I was today years old when I signed my very first lease with just my signature. There were no co-signers like in college, and I was not listed as secondary — as I was during much of my married life. This dotted line was all mine. It was the second biggest decision that I have made in my adult life. The first was filing for divorce from an irretrievably broken marriage.
It was not because I couldn’t make decisions on my own but because I have always had someone to make them with. Getting married at a young age meant doing all of the adult first things with my husband. My partner. My ride or die. We moved across the country for his job, a decision we agreed to together. There was also the decision to raise babies together when we were just babies ourselves. We chose that together. I never thought twice about needing to make my own choices or even dare to go against the grain because I was the “go with the flow” wife. I liked to have fun, wanted him to be happy, and didn’t question much. We signed up for this, so I trusted all of the decisions to be made for me. I didn’t think that my lack of decision-making would lead me to make ALL of the choices alone one day.
The Middle: Divorce Purgatory
Maybe we aren’t supposed to talk about this. Maybe the process of divorce is supposed to be some personal journey you don’t share. But I call bullsh*t on that. Would we tell our children to bottle up a deeply painful feeling? Not a chance. Why would we keep on this intense roller coaster of divorce just to torture ourselves internally? The decision leading up to the filing, the PURGATORY of the in-between, and the weight of relief when it’s finally over. Every stage is hard. I don’t even know all of them because I just haven’t gotten that far, but I know there are unknowns coming. What I do know is that there is a reason this is happening. It doesn’t matter how you got here, but there would be no divorce process in progress if it didn’t need to happen. The purgatory of waiting for the process to end is enough to set someone over the edge. Don’t be that person. If I avoided being on an episode of Dateline, so can you.
Get help. Ask for help. Ugh I know, barf. For me at least. Asking for anything is a form of torture. No matter how uncomfortable or embarrassed you may feel (hey anxiety, you’re a dick!), get help. If you need a little blue pill every day to stop crying long enough to feed your children, pack up a home, and get your currently breaking family to normal activities, call your doctor. Be proud you’re doing the best thing for you and the small people who depend on you. Find a friend you can trust. Get a therapist. Lay on the cold, hard, tile floor and cry on the phone with your mom. Just whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself, and don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You are not meant to be alone, and better yet, you are not alone. Just because nobody talks about the mental load happening DURING divorce BEFORE becoming a single mom, it doesn’t mean it isn’t damn near the hardest sh*t you will ever experience.
The Silver Lining Ending
Not that I would ever wish to be cheated on so I could spend a small fortune on therapy, lawyers, and self-discovery. However, if I didn’t see for myself the betrayal and pain then I would never have had the chance to break. The break led to getting help, and the help made me find myself. I was forced to see that I had been enduring a painful cycle of narcissism and gaslighting. Words I didn’t even know existed. Actions I knew all too well. I was unhealthy from the inside out. The weight I carried physically and emotionally magically disappeared when the one unhealthy part of my life suddenly walked out. I’m finally myself. My mom finally heard my authentic laugh again. My friends saw my no-longer-fake smile. The silver lining was always the purpose. I may be mildly damaged with the ex-wife title I avoided for years, but those battle scars make me stronger. This version of me, the happy single mom, this is right where I am supposed to be.