It's Only After You've Lost Everything...

“No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don’t.” 

-Stephen King, The Stand. 


I didn’t get married expecting to get divorced. My husband and I had known each other since my senior year of high school, when I was dating his best friend. When that relationship fell through, he and I started seeing each other. Three and a half years later, we were saying “I do.” When you're saying those words you don’t expect that only four months later your husband is going to be packing his bags and walking out the door, but it happened. There are no words to explain the pain. I can’t even form a coherent sentence to describe the agony I felt, and the twinge of hurt I still feel, writing this, ten months after the fact. The man I had vowed my life to, the man I loved more than anything, had been telling me for weeks that he no longer felt that way for me and finally he just left. If such thing as a soul exists, mine was ripped to shreds as I watched him drive away.

For so long, I was severely depressed. I shut out everyone that cared; I just wanted to lie in my bed alone and waste away. Those first few months I lost so much weight because I just couldn’t eat. Anything my family or friends would say brought tears to my eyes, and I couldn’t wait to get home from work to cry in a hot shower and just go to bed. I tried to wrap my head around why arguments after getting married could push someone so far away, to make him want to divorce you when he had stuck by your side for years. I held on to the hope, the far flung notion that it was just some stupid impulse and he just needed time to work out things in his own mind. He would realize marriage is a serious commitment and that our arguing now was no different than before we said “I do.” He would come back and we could work on things and start over new. But how do you convince your husband to come home and give everything another shot when he won’t answer your calls or return your texts? And when he does he’s so exasperated and pissed off that it just upsets you that much more? 

During those first few months, phrases in books, music, and TV shows that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to suddenly took on new, inspirational meaning. I took to posting them around my house to try to take my mind off things; I had suddenly found a new love for quotes that weren't supposed to be uplifting but really were. While re-reading Fight Club during that time, these lines stood out to me: “Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.” 

It was like someone had finally turned on the light after months of darkness. It felt right, it felt real - those words were my wakeup call. I had fallen so unspeakably low after my “disaster” of a failed marriage, with no foreseeable way out. I had lost what meant everything to me; everything had fallen apart around me. I had seen a place that luckily most people will never see. But now… everything seemed to click into perspective. It took feeling and experiencing this pain to rebuild into something better. Literally, I am now free to do anything. 

That blue and lonely period of hell Stephen King talks about is like a caterpillar inside a cocoon; either it metamorphoses into a beautiful butterfly, forever changed from its time inside, or it stays trapped in darkness. Right now I am pushing to come out the other side.

I have transformed into an entirely different person, doing so many things for myself, since my “awakening” that day. I kept up with the weight loss and exercising, losing fifty pounds and training for an obstacle 5k marathon. I trained to become an EMT and joined two fire departments. I get out of the house more and socialize with people, something unheard of even when I was in a happy relationship. Of course, it hasn’t all been unicorns and rainbows along the way. There have been pitfalls. I partied too hard one night and woke up in my yard, with no recollection of the night before or how I got there. I’ve gone on horrendous first “dates” with guys I’ve met online. But despite these misadventures - or maybe because of them - I’ve learned so much about myself and come out stronger on the other side. 

The more I keep focusing on myself, the less I want to salvage my marriage. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still care for him, or that there aren’t days this isn’t still surreal and difficult for me. There just comes a point where it hits you that you have to give up on someone, not because you don’t care, but because they won't change. Sometimes, letting go is one way to say “I love you." I found my hope and the ability to let go in the wisdom that was in front of me all along; I believe now this marriage failed because we didn’t know ourselves well enough, even after all those years, to commit to someone else, and no amount of sugar coating the fighting would have made it last. In Looking for Alaska, John Green says, “We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken.” I think deep down that is incredibly true of everyone, especially myself.


Courtney Atkinson is a native of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she earned her B.S. in Biology from Salisbury University.  She is the lead technician at a water-testing lab and a plant treatment operator, unknowingly saving the lives of many by making sure they have safe drinking water. When she's not kicking ass and taking names, Courtney likes to fangirl it up to nerdy TV shows and dote on her adorable nephew.