Yes, I’m divorced. – Jigna Patel

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Yes, I’m divorced. – Jigna Patel

I was only 23 years old when I got married. I don’t think I fully understood what I was doing at the time. I was going through the motions and fulfilling the expectations placed on me by those around me. I hadn’t known my future husband for very long before our respective families needed us to tell them whether we were ready to spend the rest of our lives together. It never occurred to me how long the rest of my life would actually be.

As the wedding day approached, I knew in my heart my fiancé wasn’t the right person for me but how could I go back on my decision now? Every aspect of the wedding was planned and I didn’t have the courage to walk away from it all because I feared what people would say. I’ve always thought of myself as a mentally strong person and I decided that no matter what happened in my marriage I’d be strong enough to get through it. That would be easier than disappointing my family. Getting married was the decision I had made and in that moment I had no choice but to stand by it.

As the years went on, like most marriages, we had good days and bad days. Some days we enjoyed each other’s company whilst watching our favourite TV show. On others, we argued for hours over the same issues we’d disagreed on forever, making me wish I’d never walked down the aisle in first place. But when do you know enough is enough? How do you differentiate between the normal ups and downs every marriage faces versus an actual breakdown of the relationship? Little by little, I began to lose myself. I became quiet and submissive; I’d lost my love for life and I felt hollow inside. I had forgotten how it felt to be happy and never before had I felt so alone.

When you suffer from anxiety and depression like I do, it’s difficult for you to recognise the physical impact it has on you. All those missed meals due to the nausea caused by the rising anxiety running through your body, the lack of sleep from the panic that strikes you throughout the night. My family became increasingly concerned that I’d lost a lot of weight and constantly looked sick and pale, I reassured them I was fine and they were overreacting because growing up in an Indian household had taught me that we don’t talk about feelings. There was never any dialogue about mental health, or how an unhappy marriage can lead to depression. In the eyes of the South Asian community, marriage is only ever expected to lead to happiness and often considered the only route to it. Unhappy marriages are rarely acknowledged and even then divorce is not an acceptable option.

I had gone back and forth with the idea of getting a divorce for years, but the impact it would have on my family always stopped me. Each time I decided against a divorce my mental capacity to deal with the depression deteriorated, and I sunk further and further into what felt like a black hole. Four years earlier on my wedding day I was hopeful, I believed I was strong enough to cope with anything that came my way. Little did I know that this dark cloud would fully consume me and make me question the point of my existence in this world. I couldn’t keep doing this for another 50, 60 years, or more. I realised the only option I had in order to save myself was to get a divorce. I had to do what I hadn’t done since the day I agreed to get married, I had to choose to put myself first.

I had known my marriage was over for a while. We didn’t work as a couple and the only chance either of us had at being happy was by parting ways. In a world where we’re taught divorce is not an option, I knew this was going to be a battle. Everything I feared became a reality; speculation around why my marriage ended was rife, everyone made negative comments about me and my family, and anyone that spoke to me had nothing to offer except endless pity as though my life had ended. Despite all of that, there’s the freedom and joy you feel whilst going through a divorce which no one ever mentions. I had felt trapped in a life I didn’t want for so many years, as though I had no escape, but my divorce had allowed me to feel happiness like I never imagined I could have back in my life again.

Society focuses on divorce as though it’s a negative – we’re told it’s better to stay in an unhappy marriage than be seen as a divorcee – but why should that be the case? My divorce showed me that when everything around me was falling apart, I had the strength within me not only to get through it, but to rebuild a better life afterwards. My darkest days are behind me and that’s a feat no amount of judgement will take away from me.

There is a whole world of possibility waiting for you after your divorce. There’s adventures you never dreamed of having, happiness you never thought you’d experience again, and love you never thought you deserved. Since my divorce four years ago I’ve experienced life in a way I never thought possible, and today I sit here so grateful I trusted myself and made that decision. The South Asian community will have you believe that a divorce is the end of your life. It’s not, it’s your new beginning.

By Jigna Patel
Instagram: @jigna_madeup

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