When a person undergoes such a deep traumatic event — the betrayal of a loved one’s trust — in such a circumstance as mine, there are two realizations that occur. These realizations came so quickly for me, and destroyed me to a point where I couldn’t feel anything in the moment. I simply felt dreadfully numb.
The first gut wrenching realization was the betrayal itself. My fiancé had been searching for pornography, a week prior to our wedding. I felt like I’d been cheated on. It changed my entire relationship with him, including all the happy memories we had shared in the past. It made me feel worthless and unlovable. It made me feel like it was all my fault, and if I would have just done one thing or another differently, I could have changed something. The betrayal itself cut like a knife, but the second realization cut even harder.
My second realization was that someone I loved and cared for deeply had been expertly lying to me for the entire length of our relationship, and possibly longer, since we had been friends for so long. All at once, I was with a stranger instead of the person I thought I knew so well. In an instant I could never trust those lying eyes ever again. In order to lie to somebody you spend such large amounts of time with, it takes expertise, thought and effort to hide such a big secret. So not only did he lie, but he planned carefully how to lie to get away with it. And not once did it ever cross his mind how much that would hurt me. That fact stung. It stung deep, and it stung hard. All I ever wanted in a relationship was honesty, and it quickly occurred to me the only honesty I’d known at that point was fake.
Neither of these deep realizations felt real to me at first. I woke up every morning thinking maybe it was just a sick joke and tomorrow would be better and back to “normal.” It seemed so unreal to me, and I didn’t know how I was ever going to live my life without him, or without my “happy wedding” going through. Along with everything else I was feeling, I felt dreadful loneliness deeper than I’ve ever felt before, or that I’ve ever felt since.
These intense feelings lasted for quite some time, and there were days I wondered if I had lost my mind, or my sanity… or both. Nothing seemed to make complete sense to me as I was forced to navigate functioning in this cold and distant reality while everyone else went on with their lives. I felt stuck as I learned that navigating this trauma was something I had to take one day at a time.
The first signs of healing were the greatest blessing to me. The first signs of healing were like a massive weight being lifted off my shoulders by some Power beyond my own. That first taste of healing came in the form of less tears and a clearer mind. I had finally lost the constant feeling of needing to scream all the time, and that elephant that was sitting on me finally left. When that occurred, the tightness in my throat and the constant nausea lifted, and I felt incredibly thankful. The first bits of relief made me feel like I’d been delivered into a place where I could function in the present again, and I began to find myself and navigate my new skin. What I didn’t know was that navigating my new skin would not be an easy task.
I didn’t even know I had shed an old skin. I felt awkward and uncomfortable most of the time, and I didn’t completely understand why. I felt vulnerable, and as I learned to navigate my new skin that vulnerability beamed a little too brightly.
First, I found myself talking too much. Up until then I’d spent most of my life like a little mouse too afraid to say anything in fear of “rocking the boat,” or “offending someone.” Now, as if in one fell swoop, I couldn’t get myself to stop speaking my mind. It’s like I woke up one day and realized I had intelligent things to say, and then I resolved to not let anything stop me from saying them. I had a story to tell, and I was going to tell everyone who was willing to listen. I rolled the events in my life over in my head a million times, and as a result, I probably rolled those thoughts over to a half a dozen random people. Some of those people left deep hand-prints on my heart as they played an incredibly important role in my healing process, simply because they were willing to listen. Some are now my closest friends, to which I’m thankful for that unique time in my life.
After this odd phase of grief, I went through what I felt at the time was a relapse. I spent many long nights crying myself to sleep, grieving over what I’d lost, and trying to keep silent about it because I didn’t want to burden anyone with my past pain. I told myself it was in the past, and I had no reason to be hurting this greatly now. I learned later what I was experiencing was completely normal, and you don’t just overcome trauma in a few months time.
Believe it or not, that phase of grief passed as well, and little by little I started to feel like myself again. That brings us to the here and now. It’s been one year, and I feel like a completely different person. It’s funny how pain increases your capacity to feel both the good and the bad…
I am now driven to tears so much easier than I used to be.
When others express their pain to me, I quite literally can feel their pain.
Fear is a constant companion of mine.
The thought of opening my heart up to someone again makes me feel sick and panicky.
I almost always feel suspicious of the people around me that I don’t know.
The walls around my heart are stronger than ever and it’s going to take a miracle to break them down.
I don’t trust people. I just don’t.
The problem with walls is that the resolve to have such a strong defense is lonely and isolating. But it’s so much easier to resolve to never love again because if I stay on my own, I don’t have to fear the cost of betrayal, or the cost of a broken heart. Such dilemmas as this are not things I will even pretend to have figured out, because I have not. But… I do know that with the negative impact there have also been blessings…
I have discovered my strong will and determination to stand for what’s right.
I now found the courage to speak my mind and the temperance to hold my tongue when necessary.
I have a new sense of resilience that rests in my heart at all times.
I have recognized that after such a deep wound to the heart comes the greater capacity to love those around me.
I have also identified the need that everybody has for compassion and the great ability I have to offer that love and compassion to those in my life who are going through difficult things.
I have gained a greater faith and hope in God’s plan for me and for His eternal perspective of my life’s purpose.
My trust in people may be slim to none, but my trust in God has increased tenfold and continues to sustain me through the pains I still sometimes suffer from.
Betrayal trauma is real. It’s long term effects are real. And the pain it causes is real. As a victim of betrayal trauma, you have every right to feel your pain at it’s true capacity. And then once you’ve recognized the true capacity of that pain, it gives you the power to be able to shed it and then create something beautiful out of it.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Claire Dalton, author of ‘I’m THAT girl that spent 6 months with a ring on her finger. That girl that planned an entire wedding, only to find out a week prior it was all a lie.’ This is part II of her series where she addresses the long-term impact of understanding her betrayal trauma.
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