Journal they said. It would be cathartic and healing they said. And by “they” I mean my much older sister who is undoubtedly qualified for such advice. I feel like journaling is one of those chicken and egg things, like which came first? Was I all pouty and blubbery before I started journaling or was it the journaling that signaled to my body that it may commence with the crying? Also, why didn’t I do this all along? While I did sit down and haphazardly throw ink on a physical page early on in my grieving, it is through processing the words in my head before transcribing them through a keyboard that has really given me pause; the pause I needed to truly feel and recognize what the emotion was.
Maybe if I would have been more calculated in chronicling the overabundance of emotion, I would have better recognized that what I mistook for homicidal rage and a call for vengeance, was actually incredible sorrow. The kind of sorrow that I now know results from Betrayal Trauma. Trauma that is brought about when one truly, openly, and without hesitation gives themselves mistakenly to another in hope of a forever love and then is blasted by innumerable counts of betrayal. And maybe if I would have begun this two years ago, I could more tangibly recognize the healing. The healing that I *actually* feel today. These few documented entries so vividly capture the immense sorrow, hopelessness, and devastation that I lived in for so many months if not the last few years. Yesterday in group therapy (we’ll get to that) I made a statement to another that, in true group therapy fashion, resonated with me. Four women sat in a small circle, bravely smiling and laughing while discussing actual horrors and traumas in their lives; joking to make others feel comfortable while partaking in their sadness; smiling to portray the strong women we’ve always been taught to be. My comment was this: we live in a culture where we hear story after story about triumphing over tribulation. And so as tribulation inevitably makes its unwelcomed way into our lives, we recite the mantras that we’ve grown up listening to; This too shall pass. Or my personal favorite and one I’ve used, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” (Thanks, Steel Magnolias). I love this, I do. I know that the time I spent devotedly loving, eventually leaving, and forever mourning a drug addict, has actually done all of those things in my life. I am better for having loved my second husband.
Having been madly and crazy in love with someone so inherently beautiful and then watching addiction forever alter his life and our marriage, truly helped to blossom this incredible compassion for a disease that may have otherwise lay dormant.
But this latest heartbreak though, this shit blows. Never in my marriage did I take responsibility for #2’s drug use. Never did I think that if I were prettier, thinner, kinder, softer, a better cook, or more 50 Shades of Grey that he wouldn’t have used. In fact, in the midst of the trial and after I chose to leave, I knew with confidence that if the fierceness with which I loved him couldn’t save him, then it was not a path we would walk together. However, the very nature of my 3rd husband’s (*cough* you heard right, 3) addiction and behaviors, communicated to me in every possible way that I wasn’t good enough. If he were just having sex with these women, I could probably conclude (very wrongfully, mind you) that I just didn’t meet his physical requirement. But learning that he had one girlfriend after another, to include a yearlong emotional affair, convinced me that I had failed entirely.
So back to where I started. The period of time between the manifestation of the struggle and the point at which I could begin to testify to my personal growth…has been a long ass time. And let’s be honest, I’m still a bit of a mess. And it is at this point, the limbo in which I have existed for months, that I see a greater need for a safe space. A harbor for those in darkness that are still hours from the daylight.
We are so good at being grateful and optimistic and displaying patience in all things. We meet mothers who have lost children through physical death, infertility or through disabilities that alter the future they dreamed that child would have; or victims of rape and molestation; or the maddeningly large group who have suffered physical or emotional abuse; or those like me, who have faced the mental and soul crushing reality of divorce and an unfaithful spouse – we meet these women and we too often want to ease their suffering with a sincere yet impossible assurance of better times. I’ve done it. Desperately wanting to provide solace to a friend in mourning, I’ve recited truths promising comfort and restored peace and future happiness.
But today, 2 years out of the greatest heartbreak I have ever faced, I’m wading through the rubbish. And what I’ve wanted, and what I want to make a place for, is the recognition that I’m not through it and that’s ok. We need more voices telling us to take time to recognize the emotion when it confronts us, not to plow through it or block it but give it the respect it deserves. Because in order to come out better and stronger, we have to respectfully allow ourselves and others to mourn what we have actually lost.
If you tell me “so many people have it worse” than me, I’ll likely punch you in the throat. If you tell me that loads of people have been divorced, I will request the name of that kindred soul who had also been divorced 3 times to include a drug addict and sex addict, respectively. Introduce me to my soulmate in sorrow so that I may ask her how she did it. How she stopped seeing the photos and texts of the other women? Did she ever not hear the lies or replay flashbacks of deceit? Too long I chased the thoughts out of my head. I chased them away using exercise, men, alcohol or with my eating disorder. I ran from them towards the promised better days only to find myself in a greater darkness and farther from healing. So while I love that I get to look forward to a stronger, more loving, and wiser ME, I have to be allowed to find her. And wouldn’t it be nice if we could walk with one another through the darkness and not just congratulate each other once we’ve found the light?