Patience is not one of my virtues! There were many days when I wondered why I wasn’t over it, yet. Why couldn’t I get over my husband’s betrayal and just move on? It seemed like my husband’s recovery was on a fast-track while my healing was crawling along slower than a sloth. In fact, there were days when it seemed like my progress was going backward and I wasn’t making any forward steps at all! I felt like I should be able to make a decision to be happy again and then . . . well . . . I would be happy again!
Nope. That’s not how it works.
Healing is more than a decision. It is a process, a long and slow process.
It was easy for me to engage in negative self-talk when my process seemed to be going too slow. “Something must be wrong with me.” “I’m never going to be happy again!” “Why is this happening to me?” “I’m broken and I can’t be fixed.”
I engaged in my self-demeaning talk until I had the fortune of meeting with a new therapist who really understood what I was going through. She asked me how long it had been since I discovered my husband’s secret life. “Six weeks,” I told her. She smiled and said, “You need to give yourself at least a year to heal. At least a year. And it will probably take longer than that.”
Healing will take one year at the very least. That bit of information changed everything for me. It also helped when she explained that my husband’s recovery would not be on the same timeline as my healing. In fact, he would possibly recover from his addiction must faster than I would heal. She explained how he had been carrying his secrets, guilt, and shame for years. The weight that he had been carrying was suddenly thrown on me. Though D-Day induced trauma in me, it was liberating for him.
Everything I was told about giving myself time to heal made sense, but I still had a tendency to get impatient with my progress, especially if I allowed myself to compare my progress with the seemingly quick recovery that others experienced. A crucial truth I had to learn: “The only person you should compare yourself to, is the person you were yesterday” (Amy Morin).
I decided that I needed a reality check. I found an old file folder and taped it to my bathroom mirror. I wrote, “Healing is a process, not a decision.” These wise words were something I remembered from counsel given to me earlier. I then wrote the date of my first day of discovery, when I found out my husband had a BIG problem. Then I wrote down the date when I discovered that my husband’s big problem included affairs with other women. I also wrote some key words of encouragement that I gleaned from a Priesthood blessing I received.
It wasn’t a pretty poster. There were no cute borders or curly-cues on it. It was an ugly manilla file folder with words written in black Sharpie pen, but it became a stabilizing factor for me. It was a constant reminder of my starting point and that I was merely at the beginning of my journey. My trauma brain was foggy, so every day I would need to recalculate how many weeks or months I had traveled in my long process toward healing.
I kept that file folder on my bathroom mirror for two years! I don’t believe healing is a final destination, but it seemed that about twenty months after D-Day, I was able to see some sparkle in my life. I could actually begin to envision a joyful future.
I think it’s important to remember that healing is not a straight and forward path. There are good days and not-so-good days. I often felt I was going backward and regressing. Keeping a journal helped me see that, though I did have days when I slipped back, overall I was making progress.
I worked hard to put my life back together. I made the decision to heal, but I had to eventually accept that my decision wasn’t enough. Healing takes a lot of work over an extended period of time. For some, it might take several months. For others, it might take several years. I wrote about my two year process on another post (Two Years). The length of time we take to heal is not as important as making each day count during the process. We can only take one day at a time.
My healing journey is now my life journey. I work every day toward trying to become more Christ-like, more resilient, and better able to be present for the joy in each day. The challenges of life don’t disappear, but I feel more mentally prepared and courageous to get through the challenges.