Gym and a bad marriage

First, the gym. Aaargh. Frustrated groans. My workout did spark off a few days of dissociation. It’s been painful and frustrating. First I feel energetic but kind of blank. Then I realize there’s a complete internal silence. Then I feel more and more blank and unreal – as if I’m made of glass. I hate this non-feeling state. Then I can’t sleep more than two hours at a time.

So I went Sunday, and now, Tuesday, I’m coming out of it. I napped, then I felt completely down, and scared, and such. And now I’m making my way out of that mess. Oh yeah, this is why I don’t exercise. In any case, I’ve got the training session booked for tomorrow, and it’s too late to cancel. So, likely it will pop me back into dissociation. But, I am sick of avoiding triggers. I have this teeny tiny life of avoidance, and I need to move out of it. So, I’m going. Just, I likely won’t be feeling well for the next few days.

In therapy last week we discussed a bunch of huge topics. Kind of like all my painful past, the highlights. With a tiny bit of parts, mixed in for spice.

I talked a lot  about my son, as I’d emailed Ron during the week about him and my ex, and so he brought that up. My son has health concerns, and so isn’t doing well, neither working or going to school. He’s living with my parents. I feel bad about it, and wish I could help. But the main conflict is with my ex. He phones me, and wants to vent about all he thinks about our son. Well – what can I do? I don’t want to hear it. Then he hings that I should be visiting him more than I do, getting him out of the house.

With my son, it’s unclear what’s wrong. He feels it’s physical – he thinks he has environmental allergies. He’s been for all kinds of tests, but nothing was found to be wrong. The rest of us think it’s largely psychological. My personal opinion is it’s anxiety, because anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms. Whatever. My son gets offended by my suggestions he see a therapist, as to him, psychological suffering is shameful, and he insists his problems are ‘real’ – physical.

The good thing is that we are having real conversations, when I take him out to lunch. We never had that before. He was very angry with me from the time he was a young teenager, and we didn’t have any kind of meaningful interaction for years. He took my ex’s side and stuck to him. So now, we are talking, sometimes about shows and movies, but also about the past, and about plans he might have for the future.

Anyway, there’s nothing much my therapist can do, so it seems like a bit of a waste to spend my whole session talking about him. And Ron seems to stay stuck in the badness of my son’s situation, which yes, is not good, but misses the part where I feel we are now having a better relationship. I guess I don’t stress that part. Because really, I believe it’s been the therapy that’s allowing me to have this better conversation now. No one in my family ever talked about the past, so it’s a new thing for me, to say, hey, what happened then, what did you think about it? The shared past is an obvious thing to talk about, to try and make sense of – but it’s not something I was ever used to doing. I am grateful that I learned.

Talking about my son led me to talking about my marriage. It was so awful. Talking about it with Ron brings up the pain of it again. But I’ve never really talked about it before. My friends knew both of us, and talking to them seemed like dumping on my ex, so I didn’t. Much. In that life, I felt so trapped. I was scared of my ex’s rages. I had no way of making money – I’d never worked at anything other than minimum wage jobs. I had a baby to provide for. And my ex ran the show to a remarkable degree. I had little say in anything that we did.

It’s hard to talk about. And I remember how young I was – late twenties – how lost, but also, how I still had hope for a good life, for love, and how that felt when this was shattered, and I lost hope.

It’s as if I’ve surfaced now, in my fifties, with an aging body, but now able to fend for myself, and keep myself safe. Starting to realize what it’s like to relate to people in a real way. And with a lot of my life gone to waste.

  1. attached said:


    I’m glad that you are having better conversations with your son. That is a major achievement and I’m sorry that Ron doesn’t seem to recognize and acknowledge that. I can relate to feeling like I’ve wasted too much of my life and health. I think it is important to try and remember that you it is never too late to improve the rest of your life.

    • Ellen said:

      Thank you Di, nice to hear from you. I think my task right now is to acknowledge the losses by telling the story. Then hopefully on to improving my life. A part of me is saying, sure, that’s going to happen (sarcasm), but another part is more kind and hopeful. Take care

  2. myambivalentexistence said:

    Not gone to waste. What came before shapes us into who we are now. You are an inspiration to me this morning. Thank you

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks so much Ambivalent. 🙂

  3. I hate to say it, but that’s how it is for most people. Youth is wasted on the young (the guy in It’s a Wonderful Life said that.) It is only now, at age 41, that I am beginning to understand and forgive myself for the mistakes I made in my twenties and thirties. I think about the advantages of youth (no hair dye, all the time ahead of you, no bags under the eyes) and I wouldn’t trade it for the wisdom I have gained. I feel happier, and no amount of beauty can make up for that (not saying I am beautiful, just saying all young people have more beauty appearance wise than older people.) I wish you peace, acceptance, and love. I am glad you are reconnecting with your son, and hope it continues to go well.


    • Ellen said:

      I actually also feel better than I did in my twenties and thirties. At least now I’m dealing with issues. I also feel more powerful in the world, able to keep myself safe. Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

  4. Cat said:

    Hi Ellen… I’m just wondering if you have any idea what you find so triggering about the exercise? It’s sounds similar to how I react to music

    I know you say you avoid triggers, but that is not the impression I get from reading your posts. Going to church, the choir, going for coffee’s, the survivors group, the gym and the sessions with a trainer… You might be avoiding some things, but there are so many situations that you meet head on.

    I think it’s excellent that you and Son are talking so much now and that is probably a direct result of therapy. It reminds me a bit of my sister and her boys. She and husband have separated and the boys (19 & 20) stayed with her. However, even though Dad is a good one, they have targeted their anger towards him. They are adults, still going on children and it’s often so difficult for them to articulate the feelings. I’m just wondering if the improvement in your relationship will eventually help him to move forward

    One more question 😉 How did you get from being a stay at home Mum to being a writer?

    • Ellen said:

      Hi Cat – You react like this to music? That’s interesting. I often find when I’m triggered, I cannot enjoy music at all, it’s just painful. But by itself, it does not trigger me. I wonder if it’s the case that music is putting you in touch with your emotions, which you don’t like? This is part of what happens to me with exercise. I talked yesterday in therapy about this. My impression is bits of trauma become jogged loose, like bubbles, then burst and overwhelm me, at which point, I automatically shut down.

      Thanks for the kind words on triggers.

      Interesting about your nephews. I see I’m not unique in this situation. I hope so much I can help my son in some way. Maybe our relationship will help him a bit. Where he’s at seems so very entrenched though at the moment, so I’m not feeling hopeful. If anything, he seems to be getting worse.

      As to becoming a writer – once my son was in grade school, I went back to college for a diploma in journalism. I worked as a freelancer for a while, then finally a corporation hired me. It was a long and bumpy road for sure. A lot of the difficulty for me was getting along with other people.

      Thanks Cat.

      • Cat said:

        Thanks for sharing about the exercising emotions. I found that intriguing and helpful. I am not too sure why I have a reaction to music, that’s why I asked you! It feels so silly, I’ve never told anyone. Years ago, I used to play guitar and sing, I love a good old singsong, or used to. Now I can listen to a radio in the background, but if I play favourite music and start singing along, it feels like I start to get very high and I soar higher and higher. When the music stops, that analogy you used about the bubbles bursting, is quite similar, I come crashing down like a ton of bricks. Boom, those emotions splat against the wall! So, I suppose it is the contrast of emotions that I cannot tolerate.

        It must be so worrying to watch your son go through a difficult time. However, I still say this new bond between you and your willingness to talk about past, might lead him to a turning point, I hope so. Looking forward to hearing all about the new job… hope the boss is better

        • Ellen said:

          It does sound similar to my problems with exercise – not exact, but in that ballpark. The thing to remember is that these feelings are inside of you already. I tend to forget that, anyway, because it seems the exercising is doing this to me. If you ever do want to look at these feelings, you’ll know that music is a way in. I see triggers like that – difficult, of course, but also a way into the difficulties.

          Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Ashana M said:

    Good for you for trying the gym again. Fall down 100 times, get up 101, right? Things get to us more when there are other stresses, so it makes sense you stopped going when the contract turned out to be terrible. You were worried you’d have a tough time with just reporting to work every day, but you had no idea it would be so dreadful, so cut yourself some slack for not knowing. Trauma makes life very unpredictable. Yesterday was running along smoothly for me, no big problems, just little things, I thought I’d have an energetic evening. Then five minutes before the end of the staff meeting, we were calendaring some things and scheduled a meeting on Natalya’s death anniversary. Total internal meltdown. Had to ask a National Language teacher what someone said in English because my attention completely went elsewhere. Spent the hour after I came home trying to reconstruct myself, then limped through the evening. A tiny thing, just a date on a calendar threw me completely. So, I for one understand why the dreadful contract meant you couldn’t take on one more trigger, and I can also understand why you might hope that wouldn’t happen, because you are trying to take care of yourself and your body, you are trying to get out more, you are trying to do all these things.

    Take care. )

    • Ellen said:

      How terrible for you to have that anniversary triggered. These things can seem to hit us out of the blue.

      I’ve forgiven myself for wasting money on paying for the gym and not going. Life is hard for me, and I’m managing as best I can. Survival has to be a priority.

      Thanks Ashana

      • Ashana M said:

        Better then than on a day I had 100 other triggers.

        You are so sympathetic and kind. 🙂

  6. Ellen, exercise causes me to dissociate too. I wonder about that…why that is i mean? Glad things seem better between you and your son. If you are interested my blog has a new home at if you’d like to follow us there. Xo ❤

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