Wednesday, January 22, 2014

D-Day, Trauma, and the Brain-Body Connection

Depending on your age, the term "D-day" may carry different images or significance to you.  The most famous "D-day" was on June 6, 1944.  It was a successful attack on the part of the Allied military, but at a great, great cost.  Thousands upon thousands of lives were lost.  Many of my generation are aware of that awful day, and know it had to do with WW2 - but most of us haven't been directly impacted by it.  

In the military, D-day is a term that represents the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated.  

In the world of the sexual addict's partner, D-day is a term that we have kind of co-opted, and often use to represent the day we discovered our loved one was a sex-addict (D-day = Discovery-day).  It's the beginning of a war, of sorts, for us.  Whether that be a war for recovery, healing, the relationship - or all of the above.

Some of our D-days were early on in the relationship, discovering what we thought was a "small" issue - something that could and would be dealt with - only to have D-day happen again, and again, and again - each time "bigger" or "worse" than the previous D-day.  Others of us have a dramatic D-day, where the enormity of the issue hits us all at once - sometimes accompanied by severe consequences due to our SA's acting out behavior.  Either way, there is much trauma associated with our D-days.

My D-day was three years ago...yesterday.  Mine was of the dramatic variety.  I had no previous knowledge of any addiction, and there were severe consequences.  

When the one year "anniversary" of my D-day was approaching, I was quite aware - probably the whole month of January.  There was a lot of anxiety and pain at the anticipation of the memories of that day.

At the two-year mark, I was still aware as the day was approaching, and still had feelings of apprehension - but this time there was more of a sadness - feelings of loss rather than anxiety and pain.

I don't think about it all to often anymore, so Monday night I was unprepared for the realization that the next day marked the three year anniversary of my D-day. But then, Monday night at our PULSE group, we started talking about the brain-body connection as it relates to trauma.  Kali mentioned a book she had read called, "The Body Remembers".  In summary, it's about how our body remembers traumatic events, and can and does react when we are presented with similar situations other times in life.  It also theorizes that our BODY remembers the "anniversary" of traumatic events, and can cause physical reactions surrounding the anniversary - even if we are not conscious of the anniversary.

As Kali was talking about this, the words she was saying hit me - I'm quite sure I had somewhat of a dumbfounded look on my face!  I realized, in that moment, that the next day (yesterday) was D-day, and maybe that explained why I had been so tense and irritable the last week, and why I was feeling so down.  I had been asking myself (for days leading up to the other night): "Why am I so irritable?"; Monday was my daughter's 13th birthday - and while I had a great time with her and her friends celebrating, there was this underlying sadness that I couldn't put my finger on.  Monday night, I found my answer.

My body, because of the brain-body connection (whole books are written on this topic), went through some serious issues surrounding my D-day: loss of appetite, restless sleep, the inability to stay warm (I kept getting the shakes) - just to name a few.  My body somehow remembers this event, and in the lead-up to the anniversary of my D-day, was pretty much preparing itself to deal with the trauma again.  It's all very scientific and technical, with terms and words I don't know how to pronounce (except Limbic sysmtem, I know that one!).  

The reason I'm sharing this with you is because knowledge = power.  Self-awareness = power.  As I move along this journey and learn things - ESPECIALLY things that can bring peace, healing, and empowerment - I want to share these things with others so that they can find that same peace, healing, and empowerment.

So how do we use this whole trauma and brain-body connection thing?  Well, first of all, to find validation.  No, you are not going crazy.  No, you are not just some hormonal bitch.  And no, you are not over-reacting.  The trauma you went through is very real, and your body remembers.  Second, we use this knowledge by being self-aware and mindful of what our bodies may be telling us.  IF we're going through a time when we're feeling more down than usual, or more irritable than usual, or other unexplained physical symptoms - then we need to pay attention to what else might be going on.  It could be the anniversary of a D-day, or other significant event; it could be that there are things - physical, emotional, or sexual - that are triggering us on a subconscious level; or it could be that our body is reacting to something that just isn't quite right, and it's trying to tell us that something's not right. 

When our body is talking to us in this way, we need to slow ourselves down and do an inventory - go through these different things and see which thing our body might be responding to.  From there - it's all about finding a safe place to process and be loved and supported.  Processing trauma is pretty much the only way to work it through your system - body and mind.  I do want to mention here that if you are struggling with severe physical issues related to your trauma, seek medical attention immediately - do not put this off.  And, if you are staying stuck in places of trauma and pain no matter what you seem to do, please consider seeking therapy.  EMDR is especially useful in relieving trauma.

We don't have to stay stuck in places of pain and trauma.  This is the most important thing I hope comes across in what I'm sharing today.  With knowledge, self-awareness, mindfulness, and processing, we can recognize the cues and listen to our bodies when something's amiss.  We can find relief, healing, and peace from our trauma.  

What about you?  Can you see ways your body has given you cues that something's not right?  Were you able to make the trauma & brain-body connection?  How do you find relief when that happens?  As always, if you can't find someone local to help you process and sort through the mess of loving a SA, please don't hesitate to contact me @  Also check out our website for more helping resources:

Monday, January 13, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons....The Skill of Reframing

Okay, so today I was struggling about what I wanted to blog about.  So often, I draw from what is going on in my daily life for inspiration for this blog.  Nothing was jumping out at me saying, "Write about me, write about me."  And since so much of this journey is cyclical, many of the things I am thinking about/going through I've blogged about recently. So, I searched and searched for inspiration.  (This is where I drop a not-so-subtle hint about you giving me ideas about what I should blog about - What are you going through? What do you want more information about?  What topic are you interested in?)

And then I opened one of the books we use for our women's groups, and a word JUMPED out at me.  No, this is not one of those "one word" deals; this is not my "word for the year". But it is a word that represents a POWERFUL tool for processing and healing.  That word is reframing.  You know that old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"?  Well, that, in essence, is reframing.  

Of course, I'm a nerdy "foodie" girl, so my brain starts going and I'm thinking, "Oh, lemons!!! I could make (disclaimer - someone who's a chef could make) SO much with lemons!!!  

Like these beautiful lemon meringue beauties on the left.  Or this AMAZING lemon vanilla bean creme caramel on the right!  Excuse me for a minute while I wipe up the drool from in front of my computer!  

So, since I can pretty easily think of a lot of ways to use lemons in a positive way, I felt like this wasn't the best example of reframing.  I mean, after all, what I'm talking about using reframing for is in dealing with issues revolving around sex addiction, recovery, and healing.  And it often takes hard work to find ways to reframe what we are going through.  But before I get into that - just what is reframing?

Reframing is defined as a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives.

So, I decided that a better example is rotten lemons. Yes - gross, moldy lemons.  Now THIS is more like it! What the heck can one do with rotten lemons? Similarly, what can WE do with, oh, say, dealing with a broken heart?  How do we reframe that?

I did a little bit of searching and for the most part - if life gives you rotten lemons, then all you can do is throw them in the compost bin and make fertilizer.  HOWEVER - if you're willing to be patient, read up on the "how to's", and do a little work - you can actually make penicillin.  Fun? No. Glamorous?  Definitely not.  What you were hoping for or wanted when you bought or grew those lemons? Uh, duh! (as my almost 13 year-old would say).  Not even. But penicillin is a medicine - it's something that can actually be helpful to your healing (unless, of course, you're allergic).  This is reframing!  And there's power in reframing!  

Let's say you went to the market and bought a bag of lemons.  Unbeknownst to you, in the middle of the bag were a bunch of rotten lemons.  You couldn't see them.  They were hidden from sight.  So you get home and put your lemons in your pantry, planning on making some amazing lemon delight in a few days for your party over the weekend.  A few days later, you go to your pantry to retrieve the lemons and SURPRISE - your whole bag of lemons has been tainted by the rotten ones that were in the middle.  If the story ended here, you would be the victim of improper packaging and handling by the suppliers of said bag of lemons.  This is where reframing comes into play.

You have the choice and the power to choose to stop there, and remain the victim, or look for ways to reframe the situation, and take yourself out of the victim role. The same reframing principle can be applied to situations we face surrounding life tainted by SA. We can look at our circumstances, and see how we've been victims, and stop there.  Or, we can look for ways to reframe the circumstances, take ourselves OUT of the victim role, and find empowerment (and hopefully some peace and healing, too). 

So that I don't seem trite, or like I'm trying to over-simplify, let's make this very REAL, shall we.  The day I discovered my SA's addiction, my heart was shattered. SHAT-TERED. Like into a million tiny pieces.  So, how do I reframe that experience? Exhibit A - one of three tattoos I got post-discovery.  This is a Maori-symbol inspired design.  (Maori is the indigenous tribe of New Zealand). That is a heart, and that swirly part on the right is the Koru symbol.  It is taken from the unfurled leaf of the silver fern, and it depicts (among other things) new beginning.  So the meaning for this tattoo, for me, is that my heart is being made new.  It was broken, but it is being re-made.  And when anyone asks, the way I reframe my broken heart is that I find the positive in it: since my heart was broken, I've changed.  I'm more patient, more compassionate, more understanding... I actually like who I am MORE now than I did then.  I'm a better friend, mother, daughter, wife, and overall person!  I am not a victim of my broken heart!  I stand in a place of recognizing the good that has come of it.  THAT is reframing.

So, what can you reframe?  Where have you been "stuck" in seeing a situation or circumstance only from the victim view, and how can you reframe that?  How can you take a "rotten lemon" in your life, and make penicillin?  

As always, if you would like help in finding/figuring out how to do this, email me, or contact me through our website:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What do You Hope for?

It all started a few weeks ago...

I was having a conversation with this very wise woman (who shall remain nameless) about hope.

She shared with me how she views hope. She said, (I'm paraphrasing) "When I think about the future, I don't hope that I won't ever get hurt again.  I rest in the hope that I will have the faith, strength, wisdom, and tools to make it through the hurts I will inevitably encounter."

As the depth and truth of that statement sunk in, I realized how it challenged me and caused me to give pause - to ask myself what my expectations were in regards to what I was hoping for.  
Like the woman in the picture looking out over a seemingly unending chasm - what do I see when I look out into the vast future?  What was I hoping to find there? 
I have to admit, I was hoping to find a future free of pain.  I've experienced enough pain to last a lifetime.  I think I've had my share, thank you very much.  And when it comes to my SA, I wanted to look into the future, and have hope that he would never hurt me again. 
The more and more I contemplated this woman's thoughts on hope, the more I saw how misplaced my hope was.
We do not live in a perfect world.   There's no human relationship I will ever have where hurt is not somehow involved.  And therein lies the point.
I can not - we can not - rest our hope in someone else.  Period.  I must - we must - do all that we can do to equip ourselves with those things that will help us through WHEN we face pain, again.  Whether it be the pain of "normal" relationship issues, a slip or a relapse by our SA, or the ending of the relationship, we MUST have hope that we will endure.  We MUST hope that pain, and the fear of it, will NOT define us, and cause us to wear the label, "VICTIM".  We MUST have hope that we will: be wise enough and strong enough; have the love, support, and encouragement from others; and have the rock of our faith - to see us through. 
This is a difficult conclusion to arrive at - yet, it is somehow very freeing.  I think that so much indecision on my part has stemmed from my not "knowing" what will be in my future.  I was placing my hope in one certain outcome.  With this new perspective, I have to relinquish a certain amount of control - or the seeming control - of keeping myself free from pain.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not masochistic.  I'm not looking for or desiring pain.  And I won't stay in a relationship that is abusive.  But it's freeing to not hope for or expect a pain free relationship.  It's freeing to think that I can stand in a place of empowerment, and hope that I will be able to face whatever comes my way.
So, with this brand new year in front of me, I rest in the hope that I will have all that I need to navigate the road that is before me, and make it through any pain that may come my way.
What about you?  What have you been hoping for?  What do you hope for when you look into 2014?  Do you need to give pause and ask yourself if you're hoping for the best things for you?