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.