Months ago, I was ruminating on the fact that part of the reason I was struggling so desperately with my husband’s betrayal was not because of the extramarital sex acts he and his affair partners participated in, because deep down, sex is sex to me and I shoved thoughts of those frivolous, filthy liaisons where they needed to be—in that place where I put hateful things done by selfish people who hurt others on the path to their own self fulfillment, or hopefully self enlightenment. I’m having one of those days. Sorry to those who have done things they deeply regret and are trying to right their wrongs.
My deepest pain was coming from the fact that my trust in my husband had been shattered. The person I relied upon for safety and security had pathologically lied to me, and that sent me into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was blindsided, I was shocked, and I was crushed. My husband will never know those feelings, because he knew all along what he was doing. No matter how he wanted to rationalize, compartmentalize, fantasize, the truth remains the same. When we agreed to marry nearly 30 years ago, our lives became inextricably intertwined and we made promises. Humans have a responsibility to not hurt other humans. People hurt each other every day, why? Blue Eyes cannot deny or rationalize the fact that what he was doing and what he was, affected me. I deserved to know. I deserved to be able to protect myself from him, from her, from STDs, from a lot of things. Living in the dark seems like a good place, but it really isn’t. Or at least I have been informed by three separate therapists that not knowing is not something I should wish for. We all deserve to know truth in our lives, and dealing with the pain, is dealing with life.
In coming to the realization that he decided by himself to destroy the life we were living together, the trauma crashed into me like a freight train. Getting everything out in the open gave him a sense of relief. He could finally tell the truth and be free of the lies. Unfortunately, that painful burden of him not being the person he professed to be, to everyone, was now being placed squarely on my shoulders. I was now carrying the weight of his burden.
Some of the immediate PTSD symptoms I had been suffering from since discovery day included trigger-based anxiety, which included a heart murmur and heart palpitations, paranoia and anxiety about going out in public for fear that my husband’s affair partner would hurt me in some way, severe cramping from dehydration from crying for long periods of time, fatigue, chest pain, severe headaches and feeling like my head would explode, gastrointestinal issues, nightmares which caused me to feel like I was being stabbed, constantly feeling like my life was not real, I had trouble concentrating or remembering things, and there were many, many, many sleepless nights. And self harm. I still suffer from some of these symptoms.
For the first few weeks, I had no idea I had PTSD. I knew that my life had drastically changed since dday. I knew that I was suffering and constantly felt ill, and my doctor informed me of the high blood pressure and increased blood sugars. But the strangest thing that happened to me was that traumatic things from my life that had not previously caused me PTSD symptoms, now showed up as separate triggers, but not triggers necessarily prompted by my husband or his lies and infidelity. Once the PTSD set in, fear overwhelmed me.
Trauma and the C-Section.
When I was pregnant with our younger son, my body kicked in immediately. I gained weight right away and it all went to my belly. I had never lost the weight from my first pregnancy, so I was determined to keep my weight gain low. As the months progressed, my weight was good, but my belly was growing quite large. I was tested twice for gestational diabetes… man do I hate that orange flavored shit they made me drink. Anyway, both times the tests thankfully came back negative. About two and half weeks out from my due date, my OB wanted another ultrasound, to check baby size. I had an exceptionally difficult birth with our first son and he was 8 lbs. 3 oz. I am not well shaped for delivering babies, apparently. Also, we had a paralysis scare with the epidural from baby one. We knew the second baby was also a boy, a big boy, and my OB was getting increasingly concerned. He suggested we schedule a C-Section. I had heard some horror stories from friends regarding C-Sections, and not being able to walk for a while, not being able to pick up your older child, not being able to drive, etc… so I was pretty determined to have a natural birth. My husband would need to work. He would not be able to stay with me and help with baby and two year old. My OB, who is really fabulous, kind of the Mr. Rogers of OB’s was not someone who jumped at the chance of delivery by C-section, so he went with my desire to try a natural birth. After the 37 ½ week ultrasound, however, he suggested we induce right away as baby was measuring at approx. 9 lbs. I think at that point, my choices were either inducement, or C-Section. We scheduled the inducement for the Monday after the ultrasound. I went in the night before and got an okay night’s sleep. Our older son, barely two, and my husband stayed home. At this time, everyone we knew either worked, or had little babies of their own, so we decided I would be alone at the hospital until the following afternoon. I was not worried about it knowing it would take hours to deliver. Turns out, I probably should have been. The next morning, they induced with Pitocin. It was pretty early in the morning. My husband only had a handful of vacation hours as it was late in the year and he worked for a Japanese company. Japanese companies generally have employees take the week between Christmas and New Years off, so that wipes out a lot of vacation time. We were young and at the time I wasn’t working full time and we could not afford for him to take much unpaid time.
As they increased the Pitocin, I wasn’t feeling much in terms of contractions, so I asked them to increase a little more. I knew I would be there for hours, I figured we might as well get the show on the road. My husband had dropped our son at childcare and worked half a day and was due to come to the hospital at lunchtime. My OB checked in on me at about 12:30pm and again, I asked to have the Pitocin increased. He said he didn’t want to up it too much without Blue Eyes there, just in case things progressed quickly. I knew they wouldn’t, but he’s the doc. He did his routine exam to see where things were and then he got a concerned look on his face. I asked him what was wrong. He cleaned up and sat down next to me and I knew it was bad. I immediately thought, no, not again. Our first son ended up in the Neonatal ICU for four days after his birth because it was so traumatic on his little body. I was paralyzed from the waist down and it took four hours of pushing, plus forceps and a vacuum extractor, and who knows what else. It’s a long story. I immediately started getting very anxious. Dr. OB explained that baby boy had a prolapsed cord. His cord was wrapped around his neck. He would need to do an emergency C-section. There wasn’t time to wait around. He said the anesthesiologist would need to administer the block and then they would take me in. I became very upset, machines started beeping, and my blood pressure was skyrocketing. I didn’t want to go into surgery and deliver the baby alone. We did not have mobile phones in 1993. I tried calling my parents at their jobs, and my sister, and a couple friends. Everyone was at lunch. My husband had already left the office, so we knew he was on his way, but he worked a bit of distance from the hospital and who knows about traffic… Dr. OB tried to calm me down, but I couldn’t breathe well and I was crying and getting all stuffed up. With this second pregnancy, my whole body was out of whack. I was suffering from severe allergies. I was totally dependent on Afrin nose spray to breath through my nose, at all. Dr. OB told me that if I couldn’t calm down, they were going to have to put me under for the surgery, which freaked me out even more as I pictured myself lying back on a table suffocating to death.
Eventually Dr. OB and the anesthesiologist calmed me down and I was resolved to delivering this baby by myself, well, of course with the help of a bunch of hospital staff, but without a husband. I was sad and lonely, and scared for the baby. As they were wheeling me to the operating room, Blue Eyes ran up. They had alerted him at the nurse’s desk. He still needed to change and wash up. Dr. OB assured him they would wait to cut until he was in the room, baby boy was doing fine. While I was in the operating room, the anesthesiologist kept me calm while he monitored the drugs. In order to distract me, I am sure, Dr. OB was calmly and softly walking me through what was going to happen. Oh, and they had hooked me up to a thing I would like to call “heaven” that was oxygen tubes that went to my nose. Not attractive, but I could now breath and it felt SO GOOD (Even after the C-section I asked them to leave them in the whole time I was in recovery). Blue Eyes rushed in all flustered and worried and stood by my side, and kissed me and started to cry. He was scared too. And then, from the hall outside the operating room, I could hear a very familiar voice. It was Aunt TeeTee, my younger sister. I could not hear the person she was speaking to, but I could hear her loud and clear… everything in the operating room came to a standstill as Aunt TeeTee yelled “Oh, you ARE going to let me into that room. I can TAKE YOU. Step aside, my sister needs me and I helped deliver big boy, and I am going to be here for baby boy too.” I looked at Dr. OB, and he looked at me and I said, “she won’t back down, you better let her in.” And he said, “we only ever allow one person in the operating room for a C-Section.” And I said, “well, you might want to make an exception, or someone out there is going to get hurt.” I think sweet Dr. OB thought it better to have her scrub and come in versus calling security on her, which would have added significantly to my anxiety. Approximately five minutes later, fast and furious, in comes Aunt TeeTee. So I had Blue Eyes on one side of my head, and Aunt TeeTee on the other. They each held my hand as we all stared at a huge sheet draped in front of us. Baby boy was born all pink and beautiful and perfect with Apgar scores of 9 & 10. He weighed 9 lbs. 1 ounce.
So, why the story? During my trauma-induced PTSD episodes of the past year, there were some triggers that at first I couldn’t understand. One was an overwhelming feeling of dread when I was crying and congested and couldn’t breathe, and a feeling like I had been in this place before. My anxiety level increased significantly during these episodes. The other was the feeling of despair when I realized my husband might not be able to be there for me. Eventually I realized I was having flashbacks. Because once baby boy was born, it was all about him. I healed really quickly from the C-Section. We left the hospital less than three days post birth, and I was walking in the park with both my boys by that Friday. I was able to lift both my babies out of their beds by myself, and I did drive, even though I really wasn’t supposed to. Bad me. All those feelings of anxiety and fear and dread and loneliness, were pushed deep back into the recesses of my memory. I thought they were gone.
Once the trauma set in, once I realized my husband was not the source of strength and safety and security I thought he was, all kinds of memories of being scared and alone, and unsafe surfaced and haunted me day and night. After a year, things are much better, but not all better, not by a long shot.
There is a really good article called Infidelity and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Affaircare.com. Reading it makes me feel… well, not so crazy.
14 thoughts on “Unburying the trauma”
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Reading this i kind of wonder if i suffered from PTSD too. Ive never been diagnosed with anything other than depression, but the feelings seem so familiar to me. My mother, however, was diagnosed with this after a very bad car accident. It is amazing how you can suffer from a “trauma” though without any physical pain, but sometimes the wounds from a someone you love hurting you emotionally are even more deep.
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Oh yeah! Birth stories. I also had difficult, long labours. My first also gave me a large and deep episiotomy which caused pain during sex for more than a year and still freaks me out a bit during rear entry sexual positions, where I have to feel total trust to relax enough so it doesn’t cause pain. I was furious as I LOVE/D all positions. So, bugs, the fury at my partner who knew all of my rape history, that he was my first and only, and who watched and supported me so brilliantly through three long, painful births, and dealt with the traumatic sexual stuff afterwards. Man. I could have stabbed him some days.
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I hear you loud and clear! My husband didn’t know too much of my past regarding rape and csa because it has never bothered me until I had the vulvodynia. I completely understand about the pain associated with episiotomies still causing hurt years and decades later.
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I agree with everything you wrote about the PITSD as I know I have that going on here. I also have trauma recurring after giving birth but not from a C-section but from a fourth degree episiotomy. My first child was born one month early and was supposedly already 9 lbs. The doctors were afraid I was going to need a c-section after three hours of pushing. I screamed “oh heck no” and I put my knees up to my ears and pushed out a 7lb 14oz boy. The reason it was so difficult was because I pushed him out with his hand on his head and he was facing up! Hence, the fourth degree episiotomy which cuts all the way through your anal muscles. I was in such pain for well over a year after having my first and no one told me why. I never found out about the degree of episiotomy until a whole year later. Now fast forward to my 3rd child who was also facing up and was born 2 weeks early at 9 lbs and I tore. I tore at the original episiotomy after my first and along the left side. Those tears had never healed up well. On the the next couple of babies – I gave birth to them naturally without meds or episiotomies. It was the best thing I could have ever done for myself physically and spiritually. The only problem was I started to have vulvodynia after those births. It was excruciating suffering for years and years and unable to function, walk, sit, wipe, urinate, etc etc….it just burned and the medications and poking and prodding by doctors did not help. Then I tried physical therapy which only flared me and then somehow the topic of my CSA came about with that sweet gentle caring therapist and well I was surely a mess. My husband had abandoned me during this time emotionally and physically. He said he felt rejected but that was the furthest from the truth (we were in MC). I had just finally began to heal mentally from all of the ongoing vulvodynia/pudendal neuropathy pain after going on an oral medication which took all of the pain symptoms away when I had DDay. Now I’ve got everything mentally flashing back erratically! It really does make one feel looney but I know I’m not alone. Thank you for writing this piece.
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You are definitely not alone. I am so sorry for all the pain you endured with your pregnancies and then all the rest with your husband. It just does not seem fair, and yet, of course we know life isn’t fair. There is something different about suffering because, say, someone young died suddenly in an accident, or someone we know has been hurt badly or has an incurable disease, or even the excruciating pain you went through in childbirth and beyond. Women have said that dying of breast cancer does not begin to compare to the pain caused by their husband’s betrayal. The fact that we are suffering at the hands of our partner who was supposed to love us unconditionally and be there when we needed them, it still blows my mind. I understand why people split. Forgiving and moving on is a difficult task indeed, especially with all the pain and trauma. Hugs to you. I understand feeling crazy. They’re the crazy ones, crazy selfish too.
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Thank you for sharing this. I have not thought of my c-section as traumatic (as you know) but in reading your story, I can relate to healing quickly, and it being about the baby. I, too, was up and walking (that evening– I’m stubborn like that) and driving before I should have been (bad me 😊) so I have always focused on the idea it wasnt a big deal, I healed quickly, ext. I guess I am not really going anywhere specific with this comment, except to thank you for writing this post. It opened my eyes a little as to why my therapist is thinking it is important to talk about.
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From what you write, you have an amazing therapist. She is definitely going somewhere with her questions and guidance. We are all complicated human beings and not defined by one or two things that have happened to us. It is good to work on the whole you. I hope Bea is always there when you need her. ❤
I hate hearing stories where husband is engaged to extra marital affair, its so unfair. i hope everything be okay, dont give up.
Your description of the symptoms of PTSD are spot on. The flash backs for me centered on the birth of my son too. The night terrors were like nothing that I had ever experienced before. They were always the same. The OW had placed a plastic bag over my head and had taped it around my neck. The fear was palpable. I thought I was going to die. Our husbands will never know the pain. You describe it so well. I dread the triggers. Why did they do it. I don’t think any of us will ever really understand. Stay strong xxx
Yes, the nightmares are horrifying. The story of your husband’s OW and you and your child is just downright psychopathic. No wonder your nightmares are so visceral. I did have a nightmare that my kids were little again, at elementary school and the OW came and got them from school and was going to hurt them. She told them that she was a friend of their mommy and I had asked her to pick them up. She gave them cookies. Somehow I felt like I was tied down and couldn’t get to them. I was shaking and screaming that she had stolen them. It took my husband a long time to calm me down and bring me back to reality. At the time of the nightmare, our kids were 22 and 20. Our younger boy weighs about 190 lbs. Good luck getting him to go anywhere with that horrible woman. Even back when my husband first met that woman, our kids were already adolescents. But in my nightmare, it was so real. They were so little and vulnerable. I hardly ever have nightmares anymore and I am so grateful for that. hugs to you. ❤
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They are less now but the fear of that woman is still there. I just know she would hurt me. What I am unable to understand is why she was so determined to get my husband when she was also having a physical relationship with another man. I can only assume that she wanted to win at any cost. She had three failed marriages and numerous relationships none of which worked. She was with someone when she started seeing my husband. I have no idea why she does these things. At least I know she is gone. All any of us can do is try to move forward. The problem is for me I can’t do that without firstly coming to terms with the past. Thank you for the hugs and I am sending some right back xx
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PTSD symptoms are powerful and debilitating. I had only heard of the syndrome in conjunction with soldiers prior to suffering myself from panic attacks after a spending a short stay in jail. Interesting to read your story and how the trauma reconnects several points in your life. Possibly the fear of abandonment triggered by your husband’s cheating connects to other points in your life unrelated to him, maybe childhood experiences. Our life us like a pinball machine with events lighting up touch points as we pass through. Thanks for the link.
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