Four Doors Down
On my second wedding anniversary, I found out that my husband was having an affair with our neighbor. Though I suspected something was amiss, I found out about the betrayal from a poorly hidden string of nude pictures and secret messages—a cruel awakening into a never-ending nightmare. The riptides of anger swirled with my tears of sadness, draining into a tumultuous river of confusion and abandonment.
I had so many questions and so few answers from a man who ran into another woman’s arms and never looked back. Even before we officially called off our marriage, he deleted all traces of me from his Instagram like I had never even existed. My husband ghosted me.
I never thought about my mental health or emotional wellness before this point. I lived my life with the mantra “emotions are weakness” burnished into my heart. What I didn’t know yet was that protecting myself in this way also put distance between me and joy. My depression pulled me into an isolating quicksand of despair, and my shame of failure haunted me. I told myself that I was worthless, that nobody loved me or ever would, that I deserved this, and that I was alone.
Contrary to the stories in my head, my family and my best friend rallied around me. She encouraged me to read Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” This, along with intensive therapy, helped me understand and let go of the shame. I began to reach out more. New friends brought me to their favorite yoga studios and meditation workshops where I learned new tools for mindfulness and self-compassion. Less self-judgement. From that newly vacated space, I started filling it with more gifts of authentic connection, community, and support.
Was it a quick fix? No. It took three years to transform my life to where I am today, traveling around the world for a few months. But opening my eyes to living just for me has been a powerful gift and one that was worth the wait.
By Stephanie Lee