Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Worst Is Over

I recently came across this HuffPo post on dealing with the trauma of betrayal.
Betrayal trauma was a notion I resisted. I remembered all too well my response when a friend asked the hypothetical question, "what would you do if your husband cheated." Back then, I knew exactly what I'd do. Dump him. I was so sure that I'd kick him out the house, march straight to a divorce lawyer, wipe my hands clean of him and move forward into my life. At no point did I imagine trauma. Wasn't that for people who'd been raped? Or prisoners of war? Or abused? A cheating husband might lead to anger, I thought, but not trauma.
File that quaint notion under the "yeah, right" category.
Following D-Day, I couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours at a time, waking to panic. I felt powerless. Enraged. Terrified. One day I would feel numb but fine. The next, I couldn't get out of bed. I became a stranger to myself, entertaining thoughts of suicide. Anything to avoid this pain that I thought was endless.
Then a friend, who worked with adult survivors of sex abuse, suggested I was experiencing post-trauma.
She gently explained to me that betrayal is trauma. Her list of "symptoms" rang true.
I felt guilty, however, putting myself in the same list as rape victims. Or abuse survivors. I felt like my experience didn't warrant being traumatized. I should be able to get over this, I thought. I should be stronger.
But I wasn't.
I wish then that I'd heard those words:
The worst is over.
According to Judith Acosta, who wrote the HuffPo blog piece and a book entitled The Worst is Over, those are the most critical words a terrified and traumatized person needs to hear.
And, with the brilliance of hindsight, I know she's right.
Knowing that the worst is over – that gut-dropping, brain-scrambling discovery that what you thought was...wasn't won't ever be repeated because you'll never be caught so off-guard again – can help you breathe again. It can help you focus on what's ahead, instead of what's behind. It can give you the trust in yourself to know that you survived...and that the worst is, indeed, over.
If you can't believe that, then more trauma work is probably a good idea. If you find yourself hyper-vigilant for any signs of impending pain because you just don't think you could go through it again, find someone to hold your hand and your heart (a therapist is darn good at doing that!) while you heal.
But in the short-term just keep telling yourself the worst is over.
Because it's true.

6 comments:

  1. I wish I could say that.......I'm still suspecting my DH is not done...but he says he is. I guess the worst is over because the first time finding out was the worse.

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  2. I can't feel that yet either. I still have divorce looming on my horizon, possibly and I don't think that will be all smiles.

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  3. I think it takes a while, in large part because the fallout from this is so protracted and messy. There's not just the emotional toll but the logistical one -- separation, divorce, telling kids, and so on.
    But, in hindsight, I do think the worst is the actual bomb of D-Day. I don't EVER want to go through that again. Thank God for my body's ability to keep on moving, even when my mind had shut down.

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  4. I went through DDay #1 and worked at rebuilding my life for nearly 4 years when DDay #2 happened a couple weeks ago. I am a mess. It hurts so bad at times I'm paralyzed. I cry at my son's baseball games, in the middle of watching Madagascar, at the pool with my kids, sitting in church, walking through Walmart. Its crushing. So many things are complicating it this time, but the pain is worse the second time.

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    Replies
    1. I'm so, so sorry you're going through this again.
      I think the subsequent D-Days can be as devastating or even more. You just feel as if you're going to be okay...and then you're knocked flat again.
      I think all you can do is come back to yourself. You've survived so much already...you will get through this. Focus on you and your kids. In this moment, you and your kids are okay. Then get to the next moment. Then the next. And so on...
      Your husband clearly hasn't been honest with you so it's time to start protecting yourself and your kids – financially, emotionally and physically.

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    2. This is what happened to me exactly. I had my d-day #1 and false R for three months when my gut told me something was up. I checked his phone records and sure enough there were two other women he had been involved with. He denied it (d-day #2) and then when forced, admitted it all (d-day #3). That was harder than d-day #1 honestly. Because I had chosen to trust him after finding out about the first affair and forgiving him for it. I had no idea he was still lying to me. I had to go on anti-depressants as I was diagnosed with PTSD. And of course, in the course of our healing (we are still together) I flinch every time I open my computer and wonder when d-day #4 will happen. So for those of us with multiple d-days, it doesn't feel like the worst is over. I hope I will feel that way someday. Thank you for your insightful post.

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