Disease & Divorce: Did MS End My Marriage

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when we look back everything is different”

-C.S. Lewis

 

 

In 2007 my life changed forever when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. In 2011 I went through another big change, when I got a divorce. Since those two major life events I have had many people ask if I think that my divorce was because of my diagnosis or did getting MS cause my marriage to end? Although my gut reaction is to say no, I have spent plenty of time thinking about just this and now feel that I can try and answer that question. But in normal fashion – not a quick response as there is always the “back story.” When I think back to where I was and what I was doing six years ago, it is utterly impossible to believe how much has happened and how much my life has changed. In the spring of 2010 I asked my then husband, for a divorce; something that I never would have thought would “happen to me.” It took me a long time to understand that our marriage ceasing to exist was NOT a reflection of having failed. It didn’t mean that I failed MYSELF, it didn’t mean I failed my MARRIAGE and it didn’t mean I failed to DO something that would have saved the marriage.

Actually, it meant the just the OPPOSITE. It meant that I had succeeded in finding the strength to speak up and and finally admit that feeling unloved and unsupported just wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to just “settle,” because I had to believe that there could be more; that written into my life’s story, could be a relationship with love and laughter, friendship and support. That I could find someone that would have my back and be my partner in crime through thick and thin.

It also meant that I had succeeded in being brave enough to stand up for myself and realize that even if I was making a decision to be alone, that it would be better than the constant disappointment and emptiness that my marriage created in my life. I discovered that I had the courage to be on my own and that alone sounded a hell of a lot better than always feeling lonely and hoping that MAYBE someday it would be different. Because it never was.

When I was diagnosed, there was actually a part of me that was HOPEFUL. That perhaps THIS was the life event that would shake things up in our marriage and then dump us back down on an even and new playing field. That wasn’t the case. It was also not the case that my diagnosis was the cause of the marriage ending. My living with the disease, and seeing HOW I reacted and dealt with all the changes is what made me realize that somewhere along the way I had lost myself, that I was not living out being the person I was meant to be. Being able to embrace the fact that having MS was NOT an “Oh Fuck moment” is what allowed me to start on my journey to living a life that is about ME and those people in my life that REALLY matter.

I recently ran across something I wrote in a profile on one of my social media accounts. I describe myself, my life, and discovering WHAT it is that really matters:

Living with MS has forced me to decide what REALLY matters; to constantly ask the question “is this worth my time and energy?” I work to fill my life with only the BEST of things. I try to make each moment count and strive to strengthen the relationships that do make the “cut” and are still there when the dust settles. THOSE are the things and the people that MATTER and although being diagnosed with a chronic disease might have forced me into an unexpected “purge” of time sucks and energy drains it leaves me with the best of the best – the things that COUNT. MOVING FORWARD I plan on appreciating what remains and what I have gained, rather than wasting time thinking about what was lost.

 

MS gave me the strength to finally pull the plug and leave unhappiness behind. I loved being a stay at home mom to my three amazing children and had great friends but I always knew that there should be more to a relationship than what my ex and I had – just “coexisting” under one roof. There was no intimacy, friendship or expressions of support or love. For all of the unknowns about living with MS and all the volatility that I might encounter in the future, I needed to surround myself with people that loved me and who would be there to help when and if I needed it. I realized that I was already going through it all feeling alone, and that I would rather just KNOW that I needed to rely on myself rather than always HOPING that MAYBE something would change and that I would feel loved. I needed to put on my “big girl panties” and not only survive whatever shit the disease threw at me but to find the reasons to laugh and smile through it all. The irony that being diagnosed with MS actually helped me be STRONG enough to finally move forward and BRAVE enough to believe in myself is not missed by me. It is a given that having MS can lead to a life with chronic symptoms, overwhelming fatigue and render some immobile. Yet it forced me to make a move and push for my life to be better.

Physically, my life changed drastically in a short period of time. I went from running 6-8 miles 6 days a week to needing to use a cane or my Segway to get to the bus stop at the end of the block. I relied on wall-walking to get around in the house and had more than one tumble down the stairs as I tried desperately to continue what I had always done and NOT let the disease or it’s symptoms get the best of me. But the biggest change was emotional. I had succumbed to the idea that my story was already written; that a life of living with someone that was more like a roommate than a partner and often times feeling like a single parent was just the way that my life would be. But MS showed me that the unexpected can certainly happen.

So I asked and we began the whole bullshit process of paying lawyers stupid amounts of money to determine what our new lives would look like. I truly believed that I had already gone through the emotional baggage that comes with walking away from a “KNOWN” situation (no matter how unhappy one is, it is always going to be challenging to face and accept change.) It turns out, not so much. I had a much longer journey to “freedom” and truly re-finding myself than I had anticipated.

I read somewhere that it takes two years to recover from a divorce if you DON’T have children and five if you do. In my case, perhaps that is true…I ran across a bit about divorce from comedian Louis C.K. on Huffington Post 

“Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and … they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.” -Louis C.K.

THIS is SO DAMN true. It might be the case that one party doesn’t KNOW that the marriage sucks and is surprised, but really IF the other party is unhappy/unfulfilled enough so to want a divorce, it doesn’t seem as if that would be indicative of a “good marriage.”

Fast forward to today and I am filled with such an enormous sense of happiness and joy that it is hard for me to put into words. This leg of the never ending, crazy ass journey to find myself and rediscover what I need and value most seems to be coming to an end. For years I never really felt like I was home. The last years of my marriage were filled with stress and anxiety and I didn’t feel relaxed or comfortable living there. Then there was the transitional period when I lived in an apartment for the three days that the kids were with my “wasband” and then I would move back to the house for the nights that they were with me. This act of “house juggling” continued until I fully moved out and bought a house of my own.

I loved my new house and loved that the kids and I quickly began making memories in our new home. BUT I was also lucky enough to have met Shawn at about the same time and so from the early days of buying my house, I spent most of my “non-kid” nights over at his house. For the past 5 years I have lived in two places and managed two households. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is to THINK that I had JUST bought a shit ton of toilet paper and head to the pantry ONLY to discover that it was actually at Shawn’s house where I had stocked up.

Each and every week on Wednesday mornings after dropping the kids off at school I would return to my house, to clean, pack up all the leftovers and remaining groceries, meds, computer, bills and whatever other shit I felt I MIGHT need, then hop in the car with Spanky and head over to Shawn’s. Granted it is less than 15 miles away (13.4 to be exact) and it was easy enough to pop back over should I have needed something but thanks to my “must always be prepared and have everything and anything I should might need or want” mentality, this weekly migration south ALWAYS entailed a packed car schlepping back and forth between houses.

This spring, Shawn and I made the decision to combine households. Truth be told, he has been wanting me to be there full time for a while but I needed more time to finish sorting things out in my mind and to recognize that I was ready to “cohabitate” with someone again. We spent months getting the house all ready to be put on the market; paired up with an AMAZING real estate agent (that also happens to be a kick ass friend) and listed it at the beginning of August. It sold quickly and we spent the next few weeks moving the final stuff out and into Shawn’s house and we are now waiting for the deal to close.

I thought it might be a bit weird at the beginning- having the kids here, living in what they have known as Shawn’s house. It seems I was wrong. They have quickly begun calling it home and we are already making some pretty damn good memories here at our NEWEST home. Although the plan is to finish remodeling this house, sell it and then combine our earnings to buy a “FOREVER HOME” together I am going to take advantage of having only ONE house to manage, ONE fridge to fill up and ONE mountain of laundry to tackle. I FINALLY feel like I am HOME – just where I should be with the people that matter the most in my life.

As I said – I have been asked a number of times if I believe that being diagnosed with MS is what led to or caused my divorce. I don’t think so. I think that it may have set the balls in motion, because it gave me a nudge to start this journey. I can’t really say whether or not that “ball disturbance” would have occurred should I have remained healthy,  I just know that it gave me the giant kick in the ass I needed. I have also been asked how my physical condition has improved so drastically and for such a long time (this December will mark my 6 year anniversary of NO cane and NO Segway!!!) I admit that I sometimes give the flippant response of “I got a divorce” but I think there is actually a ton of truth to it – more specifically a REDUCTION in stress. Beyond THAT – a significant INCREASE in smiles and laughter.

Long story short and as corny as it may sound – I seem to be living proof that a laugh (or two) a day, can do a damn good job of keeping the doctor away:)

“No one ever says, ‘Oh my divorce is falling apart. I just can’t take it.”  -Louis C.K.

 

 

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28 Replies to “Disease & Divorce: Did MS End My Marriage”

  1. Wow!!! What a great post!! So true that stress can tear you down. I can say that getting divorced has helped eliminate so much stress. And happy to say my last exacerbation was over 3 years ago. Even now when it starts to build up ,I remind myself I don’t have to go home to that ever again. Now have a home filled with love , trust and respect ❤️️

  2. Great journey and greet insight in your journey. Life is too short to be unhappy. MS for all its negative aspects definitely puts a positive light onto what is truly important in life. That is very true. I’m glad you found hope, happiness and peace on this journey.

  3. Wow! What a journey! Hats off to you girl! Inspirational x
    Thank you for reminding the MS folk what it’s like to actually live the life you want! ??
    Makes me want to take stock of my situation.
    Your honest account is brave and I congratulate you on your new path. Wishing you much happiness and good health (of course!)

    1. Thanks Jodie!
      “Live the life you want” Couldn’t agree more. Not always easy to get there and it may look a bit different than you originally thought but in the end happiness is the golden ticket for me!!:)

      Cheers,
      Meg

  4. Wow what an incredible story. Thank you for sharing! It’s so refreshing to read that after some crazy major life events happened, which could totally knock people down for the long run, it pushed you in a direction where you’re totally happier now! Congratulations!!

  5. Great post. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis and Fibromyalgia and am very lucky to have a super supportive spouse. I can only imagine that living with chronic illness can cause tension in a marriage and I totally understand making the decision to let go of things that aren’t worth your energy. I’ve made a lot of changes since diagnosis as well. If I don’t have to, I don’t spend energy on things that are not worth my time.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and then comment! Filling your life with people that love and support you are imperative to happiness:)

      Cheers,
      Meg

  6. It really looks like you have lived your recent years in an attitude of self-reflection and with a belief that your happiness is worth some work. If everyone — healthy or struggling — went about their lives this way, there would be a lot less strife in the world. I’m impressed!

    1. So very true Debi!

      Being angry, miserable or mean all take SO much more energy than being happy and kind. As simplistic as it may sound – I SO often find myself muttering “why can’t we all just get along” while watching the news or reading some story on-line.

      Mean people suck:)

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and comment!

      Cheers!
      Meg

  7. Thank you for being so very brave, dilligent and for thriving to be the best! Here is my short version so you can see that I relate.. Diagnosed in 2003 with MS, unable to care for 3 small children without help and to support my husband with his restaurant business, misdiagnosed stroke in 2008, divorce just before 25th wedding anniversary… I was of no use and therefore not “eligible” of empathy or of any kind of support. I was left high & dry with our 3 adolescent children since, in my ex’s eyes, I had nothing to contribute to our marriage. I overcame this by throwing myself into service of helping others by any means I could, mostly working with the elderly and with giving some hope to addicts. My children grew up wonderfully; they all have strong morals & ethics, the will to be the best they can be and they learned the hard way how to forgive. We are not a religious people, however, we each found our way to make our tragic experiences challenge us to live worthwhile and meaningful lives. Turning our devastation into hope for others truly saved our lives! Thanks for listening… Stay strong and may your story enlighten others.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share your story. Helping others is the best thing any of us can do. To not only feel better about our own situation, but to make someone else’s life better too:)

      Cheers,
      Meg (aka BBH)

  8. It’s like you’re in my head—->Living with MS has forced me to decide what REALLY matters; to constantly ask the question “is this worth my time and energy?”
    I use this rationale daily. It has helped me streamline many decisions that may have been difficult for the old me (before MS) to make, but the new me (post MS) has no trouble.
    I’m so glad you’ve found happiness with someone who cares about you. I truly believe that I will be right there with you one day. 😉 But first, divorce.

    1. 🙂 I have read other’s words that have had the same effect on me. In my words it would be “Holy shit! How do they know?!?!?” I actually remember a few nights when I got goosebumps reading another MSer’s words that seemed like they should be my own. I really appreciate you not only taking the time to read my blog, but to then comment. It helps me know that I should keep at this writing thing, that I might connect with people like you that “get it”:)

      Cheers!
      Meg (aka BBH)

  9. Great post – a lot mirrors my life, though the death of my mother was the catalyst. MS was happening at the same time…and then divorce and a new job. I’ve always wondered if the emotional upheaval caused the MS relapse. Thank you

    1. Hi Lee!
      Thanks for taking the time to read my post AND leaving a comment. My experience tells me that ABSOLUTELY emotional upheaval can cause relapses – or heightened symptoms. I am living proof of that. I tend to be the type of person that constantly thinks about everything and anything…which means when there are negative things going on in my life I perpetually worry and stress about them – even if they are completely OUT OF MY CONTOL. This is definitely something that I continue to work on. Mellowing out and just letting things go:)

      Again, thanks so much!

      Cheers!
      Meg (aka BBH)

  10. Oh how I perpetually love your transparency. This is such a fantastic post. When you’re hit with a chronic illness after marriage, there’s just so much guilt. It can weigh down on you so hard that you forget that it’s perfectly acceptable to still be happy for yourself. Wishing you so much Love and Joy!!!!

    1. 🙂 Thanks Lisa!!!! At the risk of sounding weird (nothing new for me:) I teared up reading your comment – you are ABSOLUTELY right about it being ACCEPTABLE to still be happy! I have found myself feeling guilty about where I am in my life and sharing it with other people that may be struggling or in a much darker place, I have made a conscious effort to let go of that guilt (cause it NEVER leads to anything positive) and just hope that my stories can maybe help even just a few:)

      Cheers:)
      Meg (aka BBH)

  11. All I can say is wow! The though of divorce has been heavy on my heart lately. I’ve always struggled with my conditions and I know they affect my marriage, but those haven’t been the only problems. Reading your story, I’m realizing that we felt the same way about a couple of things. My husband is in the military and we got married when I was 19, so I was his first real girlfriend. He doesn’t quite get how to be romantic, like I wish he was. And like you said, I feel like we’re just roommates. If possible, would you mind chatting with me?

    1. Hi Ivy,
      Isn’t it amazing when you find someone else that has said something that rings true or experienced something that you have been through when dealing with this crazy ass disease? I have experienced this a few times while reading things either in FB groups or on other MS blogs I follow. Each time that it HAS happened I want to scream “HOLY SHIT! EXACTLY! Someone else GETS it!!” Guess I am not as “unique” as I thought:)

      More than happy to chat. Are you on FB? If yes my profile is Megan Elizabeth Lewellyn if you want to find me and send a message OR my email is: meglewellyn@gmail.com

      Cheers!
      Meg (aka BBH)

  12. Thank you so much for your article, I am middle of divorce after 29 years of marriage. There was little support after kids grew up,I am wheelchair bound and unemployed, living on disability and over 30 years of nursing.Take each day one at a time,be strong,and hope it heals.Thank you for showing me that I am not alone.

    1. Debra,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and share your story. I knew that when I decided to write on this subject that there would be folks on all sides of the spectrum Those that did feel MS led to the divorce, others that felt that divorce would have happened no matter what, those that have stayed and are happy, those that have stayed and are unhappy…to name just a few of the ones I have read about. What I hoped to achieve by sharing my own story was to just add one more to the mix.

      Love that you say be strong and hope that it heals. You are most definitely NOT alone!

      Cheers,
      Meg (aka BBH)

  13. Your description of the MS diagnosis and the personal enlightenment that resulted in a divorce and a new life so closely resembles my own story that it is almost eery!
    I’m still in shock! I’ll try to write more when I catch my breath.

  14. So far, MS has changed a lot of my life around. I am still married and my wife is very supportive. Still, she understands but she doesn’t, and I don’t know how to explain. – Paul

    1. Stubor!!!!
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. You say “she understands but she doesn’t and I don’t know how to explain.” I think MANY of us feel that way. After all, I say that I have little to no feeling in my legs and yet they feel like they are burning – HOW does that even make sense. It is just SO FUCKING WEIRD that my legs can be in SO much pain and yet there is actually NOTHING wrong with THEM – just my brain and the messages it is getting. I have always been one to believe in MIND OVER MATTER but it seems that does NOT apply in this case and it pisses me off:)
      I am SO happy to hear your wife has your back – we ALL need that:)

      Cheers!
      BBH

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