Rising from the ashes: How I rebuilt my life after I left my abusive husband

A woman with brown eyes, who is wearing a pink kurta, and lime green salwar and dupatta, walks looking straight head. Her hair is flying behind her, and she is holding what looks like a boarding pass with one hand, while she wheels a large red suitcase with the other. In the background, a huge window shows one plane taking off, while one waits on the tarmac. On the airport walls ahead of the woman, there is a mural depicting a cupcake, a laptop, a book, and a briefcase.

The uphill trudge was slow, but it was totally worth it.

This is the second part of a two-part series by Payal Kapoor. Read the first post here

I was standing alone on the threshold of a new life. After my marriage of eight years looked like it had irrevocably broken down, I had decided to officially end it.

The pain was almost physical – I felt cold, and my insides felt like they had turned to liquid. My heart rate was accelerated, and my eyes were misty all the time.

I was gripped by a sense of helplessness and fear. And I was adrift – since my parents were travelling when the breakup happened, I had to move in with my sister until they returned. Friends rallied around me, and many invited me to stay with them, but I wanted only the comfort of being home with my parents.

I had to go back to the house I had shared with my husband so that I could collect some of my things in small increments. My sister and brother-in-law accompanied me on these trips. It was strange to open the door on my own, since this was something my ex-husband used to do. Every time I went there, I cried because it felt like I was dismantling my life. All my things were still the way I’d left them.

The house was eerily quiet since he was not around – I went there only when I knew he wouldn’t be. I could hear the laughter, the conversations, the silences, and the sadness in everything. Perhaps the most difficult thing I had to do was to walk into my bedroom, where so many memories lay not quite buried.

I touched everything I knew was no longer mine. It was devastating to know that I would never live there again.

The sense of loss was complete.

After a few trips, I gave up.My sister cried with me and we decided that it was enough. Bringing all the stuff back would only haunt me. I didn’t want to build a shrine for what used to be my life.  To this day, my mother talks about how I left a whole house from him to enjoy, but to me, these were only material things. What I had given up was a whole life.

It was difficult to settle back into a home which I had left so long ago. The room I had left behind when I married, and the spaces I used to occupy had all been filled. It was hard to get used to living without my husband, even though things between us had deteriorated so badly. I missed our daily routine terribly.

My only consolation was the fact that I had given the marriage my absolute best, and I knew there was nothing left in the relationship for me. Even so, the pain was intense. I had taken some time off work, but I soon returned. Every time someone asked about him, it felt like a wound had been re-opened.

My parents commiserated with me. They understood what the marriage had meant to me and how deeply I had felt for the man who was no longer my husband. But in their own way, they were glad to see me exit the abusive relationship that had sucked the life out of me. Since I had asked them not to interfere, they had stayed away. But when I finally came home, they were relieved to have me back.

It began to dawn on me, even through all the pain, that I had reclaimed my life.

Support poured in – from family, friends, and people who had only been acquaintances. But I felt resentful. I hated the idea of having to depend on other people to do things for me and with me. In fact, I hated the world at large. I begrudged everyone their happiness, especially my ex-husband, who I had wanted so much. I understand now that this was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction to my feelings of abandonment.

The uphill trudge was very slow. I didn’t want to face anybody since I felt like a loser who had failed at life. In my mind I knew the breakdown of the marriage was not my fault, but none of this reasoning made me feel better about having left. Maybe I could have tried harder? Had I really done enough? Why couldn’t I make him love me more?

Soon enough though, things started changing around me.

I had hit rock bottom in descent into grief, and the only way to go was upwards. I started making decisions for my own self. I decided where I wanted to go and with whom. What I did and when. The sense that I was not looking over my shoulder to be judged and berated was my first taste of true liberation. My parents were very helpful. Not for a moment did I feel like I was not home. Their support and unconditional acceptance was critical to me being able to start rebuilding my life.

Through my friends, I met a whole bunch of new people. Soon, I had a wide circle of friends, most of whom I met online first. Then, I spoke of many of them on the phone. I felt like I had known them forever! Conversations about life and future plans began to come easily to me.

It began to dawn on me, even through all the pain, that I had reclaimed my life. All the decisions and their consequences were all mine. It was a little scary, but exciting too.This new sense of wellbeing slowly chipped away at the resentment I’d been feeling. I was cocooned in so much love and goodwill, I felt that nothing could go wrong ever again.

Financially, I had what I earned all to myself. During the marriage, I had run the house almost singlehandedly. The stress of this had not helped the relationship any. But now, I finally had the resources to do things for myself.

I had mostly been at home after the separation. After a few months, I was ready to step out and explore the world. My first foray was a holiday to Goa with a friend. It felt strange; both sad and liberating at the same time. Because I was still grieving, I was in a haze during the trip. Everything was beautiful, but my memories assailed me at every step. I don’t think I missed him as much as I missed being one half of a couple. Also, since my life with him had not always been bad, many experiences on that holiday reminded me of my trips with him.

With the progress that I’d made, and armed with the wonderful stories of many friends who’d successfully picked up pieces of their own lives and moved on, I knew that I was ready to realise a longstanding dream of mine. I had always wondered what it would be like to travel on my own as a visually impaired woman, and I decided to finally do so.

The opportunity presented itself when a good friend and his wife invited me to visit them in Kerala. I had never met them in person before. I had first met my friend on a list for visually impaired people, and we had taken to each other instantly. We soon became good friends, hence the invitation.

I was nervous and excited about the trip. I still remember walking into the airport all on my own and feeling a fabulous sense of freedom and strength.

That trip changed my life forever.

It wasn’t just a fantastic holiday – it renewed my faith in myself.

Now, I regularly visit friends in other places, and do everything I want to. So much of it is thanks to the generosity of those around me – my best friend, for example, paid me a surprise visit on my birthday, just over a month after the separation. To this day, her home continues to be a space of solace and fun for me.

I distinctly remember reaching her home on my first solo visit to Bangalore on the day that would have been my wedding anniversary. We had a fantastic celebration to exorcise any traces of regret or sorrow I might have been feeling. Other friends, too, have indulged in activities that interest me, no questions asked. My family has always been the mainstay of my recovery.

I still have times of ennui, when I feel like there is a gaping hole in my life. When I see others with families of their own, I feel like that little scruffy child standing at the shop window, looking in longingly. This passes rather quickly when my mind goes back to how things were for me in the marriage.

Life on my own is good. 

Although I go out sometimes, it is not as often as I might want to. My hearing impairment deters me from going to noisy places. As a foodie, I love trying out new places to eat at. I also love going to a pub and enjoying the ambience and music, but having conversations in these venues is almost impossible. There have been times I’ve gone on a retro night with friends only to enjoy the music with a drink.

I have not dated at all after the separation. I have few occasions to meet new people, since going out is not easy. There are now opportunities for people to meet virtually through dating sites and apps. Unfortunately none of them are completely accessible to use with my screen reader, both on my computer and phone. This limits the scope of my interactions with others who may be looking to date too.

My experience with love and marriage has not left me jaded. I still believe in relationships. I have fantastic examples all around me to stand testament to how strong they can be. I believe in the goodness of the human heart, and the resilience of the spirit. If life were to bring about another opportunity for a relationship, I’d be cautious, but I would definitely give it another chance. But I am fine with staying single too.

I continue to live with my parents and have gone back feeling the comfortable sense of being home.

I have found the joy of being with my own self. I read, cook and bake, travel, work and write; all things that make me happy. Life has, in its own way, come full circle.

The sun has definitely not gone down on my life. The best is yet to come, and I am right here to take on whatever comes my way!

Featured image credit: Alia Sinha