As part of my Summer Healing Project, I asked people online to share their experiences of healing and overcoming trauma. The below is a brave and honest guest blog from an anonymous author. I would encourage you to have a read and think about how other people's stories can help you on your own journey.
Sharing our experiences of trauma is part of the healing process and I would like to thank this author for being vulnerable and sharing hers with us.
My husband and I had been having problems in our marriage for quite some time. For many months, doubt for my feelings for him had been creeping in. I took complete responsibility for this for many months, and only after three years was I able to see clearly why my feelings had changed. This blog isn’t about the ins and outs of my marriage breakdown – it’s about how I healed from the trauma that arose from such a massive, lifechanging event.
I buried my changing feelings for a very long time. By the time I finally admitted them to myself, my self-trust was decimated and I was physically and mentally exhausted. Naively, I thought the worst of the pain would pass once I had finally shared my feelings with my husband and decided to move on. Not so; rather than acknowledging my position, he went into denial and literally tried to brainwash me into not feeling the way I did. And it worked – or it certainly delayed the inevitable. Over the three-year period that followed, I had to explain everything so many times, to him, and to the three counsellors I saw in succession who I hoped could brainwash me into NOT knowing that I'd fallen out of love with my husband. I guess it’s no wonder that I tried to anaesthetise myself with food and wine – I was literally consuming my own feelings.
I look at the photos of myself now and see how much pain I was in. I was bloated and pale, and in constant fight or flight mode. I remember so clearly the blind panic I felt at the catastrophe I was about to inflict on my husband and son. Lying to myself made it easier, and I did a great job of it, but wow it took some energy. We had work done on the house, we tried for a longed-for second baby (I fell pregnant but lost the baby 11 weeks later) and we had numerous ‘make or break’ holidays and mini breaks. The inevitable happened in November 2014 when I knew with absolute certainty that I couldn’t continue in my marriage without compromising my sanity and health.
Eventually, the mortification, desolation and guilt of calling time on my marriage brought with it an intense relief. I started to feel glimmers of hope that I’d finally be able to live as my authentic self. Discovering who I was and wondering what the ‘real me’ would look like was very exciting.
One of the very first steps I took was to join a local gym. At first, I was a wreck. I remember my first gym visit. I looked like absolute shit! I didn’t even have a sports bra – let alone any decent gym wear – and I wore cheap leggings, battered trainers and one of my ex-husband’s t-shirts. I felt like such a mess when the instructor showed me around. But it was amazing how quickly I got into it, and slowly my health began to improve. Looking back, it was so profound. I discovered body combat and found it so therapeutic that I based my week around the classes! I used to find its aggressive nature so cathartic and cleansing and the music so euphoric that I’d nearly be in tears (does that sound completely ridiculous?!). At first, I’d also head down to the showers feeling like I was going to throw up, so unused was my body to exercise.
For so long, there hadn’t seemed to be any point in exercising. Why bother when there were so many huge, insurmountable issues I had no hope of addressing? But just taking that step to improve my health opened so many more doors. I felt like I’d found a passion, and a new aspect of my identity; one that was separate to the ‘me’ that had existed before. It made me want to discover more about myself – after all, now that I was free of my marriage I felt like a blank canvas!
The next development was to adopt a new way of eating. I started to lose a significant amount of weight and was elated. I began to realise that health was something I was really interested in and stimulated by – I fantasized about finally being able to do my own shopping and buy what I wanted. My husband had been very controlling about what we put in the trolley in a bid to keep our costs down. He wouldn’t hear of me doing the ‘big shop’ and would come back with the same, boring foods every time. Everything catered to his bland, traditional tastes.
My first shop when myself and my son finally moved into a new house felt amazing. I felt so free! I could experiment to my heart’s content and discovered that I genuinely enjoyed healthy foods. Shellfish, avocados, pulses, spices, cheeses… the possibilities were endless! And I still love choosing what me and my son are going to eat during the week ahead. It was just another part of the real me - another passion - that slotted into place.
I felt attractive for the first time in so long. I had hated myself during the demise of my marriage, but I started to feel that it was ok to be confident in myself and ok to like myself. I was worth the investment. I was worth looking after. And I felt like a significantly better role model to my son than I had ever been.
Tackling my spiritual health was an equally profound journey, but one which started later and that I’m still on. My first step was addressing the physical realm because I knew it would give me the strength to work deeper. It’s nearly five years since the end of my marriage and I’m only just becoming aware of the amount of work I have to do on myself in order to be part of a happy relationship. Losing the only man I have really loved enough to pursue a relationship with since my marriage break up has highlighted to me that no one is perfect, and that the ability to forgive one another and ourselves is such an important aspect of a happy life. I’m trying to be philosophical about this and take active steps to increase my spiritual health as I now realise that it’s every bit as critical as the physical.
The most important criteria to living healthily has to be peace of mind. If there are big, fundamental issues in your life that aren’t being dealt with, they’re likely to manifest themselves to some degree as an irregularity around food/exercise. And I don’t mean ‘external’ crises – there’ll always be one of those! I mean being at peace with yourself, living authentically and truthfully.
I look back on the old me now and I feel numb. I can’t relate at all to the person I used to be; I can’t put myself inside the old me’s head. But at the same time, I also look at the person I am now - and can’t believe what I’ve done. Actually, I still have a bit of growing to do. But the most important message of all is that regardless of your issues, regardless of what’s going on in your life, if I can become a healthier person, anyone can.