Trauma reenactments

It has been just over a year since I met S and since we started the affair and today it has finally ended. It was wildly passionate, addictive and compulsive and I fell head over heels, despite the fact I had a solid, loving relationship with my husband. I couldn’t stop and wanted to be with her so bad. I realised a couple of weeks ago that I was engaged in the well known phenomenon of ‘trauma reenactment’.

The following blog excerpt sums it up nicely: “Reenactment is a process that includes compulsively repeated thoughts, attitudes, and patterns of behaviour. The goal of reenactment is to resolve and heal a past traumatic experience or series of experiences……..reenactment does not occur on a conscious level. Rather, these patterns surface as a result of the pain and turmoil felt on a subconscious level. And because we do not actively choose these patterns, we are unable to actively choose something different”. (from, Excerpts from Trauma: Healing the Hidden Epidemic, by Peter M. Bernstein, PhD).

This is not to diminish what I felt for S, but it has helped to put things into context for me, given that I continually experienced feelings of guilt, shame, fear and helplessness throughout the relationship. I couldn’t understand why, if I was so happy with my husband, why I fell into the arms of another woman. I felt powerless to stop it, it was as though the experience was beyond my control. I oscillated between feelings of love and happiness, to complete and utter shame, disgust and guilt about what I was doing. Importantly I could not reconcile the powerlessness I felt to make an executive decision about who/ what I wanted. I did know that I never wanted to have an affair – yet, I couldn’t stop it. I engaged in that behaviour as a drinker, but now that I was sober, and a Christian, I just didn’t think I would do that. So to find myself in an unstoppable situation left me baffled and deeply ashamed – a feeling I have dissociated, but sadly lies at the heart of my being. It permeates through me and it feels bad. It is like a large snake crawling over my skin.

And I had to take the experience to the end – at the cost of others. I separated from my husband, I moved out with her and it was great, but it was still hidden and seeped in shame and I felt so bad about that. I couldn’t seem to let go of those feelings and because we would have to keep the affair hidden for another year and a half (until she graduated from university – the same place I worked), I just couldn’t stand feeling the shame any longer. I just wanted to go back to my normal life, but of course it is not that simple, when you have screwed it up. So now, I am left alone (yes, by choice), in an apartment, whilst I just wait and see if my husband will work on things with me. Unsure of whether I have driven a wedge too deep between us. It hurts to unconsciously re-enact trauma – a hurt, abused woman hurts and abuses others as she tries so desperately to reclaim self. Its sad. I feel sad and I just want the pain to go away.

My trauma

My trauma is a black hole that I can swim in.

It is the air that I can breathe.

My trauma is the knife that splits me and divides me into pieces.

It catches me unaware.

It hides in the shadows.

It engulfs me.

My trauma is a hunter.

Like a skilled sniper it waits silently, tracing my every move.

change is slow until it isn’t.

I have shamed and internally abused myself for a long time. This is because of the messages that were implanted in me as a child and effects of the abuse I suffered. It is also because I have not been able to own these feelings or accept them. I rejected them and consequently rejected myself. This week I had a breakthrough. Something I have been wanting for years, but not able to achieve. It was like  I was unable to. I experienced a new neural connection that has changed things for me – hopefully forever.

I have been feeling very depressed, suicidal and disgusting for a while now – these are just feelings that I have sadly learned to tolerate, as intolerable as they are. On Thursday I started to feel the intensity of disgust and shame permeating my being. I could feel it seep through my skin and I knew I was close to dissociating. I didn’t really want to go into parts that night, partly based on not wanting to be that vulnerable with S and not wanting to put this onto her. I had to go to boxing training (I have a fight coming up next week). All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and shiver and shake,  but I went to training and I tried to breathe through it. I kept moving, it was hard and I was wincing inside. The exercise did help though and as I trained for about an hour and a half, when I got into the car to go home, I was feeling a little better. But then the feelings of ickiness started to come back when I was driving and all of a sudden, out of the blue, I started talking to myself – soothing myself. I told myself that it was okay, I was safe, I rebuked the spirit of disgust in the name of Jesus and I told my parts that God believes I am beautiful. I told them I was sorry they felt so bad and such pain and I cried whilst I was driving. “How long do we have to feel this pain” they cried. I told them I would take it, bit by bit, that I could take it. I wanted to. When the intensity of the feelings passed, they thanked me and we / I felt better. I was okay that night. Thankfully, S and I watched Paddington 2 and that was even more soothing for my parts.

God has gracefully helped me to experience a connection with my parts and their inner pain and showed me that it is safe to do so. I am strong enough now. I can be their mother, I can mother myself and I actually want to do that. My T reminded me yesterday that a while back, I told her I couldn’t – I didn’t feel capable. And I didn’t – its not that I didn’t want to, I did, I just had no idea how to.  I couldn’t latch on to the idea long enough to make any effective change. Also, when I dissociated, the dissociation took over and I wasn’t able to talk to my parts, as I became my parts. That’s what I mean by the neural connection being made. “Stuff” is starting to integrate. How long this has taken!!! Lol. I just need to keep taking that action, day by day, bit by bit and God will heal me. I know that deep in my heart. Then I can help others heal through His grace.

small window of light.

This week has been a little better as the dark cloud of depression has lifted somewhat. I went to SMART Recovery,  which is an alternative recovery program to AA. I left AA about a month ago and it is still a struggle as the intensity of the programming there is strong. I am glad I left, although things are hard mentally and emotionally at times and it is difficult to ascertain whether my running rough is to do with alcoholism or emotional memory or effects of trauma etc. To be honest, I think the label that AA tarnishes an alcoholic with is false- meaning, the ‘ism’s’ they attach to a person with a drinking problem, are the same ‘ism’s’ (feelings of inadequacy, isolation, restlessness, anxiety, depression, fear and guilt) that an abuse survivor has (for example). Being a survivor, I was very confused in the program as to what the effects of the abuse were vs the effects of being an alcoholic. AA would tell you, everything ‘bad’ you feel, or any discomfort or shame or fear you feel is because you are an alcoholic (or not working the program). But, that discounted my trauma and abuse. I grew up in a shame based environment. My existence, from the time I was abused, was shamed. I still live with the effects of that and have to battle with feelings of disgust, self loathing and intense fear almost daily. That’s not because I am an alcoholic, its because I was abused and tortured. It was never helpful for me to understand my reality in the context of being an alcoholic. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that i don’t drink – I drank alcoholically, I abused drugs and alcohol, as a way to reenact and escape from my trauma – a duality that doesn’t quite make sense. I escaped into the world of drinking and drugs, as I wanted to escape from my body, the pain, the reality of my shame based existence. At the same time, I drank alcoholically and abused drugs to abuse myself – because I hated myself and I didn’t matter. Whatever I could do to hurt myself, I could and would, because that is what they did to me and I learnt that I deserved that. I understand now this is not true, but these were unconscious beliefs I held for years. To now no longer drink is freeing and empowering, but it doesn’t mean that the trauma effects have gone away.

The SMART meeting was okay. It was so different from AA, but I liked that and I felt good afterwards. It was just nice to be with a bunch of people who were experiencing problems and just getting off their bottom’s and attempting to address their issues. How successfully they were doing this in some sense, didn’t even matter. It gave me some hope.

I also had a SIA meeting Thursday night, which was really helpful. I know I have to connect with my parts more, but I find it very difficult. Today S and I were going to paint and connect with our parts, hell, I was the one who suggested it earlier in the week. But I started to freak out and I just feel weird and I don’t want to do it and I have gone into avoidance mode. I don’t want her watching me. It feels weird. I just don’t want people looking at me (that was a part). Fair enough, I have to take it slow, but how much slower do I go?

Going to go to Church tonight. It is an inclusive church, so will see what that is like. This means I have done three active things this week for my health and recovery, along with boxing etc. I know when I put in this effort that it pays off. I will just keep taking the action and pray that God helps me to connect with my parts in a safe way. To whomever is reading this, I hope there was light in your week.