There were so many months, days, hours, minutes when I felt broken. Like something had actually broken inside of me. Like I was forever changed. Forever broken, missing a piece because of what had happened. It was an emptiness I had never felt before. I was convinced that I had poured so much of myself into my husband, that when he disappeared (figuratively), so did that part of myself.
I was like a robot for months with my daughter. Every now and then, I would think, “Thank god, she’s a baby and doesn’t know anything,” or, “Thank god for my parents.” But mostly I was on autopilot, just trying to make it from morning to night, morning to night, morning to night.
I thought a few times in a simple way, “Please let me die.” The emptiness, the all-consuming ache was just too much. I did not feel like a full person anymore. If I had lost such a vital part of myself when I lost my husband, then I would rather not be alive. Of course, having a newborn gave me a reason to go on, but at the time, it seemed like a shitty, horrific, cruel joke of a reason.
Writing this, I can feel that physical ache again. It’s been such a long time since I’ve felt it and yet I have a lump in my throat right now.
Right after I gave birth, I found out my husband was leading a double life, complete with a girlfriend. Over the next few months, as details trickled in and other women came forward, I realized that he, and our five years together, was an illusion.
For those of you who are in the beginning stages of this broken-ness, I am writing for you. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but what is actually happening is this: You are rebuilding yourself. All the light and love that you were born with and that somehow got flattened or dimmed is still there within you and it is only now that you will be able to access it again. I know it feels impossible, but it is true.
You will question everything and everyone. You will be in so much pain; you will have panic attacks. You will start to have epiphanies and feel euphoric, as if your new life is just waiting around the corner. And then you will be thrown back into the pain when you least expect it. Over and over. Again and again. This kind of change is hard and it is physically draining. But little by little you will rebuild yourself. And this time, it will be based on what you know to be true, not what society or your parents or your friends tell you.
You gave yourself away, yes, but now you will take yourself back.
If you can’t go there yet, if you can’t imagine that this will come to pass, then, for now, just take a breath, take my word for it and hang on.
(A slightly shorter version of this essay appeared on the author’s blog, www.jenwaite.com)