Like many people before internet dating, I met my husband in the office.
We fell in love when I was 21, and by the time I was 25 we were married with a one-year-old and baby twins. I felt completely unprepared for parenthood but I was certain that life was idyllic. We built a beautiful home in a Buckinghamshire village and I fell into the role of homemaker with ease.
I spent all my time with the children and took an avid interest in cooking healthy food for my family. I had always been fascinated by the inner workings of the body and decided to take a university course on human biology and nutrition.
Managing studying and raising the children was tricky. Some days were a blur. Leaving the house on my own with the children was a rarity – if we made it to a local nursery group or park it was a good day. But I passed my course and was the happiest I had ever been. I felt that I had found my true purpose in nurturing my growing family and preparing home-cooked meals.
For the next 10 years, we enjoyed a blissful family life. I was committed to being a wife and mother and remember saying to myself: “How can I be this lucky?”
When the children reached their final year at primary school, I felt I needed to use my brain in a different way. I also wanted to prepare for when the children left home and had careers of their own. My husband didn’t want me to get a job, and this caused conflict, but I found the perfect compromise and studied for a nutrition diploma from home. This meant I could still take care of the children and the day-to-day running of our home.
But over the following year, I had my suspicions that things weren’t well in my marriage. My husband ran a very hectic business and his workload had increased. He was spending a lot of time in the office and starting to have some health issues. I did everything I could to support him, as that is how I had always seen my role: as carer, nurturer and problem-solver.
Something that still makes me sad to this day is that it took my dad, in his final months, to tell me that my marriage wasn’t working. He could see there was a problem and that I was in denial. He noticed a change in my husband’s behaviour: he wasn’t the connected father and husband he had been. He used to make family time a priority and we were a very sociable couple. Now I spent weekends alone.
Being a romantic, I always believed my commitment to my husband must be unswerving. I hoped blindly that things would get better and that it was just a blip. Finally, I had to accept what my father could clearly see but my loyalty to my husband prevented me from openly talking about.
It was September 2013 when my husband suddenly announced his departure and moved out of our marital home. I was never given the opportunity to discuss where our marriage had gone wrong or whether it could be saved. He said I had been the perfect wife and mother and told me there was nothing I could do to change his decision.
I was completely broken. I had to rebuild my future dreams and those of my children. I remember wondering if it was possible to die from being so sad.
My father passed away four months later and the tsunami of grief crashed over me again. My own health started to deteriorate with fatigue, joint pain, depression and IBS. I believe that my journey to becoming a nutritional therapist was my lifesaver, as it was during part of my training that I realised I had an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
As I processed the truth about my marriage breakdown – and my ex-husband started to build a new life with his new partner – I continued to work on my health. I realised I had an amazing opportunity to help others; this became my passion and kept me going.
I focused on nurturing my children as they entered their secondary education, and I sucked up all the knowledge I could on the gut, the microbiome and autoimmune conditions. When I finally got my qualification as a nutritional therapist, I hit the ground running, setting up my own practice.
I am now 49 and have since moved to another village with my three young adults and Sonny, my Labrador. I run a busy clinic from my new home and, since Covid, I’ve been seeing clients over Zoom.
I have learned first-hand the toll life’s ups and downs can take on our health and am also less naïve than I was, and better able to challenge questionable behaviour. I now know that, with support from good friends and family, you can turn your life and health around – even after your world has been turned upside down.