Friday, April 25, 2008

Breakdown

Last night I had a complete meltdown. I was fine until about 10 or so, then completely broke down while I was getting ready for bed. I couldn’t stop crying.

The issue? Not infertility.

Nope, the issue was loneliness.

J has been home maybe five evenings in the past five weeks. And maybe once in the past two months has he been home for four or five nights in a row. So while I’ve been going through the ins and outs of IVF Cycle #3, he’s been … gone.

It’s not his fault. It’s not like he’s out drinking with buddies, or obsessing over some project that he could put less effort into. He’s a lighting designer, and he’s been in tech (the two weeks of rehearsal time before a show opens) on one show after another. This is not something that can be shortened, rescheduled, or ever ever ever missed. Last year, he had a freak onset of “primary cough headaches,” which basically made him feel like his head was going to explode every time he coughed. We didn’t know what it was, so we went to the ER on the only afternoon he wasn’t working. When the doctors wanted to give him morphine, he tried to decline, because he had to go to work in the morning. When they started testing for a stroke or aneurysm or brain tumor, I asked him if he had any backup plan for the next day if this turned out life-threatening. “I can’t think of anything,” he told me.

So that’s the kind of schedule we’re dealing with here. The kind where you can be in the hospital with a brain tumor and you still can’t call in sick.

And it’s not like he can just take fewer jobs. He’s barely eking out a living as it is. I make three times what he makes (thank god!), and we’re still struggling to pay the bills. And now that our insurance has run out and IVF is going to get insanely expensive, we need him to work even more. The truth is, the only way to be a successful lighting designer is to squeeze in as many shows as your schedule will allow. In fact, the lighting designers that have “made it”—the ones J “assists” in the bigger theaters—all travel all the time. These guys are home one week every other month, if that.

So the more successful J gets at his job, the worse our situation gets. This has been a problem for a while now, and it’s getting worse. And last night I realized that it’s not going to work for me. I’m too fucking lonely. I go through my evenings like a robot. For the last month, I’ve actually started going to be earlier and earlier, just because I was so bored and lonely and I wanted to get the evening over with.

Before we got married, almost 12 years ago, I told J that I was worried about this happening. I made him promise me that, if it ever came down to his family (me plus those children I assumed would come along the moment I wanted them) or his career, he would choose me and the kids. But I also figured we would know in about five years whether his job was going to work out. Either he was going to “make it” or he wasn’t. Either I would be able to cope with him being gone a lot or I wasn’t. But here we are, ten years into his career, and he’s just short of what we would consider reasonably successful. And here we are, ten years later, and I’ve just now hit the end of my rope on this lifestyle.

J’s schedule embodies the worst of all work schedules. It is uncertain in advance, it is wholly inflexible, and it eats up most of the time I’m not working. I can’t schedule anything with our “couple” friends, because everyone I know books their social lives several weeks in advance. I have no social life. I don’t go out, because I’m not dating. I don’t go dancing, for the same reason. Consider this: the last time we had company to our house was LAST SUMMER. The last time we did anything social was in January, when we took takeout over to our friends’ house for dinner (best solution, since they have a new baby). And the next item on my social horizon is on July 23, when I’m going to NY for the night. Oh, and we’ve had sex three times since my surgery in December. Three times. Clearly our marriage isn’t what it’s supposed to be.

And I wouldn’t mind this so much if I had some fucking company while I was at home. I like being at home and cooking dinner and watching TV and going to bed. I just don’t like doing it alone. I’m social person, and this is slowly sucking the life out of me. Every year I get older, and I have no one to share my life with.

So I did what I never wanted to do––last night I asked J to consider changing his career. Of course, his next evening home is Monday, and that is our only night together until the following Monday. And let’s face it, I can’t let things simmer for one day, let alone four.

So I wrote him a note and left it taped to the bathroom mirror. Here is what it said:

J,

I think you should know that I’m starting to feel like our marriage is in trouble. I know that I’m full of hormones and am probably a bit irrational right now, but I can’t keep on pretending that things are okay when they aren’t.

I can’t remember the last week you were home. How long have you been in tech now? Four weeks? Five? More? I’ve lost track.

I am lonely. Horribly, desperately lonely. I’m married, so I don’t have the kind of friends a single person has. I don’t go out after work for drinks. I don’t go dancing on the weekend. I don’t date. I have absolutely no social life, nothing to look forward to when the weekend comes around. And if it felt like I were actually married, that would be okay. But mostly it’s like I’m not married, because every night I come home to an empty house. I don’t know anyone else who lives like this. Everyone else I know who’s married at least has companionship.

I don’t think I have ever been as unhappy as I am now. I’ve never been through anything worse than the past year and a half, and the deeper I get into this nightmare the less you’re here to lift the burden.

I don’t think you’re hearing me when I tell you how desperate I am. When I first raised this with you a few weeks ago, you actually told me it was going to be okay, because you have lots of free time every year in February. And in August.

I know you can’t change this overnight. Hell, I’m not even sure you can change it in a matter of years. But you need to know that what is going on right now is not working for me. And I don’t see a baby making that better, only worse. I don’t mean to sound overdramatic—I’m not leaving you or anything. But I can’t live like this, year after year, with only my friends at work to make me feel human. We have to start thinking of alternatives.

I also know that you’re not okay right now. I’m pretty familiar with what depression looks like, and I see it in you. Probably it’s shitty for me to lay this on you right now, but it can’t wait another two weeks.

Honey, do you have a backup plan? If it turns out I just can’t live like this, do you have any other way you can live your life?

I can’t believe I’m doing this to you, just when your career is getting so much better. I hate the idea of you being torn. I don’t have any answers.

- H

Then a tranqued myself out and went to bed.

This morning I woke up feeling sick, and tried to get ready for work. But I started crying again and couldn’t stop. So instead of putting on my makeup (not possible when leaking all over face), I went in and woke J up a few minutes early.

We talked (well, I cried and talked, he mostly listened) for about a half hour. He’s not mad, and I think he thinks I’m right. But there are no solutions to this problem. There is no good outcome. Either he keeps doing what he loves, what he’s been busting his ass for ten years to be able to do, and I get fed the table scraps of his attention for the rest of my life. Or he finds some way to move out of design work, presumably into theatre administration or something awful like that, and he’s given up his dream. (And this is assuming he can even find such a job.)

What’s so cruel about this is that it’s a total waste of everything he’s done. (Not to mention all the money he just spent joining the union last year.) How could we not have seen this coming 10 years ago? He didn’t have to go into theatre, he could have been anything. But now he’s 35 years old with an MFA in lighting design, and only design and techie experience under his belt.

My heart is breaking for him, and I’m the one breaking it. I hate myself for doing this to him. I think it’s why I let this go on so long—I just couldn’t bear the thought of killing his dreams. But I just can’t be alone any more. I need someone to cook for each night, someone to talk to about my day. Sure, it’s been really bad timing—him being gone while I’m going through all this IVF and BFN shit, and sure, that’s affected my outlook on how bad things really are. But that’s the whole problem. Life doesn’t conveniently occur just when he’s home. It happens every day, and I can’t wait until he’s done with a month of tech before I need him. I need him when I need him. And I needed him this last month. And he hasn’t been here.

I will add that I really needed him last September, when I had my ectopic pregnancy and resulting miscarriage. He was gone for that, too. This is my point.

And I can’t be a single mom. I was yelling my head off at the damn kitten last night (he was driving me nuts). Can you imagine me with a baby, all on my own? And what happens when it’s not me having a crisis, but the child? Is J only going to be available for that kid when it fits his schedule?

My husband’s been working 14-hour days for three weeks straight, and he has more than another week to go before this show opens. He just learned that, because of his crappy sperm, we’re going into even more IVF torture we can’t emotionally handle or financially afford. He’s exhausted, depressed, stressed out, defeated. I have never seen him this low in my life.

And I just told him I think he’s going to have to abandon his career—the one thing that’s going right for him.

I feel like such shit.

(Oh, and before anyone suggests couple’s counseling, I will add that I thought of this, but had to abandon the idea. Why? Because where the fuck would it fit into J’s schedule?)

19 comments:

Portraits in Sepia said...

I am so sorry. You didn't ask for advice but here it goes. You've sacrificed for 10 years and now some tough decisions have to be made. You are not being unreasonable. You shouldn't feel like shit. He is clearly putting his work first. Marriage and family are work too. They should be treated like full time jobs. If he truly wants a family it's time for him to make some sacrifices. He needs to come to terms with what is really important in his life. You should not feel guilty. I know it's not easy. I really felt your pain while reading your post. My heart ached for you. I'll be checking back for updates!

K77 said...

I'm sorry. The situation sounds really shitty.

Jen said...

Gah. Such a hard, horrible situation.
I do think you're justified in your request - there aren't many people who could handle your lifestyle for as long as you have. You are definitely strong! But a person can only take so much.

Good luck to both of you. I'm sorry you're having such a hard time.

shinejil said...

First, admiration: Your letter was amazing. So loving, yet so firm and true to your difficult feelings. No one wants to come to their loved one with this kind of information, but you did it, and gracefully.

Now unsolicited assvice alert.

You've got to take care of yourself. Go dancing. Make plans months in advance with friends. Give yourself something to look forward to. You need to pursue your joy the way he pursues his.

You have been so incredibly patient and understanding (I pray that you love your work as much as he does his). In fact, I wish I had a fraction of your patience (proof, to me, of your love for J). But there is only so much someone can take of a situation that goes against their nature. He's got to figure something out, as his decisions have brought you to this impasse.

Newt said...

Oh gosh, how heartbreaking all this is. I agree that your letter was beautifully and honestly written. I hope it's really helped to get it out there.

I wish I could come over with take-out and hang out with you in the evenings, but I don't live anywhere nearby. It does sound like a bigger support network would help, even if it's not an instant fix. I hope you two can find a good solution--your love for him is so obviously profound.

If he seems depressed, counseling might be really necessary, so he can get the medication or therapy he might need. Maybe early mornings?

I'm sorry things are shitty right now. My thoughts are with you and J.

annacyclopedia said...

I agree with everyone else that your letter was incredibly brave and compassionate and full of love. And it really sounds like you needed to say those things to him, that you couldn't keep it in any longer. So I'm proud of you for taking that step - I'm just starting to address some of the problems I see in my own marriage, and I know it is so hard to do, asking the person you love to change. It takes so much courage.

One part of this post that really stuck with me was this: "And I just told him I think he’s going to have to abandon his career—the one thing that’s going right for him. I feel like such shit."

The way I look at it, the only way his career is going right for him is if you completely compartmentalize his life. Sure, in isolation from everything else that's going on, his career might be just super. But the reality is that just doesn't work. His job is part of the rest of his life and the rest of yours. The infertility, your loneliness, his depression and exhaustion - those are all connected to each other and to his job. His job is not working for either of you. To my mind, a job is the easiest thing to give up out of the alternatives - the baby chase, your marriage, your respective mental and emotional health.

So I guess what I'm saying is I don't think you should feel like shit for asking him to give up his career, as much sacrifice as that entails. It's really the only sane thing to do. And I'm hoping you're not being too hard on yourself for not seeing this coming - we don't know the future, and we can sometimes think we can handle stuff that it turns out we can't handle. Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you at all. You only know what you can handle when it happens, and so you're learning that now. Please be gentle with yourself. It all seems so very hard.

I'll be keeping you and J in my thoughts and prayers, hoping you both are granted some peace and clarity in the midst of this tremendous pressure.

beautycourage said...

I am so sorry- what an incredibly tough situation. I applaud you for communicating with J in your letter and by your words. Infertility is so lonely in and of itself- my husband travels a lot, and I have to admit that even when he is home, that loneliness doesn't necessarily get much better.

My unsolicited advice (I promised myself not to give advice, but I can't seem to help it, sorry- feel free to skip over this part) is in line with shinjeils- do what you can to take care of yourself. Knitting class? Art class? Book club? Volunteering? Triathlon club? Making social plans with girlfriends? Something where you could nurture that part of yourself that is hurting, and focus on other things. Take control back.

annacyclopedia said...

I commented before reading your comment on my lastest post, so I'm back to respond.

Yes I am NORTH, although not by Canadian standards. Unfortunately, after some beautiful weather in the past couple weeks, winter is waging a comeback, and there is snow on the ground (although it is melting) and a few flakes swirling around in the air. Blech. Spring is not really its own season here - it just just a battle between summer and winter that lasts a few months, and everything is brown. And then quickly, like over the course of a week or so, things just unfurl and it turns green.

On the donor thing - I've already told my parents and my sisters and also many of my close friends. And we plan to tell our child immediately, and keep telling the story at the level of detail he or she will be able to understand as the child grows up. I don't want to ever have a time where my child remembers being sat down for "the talk". The idea of that is just too painful for me to contemplate. And openness feels right to me.

That said, we don't plan to tell my grandparents, and Manny hasn't told his family, and I don't think we'll be real crusaders about it. I sort of feel like it will be our child's decision about how open to be, not ours anymore. And in fact I sort of regret telling some of my friends now, just for that reason - I reached out to them because I needed support, but didn't think about the fact that our child will have to live with that decision, too. I wish I would have found blogging sooner, as I probably wouldn't have told so many people. It probably will be weird when people who don't know talk about how much the baby looks like Manny, but I'll take that any day if it means I get to experience pregnancy and birth and all that - that stuff is *really* important to me. In my own family, people often say that my sisters and I look alike, even though we all look like different people in the family and don't look much like each other. I think it's true that people see what they want to see, regardless of the facts. But it'll probably be hard not to laugh when someone says how much our kid looks like Manny. I'll have to work on some diplomatic responses that don't feel like lies to me - I'm a terrible liar!

It is a lot to accept, and I think you are right to not push it until you are ready. You are very right that this is all so hard on the marriage - when we started down the road, I was really spooked by the stats on infertility and divorce rates. And as time went on, I thought things weren't so bad cause we're agreeing on the IF stuff. But I think it's really like any major stress - it's not necessarily the IF stuff itself, it's just that it exposes the ways you deal with things differently and where you have different priorities. And that is the part that is so damn sad and lonely and scary. I absolutely hate feeling so far away from Manny, emotionally and in terms of the way we cope with things. That's been the hardest part for me.

Anyway, thanks as always for your very thoughtful comments. It means a lot to me to get to have this conversations, and share thoughts and feelings in this way. I will be sending you lots of energy for peaceful solutions to come your way to your current struggles.

peesticksandstones said...

I hope today was a much better day and some of the darkness has lifted. This is an incredibly bad time to feel alone in your marriage. I sometimes feel the same way, oddly, even with my husband home with me -- he's lost to his stupid-ass online video games for hours and hours on end.

That letter was awesome, by the way. Being able to at least talk about things with your husband is a very good thing. Hoping you're able to get more of what you need... take care over there!

Ms. J said...

Oh Sweetie . . . I am so sorry for the place (and space) you find yourself in. I have found myself in extended periods of time like that, too, where I am depressed, and really worried about our future as a couple, and the lack of income from my husband only escalates this. (Don't let my references to "Dr. J" fool you -- starting a practice and paying off hundresds of thousands in student loan payments is EXTREMELY stressful -- we live VERY frugally).

I, too, have been afraid to point out my unhappiness, as I know that my husband may be unable to make any changes to the situation.

I have no magic for you. But I think it's good that you ARE having these conversations with your husband, and starting to deal with them. YOUR feelings are important, and they are entitled to be addressed. So keep talking -- to him, and to us.

HUGS.

kate said...

Oh, man. I'm s sorry you've found yourself in that place. I have been there before with my husband, and no matter how you try to approach the subject, it is NEVER easy, it is NEVER a good conversation, and it NEVER seems to be resolvable. In my particular circumstance, I (in theory) went in to this marriage understanding that I am marrying someone whose career will always come before mine, and whose career will always be less flexible (location-wise) than mine, and after months of sobbing my eyes out every night, I finally broke down and told him that eventually, somewhere along the line, me and my job were going to come first. And the thing is, he could totally give up being a professor and teach high school or community college, where we can live pretty much wherever we want, but he worked his ass off to achieve this higher level of education, and now, he has the constraints that come along with it and isn't willing to go back to teaching at a lower level.

I guess when I say I've been there, I haven't been exactly where you are, because at least H is home in the evenings, but it is similar in that his job, his career, causes me infinite sadness because I am separated from all my friends and from my family, and we don't make enough money for us to travel to see them, really at all. And so, even if he is around, it's unreasonable to put that much stress on a marriage, to make the husband also fulfill every single possible social and physical care role that exists (you remember what a douche he was about the hospital crap, but in fairness, his job is what put us in the situation where he is the ONLY person who can reasonably fill those roles).

I know you didn't ask for advice, so I will only say that if I was put into your situation, I would consider meeting up with friends, making plans, etc. regardless of what your husband does. And I hate going out by myself, but I do occasionally do that because my husband is such a homebody at times, and isn't as socially driven as I am. And when I do go out, I just find random people and start up a conversation with them. It does help to quell the loneliness of having only one person here in Winston to hang out with. That may not work for you, and it may do very little to help your marriage in the long run, but it can at least salve the wound a little in the mean time.

And I don't think I would recommend counseling at this point, because I think you have each seen the juncture where you are at, and you know what has to change for things to get better, and so you are in a place where the hard decisions have to be made, and a counselor could help you see all of those things, but I don't think a counselor would help the actual making of the decision, which is where you are at now, right?

Feh. I'm just so fucking sorry that you have to deal with all of this. It's just rotten.

Ms Heathen said...

I am so, so sorry that you are in such a terrible place right now.

You have done a brave thing in communicating to J exactly how you feel. I hope that you can find some way through this - both as a couple, but also you as an individual. I can only echo what other people have said about how you need to take care of yourself.

My husband has just accepted a new job which means that he's going to be away a lot for work - reading your post really made me think about how difficult it's going to be.

My thoughts are with you.

Working Girl said...

I can't possibly write anything better than what was written before me. I am sorry you are in the place you are currently.

I applaud your courage for taking the first of many steps needed to take care of yourself. Marriage is difficult for the average person. Add IF and you have a very sad sad situation. IF affects us as a couple and individually.

I am lucky that my husband is around for all the time but, sometimes I wished he went out more. And, I am sure he thinks the same of me. We have both succumbed to the loneliness and isolation that comes with IF. I know I should go out more and find a hobby but, for the life of me I can't do it.

I know from personal experience and what you have wriiten on your blog that you experience the nasty downward spiral after a failed cycle. Please take good care of yourself. You have been through so much already that I know you can make it through this also.

You are a very strong and courageous woman.

K said...

Sorry you are having a tough time. I think it is good that you guys are talking about the problem though-- it can only help matters. Hope things start looking up for you.

Ally said...

I am so sorry you are finding yourself in this place. I wish I had the right words to say to make the clouds lift away, but I don't. I applaud you for being honest with your feelings and your needs and I sincerely hope you are able to work things out so that you can feel less alone.

Rita said...

I just started reading your blog. I am sorry for your loss. I appreciate your honesty about being alone. I am a "work widow" and a "sometimes single". I have no assvice - I just live the reality too.
Rita

Malloryn said...

I'm so sorry that you're going through such a difficult time. Others have written much more eloquently than I ever could, and I agree with much that was said. Just know that writing the letter to J was very brave, and I admire you for it. You have sacrificed a lot over the past decade, and he needs to understand the burden that has been placed on your shoulders. You can only take so much. It's natural to feel badly about what you perceive as 'taking away his dreams', but it's not fair for you to have to battle through this essentially on your own.

As others have said, try to take care of yourself as well. Go out with friends, go to the movies, go shopping, whatever... you need a break sometimes from an empty house (not including the cats, of course!).

::hugs:: Thinking about you.

Ms. J said...

How are you doing? I know you're hanging in there, cause I have seen your posts elsewhere.

Thank you, BTW, for the wonderful compliment and support about our pending adoption . . . this last little push definitely has it's moments of fear and freak-out, much like pregnancy does to a couple who has been fertility-challenged or had m/c's.

BTW, you'd be amazed at some of the awful things I have said to my husband over the past year, out of anger, fear, and grief.

XOXO.

La La said...

I'm so sorry you are having a tough time hun, I can totally see where you are coming from. =( ((big hugs)) I'll be thinking about you.