A Letter to the Man I Walked Away From When I Got Sick

Sometimes I wonder what you’d think if you saw me today. If you knew about everything I’ve been through in the eight years since I left you, would you be proud of me and how well I’ve learned to look after myself?Would you resent me and everything we could have been? Would you wish we were still married, or would you be glad to not have the burden of looking after me? Would you still mourn the loss of me? Just as I have discovered, after all this time, I am still mourning the life I lost.

We lasted just nine months after I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. That fateful day when my doctor delivered the news, although expected by that point, was only one of two appointments you ever accompanied me to. A day that was the beginning of the end of our lives together. We tried counseling in the months following, but by then it was too late.

We both thought we’d found “the one” in each other. We married with plans to have a child together, adding to the three children you already had. But while I was trying to deal with my diagnosis and learn about what having cystic fibrosis meant for me, you grew distant. When I was going through a period of denial about being sick and wasn’t looking after myself very well, you did not offer the emotional support I needed. You grew critical of me when I was struggling to be compliant with all my treatments, and rejected me time and time again in the bedroom. Your expectations of me were so high, I felt like I was never good enough for you. I thought you were falling out of love. It felt like you didn’t even like me anymore. I tried so hard to be a good wife to you. As time went on I grew scared. Scared you didn’t love me, scared you would change your mind about having a family with me and scared I was failing you as a wife.

You were silent about your feelings for so long that when you finally spoke the words I knew were coming, my whole world shattered. You let fear make your decisions, and when you told me you couldn’t have a child with me, my heart broke into a million pieces. I knew right then, in that moment, our marriage was over. I understood your reasons for changing your mind. You were too scared that I would be too sick to look after a baby, or the baby would inherit CF and be unwell, or I would die and leave you to bring up a child on your own. Despite having gene testing that confirmed you were negative for the CF mutation and knowing we wouldn’t have a child with CF, it wasn’t enough for you.

You said I betrayed you by having a genetic illness. You betrayed me by breaking my trust in the worst way you possibly could – by not being there when I needed you. Your fear and selfishness destroyed us. Destroyed me. So I left you. Just like that, I walked away from you and our marriage and walked into the toughest years of my life so far. But I never once questioned my decision to leave. Even in the times I’ve barely been able to get out of bed, gasping for breath, or the countless times I’ve been hospitalized… going it alone was the right thing for me to do.

You have no idea how much you damaged me. How I repeatedly choose men that don’t want me for anything beyond sex so they can’t get too close, see me at my worst and let me down. How I hid myself away for years, beating myself up when I wasn’t doing all my treatments or not keeping my house clean. How I keep almost everybody in my life at arms-length and don’t let anyone into my inner world to see the reality of living with a chronic illness. How I taught myself not to rely on anyone. How fucking lonely I’ve made myself. Little by little, after all this time, I’m trying to break these barriers down. And thankfully I have the support of some amazing friends.

I’m finally aware of what you did to me. Losing you made me find myself.

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Photo via PATCHARIN SIMALHEK on Getty Images

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