Falling Apart and Getting it Back Together
Seven years ago this week my life fell apart. It wasn't sudden or unexpected, not by me anyway. But it still hurt. It started Thursday at lunch, when I broke down crying in front of someone I thought was a friend. I begged them not tell anyone. I had important business things to do, and dozens of people starting at my house all weekend, and a party to run on Saturday. I didn't have time to really deal with the fallout of my then-husband knowing how hurt I was. That evening, as I was trying to do set up for Saturday's event, I got a text from my then-husband. My pleas to let me deal with the issues in my own time had been ignored. I left set up and went home, where I was told none of my issues were valid. I was told I was a bad person and a bad wife. And, about 2am, I was told the reason he knew I was wrong about everything was that I had been abused as a kid, and that left me so damaged that I couldn't be believed about anything. Something clicked in my head when he said that, and I stopped wanting to save my marriage. That didn't end the fight, though it changed it considerably. I still had responsibilities that weekend, so my focus became being allowed to get a little sleep. On Friday I had paid a facilitator to come in and lead a retreat for myself and the people who were working for me at the time. I couldn't change that. I was able to get a few hours sleep before it started, but not much. After the retreat, people started showing up for the weekend several hours early. There was no break at all. My then husband, had taken the day off work but not been able it willing to do any preparation for having people at the house, so I had a grocery store run to make, and I had to answer to him for some cleaning I hadn't gotten to before people arrived early. I went into hostess mode, welcoming and settling the couple dozen weekend guests in, and hosting the additional people who were coming for the evening. My then-husband, who was always good at parties, went into fun mode. At the end of the night, I'd been asked to find somewhere to sleep that wasn't the bedroom. My then-husband was planning a night with a girl we'd both dated, and he wanted the bedroom to himself for that. I considered sleeping somewhere I would be hard to find, and discarded that idea as a bad one, settling in on the couch when everyone went to sleep. Sure enough, about 4 am my then-husband came to find me. His plans hadn't gone as he'd hoped, and he wanted me to come to bed after all. I did, because it was the done thing. The weekend was a blur. I'd come up with all sorts of activities for the out of town guests during the day, and had rented a van to get people back and forth to the party venue. It was a lot of effort, and it kept me busy. Under extreme stress I tend to dig my finger nails into my hands. I don't consider it really self harm, because I never break skin. But the indentation in the side of my index finger after that night stayed with me for a very long time. Sunday morning I had to be up early to tear down the party and clean the party venue. During that clean up period, people came to me to complain that my then-husband, who had taken on specific responsibilities in the group, was leaving those unfairly to other people. They were right, but I know by then that everything was about to change, and I knew it would make everyone forget that they were upset with him over anything. I was running again all day. My then-husband slept in and didn't go to tear down. It was late and I knew I wasn't in any mental state to have productive conversations with my then-husband or anyone else by the time the house was empty again. My efforts to explain that I needed to go to bed were brushed aside, as my feelings and perceptions so often were then, and I was again told that I was fundamentally damaged, and that I should be grateful he was willing to be around me at all. None of my hurt (and the back and forth about whether I would be welcome in my own bedroom Friday night wasn't the only thing that hurt me that weekend) was valid, I was told. My desire for sleep before I dealt with his feelings about my inadequacy was unreasonable, I was told. He wanted to talk right then, and that was what I was required to do. I didn't tell him then that I was leaving. I did find out when his next therapy appointment was. I did not want him to be alone after I told him, so I planned to do it right before his therapist appointment. That wasn't until Wednesday. I spent the early part of that week in a daze, terrified of the change that was coming. I found myself a place to go. I waited. It was terrible. My plan didn't get executed the way I expected. Earlier in the day on Wednesday he surprised me at home as I was getting ready for a client meeting. He asked if I was leaving and I told him I had to. He didn't understand why. That's a lot my fault. When I couldn't get him to understand my perspective, I was prone to finally giving up and agreeing that his perspective was valid. It was easy for him to believe that, because he generally thought he was right about things. I should have been stronger earlier. I should have realized that a relationship where I was told that disagreeing with him made me a bad wife wasn't going to work for me in the long run. Not I was trying to hold things together, and I ended up getting what I got as a result. I had to leave shortly after I told him. It was a client obligation, and my attendance was not optional. Before I left the driveway I texted several people and told them me then-husband needed support from them. A few of them were free to come and stay with him then. I was grateful I had 20 minutes to pull it together before I had to have my business-owner mask in place. I don't know how I did it. I do know that when my the meeting was over two hours later I realized that my hands weren't shaking any more. My hands had been shaking for months. I had chalked it up to stress related to trying to start a business. Apparently that wasn't the core of the problem. A friend who knew what was going on with me had told me that everything would get better after I actually left. She turned out to be right. I Nothing since has ever been nearly as bad as that week when thing fell all the way apart. I wish I'd really known that then. It would have made the whole experience a lot less traumatic at the time. But I didn't know that then. And so this week is always hard for me, because anniversaries have power. It's been especially hard this year because the person who betrayed my confidence and started that final boulder falling over the cliff has resurfaced and asserted that our friendship was a casualty of me not handling me divorce well, and they think I've done them a disservice in the process. The good news is now, seven years later, I'm much less quick to accept the narrative when someone who doesn't show any empathy for me calls me a bad person. I still wonder, and have to fight to throw it off, but I'm much better at that than I used to be. The whole experience definitely made me stronger, and I'm glad for where my life has evolved to. But this week is hard, and it's always going to be hard. And this year is worse than most.