Choosing Myself: One Year After Separation
One year ago today, my husband decided he wanted to separate. For months after, I fought for my marriage alone, for the man I loved, and then…after months of silence, I realized I was standing alone with an untied knot in my hands. Everything was torn away from my life. I had to decide whether I would keep going on, or if the pain and loss was too much to bear. I made a decision to continue fighting, but this time, for myself.
I wrote another post today in which I outlined May 1st of last year, and how the days and months unfolded with everyone’s shock and grief and the unexpected surprises to come which I could never have foreseen. But, I think I’ll save that piece for my journal as today I don’t want to look back thinking only of my ex-husband, and the loss of love. I’ve grieved him, our marriage, and our life together throughout the year. Today, I want to look back over the year and remind myself that I overcame everything I believed was utterly impossible to do alone. I want today to be another choice for myself. Next year, I want to celebrate this day as the beginning of letting go and starting fresh. Typing those words brings a few tears to my eyes, but I want them to be cleansing tears. I don’t know how to be just me without longing and loving and planning for 2 yet, but I will learn, and I have great expectations.
The first thing I did when I came to stay with my parents was I made a doctor’s appointment. It’s the most difficult thing I have to do physically; only my ex had ever taken me before- and my doctors helped us avoid making the tremendously painful and exhausting trip by scheduling me months apart. After such an emotional shock, why did I want to go through a physically traumatic experience with an inexperienced caregiver? I guess I just had to prove to myself that I could do something impossible without him! I went out of my way to do as many impossible things as I could find while I was so emotionally fragile. I’ve been to several doctor’s appointments, I’ve had new tests, and I had been afraid of going back to the hospital, but I’ve since been twice this year. My body fighting me on the outside as I pushed it harder and harder seemed to match the feeling of my heart dying on the inside.
My ex-husband was my caregiver for the last 4 years of our relationship. He knew what no one else could: about my condition, about my needs, about my doctors, about my life, about my heart, and he knew everything about my soul… I thought he did. When someone has spent years exploring the very depth of your soul, and can go to such lengths to reject you, no pain matches it.
The loss has been cavernous. I first believed I wouldn’t be able to continue on living without him- practically or theoretically. Not because he supported me physically, but because he was my heart. After mustering the strength to ask my mother and father to help me do several impossible things, I went in search of both a professional caregiver and marriage counselor. That took me a great deal of courage to even allow a stranger to enter this room. I thought, how will I carry on a conversation? What if they can’t be quiet enough for my pain level? What if they don’t know how to touch me and injure me, spreading my condition? But I had to do these impossible things, as well. I had to allow a stranger bathe me, and help me dress, and prepare my meals. It was a point of my very survival to find someone else to help me with my basic needs. It could have been degrading and humiliating, but I was so stubborn in what I needed to allow for myself to live in my new normal, that the physical need mattered far more than my personal dignity.
Soon after, I began inviting visitors for the first time after coming to my parent’s home. It was terrifying at first. I can’t imagine what that’s like for them to remember me one way, dancing, hiking, laughing, and now, laying in a bed, startled by every sound and speck of light, grimacing in pain. Letting those I adore into my bubble felt impossible at first, but it’s another kind of exposure therapy that’s a lot more fun ! Seeing old friends is like a mirror through their eyes, and it can be tough emotionally, but it’s also exciting, and makes me feel more like the laughing, hiking, dancing me that they remind me I am still. My own mirror sees myself through the eyes of my ex now. Where there were once loving, gentle eyes, I see a look of disappointment and disgust. His eyes have always superseded others for as long as I can remember, but he’s not mine anymore, and I’m not his. I’m God’s, and in His eyes, I’m worthy, I’m valuable, and I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose by living it.
My closest and oldest friend went through her own very difficult divorce in the year before I went through mine. They say, “God goes before us” and when I think of my sweet friend who has been walking her own hard path, checking in with me, and visiting often, I promise you that is true about the love of God lighting candles ahead of us. I’m grateful to be able to practice showing love to her at a time that I feel so empty of everything inside of me I used to be eager to give away. She has reminded me to keep pushing forward so many days that I felt alone. Having a friend who continues to tell you that you’re still the same person, you’re improving, and was willing to fight for me when I couldn’t fight for myself is more of an angel than just a friend.
The short quiet visits I was only tolerating have turned into longer, more enjoyable visits I so look forward to. I started with home physical therapy, which has been an immense help in my progression, and I BELIEVE I’m going to be a functioning human being again- no matter how long it takes. While I do get frustrated with my body, I’m not worried about the time table, only that I make the goal. My parents allowing these people, and often strangers in and out of their home for me has been life-changing. I hate when people say that I’m better off without him, because now I’m able to utilize so many resources to improve, but I understand what they mean. I’m just thankful they are seeing improvement that I still need help seeing for myself.
Every time I’ve wondered how I would pay a bill, how I could live without something I thought I needed, how I could go on without the people and pets I loved, God has always provided a solution, an answer, or a strength to live without. This consistency has lead me to rely on God coming through and has added to the peace in my spirit and courage to face the impossible with the safety net of the universe.
Even though I’m not grateful I was forced into it, I’m grateful I was able to manage my own proceedings via electronic communication and courier to/from the lawyer. I had no idea how it would work with my condition, and just the thought of it regularly caused me anxiety. But again, God had the right lawyer in mind for me, who worked as my advocate, familiar with disability, even meeting at my home. I had a Power of Attorney to appear for me twice as my signatory, and my lawyer spoke on my behalf in my absence or with statements from me. Being disabled, you feel marginalized so often as it is. It’s as though you’re disappearing. Because of my condition, my movement, voice, independence, and freedom have been taken from me. I think that’s why it was so very important to me that I didn’t give away my privilege to speak for myself. The decisions, paperwork, and meetings were all so overwhelming, I was cognitively pushed to thinking in critical, complex ways I had not since the brain issues began. As much as the divorce may have damaged parts of my life, the process was a healing experience for my physical progress, and has propelled me forward in many positive aspects. I thought I would break apart as my heart broke more and more, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it, and managing my personal business.
Learning to be proud of myself is new. No one else is going to do that for me. I’m learning to encourage myself. No one else is going to remind me to take it easy and be gentle with myself. Giving to myself is a new concept, but I’m learning to view it as responsible and not selfish. I feel emptied of everything I was, and all I can do while I heal is continue on, pretending I’m a human being. The life I worked for and dreamed of is gone now. The slate is clean and I’m beginning to feel empowered and free to build back a completely different life. Some moments my heart aches, but at other times I’m revitalized thinking of the future of possibilities.
I started working at 15, graduated at 17, and left my parent’s home to travel the day after HS graduation… Now I’m back. I’m being cared for by my parents, learning to nurture myself, learning to walk again, my parents are making me food each day…it’s quite an irony! For me, this anniversary is truly a rebirth.
Posted on May 1, 2016, in Being Myself, divorce, Uncategorized and tagged anniversary, Art, disabled, divorce, journal, long reads, longreads, moving forward, moving on, Natalia Drepina, No Fear, personal story, photography, rebirth, reflecting, separation, Spoonie, starting over, stream of consciousness. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.
The one thing that comes to mind as I finished reading is: “You’ve made it, Mary!”
My separation and divorce from my ex was also related to my health (which was really mild compared to your issues), yet those are the same thoughts I had when I had made it through the worse of it. When I finally had regained my self-worth. He had convinced me I had little.
One symbolic thing I did right after the divorce was go to Japan, but I still could not get rid of my ring. But on the eve of the New Year, I pulled my alliance apart. Kept the diamond (me – the unbreakable part) and threw the gold ring (him – the soft pliable easily cut part) into a pure little brook behind the 300-year old bamboo forest that was there.
I hope you get/got to do something this symbolic like that, it was the best feeling and I felt so light! Or I’d say making your body stronger and shown that you did not break (diamond) are symbolic enough.
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Thank you so much for leaving this uplifting comment, Clau. This was one of those heart pounding, very personal posts, so I’m very grateful you were here on the other side of it, like a warm hug 🙂
Going to Japan must have been so difficult, and yet very freeing as well! I’m so sorry you felt so devalued in your former marriage. It’s those we love the most who have that power to chip away at our spirits. Knowing you fell in love with yourself again, with life, and are now also in love with such a wonderful man is a testament to the beautiful loving and lovable person you have always been!
Even though it has been a full year, the actual divorce just took place, therein, the battle ending and connection ending is still very fresh.
The image of you throwing your ring into the brook is so unforgettable, and a moment you certainly chose to fight for you! ❤
You have a way with words. It’s truly a gift that you can communicate this well. As I was reading I felt your pain, tears came, but I also felt your immense strength. And it’s so easy to be lost in brain fog and not be able to write a word that makes sense – it happens a lot to me, especially when I’m overwhelmed with grief.
I am so proud of you. Last year I remember I was so happy when you wrote about making progress with your physical therapist. I didn’t know what was behind all that, and it breaks my heart that you were heartbroken, but I’m proud of you and happy for you now regardless. ❤
Aww, You’re going to make me cry ❤ ❤ ❤ Thank you… Your supportive words have meant so much to me.
I almost shut this page down so many times. I couldn't imagine writing the same way, as though life just went on!
Sometimes it takes 2 weeks to put together a post because of the fog… one word at a time, lol. But it has to get out of me one way or another! I know you understand!
Thank you for saying you are proud of me. That means so much to me 🙂 xo
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Oh, my dear sweet friend! I haven’t been able to comment until now because well each time my heart broke for you that you had to go through this venture. I didn’t know how to put into words how much grace and strength you have shown. This past year for you, held many losses, but faith has allowed to survive them. It doesn’t mean it was any easier for you to handle, but the people placed in your life could help put you in the direction of finding your stride, your voice, your journey, your peace of mind. The perserverance and faith that’s in your soul and the love in your heart will definitely take you to many wonderful places in your future. I’m so glad to be on the journey with you. I’m learning so much from you. Sending many gentle hugs to you ❤
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Thank you so much, Kathleen. You don’t know how much that means to me ❤ Thank you also for being one of the supportive people in my life standing with me this year, and helping me through. xoxoxo
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You’re so welcome! You are a blessing and inspiration ❤