The road ahead

I’m not afraid.

I keep repeating the lyrics to “I’m not afraid” in my head, as part of a thus far, unsuccessful campaign to convince myself that I am unafraid of the future. The fact is, I am utterly terrified. Here I am, 30 (which, I know is not so very old, but it’s scary territory nonetheless), fighting a constant battle against an invisible illness and now, soon to be divorced. There. I finally said it. I’ve been hedging around that particular bomb from the very first entry on this blog. At first, I didn’t want to admit it, because admitting would make it real, and I still had hope that it could be prevented. Even after I realized that my hope was sorely misplaced, I still couldn’t find the courage to make it real. Now, the time has come for me to come to grips with my own reality: in the coming months, my husband of 6 years (8, if you count the nearly 2 that we’ve been separated), and I will be signing the papers to make our separation an official divorce.

I know that this sort of thing happens every day and that I am neither a special case nor an exception to any rule, but that knowledge doesn’t make the situation any less Earth shattering. When you take in to account that I have spent nearly half of the 30 years that I have been alive loving this one person, the loss seems to become even more devastating, at least in my mind.

My husband and I were high school sweethearts, we met during my freshman year and we just clicked. We stayed together through high school & college. My mom refused to pay for the wedding until I had finished college, so I rushed through my bachelor’s degree so I could get to the altar. We got married in the summer, barely a month after I graduated from

He was with me through that first car accident and then the subsequent years of trying to figure out what was wrong with me. He held my hand through the diagnosis and the treatments, the mood swings and the weight gain. When the fibro got worse and I couldn’t work anymore, he was right there by my side, fighting with me. We weren’t perfect, we fought, just like any other couple. We had our issues, but we worked through them together. What we didn’t expect was the drastic toll my illness would take on the both of us.

When I was in pain, he suffered; it tore him apart to have to sit idly by and watch me in agony. After I was forced to stop working in 2008, I fell into depression and unwittingly dragged him right along with me. He did what he could, but I so entrenched in my own misery that I couldn’t see anything else, and we just started to fall apart.

*For the record, I am not blaming myself or my illness for the destruction of our marriage. The illness put cracks in the foundation of our relationship, but we both had an active hand in tearing them open.*

The fight to get me on disability put even more stress on our marriage. He was working two jobs just to keep our heads above water, and there were still times that we went under. I was a miserable wreck, I spent a large portion of the day laying in bed or on the couch, in so much pain that I felt like I couldn’t even move. The house was in a constant state of disarray, which only made the both of us even grouchier. He would come home and ask me what I had done that day, and I would get offended because I felt like he was accusing me of being lazy. One of us would snap at the other and next thing you know, we were fighting, again.

I tried to pick myself up, I tried to find a hobby to keep my mind off of the pain, but really, all I ended up doing was leaving more messes all over the house. Our parents did what they could to help, they bailed us out financially more times than I can even remember. They even came over to help clean up or do yard work. Was I appreciative? No, I am ashamed to say I wasn’t. I was mortified that they felt like they had to come clean up my mess, (even though I knew they were only trying to help), and I withdrew even further into my shell.

Every time my husband would try to get me out of the house on the weekends or when he had a day off, I resented it. I felt like he was ignoring how much pain I was in and that he was only being selfish. The reality is, he was only trying to make me feel better, but I shoved him away at every attempt. This cycle continued for at least a year or even two, and slowly but surely, we grew apart.

I don’t remember when it happened, but finally a close friend took me aside and flat out told me that they thought I should get a job. I’m not sure what it was about that particular conversation, but it shocked me into opening my eyes a little bit. I started to see what I was doing both to myself and the people around me. It wasn’t enough to spur me into action, but it at least got me thinking. Somewhere around this same time, my husband decided he wanted to lose weight, so we bought an elliptical machine and started changing our eating habits. I wasn’t really in the mindset to do much, but I wanted to support him, so I did what I could and managed to lose about 15 pounds.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the first bit of weight loss is probably what changed things for me. I started to feel better, things didn’t look quite so bleak. Unfortunately, by this point, most of the damage had already been done. Suddenly, it felt like we couldn’t do anything together without getting into an argument. We were both feeling frustrated and even unsatisfied with each other and it showed. I don’t remember what pushed me to do it, but one day I had finally just had enough and I left the house.

At the time, it was only meant to be a temporary separation. We both needed some space and to be totally honest, I expected him to be so miserable with out me that he would beg me back in no time. I was wrong. In truth, during those first few weeks of being apart, we both discovered that we could breathe a little bit easier. I’m not saying the separation instantly proved that we should be apart, it didn’t. We were still talking on a daily basis and we still saw each other frequently. It was excruciating. Despite the fact that we were both completely heart broken, it wasn’t enough to bring us back together. I think that at some level we both felt like the pain of being apart was better than the misery of fighting all the time.

At first, we kept it quiet. We didn’t tell anyone except for one or two close friends that we had separated. We even went so far as to visit our parents together so that they wouldn’t know. Telling people what had happened would make it real, and we were both still in denial. I think we’d been separated for 2-3 months before we finally decided to just come clean about it. This was in October (I think?) of 2012, and it still took me another 6 months to fully open my eyes.

Fast forward to May 2013, and there I am, completely awake for the first time in about 5 years and ready to make some changes. I wanted to get my life back, and if I’m completely honest, when I started writing this blog, part of the plan was to save my marriage. I wanted to feel better so I could have the strength and energy to fight for my husband. What I didn’t realize then was that he had already given up. I am glad that I didn’t know it at the time, because I might not have fought as hard as I did to get better.

The only downside is that because I am a fighter (and a stubborn one at that), it took me a long time to realize that I was fighting a losing battle. The harder I tried to pull us together, the worse it got. I am not going to go into any more detail about how things finally ended between us, the important part is that it did. I knew things were finished between us back in September, right around the time I turned 30.

You may be wondering why it has taken me nearly 7 months to get around to telling this story… In all honesty, I held back because it wasn’t entirely mine to tell. (For those of you who have been following me for awhile, you may remember me using that statement in previous posts, now you know what I meant. Easter egg!). I am telling it now for several reasons, 1) I have finally accepted the fact that it is over; 2) I fully expect the papers to be signed before the end of the summer and 3) I am utterly terrified by the new situation I find myself in.

There is no going back now, the only thing I can do is continue putting one foot in front of the other. This is new and completely uncharted territory for me, I can’t help but feel like a house cat that has suddenly been set loose outside. The only consolation I have is the knowledge that I am not alone. I have a circle of friends and family to keep me grounded and to help me face whatever challenges lie ahead.

I am afraid, but I am not giving up.