Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Riding out the storms

It is, at the end of the day, the individual moments of restlessness, of bleakness, of strong persuasions and maddened enthusiasms, that inform one’s life, change the nature and direction of one’s work, and give final meaning and color to ones loves and friendships
~Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind

When I wrote my book, Encyclopedia for the Betrayed, I had to consider why I was doing it. I'd been picking away at a "survival guide" for years. But none of it was working. Organizing it chronologically didn't work because betrayal doesn't happen in a straight line for a whole lot of us. Dividing it into categories didn't work because there's a whole lot of overlap so it became repetitive. I'd get frustrated and put it aside. And I kept asking myself what my book would contribute to the conversation that wasn't already out there. 
When I hit upon the idea of writing it like an encyclopedia, inspired by one of my favorite books Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by the incredible Amy Krouse Rosenthal, everything fell into place. I had my "how". But more importantly, by then I was also clear about the "why".
I wanted my book to assure readers of two crucial things:
•You are not alone in your pain. 
•You will get through this.
Sure I wanted my readers to have the information to help them with specific concerns – how to avoid pain shopping, how to manage mind movies, what the hell to do about hysterical bonding. But more than anything else, I wanted people to read between every single line these two things: You are not alone. You will get through this.
Because neither of those things feel true when you're going through betrayal hell. You feel so incredibly alone. Surely nobody in the history of the world has felt as gutted as you do, as hopeless. 
And you, by no means, believe you'll get through this.
You believe you'll feel like this forever, don't you? Maybe not completely devastated but sad. You'll carry on but you're convinced that this taint, this sense of defeat will remain with you. 
I told my husband he had "ruined" me. That I was "broken". Which wasn't untrue at that moment. What was untrue, and what I wish I'd known then, was that my broken-ruined stated was temporary. Yes, I was sad. I was deeply wounded. But that too was temporary.
And what I also didn't know then and I even hesitate to write it here because it reeks of self-sacrifice is that out of the rubble that was my life on D-Day, I recreated myself. I recreated my marriage. I recreated my family. My life.
I can hear you already. "But my life was just fine!" you say. "I liked who I was!" you tell me. "I will never feel carefree again!" you insist.
I hear you. I really do. 
And I'm not saying those things aren't true (well, except your life wasn't "fine". Your husband was cheating). I'm glad you like yourself because it will help you remain clear with your boundaries as you're healing from this. So much easier than those whose self-esteem has long been in tatters. And I know how painful it is to realize that you likely will never again just trust that your partner would never hurt you. That's an excruciating truth to accept. It really does change us.
But Kay Redfield Jamison, who has struggled her whole life with bipolar disorder, is right in that it's the storms we weather that shape us. An easy life is never to be confused with a good one. The struggles we have don't only shape us negatively. We get to decide what we do with the bleakness. Consider the mothers who created MADD, the veterans who are demanding appropriate mental health support, Malala who continues to fight to get girls into classrooms. My own daughter, who lives with bipolar disorder, is using her experience to prepare to counsel others with the illness. My mother, who lived 25 years as a recovering alcoholic, never hesitated to get someone struggling with alcoholism to a meeting, long after she'd stopped attending them herself.
Betrayal is excruciating, I know. But without it, I wouldn't have met the incredible women at our retreat 10 days ago – women who dazzled me with their kindness, their humor, their brilliance. I wouldn't have my book, of which I'm enormously proud and grateful to be able to put out in the world. I wouldn't have healed deeper wounds I had around abandonment and self-worth. I wouldn't have this blog. And all of you who, every single day, amaze me when you show up for each other, even when your own hearts are breaking. 
Do I wish I'd never gone through it? It doesn't really matter, does it. I did go through it. My husband went through it and is a more humble, considerate and compassionate man. 
So. Here's what you need to know:
You are not alone.
You will get through this.
I promise. 


  1. Elle is absolutely right you will get through this, and you will come through this a hell of a lot stronger and much wiser than before.
    I’ve not read the book yet Elle, it’s still in my unpacked suitcase from the retreat but when I do I know it will be the best read to date : ).

    I’m just about to go to my last counselling session with this current counsellor anyway, she’s been fab and I find these small short bursts of counselling work better for me Nd generally it’s a different one every time but I’m lucky as I always get a good one.

    Elle seen as I bought two of your books I intend to give one to my counsellor as I feel it may help her with her profession and should she have anyone who has been betrayed it will be most useful.. it’s my leaving gift to her..

    I’ll let you know how my last session went, feeling a lil emotional .. catch you all soon xx

  2. Good luck Sam A, you are doing amazing things with your life!

    Elle, I remember thinking many of those things "my life was fine" or that I had been a decent wife (honestly, while I know I was doing the best that I could at the time, things were not great) but I don't know that I could have said that I liked who I was then.
    But as you say above, doing the work I needed to do post betrayal was about healing deeper wounds that betrayal brought to light. And now I can finally and truthfully say that I like who I am.
    I'm never going to say that betrayal was the best thing that ever happened to me. But. it forced me to take stock of who I was, how I treated myself and who I wanted to become. Now I can honestly say I love myself and I love my crazy mixed up life. I have no idea where I'm going to land, but I know I'll be OK no matter what. I also know that wherever I land, that will not be a permanent place either. Everything changes and getting comfortable with that is both terrifying and liberating.
    For those just arriving, it will get better. Be gentle with yourself. For those feeling stuck, something will shift if you give yourself time to breath. Be gentle with yourself. And for those of you who feel like you are finally putting this behind you. It's OK. You're free to do that. Just remember to be gentle with yourself. xoxo

    1. ‘Everything changes and getting comfortable with that is both terrifying and liberating’ I love that ss1 that is exactly what happens to us post betrayal. Xx

  3. Well I gave my therapist your book Elle, and said that I thought it would help her with clients who had been betrayed and she actually disclosed she had also been betrayed, was I surprised, unfortunately not. It was a positive last session she said she had never had a client like me ( which I took as a positive) she said in 4 months she had seen me grow from a seed into a flower, it’s crazy to look back at how I was in July to where I am now. She has definetly been part of my journey in finding me following my divorce..

    Me and the ex have been getting on better I think my boundaries have worked in that he is respecting them. He’s been down since I got back from the retreat unfortunately one of his friends was murdered last week, it’s hit my ex really hard and I was saddened by it too he leaves behind a wife and 3 children : (.. I’ve been trying to console him whilst protecting myself from getting too involved. I invited him along to the pictures yesterday with me and our 5 year old. I feel like we’re now able to do these type of activities without falling back into bed with each other. I’ve moved forward significantly in the last 5 months. Let’s hope this friendship can continue for the sake of our children.

    Hope you lovely ladies are well!!!




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