Feeling "Insane" Is Normal




Today I’m continuing on with my series After Disclosure. The first two installments can be found here: 




You know how there are some memories in your brain that you can’t erase no matter how hard you try? You wish you could scrub them from your memory banks like burn marks with a Brillo pad, but you can’t. Those sucker are seared in there real good.



That’s how a majority of my disclosure days are with Devin. There are certain moments I can recall with such clarity, it’s like it happened yesterday, not so many years ago. I’m thankful that some of those painful memories have slipped away, but that ability to recall with such vivid detail what happened so long ago provides me with a good explanation why I felt so utterly "insane" for such a long time.



I had Relational Trauma. I suffered a form of PTSD and I had no idea that all I was going through; the anger, hurt, fear, hypervigilance, nightmares, panic attacks, loss of appetite, hyperarousal followed by not wanting to be touched or looked at, compassion for the addict, hatred of the addict, fear of certain places, and so many other things…were 100% normal.



Not only was it normal, it was expected. My brain was trying to process the fact that someone I had put my complete faith and trust in had betrayed me. I was trying to figure out how to make sense of my new world. In a matter of days, what I thought was my marriage, my future, had been flipped upside down. I was expected to have a whole new way of living. My life had been derailed and so had my brain. I was in shock.



There were moments, literally moments, that I felt compassion, then hatred for my husband in the days following disclosure. I wanted revenge, then I wanted to hug him and tell him it would be okay, we would figure this mess out together. I wanted to make love to him, then would be revolted by the mere touch of his hand on mine.



Those first few weeks were brutal. B.R.U.T.A.L. The myriad of emotions I experienced from moment to moment, hour to hour were so confusing, it left me exhausted, depressed, anxious, angry, confused and devastated.



The only way I know how to explain it is by comparing it to an egg. My brain was the inside of the egg. The shell was my world as I knew it before disclosure. After disclosure, the split happened and the egg cracked. I tried to keep my brain from oozing out.



The harder I fought, the more the egg white slipped through my fingers. I feared that my inner core, the yolk, would be next, so I held on as tight as I could to my emotions and tried to keep them from spilling out of the egg and through my fingers.



However, that Relational Trauma just doesn’t go away on it’s own. The nightmares persist. The anxiety attacks continue. The fear of going to places that trigger you still remain and I stayed stuck and thought I was bananas for feeling this way, until I read, Your Sexually Addicted Partner.



Inside was a list of all of my symptoms and then some. Ka Bam! I realized I’m not alone! I’m not "crazy" to feel the way that I do. I was elated! Beyond words. It gave me courage to move into action and not wallow with the people I had chosen to surround myself with. No more Negative Nancy’s for this chick. They were doing more harm than good.



Now it was time to do something about that egg I was trying to keep control off, but what? The hatred of Devin had gone away after the first few days…thank God. So did the desire for revenge, but I was struggling terribly with hypervigilance, anger, guilt, distrust, and my all time favorite: control.



I found that I needed help. I couldn’t travel this road alone. I sought out S-Anon, counseling, shut down my old curse-filled, negative blog and opened up this new one and the rest is history. I found that the egg didn’t need me to hold it together. That sometimes, when we break a few eggs along the way, add ingredients like a healthy recovery, the end result is a beautiful cake.



I only wish I had known that the emotions I’d been experiencing immediately after disclosure and for months afterward were totally normal.



What do you wish you had known?








It’s Not Personal



I’m continuing with my series, After Disclosure. My previous post was on Compartmentalization. If anyone would like to suggest a topic, please feel free to post it in the comment section or send me an email and rest assured, you will remain anonymous.

This week I’m going to try to tackle a topic that was very hard for me to wrap my head around: It’s Not Personal.

Sex addiction isn’t about the sex. That’s what they tell you when you go in and meet a C-SAT (Certified-Sex Addiction Counselor) for the first time. It’s an intimacy disorder. Um, what? It’s got the word sex in the name, how can it not be about sex? Was this doctor we were seeing off his rocker? Was he really certified in this crap? Then, to top it off, my husband was telling me it wasn’t personal: the porn, the online affairs, the chat rooms, even the two encounters he had with women in person…none of it meant a thing to him.

How was this even remotely possible? Because I had been stuck in such a state of hypervigilance for so long (I don’t recommend this for anyone because you can’t un-see what you find), I knew that some of those online affairs had lasted for a year or more. How was that not personal? Yet, he insisted he had no feelings for any of the women he’d been involved with. Of course my immediate reply was B.S. You can’t talk to anyone for that long, in that way, and not feel something.

Still, he continued to insist he felt nothing. That the women were merely objects to him. It wasn’t until I sat down with him one day and we went over what I dubbed, “The List.” It had all the women’s names and information on an Excel spreadsheet. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly in a healthy place after disclosure. I mean, who would be, right? I had Relational Trauma. I had PTSD from this mess. 

Each cell on the list contained what transpired between the woman and Devin. When a question popped into my head, out came The List and the interrogation between us began. And Devin put up with it because he was doing anything to try to repair our broken marriage.

During one such discussion, I asked him about a woman he’d exchanged emails with for a few months. The emails were pages long. I felt he must’ve invested hours thinking of her while he composed them. When I asked about her, he couldn’t remember her name at all. We were at a point after disclosure where there was no reason for him to hold back anything. I already knew the worst of everything, so I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t be forthcoming about a person’s name. Then, I gave him her email address. Light bulb moment. That’s how he remembered her. Her email address. Just another email in his inbox. And he didn’t spend a ton of time on the emails. They’d been cut and pasted from somewhere.

Now it was my light bulb moment. He really didn’t put any emotional investment into these women. They were a means to an end. A way for him continue to numb his emotions the way I numbed mine with drugs before I got sober. It started to make a bit of sense that this disease truly was an intimacy disorder despite the name it had been given.

It allowed me to start to see the things he’d done in our marriage in a new light. Yes, the pain was still there, but it helped me gain a better perspective on his disease. The escalation of his addiction had caused him to do some damaging things, but now it was time to learn how to heal from that betrayal.

Have you ever had a profound light bulb moment?






Compartmentalization


 

I recently found a new site (more info on it when I’ve had time to settle in on it), and it got me thinking…I know, how scary is that? Me thinking. There were so many questions I had about sex addiction after Devin’s disclosure, but I didn’t know who to ask, or even what I needed to know.

I decided that I’m going to do a series of posts called After Disclosure. If anyone would like to suggest a topic, please feel free to post it in the comment section or send me an email and rest assured, you will remain anonymous.

My first topic in the series is compartmentalization. Big word. And it should be because it plays a big part in the addiction. Sometimes, compartmentalization can be a good thing. Like keeping work separate from home. But when it's done to live a secret life...well, not so much.

The definition from The Meadows, a treatment center in Arizona, defines it as:

“When someone has a sexual addiction they "compartmentalize" their feelings and behaviors which means that they categorize the feelings, behaviors and thoughts and try to keep them separate. They may get up in the morning and have breakfast with you and the kids, get ready for work and then have every intention to "be good" and not "act out" that day. The second that you leave... the addict takes over and convinces the person that looking at porn just this one time won't hurt anyone and the addictive cycle begins. Two hours later the addict runs off to work and tries to be the good employee he/she wanted to be. The only way they can tolerate their behavior is to tell themselves that they are still a good spouse, or employee and simultaneously they feel self-hate and shame.”

Then the cycle begins yet again.
 
For me, it was difficult to wrap my head around the fact that my husband could kiss me goodbye, and then spend hours looking at porn, chatting with women online, or when his addiction really escalated, meet up with someone, and then come home to me as if nothing were amiss.

It was only in hindsight, and with months of recovery under my belt, that I was able to see that that wasn’t quite true. There were red flags. Nothing that screamed, “Hey, Elsie, I’m having online affairs!” Rather, warning signs that our marriage was in deep trouble.

That compartmentalization changed him. He was no longer the happy, go-lucky guy I married just a few short years before. He was distant, angry, and isolated himself from everyone. A dark cloud had settled over our home. I just didn’t know the storm coming was sex addiction.

The only way I was able to finally understand compartmentalization was by comparing his addiction to my own. Otherwise, I was constantly taking his addiction personally. Who could blame me? It was personal. It was hard not to compare myself to the other women, but every time I did, I came away hurt and with less self-esteem than when I started, and when your self-worth is on the floor, you don’t have much further to sink.

So when I began to use my own addiction to empathize with his addiction, it helped me make a bit more sense of everything. It gave me something to grasp on to, even if it was tiny, and it reminded me that he didn’t wake up thinking, “How can I hurt Elsie today?” Because I never woke up thinking, “How can I break my dad’s heart today?”

I never intended to hurt people while I was active in my drug addiction, yet I did just that. I lied. I manipulated. I blame-shifted. I also recovered and made amends to those I hurt along the way. I felt I should give Devin the same chance.

He had to learn that while he had been compartmentalizing for all those years, what he’d really been doing was lying to himself. If he could accept that and make the changes he needed to make, than I could walk beside him while he recovered and I’m so grateful that he did.

Compartmentalization still showed herself a few times after disclosure. She’s a sneaky little thing and was difficult to break free of, but with time and a good recovery, eventually she finally went away.

Do you compartmentalize anything in a healthy way? Like work and home?