What do I do with all these feelings?

Society sends some very mixed messages when it comes to feelings. You hear them discussed and mentioned a lot. But expressing them: well, that’s another story. Especially the intense and negative ones.

Yet, if something traumatic has happened to you then you’re going to experience some powerful emotions. And those feelings will be with you for a very long time. They will also show up at some inconvenient times.

For example, say you are having a pretty normal day. You’ve just dropped the kids off with their grandparents and are now stopping to pick up some coffee and bagels from the mall. Then, all of a sudden, you see or hear something that reminds you of the betrayal. (For example, you pass a shop selling lingerie or you hear a song that reminds you of your partner.)

Immediately, you are transformed from a relaxed, calm, and in control person into a panicky, rageful, hysterical mess. In a single moment, life has turned around and powerful emotions are hitting you in waves.   

What do you do when this happens to you?

1. First, and most importantly: You give yourself permission to experience the pain. You don’t just suppress all the anger, hurt and grief.

2. Sometimes this might mean quickly exiting a place or situation. For example, you may need to quietly excuse yourself, and then head to the privacy of the washroom, or your car.

3. Whatever you decide to do at this time, it’s crucial that you stay with, and feel, the painful emotions. You need to experience them. You need to express them. You need to honour them.

4. Once you are alone, and in a safe place, try to expressing the emotions you are feeling in a way that is helpful and appropriate (given the situation you are in at the time.)

If you’re totally alone and there’s no-one around, perhaps you will be able to bawl, scream and shout.

Or it may be more effective and appropriate to write furiously in a journal you keep specifically for expressing your thoughts and your feelings.

Or perhaps you can call or text a friend.

Or perhaps you can meditate or pray.

Or perhaps you are able to go for a walk.

Or perhaps you have time to go for a run.

The important thing is finding a means of expression what works for you right now.

It is giving yourself whatever you need to safely release the intense emotions.

This is self-kindness and self-love in action.

This is essential, and is healthy self-care.

Who Stole my Life?

What happens when you first learn that your partner has betrayed you?

When you learn he’s lied for years, and much of life is a deception?

You feel you’re going crazy while you try to figure out:

– What’s reality?

– What’s truth?

– What’s a half-truth?

– What’s just a smoke screen?

And that’s a tangled mess it takes forever to tease through.

You’re constantly on guard for now your day is full of landmines.

Your life’s becomes survival.

There are triggers everywhere.

You feel like you’re a hostage to the surges in emotion.

The sorrow, grief and terror, the anxiety and fear.      

You think back to the past, before you learned of the betrayal.

When life seemed calm and easy.


Quite mundane.

A contrast to today where you are always stressed and fearful.

Will this be the new normal? 

I don’t recognize my life!!!

No Turning Back

There is no turning back to yesterday, or to last month, or to last year. No matter how much you wish you could go back and live there again, or how much you wish you could change what happened, you just can’t go back. You have to keep moving forward, my beautiful friend. You have to summon all of your inner strength … and focus on who you want to be now. Who you want to be tomorrow. It might take everything you have to let go of yesterday, but once you do, you can start finding peace.” – Nikki Banas

How do you feel about letting go?

Are you ready to let go?

Are you able to let go?

Can you face the truth that you can’t change the past?

That what happened has happened, and can’t be undone?

I know you can do it.

I know that it’s hard.

But I know that you’re fierce, and I know that you’re strong.

Maybe take the first step.

It’s a journey – I know.

You deserve to be happy.

Hold on to that hope.

Coping with Betrayal Trauma

1.  If you have experienced betrayal trauma, please be very patient and gentle with yourself. You need to practice self-compassion and good self-care. And you may need to withdraw from normal life for a while. Remember, it’s OK not to be OK.

2. Your PTSD symptoms and triggered reactions are symptoms of unhealed emotional memories. They do not mean that you’re crazy or you’re losing your mind. In fact, they’re normal responses to experiencing a trauma. Almost every betrayed woman experiences these symptoms. Your body and your mind are taking care of you. They are trying to protect you from being harmed again.

3. This does not – and should never – define who you are. Repeat that statement again to yourself.   

4. What your spouse or partner did has nothing to do with how lovable, attractive and desirable you are. It has nothing to do with you at all. Repeat that last sentence again to yourself.   

5. Although it feels like you’ve been hit or run over by a truck, and at times it’s very hard to make it through the day or night, believe you will recover. Don’t let this destroy your life.

6. You need to tell your story. All that pain needs to be witnessed. Don’t allow what has happened to become a festering a secret. However, be wise in your choice of confidant or counsellor as not everyone is going to understand or care. And not everyone is going to be there for you.

7. It takes time to heal. It is a long and painful process. There are no short-cuts. You need to feel all the emotions, and to grieve for all the losses (and there are so many losses).

8. The day will come when you feel more like who you were. That relaxed and carefree woman who had all those hopes and dreams. Yes, it’s true that this experience will leave some marks and scars. But one day you’ll reconnect with your true authentic self. That beautiful core self. The real woman who is you.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen

Trauma overwhelms listeners as much as speakers … and talking about painful events doesn’t necessarily establish community – often quite the contrary. Families and organizations may reject members who air their dirty laundry; friends and family can lose patience with people who get stuck in their grief or hurt. This is one reason why trauma victims often withdraw and why their stories become rote narratives, edited in a form least likely to provoke rejection.”

Is this, perhaps, something you relate to as well?

Chelsea had always been a very private person. She was open, warm and friendly in most social situations. But no-one really knew what was happening in her life. To outward appearances, it looked like things were fine. 

Then, out of the blue, Chelsea’s world was blown apart – when she learned that her husband had a hidden secret life. Dating apps, pornography, webcams, and so on.

Who do you talk to when you learn something like that?

If truth be told …. It wasn’t easy. But occasionally she tried. She’d introduce the subject in a vague, non-threatening way, and try to share a little of what things had been like.

But on the whole, it was disastrous. It only made things worse. Her close friends shut her down. It made them feel uncomfortable. They didn’t want to hear this. No, they didn’t want to know.

Apart from one young mother she had met at the school gate. Her husband had walked out on her, and left her with two kids. They weren’t really close, but they would always wave and chat.  Sometimes they’d grab a coffee. Half an hour. No more than that. And it was comforting to know that someone understood.

She didn’t have to say much. Words can be superfluous. But kindness is a language that communicates so much.

The lies and the betrayal had left Chelsea traumatized. Her life had changed forever. It was ordinary no more. The grief was overwhelming. Way too much to bear alone. She often felt so desperate. How she’d love to be consoled.

Most people cannot handle pain. It feels too threatening. It leaves them feeling vulnerable. They have to look away.

This mother knew what it was like.

That lifeline was enough.

It helped Chelsea to heal. It got her through the toughest times.

The validation she received helped her to face the day.

This woman was a gift. Her presence transformed Chelsea’s life.         

You, Me and Empathy

At times, it’s almost impossible to believe that we will get better, and be our old selves.

There are days when ‘two steps forward, and one step back’ becomes ‘one step forwards, and ten steps back’.

Those are the days when you give in to despair.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t recover from the trauma.

You hate your partner for what they’ve done to you.

You’re frustrated with yourself for it seems you can’t move on.

Those are the awful days we all battle with.

And that’s why it means so much when others share their struggles. And talk about their journey. What it’s been like for them.

It’s like they’re holding up a mirror where we see not just them … but we also see ourselves, and we see our life, as well.

It encourages us to think: “You, and I … We’re both the same. You have felt what I have felt, and you’ve struggled, just like me … And look at how changed. Look at where you are today!

So if you have survived, then perhaps I can as well.

And if you can thrive, then perhaps I can as well.”

That powerful realization renews our sense of hope.

It helps renew our strength.

It renews our will to fight.

One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through. And it will be someone’ else’s survival guide.”

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.

Betrayal Trauma: Living with the Scars

Trauma affects the entire human organism … After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system”.

There’s a lot of pressure when you learn about betrayal, to work hard on your healing, and to move on with your life.

But you’re not the same person, and the scars don’t disappear.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that progress can be made. But trauma leaves an imprint on our body, mind and brain. It changes our neurology and physiology.

In “The Body Keeps the Score” Bessel van der Kolk describes some changes that occur when a person’s traumatized, and is later diagnosed with PTSD. Some of these changes include the following:

1. In a person unaffected by PTSD, the hormone cortisol sends out an “all safe” signal after a threat or danger has passed. This doesn’t happen with PTSD sufferers. This is because the latter’s stress hormones do not return to base level after the threat or danger has passed. Instead, the person continues to experience severe anxiety. They remain agitated, they cannot relax, they remain on guard, and they tend to react disproportionately to minor or neutral stimuli.

2. A person with PTSD is primed to react to anything that might signal danger, many months and years after experiencing the trauma. This is true, even when the person has told their story, and has worked on their healing with a therapist. For as Bessel van der Kolk states:

Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way the mind and brain mange perceptions. (As a consequence of trauma, the person) remains hypervigilant, prepared to be wounded at any time.”

3. In ordinary everyday life, both the right and left sides of the brain work together. However, trauma temporarily deactivates the left side of the brain. This means that whenever the traumatized person is triggered, the left brain blacks out, and simply ceases to function.

At the same time, the right brain continues to feels the strong emotions related to the original traumatic experience.

Unfortunately, because the left brain cannot function when it’s triggered, it cannot distinguish between the past and the present. Thus, the person feels as if they’re trapped in the past, reliving emotions which are scary and intense.

Knowing the above, which is based on trauma research, can help relieve the pressure to “hurry up and heal.

We need to recognize these facts, and to practice self-compassion … Because experiencing betrayal is a life-changing event.

That is, the impact is profound, it affects our chemistry, and it’s very difficult to make a full recovery.

*Quotes are from Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. London: Penguin Books.

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.