My therapist gave me an assignment almost 4 months after my husband’s disclosure. She asked me to imagine a friend who was almost exactly like me: similar upbringing, similar kids, similar husband, and in my same current situation. She asked me to write a letter directed to this dear friend. She explained that often we are more charitable towards others than to ourselves. Below is the letter I wrote.
August 3, 2013
It hurts. It hurts so bad. Has there been heartache like this ever known to man before? It is agony to the soul. And it seems like no one could possibly understand. Someone has just dropped a bomb on your neatly built foundation and all your hard work is lost and gone. You feel as though your life has been sucked into a black hole. This darkness infringes upon everything in your life: your ability to function; your ability to eat; your ability to care for your children; your ability to perform your callings; and simply your ability to find any sort of happiness or joy out of anything you do. You cannot leave your home for fear of what you will see, how much that would hurt and set you back, and how sick you will get.
But know this. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. Your feelings are real. They are natural. They are deep. You are not crazy. You will be able to get through this. Your children will make it too. You are beautiful. You are attractive. You are desirable. There is nothing wrong with you. Don’t you dare change anything about yourself physically, because the ideal you would be trying to live up to is merely “sexual brokenness and spiritual disconnection” 1. It is your husband’s mind that is altered and twisted, and he looks at everyone as objects: the pretty, the plain, the big, and even the small. Changing yourself would simply only make things worse for you. You want him to admire you, not objectify you. As you connect emotionally, you can bring real, true, and healthy happiness to your husband and children. You are a daughter of God. If you can pause for but a moment, you will feel Him holding you in His arms.
Keep educating yourself. Read, continue going to counseling, and doing the 12-step program. You will continue to be guided to ask certain questions, to set good boundaries, and in what you share with your spouse. You will find healing. You will find hope.
Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. Realize you have a broken heart and it will take time to mend, just as a more visible physical injury (like a shattered arm) would. Help your body in as many ways as you can. It has so many awful toxins it is trying to house right now. Do things that will help you extract these toxins. Exercise, take a hot bath, eat lots of fruits and veggies. Continue and sometimes force yourself to eat. Put in the extra energy and effort to make a sandwich, to give your body a good nutritional boost. You will be more available to do those things you need to do, like taking care of your children.
Breath. Simplify life. Do not force healing. Trying to speed up the healing process will only mess it up. Dismiss fears and worry by exercising “that’s a thought” 2. You will need to keep yourself free from unwanted thoughts specific to the addiction. That is exhausting. You wear new glasses now, but in time those “shades of sin” will be removed as you heal. There will be moments during the day you will begin to feel free of fear and worry. Then those moments will turn into times. Those times will turn into days. Those days into weeks and so forth. Cherish those moments.
When you have more of your wits about you, recognize and see any addictive cycles forming in your own life. Sometimes food can be a great comfort, but anything that you go to in an effort to stuff your feelings regularly can become an addictive pattern. Remember moderation in all things. Encourage yourself to rest your mind. Stop and listen to the sounds around you. Feel what you are touching. Take time to see the beauty around you. Look down deep to recognize what your body really needs and feed it with something healthy (go outside for a few minutes; read a book; take a bath; do a mapping exercise, etc.). Acknowledge correcting this addictive cycle is hard; and use that to sympathize with your husband on his hard path.
I know that you are starting to feel safer in your own home- how comforting is that?! Hold onto your hope and desire of feeling protected. It is interesting you have never felt protected by him, and now come to find out why it has been absent. You have begun to see little gestures of protection for you come out in him. Hold onto that hope that as he heals, he will be your protector. Your true protector of virtue and all that is precious to you; but also the protector of your children, your home, and your safety.
One day the pain will be gone and you will look back at this experience and see what you did with it. What you became. What your husband became. What your children became. You will see you are more fit to be a better parent, because you have the tools to be open in your conversation, and share your faith more readily, which will bless the lives of your children. You will have come closer to the Savior. You have felt His presence and His nourishment and His help. You have learned to lean on Him. You cannot doubt He held you in His arms during this time. He has proven Himself to you in the hours of your most dire needs. He will make all right. He has given you His matchless strength, that you might fight the fight and finish the course.
Your true friend,