“No one grows up thinking I think I’ll get a divorce one day.That’ll be fun.
I certainly didn’t. And yet, at 30 years old, I found myself walking into a courthouse as a married woman, knowing I would walk out a divorced one. While it might feel appropriate to go into why and how our marriage failed, I have decided not to for two reasons. First, my ex-husband is still moving on with his life as well. No, I do not owe him anything, but I do want to respect his journey. Second, I don’t think the bulk of my post-divorce issues came from my failed marriage anyway. I think they started way earlier and ultimately led to me getting into an unhealthy marriage. To really move on and be happy, I had to come face to face with each one of my issues, and my divorce was the launchpad to do it.
Before I got married, I was in a constant state of hurt. I was hurting from a lifelong struggle of perfectionism, which informed not only my choices but also my reaction to and shame from the results of those choices. I was hurting from the identity crisis I experienced after my career as a pop recording artist ended. I got off the road after three packed years as ‘Ashlyne Huff’ and found myself not knowing who I should be next.
I was also hurting from a sexual trauma. On my 19th birthday, my then-boyfriend took my virginity during the grayest night of my life—gray because it wasn’t violent, gray because he was someone I trusted, and gray because I couldn’t find my voice to say anything. From then on, I chose guys and partners based on the way I felt about myself, the way I saw myself, and I saw myself as unworthy, disappointing, and unsuccessful. It was how I felt when I entered my first marriage, so it’s not all too surprising my first marriage ended in divorce.
I didn’t fully realize the impact these issues still had on me when I walked into the courthouse, though. I was too focused on the fact I had made it to the the finish line, the light at the end of the tunnel. The divorce process was trying and difficult—and everyone I’ve talked to who has had one says the same. No matter how different the details or how long the marriage, going through a divorce simply sucks. I had tons of support from my family and my friends. I felt loved, I felt held, I felt believed in. I felt everything you hope for when you’re going through a black tunnel, and yet, it still sucked. I saw this date as the end of a particular chapter of my life. With the end came a new beginning. I was really hopeful.
But after about a week—and maybe it was just a few days which merely felt like a week—the hopeful high wore off. My new beginning started feeling more like a hangover. Not a literal one, but rather a mental one. I didn’t feel hopeful at all. In fact, I didn’t feel like I even knew who I was anymore. When you get married, you effectively sign up to be a part of a pair. Your entire life from that moment on is put through the lens of ‘us.’ After the divorce was final, I was lost. Not because I wanted to be back in the marriage, but because I had spent the whole of the divorce process with one goal in mind: survive this part and then you’ll be okay. Though I went to therapy, I didn’t fully grasp the fact I would literally have to start over. With everything. By myself. So when the ‘high’ of having survived the loneliness of the divorce process wore off, the real loneliness, the real fear, the real depression and anxiety set in.
I was no longer a part of a two-income household, and all the pressure to provide for myself with half the means was overwhelming. I found myself facing yet another identity shift and my self-worth continued to plummet. I thought I was ugly. I thought I was broken and used goods. I thought I was no longer good at anything. I didn’t trust myself to make one decision, because in my head, my divorce trumped everything I’d ever done well. Divorce meant I was a failure, and thus, how could I ever hope to find happiness? I hit a bunch of proverbial walls over the next few years, but the first was on my 31st birthday, just a few months after the divorce was final. I was living on my own in a little cottage near Vanderbilt and Belmont universities in Nashville, Tennessee—the same home I lived in during college. When I moved back in post-divorce, I remodeled the kitchen, repainted the whole house, got all new furniture—the works. Basically, I tried my best to make it feel like the new ‘me.’
So, on this birthday, my mom and dad sat with me in my cute little living room. It was the opposite of a celebration. They were trying to cheer me up, but it was all I could do to just sit there, paralyzed by the state of my life: I was 31, I had no husband, no children, and no dog. (My twelve-year-old Yorkie named Charlie had died during the divorce process. I had to take him to the emergency room at two in the morning because he wasn’t breathing. He’d had heart disease for a while, but he’d always rallied until that night.) Anyway, we sat there. They had just celebrated their 34th anniversary, and while I was so grateful I had parents who were the epitome of a good marriage, I was also envious. I pictured 31 so differently. I thought I would have a successful marriage, maybe a baby on the way if not a few already. But I had none of it, and it wasn’t exactly something I could ask for for my birthday. Thankfully, my dad had an idea of something we could do.
He said ‘I think we should go to a shelter and find you a new dog.’
I cried, ‘But I can’t even take care of myself!’
His answer? ‘Exactly. Let’s go.’
We went to a shelter not too far from my house called Love At First Sight. Yes, it smelled like dog pee, but it’s not why this moment became unforgettable. Right away, I knew Ollie was meant to be mine. He sat alone in a crate with his sad little face, his underweight body, and his janky homemade cone of shame tied around his neck so he wouldn’t rip out his stitches from being neutered. I didn’t have a literal cone of shame tied around my neck, but I had shame. I was underweight—something I would struggle with for the foreseeable future. And I was so so sad. We were the same.
Ollie is sleeping next to me as I type this. He’s having a dream under his blanket and I hope it’s a good one. Ollie is a weirdo, there’s no doubt about it. If you’ve met him, you instantly see his quirks and oddities. But this little guy got me out of bed—literally so he could go outside to use the bathroom—every morning. He gave me something to keep alive, and therefore keep putting one foot in front of the other during those first months when I felt like I couldn’t do anything. He needed me to keep going until I found my confidence again. He needed me to keep getting back up when I found myself in the seemingly revolving door of failed post-divorce relationships. He needed me to find a way to learn who I was from the ground up, to unlearn all I’d bought into about myself and my self-worth, to learn to love myself again, and to kick the debilitating anxiety which wouldn’t even let me go out to dinner for fear I would throw up for the 24 hours after.
This is not all of my story. I alluded to issues with my body, my anxiety, and the less-than-stellar choices in guys as I tried to figure out the new me. Ollie didn’t fix any of it for me, but he was willing to lick my face and cuddle up with me on the couch until I did. He was a constant while I rode the roller coaster of post-divorce life. After a lot (and I mean a lot) of self-work, self-discovery and undoing cycles and patterns of my past, I finally got to where I am today: happy and whole. I am remarried to Marcus, the man of my absolute dreams, and Ollie finally got a dad and a big sister, an Australian Shepherd named Nellie. We live in Aspen, Colorado and we are taking life day by day.
Even though I am happy and whole now, I don’t take any of my story for granted. Even the worst moments led me here, and for that I am grateful. I don’t wish divorce on anyone, but if you’re there or about to be, I can help. I wrote a how-to workbook on how I got through this life-shaping time, how I moved on, and how I got happy (actually happy). A little preview: I started by taking inventory of my life pre-marriage, during the marriage, and post-marriage. With this information in front of me, I was able to identify my unhealthy habits and patterns and establish plans to undo them. From there, I worked on my body issues and my nutrition, focusing on deepening my yoga practice rather than having the ‘perfect’ body. Then, I worked on my mind and mental health through writing, meditation, and stillness. My workbook details each step, with actions you can take to regain your identity and self-worth. From there, I was able to decide what I wanted for the first time in a long time, and I designed my next chapter to become truly happy. If you want it for yourself, I can certainly help you out. It’s not a quick fix, but it’s worth the commitment to stay the course.
I said at the beginning I thought divorce was the light at the end of the tunnel but it turned out to be the beginning of the tunnel. Well, I found the light anyway. You can too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashlyne Huff Blue of Aspen, Colorado. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. 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.