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New Member, Struggling To Find Purpose / Meaning


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I'm in my 40s with wife & small kids, living in California. I am a lawyer, but basically have not been working for last 6 months, can't seem to find motivation to do anything. Or, at least, it's like pulling teeth to get motivated. I'm thinking when I'm on the verge of losing my home or declaring bankruptcy, maybe that'll be the kick in the pants I need to find a job or get a solo practice started or something. But I hardly care about losing the house, since it's very clear to me that the things we own come to own us.

Lack of motivation is really my number one issue. It comes in part from a sense of helplessness. I always saw myself as kind of "out there" philosophically. I've done a lot of drugs (mostly psychedelic, not anything super addictive like crack, heroine or crystal meth -- the "bad three" that I've always avoided). I've been to raves, to Burning Man, to nudist resorts. I wanted a life free from the conservative "hang ups" I saw around me.

I had trouble finding a woman to fit into that unconventional lifestyle. I went from relationship to relationship, but always found the other person to be too conservative at the end of the day. Then I found a woman who SEEMED to see life the way I did, she said all the right things, I felt she was my soul mate, and she was my reward for "holding out" and not compromising on my personal values. But she had issues, some deeper issues with self-esteem and such. We moved in together and she got pregnant, then she wanted to break up, saying she could not "trust" me even though I'd never cheated on her. She thought it was inevitable due to my free-wheeling past. Note, before we moved in together, she had assured me she wanted an open relationship, was bisexual, etc. She changed her tune completely.

Now, according to her, she was just saying what I wanted to hear back then because she was afraid of losing me, and it was all a lie and she's really very conservative, has a lot of sexual hang ups (I'd say frigid, but I know that's not a P.C. word these days, not sure what the "correct" term would be). If I'd ask her what her sexual fantasies were, she'd say, "Having sex in a house with a clean kitchen and a low mortgage" which to me is a major sign of denial and avoidance at getting in touch with her sexuality. (She gave these answers to a marriage counselor we went to see.)

So here I am, this very "out there" guy hooked up with a very conservative Martha Stewart who says she was just pretending to be wild and free-loving to trick me into loving her. Normally, I'd just say adios and move on looking for some one authentically like me. However, the problem was that she was pregnant. My parents split when I was 3 and it was the most painful thing in my life, or right up there. I can remember this sense of abandonment, this waiting for my father to return home and the nightmare to end, but it didn't, my mother remarried quickly and this stranger had taken my father's place. I still held out this hope for years that this was all a mistake, the stranger would leave, and my father would live with us again. I'm not sure when that dream died. So my first vision of romantic love was tragedy. When my mother divorced my father, she de facto divorced him from me because seeing him every 2nd or 3rd weekend was NOT the same as living with him at all.

I have said how I'm not conservative at all, but I have sometimes listened to Dr. Laura on the radio just to pass the time on a long drive and one thing I agree with her on, is that parents have a duty to stay together for the kids unless there is physical abuse and danger. When you bring this life into the world, the parents owe it to work things out well enough that they can both be fully present to raise the child. Basically, one of my GREATEST values in life was to never have a child know the pain of divorce like I did. That's why I never compromised on finding a woman who did not truly fit my core values, because I knew that was a recipe for disaster.

So I have a lot of anger or upset that after doing everything right -- in terms of being patient, not lying about my values, not settling for some one who did not fit my values even as I got older and older and it started to seem like I'd never find the right person -- I finally get tricked into having a baby with some one who pretended to be my perfect match, only to later confess she was pretending to be some one she was not. So now I have this Catch 22... What do I value more, finding a soul mate or avoiding divorce now that I have a kid?

I have settled on sticking with my kids (we had a second child a couple years after the first). Which means a large part of me is basically dormant, stifled, shut off.

I have had this notion that my wife was NOT lying about having the same outlook on life as me back when we were courting. Instead, I think she's a complex person who does have that same outlook EXCEPT that she has some issues / hang ups that I do not fully understand, that grabbed her and hauled her back to a "comfort zone." I think if she got over her issues with self esteem and whatever else may be going on, she'd get back to who she was. I have seen how people experiencing fear can "retreat" from a more enlightened mind-set to a mob mentality, and that's sort of an analogy to what I feel happened with her. Well, 7 years have gone by and I'm still waiting. I think we'd make more progress if she'd see a marriage counselor or an individual counselor but she refuses. She says that seeing an individual counsel would imply she's got a problem. She has sometimes agreed to see a marriage counselor, in the hopes they'd tell her she's right, I'm wrong, and I have to change. But the counselors never say that, and when they don't say what she wants to hear, she refuses to go back to them. We've seen about 4-5 counselors now and she's rejected them all after a session or two. I have told her I'd literally see anyone because I don't fear that they won't "agree" with me, but she won't go at all.

So now we are basically in a platonic co-parenting relationship, though we share a bed. I find myself depressed as hell at how this has turned out, but unwilling to leave her when that means leaving my kids. I have been the full-time worker and breadwinner and she's been the stay at home mother, so I know if we got divorced out of necessity I'd only get to see the kids on weekends. It would just not be the same, it'd be like when my parents got divorced. I could not bear that.

So it hurts me to stay, but it'd hurt me more to leave. The universe seems to have played a joke at my expense, putting me in this situation. So I'm sort of on "strike," or that's how I sort of rationalized it when I stopped working. What's the point? I guess it was also a cry for help, sort of like to show my wife how important it is to me that we deal with our issues. The solution to this dilemma is still for her and I to return to being in a loving relationship. I still feel beyond her fear and repression is the person she claims she was only "pretending" to be. But now it seems like our life could jump limp along like this, unfixed, unresolved, till the kids turn 18.

I also know that our kids seeing their parents in this loveless relationship, their father depressed, is not healthy for them. I still feel it is better for them to see their parents together, but it's not ideal by any means.

Anyway, the above history probably puts too much blame on my wife, I probably have my own deeper issues that hold me back. Fear of success? Fear of failure? Fear of change? I stay at home all day knowing I could be working on making my dreams come true in terms of career, even if that means learning a new skill -- web design, music production, creative writing. Instead I spend my days surfing the internet and watching tv. I describe this lack of motivation, but it feels sometimes like there's this "blockage," like a barrier between my present state, and me being in a state of mind where I am enthusiastic about doing things and I can think about new dreams to chase, and then chase them. I don't know how to over come it.

Lastly, I should say that during the years I did drugs, I did a fair amount of ecstasy, and I've read some about studies of long-term users, and it has occurred to me that I might have some permanent residual neurological deficits from that, that make it hard for me to feel joy in the normal things that "sober" people enjoy, that compared to the absurd "highs" I've reached on drugs, I have trouble finding joy in everyday life, I may be seratonin deficient or something. But I don't know how to ask a doctor for that test without having my recreational drug use get into my permanent medical history, which has ramifications for insurance and such, so I am not about to do that.

I don't know...whether I'm depressed because my life seemed to have gotten hopelessly stuck, or because of some residual effects of my drug use, I still sit here squandering day after day and hating myself for it, but still doing the same thing the next day.

frinj

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Hi finj, welcome...

Wow. You've been through it all and back, haven't you? I don't know if I can help, but I can empathize. I'm a single mom, 49, and my son has always been my priority. His dad and I never were a couple so I don't know what it's like to be stuck in a relationship because of the kids, but I was stuck in a loveless marriage when I was younger with no children. I will say that when I left and found my freedom, it was one of the happiest days of my life. As for my son, now, he knows I love him, I'm there for him, and even though his dad and I aren't together, we both love him and since most of his friends are also from single parent homes, it's the norm for him.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in order to be there for your children, you need to find yourself first. Please seek professional help and don't be afraid to tell them about your past because 1) it may have an effect on your future treatment and 2) I'm pretty sure that although pre-existing medical problems can have an effect on insurance, behavioral health records are strictly confidential unless you are a threat to yourself or others (listen to whom I'm telling, you're a lawyer, you probably know more about it than I do).

I don't know how old your kids are, but the one thing I've always done is be honest with my son and even at a relatively young age, he understood (I almost died when he was 7 from Legionnaire's which I think may have resulted in neurological damage leading to my depression). We don't have your traditional 2 parent family but we like what we got. And I think if you can get the help you need to pull yourself out of this, your kids will appreciate you more for it. Do whatever you have to do...but I've been in the deepest, darkest of pits and managed to slowly climb out thanks to the help of medication, therapy, and support (this forum has been a Godsend). I hope you'll find the light at the end of your tunnel and hang out around here, it's a great place for support from people who know EXACTLY how you feel and you don't have to pretend to be fine. Good luck to you!

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Welcome to DF.

Not sure I agree with the "stay together for the kids" angle. And feel free to dismiss my opinion because I've never had children, but I'm not certain how the continued sadness of two people contributes to the well-being of one. How wasting minutes, hours, days, and years of precious life for the sake of someone who at some point will clearly be able to see that sadness, depression, and sometimes anger will be of value.

I'm divorced - it hurt me badly. I understand that. But we're given some eighty years of life here on earth. To waste a minute in a sham relationship seems very ugly to me. Yes, separating and moving out will hurt, but surely there'd be a way to still enjoy time with your children - to share their lives?

I dunno - and as I said before, perhaps my opinion isn't valid. But I know too many people that are MISERABLY married and could certainly flourish better in a different environment/situation.

Just my $0.02.

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