You Need to Take Care of the Basics, and That’s You
One of the things that I know is that you are in a crisis state, whether you’ve just discovered that your spouse has been sexually betraying you by cheating or being unfaithful. Perhaps he has been looking at pornography compulsively, participating in activities that don’t match your values. Whether you’re at the beginning of discovery, or you’re in the midst of your healing, the most important thing that you’ve got to remember is you have to take care of you.
Now I know that’s really hard to do when your brain is thinking about him and what he’s doing and what he might not be doing. It is normal to monitor his recovery. You so badly want assurance and reassurance that he will do the right thing. Yet, this kind of situation takes a real toll on your heart, your mind, and your soul. The anecdote for this kind of damage is Intentional Self Care!
I want you to treat yourself like you are your very best friend. When you’re dealing with this kind of stress, you need to put together a safety plan that keeps you in check, that keeps you feeling hopeful, that gets you fit and strong and helps you physicalize the energy that you feel running through your veins every day of your life. You did not sign up for this, you had no idea that this person could betray you in such a way. You feel so confused and you no longer feel like you.
In part, that is because betrayal trauma takes charge of every single cell in your body. It changes the cellular structure of your cells. So, what you’ve got to do is really work diligently on some of the basics.
You may not feel like eating, but you need to eat anyway. They call it “gut brain” when your gut becomes the second brain that registers and processes trauma. Many women end up with ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and indigestion, so I want you to eat. If you find yourself doing the opposite and nervously eating, then I want you to look at your diet and tell yourself that you won’t give him the power to make you feel crazy, to make you feel like you need to feed something that you’re not getting emotionally. So eating is a very important component to self-care.
Get Regular Sleep
Look at your sleep patterns because more than likely your sleep is very interrupted. You might be depressed and coping by sleeping. More often than not, I see partners who are overly activated, and they can’t stop the racing thoughts, and they have panic attacks, and as a result they can’t sleep. Get yourself on a sleep schedule. If you have to lie there for hours, I want you to stay still, because it’s so important to train your brain to calm down.
It may be that you need some pharmaceutical help. I’m not a big proponent of medication, but what I know to be true is that oftentimes a good trauma psychiatrist can help give you some medicines that can calm the body down so that you feel more grounded and resourced and able to handle this problem. So get yourself to a good trauma psychiatrist to help you get the right kind of medications that you’re going to need until you feel more stabilized.
We really advocate that you do some mindfulness, some yoga, some meditation, some praying; something that also slows the body down long enough for you to really reflect on what your needs are and what you need to do. That is so important, because if you don’t take care of yourself and learn how to slow things down, you’re going to age 10 years in about three months because betrayal trauma causes post-traumatic stress. When you feel post-traumatic stress, you’re emotionally deregulated, you may go into numbing or avoiding, you may go into that fight, flight, or freeze mode that puts you in situations that you would have never imagined.
I want you to know that as a partner trauma specialist, I recognize the trauma and devastation that you are feeling. You may feel the situation is hopeless. But in reality, it can be hopeful. You can feel safe again.
Understand Betrayal Trauma
I’m here to remind you to take care of some of those basic needs. Read some books on trauma or read some books on sexual addiction. The two that I recommend are from the former president of APSATS, the organization I work for, Barbara Steffens, called My Sexually Addicted Spouse. Then my colleague, Dr. Sheri Keffer, just came out with Intimate Deception, and that book helps people get through the crisis and know that they’re not alone.
I want you to sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and look at your needs; your emotional needs, your spiritual needs, your social needs, your intellectual needs, your physical needs, and then eventually we’ll get to your purposeful needs. When you can meet those needs, you’ll be on the way to feeling whole again and that is Intentional Self Care!