I still remember my wedding day, vividly. Any day planned and fretted about for months is going to stick in your brain for a lifetime. Any day built up as the beginning of the rest of your life will burn into your psyche, in the same way horrible trauma sears its pain and anguish deep into your bones. Try as you might, you can’t shake it the pain becomes a part of your very foundation. Few positive memories have the same effect. For whatever reason, our bodies, hearts and minds tend to cling to the negative memories such as: being humiliated in front of your class, not being able to get jeans off in time due a broken zipper and wetting myself at girl scout camp, seeing my father lash out at me in a yet another blinding rage, losing a job or role for reasons unknown, having a voice teacher tell me I would never be a singer, seeing the face of a lover suddenly go cold and distant, having no one show up to my 13th birthday party….and on and on and on. The traumas and disappointments get inside of you like a bad virus you can’t shake, but the good memories fade quickly. The memories replaced instead by just vague emotion. Instead of specific images they blur into shifting colors through a window. Instead of the detailed sharp piercing prongs of negative memories happy thoughts become reduced to feelings. I can’t remember holding my cat for the first time, hugging a friend I haven’t seen forever, the first kiss from a person I adore, winning a competition….they drift, they fade only warm pretty shadows remain in their place.
The memory of my wedding day is now traumatic but still beautiful in my mind, so like the crazy nuanced event it has become, it is now a hybrid of negative crystal clear clarity and blurred fuzzy happiness. The one image that keeps coming back is the walk down the aisle. I used to have PTSD style flashbacks of the very event. I would be sitting on the train or reading a book and for no reason it would flash into my brain as clear as it was actually happening. The cathedral, with his family on one side and mine on the other, the organ music, with all of these faces turned towards me. It was so overwhelming, all I could do to get through the ritual was to focus on my soon to-be husband and move closer and closer to him and the rest of my life. I knew that if I turned to look at people on either side I would start crying and I didn’t want to cry on my wedding day so I kept focusing on the task at hand and that was to get down the aisle without shedding a tear. My husband was now my new family, the scars and damage from my old one were over and I had chosen this new man to start over and help wipe away the darkness and pain of the past.
Since my divorce, I have had recurring nightmares of being outside of my body trying to run up to myself in the moments while screaming
“Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it”
The sound of my screams echoing through the great hall of marble, but no one looks up, no one even flinches and I still just keep moving forward. Nothing I can do can stop me, it is like looking at ghosts re-enacting the same scene in a play over and over.
I hate it when people say,
“Well at least your husband was just gay, it could have been a lot worse”
Or anything to the effect of that I have somehow had it easier than a typical divorced person.
I guess in some ways I have, in that the end was so absolute. There was no reason to second guess why I was leaving my husband, no amount of couples counseling, no amount of therapy or listening skills that would have made anything better, no horrible act of betrayal that I would regret for ending everything. But on the downside I felt cheated. I got cheated at a chance at a normal marriage, with a man of the same sexual orientation who loved me like a man is meant to love a woman, in mind, heart and body.
I was cheated of the chance of having children and being a mother. I know I _might_still have time left, but dating at age 38 is difficult as half of the eligible men already have children and don’t want more. And in my current state I couldn’t afford to raise a child on my own, as I can barely take care of myself. There are times on the subway or in the park that even the sight of a young mother with her child will send me spiraling. Suddenly tears come from nowhere and I can’t make them stop. Why is she so lucky to have the one thing that I will never get to experience? I am constantly told that I shouldn’t give up hope but I haven’t been able to sustain a relationship for any length of time and every other man who I find compatible is already a father and doesn’t want more children. I had to end therapy because literally every single session was the same conflict, the same fear, the same resentment over probably losing the chance to be a parent. When my therapist suggested I go back on medication, and then tried to get me to justify what I consider a fairly innate human desire to procreate I couldn’t take it anymore and ceased the sessions.
I was cheated of the dream that everyone has when they get married, that despite the obstacles in life and arguments, fights, and petty annoyances I no longer have a partner for life. I was cheated on the intimacy of an adult human sexual relationship. It seemed normal at first but it quickly became dysfunctional but because I loved my husband I stuck it out, and now I beat myself up for not leaving sooner.
So over two years have passed, but I am still not right. I am still not healed and I don’t know if I ever will be. I am suspicious of every man I meet, and I trust no one, it is so debilitating that I actually stick around in relationships that aren’t fully formed, that aren’t as scary, that aren’t as real…I am scared to have a real one.
But my shattered life has in some ways made me stronger, like a piece of metal cracked and then welded back together, or a bone broken and then reset. I am no longer the same shape, my insides, my skeleton is not the same, and I don’t react to pain the same way. I am far more empathetic to another person’s pain especially anyone divorced. I feel deeply for them, and I cut them a lot of slack for self-destructive behavior or lashing out at themselves or others. I know they are in a ton of pain and that most of their actions are not directed at me or anyone, but instead directed at the emptiness inside of them. I have also learned that I have to heal myself before allowing anyone else in. I no longer have my husband to unload my emotional baggage on. And friends get tired when I repeatedly do it to them, so I am now forced to deal with it on my own, with just my broken heart and damaged soul to mend myself. These things have definitely made me a better friend and a better person, but the lack of trust and emotional scars have made me more skittish and more apprehensive about letting anyone new in. I have become damaged goods complete with certain memories playing repeatedly in my mind. Hopefully I will one day be able to replace the photo sharp negative ones with more blurry happy thoughts. But until then, I try to ride the nightmare of the memory of walking to my new life of fraud, deception and loss. Two years ago I was pushed off a cliff and I survived, now I just need to figure out how to pick of the pieces and start climbing again.