[bctt tweet=”Sometimes you have to stop fighting who you are and roll the ball of self-discovery, even if it’s paved with painful thorns.” username=”@DianaHelps”]
I avoided mine for a long time, and I wish someone had been there to show me the way. But no one could have because no one knew I was suffering in silence.
Maybe the bags under my eyes should have given it away — those dark puffy circles that contoured the bottom of my eyes — pulling down my fatigued face with the weight of countless sleepless nights.
There were many of those…
Most days, I looked like a character from a Tim Burton movie, even after the magic touch of cover makeup.
For a long time, I walked around like a zombie, always feeling tired from the absence of restful sleep nights, and often drugged by the many psychotropic medications I was expected to take to ‘control my behavior’ and ‘fit’ into a life that wasn’t mine.
It sucked. But I was a master at it, and most of the time I looked almost normal.
Still, nobody knew the truth. Everyone thought I had the perfect life. The perfect husband, the perfect big house, an amazing vacation home with lots of land, exotic pets, overseas travels, and expensive restaurants with a few Michelin stars.
Sounds wonderful, right? Who wouldn’t want such a wonderful life?
Well, you’ll be surprised about the number of women married to high rolling men who are literally drowning in depression. But that’s topic for another article.
The life of the high rollers has lots of secrets.
That was my life for over ten years. I was provided with every single possible material possession, and then some. According to many people, I had it all.
I knew this because everyone had something to say about my life, “Oh, it’s so great!” or “You’re so lucky,” or my all-time favorite “You really hit the jackpot.”
Yet, nobody knew the truth, nobody knew what life was like behind closed doors. Nobody knew about my old scars. Nobody knew that material possessions couldn’t replace a peace of mind, healing, or an absent partner.
For years, I put on a good show — smiling even when I was dying inside. I dressed up and attended events, even with my body trembling from the shocks of my mind.
I prepared lavished meals for many guests, some welcome and others, not so much. I organized and attended great parties, even while fighting internal battles others shouldn’t know about.
And they didn’t. Nobody knew that my “perfect life” was a sham, a fabrication of a perfect life to look good in front of the world and those who released the big bucks.
It was exhausting, but I made it work. As a matter of fact, I made it look flawless while I died inside. Morbid but true.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and my life was the picture-perfect book on the outside, with a nice shinny hardcover to go with it. But in the inside, it was full of lies, betrayal, narcissistic control, and distress.
Nobody imagined that behind the perfect disguise of a life of overindulgence and big smiles, there were profound feelings of fear, constant flashbacks of horrid events, bad child and adulthood memories, deep scars from violence, avoidance issues, hypervigilance, and even dissociative episodes.
And for many years nobody knew a thing.
But the bags under my eyes gave it away. I wasn’t sleeping and couldn’t give a good explanation about my broken nights because that meant disclosing the truth: I had once been diagnosed with PTSD.
For years, the silence, secrets, and hushing continued. I had to devise more and more creative excuses when asked about the dark circles under my eyes.
“Oh, I couldn’t sleep because my neighbors played loud music all night.”
“The dogs were jumping and down the bed and kept me awake.”
“The ambulance and police sirens woke me up and I just couldn’t go back to sleep.”
They were all great, but they were bullshit.
The reality was that most nights I didn’t sleep at all. I laid in bed unable to fall asleep. My mind was trapped. My body was trapped.
It was almost as if for years I had been suspended in time and space, without any control over my own life. I couldn’t be myself and couldn’t figure out who I was supposed to be to ‘fit’ into that life I had chosen.
Staying in that life required for me to act, think, and behave like someone else because being me was “not acceptable.”
Staying in that life meant I had to behave like someone who never survived hardship and trauma, like a woman who wasn’t abused and neglected as a child or assaulted as an adult.
Staying meant I had to be quiet about being me because I was supposed to mold to the clique to be accepted.
I was supposed to act as if my psyche was intact to keep social and family appearances, to make sure everyone liked me.
But, how could someone like me if I couldn’t be myself?
I mean, despite everything I endured, the real me wasn’t that bad at all.
The real me had scars, deep ones, but with a good heart. The real me survived multiple traumatic experiences, but still loved life. The real me had developed PTSD more than two decades ago but fought hard to overcome the impact it had in my life.
But hiding it was something else. Nobody could know. It wasn’t okay. It was not acceptable for a woman with so much material wealth to show signs of mental weakness or disclose that she wasn’t perfect.
After all, I had not served in the military, so how could I explain my trauma?
The truth was something too sinister to be accepted into a lifestyle were everyone is “perfect” and they don’t have “problems.”
The truth was something that haunted me every time I closed my eyes, but I couldn’t talk about to anybody except my hundreds-of-dollars-per-hour therapists.
Having to hide the fact that I was anxious, had doubts about my future, and self-esteem issues became my nemesis instead of my ally.
Having no real support system, and just a system of provision exacerbated everything.
I had to get out and break free. I had to roll my ball of self-discovery. I needed to permanently heal in a way that wouldn’t require for me to be someone else.
That’s when I made the decision to leave. It wasn’t easy.
I never imagined that asking for a divorce would translate into another traumatic experience, but that’s exactly what happened.
My decision to leave unleashed a narcissistic rage and wrath against me, one I never anticipated.
[bctt tweet=”After you’ve gone through a high conflict divorce, you are never the same. It’s a fact of life.” username=”@DianaHelps”]
High conflict divorces make you feel as if you’re in the middle of a battlefield.
Your life during the divorce is a constant war zone, one with the potential to exacerbate anxiety, fear, and destroy whatever is left of your self-esteem.
In choosing to break free from a life of prohibitions, taboos, and ridiculous secrets I opened myself to another traumatic event, one I wasn’t prepared to deal with.
Even though I had already experienced shock, anger, nervousness, fear, event guilt and shame, I never expected to be under attack like I was. I never expected to have to react with an immediate defense for my own survival and that of my children after such a long time together.
I knew I couldn’t let the divorce define my life, but I was too confused to find the bridge to the other side. I was having a difficult time processing the wrath.
Then I found strength in writing and gave it my all.
I wrote to help myself, and I wrote to help others. Writing became the best form of therapy I have ever had.
I have written three self-help books and I am currently working on a fourth one. My book sales are not amazing because marketing costs a lot of money, but I couldn’t be prouder of myself.
Against all odds and jumping into the unknown I rolled my ball of self-discovery and made it to the other side triumphant.
The past three years have been some of the most difficult years of my life, but I am grateful for all that I have accomplished, all that I have discovered, and most of all, what I have learned.
What I have learned allows me to help others, and helping others is the best medicine I have ever been given.
Nobody can prepare you for a disorder like PTSD, and absolutely nobody can prepare you for what a high conflict divorce will do to your life and mental health. This applies to everyone, whether you are touched by PTSD or not.
The journey has been bumpy, but through my strength and desire to break free and be myself, and my passion for writing I have discovered that there is nothing in the world more rewarding that following your passion and being yourself.
I think that today I am stronger. I feel wiser but not cocky, controlled but not complacent, and definitely happier than ever doing what I love most: help others.
Nonetheless, trauma is trauma, and PTSD and divorce can double it up to unimaginable highs.
Whatever scars you had before, a high conflict divorce can triplicate them and leave new mental scars that can be far-reaching and difficult to manage. But never impossible.
I spent years allowing others to trivialize the horrors I endured as a child and as an adult.
I spent years allowing others to tell me I was broken, no one else could ever love me, and nobody should know what I have been through because it was embarrassing.
I allowed others to guide the way I needed to be, mostly out of fear and low self-esteem.
Trauma comes in many forms and can affect people to varying degrees, and you have to be prepared for whatever life throws at you.
Any separation or divorce can distress the life of a person, but a high conflict divorce for someone with PTSD can provide the perfect conditions for a super storm.
If the person doesn’t have coping skills, mechanisms, and a solid support system to help and ameliorate the impact of PTSD, a high conflict divorce can be a recipe for mental and emotional disaster.
Always keep in mind that prior traumas can fuel stress and anxiety, deepen feelings of inadequacy, and increase fear, guilt, and shame.
A high conflict divorce can bring new risk factors of mental toxicity and can make your body and mind extra sensitive for future trauma.
You must know this going in and be prepared to use all of what you have learned in therapy and other training to make it through.
Remember, what aims to drag you down will always be there. It is you who must rise above it and take control of your life.
If you are battling PTSD and are going through a divorce, I am here to help.