Yesterday I gathered up the courage to share one of my stories. And, wow, I did NOT expect the feedback I got. I cried big, fat, ugly tears after each and every message, text, email and comment that rolled in. It means the world to me that so many reached out to support me. Those of us who struggle with mental illness spend so very much time thinking we’re alone. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not.
But, like yesterday, I’m having a hard time getting started again. I have so many things I have been holding on to. So many things that I need to let go of. So many things that get worse the longer I keep them bottled up. An enormous amount of shame has kept me from fully opening up and, in turn, letting it go. I need to let it go. I need to heal and move on.
Eighteen months ago my husband of 22 years, without much warning, packed up a suitcase and walked out the door. He never came back. And to this day, has never really told me why. Sure, we had been struggling and had been in therapy for months. But I had no idea that things were unfixable. I had no idea that he had at least a year prior given up even wanting to try to fix it. I was devastated. And if I’m honest, I still am. And, if I’m even more honest, I’ve been consumed by shame since that February day a year and a half ago.
I have not made much of a secret of the fact that my marriage ended. But what I haven’t shared is the shame I lug around with me every day. Shame for being left behind, shame for being cheated on, shame for failing at marriage, shame that I couldn’t fix it, shame that he gave up on me, shame for mostly being the only person in my social circle whose husband gave up on her and shame that I ended up just like my parents….divorced. And not divorced in the “conscious uncoupling” or Demi Moore/Bruce Willis kind of way. Divorced in the way that my not-yet-ex husband wants nothing to do with me. Won’t answer my calls, only answers texts if it’s about the kids and does everything in his power to avoid even laying eyes on me. Almost every minute of every day I struggle with the shame that my husband walked out of my life and NEVER even considered coming back.
I don’t think anyone in my life quite understands this shame and how debilitating it is. Some tell me that I need to let it go and move on. Some tell me that I’ll be better off. Some tell me that I will find someone else. Some tell me that this is just how divorce works. What they don’t see or don’t understand is that the shame is an ever present reminder to me that I wasn’t good enough. That I didn’t try hard enough. That I didn’t matter enough. That I just wasn’t enough. Even today I cry almost every day. How did I spend practically my entire adult life with someone who so easily erased me from his life? And not only did HE erase me from his life, but his entire family followed suit. His sisters stopped speaking to me the day he moved out. One of those sisters lives in a house that we purchased for her and who we took with us on almost every family vacation we took. We raised our children to see that Aunt Beth was the sixth member of our immediate family — their third parent. All of the in-laws and even their in-laws — with whom we celebrated every holiday with — cut off all contact. And, in the modern day version of ending relationships, blocked me from their social media accounts. It was as if after 25 years I ceased to exist.
I have so much more to say about this. But this is a good start. It feels like a weight off my shoulders to stop trying to pretend that I don’t hate myself for the ending of my marriage. It feels good to know that I can stop smiling and telling people that it’s ok, that “I’m fine,” no need to worry about me. I don’t like making others feel uncomfortable so I don’t share this burden with many. But I just don’t think I can carry it anymore. It’s too heavy, it’s taking to much of a toll on my mental and physical health. I’m not ok. I will be someday. But I’m not there yet. I think sharing my story will help. And hopefully it can help someone else.
Healing is a non linear experience. And this blog will be too. Likely I won’t know what story I’ll be telling until I sit down and start typing. So we’ll see what tomorrow brings. Thanks for letting me share this secret.