This is the shorthand version of my life’s journey so far. It’s shorthand because my full life story would be novel length and read like a mental health novella. For those who are looking for something fluffy to escape the woes of the world, this post is not for you. Shit is about to get real.
I am the by product of a dysfunctional childhood, spawn of a dysfunctional family. Therefore, I have struggled with depression all my life. Double depression, in fact (look it up). Blame genetics and growing up with a fucked up worldview, including a well meaning but severely depressed parent assuring me that it is quite normal to want to kill yourself. I struggled with wanting to die, wanting to kill myself, and thinking about it since I was in elementary school. I never made an actual attempt, but I’ve gotten close. I made it out of my small town where I never felt like I quite belonged and headed to college which was supposed to be a fresh start. Family drama and depression followed me. I entered therapy for the first time and after years of constant suicidal ideation, I finally broke free from it. I was still severely depressed, however.
I met my now ex-wife in college my sophomore year of undergrad, which is a story all on it’s own because we went to a very conservative Christian university. We feel in love a year later which is odd since neither of us had ever been attracted to another woman before that. We quickly committed to each other for life without thinking about it. We were very much in love. Around senior year I started taking medication for my depression which helped me tremendously. I don’t think without that and therapy I could have endured the ride I was in for.
We became each other’s world and hid our relationship from our very religious, conservative families as best we could for five years. We were terrified of being rejected by them. When the secret came out, at my prodding, that’s exactly what happened. We were ostracized and condemned by our families and lost every one of our friends. We were left to fend for ourselves. We gave each other everything we had. But in retrospect, we were filling voids for each other, voids that needed to be filled on our own. It was a quite co-dependent relationship, but I know it was because we were just trying to survive.
Drama ensued, we weathered health problems, family rejection, family semi-acceptance, family rejection again, societal rejection, unemployment, more health problems, financial stress, marital stress, mental health problems. In the chaos of life, we both graduated with our Masters Degree as Marriage and Family Therapists, obtained three dogs (two rescues), and bought a house. Next step was supposed to be babies. There are lots of big reasons why we got to the point that we did, but it was ultimately the little things that killed our relationship in the end.
Two years ago we both became unemployed at the same time for a year. We had just gotten a house and unemployment ran out after 6 months due to the political bullshit going on at the time. It was incredibly stressful and we ran into the highest debt ever trying to prevent from losing the house. Thankfully we didn’t lose it, but the shit was just starting to hit the fan.
One year ago, to this day, a loved one that we were both close to was brutally murdered. Her uncle. He was like a father to my ex and we were the only ones who really treasured him. I felt like he was more my uncle than my blood uncles were. He helped us out tremendously over the years. He gave us a place to stay when her mom kicked us out and we didn’t have anywhere to go. He gave us money for our grad school when we couldn’t make tuition. He gave us the down payment for our house. When my ex dislocated her knee, I was in finals for grad school, working full time, doing my internship, and taking care of and training a wild beast of a dog we had just rescued, all on top of having to take care of her because she couldn’t move. He was visiting from Mexico at the time and he chose to stay an entire month with us to help me out. I will never forget that.
I remember the moment I realized that he was in fact dead and it wasn’t just a bad rumor, clearly. I never believed that spontaneous fits of sobbing really happened except for in the movies, but it happened to me. Believe me, it’s a real thing. I cried all day, spurts of uncontrollable wails. But grieving would have to be placed on hold. Because she was so close to him, my ex was left in charge of his estate, which was a mess and largely located in Mexico. We were still unemployed at the time but had to make the trip out to deal with the carnage.
There are no words that can express how traumatic it is to walk into the murder scene of someone you love, to see the place where they took their last painful breath, while surrounded by their dried blood and then being left in charge of finding someone to clean it up. Mexico is cold that way.
My ex froze and couldn’t function being in the house, surrounded by her uncle’s belongings and his blood. I went into robotic mode, taking over and singlehandedly sorting through all of his things, delegating what was important, what was staying, what was going and what needed cleaning. I stood in the circle of blood where he had been left to bleed out in order to get to some important documents. I remember my heart pounding and hands shaking from the adrenaline.
There are three of us who were the most traumatized. Me, my ex, and her cousin in Mexico. We saw and heard things about the way he died that family members shouldn’t ever have to hear. We will forever be bonded through that experience. As if this was not enough stress, my ex’s mom went all borderline and decided she was upset that my ex was left in charge and sneakily fought my ex for power over her murdered uncle’s affairs. She spread lies about my ex, tried to turn my ex’s family against us, and left us to navigate the Mexican legal system on our own even though I’d never been out of the country and it had been over 10 years since my ex had last been to Mexico. If it weren’t for the beautiful nature of distant relatives that my ex had just met when we arrived, we would have been lost.
Upon returning to the states, shaken and in shock, we had to begin the legal drama for his estate in the US. We put together his funeral, on our own. The funeral was more for everyone else. We still weren’t allowed the luxury to grieve.
Five months later, we were both employed in new jobs. Legal stress from the murder continued to play a part of our daily life, especially for my ex. She was severely depressed and full on grieving. She was completely shut down. I, however, felt that I could not grieve. I felt that if I let go and really felt it, things would fall apart. Someone had to take care of all the everyday shit that needs to get done no matter how spent you are. Because that was my role. It’s who I am, what I’ve always done. I was the mover, the one who made sure we survived no matter what. Even at my own expense.
So I put off my grief to give her space to feel hers. It didn’t work out so well. I burnt out. Death has a way of shaking up your world. I believe both of us were forever changed by our experience, but I was unaware of how much I had actually been affected by it.
Things that had been brewing inside of me for years began to bubble up to the surface. Before all this I had energy to stuff it back in, ignore the nagging thoughts and feelings as passing whims. But this time was different. I had absolutely no fight left in me. I had been carrying the load for both of us for years and I had finally reached my limit. You see, I had made things so easy for her over the years. I took care of almost everything. She became disengaged. I became the parent, the caregiver. I hadn’t realized that was what happened until I stopped being able to ignore it. I was unhappy. I wasn’t sure how long I had felt this way, but I suspect it had been several years.
I have spent so much time trying to understand the catalyst for this internal shift in myself. I believe it was a perfect storm between the life changing experience of dealing with the murder and my new job. See, I was growing in my new job. I made real, supportive friends that liked me for me. It reminded me of things I had pushed aside for years in order to make my marriage work. I began to realize that I had pushed and stuffed myself, my needs and wants aside all to keep us going. I was working so hard for years trying to get my ex to meet me half way, to become the equal I wanted, the equal I needed. But despite past efforts to restore the balance in our relationship, we fell back into our roles of caregiver and cared
I began to develop feelings for a guy who had qualities that I forgot were important to me that my ex never really had. I told her about my feelings and we went to therapy. I was already in my own individual therapy as well for years to manage my depression.
Throughout the two months that this played out, I struggled with wanting to leave but feeling incredibly guilty and terrified by the thought. She was my world and I was afraid that to lose her would mean my world would come crumbling down around me and I would be lost and alone forever. Two months may not seem like a long time to try, but I had been emotionally trying for a lot longer than that on my own before I was able to tell her about how I felt.
What ultimately happened is that she didn’t see me anymore. She saw the girl I had been, but not the woman I was becoming. I felt invisible, taken for granted, and like her parent. I had signed up for a partnership, one where we shared the load and were self motivated to grow and improve as individuals. She always struggled with that motivation and I realized that I couldn’t and didn’t want to fight her resistance anymore.
So six months after the horrible loss of her uncle, we both suffered another loss. Each other. It was my choice, as she pointed out to everyone we knew. According to her, I left because I like boys. If that’s what helps her feel better about it, she can boil it down to that. But relationships are more complicated than one simple and ridiculous explanation can sum up and so are my reasons for leaving. It took two people to start and end this.
It has been five and a half months since I’ve been separated from my ex. I lost whatever friends we had gained throughout our marriage. They chose her side. Thankfully I inherited a wonderful group of supportive friends at work. I feel so blessed to have them. I still need to file for divorce. We no longer have contact, at her insistence. She is hurt and angry at me for leaving her. I still love her very much. I wish her happiness and worry about her. I just don’t love her as a spouse anymore.
I’m 33 years old. I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime and then some. I have experienced three of the top ten most stressful life events in a matter of two years. Not including all the bullshit that’s happened before that.
I’m still grieving my losses. I still grieve for my lost relationship, all 13 years worth. I miss our house, the two dogs I left with her (the boxer and the corgi/dachshund mix-even though I didn’t like him very much) (I kept the pug) and the good times we had. I miss her friendship and the family members I had adopted as my own. I miss her uncle. I still cannot see someone getting their throat slit on TV as it re-traumatizes me and I flash back to the murder scene.
I’m still adjusting to starting over and being alone.
But I’ve discovered that I’m so much stronger than I’ve ever given myself credit for. My faith, friends, and even my dysfunctional family have helped me tremendously, but I cannot deny that I keep going because of the fire inside of me. I’m a force of a woman and now I’m not afraid to show it. I am scarred and bruised, but I stand tall, sturdy and proud that I’m doing it on my own.
This is my journey so far. this is not the most tragic story or the most inspirational story you will read. But it is my story and I felt compelled to share it with whoever is willing to take time to read it.
Thank you to the both of you.