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.
A Peace Premonition
Just over one year ago, I wrote a post which I now believe may have been a premonition. On one of the last days of 2015 I wrote No Fear Campaign, 2015 and I have thought back to that post as well as revisited it so many times throughout this past year.
I was fueled with courage at the beginning of the year, but I had no idea why I would need it. And then the bottom dropped out of my life and I REQUIRED that courage more than ever. I suffered so much loss this year, I made a huge transition, fought a difficult battle, saw several new doctors, visited the hospital, started physical therapy, home care, and have been exposing myself to many new faces, new experiences, and could never have imagined any of this just one year ago. It’s true that this year, I’ve been in constant crisis management. But it’s also true that I’ve been managing my own crisis. That might seem like a given, but illness doesn’t always allow us that luxury.
Last year, the messages to be courageous seemed to jump out everywhere: Have no fear, do not fear, I am with you, be not afraid. If God wants you to hear a message, you will see it constantly whether it is on Facebook or Twitter or television or out of your home or in your Bible- if you feel like there is something that keeps popping up in front of you repeatedly, that message is JUST FOR YOU! Truth finds you. You can try to ignore it, but if God wants a message in front of you, He will repeat it and confirm it. It’s not a coincidence. And I am so thankful I grasped the message to have courage when I did. It truly saved my life this year and courage continues to change how I move forward.
Things are so hard now, SO HARD. But I’m planning to beat fear once again, and go to my sister’s wedding… in 7 days. This is possibly one of the scariest things I have ever attempted. And yes, I am afraid. As it comes closer, all of those I CAN’T thoughts are terrifying at times.
These posters were made around the end of last year. Around the same time that I wrote No Fear Campaign, I wrote a few other, fearless-themed posts. In one piece, I said: “The strength comes for the step you need it, not days or months ahead.” That is what I am counting on for this wedding adventure. And it helps give me peace that God will strengthen me and my body to do what needs to be done when the time comes, for my sister, and for me.
Whatever trials wait for you tomorrow, and paralyze your heart with worry today, I hope you feel comforted remembering you can call on that added strength and courage at the moment you need it. You aren’t walking your path alone.
~Peace be with you~
“Freedom lies in being bold.”
― Robert Frost
No Fear Campaign 2015
Just leaving a few last brain cells on the page…a couple cob webs to take down from the corners of 2014. A few drippy-drops to leave behind from the old year.
Something I really soaked in this past year was that God is passionate about calming our fears. I grew up in church, and actually, many pastors do a great job of instilling more fear into people instead of inspiring courage. The opposite of what the Bible reiterates. This isn’t a tirade on the way some churches use fire and brimstone to scare their congregation into submission, however. I am not against the church as a whole.
I grew up afraid of a lot of things. I won’t tell you all of the things I worried about and feared as a child; those fears were not my church’s fault. As a teen, I had anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. No one realized it, but my mind was spinning with worries and fears all the time (not unlike so many teens). Now that my chronic illness is at the point where I’m no longer able to go to church, I have found reading scriptures on my own and journaling about them has been an excellent learning experience.
I’ve stumbled upon so many verses throughout this past year regarding fear. PS, the Bible has a lot to say about not being afraid and having courage. The biggest realization for me is that most of these verses are not only discussing fear, God actually COMMANDS us not to be afraid. That’s pretty major, don’t you think? I think so.
I was going to do an entry listing verses like this, but someone told me there are 365 “Fear Nots” for every day of the year. After researching, God tells us not to be afraid of life and then gives us a different reason for each one 103 different times. But fear is discussed over 500 times throughout the Scriptures! God really wanted to send a message, don’t you think? You might be wondering: if He did not want us to fear, then why create us to be such scaredy cats in the first place? Well, He didn’t. The Bible says that we were not created with a spirit of fear or “timidity” but of power, love and self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7)
However, He also knew ahead of time that His children would live in an increasingly frightening world. We would have so many terrifying prospects to face every day, so many things to worry about in the future, and we would be petrified when going through risky, unfamiliar circumstances. We are reminded to have faith and not to be distracted by all of the anxieties that fill our minds with doubt.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Josh 1:9
Three years ago my health and pain conditions got so much worse than I could have ever anticipated. I spent the first 7 years worrying about what the worst case scenario might be. I protected myself from so many things, hiding from potential threats to my “deteriorating” health- things that might make me worse which anxiety had cooked up in my mind. Yet I never could have foreseen what has happened to me; fear did not help me at all. And I’ve now been through worse than my fears ever prepared me for. Seriously, I’m SO over being afraid!
God keeps reminding us to be courageous, commanding us not to fear, and instilling a sense of His own strength in us. In the coming year, throw some caution to the wind! Take risks. Worry less. Go on more adventures. Say YES more! Give more. We have a God who promises to be with us always and an awesome afterlife waiting…
Several of my friends deal with anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, and are looking into the coming year with a feeling of doom brought on by fear bombarding their thoughts. So many I know are awaiting very scary test results that will determine all they will be dealing with in the coming year, and it feels impossible to shoulder. If you are living in a constant state of terror now that you have been diagnosed, or will be facing major surgery or multiple invasive procedures this year, I would like to leave you with a few verses to take with you which also are a comfort to me. He knew fear would be one of the most overwhelming and distracting emotions for us and wants us to live a good life, focused on things that can help ourselves and others grow, not live bogged down by stress and dread; otherwise, why would He have been on such an anti-fear campaign?
Have a Happy, Fearless New Year!
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Do not be afraid. I have set you free. I have called you by name. You are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:13-14
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Prov 31:25