Let It Be

“The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

We don’t just put it behind us and move on.  We don’t just forget, and start over again.  

We know that doesn’t work. That it’s just a fantasy.

That’s not how trauma, or grief, or sadness work.

They are all part of your story.  They are part of who you are.

Those memories and events: they will always be with you.

So you need to accept them.

And welcome them.

And make space for them.

You need to allow them to be true – whether you want them to be true, or not.

You need to allow them to be your reality.

Your life.  

You will never be able to stifle, or forget, or erase them completely.

So make room for them.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable and broken, at least for this moment.

Allow yourself to feel all the intense, scary, overwhelming emotions.  

Allow yourself to ache, and mourn, and grieve.

For the truth is – you will be stronger because of it.

You will be freer because of it.

And one day you’ll discover it belongs to yesterday.

And your today, and tomorrow, are not defined by this.

They tell me that Rome wasn’t Built in a Day

Healing is not an overnight process. It takes time.

Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re finally over something and happy again, and the wound will reopen.

Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. Take each day one step at a time.

Just try to be in a better place mentally and emotionally than you were yesterday.”

One of the hard things about dealing with a trauma is it’s so chaotic and unpredictable.

There are no easy answers.

There are no quick solutions.

Our subconscious holds the reins, and life can feel out of control.

Some forms of therapy can help, plus getting useful information.

Feeling heard and understood can make a huge difference as well.

But it’s like walking through thick treacle when we’re trying to move on.

The progress seems so patchy – and the feelings are so strong.

So, we just have to be patient, and accept that it’s a journey.

A journey that’s exhausting, and that tests us with each step.  

You celebrate the good days.  You hold tightly on to hope.

And gradually you notice the dawn’s begun to break.        

What are the Symptoms of Betrayal Trauma?

Betrayal trauma makes you feel like you are losing your mind. It puts you on an emotional rack and pulls you in opposite directions until you are begging for mercy. It yanks your sense of security out from under you and puts you in a state of emotional free fall. It is severely emotionally distressing, and until you have experienced it, you really can’t imagine how truly life-altering the experience can be.”

–Michelle Mays

When you have experienced betrayal trauma you are living in a state of emotional devastation, something that is very hard to navigate. Its symptoms include the following:  

1. Adrenalin and cortisol are surging through your body as your autonomic nervous system (ANS) prepares for “fight or flight”.

2. Your body and mind are screaming danger and threat. You feel as if you’re living on high alert.

3. For many people, when they start to calm down, the whole unpleasant cycle starts over again, and is repeated and repeated in a series of waves.

4. The fear of future betrayals, and what that could mean, keeps the internal threat response system activated, and ready to go into over-drive again. This becomes chronic, and a way of life.

5.  This means you are on an emotional roller coaster where emotions rise suddenly, are extreme, overwhelming and intense, are unpredictable, and hard to control. As a consequence of this, life feels frightening, chaotic and difficult to navigate.

6. When the ANS response system is triggered, it interferes with mental functioning. This affects your ability to focus, pay attention, concentrate, apply problem-solving skills, think logically, or analyze and process almost any information. Also, your memory is affected, and you can’t remember things.

7.  You feels as if you’re constantly being “rubber-banded” back into the past. Because of the intensity of this experience, it is hard to separate the past from the present; to feel grounded; and to be fully aware of, and responsive to, what is happening here-and-now.

8. When you’re living with emotional dysregulation, it is rare to experience prolonged periods peace and calm.

However, once you can identify what’s happening to you, and can start to articulate the trauma and pain, you can begin the long process of recovery. Hold on to that hope. You are starting to heal.

I Love Me

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”

When we have experienced rejection or betrayal it changes the way we see, and feel about, ourselves. We can pick up the message that there’s something wrong with us. That we’re less than other people. That we’re seriously flawed.

But all of these are lies, and we need to love ourselves.

So how do we learn to love ourselves?  

1. Our mindset affects the way we see ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we live our lives. It affects our expectations around how others will treat us, and whether that’s appropriate, and what we should accept. This is an area we often need to challenge, and especially if we suffer from low self-esteem.

Some questions to ask yourself here include: Do I expect others to treat the same as/ better than/ or worse than they treat others? Why is that the case? What do I deserve when it comes to being loved? What will I put up with, and why?

2. Pay attention to how you treat yourself.

For example, do you tend to be self-critical and harsh towards yourself? Are you good at noticing and taking care of your physical, mental and emotional needs? How do you do that? How well do you do that? Do you make time to do the things you want and like to do? If not, why not? 

3. We need to show self-understanding and develop self-compassion.

It can be helpful to take the time to write down our life story, and trace how our experiences have shaped who we’ve become.

4. We need to give ourselves permission to design our own life, and to say what we want, and then to go after that.

Of course, our plans can be destroyed by the people in our lives, and it’s hard to recover when we’ve been traumatized. But our life still our own. We still have some agency. And we still get a say in what’s going to happen next.

5. Perhaps you’ve heard it said thar each of us is the average of the five people we spend the most time with. With this in mind, think about who you spend your time with. Are these people who like, love and value you? Are they people who can see your potential, and who encourage you to live your best life? If not, it might be time to make some changes here and surround yourself with people who will love and treat you well.

Into the Wild

The book and movie Into the Wild tell the story of Chris McCandless, a young man who dropped out of society, wandered the land, and finally died while living alone in Alaska.

Chris had every apparent advantage. A wealthy upbringing. An intact family. An education at top-notch schools. And yet, one day, he walked away from it all.

What was behind such a turn of events? Why did he turn his back on his life?

Chris (who changed his name to Alex Supertramp) uncovered a dark secret about his family. This changed him forever, and it knocked his life off course.   

After finishing high school, Alex went on a road trip where he learned that his dad had been a bigamist. This long-held family secret turned his whole world upside down, and he couldn’t quite recover from the devastating news.

His sense of trust was shattered. He was shaken to the core. He thought all love was suspect, and that closeness just brought pain.

Hence, he set out on a journey. Restless. Broken. Seeking solace. And trying to find peace in the rugged empty wilds.

How This Applies to Us

Discovering those close to us have led a secret life, and have cruelly deceived us, has profound, lasting effects. It tears up our life’s narrative. It fills our heart with pain. It leaves our mind fragmented; our identity in shreds.

 A story that made sense, and an unquestioned history, seem like a house of cards. It’s nothing more than a mirage.    

The ending of the novel and the movie break your heart. Chris can’t survive alone, and so eventually he starves.

There’s a lesson and a warning here if you’ve been traumatized, or had to deal with secrets that have blown your world apart. It is:

We all need other people when dark secrets are revealed, when trauma overwhelms us, and destabilizes us.

We feel so isolated, and so cut off from the world. We don’t know who to turn to. Who on earth would understand?

But there are those who’ll listen. Who will help us bear the pain. They’ll be there in the darkness, in the long and endless night.

Support makes all the difference. Please don’t carry this alone. Reach out, and share your story. There are people here who care.

It Isn’t Over ‘Till It’s Over

“Inhale. Exhale. Prevail.”

Yes. You can do it.

For inside you there’s a warrior.

You may be weak and weary, but there’s still that will to fight.

Life’s dealt you some tough blows. Blows that it’s very hard to cope with.

It’s left you bruised and broken; but you aren’t beaten yet.

You inhale very slowly.

Hold your breath.

Then exhale slowly.

You take another breath.

Now you are rising to your feet.

You feel as if you’re swaying.

You’re unsteady –

But you’re standing.

You know you’re going to make it

For you won’t accept defeat.

You are not Alone

Betrayal … The details of our stories might be different but the pain we experience is the same.”

Sometimes we feel so isolated and alone.

Cut off by our pain.

Left to cope, all on our own.

But always remember you are not alone.

It is true – your experience is personal and unique.

But we get what it is like, for we understand that pain.

We have walked the road you’re on.

We have stared into the night.

We have felt the walls close in.

We have cried out in despair.

We know exactly how it feels when your future disappears.

When the past is all torn up.

And your truth become a lie …

We are here, and we care.

Please believe you’re not alone.

Don’t give up. You are strong.

We are with you on the road.

Boundaries 101

“She set her boundaries and rebuilt her life.”

What might healthy boundaries look like to you, if your partner has betrayed you in the past? Perhaps it includes some of the following:

1. Having your partner or spouse see a counsellor or therapist?

2. Requiring your partner or spouse to have an accountability partner?

3. You being the one who has administrative rights for the family computer?

4. Having all the passwords to his laptop, phone and other devices?

5. Having him remove all dating apps, and close down any accounts he has with companies like Ashley Maddison?

6. Being able to check his messages and texts anytime you want to?

7. Having access to all bank (and credit card) accounts – and going through statements together each month?

8. Having him accountable for his time so you know where he is, who he is with, and what he is doing, anytime you are apart?

9. To break all contact with (including ‘unfriend’) anyone he has previously dated/ had a relationship with?

10. For him to tell you if someone from a previous relationship ever tries to contact him again?

There are other boundaries you might want to put in place, specific to your partner, or to your relationship. Feel free to include these in the comments below.

Also, you will want to think about the way you’re going to respond if these boundaries and broken, and especially more than once.

The key thing is: you absolutely need to feel safe. Otherwise, that sense of trust can never really be rebuilt.

So don’t be hesitant to ask for what you feel you want and need. For having boundaries is crucial when you’ve been betrayed.

Boundaries are crucial. They are at the heart of every healthy relationship.”

“First, Do No Harm”

Doctors everywhere uphold the Hippocratic Oath:

Primum non nocere: “First, do no harm.”

And when you’re offering up your body into someone else’s hands, and trusting them to treat it with great tenderness and care, then “First, do no harm” makes perfect, rational sense.

For you’re making yourself vulnerable, and taking a great risk. Their actions and decisions can have life-changing effects.

Of course, doctors are just human, and they can’t fix everything.

But saying “they won’t harm us” is a crucial starting place.

How else can we feel safe, and freely trust ourselves to them?

What About Other Relationships?

Perhaps we should adhere to this in all relationships. It’s easy to do harm, and wound – quite unintentionally.  

And where this matters most is in our close relationships, especially with our spouses, or with those who share our lives.

We’re trusting them with everything – all aspects of our health, our reputation, self-esteem and, yes, our peace of mind.

This isn’t a small matter; we are taking a huge risk.

But we believe they’re safe, and they would never injure us.

The Impact of Betrayal

And that is why betrayal feels like twisting in the knife. We offered them ourselves; we offered everything we were.

How could they be so cruel; how could they trash this sacred trust?

We thought they would be faithful; that they’d love and care for us.

Primum Non Nocere

If only – like physicians – they had taken seriously the fact that we had trusted them when we had tied the knot.

If only they had cared enough to put our welfare first.

If only they’d been guided by the the Hippocratic Oath, and acted on the principle: “First, do no harm.”

Quote of the Day

Trust me when I say that I know how it feels to cry in the shower so that no-one can hear you.

And having to wait for everyone to fall asleep so you can fall apart.

For everything to hurt so badly that you can’t see a way out.

I know exactly how it feels.

But I also know that there is always hope and that the tide always turns.

Hang in there, and know that you are not alone.”

– Ella Hicks

Beautiful words.

Take them to heart.

Hold on to hope.

You are not alone.