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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roadblocks-10 Minute Poem Challenge

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Sometimes I think

You should be wearing

A florescent orange vest

And hardhat to protect

Your thick head

As you direct our relationship

Through all the roadblocks that you set up

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Your boulders of anger

Stopping the natural flow

Of traffic as we make our way

To the end of the road

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You hold up warnings

Reading: DO NOT ENTER

That push me further beyond

Our agreed upon destination

Creating detours away from

Intimacy, connection, and deep love

Leaving me traveling on an empty road

Towards a dead end

Out in the middle of nowhere

Where I can neither go forward

Nor turnaround

 

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Sometimes I think

You channel

Muhammad Ali

As you bob and weave

Dancing across my heart

Yet coming nowhere near it

Your left hook throwing me back

Against the ropes

Flattened and dazed

Seeing stars and two of you

One, kind and gentle

The other, a brut

Intent on winning

This fight

At all costs

Numb to the pain

That you have caused

And you tease and jab

As I wait for you

To deliver

Your knockout blow

 

Other times I wonder

If you are really a mason

Placing brick on top of brick

Day after day

Building a wall

 

With a hidden gate

That keeps me out

But lets others into

Your inner sanctum

And lets them experience

Your deepest feelings

That you have walled off

From me

But leave you

Standing alone inside

Of your fortress

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And me standing on the other side

Of those immense walls

Of Yours

We both know that

You view me

As the Big Bad Wolf

Huffing and puffing

Until I leap over the wall

Only to be burnt

By the fire in your soul

And your repressed

Anger towards me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Depressed

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I’m depressed. There. I said it. I’m depressed.

Frankly, it worries me as I have never allowed myself to go there. With so many people depending on me and a sister who spent time in a mental hospital; I have never before let myself plumb the depths of the despair I am feeling. However, now I am trying to give myself permission. Permission to explore what is on the other side of two years of marriage chaos and confusion. Permission to grieve for dreams that have been pushed aside by reality and for children who struggle due to the challenges of autism. Permission to just feel what I need to feel, even if it hurts. And permission to feel those deep rooted emotions and to not intellectualize my feelings as all the intellectualizing I do just makes me hurt worse.

I will confess this intense feeling of sadness scares me to my core. Not because I am afraid to feel those lows but because when you have had a family member who has experienced hospitalization due to her mental health issues and you have spent years dealing with hers…well, I just don’t want to put my family into that vat of pain and helplessness you can’t help but feel when surrounded with all of that. Yet, my therapist said to me that I have the skill set to survive if not thrive while looking at those things that make me uncomfortable and sad. And after reading Thomas Moore’s The Dark Night Of The Soul I know that there is plenty to be gained by going there for a brief respite. But still, I hesitate, my feet in cement for fear of going in too far or deep. For fear of becoming like my sister. Of letting people down.  Of not “performing” the requirements that are expected in this one act play that I am living.

I know I need to take a look at what is coming up from the depths of my soul. I know that I need to allow myself to feel these intense feelings. I suspect that it is similar to drilling for oil while trying to contain the amount that surfaces at one time. And its also acknowledging  that what comes up will have to be refined in different ways depending on how it will be used. And I acknowledge that any spills that occur will give me new skills to better contain the overflow the next time.

If I had my way I would stay in bed for a week and pull the covers over my head. I would play every sad song I have ever heard and have a Bailey’s on the rocks sitting on my bed stand sipping it over several hours. Oh hell, maybe I would guzzle it instead. That is what I wanted to do today. BUT…I had to make breakfast and lunch for everyone, take them to school, take a kid to the doctor and another to get her allergy shots. I had to wait for the dryer repairman, do the dishes, and mop the floor. I had to pay bills, get the oil changed and attend a meeting. Tomorrow it is more of the same.

So, here I sit, one toe half in and half out of this deep sadness. This depression. Perhaps if I am brave enough I will step on in and let it take me where I need to go.  To places I have never visited but probably should. Only afterwards will I understand that there are things to be gained from examining things below the surface. And who knows…I may just strike the motherlode while I am exploring with the sheets making the perfect tent in which to hide away from the world.

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Distance

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I thought things were so much better between us but it feels like we are headed downhill once again. The distance between us has re-appeared and it makes us wary, circling one another, both waiting for the other to make the first strike.

The distance between us varies. Right now it feels like a ship off course from its intended destination. Off course because a storm is tossing it about in rough deep seas and as I look out of the window all I can see is gray skies and rolling waves the size of skyscrapers. And the smell sticks to you like wet, moldy grass. But it is the smell of fear that fills the room. Fear of sinking and fear of knowing you can never swim hard enough or fast enough to plant your feet firmly on the ground.

Sometimes I associate this distance with my GGG Grandparent immigrants. That last kiss, that last hug and that last wave knowing that all of it would be the last of everything and everybody you knew and that you would never see those who were left behind again. It feels conflicted…excited at a new chance, scared about what the unknowns were before you, and sad for all you were leaving behind. Sometimes our distance feels deeper than this sort of distance.

Often the distance between us feels like we are across from one another, standing in a sunny meadow. I reach for you and I find I am stuck in concrete and that I cannot move. Sometimes you see me and make your way towards me. Other times you turn your back and walk away.  It feels confusing and leaves a terrible taste in my mouth like dry burnt toast.

And sometimes this distance feels like we are just feet away from each other on a bridge but we both fail to take off our blindfolds so we can see that the other is right in front of us. This is even harder…so close…yet so far apart.

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The Other Side Of The Mountain

 

The other day we were driving up to the cabin. The wind was quiet and the sun bright as we climbed higher into the mountains. It brought me back to a year ago when I was making the same drive. My marriage was a mess and I was a wreck. It seemed like nothing was ever going to get better and I wondered if I was ever going to feel happiness again. Last year it was a hard drive and I made it alone.

This year the drive was different. The wolf spiders were out along the roads doing their mating dance. img_1929

The leaves were just beginning to turn with brilliant yellows and a few orange ones dotting the landscape. The birds were singing and the deer were just frolicking with one another in the backyard. We also felt lucky as we saw large embers from the fire laying on our deck knowing how easily the cabin could have gone up in flames as the embers were carried by the wind.img_1933

B and I just enjoyed our time together and wished for nothing more. It was a fantastic day.

When it was time to leave we opted to try a different way home. It was a road we had never ventured on before and we hoped to see how close the big fire of a month ago had made it to our cabin. About a mile from our place we left the pavement and headed down a dirt road. Further and further back we climbed until we could look back upon the entire valley. It was clean and clear. No sign of a fire anywhere. We climbed higher, the trees in thick clusters, more colors to their leaves. We were high on the mountain and you could feel the tightness begin to shape your lungs like the blue rubber bands you find on bunches of celery in the grocery store.

Finally, we came to another paved road. Here we found signs still mounted on the trees which read THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS and STAY SAFE. But still no sign of the fire itself. We saw the red fire-retardant splashed on the road that had been dropped from airplanes that once buzzed through the smoke choked sky. But there was still no trace of the devastating fire that had ravaged the mountains just one month ago.

As we descended, we realized that we were on the backside of the mountain which usually takes us up to the cabin. It felt like an entirely different place. Long grasses lay flat and swirled around massive tree trunks creating a kaleidoscope of colorful designs.

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Huge boulders the remnants of dinosaur days dotted the landscape in odd places looking like they had been dropped there by some humongous creature playing chess. It was the other side of the mountain but it could have been worlds away from where we had started.

Finally, after another 10 miles we made it back around to our usual road, the one that could take us back up the mountain. As we hit that mile marker I realized that our marriage in the past twelve months and this trip to the cabin shared many commonalities. For over this past year we had the courage to take an unfamiliar road which brought us new things to see/contemplate which eventually brought us to a happiness/coziness that we find amongst the trees. We also fought the flames of divorce, and while we did get singed, we didn’t get burned. Our marriage, just like this new road, looks different from the other side of the mountain at which we started our trip.  And today, more than at any other time during this journey; I feel blessed that we were able to traverse the vast unknown and make our way safely home from the other side.

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Self-Deception

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When did I …STOP…

Seeing myself as a StRoNg

And CoNfIDeNt Woman?

Was it when…

I didn’t finish my Master’s Degree?

DoUbTfUl

Was it when I stopped working

To take care of a family…

The loneliest Job in the world?

Maybe

Was it when those unexplained absences

Occurred

On those silent nights

When you were gone?

Didn’t help

Or perhaps I never really was

StRoNg and CoNfIdEnT

Those powers lost when I

Was But a ChiLD

Struggling to UNDerStand

A World I Couldn’t

Possibly know

A world made for adults

At which I played dress-up

Taking tea laced with whiskey

Trying to act cool

And impress people

I shouldn’t have bothered with

Did they BeAt me down?

Or did I do it to myself?

I would guess the latter

Yet, I would also suspect

This is a more recent

Phenomenon

That has arrived

Tangled in those few gray hairs

I pluck at

To remove from sight

That age I should be celebrating

Instead of fighting

Like an epic battle

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Between GoOd and EviL

Lost in a dark forest

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In which most of the trees were

Felled long ago

But where shadows remain

With a poster tacked to

The BriTtLe bark of a downed tree which reads:

Lost…StRoNg & CoNfiDeNt Middle Aged Woman

With Blue eyes

A big heart

And dark circles under her eyes

If Found

Please return her to…

ME…

 I miss her

 

 

 

Parolee

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Sometimes I this “maybe divorce” makes me feel like a convicted felon out on parol. It isn’t a comfortable feeling and makes me feel jumpy in my own skin. And if the truth be told sometimes I feel as if B is the Parol Officer which sometimes makes me resentful and angry at the system that I have allowed myself to be incarcerated within.

It must be hard for real life parolees. Living in the shadow of an officer who in the blink of an eye has the power and absolute authority to send them back to prison. One false move and their life changes whether they want it to or not. You can’t help but wonder if they are constantly looking behind them and in front, unable to live in the present, due to the stress of staying vigilant like I am. Not being able to let your guard down is a terrible way to live.

Frankly, I just want to be let out on good behavior. I have served my sentence and have made major changes in myself along the way and while serving this sentence has made me be more mindful and has helped me not to yell (which has been a good thing for both me and my family) I am tired of being under watch. I just want to be free to be me again without the fear of separation hanging over my head.

 

*After I wrote this piece I told B that this was how I was feeling. With tears in his eyes he said, “I’m sorry. That must feel awful to feel you are having to live that way.How can we change this?”

 

Raw

I read a few of my writings to him

He was hurt and upset

Believed my words and thoughts were raw

He said:

“Why didn’t you let me see these

Before we went into the therapists office

Why would you save this for in there?

Why didn’t you let me see your words and let me

think about them before going in?”

I think:

It’s suppose to be a safe place

Exactly where we are suppose to take

Our deepest hurts and fears

Where we have someone to help us

Through the words and through the tears

He thinks:

Why did you ambush me?

It’s his real question

Unspoken with words

But spoken just the same

I think:

Maybe I just want to hear from your heart

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And not listen to your rehearsed

Very logical answers

Maybe I long to know

What you really FEEL not THINK

To hear words spoken from the heart

Not encased in the laughter you use

To deflect the feelings that threaten

To overwhelm you like a bad case

Of poison ivy

I am:

Guilty and sad that I hurt him

Wishing that I could say with words

The things I so easily write on paper

Perhaps they would be less complex

And easier to hear

But I am not sure that words are whats needed now

Maybe its deep feelings

Because we both want to run from them

Instead of dealing with the pain they contain

I know:

I still love him

That it hurt me deeply to hurt him

Even if that was not my intention

My intention was to be HEARD

And I wish I could take back the words

I said because I don’t want to see

Him retreat

Because of my pain

And his pain

Because really he just wants peace, love and rainbows

Happiness and joy

He claims he is a simple man

Uses it as an excuse

Not to touch those parts of him

That make him feel vulnerable and afraid

He says:

He is a simple man

But we both know better than that

 

 

 

Gone Missing

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I recently realized I have no idea who I really am. That is a hard thing to write at my age.

If you had asked me last year who I was and what I stood for I could have given you a laundry list of my good qualities, the bad ones, my likes and dislikes, my truths, my foibles, the things that I tolerated and the things that I could not. Now I have few clues. I am left holding a bag of pieces, a rope and flashing sign which reads detour ahead.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the definition of  a mid-life crisis because it seems as if I am wiping clean the slate and starting over. Only problem… the cleaner doesn’t do its job and all I am are left with is grimy streaks that just muddy things all up and make clarity a rarity.

Supporters of Sigmund Freud believed that a mid-life crisis was brought about by a fear of impending death. I will confess that thoughts of dying do not keep me awake at night but what I want written on my tombstone does.  I guess that is the writer in me wanting to make sure the final sentence of my life is THE perfect one.

Or maybe this loss of “ME” is as simple as early onset dementia. I cannot seem to remember ANYTHING anymore. In fact, I took one of those on-line memory tests and the outcome was SEE YOUR DOCTOR SOON… at least that is what I think I remember. It used to be that I remembered every telephone number in my head nut now I can’t even find the phone. Maybe who I was is now crammed into the junk drawer in the kitchen between the batteries and the eyeglass repair kit. Who knows…but I do know I cannot find myself anywhere.

When Grandma was 85 she told me that when she would walk by a mirror she would think, “Who is that old lady?” because what she saw didn’t match who she saw in her head which was a 25 year old girl. I laughed when she said it but maybe now it is my issue too. What I see doesn’t reflect back who I think I thought I was…that is before I went missing.

It is shocking to me that his has happened. I mean it took so long for me to “find” myself, a self that I was finally pretty comfortable in, only to lost myself again in the prime of my life. I had gotten used to salesgirls ignoring me, the total absence of wolf whistles and having to buy compression socks when I flew. But this…arriving home to a perfect stranger…  I wish I knew her better…it would make life a whole lot easier for all involved.

 

 

The Return

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When you walk into the house after a week away you expect to feel that your husband is delighted if not intoxicated upon your return. Instead, it felt guarded and a little cold with a hint of resignation thrown in for good measure. Not what I expected at all.

Yes, Paul attacked him that morning. Yes, the grand babies are crying. Yes, things are stressful at work. I get it. I feel weary too at times. Actually, often. Sometimes it is hard not to in this household.

Tonight after being reunited, as I lay in B’s arms, I asked “Do you ever think we will get back to where you really love me. Like it used to be?”

Might as well be putting a gun in my hand and pressing it up to his head.

Why do I even ask these types of things?

I guess I want reassurance that he can, that we can, get to a place of love that once felt as wide as the Grand Canyon but now feels somewhat like a sink hole.

But I don’t get the answer  or the reassurance I am looking for. I get a question turned around on me?

“Do you think we can?” he asks, which tells me he is feeling this disconnect too. Which saddens me and makes me feel even more insecure.

Why do I have to always ask the hard questions? But even as I ask the question I know the answer…I don’t want to have to continue to try to guess. To try and read the mind of a man who doesn’t even know how he feels much less knows how to try and share it. I ask these questions as a gauge as to how our relationship is in his mind. But the thing is…I am not even sure I want to know. Sometimes I think I would like to just keep floating down the RIVER deNILE. FOREVER.