Torrey Ray, Social Worker, Richard L Roudebush VA Medical Center

Me:  After 10 years of marriage, your divorce was finalized in late Aug. of last year.  What have been some of the most painful things about the divorce?

Torrey Ray (Social Worker, Richard L Roudebush VA Medical Center): My ex-husband, Chris, told me he had “been unhappy for a while.”  That was the only reason he gave me before he walked out the door after a ten minute conversation.  A week later he came over and reiterated that he had been unhappy but couldn’t say for how long.  I found out months later that he had been having an emotional affair for 7-8 months.  As much as that killed me, at least I had a better handle on a portion of the reason he left.

I’ve felt shattered, broken, half of a person, abandoned, rejected.  I still feel each of those emotions today.  The feelings eased and the tears slowed down until the holidays arrived. I started a class called Divorce Care.  It is a two hour a week class for 13 weeks.  It was recommended to me months ago but I thought I didn’t need it.  After barely surviving the holidays I realized I was wrong.  I signed up Christmas Eve after crying most of the day.  Today, I feel like I’m slightly beyond square one again.

One of the hardest aspects about the ending of my marriage has been that after all this time and the struggles, I continue to deal with regarding rejection and abandonment. I’m still completely and totally in love with him. Another aspect is the loneliness, that no matter how full I pack my schedule, it still chases after me.  Finally, I didn’t just lose the love of my life.  I lost my best friend in the whole world.  I lost my confidant, the person I was supposed to grow old with, the man I shared my life with.  He was my everything, so I lost virtually everything.

Me:  Since you already struggle with depression, how did adding divorce to the mix affect you?  Any advice you’d offer others in similar situations?

Torrey Ray: I’m surprised I survived.  I always imagined that if Chris died before me (the only way I thought we wouldn’t be together) that I would have to be hospitalized for suicidal thoughts.  Not only was I not hospitalized, but I never reached the point of depression where suicide ever crossed my mind.  I attribute that to God, friends, and family.

I never want to forget the people who have surrounded me and been there with me through every moment of pain.  When my ex left, I thought about moving closer to family.  Then I was bombarded by love and knew this was where I was supposed to stay.  My sister generously paid for my flight to visit her in Florida and then surprised me with a gift for me to swim with a dolphin. Touching a dolphin had always been a dream of mine (picture below).  Not everyone has the incredible friends and family I have been blessed with and I will never take them for granted.

I felt Chris detaching himself from me about a month before he walked out.  Since my love languages are touch and quality time this quickly began to put me into a tailspin feeling of feeling unloved.  I called my doctor and had my anti-depressant increased.  Chris walked out on me four days after I started taking the increase.  I think this is another reason I survived.  I was appropriately managing my depression and by the grace of God, already had the increase of meds in my system.  The must-do’s to survive have been asking for help, allowing myself to be vulnerable and transparent to those who love me so they can help because THEY WANT TO HELP, and accepting that this process is like a death and will take time to grieve.  You have to allow yourself the time.

Me:  Part of your healing process was to take a hiking trip last Oct.  Could you tell us what happened?

Torrey Ray:  Two friends of mine and I started hiking the Appalachian Trail in Newport, VA and finished in Troutville, VA.  It was a 53.1 miles hike that we accomplished in 5.5 days.  The section of this hike included McAfee’s Knob (picture below) as well as Dragon’s Tooth which is pretty, but quite the climb both up and down.

I would love to say that the 53 mile walk in nature started to slowly heal me.  That would be poetic and wonderful but it’s not true.  I was fairly unchanged until I had my first nightmare about day three.  It was my ex saying he wanted me back and I went running to him.  When I got there he looked at me, said he had changed his mind, and left.  I spent the next few days hiking with tears rolling down my face as I dealt with the abandonment and rejection all over again.

Me:  Have there been signs that you’re getting better?

Torrey Ray:  Well, I no longer cry every single day.  I’m able to listen to the radio again where it used to be too painful because it seemed every song was a reminder.  Also, within the last few days I was finally able to clean up my Facebook page and get rid of all of the pictures of him.  It was hard looking over our amazing memories we created together and clicking delete on that part of my life. I know it is healthy and something I could never have imagined doing two months ago.

Me:  Is there something you’re able to feel grateful about or see as a victory because of the divorce?

Torrey Ray:  I’m grateful that my relationship with God has gotten stronger.  Chris deconverted from Christianity years ago and until he left me, I didn’t realize how muted I kept my personal relationship with Christ out of respect for him.  It was something I should never have done but it is wonderful now to listen to my uplifting Christian music and sing along with it at the top of my lungs. I also freely post about my relationship with Christ on Facebook and don’t think twice about how he might interpret it.  It is very freeing.