Before and After

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Today is the last day of April. Which means that tomorrow begins the month of May. In seventeen days, it will be four years since d-day. How I wish I could erase that day from my memory! EMDR has not done it’s job where that memory lives in my brain. It is still as painful and vivid as it was when it happened. There are few things in my life that are sharp and clear as my memory of that day. Every word, every action, every feeling is embedded within me. The clarity with which discovery of Will’s profound betrayal provided me was no less than earth-shattering. I felt it in every. single. fiber. of my body. I still feel it as acutely now as I did then.

So, has anything changed? It has been nearly four years. Why does that day, that moment, those emotions still feel raw and fresh? Will I ever be able to erase them completely? No. Not ever.

The difference is that I can now experience them and absorb it all as part of me. That day changed me. It changed who I thought I was. It changed who I thought Will was. It changed everything. How I thought, how I felt, how I reacted to events, how I approached relationships, how I expressed myself, how I saw the world. Everything.

And sometimes, I miss the old me. That girl was perpetually optimistic (on the surface.) She felt loved by Will, her kids, her friends (at least, what she thought was love.) She was content with life, even though it was really hard at times (although she didn’t understand WHY things were SO hard.) She was fulfilled with a life of family and church and home (Will was not foremost because he was so distant…she accepted his excuses that he was busy with work and was grateful he worked so hard.) She was happy (but, given what she knew about happiness, this was SO misguided.)

I am clearly not that person anymore. I am optimistic still…but it is measured and not the blind unrealistic hope that I used to have. It is more rational and less…desperate. I am beginning to feel love again..from Will and my children and a few very carefully vetted friends. I have a few old friends that I know love me. They know about Will and love and support me the same as they always have. Contentment is nowhere to be seen at this point. I don’t know that I will find a level of contentment for a very long time. I am still less trusting of people in general and of Will in particular. I cannot be content without trust. That will take way more time than just four years. I am not completely fulfilled yet, but I am getting there. My family is still my everything even if they don’t love me as fully as they once did. That does not diminish my love for them. Will has become more present and more a part of my everyday so that has definitely been more fulfilling.

But, happy? That is a difficult one. The old me was not truly happy. I was happy with what I *thought* was my life. It was mostly a delusion. It was so full of gaslighting and lies that it was no life at all. At least, not a real life. Now, life is real and difficult and exciting and boring and joyful and frustrating and funny and absurd and maddening and fun! It’s become such a mix of experience and emotion that there is no one word that can describe it. It is still hard and sometimes overwhelmingly sad. There is still regret and anger and grief over the past. But there is also a lot of hope. And clarity of what truly is and is not “Life.”

I think that possibly the best way to describe myself before d-day was that I was existing. I was existing in a life that I had convinced myself was optimistic, content, happy. Now, even with all the trauma, the loss, the betrayals, the illness, the ups and downs…all of it…I feel like I am living. I am living my life with a full awareness of who I am, who I am becoming, and who I want to be. I am no longer who I was (or who I thought I was) and I am okay with that even if I miss that naive girl sometimes. I am much wiser and stronger now and able to withstand the things that come my way. I am clear-eyed and compassionate. I am tougher than I ever thought I could be and my heart is healing.

I am a walking, living, breathing  “before and after” ad for betrayed spouses. 😂

I can live with that.

Leigh ❤️

The Physical Legacy of Betrayal

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As I write this, I am sitting in bed past my bedtime because I cannot seem to sleep. I can’t sleep because I am in some pain. I am in some pain because I just had a major surgery. I just had a major surgery, because my emotional trauma literally “broke” my body’s ability to function normally.

I have learned more than I ever cared to in the last three years about CPTSD, fight or flight, Stockholm Syndrome, gaslighting, meditation, emotional support systems, etc…etc…etc… What took some deep diving and demand for answers was information about the physical aspects of severe betrayal trauma.

Like most partners of cheaters or SA’s, when I discovered Will’s secret life, I went into a sort of shock and could not make sense of my world any longer. I involuntarily lost over 50 lbs. in less than 3 weeks. My heart rate was erratic, I began having anxiety attacks, I would get lost in a fog and “lose time” for hours or even days. I had instances of waking blackouts where I would go places, do things, meet people…and have no recollection of whatsoever. Some of that time is still inextricably lost in my memories. I am hoping that’s a tender mercy. About a year after D-day, my physical symptoms began to dissipate little by little. I was able to gain a little weight back, the anxiety virtually stopped, my heart rate stabilized and the blackouts stopped. I was under medication that kept my HSV under control and my doctor was diligent in treating my HPV with constant screenings and biopsies.  But then, I realized, I was NOT “returning to normal” as I thought. New, more dangerous and insidious health issues began to arise. Which brings me to this point in my journey.

As I began to gain some weight back, I became increasing fatigued. I began having pain in my joints and in my back. The eczema that infrequently showed up on my palms, was becoming impossible to manage and I would often have multiple cracks all over my hands and fingers which would bleed and were so painful. I began a medication for that which controlled it somewhat, but did not stop it. I was given a bone scan and found to have osteoporosis and osteopenia. I was put on yet another medication for that. No matter what I did for that next year, I gained weight. My cholesterol shot up dangerously and I was put on a statin medication. My hair began to thin dramatically and my feet, ankles and hips began to hurt so badly that even walking was difficult. I had to begin yet another medication for high blood pressure and was living on Motrin to get through the pain of each day.

Tests were done. Then more testing. I had more blood drawn during this time than a Red Cross drive. And peeing in cups. And X-rays and CAT scans and stress tests. My thyroid was broken and they couldn’t fix it. My adrenal glands stopped functioning properly and they didn’t know why. The weight kept coming, the pain increased, my hormones got so out of whack that I will be working with an endocrinologist for a long time to come. I had a minor surgery on my wrist to remove a cyst and have my carpel tunnel released. Because of the breakdown of my body and a compromised immune system due to the STDs, of course my incision site got infected and then infected my blood. A second surgery, an implanted drain and a pic line for IV antibiotics followed. That was in December of last year. I had a whole medical team to include a gynecologist, dietician, nutritionist, wellness coach, bariatric specialist, cardiologist, endocrinologist, and trauma doctors working on my health issues.

After nearly 18 months of rapidly deteriorating health, with no solutions, it was discovered that severity of trauma I had gone through, had worn down then broken my body’s ability to physically regulate normal function. The most dangerous was my endocrine systems inability to produce necessary hormones to facilitate any type of regulated metabolism. The hormones in my gut had gone rogue and there is no medicine that can repair them. I became pre-diabetic, high risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack. Even thyroid medication was too dangerous for me to take because the way my systems were reacting to “normal” remedies was erratic and unstable. I was nearly 100 lbs. overweight, couldn’t sleep, had shortness of breath and my quality of life was degraded.

The bariatric docs referred me to a surgeon. My team believed that a surgery like bariatric bypass would be the best option. The thinking was not that I had an eating problem (the closely monitored 650-700 calorie diet produced a 10 lb weight gain in 8 days) nor did I have an exercise problem. I walked everywhere, albeit painfully, and kept as active as I could. The problem, they believed, was one of irreversible shock to my physical body. How to fix it? Shock the body again…in reverse. Instead of traumatizing my endocrine system by tapping into the hormones that were broken beyond repair, they instead decided to eliminate the home of those by removing the part of my stomach which was feeding the out of control hormones into the rest of my body.

Thus, here I sit, late at night, one day released from the hospital and unable to sleep because I have staple stitches in my belly and an open wound. The surgery was laparoscopic and successful and after three days, I went home. After a day and a half at home, my wound became red and hot and I could not stand. Although they had done everything they could to compensate for my weak immune system, a large abscess had formed and I had to have a second procedure to drain it. Another few days of IV antibiotics and blessed, merciful pain meds, and I am again home.

I have great hope, because even with the pain and discomfort and annoying-ness of a clear liquid diet, I feel better. My joints don’t hurt when I stand up from sitting. My back is pain-free. My outlook is optimistic.

I should clarify something. I didn’t post this to whine or bemoan my circumstances. I posted this, really, for two reasons.

1) I know others have had the same trauma and may be experiencing some of the same physical difficulties. Sometimes we neglect to remember that our emotional, mental and physical health are enmeshed and intertwined. It sounds like a long road from betrayal trauma to major surgery, but it is not. I assure you, that road is clear and unobstructed.

2) Although the psychology community has made great strides in recognizing the damage of betrayal trauma due to sex addiction, they are no experts when it comes to physical manifestations of that trauma. It is so important to be aware of all that is going on with one’s body and to be an advocate for one’s own health. I would have never found answers and would never have known how ravaged my body had become had I not pushed and persisted. Indeed, the weight would have killed me had I continued to try to diet and exercise and believe that I could fix me. I would have gained weight until my heart gave out.

Lastly, I am eternally grateful to a couple of compassionate Air Force doctors and a slew of battle hardened Army medical specialists and surgeons who understand PTSD and depression and the physical effects of emotional/mental health. In my opinion, heroes don’t wear capes. They wear scrubs and lab coats and surgical masks. They wear concerned faces, compassionate smiles and combat boots. I am blessed and humbled and grateful to know such heroes. ❤️

 

 

Still Here. Still Trying.

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The saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun” is not what comes to mind when describing my little six months + hiatus from blogging. It has been a rough half-year.

Nothing catastrophic or life changing. Just. . .life. Will and I have had the least healthy period in our lives. From flu, to bronchitis, to pneumonia to surgeries and infections…well…we are both currently healthy and looking forward to a warm active summer. But, I gotta say, it’s been a long, cold winter of discontent.

We had an odd Thanksgiving. No family this year…just the two of us. I had a minor surgery on my wrist in early November which got infected, then became critical requiring a second procedure and a pic line of antibiotics. It put a damper on the day for sure. This was the beginning of our (insert ominous music here) season of sickness. We had a quick trip to see daughter number 2 and her family, then had a lovely time decorating this new home for Christmas and enjoyed shopping for family. We had a peace and contentment with the season until about a week before Christmas, we both came down with the flu. The I-wish-God-would-just-end-my-misery-with-merciful-death kind of flu. We struggled through Christmas Eve dinner and then a short visit to daughter 1 on Christmas Day. Then quarantined ourselves for the next week and a half. We delayed our annual New Year’s Day feast for a full week as we just couldn’t manage. A series of disturbing laboratory results for me was followed by the same wrist surgery for Will. By February, we were both suffering from medical fatigue. Too many trips to doctor appointments, hospital visits and consultations. In March, our beloved canine child began failing and we lost him to pneumonia among other old age maladies. Then, bronchitis and pneumonia laid us out for a couple of weeks. Thankfully, we have a different doctor than our dog and we were not put down. 😏 Anyway, we are both now feeling better and still working hard on our marriage and recovery.

All of this illness has been such a harsh reminder of our mortality and our very human frailty. In the midst of some of our worst days over the last few months, it was impossible not to think about the what if’s. What if one of us did not survive the flu from hell? What if that infection had paralyzed or disabled me? What if that pneumonia was so severe that Will could not be cured? And, what if I was alone throughout this season of sickness?

The words, “in sickness and in health,” keep coming into my mind. In our, now nearly 39 years, of marriage, we have had more sickness (emotionally, physically and psychologically) than health. And yet, here we are. Still working on full health. Still recovering. Still here…together. Still trying.

I am heartened by this wonderful quote from Jeffrey R. Holland-

“Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”

There ARE good things to come.

Leigh ❤️