I gave up living my life by other peoples' rules a long time ago.
I am about to discuss something I don't normally talk about, except with the people to whom I am closest, but I think maybe now is the time to let it breathe...
When my soon-to-be-former-husband was diagnosed with Schizophrenia a week after our wedding two years ago, my life came to a screeching, seriously whip-lashed halt. Suddenly, in addition to being a newlywed, I became a full-time mother and caregiver. He couldn't work so I worked more. I kept the house and yard up while working 60 hours a week, while making sure we went to the doctor every week, sometimes twice a week. Eventually, our house had to be sold and we had to move. The relationship became stale, resentful, cold, and very, very unhappy.
The worse things spiraled out of control, the more I thought about divorce. As soon as I talked about the idea openly, I was met with disapproval from a lot of people, including some of my own family: How can you even think about such a thing while he is obviously so sick and helpless? What about your marriage vows, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, which you made in front of God and everyone you know? How can you be so selfish? He needs you.
He needed me, but what I needed seemed inconsequential and insignificant, unimportant and unnecessary by comparison. Taking care of myself was dead last. I felt like I was dying...my spirit was drying up and disappearing, not to mention my physical self. I lost weight...I hovered near 100 pounds for several months. There was no color in my face, no light behind my eyes. Gaunt-looking and exhausted, I ignored the bathroom mirror at all costs, probably to avoid myself and the guilt I felt.
It is excruciating to tell the person to whom you are married that you don't love him and no longer wish to be married...that this marriage is dying a slow and agonizing death and you wish to be free to care for your soul before it is extinguished. The honest-to-God truth is that I didn't want to have to have a first marriage to fully understand what my personal limitations are. Like everyone else, I wanted to do things right the first time. Thus, the consequences for ignoring my heart and what my inner voice constantly whispered were insufferable.
What it really is all about is self-sacrifice versus self-preservation. I chose to preserve. I can't say people were stunned when I left my husband, but I sensed the head-shaking and finger-wagging, the frowns of admonition, the whispers and staring.
I have been an admirer of Ayn Rand's since I first read Atlas Shrugged, some years ago while I was still in college. I find her philosophy of Objectivism especially helpful and comforting whenever I feel a wave of guilt coming on. Rand said: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."
So, I live my life by what I think is right and by what makes me happiest. I do not do things simply because they are expected of me, or because other people think I should behave in a certain manner. I have gained a tremendous amount of strength and self-reliance in the last two years from my experiences, and now I am proud to claim them.
*National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
*The Ayn Rand Institute - The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism