When people ask me why I got divorced I give them the simplest answer – because I was cheated on. It’s the version of the story that paints me in the best light. If you asked my ex-husband the same question, the answer would be a little bit different. He would probably site fraud. He met and fell in love with a seemingly vibrant, happy 21 year old. He didn’t know that I was hiding a massive secret – I was suffering from severe depression. He wouldn’t find this out until 8 weeks after our wedding when he received a call from the local hospital to say I had been admitted following a suicide attempt.
I don’t blame him for not seeing I was ill, I was an expert at hiding my depression from everyone. I believed my illness was nobody’s business and that people would judge me if they knew. Instead of taking a permanent job I joined an agency and took a series of temporary contracts so that I never stayed anywhere long enough to make friends. If I made friends people may actually get to know the “real me” and my cover would be blown.
Following my hospital admission I was referred to a counsellor. I went once and deemed it a waste of time. I stopped working, refused to leave the house, stopped washing and eventually stopped talking. My longest spell of silence was 8 days. I was not a joy to live with. I reluctantly agreed to see my GP and was started on anti-depressants. It didn’t happen overnight but over the course of the following months the fog started to lift. With the encouragement of my husband I started a college course, made friends and started going out socially again. I would love to say I was “cured” and the fog never returned but it did. And every time the fog came back it was worse than before. My new social life revolved largely around drunken nights out with my new friends. I didn’t appreciate that alcohol was another depressant and each night out came with at least 48 hours of boozy blues afterwards.
Socially awkward and painfully shy without a drink in hand I started to resent my husband who was teetotal and could enjoy nights out completely sober. Our social lives became completely separate. My medication caused me to lose my libido and when my husband tried to hold me at night I would flinch. I eventually used his snoring as an excuse to sleep on the couch night after night. Days turned into weeks and months and before long a year had passed without us having sex. I was irritable, constantly picking fights over ridiculous things and even became violent. He was tolerant but my unpredictable moods would try the patience of a saint.
My husband travelled a lot for work and I stopped missing him. I had a nagging sense he was seeing other women. At the time I blamed my depression on his choice to cheat, I took full responsibility because I had closed off emotionally and we’d lost our physical intimacy. Thinking about his decision to not keep his penis in his pants while he was still married I now recognise it was not my fault. If he wanted to fuck about he could have ended the marriage. He didn’t have the courage to break things off, believing it would break me. I frequently accused him of cheating, which he denied, I obtained proof, he called me demented. We fought constantly – attacking each other’s worst flaws in a way that only someone who truly knows and loves you can. Eventually I moved out. A year later our divorce was finalised.
Looking back, my biggest regret was not carrying on with therapy. I made a lot of hasty decisions based on one session when I was at my lowest ebb. In the seven years following the separation I experienced frequent depressive episodes and anxiety. I could take all the medication in the world but without some way of processing my thoughts and feelings the tablets were as useful as a plaster over a bullet wound. I was unable to hold down a functional relationship, after a few weeks or months the paranoia that had plagued my marriage seeped into the new relationship. I would automatically think the worst of men, assuming they were all liars and cheats. Or I would break things off at the first sign that we were getting serious, willing to break my own heart before they had the chance to.
It took a long time and another emergency hospital admission before I finally sought help. Therapy isn’t a quick fix. It’s a long process to reset the destructive thoughts of the past. It’s painful but I am hopeful that one day I will be able to let my insecurities go. I tentatively started to talk about my depression to friends, family and co-workers who have mostly been supportive. Some find it hard to distinguish between “sad” and “depressed” because so much stigma still exists around mental health. I hope when I am stronger I can be more vocal about the mental illness I have battled and make others understand that you don’t have to be alone. Thankfully there is a lot of support available online and face to face. There’s no shame in asking for help.
Will I ever be able to have a relationship free of paranoia and self-doubt? Who knows? My therapist keeps reminding me no man is an island but I won’t ever be happy with someone if I can’t be happy and content in myself first.
If you or someone you know needs help the following websites are incredibly useful: