Recently–like 6 days ago–my husband took a trip to Las Vegas for a work conference.
I went bat-shit crazy.
I say that with all the love to myself, but it’s honestly what happened.
He and I have a history, as most couples do. We went through some bad times where my trust was compromised by his actions. Together, we decided to stick it out and did couples counseling before we married (which was also after we had kids, got a dog, and grew a garden…we’re nontraditional forever). I thought this issue had been addressed enough in counseling together, that i was “fixed.” Ha!
Long story short, we’ve known about Vegas since he started residency almost three years ago, but the reality of him going didn’t sink in until a few months ago, at which point all my regressed feelings that I thought I had “fixed” came up, especially when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to go with him any longer because, ya know, those kids we have.
As the time until Vegas became less, I became crazier. I was creating fights and anger in our marriage. I threw (we threw) the “D” word (divorce) around like it was magic glitter that would surely fix our problems. We yelled, stomped, threw things. I/we created severe unhappiness in our relationship. During this time, I had gone off my anti-depressant and gone back on when i realized my body couldn’t handle it, so that made the situation even more ridiculous. I was getting angry over everything. I was cold every time he touched me. He was beginning to hate me.
Finally, I returned to my therapist after a year hiatus. She talked me through coping mechanisms to deal with this trauma that I had never addressed. I was feeling good about things, even though we were still rocky, i had all these tools in my tool belt to go to that would work without a glitch. WRONG!
He left for Vegas. I ugly cried. Despite filling my days with friends and activities and having people to reach out to, I got depressed. The filled space wasn’t the problem, it was the empty space and the idea that my husband was in Vegas and he could be doing something that would hurt me.
***REWIND: He cheated on me seven years ago–that is what i’m referring to when i say “our history.” I was taking care of the kids in a snow storm and he was at the bar he was managing sleeping with another woman. It was a one time thing, but the way that it happened left me unglued and extremely hurt. Now, here I was at home with the kids and, although he has changed and is a much different person, I was faced with those feelings of betrayal from our past. He was in a place where drinking was happening, where partying was happening, and I couldn’t control anything.
My therapist told me the only thing I can control is the way I think. I can’t control him or what he does. She also told me trust is a choice we make. Daily, I had to choose to trust him in Vegas and most days I chose to not trust him and then chose to trust him over and over again. I had no control when he stayed out until 4 a.m and gambled and drank (because he was in Vegas–that’s what happens). I had no control when he didn’t have cell service and didn’t text me immediately back. I had no control. So, when I had down time to think, I had to think. I had to be in my thoughts and I had to handle them. I couldn’t binge and purge, I couldn’t drink away the problem, I couldn’t rely on him to pacify me by coming home right that second. I had to sit and deal.
It was fucking hard. I ugly cried. I shook. I had to sit there and face my fear and choose to trust, but not trust. I slept. I processed ugly, defeatist scenarios. It was like when i first stopped binging and purging for the first time and had to essentially feel my food. It was uncomfortable and icky. I really can’t describe this feeling with words, but it was like when you see a werewolf turn in a movie: this uncomfortable, painful, intrusive, happening where, when the werewolf turns, another evil, ugly being is forcing its way out of the human form, probably like this. This really ugly creature called anxiety and panic was coming out of me and I had to let it happen. I had to completely fall apart and sit with it. Thankfully, the kids were asleep and when i ugly cry, it is what it sounds like–this wretched ugly face, but really no sound. My werewolf came out. It was angry. It was ugly. It said really mean things to my husband. It felt defeat and hurt. It was a deep, pit-of-your-belly pain. My bones ached. I thought to myself this is an anxiety attack. This is a depressive episode. I haven’t felt this since I was 19 or 20 and at that time , I turned to sex, alcohol, or binging and purging, so I never actually felt it like this. I was feeling it now though and it was messy.
Then I had this moment of calm and picked up the letter my husband had hidden in the book I was reading before he left. I reread it. It said, “I love you. I am yours. You are my everything.” Then I remembered the letter I wrote him that said, “I trust you.” I began to breathe and calm down. I didn’t address the feelings. I just went to bed. The next day, I journaled before taking the kids to school and then hiked with my friend for the rest of the day. We hiked over 12 miles and didn’t stop talking the entire time. It was amazing. I talked about what happened and was able to be my own observer and rationalize. I saw myself breaking down and then I saw myself beginning to close a wound ever so slightly–just one stitch at at time and only one stitch that day. I saw progress in the middle of a breakdown. What I didn’t see was my husband letting me down. He called me when he got to his room to let me know, although drunk, he was safe and faithful. What I saw was, although frustrated by my messages to him, he still loved me and accepted me for what I was going through and told me he was sorry I was having such a bad day. What I saw was that I don’t have to repress my feelings anymore. That it’s okay to sit in the muck and grow from that–like the lotus flower. That night I grew a little and I began to kill off some old demons. I saw my werewolf change back to human with grace. I didn’t see the bottom of a bottle, or the porcelain of a toilet. I didn’t see a stranger in bed next to me questioning what had happened. It wasn’t perfect. I did create ugly scenarios. I did get mad at my husband for no reason. I did become irrational. I didn’t resort to poor choices, though. I worked through what was happening.
It made me think, “what the hell have I been pushing down for so long?!” Sitting there, in your shit, in the mess you think is happening is okay. Working through it is okay. The truth is that no matter how messy it is, if you work through it, you are still alive at the end. You are still being true to yourself. I was and am lighter because I am no longer carrying those feelings anymore. I held space for myself. I didn’t numb the pain. I let go. Holy moly, I let go. I made a choice to work through something and then made a choice to be happy about the progress. I chose. I had control over my thoughts, even if it was a process. I let go of control everywhere else. Damn it, did it feel good.
I know it’s a long road ahead, dealing with this. I know my husband will travel a lot for his job. I am willing to work through it. I know it won’t be easy. I know this to be true, though: If I keep working through this and we continue to love each other, good things will happen–even through the bad.