Have to go Through Not Over or Around

Affair Recovery

I came across this diagram early in my affair recovery journey and now use it regularly in my BAN group - Thank you Peggy Vaughan.  When I first saw it I could identify with the ups and downs - there were good days and other days when I thought there was no way we were going to make it but I really did not know how to go through the pain rather than around or avoid it.

I think many of us are extremely good at blocking or avoiding pain in seemingly healthy ways - ie that don't involve artificial substances such as alcohol or drugs.  Perhaps particularly painful incidents in our past have taught us superior pain blocking/avoiding skills and when something knocks our world apart we stoically cope.  So the idea of going through the pain - sounds good in theory if you come out the other side.  But how do you actually do it?  On my bad days I would "keep calm and carry on".  Get up, get dressed, go through the motions until I could go back to bed again - a busy family provided endless chores and then there was work... On the good days I breathed a sigh of relief that things weren't so bad that day and did the same as every other day.

One of the things about an affair though is that it refuses to be ignored.  If you ignore a few scratches or bruises they will cause some discomfort but eventually go away.  Ignoring an affair is the equivalent of ignoring a rumbling appendix - it will eventually burst and threaten your life.  I had to learn how to go through the pain.  The antidote to pain is somewhere inside the pain.  And the worst part is the more you avoid the longer it takes to heal.

Some of the strategies that I learned that enabled me to stop avoiding and feel the pain included:

When I felt the wave coming upon me I resisted the urge to duck and instead I stood and repeated my mantra of "I have to go through this it will pass".  I thought of it like a long dark tunnel where no light is visible until you hang on long enough and the light will appear.  In the beginning the tunnel felt like it was days long - they got shorter and shorter.

Managing my time in the tunnel was important.  There were times when I truly thought I might die.  Long ago when I was having a vaccination injection a nurse had told me to wiggle my toes as she put the needle in.  It didn't stop the pain but it made it less intense.  Exercise for me was my equivalent of toe wiggling.  No matter how bad I felt I never missed my scheduled gym classes.  Sometimes I did them with tears pouring down my cheeks but I was always better off going than not.

Taking the time to really look after myself with things that I love: soaking in a warm bath; wearing my favourite earrings; getting enough sleep; walking along the waterfront...

Enlisting the help of my husband so I was not alone (it took him some time to learn how to do this - to really be there for me but when he finally got it he was really helpful).

Writing in my journal, which was sometimes a mess of feelings and thoughts but was always useful.

Staying in the moment - particularly useful with the kids as they did not understand my pain so I really focussed on being with them and in their world when they were with me.

"Just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die.  You gotta get up and try" Pink