The best thing my therapist ever said to me was in reference to my (now ex-)husband. She told me, “he has every right to be upset with you, disappointed in you, angry with you, frustrated with you, or anything else he is feeling, but he does NOT have the right to be mean to you.” That really stuck with me.
Coming back from our honeymoon, I had my first panic attack ever on the plane. It was one of those moments that could have been a scene from a movie- the girl freaks out and starts yelling, “I have to get. off. the. plane!” while her poor husband just looks around frantically for help. It was not fun. The thing is, I had flown many, many times. I have lived all over the country and have family in several states. I even flew to Ireland to visit my sister when she studied abroad. I still do not completely understand it and many people- including my therapist- have questioned if subconsciously I knew that I was coming home married to a man who I had serious reservations about. I loved my husband very much, but I had seen a lot of red flags before we got married that I chose to ignore. Red flags that I kept secret, like him pulling the car over when we were fighting because I was scared of his erratic driving and then leaving me on the side of a major highway in an inner city neighborhood. At night. In the winter. And never coming back. Yea, I wasn’t dying to tell anyone that romantic story because I protected him instead of protecting myself. When I finally told my friends and family that happened, they were so upset that I didn’t tell them at the time.
I have never been the same since that panic attack- it really changed something inside my brain and my heart. After that horrible flight, I suffered from constant anxiety and was eventually diagnosed with agoraphobia. It had an effect on our marriage and although my “wasband” had a terrible anger problem and did treat me badly during the last couple of years of our relationship, I truly believe that he just simply did not know how to help me. He is a good person- even after everything that happened between us, I still think that. He would help anyone with anything, but he seemed to lack empathy. He was an amazing friend to his friends, but he was not a very good husband. I also think that there are two kinds of people: those who think mental illness is a real thing and those who don’t. He was in the latter category. His big thing was just to tell me “mind over matter” and his approach was tough love. It clearly didn’t work. He also didn’t “believe” in medication and so I suffered for a long time because I didn’t want to disappoint him or upset him by taking antidepressants. I am fortunate to currently be in a relationship with someone who understands mental illness and really supports me…it has made a huge difference.
The best thing I ever did for myself was be by myself. I see women getting divorced and jumping right back into dating or even marriage again. If that is what makes someone happy, then to each their own. I knew that I needed time- time to find myself again and work on myself. I still loved my husband the day we went to court…I did not get a divorce because I fell out of love. I did it because every day I was married to him, a little part of me died. It was like I was a shell of my former self. I lived to try to make him happy, when in reality, there was so much resentment that there was really nothing I could have done to please him. I stopped caring about myself because I stopped thinking I was worth caring about. After getting divorced, I didn’t have anything to do with men for almost a year. I wasn’t a man hater or anything crazy like that- I just knew I needed time to learn who I was again. I took yoga and learned to meditate, adopted a cat, spent a lot of time with my sister and girlfriends and also spent a lot of time alone thinking, lost weight, cried A LOT, taught a college class…just anything I could do FOR ME. I knew that I could not love someone or feel worthy of being loved by someone until I really loved myself again. It was the BEST thing I could have done. By the end of that time, he was already engaged. I spoke to our marriage counselor during the time he was annulling the marriage and she said she was not surprised that he was getting remarried so quickly and said that she truly felt he would victimize his new wife. I felt good hearing that at the time because I was still angry and hurt and even though I take responsibility for my part of the marriage failing, I do believe that his behavior and treatment towards me were the primary reasons we couldn’t work things out. But now I hope that isn’t true- I hope he treats his new wife better than he treated me. It is hard to imagine that only because he could never admit when he was wrong and didn’t “believe in apologizing” (yup- direct quote). He was the kind of person who thought he was always right and it is really hard to be with someone like that. The last thing I ever said to him outside that courthouse was that I was so sad things didn’t work out and that I would always love him. The last thing he said to me was that he was sorry he couldn’t fix me.
It took 11 months for me to pull myself together and in the end I realized that I really wasn’t broken.