‘He was cheating. ‘How will we break it to the kids?’ I waddled through bankruptcy. Divorce was the lifesaver I needed.’: Divorcee details journey to self-love

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“Where does the love go?

We were both unhappy, we were living in different countries, and by the end of it, he had also started cheating. Was I on board with the divorce idea? Not entirely, but deep down I knew it was the right thing to do. However, stigma and lack of good examples to learn from pulled me the other way. No one supported me, I was on my own. I didn’t get the support I needed, which was maybe a hug or a few comforting words.

Before, during and after a divorce, most parents are concerned about the well-being of their children, right? Questions like, ‘Will they be okay? How are we going to break it to them? Who is going to break it to them? How are we going to split their time, expenses… etc?’ These are some of the more important concerns.

In my case, however, all the questions and concerns I had were, honestly, about and around me! I had so many questions swirling around in my head, starting with how the hell I going to deal with this new and debilitating grief all by myself. What is all this anger and what do I do with it?

How was I going to waddle through bankruptcy, mental health issues, society, stigma, and the masala curry which makes up the whole Indian divorce drama alongside raising a completely dependent child? Who had the blueprints or the action plans on how to survive a Divorce and the impending Single Parenthood? I had no idea, and neither did anyone else around me.

Courtesy of Laila Zafar
Courtesy of Laila Zafar

Left to my own devices, I set out on a very lonely journey to recompose my life again, and it was on a particularly hard night which followed the divorce filing I first began to unravel. It was terrifying. I could no longer sleep or eat, I kept passing out from exhaustion, and the loneliness just consumed me whole. There was a time when I could even hear voices!

Life became very strange, and with each passing day, I began to realize the biggest wall I kept hitting my head against was none other than myself. Truth is, I had no idea who I was! Can you believe it?

To be honest, my biggest struggle was not the divorce or even raising my child, it was the process of coming completely undone which followed it. With no job or a relationship to keep me glued together, I fell apart completely.

So, with everything unpacking, coming undone and breaking apart like breadsticks, it could only be downhill from here, right? Wrong. Well, to be fair, at first, it was one hell of a wild downward spiral, but to sum it up, on a good day I just wanted to die. Life continued like this, until one day, a dear friend mentioned therapy and her experience with it, very casually over delicious avocado toast and latte.

‘Therapy? Yeah, I’ve thought about it, but let’s see,’ I remember replying nonchalantly to her, as I sipped on my beverage. Truth is, I knew I desperately needed help, but I also knew asking for help was not my strong suit. But since life has a way of pushing you around the corner, around mid-2019, I finally bit the bullet and gave in to therapy. I was exhausted. I was tired of keeping everything inside, and it was starting to affect my ability to work and be a mom, so I finally had to concede that I needed help. I was lucky to find a doctor who was empathic, nonjudgemental, and a straight talker. She allowed me to beat around the bush as much as I wanted to in my first session, but she also got me straight to work right after.

She explained to me what I had gone through—the divorce, and the whole mental decline after it—was actually a massive trauma, one that had caused severe PTSD with mild strains of BPD in me—which, according to her, tends to happen when we take on too much.

Trust me, after hearing all kinds of contrarian and toxic responses from those around me, and after being isolated from any effective support, finally it was in her acknowledgment of my trauma I was able to let go and cry, and I cried so hard I could feel the ghosts of all my unspoken terrors lifting off my shoulders, right from the early years of my life. Her diagnosis of my situation helped me to understand it better.

I understood now why I had lost friends along the way, why I was hearing voices, why I was not actually as heartbroken over my divorce as I was over my own failure to love myself, why I had social anxiety, why I always felt like an outsider, why I always settled…What a great feeling it was to finally be able to talk and be understood.

‘Laila, you know exactly what you want from your life, and your son’s, the only thing you lack is the confidence in yourself,’ she told me, after a particularly harrowing session of hypnosis which left me exhausted, but also relieved. After, I gave up control and began to enjoy therapy and the whole process of finding myself again.

Courtesy of Laila Zafar

The hard talks, the questions, the tears, the veracity of the experience, the ‘aha’ moments, the moments of forgiveness, it was all so difficult and raw, but also absolutely necessary. My biggest ‘aha’ was my mom being the biggest emotional vampire I  know. She gave me no emotional bearings and controlled us so much despite being qualified with good jobs and everything, I still was dependent on her. This set the pattern of co-dependency in all my relationships. She killed my self-confidence and the sad thing is, she loved it! I used to hate her and painfully love her, now I just accept her. Therapy helped me with that, to put a force field around me.

Another ‘aha’ was learning I had a voice and my parents had abused me emotionally for as long as I could remember. I can forgive people and close issues myself without waiting for them to reciprocate in like. I also realized I am not a total introvert, I actually quite like people and talking to them. Basically my entire life after the divorce was one big ‘aha’ moment.

I shut out the world, save for a few well meaning friends, and invested all my time and energy into building myself up and my relationship with my son. This was my only focus point, and the rest of 2019 was dedicated to this purpose only. We traveled, we laughed, we trusted each other, and we figured out our life together.

Courtesy of Laila Zafar

So, in a very strange and comedic plot twist, my divorce actually turned out to be the ultimate life-saver I needed, and in parenting my child, I was able to effectively re-parent myself to cure all the voids which had lain open for years. Now after two years of darkness, I can truly say I have taught myself self-love and have not only raised a happy and a curious child, but have also been able to forgive the demise of my marriage and co-parent effectively with my ex-husband.

So no, leaving my home, moving countries, quitting my job, getting a divorce, facing the end of my financial rope, becoming a Single Mother, battling my demons, losing my belly laugh all in my mid-30’s had not been the end of my life. It would have been the end only if I had stayed there in my misery.

But I didn’t. I don’t deny life is sometimes a struggle, but I am happy I was able to single-handedly turn what could have been a tragedy into what set off my journey back to myself. So, to answer the age-old question, ‘Where does the love go,’ in my case, luckily, it didn’t go far away. I was able to look and find it was within me all along.

Live your best life, just you and your kid/s, with YOUR rules. It is the only way to recover and move on. It will be an effective filter for those that try to wreak havoc in your life. And I cannot say this enough. Seek therapy. ”

Courtesy of Laila Zafar

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Laila Zafar. You can follow her journey on Instagram.  Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this:

‘We held hands all the way to the courtroom and tearfully told the judge we wanted a divorce.’: Mom finds new strength in co-parenting and blended family

‘Fat, lazy, worthless.’ Cue an incredibly nasty divorce. Jobless with a cleaned-out bank account, I needed public assistance to feed my children.’: Divorced mom details self-worth journey, ‘Give yourself permission to be all you are’

‘My husband cheated on me while in the process of trying for a baby. I asked him to leave and ended the marriage. My life turned upside down.’: Woman’s extreme physical, mental health transformation after divorce

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