Let's talk about divorce. How many of us have experience with it? Yet, how many of us actually talk about it?
I am a child of divorce—a few divorces, actually. It's a pretty common thing, but everyone's experience is different. I found the experiences growing up extremely terrible. The divorces I witnessed were anything but amicable, and they left pretty deep scars. From a young age, I felt determined to do my best to never let divorce happen in my adult life.
I got married in my late 20s. I liked the life I'd built with my person. It wasn't always easy, but I didn't think there was anything that wasn’t fixable as long as we were both committed. I felt very secure in our love for each other, and that's what mattered to me. The rest was just stuff we needed to address as it came up.
Then suddenly he was gone. He left our house and said he wasn’t coming home, and for no reason I could understand or make sense of. My life had completely changed, and it was completely unexpected. Even now, if I look back on that time, I still don't get what exactly made him leave our life.
I think it's safe to say that every divorce is unpleasant in its own way. I think the shock of mine coupled with a lack of any conversation or attempt at fixing the problem—I didn't even know what the problem was—was what made mine feel so devastating. It was happening no matter what and I had no say in the matter, and everything I believed about this relationship I'd had for nearly a decade was just blown up.
So suddenly my life was dramatically different. I had a failed attempt at forever love, and I had no idea what was what. For maybe a year I was the most fragile and lonely-feeling thing—I call myself a thing because I wasn't really a person. I holed myself up and closed myself off from all but a very few friends. I isolated myself because I didn't want the massive amounts of failure and guilt and sadness and grief and every other bad feeling I was bottling up to spill out. I didn't want anyone to see me so broken when most everyone was used to seeing me chipper.
I cried every day. I stopped cooking, which was something I did for work and for pleasure. It had been a main source of joy in my life and I had lost that in the process, too. I stopped living fully, or doing any of the things that made me feel happy. I started working out like a madwoman because I thought I could avoid my depression by doing intense workouts -- workouts in which I couldn’t think about anything but exactly what I was doing in the present moment, and that usually resulted in an endorphin rush. This couldn't have been more wrong or unsustainable. A major symptom of my depression was that I had trouble sleeping. I thought the workouts would help fix that, but they didn’t, so I started doing more, which just made it worse. I withered away—physically, emotionally, and mentally—and felt totally lost. I trudged through the days. It was no life, and it took me a very long time to recover. I am certain that I wouldn't have even been semi-functional without the support of the few friends I didn't cut myself off from.
The thing that helped the most was when someone who'd been divorced, or was going through a divorce, talked to me about their experience
The thing that helped the most was when someone who'd been divorced, or was going through a divorce, talked to me about their experience. Every time someone mentioned an ex-husband or wife, or that they were getting divorced, I tuned in intensely. It isn't the most pleasant thing to talk about, but these conversations really did make me feel better. I felt less alone any time someone shared their story. I've had a lot of these conversations now, and everyone agrees: it sucks, it sucks, and it sucks. My friends constantly insisted that I was going to be okay, but none of them had been through this before, so the words didn't ever feel very believable. But when someone who had been divorced told me the same thing, it felt real and effective and comforting. Assurance from someone who’s been through the same troubles, even if you know them less, can mean so much more.
Those conversations were the most encouraging. They're what got me to start cooking again, what got me to force myself to get back to life, and what finally made me believe that I'd actually get through the whole ugly process in one piece, even if a little battered. I started to believe that I'd actually be okay at the end of all of this because I saw a lot of people who’d gotten through divorces (of various degrees of ugliness) and who were all doing well. It always amazed me how willing people were to talk once they knew we had this shared experience. It was like I'd gotten the password to enter a secret club with a very special camaraderie.
I’m not completely on the other side of my divorce, but I know I’m in a much better place than I was when it first happened (which is three years ago—these legal things can take a really long time to conclude). I wouldn't consider myself any kind of expert, or someone who could give advice—though I will say, if you can, definitely avoid litigation. I hope by sharing my story, I can help cheer some people on through their similar hard times. I’m opening myself up so that I can extend the same camaraderie I felt during the lowest times of my divorce, and to help others feel a little less alone.
And seriously, you’re not alone. And at some point, as someone who’s been through it, I can assure you, you actually do feel better.