The problem with a cocoon though, is it keeps everything out, and keeps you in.
I guess you could say I’ve had an interesting journey during my thirty-something years in this world. My mum was only nineteen when I was born and my dad wasn’t in the picture, so I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents who I was incredibly close to. Mum worked a lot, went out a lot, drank a lot. She was still only a kid herself really. We lived in small country town where everybody knew everyone’s business. I was the only kid at school (or at least it felt like it) who not only didn’t have a dad at home but didn’t really know who he was. But I was a happy kid. It was only looking back that I realised maybe things weren’t so great.
When I was eleven mum and I moved to a big city, 15 hours away from all my family. I was very upset but soon adapted, I thought.
I was fourteen when I was diagnosed with Depression. At sixteen I was the victim of an armed holdup and only months later my Grandfather died. I ended up with mild PTSD, short term agoraphobia and a fear of the dark that has receded, but it still lingers. Navigating my adolescent years with a mental illness, a few traumatic life events and a less than picture perfect home life was tricky to say the least.
When I was in my early twenties, hurting badly and desperate for someone to look after me and “make it better”, I met my husband. And that’s exactly what he did. We fell in love, got married and started building a life together. And we were very happy. In an attempt to protect myself from the big, scary world I shut it out completely.
My husband and I built a cocoon, somewhere warm and safe, just for us. My world revolved around the man I loved and nothing more. What we had, I thought, was perfect and I didn’t want anything to interfere. The problem with a cocoon though, is it keeps everything out, and keeps you in. You can’t grow in a confined space. The problem with me putting my husband in the protector role is it reinforced my role as a victim. As someone broken and damaged who needed to be ‘fixed’. I gave up all my independence. I no longer existed as my own person, I was one half of the whole unit we became.
I started to suspect there was more to life than the standard routine of get up, go to work, come home, play domestic goddess, go to sleep, repeat ad infinitum. But to experience it fully, I would have to leave the cocoon. I struggled. There were points I didn’t want to leave. It was cozy in there. I was safe. And I was afraid. And while I still loved my husband we weren’t happy anymore. We weren’t miserable, we just weren’t happy. Something had changed between us and I didn’t feel we had that same connection anymore.
I wrestled for months with indecision, held captive by fear. I started having panic attacks and discovered that on top of my depression I now had an anxiety disorder. After months of uncertainty and unhappiness for both us, we decided to call it day. We sat in our kitchen talking, and decided to end our marriage. It had been as good as over for a while, this was simply the ripping off of the band-aid. It was no ones fault. We just weren’t right for each other anymore.
I went for a drive to call my Mum and he called his parents and when I got back, we sat and held each other as we cried. Because despite everything we still very much cared for one another. And when someone I care about is hurting, even if I’m the one who hurt them, my first instinct is to give them a hug.
I gave up all my independence. I no longer existed as my own person, I was one half of the whole unit we became.
In the months that passed I’d experienced a full gamut of emotions. I spent days, nights, weekends crying my eyes out and second guessing myself. At times the negative voice in my head who speaks only in self-deprecating language was so loud I could hardly breathe. One morning I was hit with a huge wave of grief and sadness so strong, all I could do was sit on the floor of the shower and weep as the water rained on me.
At one point I got angry. I spent days ranting about everything that went wrong and how I was justified in my actions. I was ridiculous and petty. I knew I was the catalyst for the split, but I was furious he didn't try harder to make me stay. Thankfully, I couldn’t sustain it, and my fury burnt out after a few weeks, into a little mound of sad despondency.
I felt that way for such a long time. I kept second guessing myself, telling myself that I’d blown it. That I had thrown away any chance at love and happiness. That I'd had something perfect and just given up on it. I didn't try hard enough to save us. I would never find love again. I would never get to have a family of my own. I fell into a loop reciting that I was old now (in my early thirties), and would have to start all over again.
I felt like an incredible burden on people. I was taking more and more time off work and the days I was there I wasn't focused. I spent a lot of time sitting outside crying my eyes out. My friends were amazing, rallying around me, but I felt I was constantly bringing them down with my nonsense. I was in desperate need of reassurance and then felt guilty about being a burden.
I was overwhelmed. Yes I had wanted to 'do it on my own' but then I had to actually do it. Things I would normally have gotten my ex to deal with (like trying to get the internet connected) I had to figure out for myself. Money became an issue. I was still living life like there were two pays coming in, even though there was only one. Even simple things like bringing the groceries in; I didn't have someone to help me anymore.
Yet, despite myself, I began to find myself occasionally enjoying my new found freedom. I signed up for a self development course, and then another and another. I bought expensive furniture & accessories to decorate my new home, spent lots of time out and about (insert large credit card bill here), and basically did whatever the hell I wanted. There was eventual regret over the expense, but the rebellious streak in me loved that I could throw away money on whatever I wanted and didn't have to answer to anyone.
Yet, despite myself, I began to find myself occasionally enjoying my new found freedom.
In my teens I had become a Christian and done ministry work through the church, but it fell away in my early twenties. Over the last few years, I had I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was, who I wanted to be, and felt myself being reconnected. Not with the church so much, but more a spirituality that could go under many names; consciousness/the universe/God, whatever you want to call it.
So there I was, sitting in the bath one night. It had been a real self-pity kind of day. Very woe is me. So I sat in the bath and I cried. I cried and cried and cried and then got angry. Why was I going through this? Hadn't I been through enough in my life? Was I ever going to win? And then clear as a bell I remembered a bible verse that I had once memorised.
Jer 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
And I realised with immense clarity I would learn not to lean solely on one single person for all my strength and happiness. That my life was allowed to fall apart so it could be rebuilt. That my story, my struggle, and my strength, would aid others in their times of need when the time was right. That in actual fact I was strong enough to do it on my own with divine support.
I can't tell how much peace that brought me. Was everything 100% fixed from that point and I was never sad again? No, not at all. But I no longer felt hopeless. I knew I was going to find myself.
Despite the roller coaster, I’ve not only survived, I’ve thrived. I’ve grown exponentially. I’ve re-found my spirit. I’ve experienced and owned my vulnerability and my strength. And I’m enjoying a blossoming new romance with a man who stands by my side and cheers me on as I make my way through this world.
There have been quite a few tears through this journey. But on the whole, I’m grateful. Grateful for the years my ex & I had together. Grateful we parted on good terms. Grateful for my beautiful family & friends who supported me through the worst of my grief. Grateful for how much I’ve grown. Grateful for the blessings that I’ve received. And grateful for my new love who sees me, and loves me, just as I am.