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culture

How I Survived My Divorce

June 10, 2016
Water symbolizes purity, calmness, and fresh start. For me, it represents an endless frightening ocean, the sinking Titanic, and a devastating heartbreak.

A year ago, I had my whole life planned out. I’d found the person I was suppose to spend the rest of my life with, and we started building our future together as if no other options existed. The short, but intense story is this: We fell deeply in love with each other the first time we met at a friend’s birthday party. Two weeks later, we were a couple. Five months later he proposed. Two months later, we bought our first apartment and started renovating, while simultaneously planning our wedding. Two and a half months later, we became husband and wife. After a year in our newly renovated 30 square meters in the city, we sold the apartment, and bought a sailboat.

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Photos by Beatrice Helman

After three weeks living on a boat, we decided to separate. We sold the boat, split everything we owned, and started our new separate lives. Speaking of boats, let me give you a visually dramatic metaphor of what that break-up was like: picture me willingly jumping out of a life boat, with the sinking dream of the great Titanic in the background. Then drifting away on a tiny floe in ice cold water, leaving everything including my Leo, behind.

After the tragic sight of the ship disappearing into the depths, I spent some lonely months at sea.

At first, I was a 100% sure I was going to freeze to death, or get
hypothermia“, a condition when your core body temperature is below 35 degrees Celcius. The worst case scenario would be that your heart could stop. As I experienced this heartbreak, I felt as if I was going through a physical manifestation of hypothermia. The three different stages of symptoms occurs like this:

 

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The introductory stage is mental confusion and physical shivering. I developed a distance to both my body and brain, and with it, I lost my ability to focus. My body vibrated and my mind didn’t sleep, not even at night. I felt like I was expecting an attack any time soon, and I had to be alerted if I heard suspicious sounds while half asleep.
 

The second stage of severe hypothermia is paradoxical undressing. This is when a person removes his or her clothing as they start to become disoriented, confused, and combative. I was utterly obscured by my own situation, and was doing the opposite of what was rational. Like unfolding myself to people whom I didn’t really trust or how I stopped eating real food.
 

The final stage is terminal burrowing . German researchers claim this is “obviously an autonomous process of the brain stem, which is triggered in the final state of hypothermia and produces a primate and burrowing ­like behaviour of protection, as seen in hibernation animals.” I wanted to mentally burrow myself, like an animal preparing for the never ending winter. My only wish was to be able to give up, so the dark sea could devour me.

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This drama of survival only existed in my own mind and even though it was so physical and real to me, my friends and family didn’t really see me floating around on a floe, almost frozen to death. But the thing is, when you’ve passed the first stage of hypothermia and mental confusion, you’re not able to separate imagination from real life. As I went through all of these critical stages, I didn’t realize how far I floated. I had crossed the North Sea and was actually slowly heading towards mainland. In a moment of sanity, I suddenly discovered I could feel my body again. I did not die. I surprisingly survived, despite every force of nature working against me.

I collected the pieces of my broken mind and heart, and was slowly, still half conscious, building my strength.

After nearly six months in a pseudo state of mind, I was sick of the ocean. As the symptoms of hypothermia decreased, and the freedom of the open sea was starting to frighten me, I needed to get some solid ground under my feet. But instead of going back to where the greatest ship ever built left the docks, I decided to go somewhere else.

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Being with someone is hard. Being alone is hard. Break ­ups are hard. Divorce is even worse. Sometimes I really wonder why the hell I left that life boat (or sailboat in my case) and I’m still feeling like a disoriented survivor of a ship wreck. If you’re unlucky enough to end up at the open sea, remember that 705 people survived the Titanic, and even more people have survived a heart break.

Kristin Stubberud is a Graphic Designer based in Norway. To see more of her work visit her website and check out her Instagram!