblog1b Flatten MeA friend gave me a book on grief and, heeding the ancient wisdom that forgiveness clears heart and mind, I began to write Grief Forgiveness letters to my ex, mom, and dad [FN4].  I drew myself a cartoon, “This is going to flatten you for a few days (to face all this pain),”  but then  I’ll be ready to re-marry.  No need to jump off my second floor balcony.

Grief, however, doesn’t do take-out orders.  I sobbed over my feelings towards my ex for 18 months, even held a funeral for my lost marriage. Yet after a week’s relief, intense “break-through” grief about my dad suddenly surfaced. Taking a breath, I had at it again, but the more grief I addressed, the more and deeper layers of emotional pain surfaced.

The feelings coming up, I gradually saw, were those of a younger and younger me. As I wrote forgiveness letters to my ex, I felt feelings from my twenties. As I wrote letters to my dad, I felt feelings from grade school; the voice of a five-year-old girl literally popped up speaking in my head at times.  (I’d sung Joan in Verdi’s opera “Joan of Arc” in 1996 but this was a stretch.)

Then as I wrote letters to my mom, I went back, and back, and back – but where was the bottom, with a mom?

Drilling the Grand Canyon

Drilling the Grand Canyon

There were so many deep layers, it felt like falling through miles of rock layers as deep as the endless striated walls of the Grand Canyon.  Some days I made jokes and friends took pix of me moving striped mountains.

Some days I began to feel emotional pain, with physical chest and gut pain, of an intensity resembling nothing so much as a 24 x 7 bone marrow transplant, no anesthesia, which went on for about three years.

It was all an accident. I didn’t mean to do it, a point I never tired of making later to astonished doctors and in prayer (God took it in stride).

But once I was falling through the layers of the Grand Canyon, there was no way to stop – short of alcohol or the like, which disgusted me – or suicide.

Jumping off my balcony often did seem quite attractive, it turned out.  Imagine my annoyance when I had to give up even that, after seeing suicide’s nasty effects on a friend whose spouse took that route.

I literally had No Exit and it stank – so down and down I went, down through the layers of flash-backs and pain until one 2011 morning at 2 am I found myself on the bedroom floor in a fetal position, clutching a large stuffed dog, and eyeing a soggy toothbrush with which I had not even been able to brush my teeth before crumpling.

The phrase “She’s not old enough to be dropped off at school” kept repeating in my skull. I crawled to the sink, but had to hang on to the stuffed animal to stand up and brush.

Somewhere in a textbook I had read about regression, the devolution of the mind back through childhood development stages.

With my extensive notes of the last few years, I staggered into yet a third therapist’s office a week later, presented the goods, and asked, “Do you think I’ve just accidentally regressed myself back to infancy?”  Upon examination, he leaned forward, eyes wide, and nodded solemnly, “Yes. Aren’t you scared?”

You said it, brother, but not nearly as scared as I was gonna be. Since the sperm hit the egg, I’d had traumatic attachment disorder, and bad.

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Medical Disclaimer: This website is for general information purposes only. It is simply my own research. Individuals should always see their health care provider or licensed psychotherapist before doing anything which they believe to be suggested or indicated herein. Any application of the material on this website is at the reader’s discretion and is the reader’s sole responsibility.

Comments are encouraged with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post. Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

Note I’m against false use of the terms “attachment disorder” or “attachment therapy” to excuse abuse, as exposed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_therapy.  But it’s also a problem that the psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) only recognizes Radical Attachment Disorder (RAD), which only affects a tiny percent of the population. I believe other legitimate forms of attachment disorder affect 50% of Americans. I wasn’t RAD, so the DSM didn’t recognize my illness, and I got no treatment until I collapsed after age 50. That can’t be right.  “Attachment problems extending beyond RAD, are a real and appropriate concern for professionals,” concludes the 2006 Report on Attachment Therapy by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) which convened to study this problem.
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Footnotes
FN1 
Perry, Bruce, MD, “Overview of Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT),” www.childtrauma.org, 2010.  See also FN5
FN2  Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, has said that the US Congress is “dissociated,” or they’d feel the simple human compassion to know that sending youth to war brings back a flood of PTSD suicides.  (That means 50% of Congress has attachment problems, which is why they made a career of trying to control others. ) See van der Kolk, Bessel, MD, “What Neuroscience Teaches Us About the Treatment of Trauma,” June 6, 2012 webcast, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), footnote 9 in http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma/
FN3  Herman, Judith, “Trauma and Recovery,” Basic Books, New York, 1992
FN4   James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)
FN5  Brain scan source: Perry, BD and Pollard, D., “Altered brain development following global neglect in early childhood,” Society For Neuroscience: Proceedings from Annual Meeting,New Orleans, 1997  at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/earlybrain.pdf . The PDF says: “These images illustrate the negative impact of neglect on the developing brain. In the CT scan on the left is an image from a healthy three year old with an average head size. The image on the right is from a three year old child suffering from severe sensory-deprivation neglect. This child’s brain is significantly smaller than average and has abnormal development of cortex. These images are from studies conducted by a team of researchers from the Child Trauma Academy (www.ChildTrauma.org) led by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., PhD. ”   This article also cites Perry, B.D., Pollard, R., Blakely, T., Baker, W. & Vigilante, D. (1995), “Childhood trauma, the neurobiology of adaptation and ‘use-dependent’ development of the brain: How states become traits,” http://www.childtrauma.org/ctamaterials/states_traits.asp Also in Infant Mental Health Journal, 16 (4), 271-291, 1995.

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