Why Did My Trauma Happen

or Cognitive Processing Homework Assignment Number 1

I remember the day Joe walked into the card shop where I worked. I was twenty years old and married to a very sweet man who supported and loved me. Joe walked in and I was immediately drawn to him; I remember feeling like he was an angelic being. We spent two hours talking in the shop that day and the sexual tension between us was heavy in the air. He stayed until I closed the shop, then walked me to my car and kissed me.

An affair began between us. I completely gave myself over to him and the intimacy felt so intense and real. When I told my husband about it we quarreled and he left to stay with his parents. I don’t remember how much time went by before I moved in with Joe but it must have been only weeks. My 17 year old sister was living with us and I completely abandoned her to be with Joe. Friends warned me about him. They saw what I did not; he was controlling, manipulative and showed clear signs of being an abuser. I distanced myself from my friends and became completely isolated. I gave up everything good in my life to be with this man. And I almost died as a result.

I feel crazy just thinking about that time. I think I was crazy and that’s part of why it happened. I believed we were destined to be together. It was something Joe suggested and I clung to the notion as if it was the only truth I’d ever known. I believed he saw things in me that almost no one else could see. My head was constantly buzzing during that time. I saw things that weren’t there. I remember looking in the mirror and not recognizing the image staring back at me. It happened because I didn’t have a strong sense of self; I had no idea who I was because I was constantly morphing to meet the needs and desires of those around me.

It happened because I didn’t trust my friends; instead I trusted a crazy part of myself that wanted something exciting and unknown. My mom was hysterical about my decision to move in with this man I’d just met. She warned me but I cut her out of my life. What could she possibly know about anything? She didn’t see the abuse that was happening right under her nose when I was a child and she loved a man who was brutal and manipulative. It was somehow easier to trust this stranger than the people who’d known me the longest and who unconditionally loved me.

The trauma continued because I kept letting Joe back in after I’d left him. I still wanted him even after he’d pointed a gun at my head and assaulted me when I tried to leave him. The power he had over me felt intoxicating because it was dangerous. Part of me was aware I was treading on dangerous ground but I stayed on the path. I continued living with him after the abuse started because I was afraid he would kill me if I tried to leave.

Each time I let him back in I believed he would be different. I wanted so badly for him to be different, to love me without hurting me. If I let him in enough times, maybe he would change. Maybe my love could inspire him to be different. I remember calling him and asking him to meet me and believing, against all evidence to the contrary, that this time he would respect me. Instead, he pushed me down onto the hood of my car, raped me and then sent me home.

It happened because I let my guard down. I knew all too well that when I was attracted to a man, he would be the kind of man who would physically and emotionally hurt me. Even if he truly loved me. I was attracted to dangerous men. The reason I married my first husband is because I didn’t feel deep attraction for him and therefore he was safe. But it didn’t satisfy me.

It’s hard to think about that time. My mind was so full of ideas and beliefs that don’t make sense to me now. I believed there was a dark spirit living inside of me, something that would destroy me and anyone around me. I believed that spirit was also in the world and it roamed around Joe’s house, waiting for a good moment to slip into me, possess me and attack Joe. Joe told me he saw it and that he knew it was out to get him. I was convinced I had to catch this dark male spirit, cut its head off and drive a stake through its heart.

Why did I let him torture me, put a gun to my head, lock me in the house and accuse me of having affairs I wasn’t having? I think it had something to do with the notion of the dark spirit that haunted me. I believed that spirit had attached itself to me because of the childhood sexual abuse. Something in me attracted darkness. Bad things happened to me and I was out of control and did bad things to others. Bad things had been happening to me all my life, therefore I attracted bad things and bad people. Maybe I deserved it. Joe saw it too and he had me convinced he was trying to minimize the danger I, or the spirit, might cause.

Call to arms

image of Princess Mononoke by Ururuty on deviantart.com

This morning sucked and I’ve spent the last hour moping about it. I woke feeling unwell, my 11 year old was acting like a teenager and my youngest is experiencing the symptoms of unknown origin he so often has in the mornings. When I went out to smoke in the early morning light I saw that my husband had left our precious ’87 Volvo on the street, unlocked and filled with boxes after promising me he’d take care of both before going to bed. Nothing catastrophic but enough to spin my sensitive heart and mind into a tight knot of distress.

Now to tease that knot out. My body aches with all the feelings and fears I’m having right now. I cannot afford to hold all of it close to me where it festers because I know from experience that when emotional gangrene sets in, my temper flares and I begin to act without impulse control. It’s been many years since I’ve been down that path but I don’t know that I’ve changed enough to not leave a wake of destruction in my path. So instead I choose to tug gently at the threads of feeling so that I might take a path of intention rather than wrath born of the unfairness of life.

In truth, I think I began to sense the web being planned and its perimeter being drawn yesterday. My husband and I had therapy at noon and I spent the afternoon having heated conversations with myself out loud as I went about the work of straightening the house and preparing for the week ahead. I felt a bit like Gollum muttering and sputtering as Sneaker and Stinker but that’s maybe a trifle dramatic; I was simply reacting to being in one of the hardest places I’ve been in for years and having to accept that my husband needs space to experience and work with his own depression, which was a long time coming.

I bitched to myself about the state of my life and how sorry it is and another part of me bickered back that I need to find a way to walk through this with as much integrity as possible. The angry, impulsive, beaten down adolescent in me wants to run amok but the wiser, more experienced woman knows that will only lead to more sorrow for me and everyone around me. I am not the person I was at 21 when I exploded with winds of emotion like a hurricane swirling over a major city.

Eventually the talk turned to what I can focus on that will lend me strength as I do the trauma work and try to hold my family together at the same time. Ideas came spilling out and though I’m not keen on any of them, I know I need to take positive action. Our marriage counselor made it clear that I need to accept where my husband is at and focus on my own self-care.

I have a tool belt of skills and they have all been honed during several previous periods of darkness. They will serve if I but use them. I know more will straggle in for duty after I make this list. I’ll copy what I write here to my bullet journal to be a Master List of skilled soldiers. For now, here’s who’s shown up to this call to arms:

General of Self-Care; in command of Showers, Once Weekly Cute Outfits & Jewelry, Rest, Eating Well & With Intention, Intake of Herbs & Medicines.

Commander of Acceptance; charged with practicing the art of acceptance in daily drills and as challenging moments arise.

Commando Team of Inner Reconnaissance; will lead regular and as needed Scottish style missions into the depths of Self via writing, dreams and active imagination.

Soft Army of Physical Well Being; charged with leading at least one of the following drills per day: belly breathing, tai chi, or metta practice.

Lady of Creative Endeavors; in command of choosing and enforcing the implementation of creative work. Handmaidens of various potential endeavors must be chosen and given the supplies needed to lead weekly missions to process and create through art.

Corporal of Daily Activities and Organization; must keep a written record of rations needed, acquire said rations, see to it that all members of the family receive Care as needed, and schedule and track all upcoming activities.

If I can muster my own Will to make this call to arms and run a tight ship, then I will be more prepared than I’ve ever been before and perhaps I’ll have the ability to win this fight. I find it interesting that I neglected to call on someone to reach out and engage in social activities. It’s my least favorite skill but one I know I need to utilize right now, especially because I can’t rely on my husband right now for emotional support. The leader of that division may be late to the fight but I won’t stand for any abandonment on her part.

Inner Compass

Photo above taken by me on 2/18/2019

Last day on the farm before I have to return to my home and family. And my work of dismantling the inner scaffolding I built on the faulty design of trauma. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to relax, reflect and connect with my friend and part of me is dreading going home. I’ve had the freedom to feel everything that rises to the surface without having to rush myself and get back to chores or being present for my family.

I was restless and woke several times in the night. At 5am I gave up and went downstairs. It had rained in the night and temperature was just above freezing so the air was wet and bitingly cold. The farm was nestled into a cloud-like land so there was no Venus to watch and the sunrise was a soft influx of grey light.

I’ve spent time thinking about my intentions for how I want to proceed once I return home. I’ve spent the last several months being pulled this way and that by flashbacks, concern about the health and survival of my marriage, and fear of going back into the depths and darkness of trauma work. But return is inevitable and I need to be very clear about my expectations for myself. The path ahead is as heavy and murky as the mist that hung on the farm this morning; I can only see a few dozen yards ahead and what I can see is blurry, flat and haunted by eerie, grey shapes.

I feel rested but the travel will take away any physical benefits of having relaxed. I came because I needed time to feel, think and connect with, and be clearly seen by, someone who loves me unconditionally. I’ve used the time wisely and had many long talks with my wise friend who knows trauma first hand and has known me for 25 years. She has given me the gift of reflecting on my growth and commitment to learning to live with and overcome the seemingly endless effects of long-term abuse. And like any good recipient, I have tenderly held the reflections and tucked them into my heart where they will feed the fresh roots of self-esteem.

In the coming weeks I will begin the work of Cognitive Processing Therapy. This work, as I understand it, begins with determining which of my core beliefs about myself and the world are unhealthy and inaccurate because they were formed as a result of trauma. We will tease apart these beliefs, process my feelings about them, and challenge and replace them. I will need to be utilizing all of the skills I have acquired in the last several years of therapy. I’ll need to get good sleep, stay emotionally regulated, practice distress tolerance, and stay mentally alert so I can challenge negative thought and belief patterns as they arise. All this, while also tending to the everyday needs of my family and working with my husband on staying connected.

Along with the skills and good sleep, I will also need to keep faith in myself close to my heart and mind. I cannot see where the path goes from here and I know once I’m doing the work there will be times when it’s both dark and I’m in a valley where I can no longer see where I started from. I will have to continue on no matter how shrouded the way ahead becomes because I won’t be able to retrace my steps back to where I stand now. Perspective will be lost and I will have to trust in my inner compass. When I look back over my life with a keen eye I can appreciate how far I’ve come and how much I have already accomplished. I’ll just need to build in quiet moments in which to listen for the wise voice of my compass.

Venus rising

I woke at 6 am and softly padded down to the side porch. I startled something large in the yard, probably a deer, and saw the backside of a rabbit scurrying away from the house. The light in the southeastern sky was still just a hint of dawn. I had told my friend that I watch Venus rise every morning and she told me I would be able to see it off the side porch. But I didn’t even think to look for her. Maybe I was overwhelmed by the quiet and the heaviness of the cold air.

At first my mind was quiet but it seemed to awaken as the birds began their hesitant calls. First the chuck of a red winged black bird. Then an answering call from across the yard. Silence again for a moment and then a quiet chirp from a sparrow or house finch. In the growing light I could see the robins flying to and from the holly berry tree where they flock every year around Valentine’s day. They were as silent as ghosts for a while and then one robin began to call from his perch atop the tree. He wasn’t hesitant at all; his brash voice broke through the silence and my mind began to shiver with thoughts.

And then suddenly, as if she hadn’t been there a moment before, Venus shone bright. She must have been hidden by a cloud but the effect was magical. I hadn’t even thought to look for her. I know I hadn’t see her; you can’t see Venus and not take notice. She’s closer to Earth than usual and she shines like something alien in the morning sky. I watched her until the daylight consumed her but I knew she was still moving through the sky.

By then the quiet in my mind was consumed as well. Like Venus, I knew it was still there somewhere but no amount of mindful breathing would bring it back. I brought my morning routine with me and there’s no reason to rush through it but I don’t know how to slow down. Check the predawn sky. Tea for my tummy. Kratom. Watch the horizon lighten and become bright with color. Coffee and oatmeal as I wake the boys…but there were no boys to waken. Space in which to hear my chattering mind and feel my body holding sensations from across the span of my life.

My friend and I sat on the porch, watched the birds and talked about the things that trouble us and our worries for our teenage children who are both struggling with depression and anxiety. I forgot about Venus and didn’t have to listen to the thoughts tugging at the edges of consciousness. I didn’t feel particularly vulnerable but I think I’m always a bit fragile right now. I got up to put my boots on and accompany my friend on a quick errand and as suddenly as Venus had appeared this morning, I was gone, or at least no longer present. In my experience, there is a difference.

I know I walked around the house for a few moments and ended up sitting in a chair in the living room. I know I felt that strange, familiar sensation of being inhabited by another person. It’s so difficult to describe what happens in these moments because I’m in an altered state and memory becomes hard to retrieve. The feeling is almost exactly like the eerie Kate Bush song, Under Ice. In it she sings:

There’s something moving under
Under the ice moving
Under ice through water
Trying to
It’s me
Get out of the cold water
It’s me
It’s me
Someone, help them

At first it was simple dissociation; the I that is me retreated far inside and I sat quietly in a chair in the living room. My friend found me and, without a word, sat down on the couch within arms reach, and slightly behind me. I could feel her presence and though she did not touch me, I knew she was fully and completely present for me. And then, from under the ice, came the fear. No memory. Just fear. Not worry of something that might happen but pure, raw fear of something terrible happening to me in that moment. I was trapped in my body with no way to respond or stop what was happening. My instinct was to be as still as possible, like a rabbit caught in the jaws of a fox. Small sounds escaped my mouth but they were not words, just quiet whimperings. I don’t know how long I sat that way, 10 minutes maybe. All that time my friend sat completely motionless and somehow both on the couch and down under the ice with me. Eventually I allowed myself to feel the fear and let it pass through me. I looked around the room to ground myself. Found everything blue and then pink and then brown. And when my teeth began to chatter I could feel the ice break and then it was simply my friend and I sitting together in the room. I don’t know where the fear goes when it passes but when it has gone, only I remain. Shaken but myself. Something bright still shining in me like Venus coming out from behind a cloud in the morning sky.

Time to think. Time to take it all in.

above image by Vaughn Mir & used with permission

Here I am at the farmhouse and, just as my friend promised, the robins are descending upon the landscape. They show up every year in the hundreds around Valentine’s Day and flock to the holly tree in the center of the yard. As I sit on the porch I can see dozens of bright red breasted birds scuttling among the leaves searching for worms in the soft, wet earth. A hawk just flew low across the field and I hear the soft sounds of chickadees, sparrows and a single red winged black bird. Dry leaves rattle around the front lawn, blown by the cold wind. The same wind entices the porch chimes to ring and creates a banging in the old barn that sits on the other side of the drive. My friend’s garden, which I have only ever seen filled with foliage in the summer, is barren and scattered about with half empty pots and forlorn statues of Buddha and pink gnomes. It is the perfect place to sit and ponder my life and sift through feelings which have become a tangled knot.

Many years ago, when my oldest child was 16 months old, I made a last minute trip to Houston to stay with this same friend. My child’s biological father was an alcoholic and after a year of him staying out late and coming home drunk, I was fed up and in need of a break to try and decide how to proceed with my life and best take care of my child. I brought my little one with me and early on the morning of 9/11/01 I had a huge seizure. As I was recovering my friend called me into the living room in a panic. We watched with hundreds of thousands of other viewers as a plane flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center. As my own life was falling apart, the world began to fall apart as well. This morning as I was gathering my things to come and sit on this porch, I heard the President announce on the television that he will be declaring a State of Emergency in order to deal with what he says he perceives as a crisis at the U.S/Mexico border. It doesn’t come as a surprise but it is, in my opinion, another step into fascism and the results may be catastrophic.

I am not comparing that marriage to my present one. Rather, my present circumstances remind me of that time in my life; the feeling of things spinning out of control and not being able to slow down what feels to be an unavoidable accident happening in slow motion.

I can feel my heart break in anticipation of the crash that could come. And, as is often the case, I can only do so much to avoid it. There are some things I have no control over, work my husband must do, but I fear there’s no way anything of this life I’ve made can survive unless I do more work on my trauma. I went for an assessment with my new therapist last week and the results brought a whole new understanding and acceptance of my current state. I was given screens for PTSD, C-PTSD, Dissociative Disorder and Somatization. I was found to actively have/experience all four. I interpret these results to mean that with all the intense therapy and trauma work I’ve already done, the traumas I experienced were so intense, frequent and ongoing that I’m still very much a traumatized person. The things that were done to me (incest, neglect, physical and emotional abuse, rape and an incident of kidnapping) were deeply wounding and have impacted every aspect of my life. The work I’ve done up to this point has helped ease some of the symptoms and taught me emotion regulation and interpersonal skills, and those are no small accomplishments. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and have decided that the most important result of past therapeutic work is that I’m now ready to look at and really acknowledge how bad and heinous the abuses were. I’ve spent my life surviving and minimizing what I went through and now I have to accept that it was so bad I can’t begin to imagine how someone could survive it.

Sometimes the human spirit is resilient to the extent that a person can survive intense trauma and then struggle to survive the results of the trauma. When I met my husband I wasn’t yet able to see how actively the trauma was still affecting me. I thought I could simply treat my anxiety and depression with a combination of medication and therapy and I’d eventually be as healthy and whole as someone who had never experienced trauma. I had met a kind and loving man and I thought we could make a life together without my past interfering overly much. I needed to believe this was true because if I had been able to acknowledge how deeply I was wounded and how much work I still had to do, I think I would have given up. I think it’s kind of like running from a dangerous wild animal; you start running and you run as long as you can with only quick looks back over your shoulder to see if the animal’s gaining on you. If the animal is potentially deadly, you might continue running even once you’re safe because you don’t feel you can risk stopping and discovering you’re still being chased. The difference is, if you’re running from a traumatic past, you were actually mauled to the extent that, if it had been an animal attack, you wouldn’t have been able to physically get up and run. You’d be dead. The kinds of abused I experienced do kill some people, whether as a direct result of the physical harm done or because the victim actively or passively committed suicide.

I think I’ve come to my friend’s farmhouse because I need a place to stop running and catch my breath. I can’t run anymore. I haven’t needed to for a very long time. The thing about stopping is that you suddenly have the time to think about, and take in, what you’ve survived. So far that feels overwhelming and exhausting. Maybe that’s why the handless maiden stopped at the small, forest inn and stayed for 7 years. That will have to be a metaphorical 7 years because I don’t have the luxury of weeks, let alone years.

Self-care is going to a drafty old farmhouse in Eastern Pennsylvania in the midst of winter

written February 12, 2019

On Thursday morning I will fly out of Denver to stay with a friend who’s farmhouse sits snuggled under the snow in Malvern. When it was clear that my relationship with my husband was not going to hold up under the strain of my trauma, I suggested he take some time for himself. Maybe visit one of his brothers or take a trip up to the mountains for a week or two. He says he’s depleted and was recently diagnosed with situational depression (I think it’s likely he has second-hand trauma, as well). I told him I’d take care of everything while he was gone; he should go and get some rest and practice self-care. He deserves it.

Two weeks later the dynamic between us was no better. Instead it was beginning to feel more tense, almost stretched thin to the point where it could snap easily. When I asked if he’d thought about my suggestion to go away and give both of us some space, his non-response was enough of a response for me. I have been feeling angry and bitter that I’m alone and about to embark on yet another journey into the darkness that is my trauma and already experiencing flashbacks, increased anxiety & depression, as well as sleeping on the couch on every night. When I fold and put away the pillows and blankets, and put the couch back in order, I feel like an unwelcome guest in my own house. How has this become my life?!

I know my husband is worn out from showing up for me through thick and think for the past 16 years but I’m worn out too. I didn’t ask for this any more than he did. And, yes, it must suck for him sticking around in a marriage in which the thing he can most often count on is his wife not being able to show up because of chronic physical or mental illness and the inability to be emotionally or physically intimate because of repeated sexual abuse and trauma. And while the option of leaving all of this struggle, darkness and loneliness is a crappy option when you love someone deeply, it is still an option. One I don’t have the luxury of having. He could decide it’s just too much and I’d be angry and hurt but I’d also understand. Our marriage could end and it would be a difficult and sad transition for all of us, most of all for our children. But everyone would adjust eventually and he could have a life that’s very different and generally free from the effects of trauma. That’s not what would happen for me. I would still have to face and live with and heal from the effects of the abuse. Maybe having the choice to stay with, or leave behind, the trauma is just as hard as having no choice at all. I don’t know.

All this to express that I’m worn out too. I can’t stand living in the same house with someone who’s distant or bitter and testy. I only have so much emotional energy to go around and don’t know if I can afford to live with a husband I’m physically and emotionally estranged from if I’m also going to be capable of being a good mother and do this trauma work. I desperately need to get away because if I don’t I’m afraid I might say things I can’t take back. I have a dear and supportive friend who always tells me I should think of her house as a home whenever I need it. She lives with her partner and daughter on a farm east of Philadelphia and I’ve spent time there the last two summers. It’s a magical place, surrounded by fields and woods and miles of trails. It’s also very old and has a warm charm about it when I think of all the families who must have passed their lives there. It won’t be physically warm there this time of year but I’ll have a room of my own, where I can lie in the bed and look out over the snow covered hills while I try to get my head and heart together. My friend will be there for me when I feel like company or spilling my heart out. There are places I can walk to where I can scream and sob and be completely unheard. I can sit up in my room, bundled in warm clothes and silence and write. My intention is to try and be as honest with myself as I can about my life as it is right now. I want to lay it all bare and look at it with my heart and mind and decide what I can bear right now and what has to be left behind. I want to prepare for the work I’ll be doing in therapy so I can devote myself to changing the patterns and pathways that were established as saving grace in my childhood and now only serve to render me a wreck.

It’s self-care but I know it will be a brutal kind of love. May the landscape, old stone and loving heart of my friend hold the space for me as I navigate the mess that is my Self right now.

Still no response…and, no, things are very much not ok

written January 29th, 2019

So I put myself out there with my husband by writing him a letter in which I described my feelings and current struggles. I acknowledged how challenging that must be for him and asked him if it’s ok for me to reach out when I can. I asked him how he felt about how my trauma impacts him. I emailed him the letter because I knew if I wrote it by hand he wouldn’t be able to read it. I texted him while he was out and told him about the letter. He came home. Didn’t say a word about it. Later that night I told him I’d like to talk to him about the letter once he’d read it. He said he’d already read it. Read it while he was at Whole Foods with the boys. Said he didn’t have anything to say about it.

Has it come up again? No. That was Friday and now it’s Monday. An entire weekend, both of us home and at times alone. Not a word. To be fair, I haven’t asked him about it again. But should I have to? I already let him know that I wanted to hear what he thought and felt about it. Seems to me it’s his turn to open up.

Sometimes I think we’re both keeping our thoughts and feelings about our relationship to ourselves because we want to protect one another. I’ve read it’s common for trauma survivors to not share their thoughts and feelings with their partner because they don’t want to burden the person they love with all the pain. I don’t know if my husband keeps things to himself because it’s not in his nature to share or because he doesn’t want to make things harder for me. Doesn’t want me to feel more guilt than I’m already inclined to feel. Whatever the reasons, neither of us is doing any favors for our relationship.

This morning, as the snow was steadily coming down and making everything muffled, I stood outside behind the house and smoked a cigarette and watched the sun come up. I was feeling deeply sad and hopeless and I thought about how I feel like I’m letting go of everything-all my expectations and hopes and everything I thought was true. I wrote the following in my journal:

January 28th, 2019

I feel resignation. Letting go. Deep sadness.

What happiness I receive must be in each moment. I can no longer hope for more than that. Grief and grieving. I can only do my best. Something my sister knew when she was 4.

Each time I go down into this darkness it is to repair and release what I can. Once I had hope that I could have a life with joy and love and passion. I don’t have hope for that anymore. I don’t know if that is possible.

Now I think I must live without hope. Trust in my inner strength and the path I cannot see ahead. My heart hurts. This could have been only my pain but I have shared it with another who’s heart is pure. He doesn’t deserve that. I didn’t either but it was given to me to carry and I have no choice.

I’ve cried quite a bit today. I feel afraid that when we go to therapy tomorrow, my husband will finally say he can’t stay in this relationship any longer. That’s a terrible fear to walk around with. Would be if it were just me but I think about it as I take care of our children, spend time talking and playing with them. It’s no wonder I feel like crying all the time.

The strange thing is, I also feel strong in myself. If nothing else, the things I’ve been through in my life have taught me that I can endure anything. As I get closer to starting therapy this Friday I’ve been having flashbacks. They come on like a panic attack but become something so much worse. During the one on Saturday I spent at least 15 minutes in the flashback. Zamir and Ilan were both trying to help me and I was shaking and crying and all I could say was “it’s all fear, I can only feel fear”. I did come out of it but even the memory of it is frightening. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s triggering these flashbacks and I think it’s what’s happening between me and Ilan combined with the impending start of trauma therapy. When I was a child and my father was abusing me and my sister, as well as drinking and emotionally and physically abusing my mother, every day we all walked around in our house acting like nothing was wrong. Every instinct I had was telling me that things were terribly wrong but no one was talking about it. Talking about it wouldn’t have been safe so it wasn’t an option but trying to act like things were ok when life was actually a living nightmare, was a huge strain on every aspect of my life. Now my life is safe but things aren’t ok in my relationship with my husband and neither of us is talking about our feelings. Instead we walk around trying as much as possible to make it seem like everything’s fine. Probably for our kids’ benefit. Regardless of the reason, the reality is the same: things are very much not ok and we’re acting like we’re fine. It’s unsettling, to say the least. I spent most of my life pretending like things were ok when I was either actively in danger or experiencing the effects of trauma. Pretending things are ok, and having my partner pretend as well, triggers the feelings I had when I was a child, as well as when I was a young adult and in abusive relationships. I can’t pretend anymore. Things are not ok