Finding Positive Ways Of Letting Go Of My Marriage

No one said it would be easy letting go of a 30+ year marriage. It isn’t. It is fucking hard. The most difficult thing I have ever done.

B was my best friend.  We had a fabulous history for most of our marriage. He was the father of my children. A talented lover (I WILL take credit for training him well in that department)

I miss the closeness we once shared.  Not hearing his voice is a painful reminder of all that has gone wrong over the past several years. Not hearing his soft breath at night and and meditating with him in the morning are things that I hate about the rabbit hole that my life has slid down into.

Yet, I am trying to find the good in life and since this weekend was my birthday, coupled with the fact there was no where for him to go; I came to my sacred spot while he stayed in my home with the kids.. (Seriously, there is no place for him to go…remember the huge fire in November it left 40,000 people displaced…there is nothing to rent and housing prices have increased 40% since the fire in our area)

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So for the past few days I have spent walking the cliffs to the tune of 3-5 miles every morning. It has been a great way to clear the mind and see the beauty that life has to offer once again. And as I walk I work on letting go of this marriage of mine.

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One of the things I have been doing is to say a prayer or affirmation. It goes like this and is from Angela Montano’s course, 21 Days of Prayer To Change Your Life, found on the Daily OM.

https://secure.dailyom.com/cgi-bin/courses/displaycourselesson.cgi?clid=13708&aff=0

“I am willing, to be willing, to let go. And so it is. Amen.”

When I first started walking this is what I began with. After six days it has morphed into this:

“I am willing to let go of B and any illusions that I can control the outcome of this situation. And so it is. Amen.”

I must have said this 500 times and I can feel it making a change for the good in my brain. Letting Go doesn’t feel so scary or painful now. It feels empowering and gives me a sense of hope and relief.

Another thing I have been doing is leaving pieces of my relationship behind as I walk which looks like this:

 

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It helps to leave a tangible reminder of my grief and at the same time know that I am giving that past life/love and that grief  away.

I have also been working on my art. Frankly, I am a terrible artist but my therapist says it doesn’t matter…just get the images out…so I have. It is amazing how putting the images to paper helps to reduce the intensity of the emotions.x7RN2U48RBuX9NbMb0zXVA

So this is what I have been up to and it has calmed my soul while taking me slowly to a place of acceptance. I want to leave this marriage as I came to it: optimistic, excited … full of compassion and love.  While it was not my choice to end the marriage it is my choice how I choose to act as it enters its final lap.  Above all, I am trying to choose love. I am working on forgiveness and finding meaning in what I had and what I am left with . I don’t always succeed but I am trying. Thinking bitter thoughts will only poison my own well and when this ends I want to be able to drink clear, refreshing, life-giving water not something stagnant and polluted with negativity.

So, from you my dear reader, I could use a few positive thoughts sent my way in order help me feel the good vibes when the going gets rough. And thanks for hanging there in with me as my life as I have known it changes into something not yet revealed.

My Faith In Humanity Restored Through Ballet (Stories Of The Camp Fire)

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Last night I had the privilege of attending the ballet and what an evening it was! Sure, the story was slightly delayed for the season but out of the ashes the most famous ballet in the world arose in all its glory, tradition, and pageantry in a borrowed theatre here in Northern California. And the story of how this production came to be is perhaps better than the beloved Nutcracker itself… because in this story my faith in humanity was restored.

Now I am not a huge fan of ballet. I don’t often attend performances.  Since I am a writer, I am a lover of words, and without those sometimes my attention strays making ballet somewhat problematic. Needless to say, attending what I thought was going to be an “amateur” performance; I suspected the night might be filled with pokes and prods to keep me awake. Was I ever wrong.

Last night I discovered the Northern California Ballet. Since 1983 it has been producing full-length classic ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and A Midsummer’s Nights Dream. Besides production, the studio has also taught hundreds of children dance skills that have led some to professional dance careers. It is a mighty place full of hope, dreams, and plain old hard work. There are no slackers, slouches or amateurs here!

As the holiday season was fast approaching Northern California Ballet was rehearsing their version of The Nutcracker when disaster hit. On November 9, 2018 the Camp Fire swooped through the town of Paradise killing 85 and wiping out the majority of this close-knit community. It goes on record as the deadliest fire in California history. But that is just the beginning of the horror. In addition to all the lives lost, almost 14,000 homes went up in smoke and so did the studio and storage shed belonging to the Northern California Ballet. With such a fast-moving fire no one had time to save anything. NOTHING. The kids no longer had clothes, school supplies, or a warm bed. They no longer had the comfort nor the routine of dance. Gone were their ballet costumes and their dreams of dancing on stage…or so they thought. Yet, when hardship and devastating circumstances arise somehow folks find the strength to fight back and find a way to turn tragedy into triumph which is exactly what Northern California Ballet did. And last night it showed. The dancers were talented, elegant and polished. They danced with real joy radiating from their faces. The world was their oyster and they were the pearls.

How did they accomplish so much in so little time? Just plain dedication and hard work. But an even more important ingredient was the global ballet community in general. As it turns out companies from all over the world donated costumes, backdrops and props. The Eugene Ballet Company, dancer Angela V Carter’s costumes from Ballet New England’s productions, and both large and small studios from Iowa to Florida found ways to give to their sister in need while volunteers sewed and stitched late into the night. And so, a vital community resource went from a studio of smoke and ashes to an on-stage performance in just a little over two months. Now that is what I call dedication. I also call it a miracle.

In addition to the dance itself music was provided by a live orchestra hiding out in the orchestra pit. These musicians were also from Paradise and many had lost their homes in the fire and their precious instruments as well. Yet, somehow they managed to come together (borrowed instruments and all) and play magnificently. Watching a ballet performed to live music instead of tape is an honor these days and I felt blessed to do so.

By coincidence I went to Paradise last week. It was my first trip up there since the fire. The devastation is immense. Unless you have survived living in a war zone you have probably never seen anything like it. It is shocking. It is horrific. It is incredibly sad.

 

Yet, after tonight’s performance by Northern California Ballet, I have hope for this world. People are amazing. Their resilience astounds me. Their fight to rise again gives me hope. Kids who dedicate themselves to their craft no matter what are inspiring. And the generosity of an arts community to their sister in need are exactly the kinds of acts of compassion and love that the world needs to see.

So fear not and have hope. There are heroes walking amongst us and tonight they were all on stage at The Nutcracker for the world to see. I wish you could see them too.

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Please visit the Northern California Ballet site to learn more. http://www.northerncaliforniaballet.com/?page_id=33

Also, they could use your financial help. Here is their GO FUND ME page. I hope you will give generously.

https://www.gofundme.com/small-ballet-studio-destroyed-in-paradise-fire?member=&utm_source=sendgrid&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=contacts-v2-invite-to-donate

 

The Importance of Taking Action

Sometimes showing up just the way you are in the moment is freeing. Other times it is difficult and scary. But ultimately if we want to experience life in a different manner and see ourselves in a different way; we have to do things differently… which means we have to be willing to take action.

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It is easy to show up, accept yourself, and get on with life when you are feeling: curious, happy, and have no expectations of how something you are engaged in will turn out.  When we try something new IF we allow our minds to stay open and curious, we often find there is a full-range of possibilities available to us; especially if we just accept ourselves and strive for being immersed in the momentary experience instead of seeking perfection our first time out of the box.

Let’s face it…it is harder to show up just the way we are when we are feeling: anxious, have ruminating negative thoughts, are sad, worried, afraid, ashamed and angry. But sometimes we must do it anyway.

When our lives have fallen apart one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is take simple action. It may be as easy as trying something that we have always wanted to do… like… going to a new restaurant and experiencing a new food. It may involve learning something new by taking a class of some sort or even attending a lecture on a topic that we have always been interested in. Or it may involve going to one of those social mixers that sends our guts into spasm just thinking about it or making that phone call we have been putting off for weeks

In order to stretch ourselves it helps to remember that we don’t have to be fearless… experiencing uncertainty is just a normal part of life. For if we allow ourselves to consider that every time we take a chance to reveal ourselves further, there is less to be hidden and fearful of in the future; then taking action provides a much needed sense of purpose to our lives. When we give up hiding parts of ourselves in the shadows, it gives us the opportunity to show up as our true and wondrous selves. And it is indeed a glorious day when we finally realize that even if we fail to catch the fly-ball, sing off-key, or spill the paint, there is nothing inherently bad with whatever happens even if it involves perceived “failure.”  Just showing up and putting ourselves out there will give us  the useful information  that we need (I like this…I don’t like that) to take us further down the path that we want to end up on.

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So today…Take Action! Take A Chance! Today just might just be the day that changes the rest your life!

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THE DEADLY FIRE CONTINUES

First of all, my regrets to the beautiful town of Paradise which lost so many in the fire. Same with Concow. There are now over 6,400 homes that were destroyed and there are over 50,000 displaced persons. Also, for the history lovers the Honey Run Covered Bridge was destroyed. It was a much loved landmark in the area where everyone went to have the senior high school pictures taken and many weddings were held. Built over 100 years ago it was the only three-span bridge remaining in the USA.

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So far we have evacuated once. Not because it was mandatory but because the winds were suppose to be 50 miles per hour at night and I didn’t want to drive in the middle of the night along with 50,000 other people who were trying to leave. I watched the videos of those who were driving through fire on both sides of them, embers flying around and no visability. That is not the way I want to die so we went and stayed with my cousin for the night and returned the next afternoon. The car is still packed and ready to go if need be.

We have offered a large room in our home but thus far no takers. Sometimes it seems so difficult to be  able give and get disaster relief to those horribly and truly impacted people. I wish it was easier to connect because I know people are looking for shelter and I cannot imagine cots are too comfortable.

Today it was announced that they have found 42 deceased persons in the area and over 200 are still missing. This makes the Camp Fire the deadliest in California history. Don’t even get me started on what our bone-headed leader said about the situation. Too bad he didn’t just get wet while in France and melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. I suspect that is the real reason he would not attend the ceremony in the rain!

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We are watching the fire creep slowly towards us but the winds are dying down so I am not expecting that this monster fire will reach us. Thank you for all those positive vibes. That said, the smoke is thick and ash floats down like snowflakes. My outdoor furniture has a layer of soot coating it and my head hurts from all the smoke in the air.

Paul was burdened after visiting the evacuation center and became concerned that we would lose everything too. We explained that nothing else mattered but the love we had for each other and for our family in general. Everything can be replaced… but people… and while somethings are dear to our hearts, if lost, we can find other things to replace them. Nothings Real But Love!

It was an eerie day hearing the helicopters down at the lake scooping up water to pour on the fire. Yet, with such thick smoke blanketing the area I could not see them. I heard them coming and going all day without one visual verification that they were truly there.. It makes me wonder how those pilots keep safe and I have to give them a big salute for all they are doing to try and keep us safe.

Since we just moved here we really don’t know many people but when I go to the store I hear the stories of personal loss and it just breaks my heart. Someone’s grandma gone. Another person’s uncle still missing. Pets left behind because they were so scared they ran off and their owners had to leave without them.

B and Paul went to the evacuation center in town to help out on Saturday. They said it was the saddest thing they had ever seen… so many traumatized people who fled with only the clothes on their backs which make what I am about to say so ridiculous. While they were there they were instructed to hand out clothing to all these people who had no clothes but what they were wearing when they left two days before. As these needy people were getting free clothing, the state health department came and shut the hand-out down, stating that the clothes had to be taken and sanitized first. What a bunch of crap! I wrote the Governor and other officials stating at times like this common sense needs to prevail and rules need to be bent when at all possible.

Today, I made the kids come out and remove leaves from the backyard and the decorative bark away from the house. They complained so much that I think that they need summer jobs detasseling corn or picking fruit. Good old hard, sweaty labor might just cure the “Princess” nonsense that is going on in this castle.

Here are some pics from the fire. Please keep California in your prayers.

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Saturday-One of the evacuation centers that B and Paul worked at

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Saturday-Smoke starting to fill the area

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Why we left

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A street 5 blocks from us

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The Good That We Can Learn From The Bad

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Believe it or not sometimes I am beginning to see light shining on the path I have been forced down due to my husband’s infidelity. I am beginning to see a little clearer how I contributed to this debacle. NO, it does not mean that he was just in doing what he did. It just means that sometimes we unwittingly do things that help shift the tide of events to a road that was never meant to be traveled. For it is often NEVER just one persons fault when a relationship unravels. Let me explain.

Before B’s affair came to light I had not been enjoying my life for quite a long time. Sometimes autism took its toll. Sometimes my own negative thinking. Sometimes it was just situations involving me in things I shouldn’t have let myself get involved in in the first place. Other times is was a very low level depression and large amounts of stress that contributed to my thinking that life had somehow become a struggle. And while I recognized that life was never meant to be a struggle somehow it was turning into that very thing it was not meant to be. Often I felt I had lost control of my own life.

Recently, I have come to see that this pain of my husband’s betrayal  has brought good things to my life. When I came close to divorcing I was distraught and depressed. If I thought life had been a struggle before, now it felt like a 1000 pound weight had been added to the backpack that I carry on my life’s journey. All my self doubts rose like a tsunami and smashed my ego into smithereens like wooden boats thrown against giant breaker walls. I was a mess.

Yet, slowly I have come to see many positives that have come my way after this experience, one of which I would like to share with you. You see, in almost losing myself and my life as I knew it all of a sudden I realized what a good life I had. For the most part I have loved it and when taken as a whole it had made me happy and has brought me much more joy than sorrow. I had just forgotten the good parts and was concentrating on the bad. Trying to fix things that were not mine to fix or living for the future and not in the present which created suffering and unhappiness; discontent and anger.

And so, in almost losing everything, I have gained a new and positive perspective on my life…and when I got that back I realized that my remaining years are meant to savored, grabbed, and spent looking for the first buds on a tree. So now I stop and listen and look, recognizing and appreciating the pure joy I hear in the laughter around me, all the while enjoying brilliant sunsets that are best viewed when still and contemplative. For life was never meant to be a struggle and I am trying not to make it so.

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A Little Art Therapy

About a month ago my very bossy therapist (LMAO)  encouraged me to start painting. She wanted to see what emotions would emerge on paper, the colors I used, and the feelings I could name for what I drew.

“HOLD ON THERE, ” I thought. “I can’t even draw stick figures.” And so, like most things my therapist suggests, I resisted. I mean, writing comes easily but drawing….NEVER. And if I was going to invest in something; I wanted to do something I would excel at. The truth was if I couldn’t be Rembrandt I wanted no part of it. Yet, since my therapist is Miss All-Knowing, I decided to take her cue and give it a try.

Frankly, I was surprised what emerged from my hand onto the paper. The first pictures screamed in rage but as I drew I found that anger lessening with each picture. Those pictures that I was unable to express the images I felt … I found them, copied them, and then added to them to make them my own. They are rough, scary, beautiful…all of what my heart and soul has experienced during the past three  traumatic years.

And here is the funny thing. When I first started drawing I found I could not leave the words out of the pictures. Since I write professionally, I guess it should come as no surprise that words gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity that was hard to walk away from. But Miss All-Knowing insisted that I take the words out so I could no longer hide behind those words. What a struggle that turned out to be!

As much as I hate to admit it, doing all this artwork is producing a change in myself. I feel more at peace and my anger/pain has diminished.  Although I will never be a great artist there are several things that I have learned about the similarities between art and life in these few short weeks as I have explored this unused side of me and what I have discovered is this:

  1. The fewer words you use; the less explaining you have to do.
  2. Getting “stuck” in life or in art curtails the creative process. Just keep on forging ahead even though nothing fruitful appears to be emerging..
  3. Art, like life, is meant to be fun. Don’t take it all so seriously.
  4. Chances are, the more you try to fix, something the bigger mess you will end up with.
  5. Almost nothing turns out the way you expected when you first started your masterpiece.
  6. If you go with the flow and just let the colors end up where they are supposed to you will cut down considerably on your stress.
  7. Life, like paint, is meant to be free flowing, not stagnant.
  8. Leave your painting/emotions alone and come back to them later. Often you will see things in a different light later on.
  9. Less is often better in painting and in life.
  10. Trying to control all aspects of your life and your creation will often result in untold and needless suffering.
  11. Do anything enough and you will get better at it whether it be artwork or improved communication.
  12. Shut up and let your actions/work speak for themselves.
  13. Trying too hard is just as detrimental as not trying hard enough.
  14. In life as in art; have no expectations about the results.

Funny thing. While I am still not crazy about drawing and the like I have developed enough of an interest that I have found the need to learn a few of the “how to’s” of painting..  And so this weekend I attended my first water color class. While I am unsure whether this turn of events is due to the curiosity factor or my foolish need for “perfection” I am unsure; but either way I find I am enriching myself and growing beyond the artificial borders that I once set for myself… and what more could you ask of yourself?

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LIFE CHANGING MOMENTS

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Even though we are still together, that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a lot of sorrow and pain over the last nine months. Pain that sometimes has cut so deep that I felt that I could feed the universe with the blood/tears that have been spilled as a result of the affair and B’s sister’s involvement with it. There were times that I felt so empty of a once-vibrant life-force living within me that I felt that a transfusion was the only option left.

To say that the past three years were difficult is an understatement of gigantic proportions..

Yet, over the past nine months life has improved.. There have been moments of deep distrust alternating with moments of trust coming like scattered drops of rain on the parched desert floor. There have been moments of joy mixed with an even greater number of episodes of sadness. The laughter has been increasing while the angry words and accusations have been decreasing. The balance of the scales once tipped towards the negative are increasingly moving and staying on the positive side. Often it is a dance of three steps forward and two steps back. In truth, the two steps back have often involved said sister. She has caused many issues that have often impeded healing of the relationship. It’s often feels like the band-aid keeps getting ripped off by her hand.

But the other day something happened concerning said sister and after B took action on his own I thought to myself “I think he might actually love me again.” In fact, it was such a profound act of sacrifice on his part that I wrote a note to myself which read:

“It was at that moment when my sorrow turned to song.”

And for me it really was.

It was one of those rare “life-changing, perception-changing, Ah-ha moments” that make such a huge impact on you and your relationship that you know you can never go back to what was. It was a moment that forces you to move forward because that is truly the only way you were meant to go. It was a moment which allowed me to move closer to true forgiveness and understanding. A moment which encouraged me to let go of the hurt and embrace what is now happening now with greater clarity. It was a moment in which B showed me great love, compassion, understanding and did what I needed and not what he wanted.

So today… I sing… and the sorrow drifts by quickly like clouds on a windy day. I will sing tomorrow too and the day after that. Because sometimes moments actually are life-changing and they deserve to be celebrated in song.

Self-Improvement

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Several weeks ago an older woman walked up to me and told me that she really liked how I talked to my son. I was shocked because I did not feel that I had done a good enough job to merit that type of praise. In fact, as I often do, I felt as though I had “kind-of-sort-of failed” in my response.

Later as I reflected on the moment I thought, ” Why, if a stranger can be so kind to me, then why is it so difficult for me to be kind to myself? Why do I seem to negate recognizing the good that I do each day? Why is it I always feel the need to do better?”

As I have contemplated this the last several weeks I have realized that I often end my day examining those things that I feel I have failed or done a less than spectacular job at according to some invisible standards I hold for myself. And so, I have been contemplating and asking myself: where did these standards even come from and what makes me give them the validation that they so often don’t deserve?

In response to this, I have begun a nightly ritual in an effort to change this part of my life. Upon laying down in bed at night, I hug myself tight, and make a mental list of all the things I did right that day and if I am in doubt about one of them I give myself a win anyway. At the end of this recap I am write down the improvements I have seen in myself as a way to encourage myself as I take this journey through life. I give myself the chance to see the positive through a lens of critical assessment that I have lived with for a very long time. At times, It has been difficult to see positive change because I am so used to being harsh with myself, but little by little, even though I may fall short of my “invisible standards;” I am finding instances in which I deserve my own pat on the back even though I have not behaved perfectly. And I find, that when I wake in the morning I seem to be much more optimistic than I had previously been.

Often newly married couples are given the advice not to go to bed mad at each other because it leaves a sour taste in your mouth the next morning. The same could be said of ourselves. Going to bed with negative thoughts begets negativity in the morning. So try noticing your good points and successes throughout the day and run through the list before retiring for the night. You might just find you sleep sounder and wake up feeling refreshed.

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Post Infidelity Stress Disorder

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It’s been a while. Quite a long while actually. I haven’t been able to do the things I normally do as I concentrate on ridding myself of the negative thoughts and images that have floated through my mind since I found out about B’s affair.  There has been a lot of canceling going on.

“He is a jerk”

“Cancel, cancel, cancel” (don’t say cancel out loud or the guys in the white coats might come for you) Just say “cancel” in your head and then look around and take in what you see:

“Oh the clouds look big a fluffy today”

“Look at that beautiful orange tomcat”

Anything that take your mind off the negativity and onto something different.

Anyway, last week I had an extreme reaction to something B said in the marriage counselors office which cause me to stand up and say that I needed to leave. NOW. We were discussing a possible move when B said, “I can move and get used to the job while you stay back at home with the kids!”

End of discussion on the part of B even though we have had this gone over this scenario before and I had said that this solution was unacceptable to me.

And so:

My heart started pounding.

My blood pressure and anxiety soared.

I felt like that walls were closing in on me and tried to flee the therapists office.

I flashed back to the time when B would not take me to China with him and I “knew” something was up when suddenly he was taking a side trip to Singapore (which I later found out was to rendezvous with our Vietnamese tour guide) I didn’t understand what was going on at that time but I knew that I felt intense confusion and pain about why B was so adamant that I could not go with him and why a discussion was not “forthcoming.”

I broke out in a sweat.

I began to itch.

The therapist looked at me as I kind of said something like:

“WHAT THE F***!!!! OH,HELL NO! YOU MADE THIS MESS AND YOU ARE NOT LEAVING ME TO CLEAN IT UP WHILE YOU GET TO TAKE IT EASY!”

I explained to both B and the therapist that this scenario was unacceptable to me. That I didn’t want to clean up B’s mess and have to deal with angry kids who would be afraid we were divorcing and couldn’t understand why we were not together as a family. I would not be alone with a child whose rage would be intense if he felt abandoned and I didn’t understand why someone who swears he wants to be with me would even consider that an option and if that was the way it was going to be then we might as well not be together.

I heard something about B thinking of the logistics in a “practical” manner while I was looking at them from the heart. And then I left.

The next week I was at my therapists office and I mentioned to her that I thought I might  have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and began to relate what happened to me at the marriage counselors office.

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“Of course, you have post traumatic stress disorder after what you have been through with B for the past three years. But in your case it is referred to as Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder (PISD) and there is a set of recognized symptoms that are brought on by the trauma of infidelity, ” she said.

WHO KNEW? A big sigh of relief escaped my lips…so I wasn’t going crazy after all.

According to her, often the offended partner has extreme reactions to circumstances because they are now operating from a hyper-vigilant state where nothing feels safe or real. And while it may not be as traumatizing as prolonged war or physical abuse, the experiences of the cheated on spouse often echoes the symptoms of PTSD. Symptoms of PISD include:

  1. Exposure to a perceived life-threatening event (end of marriage, constant lies, betrayal of trust, etc)
  2. Emotional numbing
  3. Inability to stop seeking more information about the affair or what your spouse is currently up to
  4. Increased anxiety
  5. Intense feelings of fear or helplessness
  6. Feelings of irritability and rage
  7. A re-experiencing of the event or events
  8. Avoiding things that remind us of the affair
  9. Repeated intrusive thoughts
  10. Anger or blaming of ones self (“If only”)

Obviously, I am no expert on the subject but since I have discovered that I have symptoms of PISD, I am learning what I can about it and how to heal from it. The one thing I do know is this it will take time.

For those of you interested in the subject you can find a good article that discusses PISD it here:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rediscovering-love/201709/how-infidelity-causes-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

I have also started reading a book on the subject on the advice of my therapist. The title is Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder by Dennis Ortman, PhD which is available on Amazon. It has been extremely helpful so far.

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So I continue on this journey. It is a trip I didn’t ask for and one I didn’t plan. Sometimes it angers me that I have been forced down this rabbit hole by the person I trusted most in the world. A husband who selfishly who pushed me into this land of self-discovery. Yes, many of the things I have learned or done have been helpful but I still wish I had been the one to decide if and when I wanted to confront the issues that I have been working on. But for now I try not to dwell on the “what if’s” and instead I attempt to embrace this new post-affair life of mine. Some days I succeed and some days I don’t but if nothing else I am teaching my children that if life throws you curve balls you keep swinging that bat until you connect even if that connection is only with one’s self.