DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #17

By

Dear Sugar,

Six months ago I had an abortion. I still haven’t told anyone, not even my partner. At the time I was scared and ashamed and thought it was bad enough one of us had to deal with it – why spread the misery around? In truth, I was messed up and felt like I needed to be punished for getting pregnant, so I alienated myself and refused to ask for help or support. I still cry when I think about it.

But now six months have passed and I regret keeping it from him. Before it seemed like doing him a favor by not letting him share in the hurt, and I see now how selfish that sort of behavior is, because it’s our life together, even when things are shitty and hard. Otherwise we have a great relationship, we’re happy and we love each other. I don’t doubt that he would have supported my decision, though as I’m learning, saying you’re pro-choice and living that decision are not the same.

I know I was wrong to keep it from him, but is it more wrong now to tell him? Am I being more selfish in dumping this on him out of the blue and maybe relieving my own conscience or by keeping him in the dark and avoiding the uncomfortable, painful reality?

Still Choosing

 

Dear SC,

Tell him. Good relationships are sustained by honesty, especially, as you say, the hard kind of honesty. You’ve done a lot of thinking about this already and most of the conclusions you’ve arrived at sound pretty solid to me. You’re not bullshitting yourself about how hard all this is, or hiding from it.

But here’s what I don’t quite understand: why would you put yourself through this alone? Isn’t the whole point of a relationship – particularly one as strong as what you describe – that you shoulder burdens of this sort together?

Is it possible, SC, that your decision not to tell him wasn’t based on trying to spare him anguish, but on your own fears about how he might react? Are you using stoicism, in other words, to protect yourself? If so, I urge you to think about how masochistic that pattern can become.

The truth is that telling him will probably make things quite ugly, at least in the short-term. There’s some chance this guy will disappoint you. But if he’s as special as you say, he’ll man up. He’ll be angry that you didn’t tell him, and he’ll be hurt, and he’ll have the right to be. You should be prepared to level with him about why in the world you would withhold something of this magnitude. He deserves these answers. (You both do.) By the same token, you deserve the support and sympathy you wouldn’t allow him to provide you the past few months.

For what it’s worth, your letter made me very sad. It made me think about some of the decisions I’ve made, not so different from yours, and how I wish I’d been brave enough to show a little more weakness. It’s one thing to be tough and stalwart, darling. It’s another to bear such extraordinary pain alone. Don’t do it again. You have to trust people, especially the people you love. You have to give them the chance to come through in the clutch. What’s the point otherwise?

 

Dear Sugar,

I am a woman in my mid-twenties who was in a long-term serious relationship with a person I love deeply.

We decided to move to a city across the country together, which we did, but when we got there neither could remember who chose the place or why.  It didn’t work.  He left.  I went on auto-pilot for the next three months as I waited for the lease to expire so that I could move out of our apartment.

I still love this man. He still loves me. We miss each other.  We talk around the situation and each have fallen into destructive paths. He hasn’t been sober in months and I’ve passively followed every direction life has offered since without questioning what I actually want. Sometimes this has led to good things, but I’ve also done things that left me feeling cold, dispassionate, and alone. Things that guarantee my now ex-boyfriend will never take me back.

I’m unhappy but feel incapable of expressing my emotions because everyone here is a stranger and I only get to make first impressions once. And even though heartbreak is utterly common and mundane, it also hurts so bad I can’t look people in the eye in case they can see how sad I am.

How do I maneuver building a positive new life for myself when I’m not feeling positive at all? How do I engage socially instead of licking my wounds? If I can’t actually feel better, can you at least teach me how to fake it enough not to be the sad, weird girl in the corner?

Signed,
Sad Girl

Dear SG,

I can’t teach you to fake it. I can’t even teach myself, honey. I do recognize the spot you’re in, and I’m very sorry I can’t do more than throw a little advice at all your hurt. Here’s what I suggest:

*Therapy

You’ve got to find a place where you can be honest about how sad you’re feeling. Period. This is not the time to make excuses about money or time or thus and such. It may be that there are medications involved already, or will be, which is all to the good. But I’m talking now about talking, laying it all out for a professional you can trust.

*Come Clean with Your People

I mean your family and friends. It’s embarrassing, but the alternative is worse than embarrassing. Depression is a condition that thrives on isolation.

*Get Distance from the Ex

You’re leaving a lot of blanks when it comes to this fellow, but the basic pattern is pretty clear: you two cause each other a lot of pain. He’s not part of the solution. I realize this is painful, but you have to look elsewhere.

*Be Patient

This is like a doctor saying to you, ‘I know your leg is broken but trust me, it will heal.’ Thanks a fucking bunch, doc. But it’s something you need to believe. You’re in a tough spot. Sad, lonely, frightened. The one thing you have going for you – and it’s a big thing, maybe the biggest – is that you’re being honest with yourself. You’re not pretending that some guy, or some narcotic (or, God help us, some fucking product) is going to come along and make it all better. You’re doing better than you might imagine.

*Don’t Pressure Yourself to Be Positive

I’m not suggesting that you should wallow or sulk. I am suggesting that ignoring your sorrow won’t make it go away. Trust me on this.

*Read

You will feel less alone. I promise. Give “Darkness Visible” by William Styron a try. If that’s too intense, try “Money” by Martin Amis, which is also about depression but blisteringly funny.

*Listen to Music

The Song “When I Was Drinking” by HEM will help.

*Remember You Are Not Alone

Any person living an examined life yields to sadness. These periods of our lives suck like shit, but they are also what make us who we are. There’s an army of sad, weird girls in the corner out there. I know that for a fact, SG, because I’ve been one for years.