On a Saturday morning in August, we argued. It wouldn’t be the last argument for that weekend.
I packed my things and went to a hotel I booked, because I already knew what was coming. I stayed all day at the hotel, not talking to her — and she did not call me. I wrote all day, and cried all night, and slowly accepted the fact that the love I thought I wanted was simply not what I was getting. The next morning, we argued over text, then over the phone, and then I made it clear that I wanted a divorce…this relationship was no longer serving me, and our time was up.
I had never made a decision like this in my life, and it terrified me.
Why did I make this choice? What was I going to do on my own? Why did she stay with me just to not want me? Why was I, once again, at the end of a relationship feeling not good enough?
The fear, anger, sadness, and disappointment that was felt during this time was overwhelming; but it was more fear than anything. Everything we had worked on, experienced together, planned together, and had grown through together was all gone. I thought the pandemic was going to be a time of resolution and breaking through, but instead, it was breaking me down.
This was literally the beginning of the end.
When the pandemic hit, it turned everything upside down for me. Everything I’d thought was real in my life was literally fading away: who I thought I was, the things I thought I was passionate about, and the relationships I thought would last forever…including my marriage.
Up until this point, I’d spent so much time running around, being busy, and telling myself for a long time that “we just need to keep working” and that “things are getting better, just be patient“. The truth ended up being that I was forcing a relationship that was done, and had honestly been done — the pandemic just ending up bringing that fact to the forefront with full force.
Being forced by quarantine to sit down and stay put with nowhere to go, I’d gotten more into my meditation and prayer— adding in the hope for my marriage to work. Only the more I did this, the more it became apparent that we were no longer a couple, with the added question: had we ever even been a couple at all? There were so many issues that we had constantly given excuses to: lack of intimacy, lack of spiritual connection, not wearing rings, etc.
Can you believe my parents didn’t even know I was married until I decided to get a divorce?
I know–all the damn signs had been there. I’d made excuses as to why I didn’t inform them of my marriage, but ultimately it was because deep down I’d known I deserved more. For so long, I’d allowed myself to sit in the thought that I deserved to settle for what was given to me, because anything was better than the trauma that I had gone through. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
I really had to sit with myself and learn to process the fact that all the parts of me, even the seemingly not-so-shiny parts, were deserving of love.
I live in my head often: I love lots of affection, I thrive off alone time, and I am not good at returning phone calls or text messages. There was a lot of what I call “The Issa Rae Experiment” — also known as mirror work. I would stand in front of my mirror everyday and have in depth conversations about how I was feeling, what I was working through, and how it would feel to get all the things that I knew I wanted for myself.
What I ended up deciding was that I really loved feeling happy, secure, and at peace. I deserved these things, and nothing was too good to be true, because I was deserving of all good things. This is exactly what I would tell a close friend, and who is the closest friend to me that I know? Myself.
My parents also believe I deserved absolute happiness, so hearing the news about my marriage (and the dissolution of it) was certainly not the best news to them. I felt guilty about not having them be a part of something I’d expected to be a special moment, and looking back, I actually felt really embarrassed that I’d allowed myself to settle for something that I didn’t want.
I think neither me nor my partner wanted to admit it, but we didn’t get married because the love became so overwhelming between us. In 2016, Trump was coming into office, and there was fear over whether we would still have the same rights — so off to the county clerk’s office we went. Major lesson here: Never marry for anything other than 100% love. It will save a lot of grief later.
My parents were fortunately very understanding after I told them about the divorce, and they both made it clear that they just wanted their daughter happy. They’ve been a huge blessing through my transition, and it would take a lifetime to show all my appreciation to them.
Before the divorce, I was full of anger for a long period of time, and had to sit down and go over the reasons as to why this was no longer serving me. And then I recognized that I was feeling very much like I was begging someone to want me. When people say that they’d rather be alone than feel lonely with someone, I now completely understand why. The unhealthy behaviors between us left me feeling lost a lot, and I began to feel like no matter how I tried to express myself, it was always wrong.
Now to be fair, I do have a history of allowing my emotions to bottle up within me until I can no longer take it, and I admit that was wrong of me. Unhealthy communication is going to break your relationship. But I also felt more hurt because I really was trying to heal the situation on my end, and ultimately the reality was that the trust was completely gone on both ends. I know people say that when you love someone, you stick through it and get through the rough times — but how long do we have to endure a repetitive cycle of rough times?
Love is not hard, and I refuse to submit to the belief that you must endure constant of trials and tribulations in order to reach ultimate happiness. Is it normal to have issues in your relationship? Hell yes! But is it normal for it to be at the cost of your mental and emotional well-being? I think not.
Add in a strong lack of intimacy (which is important to me), and there was not much left to work with anymore. This went on for a few months, to the point that I was sitting in high-functioning depression. I realized it because I was forcing myself to stay busy — a habit I continuously practiced when high levels of stress presented themselves. And between the pandemic, politics, Black people problems, loss of loved ones, and now the loss of a very important relationship, I went through a long period of “why me?”, and a long period of isolation and anger.
I began revisiting my past, thinking about all the trauma that I experienced from childhood to adulthood — a majority of it sexual. It’s not that I hadn’t considered them in the past, but I would usually get uncomfortable and unconsciously revert back from them and deflect. And though I’d definitely made a significant amount of changes, these were things that I continued to dodge.
Trauma — especially sexual trauma — is an interesting thing. You lack trust, but you also want someone you can feel safe with. You end up learning to accept behaviors and relationship dynamics that don’t serve you, like those that lack boundaries. Because sexual trauma has the tendency to create people-pleasing behavior, it can be extra hard to try to leave people that are not healthy for you, even if there’s more harm in staying. The truth is that we really do date, marry, and befriend at the level of our own self-worth. Unhealed sexual trauma breeds a cycle of other unhealthy patterns that form both internally, and in our relationships with others. And after a series of sessions with my Black woman therapist, I began to purge so many emotions.
And let me tell you, the healing process was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Outside of my therapy sessions, I was alone a lot, which required a lot of self-reflection and blunt honesty about my actions. And as many of us do, I initially started out pointing fingers about what was done to me. But it wasn’t until I began writing daily, sitting in silence — and honestly talking to myself out loud — that I began to release a lot of heavy emotional baggage. And it was not pretty either.
I cried every day for a while, and was very tired. Some days I was happy, and some felt like I would never be okay because I was too trapped in my own head. I’d dealt with so much trauma and chaos, that I ended up feeling out of place when it wasn’t present — which then caused me to unconsciously create my own. Whether it was staying in unhealthy and/or abusive relationships, staying at a job I absolutely hated, settling for “friends” just because we’d known each other for a long time, or keeping “family” around because of blood relations.
Once again, the things we keep around only represent the level of love we have for ourselves. I had to begin showing love to myself and not waiting for someone else to give it to me. What that looked like after my healing was creating a morning routine of meditation, exercise, and journaling, which really helped my days become easier.
But this is not to say that once the days became easier, they stayed easier all the time. Some days I didn’t really feel like doing any of the new habits I’d taken up, and my routine would then turn into me feeling irritated, sad, and lying on the floor. What I recognized is that the more healing work you do, the more there is to purge. And sometimes I felt like I was never going to climb out of the emotional rabbit hole I’d fallen into.
But even on the rough days, I learned to appreciate the fact that I still tried: I still got out of bed, poured myself a glass of water, and gave gratitude. And over time, more days became peaceful and heart-centered. Because I recognized my personal worth more and more, I stopped doing “the most”, so to speak. I began instead prioritizing what was important to me — not anyone else. And I began moving on my own time…and if I didn’t want to do something in the moment? I didn’t.
There’s a lot of power in focusing on your peace and minding your own grown business.
And by minding my own business and really zeroing in on myself, I finally came to the realization that I really did not know myself. Because if I did, would I treat myself like this?
I had to learn to fall in love with myself, which was not easy because I’d never been in love with just me. But the biggest tool in helping me embody this self-love was telling myself “yes” more often, and doing what I felt like doing: I danced and sang out loud, I walked around naked to show my body I loved her, and I spoke to myself like a best friend would every day. And one of the biggest things that helped me fall in love with myself, was building the courage to set boundaries, no matter the outcome.
This helped me learn to respect my needs and not feel shame or guilt for putting myself first. It also helped to stop minimizing my emotions for the sake of peace, dimming my light and happiness to make others comfortable, and looking for validation in things and people outside of myself. These things were no longer an option, and I had to hold myself accountable. I wasn’t responsible for the trauma — but I was responsible for the constant self-destructive behavior that would follow. That had to come to an end, and I had to learn that at this point, this was about no one but myself.
And one of the ways I reclaimed myself was by making the decision to finally confront the beginnings of my personal trauma — by writing my childhood abuser. In the letter, made it very clear that because of their actions, I ended up experiencing things that could have been avoided. I ended up learning unhealthy behaviors that built a mountain of guilt and shame, and I was exhausted from carrying their baggage. All of the pain I carried was theirs to hold onto, so I returned it to them.
I have yet to hear back from them, but for the first time, I’m okay with that — because being able to stand up not only for myself, but the childhood version of myself, was the most amazing thing I had ever done. I felt the burden lifted from my heart, and my chest. And it literally felt like I’d been holding my breath for years, and could now finally exhale. While confronting a perpetrator is not always the best practice for some, I do highly suggest doing what feels right to you. Your intuition and heart will never steer you wrong. I had personally been trapped in my mind for so long that I allowed the lies that the sexual trauma taught me to keep me in a fog of unbalanced emotions, unbalanced relationships, and unhealthy life patterns. But opening my heart allowed me to get through this journey with a new understanding of compassion and grace — which was previously something I had never been good at giving myself.
Addressing my perpetrator allowed me to recognize that everything after my experiences were just a side effect of this initial trauma — and I just happened to hold on to the side effects for a very long time. And while I still have some rough days ( because healing is continuous) I am now in a place where I am embracing REAL transformation; and I’m looking forward to the next set of layers being shed, because I know the happiness will show up on the other side.
What I learned during the pandemic and my divorce is that we all deserve to be happy. And me getting a divorce turned out not to be about getting what I deserved from someone, but finally taking responsibility for how I’d been treating myself for so long; and I owed it to me to give myself what I deserve.
We spend so much time looking for people to provide safe spaces, protect us, and make us feel happy, that we never take time to look at the main person first–ourselves. Me and myself are becoming amazing friends, and sometimes it is hard to make certain decisions, because old habits are hard to break. But the difference now is that I know I deserve the nice outdoor wedding where I feel special, I deserve a partnership where we are each other’s biggest cheerleader, and I deserve intimacy of all forms being given, without feeling like I’m begging for it. If people say you’re asking for too much, then those simply aren’t your people.
And if there’s anything I’ve learned from this pandemonium (a.k.a. pandemic), it’s the importance of what it means to really f**k with yourself and love yourself, and to not allow guilt and shame to keep you stagnant. Loving yourself is a necessity so that you can attract who and what you truly deserve: happiness, peace, and passion.