The following post is an excerpt from my upcoming book Steps to Reach the Final Goodbye. If you like what you see here, join the waiting list to be notified when the book is available by entering your email at the end of this post. Enjoy, Kirsty x
One thing I am asked time and time again is “why did I stay so long?”
There are many reasons.
Obviously when there are children involved you need to consider more than just yourself. For so long I used the reason that I stayed for the kids. And they were one of the reasons, but the indiscretions and infidelities started way before we had children and I still stayed.
I don’t have regrets for staying, the way I look at it, if I had left early I wouldn’t have my 4 beautiful children, however, I do say this to anyone who is in a similar position. If I had known the long-term damage I was doing to myself, I would have left after the first indiscretion.
The thing is, after the first indiscretion I remember thinking “what’s wrong with me?” and those thoughts grew and grew with each infidelity until I no longer felt worthy of anyone else’s love. If I left, who else was going to love me? My own husband, the man who stood up in front of our family and friends and promised to love me forever, couldn’t do that – who else could?
When there are infidelities in a relationship, trust is shattered beyond repair. Only an incredibly strong couple will survive infidelities of any kind and then you must ask yourself, if they were that strong why were there even infidelities in the relationship. Once trust is broken it is irreparable. Once someone shatters your trust, you are broken.
With each indiscretion came another blow to my self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. With each indiscretion I lost faith in any man and eventually any human. I blamed myself, he blamed me and after each infidelity I always said to myself if I could just do this or just do that, if I wore nicer clothes, if I looked after myself more or if I gave him more attention he might love me and not have to turn to other women.
Years and years of those thoughts are hard to break. I walked away not believing I was worthy of anyone’s love. I walked away not trusting anyone. I walked away believing everyone was out to hurt me. To fix that thinking is a long and complicated process.
This is where I turned to professional help.
There is no shame is seeking professional help. I didn’t know how to deal with these feelings of not being worthy of anyone, even to this day I still struggle with it. I have settled for less when I should’ve stood firm and said “No, you are not worthy”. It’s also great to talk to someone who is removed and not emotionally invested in your situation. Friends are great for advice, but it is biased. A therapist is not.
I remember seeing my therapist for the first time and she asked what I hoped to achieve through the sessions. My immediate answer was to learn to trust again and to learn who to trust.
“I can’t help you with that” she said, “but I can help you find yourself, love yourself and trust yourself which will make it easier to decide who YOU should trust”.
The biggest thing I struggled with was depression and anxiety. Also, because I was pregnant when I left and then breastfeeding, I made the decision (with my Dr’s assistance) not to take medication so everything was managed with strategies.
One of the first activities I worked on with my therapist was recognising when I was depressed and anxious, recognising those behaviours before they became paralysing and to work out strategies on how to deal with them.
For me, depression is not sitting around crying. Depression is being so weighted down with thoughts that I can’t move, it’s waking up in the morning and having these 4 children dependant on me to do things for them but me not being able to even move out of bed.
It’s once I’m out of bed, being so overwhelmed by the simplest task. It’s then struggling from unfinished task to unfinished task until it’s time to head back to bed
When you’re raising kids, you can’t spend days on end like that, so you must either medicate or have strategies in place. Those strategies must also include a supportive network of friends and family who you feel comfortable calling on at any time day or night. You might not think you have family or friends like that but trust me you do.
My therapist and I made a list of signs and feelings, so I could recognise on my own that I was becoming depressed before it took hold. We then made a list of activities that made me feel better, made me feel good about myself and forced me to refocus my mind.
Writing played a huge part. I have always been one to keep a journal and write down thoughts but publishing those thoughts for the world to see is the best form of therapy. Yes, it might be self-indulgent or some might suggest I’m airing dirty laundry but one thing I found towards the end of the marriage was there was very little support out there, very few people who tell you how it is and I have had many women connect with me as their marriages end and thank me for being so honest about it.
Exercise also played a huge part. In my situation, I couldn’t get out to the gym, but I was able to put kids in a pram and walk. When your mind is a mess of thoughts and the stress of young children and housework is taking its toll, put them in a pram, grab your favourite play list and headphones and just walk.
Walking has so many benefits, but I found the biggest benefit was seeing the streets I walked through the eyes of my 3rd son who was 2 going on 3 at the time. The weeds which he saw as pretty flowers, the puddles of water which were adventures, the other people and what they were doing, the cars – everything was magical to him and this made me see the magic in the world around me as well. Walking is still my favourite form of stress relief. These days we’re getting more adventurous with our walks and have ventured out to national and recreation parks for bushwalking where the wonder of the world is even greater.
I also practice mindfulness every day. I’ll happily admit that when my therapist suggested it, in my head I thought “I don’t have time for that sort of stuff” and some days it’s hard to find peace simply because of the chaos in the home but I try and find 5 to 10 minutes just to sit and just refocus. There are many apps you can get to remind you to practice mindfulness and help you practice mindfulness and meditation.
Getting into a good routine at home was also a help and I wrote the routine down so on the days where I struggled it was like a “to do” list for me.
- Get out of bed
- Make a cup of tea
- Make breakfast for the boys etc
It went on for the rest of the day with everything listed and yep, might seem basic or silly but without that list I would just wander. Nothing would get done and I would forget to do so many basic but important things. I still have my list and even though I don’t need to refer to it too much these days, to see it everyday is a reminder to me of just how far I have come.
I still suffer badly with anxiety. So many people I know have had anxiety triggered by relationship breakdowns. I’m still working on strategies to deal with anxiety.
I find anxiety worse than depression, depression is easier to control. I was diagnosed with situational depression, so it was a depressive state due to my circumstances at that point in time and as my circumstances improved so did my depression. Anxiety though – I have no idea where this came from. Apparently, depression and anxiety often go hand in hand but if my depression was situational why wasn’t my anxiety. Why is it still here!
Once again writing, walking and practicing mindfulness helps with anxiety but sometimes it’s still crippling particularly when it comes to relationships. The key there is to find someone who understand you, if they don’t understand you and why you have anxiety – they are not the person for you.
Working on your mind, assessing where things went wrong and how you can improve for your next relationship is one of the first and most important steps you can take following the breakdown of a relationship. It might take one or two sessions with a professional or it might take more. Everyone deals with things and recovers at their own pace, but it is a very important step in the recovery journey to ensure you don’t bring any (or too much) baggage into your next relationship.