OMG did I need help?! That has to be the under-statement of the year. I actually looked the word “help” up in the dictionary to see what it was I actually needed and nodded along to every single definition. I needed assistance to accomplish a task, satisfy a need and to contribute strength. I needed to be saved and I needed something to make this easier. My God, I needed something to make this easier. Is help out there? The short answer, YES, yes it is, however, did it make things easier? Not as much as I wanted it to, but yes it did, did it contribute strength, at times, yes, did it save me, sometimes yes it did and did it assist in accomplishing a task, absolutely, but it’s taken close to 18 months (and still counting), so even with help don’t think there can be any short cuts, as through this level of pain, there really isn’t any to be had.
This situation was completely and utterly new to me. Yes, I had experienced infidelity as a child and I saw what it did to a family, but I wasn’t a betrayed wife. I didn’t have my life pulled from underneath me in the same way. I didn’t have the awareness that I have now. It was like being thrown to the wolves, literally. Although maybe not thrown, more teleported instantly, in the blink of an eye from life as you know it, to being surrounded by fierce animals frothing at the mouth and drooling at the thought of ripping you to pieces. Wondering how the fuck you got there, utterly paralysed with fear, wide eyed and frightened, frantically scanning the horizon for something, anything to use as a lifeline. I had no idea what I was up against, how bad it would be and how long it would go on for, absolutely none. As I have written about before, my views of cheating were very stereotypical. Very black and white. Obviously I knew it was very upsetting and devastating, but I had no clue about the intense physical reverberations, excessive emotional overwhelm or the powerful manifestations of shock and trauma. So, I repeat, OMG did I need help? Yes, I fucking did and looking for it consumed me.
Help, for me, came in so many different guises. Instantly on hand, because they were there at disclosure, were my sisters. Bloody amazing they were. When you literally feel your legs crumble away from underneath you, it truly is the best feeling ever when someone independently catches you. It’s like falling into a crash mat you didn’t know was there. Supportive, non-judgemental, helpful, sensible and just wonderful. “Whatever happens, we’ll face it as a family and you’re going to be ok,” my sister said to me the morning after it all broke, through a very tearful hug. We were both crying. They were there on the end of a phone or text whenever I needed. They listened to me rant, cry, scream and swear. They spoke sense to me and were just there every step of the way. They also, despite what they had seen me go through, respected my choice to stay without judgement, forgave my husband and made it easier for us to all move on together without resentment or animosity. Considering they are very independent, outspoken women and their sister had been hurt in such a horrendous way, that meant a great deal to both of us. The morning after it all came out my husband didn’t even want to get in a car with one of them he felt so uncomfortable about what had just been revealed, so having their forgiveness and acceptance was pretty huge.
The friends I turned to were also wonderful. I feel very blessed to have such great people in my life. Nine times out of ten the question after they picked their jaw up off the floor and asked if I was ok, was what do you need or how can I help? Again, no judgement, just sincere concern for all of us. They took the kids for me at a moment’s notice when I was losing the plot and needed to get on a plane ASAP, they helped fend off questions about why I was suddenly moving, took me to pick up hire cars, listened to me for hours try to make sense of what was happening, told me I was doing the right thing and rallied round like awesome friends do when the chips are down. There really is nothing more efficient and effective than women when something important needs to be done. They appear from nowhere and shit just happens. They are swift, selfless and super-fucking-awesome.
If you are anything like me and feel totally out of your depth and overwhelmed it’s really important to get help from people who know more about this than you do, not just friends. Choose who you speak to carefully. As wonderful as they are, friends can be biased and subjective. They also might not be speaking from personal experience and even if they are, their situation and how they felt about that is totally different to yours. Some people have very strong stereotypical views on this topic, as I did before this happened to me, and their advice may not be realistic or as helpful as they think. I had my childhood experiences and one or two good friends who this had happened to and would’ve spoken like I knew what was the best thing to do, but I hold my hands up to being totally clueless. I felt completely exposed in no man’s land without a map and absolutely no idea where to go.
My first port of call were books. I'm a bit old school and books are always my reliable goto option. Reading, reading, reading became my saviour. I ordered a few books on my Kindle and instantly had somewhere to turn. Very helpful, very informative, very eye-opening, very clear. Concurrent to this I scoured the Internet. The first time I found an article that described how I was feeling I cried with relief and sent it to my husband.
It was the first time I realised I wasn’t going crazy and what I was experiencing was normal and expected. If I tried to explain it myself, it sounded hysterical and over the top, but actually reading it written by someone else seemed to be received a lot better. After this I found websites, blogs, Facebook groups and more books. I devoured information about affairs. Several of the experts I found including Peggy Vaughn and Anne Bercht recommend educating yourself and finding out about the anatomy of affairs. One of the most common causes of distress, in this situation, is not knowing. Not knowing what went on, not knowing the reality of the situation, not knowing what you’re dealing with, not knowing the characteristics and nature of affairs. So much of it simply doesn’t make sense because it’s not driven by rationality, so your brain tries to fill in the gaps, which is dangerous as it can make things far worse. I needed to feel heard, I needed to feel understood, I needed to understand and I needed some kind of path to follow. Knowledge is definitely power. It helped my brain catch up with the shock and bewilderment of where I had found myself, but in this situation it’s definitely a process. AffairRecovery.com was amazing. I spent hours on this website watching videos and reading articles. So much information on every single topic you can think of. Bite-sized, clear, empathetic and accurate. Highly recommend it to anyone in this situation. A fabulous resource for both unfaithful and betrayed spouses.
All this information was fantastic at educating me, which definitely helped my brain start to understand and process what I had be thrown into the middle of, but they weren’t as helpful at dealing with the astronomical emotional, physical and mental consequences of it. Again, I would absolutely, without hesitation recommend turning to professionals who know more about this stuff than you do. However, as with everything this is also very subjective. Finding someone who you resonate with, respect enough and trust is very important. I had a very disturbing experience looking for help, which did not help in the slightest. Just before I moved to join my husband, I had another week with him. This week was spent organising cars, houses and anything else we needed. While I was there I decided to try and be proactive and seek out some help. Get something set up for myself for when I arrived two weeks later. So I went to the offices designated for support services on the camp. I spoke to a very nice lady who I hadn't met before. She was very kind, very understanding and very sympathetic. She assured me support was absolutely available and all I needed to do was speak to Bob*(*name change) who was the main counsellor. He wasn't there right then but she would pass on my details. To cut a long story short, it turned out that the affair partner was already accessing this support service with Bob as he was the only person based at this camp, and he already knew about this situation. I immediately didn't want the support, for obvious reasons and was told an alternative option could be arranged for me, I just had to speak to Bob. At this point, I didn't know who he was, I hadn't seen him, he was just a name. When I was introduced my throat felt like it fell out the bottom of my stomach and I very nearly threw up on the floor in front of me.
I had met him the previous summer when I was there for a month on holiday with the kids. He had given us a lift at the airport. As the door opened, it took me a nano second to realise this, but it was a nanosecond too little too late. I was mortified. I wanted to be anonymous. I didn't want people knowing who I was. I wanted the floor to swallow me up, I wanted to rewind and erase that moment completely. An intense feeling of embarrassment, shame and stupidity flooded over me. I got this overwhelming sensation of being a silly teenager arguing over a boy at school. Humiliated and alone. Like she already had her claws into everyone and I hadn't even got there yet. Like everyone was going to believe her and I had no one. No friends, no allies, no one fighting my corner. My legs almost went beneath me and I had to hold on to the side to steady me. I just wanted to be sick. The tears tumbled automatically, from nowhere. I couldn't breathe. Bob encouraged me to sit down. I remember mumbling to myself shaking my head "How did I get here? How did I get here?" It was all so surreal, so uncontrollable and NOTHING to do with me. I was being swept along in this tsunami, thrown into the current against my will. God, I felt so fucking stupid. WTF was I doing there? I was moving my children there, FFS. Bob started gently asking me questions and the tears turned to rage. Then he mentioned my husband's name, without me even acknowledging who I was or even mentioning my name or my husband at all. It made it all so real. He knew. Everyone knew. What had been said about me? What did they know I didn't? What spin had she put on it? The embarrassment magnified a million times over and morphed into anger. The defence mechanism kicked in with a vengeance and I was suddenly so angry. Everyone fucking already knew and it was just me by myself. On the inside I wanted someone to see me, someone to hear me, someone to see how disgusting and despicable they had been to me, someone to see my pain, my side, stick up for me. I didn't want impartial sympathisers, I wanted supporters. Someone to help me. All of this felt so clear on the inside, but on the outside it translated into crazed out of control, spitting rage. I couldn't get my words out straight, I was raging. It was horrendous. I was so distraught, so lost, so desperate. I just lashed out and stormed off. No, that attempt at help, definitely did not help, although they did organise me some support from elsewhere.
As my mental well-being began to deteriorate after I moved to join my husband, my next form of help came from the mental health services. By the time I came here I was desperate and my mental state was in bad shape. I was plagued with intrusive thoughts and visions. Vivid involuntary flashbacks and images of things I hadn’t even seen. Haunting, gut wrenching scenarios of the two of them together. It was because of this I was referred some EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing treatment, which I would also highly recommend. I talk about it in This Really Is The F*%king P.I.T.S. Even though this was another helpful element, to really assist me navigate through, and deal with, the immense pain and extreme emotions I was experiencing, I felt I needed something else. As helpful as the counselling and mental health was in terms of checking in with me regularly and giving me something to get up for, I just felt they weren’t even touching the sides of what I needed. I had never experienced anything so extreme in my life before and had this desire for something more. The sympathy and support were great, and don’t get me wrong I am not knocking that in the slightest, but it wasn’t enough.
The only person I knew who could deal with this, in the way I felt I needed, who I trusted enough was Richi. I have had two very serious emotional upsets in my life, this being one of them, and he is the person (or his wife) I turned to for both. Trust was a very important thing here, and not just because of the obvious betrayal I had just experienced. It wasn’t just Richi's integrity I could trust, it was his knowledge, his skill at what he does and that my best interests would be his complete focus. I absolutely knew that my well-being and healing was his utmost priority and he would do his very best for me. I knew that he took my trust in him very seriously and would look after it. I knew his approach suited what I was looking for and it went beyond anything the mental health services were able to offer me. I also knew he wouldn’t sugarcoat anything or agree with me just because I was struggling. He would call me out if he needed to, challenge me and push me just enough to create the transformative healing I was desperate for.
The first time we spoke was so emotional. It was the first time in about four or five months that I really felt some hope. I had been feeling so alone, so broken and so lost. The emotional flooding was horrific and unbelievably debilitating. My husband was struggling in his own way and on a completely different path to me. I was questioning everything that was true to me and everything I knew hung in the balance, my family, my marriage, my future. I was hopelessly wandering about in that no man’s land I keep referring to, with no direction whatsoever, just about to give up and let myself succumb to the onslaught around me. This was a tiny bit of light and a familiar, reassuring voice far off in the distance. Really far off, but enough to give me that glimmer of hope (please pardon the cliche), something to follow, something to trust in this expanse of darkness and threats. It's very hard to express what that felt like. Relief doesn’t quite get there and my trusty thesaurus is not really offering me much more. It’s like being saved from a great white shark that you have been watching circling you for hours, helpless, terrified, so desperate you’re praying for a miracle and just when you’re bracing yourself for the jaws of oblivion, a hand reaches down and pulls you out at the last second and tells you, you’re safe.