I never thought it would happen to me
My husband left me for a younger woman. It’s such a cliche. I never imagined that it would happen to me after we raised 2 beautiful children together. We had our differences but always made up before going to bed so I thought things were good.
After I found out about my husband’s cheating and I confronted him, his first words to me were, “I didn’t sign up for this.” I was in shock, crying angry tears and very confused so I didn’t even have an inkling as to what he meant at the time. I thought, “What?! He didn’t sign up for a beautiful home and family? For a caring woman who took care of everything while he was away on his business trips? I’m the one who didn’t sign up for the cheater and my life unexpectedly falling apart.”
I now know that he meant that he didn’t sign up for “me” in menopause. Menopause had hit me hard, like a ton of bricks, and looking back, it must have seemed as if I had a personality change overnight. Going through a divorce made it even more difficult and seemingly insurmountable. I blamed my husband, blamed myself, everyone else, my menopause. Sometimes I’d console myself with the thought that my husband’s girlfriend would also go through menopause and then he’d leave her. My life as I knew it had disintegrated for good and became very dark.
Unprompted, friendly advice was not my friend
It seemed that everywhere I turned, I received unprompted, “friendly” advice. None of it was helpful. My mother-in-law, who is a clinical psychologist, sent me a book on “how to have more sex as a couple,” not knowing that we hadn’t had sex in ages. I cried so much after I opened the package. I just threw the book in the trash.
My best friend gave me herbal supplements that didn’t work and told me that he would come back to me after the honeymoon of his dalliance wore off. She was wrong – they are still together five years later and more lovey-dovey than ever. My brother, who is a lawyer, started talking about contracts, money and alimony, when I didn’t have the guts to tell him that I had never even really paid the household expenses and didn’t have my own bank account.
After my husband moved out, I was officially alone – with my mood swings, hot flashes, anxiety, expenses and fear about my own income-less future. After the kids had left the house, I had picked up a part-time editorial job for something to do but it was not a steady, reliable income. I had quit my journalism job a long time ago when the children were young. It was too difficult to go into the office and also raise children with my husband away so often for business.
When I told my doctor what I was going through – divorce and menopause – he just nodded at me, telling me it was a common occurrence and that I would get through it. I really wanted to scream at him but instead I just bit the inside of my cheek. When I got home, I banged my fist hard against the wall to let out my anger at the doctor’s insensitive comments. While this act of violence made me feel better temporarily, I nursed a sore hand for a week.
Sleep became my salvation
I became paralyzed with depression and fear, especially with fear about becoming homeless and without any financial support. My children were just starting their careers and couldn’t support me and I didn’t know how to support myself.
I would start my usual morning routine of coffee at the dining table and realize that my husband wasn’t there for the chitchat and scheduling that, when he was in town, we had done every day for the last 25 years. The sadness would be overwhelming and I’d cry into my coffee cup for what seemed like ages although in reality it was probably a few minutes.
I’d then pull myself together to try and edit a few pages, get depressed again and go to sleep in the afternoon for several hours. I didn’t know how I would live my life, make a living for myself, be cheery, and …. date? How could I even think of seeing another man when I felt like I had zero energy and zero libido?
It’s a divorce, not a failed marriage
It took a long time – almost 3 years – but I got through my menopause and divorce to the other side. The darkness does pass. I gradually transitioned from not wanting to live, to surviving, living and back again to the enjoyment of life that I had before menopause.
The hardest part about the divorce was telling my children. I felt that I had failed them as a mother by failing as a wife. It took me a long time – and many therapy sessions – to realize that I shouldn’t be blaming my husband or myself. I learned to recognize that part of my descent into depression was due to the fact that the physiological and emotional roller coasters of menopause were fanning the flames of my divorce. I stopped thinking of it as “my failed marriage” and it just became a divorce.
Got my affairs in order
Unexpectedly, the person I turned to the most often was my baby brother, who is a pragmatic and unemotional type of person. He spent a lot of time with me structuring my finances, got me a very good divorce lawyer who worked on a contingency payment basis, and schooled me through the tough times. He also had confidence in my skills and encouraged me to write a novel.
I needed his steady, helpful – and non-judgemental – support at a time when I was going through so many ups and downs. He would listen to me rant or be emotional and then turn to the next topic of financial management. If anyone had been listening in, I’m sure they would have thought that we had quite a few very odd conversations.
Getting my financial affairs in order was the most important activity that I could do for myself. After I had more financial stability, I was able to work on everything else, including my hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms and eventually my own personal growth and relationships.
Ended up on hormones
To help me through the dark times, my GP – yes the same one I was angry with – prescribed me hormone therapy. I don’t know which came first, the hormones or the post-divorce healing, but after about a year, I finally started feeling like myself. The depression – whether due to menopause, the divorce or both – had lifted enough so that I created a profile on match.com and ended up dating my neighbour down the block from me!
I had a lot of friends who kept telling me that hormones are so bad for me, I will get breast cancer and that I could weather the storm with good nutrition and exercise. Well, it was hard to exercise when all I wanted to do was sleep and it was hard to avoid carbohydrates when sometimes my only meal for the day was a pint of ice cream.
I needed hormone therapy to deal with my menopausal symptoms such as depression, anxiety and hot flashes – and while it’s not the right choice for every woman, it was the right one for me. I’m glad I’m still on hormones 5 years later as I’m positive that it’s also helping with my libido and my new relationship.
To each woman who is going through her own journey with divorce and menopause, I want to let you know that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. I’m living proof of how you can find your own way.