I Don't Believe In Rock Bottom

A couple of weeks ago a good friend, Mitchell*, came and visited me in my hometown while I was back on the West Coast for the holidays. An erratic, slightly crazed, but well meaning man he listened to me spill every gory detail of the last year with uncharacteristic patience. When I got to the end, the bloody denouement, he tipped back a solid three fingers of Jim Beam, set the glass down gently with gusto, "This is great!"

"How in the world is this great?" I wailed indignantly.

"You're a writer. This is your story," he said.

When I started my affair I never could have imagined how painful it would get. I met John* when I first got to grad school. He was my boss, essentially. The only way it could have been more clichéd is if he had been my professor, and worn corduroy blazers with elbow patches. He was charismatic, funny, sexy and kind. We flirted for weeks before I found out about his fiancée. I was disappointed, but I was grateful to have a friend at my new school, in a new city that was at times very intimidating and isolating.

For months we had talked about travel, books, stand-up comedy. We’re both music junkies and we made each other mixed CDs like nerdy teenagers. He never, ever spoke of his fiancée, though I knew who she was. She works at our school too, and I would see her in passing on campus and wish that I could be half as beautiful as she is. I didn’t feel anger towards her, I was grateful for what I had. I never imagined it would become more. I didn’t even know I was capable of such a thing.

When I came back to the East Coast after my winter break my first year I was extremely upset over things that had happened back home. I was vulnerable and heartbroken. I texted John a joke about dating a mutual friend of our I knew he didn’t approve of and he surprised me by saying “We should talk. Now. Meet me at the tavern.” We had never hung out socially by ourselves, let alone at a bar off campus. We got drunk and he flirted heavily, I flirted heavily. I walked home alone, but when I got to my apartment he texted me and invited himself over. We had sex, which was both amazing and terrifying. I couldn’t believe what I was doing. Afterwards I felt both elated and grief-stricken.

I wish I could say it stopped there, but it didn’t. Casual sex rapidly became constant contact. We emailed over a dozen times a day. It became an obsession. First it was lunchtime rendezvous, but after only a few weeks it was dates in the park, lunches, hikes, trips to the aquarium. I fell in love with him. When I told him that I loved him I fully expected rejection. He didn’t say anything and went home. The next morning he asked to see me and over coffee he tearfully told me that he was in love with me too.

The wedding was in six months. Six months. I asked him what he was going to do and he said, “I don’t know. I’m confused,” a phrase that would become like a mantra over the next few months. Rather than slowing down our relationship sped up, rapidly. We saw each other nearly every day. I lived in a fantasy world, where his fiancée did not exist, nor did any of my responsibilities, my schoolwork, my writing, my talents and opportunities.

Over the summer he left for a trip to Montana with his fiancée the same day that I flew home. We agreed that it had to be the end. I was devastated. But not nearly as devastated as I was when I discovered that I was pregnant. I was shocked. I didn’t even think it was physically possible at that point. I thought about not telling him, but I didn’t know who else to talk to. He was incredibly sweet and supportive. He said he would respect any decision I made. I had an abortion. I wasn’t ready for a family, and I didn’t want to being a child into the world in circumstances that were dishonest and confused. We became even closer. I trusted him wholeheartedly and he helped me through the agony of waking up every morning wishing I could hold my baby. He took me away for a weekend and over dinner he told me he imagined us moving to Portland and starting a family. In retrospect it was incredibly cruel. It was already too late.

And then he got married. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. I knew it was coming, but I also couldn’t imagine going through with it if I was in his shoes. Even if he loved her more than me I couldn’t imagine someone starting a marriage with that big of a lie hidden under the carpet. It seemed so cruel. To everyone involved.

They left on their honeymoon and I imagined I would never hear from him again. He lasted a week and a half. While still in Hawaii he emailed me. I knew that if I wanted it, when they got back, everything would be the same with us. I begged myself not to do it. I didn’t respond to the email. The first day he was back in the office he walked into my studio, head down. He said he just wanted to say “Hi.” That week was torture. He came by every day. He brought presents. He cried. He still repeated his mantra, “I don’t know what I want, I’m confused,” even though he had JUST GOTTEN MARRIED.

I wish I could say that was the worst part. Two months into their marriage he called me and said that she knew. I was paralyzed. I asked how. He said they had been fighting about the phone bill he wouldn’t show her and he finally confessed. Only he didn’t. He told her we had sex twice and that we were just friends. He told her several versions of the story, constantly widening the scope until she called me and I confessed everything. Everything. She and I talked for hours. It turned out, not surprisingly, that he had lied to me just as much as he lied to her. He completely threw me under the bus to save himself with her. He told her he didn’t know the baby was his because I’d been sleeping around (lie). He told her he never said he loved me (lie), and then backtracked and said he told me that but it was untrue. He told her that after the abortion he only continued to see me because he thought I was suicidal (???).

And that was just the beginning of the hell. John and I didn’t talk for a couple weeks. He would ignore me in the halls (our offices are 200 feet from each other). Then he got a hold of me when I was on vacation and said he wanted to talk. I agreed, because I missed him so much. We met in the park and when he touched me I felt something very strange. I went home and took a pregnancy test. I was pregnant. Again. Against any physical odds. It felt like the cruelest joke in the world. The next day I told him I needed to see him. I told him about the pregnancy. He said that he would be there for me in any way I needed. He said he loved me, that I was a beautiful person. I said I didn’t need or want anything, that I would handle it on my own. He walked out… and she was waiting in the car outside. She sent me a number of furious messages. And I haven’t spoken to either of them since….

That was a month ago. Since then John’s wife told several of our mutual friends, who happened to be the people I’m closest with in my new city. They have never spoken to me again. Even my best friend sent me an email telling me to not come back to school, period. She told me I was a monster. She said I was at rock bottom. The only response that I could muster was that I didn't believe in rock bottom, because in my experience the bottom always falls out. I flew home to try to recover. I didn’t have the heart to tell my family, especially after they dropped the bomb on my first day home that my parents are getting a divorce. Then a few days later my mom was in a horrible car accident. She is going to be ok, thankfully, but it rattled me to my very core.

I am now allergic to the term “It can’t get any worse.” Every. Single. Time. Someone says that to me another cataclysmic event occurs.

I took myself to the second abortion. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was crippled by shame. I still am. I have no one to talk to, and I feel constant, crippling anxiety. I have SO much that I need to do. I am in my last semester of my MFA. I need to finish my thesis, which is an enormous amount of work. I have so many opportunities that I am so very, very grateful for and yet I can barely get out of bed. I owe it to myself and my loved ones to succeed, but I am in a constant fog of sadness. I wake up, everyday, wishing I hadn’t.

I’ve turned to this forum because I was shocked and delighted to see people sharing similar stories and getting supportive responses. Please, please don’t tell me it can’t get worse. It obviously can. But if anyone can honestly tell me it can get better, I need to hear that.
skippingstone5 skippingstone5
26-30, F
3 Responses Jan 13, 2013

First, big (((HUG))) for you!! What you have been through is beyond heartbreaking. having an affair with a married am may have been a mistake, but you are NOT a bad person. What this man has done is so very wrong. Pease don't feel shame....you have been in such a difficult position. Things can, and will, get better. You just need time to get through all this and heal. There is no way to know how much time that will take, but one day you will wake up and realize you have not felt the pain for days. Stay busy and focus on yourself and you will most definitely succeed!! All the very best to you. If you need to chat, feel free to send a private message. Hang in there (((HUG)))!

my heart breaks for you.. my eyes literally welled up reading your story... i cant tell you how similar my story is... but of course you have dealt with much more pain... i can understand how dark everything looks from your perspective.. but trust me.. you will be fine... and better... though it seems a remote possiblity... please feel free to write to me or message whenever you feel alone... please take care..

I appreciate your empathy. I was uncomfortable at first sharing this story. I realize how made up it sounds. Trust me, it felt like living in a movie, or some horrible soap opera. Sometimes I say it to myself out loud and it's hard not to laugh, in some very morbid way. Having this community to understand that others experience these very difficult times has helped it all feel a little less surreal.

You sound like a bright, intelligent, loving, and vital person who has found themselves caught up in a relationship that has gradually consumed your life. You have been through so much turmoil, it's no wonder that you have spiraled into an abyss of such negative emotions. It will get better, with time, with a conscious effort on your part to resolve matters and achieve closure . . it's a gradual process to the inevitable realization . . that we must make choices, difficult as they may be. If you need an ear or a shoulder, please contact me privately if you wish. Am here to support and sympathize. You definitely have some healing to do. You'll get through it somehow. EP is a great place to open up and share. Lots of similar stories here. You're not alone.