“I love you but I’m not in love with you.”
His words swirled and buzzed around me like a fly trying to hastily flee by searching for the quickest way out of the hole in our family’s window screen.
There were more words.
But none that could ever reasonably explain why my husband was leaving me and our three children after 20 years of marriage together.
Without revealing any specific details, he abruptly left our den after I had asked him yet again about whether he was involved with someone else.
As soon as he left for work, I ran to the bathroom to throw up. The infidelity diet was already underway.
As the following evenings and mornings unfolded, I could not keep any solid food down. Any type of food that required chewing was completely out of the question. Anxiety, fear and panic engulfed my gut like a tidal wave. Even a few spoonfuls of soft foods like yogurt or ice-cream were difficult to keep down.
When I visited my divorce attorney six weeks after I had filed for divorce, I could see the shocked look on her face as she saw my baggy clothes, dark sleep circles under my eyes and the frequent tears that left streaks down my washed-out face. I weighed just 90 pounds.
The infidelity diet was an ever-present part of my life now. And at 5’6 and 110 pounds to start with, I definitely had not needed to be on it. The more I cried, the less I ate. The less I ate the worse I looked. The worse I looked, the more I hated that his infidelity and divorce were now what I thought about every hour of the day no matter how hard I tried not to think about it.
I did not know it then, but many people who are going through extreme emotional swings of anger and panic brought on by their spouse’s infidelity struggle with eating and gastrointestinal upset.
For hundreds of years, Chinese doctors and acupuncturists have believed that the stomach and spleen are highly connected to the emotions of anxiety. A woman acupuncturist I have talked with about this assures me that our immune systems and anxiety levels are both directly related to the state of health inside our gut.
When I visited family doctors during my separation and divorce, they were more focused on anti-depressant and sleeping meds and I struggled to find the right dosages that would alleviate the worst of my anxieties but not have frustrating side effects.
I wish that I could say that I became healthier soon after. Even months later as our divorce finally started to take on a life force of its own winding its way slowly through the legal maze of lawyers and court dates, I struggled with keeping food down.
When I could tamp down my run-away anxieties with medications and therapy long enough to eat some solid foods, then a letter arriving with accusations from the lawyers or the guardian ad-litem appointed by the court to represent the children often sent me into a downward eating spiral again.
Eventually as things slowly began to come together for me, I was able to focus more on my own health and well-being in many aspects of my life rather than solely focusing on the outward things that were happening to me that I had no control over.
Now that my own divorce has been final for years, I look back at this very painful part of my life and really understand first-hand with more understanding, empathy and compassion about what happens to our health as we struggle to cope with our spouse’s secret lives, finances and affairs.
Although the pain that comes with separation and divorce is often overwhelming, getting the help you need right from the start can make a huge difference in how you start to move forward to improve your health, finances and emotional well-being.
Have you ever experienced a traumatic event that affected your health?