I'm a strong believer in the value of telling our story. Not only do we gain a sense of solidarity from this community of other betrayed wives but telling our story is a crucial part of our healing. Thanks to all the brain science research of the past couple of decades, experts now understand that telling our story helps heal trauma.
And though I love the support and compassion I see on this site when we rally around a woman brave enough to share the deep pain of her story, it's also really valuable to write your story down on paper. If you haven't already done so, buy yourself a pad of paper and sit down each morning and write three pages – long-hand – without thinking. Nobody but you is ever going to read this so don't censor yourself. Don't worry about spelling or neatness or proper grammar. You can burn the pages later. Just let your troubled brain spill your thoughts. Three pages. Every. Single. Morning. (You can do this at other times, but morning tends to be best because our brains are still a bit fuzzy. You don't want carefully thought analyses. You want raw emotion unguarded by ego.)
It doesn't even have to be about betrayal. Maybe you want to write about how hungry you are. How bored you are. How much you love getting on the scale now that you've lost 10 pounds on the Infidelity Diet. Whatever it is, just let it flow out of your brain and onto the page.
But I want you to do something else too. There's been so many stories lately on this site (which is wonderful! Keep 'em coming!!) that reveal the depth of trauma you're feeling.
And there's a surprisingly straightforward thing you can do to begin to process that trauma besides sharing your story (and Morning Pages).
Take a walk. Let's call it your Trauma Pilgrimage.
Not a meandering stroll but a brisk walk. Walking help our brains process trauma – it is bilateral stimulation, which forms the backbone of EMDR trauma therapy. Neuroscience and its discovery of neuroplasticity shows our brains are capable of healing from trauma...but only if those affected parts of our brains are active.
Telling our story activates the parts of our brain where trauma is stored. And a brisk walk, with our eyes frequently scanning side to side as we scan the sidewalk or path, stimulates the connections between the hippocampus and the cortex as we experience the changing environment. We are essentially exercising the memory muscles of our brain, making them stronger and better able to "solve the problem" of trauma.
It's no coincidence that I experienced my first glimpse of healing when I was walking my days just weeks after D-Day #1. It was a sunny winter day with fresh snowfall on the lawns. I don't know where I got the energy to get outside and walk but there I was, squinting against the blinding sunlight making the snow sparkle.
And in that moment, my darkness parted ever so slightly. But I'd had a glimpse. And in that glimpse I somehow recognized that I could get through this.
My story is hardly rare. We are walking creatures. It is in our nature. Across cultures, we often undertake pilgrimages to transform within as we transition without. We move physically, which shifts us emotionally and spiritually.
I want each of you to take a brisk 20-minute "trauma pilgrimage" today and every day for the next 10 days. We can all commit to anything for 10 days. Put on sunglasses if your eyes are puffy from crying. Put on comfortable clothes and solid shoes. No iPod, though you can use headphones if you want to send a "Do Not Disturb" message to those around you. Find a safe and, if possible, quiet place to walk. Twenty minutes. To change your life.
And then come back and share the story of your pilgrimage.