ABOUT THE MATTER OF MY DIVORCE
“Telling our stories gives someone else permission to tell theirs” – Brittany Packnett.
The biggest lesson I learnt from my former life as a social worker is that everyone has a story. Oftentimes, these stories are (re)collections of highly traumatic experiences that usually start from childhood. According to the Oxford English dictionary, trauma is “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”
The thing about trauma is that it can also serve as a protective mechanism. It puts up defence mechanisms such as regression, anger, projection and disassociation, all to stop you from actually confronting the pain. Anger and disassociation are the main ways I have learnt to deal with my trauma. Whenever I am recollecting some of my past traumatic experiences including having gas explode on me, on a new year’s day no less, it feels as though I am physically detached from my body and actually recalling a movie of my life. At the root of trauma is an inability to process the inner effects of a situation after the outer event is gone. Dissociation is the mind’s way of helping to minimise extreme stress or conflict.
Nonetheless, the ghosts of past traumas have being coming back to haunt me from the repressed corners of my memories I had banished them to. I find myself recollecting some of my most painful experiences as if they are mere figments of my overactive imagination. That I have no physical scars from gas exploding on my face, or having my face punched repeatedly with my own fist, by a man I thought I loved, has only made it that much easier for me to disassociate from the trauma of these experiences.
The trauma of my failed marriage and subsequent divorce has being the hardest one for me to repress. More so when I am shown the remnants of what could have been, which only leave me feeling like I have just had the wind knocked out of me. The truth of my divorce is that my marriage broke down after only two weeks. Acknowledging this has been a bitter pill to swallow. Even more so, given the incredulous looks I already get when I tell people that I was only married for ten months. So, having to accept that my marriage was “derailed” two weeks into the journey and that things just never managed to get back on track, is a cross I still bear, more than ten years after.
As a Psychology student, I learnt all about the Five Stages of Grief. What I had neither imagined nor prepared for, however, was that these same feelings would be applicable to divorce. Divorce represents the death of a marriage and all the hopes and dreams that went into it. And the death of a marriage, like any death, requires a grieving process for healing. I certainly did not expect that the intense feelings of anger and depression would linger on in me, long after one had come to terms with moving through the Denial, Bargaining and Acceptance stages. Especially when, every now and then, life comes along to show me glimpses of the family life I once hoped to achieve as a result of marriage – versus the actual reality bequeathed to me by my ex. Today, it was sharing my stepdaughter’s joy at the unlikely possibility of her coming to live with me and her big sister. A cruel reminder of the life that I hoped for before finally accepting that it was not to be. This was a life in which my world would be filled with the sounds of children laughing and bickering, instead of the often loud silence that is my actual reality.
The joy of having my stepchildren over is often accompanied by the painful reminder of the fact that they were both conceived before and during the failed social experiment that constituted my marriage. Technically, children borne due to infidelity are not step-children in the eyes of the law but I refuse to allow them suffer for the sins of their father. So, instead, I have learnt to accept that we are indeed “in this for life.” Even if this means suppressing the unimaginable pain of having my stepson turn 12, four days after my daughter, at my home. I coped with it at the time by laughing about it while I prepared him the pancakes with chocolate spread he requested on his special day.
A coach once asked me if the life I was living was of my own choosing or one that came about as a result of the choices that had being made for me. In that moment, I realised I was tired of my life resembling a very bad Nollywood film. After years of being the leading lady in a sorry saga, one in which I was never shown the script and had no control over how my life story was being directed. From that moment, I made the decision to take back control, and decided to shape the narrative in a way that I could live with. Still, just last year, I came to a stark realisation that I had spent the last decade if not most of my life operating from a place of pain. The pain of being made to feel like a failure for choosing to walk away from a turbulent marriage after just ten months. And this was long before I had even realised the extent of the deception and infidelity that attended the situation.
I finally decided to stop trying to fix my own life Iyanla style, and sought therapeutic support to unpack the traumatic life I had endured by myself for far too long.
My divorce story is not that I am still in love with my ex-husband but rather that I am still mourning the death of all the hopes and dreams that were promised to me when I made the vows of forever.