When I first got divorced, I walked around for about a year like a female version of Rip Van Winkle who had awoken and was seeing a new world.
Despite a PTSD diagnosis from my doctor, everything felt like a miracle to me.
Every time I would pay a bill, I felt gratitude to be paying my own bills. When I bought my first piece of decent furniture, I felt like a queen. I finally slept like a baby most nights in my bed, and I let my daughter, who was two at the time, sleep next to me, despite everyone telling me “that was a bad idea.” I didn’t care. What I cared about was that we were finally SAFE and FREE.
For about a year, I walked around like that-in an almost mystical, childlike state of wonder. I am not saying I wasn’t raw and emotional-what I’m saying is that I felt peace, despite the range of emotions that passed through me.
I remember sitting in my little, white and brick house in a not-so-great part of town, rocking my daughter in my tattered, hand-me down rocking chair, thinking that I had life figured out and that life was good.
You see, it takes some time to realize you have your own life after you haven’t for so many years. And here I was, in 2010, finally awake to the idea that I was alive and that I could make choices for myself.
People observing me said, “Wow. Emily is doing SO well. She’s, like, a brand new person.”
Only I wasn’t. I was still the same person I had been during my entire marriage; I was simply now reacting to the fact that I was finally safe and free.
I was like an aged onion. There were so many layers of me that hadn’t been peeled back yet, and my skin was starting to toughen and the roots were trying to pop out because I needed to be peeled. The learning had barely begun.
I realized in therapy that rejection was my oldest wound. And it has also been the most difficult wound to heal. Deep wounds like that do not heal from the outside–they can only heal from within. You cannot slap a bandaid on a rejection wound and expect it to heal. You have to do the deep, psychological work that starts from within.
Combining my fear of rejection with PTSD, and you could say my post divorce dating life was a complete shit storm. I went from boyfriend to boyfriend. I remember my therapist looking up at me and asking me, “Where did you go?”
My energy was frenetic. Although the framework for the abusive marriage was gone, I was still the same person, afraid to be seen. Afraid to show up, instead of showing off. Afraid of being my true self, because…who would actually love that? Although I said I wanted a partner, I continued to pick partners who were clearly not right for me.
But tonight, as I sit here on Valentines Day 2017, the one thought in my mind is this: it is so good to be single, free, and safe. I once prayed so hard for the things I have now, and I feel GRATITUDE to have them. I feel a little wide-eyed tonight, even though seven years have passed since I left.
I know there are many men and women in relationships that, even if they are safe, they are not free. They feel afraid. Maybe they are afraid of rejection from their spouses, even after being married all these years. Or maybe they feel like they just don’t have the courage to be seen, and that eats away at their insides. Or maybe they feel they cannot trust this person lying next to him or her and that wears on them day in, and day out.
If that is you, while I do not have specific answers, I can tell you this. Don’t stop peeling off your layers. Don’t stop showing up. Don’t stop feeling the feelings. Don’t numb out. Have the courage to be yourself and figure out what’s underneath the feelings. Because until you peel all the layers off, all you are is a body with feelings-not your awokened self. And we all need a planet that is full of humans who are healthy, alive, and awake.
Happy love day, 2017.