It’s really late and I still can’t sleep. My doctor would tell me to put down the coffee and stay away from the laptop screen, but the silence of sleeping scares me and my bed is big and empty. I scroll through pages and pages…young and divorced, divorce in your 20s, I do. I did. I’m done!…and on and on. There are two types of articles I stumble upon: 1) I’m an old blogger who writes about the downfall of the sanctity of marriage and how the internet and instant gratification is ruining America’s youth and 2) Badass chicks who found themselves, learned who they really are, and got sassy tattoos and epic vacations when their husbands peaced out. But there’s no articles about me, a 26 year old girl struggling with depression as long as she could remember whose husband left the marriage after two years telling her he never really loved her, and was having a relationship with a woman 20 years his senior. Where’s that damn article?
My ex and I met when I was 18, he 17. We actually met in study hall and went to prom together. After meeting him, for the first time, I felt love and worth. See, my entire life I’ve felt like nothing. I’m not sure when it started or where it came from. Nobody abused me. Nobody touched me. I suppose a combo of genetics, personality traits, and never feeling good or loved enough lead to a long history of mental health challenges.
When our relationship went full steam ahead, a whirlwind of co-dependency, jealousy, and control came forth. I needed him to silence all the self-abuse my mind hammered into me daily. You’re ugly. You’re fat. You’re stupid. You aren’t worth a damn thing. No one will ever love you. Oh wait! He does. Maybe you are okay. But neither of us recognized either of those issues because we were kids going on 40, moving into our apartment together after high school graduation and starting a joint checking account. We justified the insanity by saying how mature and ready we were for adult life. We didn’t need to make friends in college. No, no, we had each other and that’s all we needed.
Our marriage proposal wasn’t even that. I told him I wanted to get married so we went to the jewelry store that afternoon to purchase a ring. Now, the non-traditionalist in me said fuck norms and I can pick out my own ring, but that had nothing to do with it. After 5 years of dating, I needed marriage to bandage all the self-hate. We got married. It was everything I wanted. On the outside it looked perfect. But behind closed doors no one knew that I wrote my and his vows. He refused to write them. He never told me I was beautiful on our wedding day. On our wedding night we didn’t have sex. I came up with so many excuses…he was nervous, he’s shy, he doesn’t know how to express his emotions, it was a long day…but they were just that, excuses.
We went on and continued as a married couple. We moved 3 hours away from home to start our big kids jobs. Our first year in the new city was great. We explored and experienced a diverse and liberal culture we only dreamed of. But once the exploring stopped, we looked at each other and no longer saw a married couple, but roommates. I asked for marriage counseling to help get that spark back. He refused and said nothing was wrong. He said he was just stressed with work.
And then everything stopped. No longer did I hear I love you. Affection was obsolete. Negative and hurtful comments were made about my weight, appearance, and above all things, my running routine and schedule. No matter what I did, I could never be good enough.
It started again. He was slowly tearing away the bandaid he once put on my self-hatred. Blood began to ooze out, so I put on more gauze, more excuses for the shitty behavior. One night, when I came home from work, his phone lit up with the words Love You! on the screen. I confronted him. He ripped the bandaid off, no warning, no soothing gel, no comforting phrases. A relationship was happening with this woman and he said he didn’t love me and never really did. After a few weeks of separation, accusals, fighting, screaming, begging, pleading, he asked for a divorce. The blood came.
My wound was gaping and each day he was gone salt was thrown into it. I couldn’t sleep for days. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t laugh, or even crack a smile. I couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. My mind wouldn’t stop. Why wasn’t I good enough? Why is a woman, 43 fucking years old, better/sexier/prettier/smarter than me? I mean he’s in his early 20s and she’s married with kids! I’m worthless. I’m stupid. I have nothing left. My life is over. I’m nothing without him. I don’t want to go on without him…
An unexpected, dear friend came to my side. He ended up moving in with me for a few weeks, living out of a backpack and laundry basket. We binge watched American Horror Story and cooked fancy dinners. He taught me to crochet and I made way too many scarfs. More importantly he was there to hold gauze over the wound until I saw the doctor. He never taped the gauze down, but held it until I could stand on my own feet and get the help I needed. And in all actuality, I did see a doctor. I started receiving intensive treatment for my depression.
Eventually my hopeless thoughts stopped. I started eating. I slept. I learned that my pain was two fold: a grieving cycle over the end of a long term relationship and my self-hatred. During times of high distress I wasn’t able to distinguish the two. I would often think, my relationship ended because there was something wrong with me. But that isn’t true. My relationship ended. It just ended. It ended because it was a co-dependent abusive hot hot mess (and let’s be real…it wasn’t hot). It ended because he chose to start a relationship with another person before he ended the one with me. And more important than all that bullshit, I have so much worth and beauty that is completely separate from that relationship.
So what did I learn from my divorce? I suppose that’s how you are supposed to end these things. I learned that my worth isn’t defined by another person, but by what I believe and do. My beauty isn’t defined by a number or silhouette, but by my kindness, womanhood, smile, and eyes. If you look deeply in my eyes you’ll see flecks of gold embed in the brown. You’ll also see a story of a girl who is so very privileged, yet handed struggle after struggle to only learn she can and will overcome anything. Although I can’t find a 20-something divorcee article that I can fully relate to, and have yet to get my freedom tattoo and vacation, I’m on my way. Maybe in a few months I’ll be a badass chick who found herself, but until then, I’m me, and I’m pretty fucking great.