Thank you for your column, “You don’t have to die to go to hell, but trips there hurt.” Once again you have hit the almighty nail on the head. Unfortunately, I believe I have been in hell for over two years now and thanks to your column at least I know I must not be totally crazy ... (and, wow, does it feel like it sometimes).
The living hell is just as you described. My normal thinking is just mush; my sleeping habits are shot; I only eat because I have to; I can sit lost in thought for an hour and not even remember where the time has gone. I have no use for words as no one cares to hear it anymore, and I really don’t want to talk about it anyhow. I just exist. I function as necessary and that is it.
My reasons for being in this personal hell are not death of a loved one or any of the other horrible things you mentioned. The life that I was living, the man I loved and thought I could trust with all of me, the future I had planned and was looking forward to was nothing I thought it was. So, to me it was the biggest death I have personally experienced. Everyone else in my life that has died was gone forever; this man is still alive yet dead in my life.
I have no desire to go back to that relationship or that man. I live in the “what-ifs” and the very few good memories that the relationship had. It destroyed me. To this day I struggle with my self-esteem, trust of anyone, having any friends or sharing any of my feelings with anyone. I read self-help books, watch everything from Joel Osteen to Joyce Meyer (and believe me, that lady will set your butt straight). I take solace in the fact that your column says that there is a door in this hell, that people will be waiting on the other side, that maybe one day I will come out a bigger person if not even better than I was before. I do know “forever I will be different” and in this hell I have met my true self and become much closer with God. Now if I can just find a good hypnotist to remove the last 10 years from my life we should be good.
Hopefully tomorrow will bring the door closer. — M.B., Las Vegas
Actually, I might have mentioned your reason for going to hell. You said, the man you “thought you could trust.” Can I assume this means that, at some point, you discovered him unworthy of your trust? Yes? Then, recall that I included in my list of hell’s invitations “Someone betrays you.”
Oh, hell indeed! I’ve been in some fashion or another of private practice for more than 28 years. And the discovery of a mate’s calculated betrayal (sexual infidelity, secret lives, hidden addictions/compulsions, hidden criminal behavior, evil) can make an otherwise normally mentally healthy person lose his/her mind for a time. I’m serious. Perhaps not a psychotic break. But a psychological hysteria.
Betrayal is crushing. Awful. Beyond heartbreaking. And, while I don’t quite understand the “why” of this next part, some folks have an extraordinary time digging out of this terrible wounding. I mean, compared to other folks. I have seen women, for example, from the day of the discovered betrayal, give up on men and dating. They euthanize their sexuality. Maybe gain 50 pounds (or more) as a kind of pre-emptive armor. They go to work, clean their house, love their kids and grandkids but never again consider love. I have seen men, for example, from the day of the discovered betrayal, enter a life of serial, businesslike, cheap (if polite enough) casual sex conquests, almost daring women with their sexuality. Daring her, that is, to open their hearts.
Oh, good woman! You have a lot of company.
A good hypnotist? Did you ever see Jim Carrey in the movie “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?” Futuristic sci-fi. Turns out scientists have learned to identify specific memories in the brain and “erase” them. The Jim Carrey character makes an appointment to erase the memory of his marriage, ended in failure and heartbreak. But, during the procedure, he changes his mind. He decides that, as awful as the grief is, he needs the grief to shape the next chapter of his life. Your crack about the hypnotist reminded me of this film.
Have you tried to sort this out with a skillful, talented therapist? I think therapy can increase our chances of getting all the treasures out of our sojourn in hell.
And then exit. To a new life.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at 227-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.