I’m officially divorced.
And I’ve travelled a very long way to get here.
When I first started having doubts about my marriage, I panicked and hated myself. Every fibre of my being was telling me it was over but the prospect of ending it was too huge and terrifying to go through with, so I stayed in denial.
When people consider marriage breakdown, they rarely empathise with the instigator. But it’s not always about affairs, bombshell events or horrible arguments. Sometimes you just change and grow in different directions, and although you don’t want that to be the case, you can end up fighting so hard to stay that you almost destroy yourself in an attempt not to destroy others.
By the time I finally admitted my changing feelings to myself and gave myself permission to feel them, my self-trust was decimated and I was physically and mentally exhausted. I guess it’s no wonder that I tried to anaesthetise myself with food and wine – I was literally consuming my own truth. I look at old photos of myself and see how much pain I was in. Bloated, pale and broken by the energy it was taking to lie to myself, I continued to fight for my marriage, for my child to have the family unit I’d had.
And I fought very, very hard. To the point where I didn’t recognise myself. Where my feelings and needs became irrelevant. And where I constantly felt like I was going to have a panic attack.
The inevitable happened in November 2014 when I had a very rare moment of clarity. I became acutely aware of the pins and needles that had been increasingly making their way up and down my arms, the palpitations, the feeling of panic, and I knew with final and absolute certainty that I couldn't continue in my marriage. There was nothing brave about this decision - I literally didn't have a choice.
It was like jumping head first off a mountain.
In time, the desolation and guilt gave way to the intense relief that only naming and living your truth can bring. I started to feel glimmers of hope that I’d finally be able to discover who I was in my own right and wondering who the ‘real me’ would be was very exciting.
For so long, there hadn’t seemed to be any point in investing in myself. Why bother when there were so many huge, insurmountable issues I had seemingly no hope of addressing? But finally being honest opened so many doors. It sounds dramatic, but I felt like a blank canvas that was just starting to be painted on in beautiful, glorious colour.
When you’re living your truth, you start to take joy in small things. Food was a big deal for me. My first shop when we finally moved into a new house felt amazing. I felt so free! I could experiment to my heart’s content and discovered that I genuinely enjoyed healthy foods. Shellfish, avocados, pulses, spices, cheeses… the possibilities were endless! And I still love choosing what me and my teenager are going to eat during the week ahead. It was just another part of the real me - another passion - that slotted into place.
Then I started to feel attractive again. I'd hated myself for so long but I started to feel that it was ok to be confident in myself, to like myself. And I felt like a significantly better role model to my child than I had ever been.
Nowadays, I date from time to time, but ending my marriage left me with quite bad relationship anxiety that stems from a fear of being trapped and and having the responsibility for hurting someone (I've really worked on this and am hoping the worst of it is behind me now). I’m still kind of cynical about 'normal', successful relationships and see them as something that happens to other people, but with all of that said, I’d still like to get married again one day. I’m told my independence and okayness with being on my own (which was a hard-fought battle of its own by the way) scares men away, but being self-sufficient doesn’t mean I can’t love, and someone put off by it isn't going to be the right person for me anyway.
The most important criteria to living healthily is peace of mind. If there are big, fundamental issues in your life that you’re trying to bury, it saps all of your strength. And I don’t mean ‘external’ crises – there’ll always be one of those! I mean being at peace with yourself, living authentically and truthfully. This is a basic right, and I’ve seen the power of it - and the burden of being unable to have it - in other circumstances too, which I’m sure I’ll end up writing about in time.
You CAN heal after divorce. If this is your path, you will come out of it stronger, wiser and more resilient than you ever imagined. Follow your heart and your instinct; not overnight - give yourself plenty of space and time - but stay true to yourself. And most importantly, don’t hate yourself like I did. Be kind to yourself because you’re going through something unimaginably hard and there will be reasons why you feel this way, so don’t shoulder all of the responsibility.
I can say now that I'm fiercely proud of what I’ve achieved on my own and feel very excited about the future. Through hard work have rebuilt a life I love as a person in my own right, and as a very proud mum. I'm also proud that I still have a good relationship with my ex-husband where we put our teenager first.
It's possible, even though for years, I didn't think it would be.
It’s going to be OK. I promise.
Because this is the beginning, not the end.