It's becoming increasingly clear that refreshing Twitter every five minutes and logging on to the New York Times home page to read the latest assault on good sense, decency and human rights is not good for my health, emotional or physical. I'm agitated. I'm unproductive. I'm miserable.
Which is why a weekend spent in my reading chair, phone and iPad tucked in their charging station, slowly reading through the pile of magazines that has accumulated, was just what the (metaphorical) doctor ordered.
I was reading September's issue of O, The Oprah Magazine when I came across a story about post-traumatic stress disorder related to infidelity.
There's a term, though it's not in wide usage: Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder, which sounds almost too quaint for what actually happens. "Stress" barely scratches the surface.
Because the key for understanding just why we're so shattered by infidelity is in the word trauma. Betrayal is trauma.
Trauma, according to Oxford Dictionary (which, incidentally, declared "toxic" its official word of 2018, edging out gaslighting and thereby giving official status to betrayed wives everywhere), means "emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis."
Shock. Injury. Neurosis.
That's more like it.
It took me a long time to come across any reference to what I was experiencing as trauma. It may have been my therapist who first mentioned it, though I too often discount what she says because I think she's too easy on me. After all, I hadn't been dodging IEDs in Afghanistan. I hadn't experienced a brutal rape.
But when I read about betrayal trauma, when I saw the words written across a page, the idea came with an authority that didn't allow me to dismiss it. Because I had been dismissing my pain. I was sure that other women going through infidelity weren't as shattered as I was. They were out in skinny jeans and stiletto heels slashing his tires, or gathering around a bottle of chardonnay with other betrayeds and plotting comical revenge, or at a spa transforming themselves into a woman so desirable, he would experience such profound regret for what he'd done and lost.
Cause that's the thing with infidelity. The only role models I really had were my mother, who'd descending into a decade of alcoholism and prescription pill addiction (not a path I wanted to take) and the women I saw in movies or country music songs or books. Those women didn't seem traumatized, they seemed motivated.
Which is why it was such a relief to have a word for how I was feeling.
Shock. Injury. Neurosis.
"We see symptoms of shock, negativity, and emotional arousal – as you might see in somebody coming home from war – manifesting in committed relationships," says Kevin Skinner, a licensed marriage and family therapist who's quoted in the story.
I spent my days fighting off panic attacks.
I routinely considered veering my bike into traffic.
I felt like a caged animal, trapped by circumstance.
The mind movies made me crazy.
I couldn't stand being away from my husband. I couldn't stand him close.
I spent countless hours poring over VISA bills and receipts, rifling through his drawers, looking for...what exactly? I already knew he cheated. I knew with whom. But trauma drives us to neurosis. To hyper-vigilance.
If you're not reacting your news of your partner's infidelity the way women in movies or songs or books are – if, instead, you're reacting the way I did, with tears, with vacant eyes, with panic and terror – you're experiencing trauma and you need support.
There is nothing wrong with you. It is not a sign of weakness. Rather it is a sign that you are human and that you have experienced a shock that has completely destabilized you.
Betrayal is trauma. There it is. In print.
- Feeling Stuck, Page 22 (PAGE FULL)
- Sex and intimacy after betrayal
- Share Your Story: Finding Out, Part 5 (4 is full!!...
- Finding Out, Part 5 (Please post here. Part 4 is f...
- Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say
- Separating/Divorcing Page 9
- Finding Out, Part 6
- Books for the Betrayed
- Separating and Divorcing, Page 10
- Feeling Stuck, Part 23
- MORE Stupid S#*t Cheaters Say
- Share Your Story Part 6 (Part 5 is full)
- Sex & Intimacy After Betrayal Part 2 (Part 1 is full)