I told the psychologist my story, or at least what could be told in 50 minutes. At least the parts that I haven’t blocked out.
“I think that a trauma-based framework is the best way to look at your therapy,” she said.
Of course, I thought. I am feeling the PTSD lately. It has arrived again, and I can not budge it, no matter how much I tell my friends that I’m okay – even when I agree with them that I have nothing to worry about. Intellectually perhaps they are right. But the PTSD is stronger than intellect: it gets inside my chest and heart and flows out through my body to my fingertips and toes and the top of my head. It tells me that there is danger out there again and that I need to be hyper vigilant. I can’t let history repeat itself. I need to watch out. I’m scared. A lot.
Along these lines, I mentioned casually to the therapist that Ex is on the Ashley Madison lists – certainly one of his more innocent online activities, actually – and that I was worried about my children finding out.
She asked me why I went and found the list in the first place to look for him. And immediately I knew I was in trouble. Fifty minutes into therapy and already I was showing her that I’m probably certifiable, still snooping on my Ex.
I admitted that I had developed a long history of snooping during the later years of my marriage, always trying to locate and identify the danger and betrayal that I knew were lurking out there. I told her about the years of gaslighting, rug-sweeping, and time after time when I accused my Ex of doing something he was doing, only to end up apologizing to him the next day after he convinced me I was wrong and crazy.
I told her briefly about my three-year divorce in which I peeled away layer and layer of deceit and dangerous activities by my Ex that could put myself and my children in terrible danger. I described how it never ended: every time I thought he couldn’t do anything worse, he did.
“You once needed to do that snooping,” she said. “Your brain developed coping mechanisms that served you and your children well during those dangerous times. They protected you.”
“But now your life is different, and your brain needs to develop new patterns.”
“What you did by looking up those AM lists is re-traumatize yourself.”
I sit up straighter. I realize that’s exactly what I have done. I immediately regret it.
“We want to teach your brain to be quiet. Peaceful,” she said. “I think this is what you should be working towards.”
A peaceful brain, a peaceful mind, a peaceful life. Wow, I think. She just described the exact opposite of living with an addict, an NPD, a sociopath. They create chaos and conflict and danger wherever they go, and all innocent people around them get swept up too. This is what I know: this is the PTSD.
I have been working so hard towards the peaceful life since my divorce. I have come so far, it’s amazing. But I didn’t make the connection. Peace doesn’t come from the safe home, the orderly house, the easy job. It comes from within.