For me, self care means taking a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty around me. This past weekend we did a little wine tasting with friends and this gorgeous flower arrangement was on the tasting counter.
My goal here is to journal my life… on the blog of me. I try not to do “this” too much on my blog. “This” being posting informational bits that I feel are interesting and/or informative regarding topics that have become an obsession with me: betrayal and sex addiction. I do not purport to be an expert on anything, not even myself. Clearly, I was blindsided by my husband’s disclosures regarding his secret sex life… and I felt all at once like an idiot, a failure, and a loser, like my life was worthless and my memories were all lies and my story was a farce. After the initial disclosures, I was numb. I couldn’t eat or sleep or perform normal daily activities (except apparently, sexually, which is a whole different story). At times I didn’t want to live, I cried all day, and felt like I wasn’t good enough. I harmed myself. For me and anyone who knew me, the me that was, was no more. The me that remained after January 11, 2014 was a shadow of her former self. The shattering of my life on discovery day perpetrated a complete obliteration of who I had been.
This post is prompted by so many things going on in my life now, and things that have transpired over the past 17 months. I had to actually count the months out this time, guys. I didn’t have the number of months, days, hours right there in the forefront of my mind. This is progress. We had couple’s therapy yesterday and the name Dr. Omar Minwalla came up. Early this morning I checked my WP and there was a reply to a comment I made on another blog that referred me to a podcast by the same Omar Minwalla (thank you marriagerecoveryblog, valkyriemad123, and Iris). I had not heard the podcast.
I have linked the podcast here although I am not going to tell you it will be the most interesting 38 minutes of your life, if you decide to listen to it. It might not be interesting to the masses as I believe this site (The West Coast Trauma Project) is set up to help clinicians, to provide resources for trauma therapists, not necessarily to be presented in a way that helps victims, but don’t quote me on that. The podcast reinforced what I do already know. I link the podcast for anyone that is truly interested in hearing what Dr. Minwalla has to say regarding his Sex Addiction Induced Trauma Model. Again, Dr. Minwalla works specifically in the field of sexology and sex addiction, but I believe his model transcends sex addiction and relates to any spouse who has been traumatized by lies and betrayal and ego fragmentation within their partnership. Dr. Minwalla talks a lot (in general, not just in his podcast) about ego fragmentation. I have heard him say it, actually in person, to me. Both my husband and I were treated last summer by Dr. Omar Minwalla and his staff at the Institute for Sexual Health. I have written a little about our experiences. Bottom line, we wouldn’t be where we are today in our healing if not for Omar and his staff. I know Blue Eyes agrees with me.
To me, ego fragmentation really does describe what happened after dday. My sense of self esteem and self importance were shattered. In reality, in my mind, my whole world was obliterated. In a psychological sense, ego being defined as “the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity” and fragmentation, “the process or state of breaking or being broken in separate parts,” (Google) I was so traumatized, I didn’t even recognize myself. More importantly, Omar’s model addresses the trauma that goes along with this level of broken self. “Sex addiction-induced trauma is a highly specific type of trauma that involves nuanced symptoms that can sometimes include fear and panic of potential sexual disease and contamination, social repercussions, fear of child safety, terror and panic about the potential of child molestation, severe gender wounding, social isolation, social misrepresentation, financial loss and domestic embezzlement, collusion in violation, embarrassment, complex humiliation and profound shame” (Minwalla, O., 2012). The truth is, nothing that has gone on in a marriage is justification for betrayal or abuse and our pain and trauma is real and valid. The diagnosis for the kind of trauma Dr. Minwalla’s example speaks of above does not need to include all the symptoms or even most of the symptoms even part of the time, although I do associate with most of them, actually all except financial loss and panic about the potential of child molestation.
Having someone in the clinical community fighting for the betrayed partner, is ground breaking. Specifically in relation to sex addiction, there are lots of resources for the addict. These resources do not exist for the traumatized partner and yet the level of abuse that has been perpetrated on us is monstrous and when we find out our partner has destroyed the foundation of everything we believe to be true, and they are in fact a different person than we thought entirely, is devastating. Omar discusses the old Patrick Carnes’ al-anon model relative to the spouse of an addict and how partners were all thought to be co-dependent or co-conspirators in the addiction and should enter their own 12 step program. Whether or not it holds true for partners of alcoholics, this model generally does not hold true with sex addicts as they pathologically hide their behavior. How could a spouse be partially responsible for the actions of our partner when we have absolutely no idea what they are doing behind our backs. They are generally accomplished liars who have built their world around secret sex acts (whatever pathology they possess, or story they have to tell) as it seems are other betrayers, whether they associate themselves with being addicts, or not. After the 26 minute mark in the podcast, the interviewer says “pardon my naiveté, but how is the partner considered a co-conspirator or co-sex addict when for the most part they were unaware?” And there in lies the issue with trying to find help when you have been cheated on for a period of time without your knowledge. If we are somehow held partially responsible for something we know deep in our hearts we did not know about nor encourage or knowingly contribute to, how devastating is it for therapists and clinicians and the media and society as a whole to hold us accountable? Through trial and error in his career, Omar has determined that spouses of sex addicts and other betrayers with a long term history of pathological lying and infidelity often times suffer from complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and therefore he treats us accordingly and he has devoted his professional life to advocating for his sex addiction-induced trauma model to treat those impacted and victimized by sexual acting out disorders. Omar’s words are generally very clinical, but they do translate to a validation for me of the fact that what my husband did and the subsequent disclosure period and learning to live in my new life included a complete obliteration of self. I am learning to put the pieces back together and thrive, but it has taken a great deal of time.
I guess the bottom line for me is that I think everyone would agree that in exceptionally difficult times we need to focus on self care. Well, we always need to focus on self care, but especially under traumatic circumstances. Unfortunately, what many fail to recognize is that we can be traumatized to a point where we need to be treated with respect and dignity and proper counseling (most of which we will not get from friends, family, or our betrayer) in order to even know we are suffering from something much more serious than a simple case of the betrayal-induced “blues.” I recently read a re-blogged post about things we should stop doing to ourselves if we want to be happy. It was just a general post out there in the blogosphere. As far as I know the post was in no way connected to a betrayed spouse or any such behavior specifically, although I do think the blogger’s sentiments echo those of much of what is tossed around by people judging, from their perception, less happy people. For some of us, even insinuating we have absolute control over everything we feel is ludicrous to me, and… traumatizing. In my experience, and it doesn’t seem I am alone in this, sometimes it is not possible to just tell yourself to do something, or to be a certain way or feel a certain way when you have suffered a trauma event and everything you thought your life to be is blown to pieces. I do believe we as traumatized individuals need to work on digging ourselves out of a hole we didn’t want to be tossed into, but it is our right to do that on our own time and in whatever way we can and not be judged for our efforts and I hope everyone who needs it or wants it gets validation that what they are feeling is okay. You are not a bad person or a failure if you can’t just bounce out of it and it is not your fault. Take care of yourself and know that there are people that get every single emotion you are going through because we have been there.