We Got the Life That We Wanted Not the Love That We Need @Song By Hayes Carll

It was April 20th, 2016. I walked up to the courthouse, thinking I was just going to sign

some papers. I had no idea this was the day I would walk up to the judge and become a

divorced woman within a matter of minutes. Why did I not realize this was the day? Had

I missed something?

When I walked away from the courtroom, I felt like I was living an out-of-body

experience. The entire past year seemed like a blur. The world was crashing around

me, everything was spiraling out of control, and I couldn’t understand what was going


In April 2015, almost exactly one year before our divorce, Will and I got into the biggest

fight of our marriage. That fight and subsequent divorce eventually forced me to face my

long-ignored mental health difficulties. Likewise, Will and I had never discussed our

deeper marital problems. That fight triggered another emotional volcanic eruption for

me. The flood of feelings—fear, anger, and loneliness—became an overwhelming

tidal wave that signaled the death of our marriage. For the longest time, I often

thought to myself, “If that one fight would never have happened, we would still be

married.” Now I know that’s not the case.

Will and I liked each other from the first time we met. We connected and felt at ease

with each other. Some people thought we were related. Like most relationships, there

was a love and spark in the beginning. We moved in together soon after becoming a

couple. Shortly after that, we started going to premarital counseling because, at that

point, I think we both knew our relationship would probably not work. I remember our

therapist asking us to give our relationship a little more time and then meet again after

the holidays. However, there was no reason to decide after the holidays to split up

because an unexpected miracle had already happened.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I was late starting my monthly cycle, which was very

unusual for me. I didn’t think much about it because up to this point, I had never missed

a pregnancy pill, and I took the medication at the same time every day. But after a week

of no menstrual period, I decided to take a pregnancy test. I was in such disbelief about

the positive result that I bought two more tests. When I got home, I ran to the bathroom

with a brand new set of pregnancy tests in hand. After drinking two full glasses of water,

I used the test I had just bought. Once again, all positive. When I told Will, we were both

overjoyed with the thought of having a baby. That night changed both of our lives

forever. A few weeks later, we decided we should get married. Before we could even go

back to the therapist to make relationship decisions, we were married on December

29th, 2008.

Our baby boy brought us together in marriage. Otherwise, I think we both would now

agree that we probably would not have made it as a couple. Nevertheless, we are so

grateful we did make it as a family because three years after we had our son, our

precious baby girl was born. Having a family together was a blessing. Being a mother

brought me great joy and eased the doubts and feelings of insecurity that had fueled my

mental health upheavals in the past.

Things were never awful in our marriage. Will and I still are and always were friendly

with each other. We were both engaged in Will’s work, adored our children, and went to

counseling together. We both knew we were not in love with each other, but I don’t think

that mattered for several years of our marriage. Being a family together was good

enough for a while. But living in a loveless marriage can not sustain a marriage. Kids

alone can not sustain a marriage. Every hour upon hour of therapy could not save our


It seemed that Will and I were always moving quickly. He met my family within a

week of meeting me. We moved in together less than a year after our first date,

and five months after that, we were pregnant. And that’s precisely how our

divorce went, quickly.

I became a single mom during the time we were meeting with lawyers and

prepping for the divorce. Between learning how to handle the kids, ages three

and six, on my own and having my heart ripped out every time they went with

their dad, I was an emotional wreck. Handling my own emotions, the kid's

feelings, and managing family and friends’ emotions who were confused about

why we were getting a divorce was too much on me. Eventually, all the stress

and anxiety led me to a place where I could no longer care for my own emotions.

Honestly, I was never that good at handling my feelings or putting myself first.

Perhaps my self-doubt and insecurities fostered negative feelings of being

unworthy and undeserving. Not merely feeling that I did not deserve being loved

or cared for, I thought I was undeserving and believed I was undeserving. My

raging emotions taught my brain to live this lie for a very long time.

My emotions remained out-of-control as I began life as a single mother of two young

children. I had been misdiagnosed with ADD in my 20's. At that time, I took the stimulant

medication prescribed for me for a couple of weeks but decided to stop because it

caused an uneasy feeling in me and was not helping my emotional state. I tried it again

at the time of the divorce because I hoped it might help the second time around. I

needed to be able to stay up later and get more accomplished. It was important to me to

take care of my children the best I could in my new role as a single parent. However, I

quickly learned that the drug took me to emotional levels I could not handle. I did not

know whether I was going up, going down, going left, or going right. It felt like my brain

was constantly spinning. Fear took over my body and mind, and I was terrified about the

unknown of where my life was heading. I had hoped for the disappearance of my fear

and the return of perfect concentration and focus. I felt blindfolded with no direction in

life. Rather than calming my body and mind, the medication caused more emotional


The stimulant medication did give me more energy, but it left me feeling that same

uneasiness and agitation I felt when I had first taken it in my 20’s. I wanted it to allow

me to be the kind and wise parent my children needed. Instead, I became less tolerant

of my children. My ability to manage my stress levels evaporated. All I wanted to do was

withdraw, which further damaged my relationships with friends and family. I couldn't stay

on task to start and complete a recipe. I would start but couldn’t finish activities or

projects that at one time I had enjoyed. My internal critic would tell me I was stupid if I

didn't push or pull a door open correctly. I also began to have problems with

remembering, which for a person with a learning disability complicates brain processing

even more. As a friend, I could never stay on topic or be present in the here and now.

Because I cared about my friendships, I began to feel like a failure as a parent, friend,

and family member. I saw myself as a failure in everything I was doing! I stopped taking

the stimulant drug, and I’m thankful I listened to my body. The stimulant medication

didn't work in my 20’s, and it didn’t work when my marriage was falling apart. I didn’t

want a drug that was hurting me instead of helping me. Being misdiagnosed with ADD,

when in truth, I had a vision-neurological learning disability, made taking the wrong

medication an even greater risk for my mental health.

So much more happened after my divorce that caused my mental health to worsen,

including a growing reliance on alcohol. (See earlier blog, Nothing Left.) Moving out of

our home to a new place with my children five months after the divorce and working a

terrible job played on my feelings of insecurity and fear of looking stupid. Meeting men

or going out on a date was emotionally challenging. Like everything else in life, I was in

a hurry to get through these challenging times. I was praying for my life to change

overnight, and I’m grateful it didn’t.

Now I am learning to be patient and take things slowly. I don't need to operate at

stimulant speed to be a good parent. I don't need a quick drink of alcohol to fill the dark

hole that one time lived inside me. I don't need a relationship with a man to progress at

a rapid pace to feel secure. I don't need MIEND to be an overnight success. I don't need

people to think my life is perfect, nor do I desire to be perfect, not anymore. It was the

desire to be perfect and please people that kept me moving at such a fast pace that I

couldn’t keep up. It was no fault of friends or family but the pressure I put on myself to

move fast and always be ahead in life. Living with these thoughts and beliefs never

allowed me to slow down and enjoy what I have right in front of me. I forgot how to be

grateful because I was too focused on moving through life instead of living in life. Until


Now, I live life. And I’m incredibly grateful for Will and our love for our children. They are

what matters most to both of us. We work very well together when it comes to

co-parenting. We are still great friends and always want the best for each other.

Had I missed something? Yes, I missed a lot. I can see what I missed now, looking back

over the last five years from April 2016 and even throughout my life. Do I regret any of

it? Not one bit. Getting help for alcohol, a learning disability, my mental health, and

more has brought me to a place of freedom. It has also brought me to a place in life that

I'm proud of because I take ownership of my life, and now I can share my story in hopes

that it can help others struggling with similar circumstances. Was it a long journey?

Yes, absolutely. Sometimes it felt never-ending, but looking back, I never gave up. I am

always searching for ways to be a better person on this planet, a better parent, friend,

and family member. And now I know that being better does not mean being perfect, and

I thank God everyday for bringing me to this exact moment in life. Moments now go at a

much slower pace and allow Julie to enjoy life.

If your journey seems long, confusing, and never-ending, keep going. Don't give up on

yourself, ever. You will get through this moment by seeking help, taking life one step

and one day at a time, and enjoying this one life we live, with and despite our mental

health obstacles.

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