Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Go A Little Deeper

I've said it before, but it bears repeating.  Therapy and recovery is HARD.

In addition to recovering from surgery, and learning a better, healthier way to handle fear and anxiety, I am also in a group therapy of sorts for women who have experienced betrayal trauma. 

Trauma is defined as "a deeply distressing or disturbing experience."

But betrayal trauma is defined as this:

"Betrayal trauma is defined as a trauma perpetrated by someone with whom the victim is close to and reliant upon for support and survival."

In my life, I have experienced betrayal trauma from 12.5 years of getting stuck in the cycle of Kris' addiction to pornography.  It has had a profound impact on my life and my marriage.  It is still impacting my marriage.  Just now, at 41, I am beginning to understand the following:

1.  I experienced betrayal trauma because of my husband's addiction, continued pornography use, and repeated cycles of denial, lies, and then eventually confession.
2.  My affair doesn't disqualify me from experiencing, understanding, and needing to work through that trauma.
3.  I have triggers that impact every aspect of my life, from my interactions with my husband and kids, to how I process the world and interpret behaviors.
4.  I am not equipped to deal with the aftershocks of betrayal trauma on my own.
5.  I need women in my life who have walked this road, or are walking this road, because God can use us to love and support one another, which can bring healing.

I started writing this with the intention of talking about how God is calling me to go deeper in my faith with him, but deleted multiple paragraphs because it just didn't feel right.  So I started over and here comes the betrayal trauma.  So, I will see if I can attempt to tie all of my thoughts on all of it together into a cohesive post that kind-of-sort-of makes sense.

We have already established that I suffer from debilitating anxiety, fear, and frequent panic attacks.  What was OCD and irrational fears as I grew up quickly morphed into an uncontrollable beast in my adult life that debilitated me.  It became something I couldn't control and for all intents and purposes, it led every decision I made from age 25-41.  Everything I did was done with a rather large amount of fear or panic or anxiety.

What I am learning through my betrayal trauma group is WHY I did the things I did.  It can't change anything.  It doesn't undo anything, but it does help me process it, understand myself better, and guides me into healthier emotions and relationships. 

Not all of my trauma was betrayal trauma.  I have other trauma from childhood events, and both of those combined led to a life filled with terror, anxiety and panic.  It was a very heavy burden.  But what God has been teaching me in the last month is that I don't have to be a slave to fear any longer.

Something I have struggled with my entire life is feeling "safe."  Not just physically, though for sure that has had a profound significance in my life.  But I have always felt "unsafe" with people emotionally.  There are likely a number of reasons that I won't go into here, but if I had to pick just two words to describe how I have felt all my life it would be these:  fear and unsafe.

Side note:  the pain I have caused by my own affair is not lost on me, and I have and will continue addressing it here, but right now, God is teaching me that it is OK for me to look at, understand and heal from my trauma surrounding my husband's addiction.

When betrayal trauma happens, your partner has violated your relationship.  People who have gone through betrayal trauma often experience symptoms of PTSD.  Here are just some of the things that I myself have wrestled with due to my husband's betrayal of me and our marriage--and these are categorized as betrayal PTSD:

  • Losing Trust
    • When you find out your partner has been struggling sexually, it is a shock to everything you know.  Someone you knew and trusted ripped all safety and security away with one disclosure, or in my case, disclosure after disclosure after disclosure.  And the lies were somehow the worst part of it all.
  • Mood Swings
    • One moment you are okay and the next moment you feel like your emotions are spiraling out of control, and sometimes you aren't even sure how you got there because it happens so suddenly.  I would also throw depression in here as well.  It is much more severe than a mood swing, but prolonged exposure to betrayal can lead to an even bigger emotional, mental health issue.
  • Sleep Problems
    • This one is not uncommon and is one that has plagued me for 16 years.  16 years ago I had a miscarriage.  That is where I can pinpoint my sleep issues beginning.  Although, I should point out that throughout my childhood, I did have occasional bouts with sleep paralysis.  It worsened though, after the miscarriage.  I was 24/25 when it happened.  Kris and I had been married for nearly 5 years and that entire time our marriage was filled with the cycle of addiction and betrayal.  Once my affair began in full force, my sleep issues worsened.  I began having immense difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, which led to YEARS of treating insomnia with RX drugs both for sleep and anxiety.  The effects of that medication still impacts me today and I have lost a lot of my memory because of it.  Additionally, the sleep paralysis worsened and ruined what little sleep I was able to manage.  These days, when stress is extremely high, the sleep paralysis still plagues me, though overall it is better than it was before I was living in the light.
  • Flashbacks
    • This is best understood by using the word triggers.  There are sights, sounds, smells, words, or emotions that can trigger and take you back to the traumatic event.  For me, my triggers surround behaviors or words that take me back to every time I KNEW something was going on, I confronted it, I was lied to, and then later I found out that what I sensed was correct.  This leaves me feeling literally crazy.  Like I can't trust my gut.  Like I can't be trusted to have a normal, rational thought.  It leaves me in a state of feeling unsafe.
  • Obsessive Thinking
    • Oh boy!  Combine this with natural OCD tendencies and this one can cripple!  All you can think about is the traumatic event and all of the aftermath from that.  Obsessive thinking makes it difficult just to go through your daily life.  You are distracted by your thoughts and constantly reply the traumatic event.
Sometimes with therapy, with recovery, you will be asked to go deeper.  Like I referenced when I wrote about physical therapy, God has been calling me to go deeper.  To take my healing to another, better level.  He has been working in my heart for these last 8 years to bring me closer to Him.  And it isn't lost on me that Good Friday and Easter are approaching.  If you have read this blog all throughout, or you know my story, you know that Good Friday was a pivotal day for me, back in 2012.  God called me to the Cross and showed me that Christ's love and grace and forgiveness could cover even an adulterer like me.  He could forgive even me.  He could love even the wretched thing I had become.

So, it really feels like a gift for God to be calling me deeper over this last month, leading up to Good Friday.  It feels like a blessing to be where I am, finding freedom from my fear and learning to surrender the anxiety, and when I can't surrender it, to trust God to carry me through it and know that it won't last.

And all of that leads me back to where He is taking me with this betrayal trauma group.  He is calling me to go deeper in relationship with him, and teaching me that I can't do that without working through this trauma.  I have to go deeper into the trauma, understand it and find healing from it, to learn how to deal with the triggers as they come in a healthier way.  In doing that, I can be pulled out into the deep waters.  I can go deeper with God, because I can find freedom from the trauma caused by my husband's addiction.

That leads me to this.  I had 3 panic attacks yesterday in the space of about 12 hours.  I only got a few hours of sleep, and I am learning that my body needs time to recover from these panic attacks.  What happened today is that I woke up in terrible pain, my body ached all over, and I just felt beat up.  I knew immediately I couldn't go to work the way I had been and putting in several hours, feeling the way I was.  So I spent a few hours laying in bed, and around 2pm, I fell asleep.  I woke up about 50 minutes later, and felt SO MUCH BETTER.  I am convinced that my body needed time to recover from yesterday's panic attacks.  While I find this process frustrating, because the very human side of me wants to just never struggle in this way again, God gives me just enough.  And God tells me that his power is made perfect in my weakness.  So if God wants to use my pain or my anxiety to point me to him, to show me and others that he is enough, then I will accept it and let him.  I will surrender to the process.

When I got up from my nap, feeling better, I headed in to work.  Before I started driving, I looked at my phone to turn on some praise music.  Earlier in the day, I had shared the song Oceans by Hillsong from YouTube .  So I was still on that page and saw a song called "Deeper."  Of course, I had to turn it on, and proceeded to play it on repeat for my 18 minute drive to work.  Take a listen.  It's so simple, and so profound.  I hope you love it as much as I do. 

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