Autumn, 2005. I am twenty-two years old. The last two weeks of twenty-one were spent in the hospital, and then recovery, after a brutal car accident that broke my pelvis in three places, cracked three ribs, punctured one lung, fractured my tailbone, and left facial lacerations that will eventually need corrective surgery. I spent two months healing, getting better, learning how to walk again, dress myself, take care of myself. And finally, I was able to go home.
That’s when I realized — my body was repairing. My brain was still broken. I was lost. Stuck. Trapped in my apartment. Every time I went to the door, my hands would shake and I’d break into a sweat. What will happen this time? I got lucky the last time. I survived. Next time, I won’t be so lucky. The next car accident I get into will probably be my last.
I am alone. Nobody talks to me. Nobody realizes that, despite my outward appearance, I am not healing, I am not healed. I sit alone in my apartment for hours on end. I am screaming on the inside, and nobody can hear me. Sometimes I feel like the part of me that was real died that day, and I’m just a shell of who I used to be. People say “I don’t understand why you’re like this. You survived. You’re going to be okay. Be happy.” They don’t see me. I am invisible.
October, 2008. I am twenty-five years old. My boyfriend David and I have been together almost six months. I have been battling anxiety and depression for three years. It is just another day. Nothing special. But I am uncontrollable. He can already tell…it’s another one of “those” days. Days when the smallest thing will send me into a tailspin of anxiety, leave me lying in bed crying for hours. I can’t control myself. I am out of control.
He is going to leave me, I just know it. He’s going to decide one day that I am not worth it, that he is tired of grabbing me around the waist and holding me while I sob. He’s going to go find a simpler girl.
He swears this isn’t the case. “I love you. Nothing you say or do is going to change that.” But he is reaching the end of his rope. He knows that I have a prescription for anti-anxiety drugs in my wallet. My doctor prescribed them to me five months ago. He wants me to take them.
“They aren’t going to change who you are” he says, “They’re going to help you. They’re going to let you be the person you should be without the anxiety.”
And that day, I cave. That day, I fill the prescription, I take the first pill. I never, ever look back.
August, 2009. We are engaged now. David has just returned from Massachusetts. His estranged father won’t speak to him, won’t look at him. Doesn’t care about him. This is the way it has been for almost ten years. I have known this all along, but this is the first time that it has really seemed to affect David. This is the first time that he has seemed to care.
He lies in bed, in pajamas, staring at the wall, too upset to do anything except cry. I hold him, he leans his head against my chest and sobs.
“Promise me,” he says, “that if I ever do this, if I ever push you away, if I ever become like my father…if it’s genetic and I can’t escape it, promise me you won’t give up. Promise me you’ll do anything to make me get better. Drag me to a doctor, drag me to a therapist, I don’t care. Just please, please don’t let me ruin your life and mine the way my father has ruined my mother’s, and my brother’s, and mine.”
I promise. After all he has done for me, it is the least I can do.
December 2012. We have been married for two years. I am twenty-nine, he is twenty-seven. I have been medicated for four years, I have had a therapist for almost three. I am not healed. I never will be. But I am better. I can count the number of panic attacks that I have in a year on one hand. That is amazing progress. But the minute I started to get better, David fell apart.
In September of 2011, he told me he wasn’t in love with me anymore. He told me he wanted to separate in April of 2012. In November of 2012, after months of trying to make things work, I moved out. I told him, repeatedly, that if he is not going to seek counseling, if he is not going to remove the negative influences from his life, and if he is never, ever going to love me the way a man should love his wife, then there is no sense in us even trying to reconcile.
I go to his apartment, our old apartment, the day after Christmas. I am upset. I am fed up. He has been lying to me — again. And I can’t take it anymore. I want to move on, I want to find someone who loves me, who makes me feel like I am worthy of being loved. And I tell him I am ready to file for divorce.
He crumples, there on the couch next to me. Dissolves into tears before my eyes. He cannot move forward. He cannot move back. He doesn’t know where he’s going. He removed me from his life and he is still unhappy. He thought that I was what was holding his happiness back, but that’s not true. Though he has been told — months ago — by our marriage counselor that he needs therapy, he is unable to bring himself to face it. He prefers to work constantly and surround himself with people who tell him that he doesn’t need help, that he is fine the way he is.
I once did that too.
I thought I was doing the right thing, telling him I wanted a divorce. I thought he’d be relieved. I thought that was what he wanted all along, he just didn’t want to be the one to pull the trigger.
But he sits next to me, sobbing into his hands, “I don’t know what to do, Meg. I don’t know what to do. I never am comfortable in my own skin. I feel so alone, all the time. I am never home, no matter where I am. I am so unhappy, and nobody realizes it.”
And it breaks my heart, because I have been there.
I am just as lost as I was before. I sit there, and I hold him as he sobs. And I wonder…where do we go from here?