Divorce & Teens~ I had just come home from the last day of school in my 10th grade. I checked the answering machine for new messages and I found what I had least expected - a message from my mother's divorce lawyer. Even though all the warning signs had been there, I was still surprised. Things were bad between my parents, and my mom had already threatened to divorce my dad once that year. They started going out on dates again afterwards, though, and I thought they were past all that. Before things turned sour, I thought my family was completely normal. One of my friends had even commented that my family was perfect. It turns out, not so much.
My parents officially divorced that September, although we waited to move until two weeks later. It was an abrupt transition - one day I was living among the piles of boxes at my house, and the next I was sleeping on a mattress on the ground in a foreign house, going to a completely different bus stop in a different neighborhood. My 17th birthday was only a matter of months after the divorce, and it was a nightmare. Both of my parents were there, along with most of the family on my mom's side. Everyone tried to pretend that everything was normal, but it wasn't. Some of my relatives wouldn't even come, just because my dad was there. The tension was almost unbearable. I've kept events like that separate ever since.
That whole first year after the divorce was really stressful for me, although I settled into a routine after about six months. I couldn't stand conflict in any form, not even during classroom debates or watching TV shows I'd previously enjoyed, like NCIS. I ignored my own stress, and used the poor coping technique of taking on other people's problems to avoid dealing with my own (a bad idea, as I eventually learned). I was juggling both my problems and my family's problems, along with a heavy load of advanced school work. I almost broke under the pressure. The fact that I didn't talk to anyone about the divorce at first, worried that it would reflect poorly on my parents, probably didn't help my stress levels. I'm grateful that I at least used the positive coping mechanism of keeping a journal about my experience, which I think really helped me manage stress. My journal kept me sane.
In that first year I ran into a lot of changes, both good and bad, that I had never encountered before. My parents both started dating soon after the divorce, a change that I found quite strange and even stressful. My mom made an effort to spend more time with my sister and me and started cooking family dinners, which was one of the rare positive changes after the divorce. However, I had trouble finding time that my dad could spend with me at first, even though he only lived three miles away. I fought to maintain a relationship with him, but what little time we spent together was often tense.
It was only in second year after the divorce that I started talking about the impact of the divorce on me, and I've just recently stopped censoring what I tell my friends. Even private people like me need a support system, though, and since you can't grow one overnight, I ended up seeing a therapist. I can honestly say that it helped a lot and I wish I had made the decision to see one earlier.
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