Quote of the Day

“Soon, when all is going well, you’re going to look back on this period of your life and be glad you never gave up.”

When we’re in the midst of awful, desperate times it can be so easy to lose our motivation.

The struggle can feel endless. Unrelenting. Too ferocious.

And when the war drags on, and doesn’t let up for a moment, it’s understandable that we lose the will to fight.

But when we look back through the years, and we reflect on those dark times – the times when it was hard to see how we could make it through …

We see we did make progress.

And the ground shifted and moved.

For we’re not in the same place.

Something within us really changed.

Do not lose hope. Please believe there are a thousand beautiful things waiting for you.”

Truths You Need to Admit to Yourself in the Aftermath of Trauma

“I have a gaping, bleeding hole in my soul.”  

1. What happened to you mattered. It really, really mattered.

2. It wasn’t your fault, and you didn’t ask for it. This is one situation where you truly are a victim.

3. You’re no longer the person you used to be. You’re a shell of the person you used to be. You’re profoundly changed; you hardly recognize yourself.

4. This has turned your life completely upside down … So you don’t know what to believe anymore … And you don’t know who to believe anymore … And you’re afraid to trust … And you’re afraid to hope … And you’re afraid to believe that things will work out for you

5. You can’t relax and enjoy your life as you don’t know when the other shoe is going to drop. At any time of day, and on any random day, trauma could walk into your life again.

6. Most of the time you are running on empty. Your sleep is disturbed, and it’s hard to cope with life. You’ve no energy left to give to anybody else.

7. You feel as if you don’t own your life any more. You feel you’ve lost control. That other people call the shots. It’s pointless making plans because you don’t get to decide.

8. You’ve lost your sense of safety, and you’ve learned you cannot trust. For trusting leads to pain and betrayal in the end.

In fact, you’ve even learned that you cannot trust yourself.

9.  All your feelings are valid, and deserve to be heard. They deserve to be taken seriously by you. They are trying to protect you from being harmed again. It’s important that you listen, and you treat them with respect.

1o. Your feelings are reactions shouldn’t be a source of shame. You are not going crazy; they are absolutely normal.  Also, processing what happened, and recovery, take time. You don’t recover over night. It’s a long and winding road.

11. It is fine if you are having a bad day … or week … or year. You deserve to grieve your losses, and to grieve at your own pace.  It’s ok to not be ok.

12. You are not your trauma. You are so much more than this. Yes, the effects might still be there – but you are brave, and you are strong. You’ve survived – you’re still surviving – and you’re going to survive.  This isn’t the last chapter in the story of your life.      

“You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refuses to surrender.” – John Mark Green

Negative Feelings and Self-Kindness

The key to healing is the radical acceptance of all our emotions.”

It can be hard to sit with our negative emotions, and to simply say in a non-judgmental voice:

This is exactly how I feel.”

Adopting that approach is often very difficult, and especially for those who’ve been deeply traumatized.

But, really, we don’t have to do anything at all.

We needn’t act upon them. We needn’t bury them.

We needn’t exorcise them, or make them disappear.

And we don’t have to change them into positive emotions.

Instead, the best thing we can do is to become curious, and to sit with our emotions, and observe what’s happening in us.

And as we do this, we’ll find that they usually pass through us, that they slowly dissipate, and they start to fade way …

Then we return to a place of equilibrium again.

What Does This Teach Us About Handling Tough Emotions?

This means we don’t have to squash them.

And we don’t have to numb them.

And we don’t have to reject them

Or to feel ashamed of them.

In fact, the worst thing we can do is to harshly sit in judgment, and to experience contempt towards these painful, raw emotions. 

What Else Does This Tell Us?

It means there’s no place in our life for self-rejecting comments like:

What on earth is wrong with you?”

Or: “You shouldn’t have these feelings.”

Or: “Why can’t you just be normal.”

Or: “You must put this behind you.”

Or:“You’re acting like you’re crazy.”

Or: “You really must move on.”

The Role of Self-Kindness

Self kindness is a mindset that allows us to “just be”.

There are no “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. It’s devoid of harsh demands.

And it frees us from despair – for now there are no measuring sticks. All feelings are accepted, and acceptable, to us.

And, ironically, this mindset will help to set us free.

For self-kindness is the ointment that heals, eventually. 

 Something to Remember

Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves from debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.” – Kristin Neff

Quote of the Day

“I pray you heal from all the things no-one ever apologized for.”

We all carry hurts and wounds from our past.

And some of these wounds are very deep and painful.

Damage it is hard to recover from.

My prayer for you is that you find the help you need to heal from these wounds, so your heart can be free.

Even if you never get the answers you need.

Even if they don’t take responsibility.

Even if they don’t, or won’t, apologize to you.

I pray that you will heal, and you will laugh and live again. 

Finding Hope when you don’t Feel Hopeful

Sometimes you feel that you can’t face the battle. Sometimes you don’t feel courageous at all. Sometimes it all feels too much. Too overwhelming. Sometimes you feel that you just can’t go on.     

On days like this, when you’re fighting all the darkness, is there something you can do? Are there steps that you can take? It can often be helpful if you have ideas at hand – for you won’t have the energy to think at those bleak times. So here are some thoughts; a few things that you could try:

1. Acknowledge how you feel. Don’t try to sugar-coat it. You need to be authentic; you deserve to be authentic. Also, you can’t keep pretending, or keep faking how you feel. Eventually you’ll crack, and the feelings will seep through.

2. Work on developing a self-care routine. It will give you something to look forward to, and there’s a chance it will help to raise your self-esteem.

3. Try to notice any patterns in your thinking. Do you always tend to see things in the same old way? Are you stuck in a groove? Are you going round circles? Do you have expectations that cannot be realized? Is there one small ray of hope? Is there something you could change?

4. Remind yourself that you still have control over certain aspects of your daily life. Do you choose your meals and clothes? What you download on your phone? What you do in the evenings? Who you see in your free time? Do you still have some freedom and autonomy?

5. Lean into friendships where you feel fully accepted, where you’re free to be yourself, and you feel that you are safe.  If you can spend time with these people – or check in with them at times – you will probably feel stronger and more able to hold on.

“Hope is not pretending that troubles don’t exist. It is the hope that they won’t last forever. That hurts will be healed and difficulties overcome. That we will be led out of darkness and into the sunshine.”  

An Interview with Sanja

In this post, we interview Sanja, the wife of a recovering sex addict.

Counsellor: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sanja: I’m Sanja, and I have been married to a physician, Charles, for 13 years. My husband is a recovering sex addict.  We have triplet daughters, who were conceived through IVF.

Counsellor: How did you discover your husband had a sex addiction?

Sanja: He actually told me he had been using different online sites when the Ashley Maddison scandal first broke. He was afraid I would find out from someone else, or his name would become public.

Counsellor: Was that the full picture – using Ashley Maddison?

Sanja: Unfortunately – no. It wasn’t.  At first it sounded like he was only interested in porn, and had only chatted to 3 or 4 women. But I learned, over time, that it was a lot more going on than that. There were years and years of using webcams and chatrooms. Also, he kept the online relationships alive with some of these women for several years.

Also, I only built up a total picture over the course of about 10 months. Can you believe it!! That whole experience was really hard because, ironically, I felt awkward asking him any kind of probing question and, initially, he didn’t volunteer much information. I felt like I was accusing him of things he would never do (but of course had done), and I didn’t want to believe it was true either.

I had never thought my husband would betray me, so it was like meeting a completely new person. A person I never knew. It was all so shocking and distasteful to me.

Counsellor: How did you react?

Sanja:  My whole world was blow apart. I was a total mess. I cried all the time. I had anxiety and panic attacks at night. Honestly, I could hardly function. I took care of my kids – and that was about all. I couldn’t do my part-time job anymore. I couldn’t volunteer, or even hang out with family and friends. I just didn’t have the energy and mental head space for it. I was too much of a basket case.

Also, I felt like I could no longer distinguish between truth and lies. I felt like I couldn’t believe a word that came out of my husband’s mouth.

I felt like I was rewriting my whole past. Our whole past.

I didn’t know if I wanted to stay with him. I didn’t know if it was wise to stay with him. I didn’t know if I could ever trust him again. I didn’t know if he would change, and be faithful for a while, and then change back to this person he’d become. Honestly, how can you know something like that?

Counsellor: In retrospect, were there any signs which might have alerted you to what was going on?

Sanja: No. I can honestly say there were none at all. He’s a doctor. He’s an attentive and doting father. He’s a soccer coach. He’s very active in the local community. There was nothing to indicate he was anything other than the person he appeared to be. In fact, he was using an email account for his addiction that I didn’t even know he had. It was a secret account. You know, addicts are extremely skilled at covering their tracks, and being secretive.

Also, what kind of life do you have if you’re always checking up on your spouse, and wondering if they’re really telling you the truth!

Counsellor: You decided to stay with him. What led you to make that decision?

Sanja: Once things were out in the open, he was completely remorseful, and wanted to get help. And he did get help. He was also completely devastated when he observed the impact all of this had had on me. To be fair to him, he always tried to be there for me when I was experiencing the effects of betrayal trauma (even although I hated him, and raged against him at times.)  

One thing that was very important was: he honestly tried to uncover the roots of the addiction. Also, he answered every question I had. He saw a counsellor and had an accountability mentor.

In addition, I took over all the computers and set the passwords on his phone, ipad and laptop. He let me check up on him any time I wanted to – which I needed to do for at least two years. He was totally Ok with that.

I didn’t decide whether to stay or go for a year. I didn’t want to have to make any decisions until I was in a better place mentally and emotionally. And he accepted that without ever pressurizing me.

Counsellor: D-day (discovery day) for you was about five years ago. How are you coping with all of this today?

Sanja: I’m in a different place, and my husband is a different person. I believe he no longer lives in a fantasy world, and our relationship feels genuine and honest to me (but how can you ever know for sure!)

As far as my own recovery goes, I have accepted that I’ve been living with betrayal trauma, and I’ve allowed myself to work through the shock and grief as it comes up, in its own way, and in its own time. Will I ever be fully healed? I really don’t know. I’m not even sure it’s possible. I think there will always be some triggers and a degree of sadness, even although it’s muted sadness now.

But a lot of healing has taken place and I’m at a comfortable place in my life. Perhaps better than I ever thought was possible when I first learned about the addiction.

Will this Pain Ever Go Away?

“If the pain was deep, you will have to let go many times.” Yung Pueblo

We often feel surprised by how long the pain lasts. By the fact that we’re not free – even years after the trauma.

There are no easy answers.

There is no magic bullet.

The memory is ingrained and it doesn’t go away.

Letting go is a process we repeat a million times.

Every time it helps a little. Just a little – not a lot.

It’s a hard reality. A truth we’d rather not embrace.

But we are making some progress, every time we let it go.

Let’s Talk about Cheating and Broken Trust

“Cheating isn’t an accident. Falling off your bike is an accident. Cheating is a choice.”

Many cheating partners have argued the case that it was only some porn, or a lap dance, or webcams. It wasn’t a relationship and, therefore, didn’t count.

But that’s not what their partner, or their spouse, is going to think.

To them it’s a deliberate and blatant breach of trust. It’s engaging in behaviour that they know will break your heart. It’s cheating. Infidelity. Unfaithfulness.

And intimate relationships are based on openness. On not having secrets. On honesty and trust.

So when you choose to deceive her, or you lie to her face, then it totally destroys that strong foundation of trust.  And once it has been broken it is hard to rebuild.

For if I can’t be confident that you care about my heart, and I don’t know if you’ll hurt me, and I need to doubt your words, then how can I feel safe and trust myself to you?

And it’s not just about sex. It is believing you don’t count. It’s feeling you’re not valued, or respected, any more. And it’s having to feel anxious and uneasy all the time. For how can you be certain when your partner’s lied to you?

Ask any betrayed partner – and they’ll tell you that it’s this that’s hardest to get over – for we can’t forget the past. And we have an innate instinct to protect ourselves from harm – and that includes protection from emotional harm, as well.

But trust CAN be recovered – though it’s going to take some time. It’s rebuilt brick by brick – and it is not an easy road.

For some, it isn’t worth it. There is way too much at stake.

But others might decide that they are going to take the risk.

But only you can really know what’s best and right for you.

There are Things You’ll Never Forget

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

You don’t ever forget that your partner was unfaithful. You don’t ever forget that you lost a precious child. You don’t ever forget the day your whole world fell apart. You don’t ever forget that you’re a victim of abuse.

We may heal to some extent, and build a very different future.

Our partner may change, or we might marry someone else.

We might still have other children.

And our fortunes might reverse.

We might laugh, and find fulfillment, and decide ‘life must go on’.

Even so, we still remember – for we can’t erase those memories.

There will always be an ache for what could, and should, have been.

It is simply a fact that a heartache is a heartache.

And what happened left an imprint, and a sadness, and a scar.  

 “It has been said: ‘Time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The scars remain and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”  

It’s Worth Hanging On!

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

This quote by the tennis player Arthur Ashe appears frequently on social media. It’s the kind of quote you might expect to see there.

It’s the kind of quote I’ve posted myself when life has been happy, or at least humdrum.

It’s the kind of quote that can give you a lift, and inspire you to try, and to go for your dreams.

But it’s not the right quote if you’re curled up in a ball, and you’re dealing with a trauma, and you think you’re going to die.

No! That’s not the kind of quote that you want to hear right now.

Then, one day you decide that your life must go on.

You are made of stronger stuff.

You are going to survive.

Yes, the pain’s unbearable, and you don’t know what to do. Yes, the options all look bad. None of this was in the script.

So, you rip up the old script and you start where you are.

But your self-esteem is shattered. You have lost your confidence. It is hard to open up, and to take a risk, trust.

Work and hobbies? What are those? They don’t interest you at all. And because you never sleep, you have zero energy.

Still, you make a vague attempt to retain a normal life. You take the kids to school and you drag yourself to work.

Yes, you try to act the part – even though you’re in a mess.

And you find you have reserves.  You can manage minor tasks.

Step by step you’re managing. You are using what you have.

And we might as well be real. You don’t “just get over this.” No, you’re going to be in pain, and be bleeding, for some years.

You can wear a plaster cast. Get some stitches for the wounds. Change the soiled bandages. Buy some ointment. Take some pills.

Even so, it will take time. You can’t rush this process up.

But you’re caring for yourself.

You are doing what you can.

And those small acts of self-love help to change you bit by bit.

Till, one day, you catch a glimpse of the self you thought you’d lost.

Wow! You can’t believe it’s true. You had missed that self so much.

It was worth the tears and work. There was truth in that old quote:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”