The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide

When you are married to an addict and/or abuser a lot of the typical marriage advice just doesn’t apply, in fact it can be downright dangerous. Tips on how to love your husband more and serve him more can just feed the abuse. For example following the  telling you to never go to bed on angry feelings just might be forcing you into a difficult conversation with an addict who is in a bad frame of mind which can then escalate to full-blown abuse. Remember you are not a codependent; you are a spouse in betrayal trauma. You and your spouse each need to heal yourselves before you can heal the marriage.

Most marriage and relationship advice is based on the assumption that there are two willing partners both ready to give their all to the relationship. When dealing with addiction and abuse this is frequently not true as the addict/abuser has no interest in changing their ways to make the relationship more healthy. Their goal is to change their spouse to fit their expectations and fantasies. Even when your dealing with an addict in active recovery there are a lot of unhealthy thought patterns that are ingrained into the way they handle relationships. Healthy boundaries are still essential and will be different from the ones a couple in a healthy relationship maintains.

The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide for Women Who are Dealing With Addiction and Abuse in Their Partner | muchnessmama.com |

The following is a list of resources that myself and others I trust recommend for those dealing with an addict and/or abuser.

Healing From Betrayal Trauma

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal

Intimate Deception

Helping Her Heal (directed towards the sex addict, but very good info for wives and extremely validating)

Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed

The Body Keeps the Score Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die

Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder: The Six Stages of Healing

Before the Dust Settles (Advice from a Sex Addict’s Wife): 8 Mistakes to Avoid Immediately After Discovering Your Partner’s Sex Addiction

Mending A Shattered Heart

Living with a Sex Addict: The Basics from Crisis to Recovery

Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts

What Can I Do About Me?

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Treating Trauma from Sexual Betrayal: The Essential Tools for Healing

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

The Gifts of Imperfection

Make My Burden Light Blog

Boundaries Blog

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Blog, Podcast, and Coaches

Healing From and Dealing With Abuse

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men

Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse

30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control In Personal Relationships

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Becoming the Narcissists Nightmare

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Boundaries Blog

Rebuilding a Marriage

**These resources are for when you are dealing with an addict/abuser who is in active recovery. Please study and apply these principles with caution and only after reading the book Boundaries and having a solid grasp on their effective use**

An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Created for Connection: The “Hold Me Tight” Guide for Christian Couples

Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us

International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy

What are your favorite resources for understanding and healing from betrayal trauma and abuse? Is there a resource on this list that is new to you? What are you reading now/next? What has been the most useful thing that you have learned in your study? Is there anything you would add to this list? Come on over to the Muchness Mamas Facebook group and let’s chat about it!

5 Things Sex Addicts Say When They are in Denial

Almost two months ago I first wrote out our story of sex addiction and betrayal trauma. I shared it in a few Facebook groups and got some amazing support and love. Not one single person judged us or was unkind, well at least if they did they kept it to themselves. For some odd reason one of the religious groups I shared with didn’t approve the post until today. Honestly I’d kind of forgotten I’d even submitted it there! I think God may have had a hand in it, however, because we got a few comments that two months ago would have sent me into deep trauma. Thankfully today I was able to see that they were clearly coming from someone who would rather deny their addiction and blame-shift everything onto their spouse than accept responsibility for their own choices. In fact at one point I actually laughed at the absurdity because, rather than accept the truths my husband was presenting to him he accused me of writing my husband’s responses! Aint nobody got time for that!

You don’t have to live with an addict in denial. Here are five of the most common excuses they use to avoid taking accountability for their choices refuted by my recovering sex addict husband.

5 things sex addicts say when they are in denial | muchnessmama.com | bullshit excuses for addiction | be 100% accountable | sex addiction recovery

Ladies and gentlemen I have to say that the way my husband rose to this occasion literally had me in tears. The validation that he gave to my trauma as well as that of other women was beautiful. It’s not like he said anything new, but the way he said everything all at once without a single smidge of justification, blame-shifting, gaslighting, or minimizing was exactly what my heart needed to hear today. I wanted ot share his words with you because I feel they are incredibly powerful and need to be heard by both the addicts and the betrayed.

I don’t feel it would be right to copy directly the comment he was responding to, so I will just give you a brief synopsis of each point that he responded to as he gets to them.

But did You Have Enough Sex?

The first comment accused me of not giving my husband enough sex. If I was using sex to manipulate him as most women do (his view not mine!) then it’s no wonder that my husband had to “step out”.

Was she sexually active with me? Yes. Not one or more times per week, but three times per week and often even more frequently. For 11 years. Not just for the newlywed/honeymoon phase. She did everything I asked. She took pictures. She tried every position I wanted. She dressed up the way I wanted. She broke down certain techniques and tried to do them just the way I wanted as though she were a student taking a typing class and I was the teacher. She almost never got to tell me no. Many nights, she would be physically or emotionally unprepared to have sex with me, but I always pressured her, and I always got my way. I wouldn’t call it rape, but I certainly abused her sexually, and often. During the periods in which I acted out in adultery, we were having sex with the same frequency we always had. She and I had sex within one or two days of me being with other women.

After just this one paragraph, you should be able to see clearly that she experienced deep betrayal and legitimate emotional trauma. But let’s continue.

You Can’t Get PTSD From Betrayal Trauma

Next this man took offense to me describing my betrayal trauma as PTSD and said that I couldn’t claim that unless I was officially diagnosed.

PTSD must be diagnosed by a professional. PTSD can’t have occurred unless your physical life was threatened. Think about relationships you have been in where you felt someone else had power over you that you couldn’t break. That person made decisions that were harmful to your welfare, and you felt powerless to defend yourself, change the way you were being treated, or ask for help from someone else. This happens at many levels: in superior/subordinate relationships at work, peer situations at work and school, sibling relationships at home, and many other situations. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the classic human condition in which one person consistently dominates relations with another person over a long period of time, and for whatever reason, the person on the short end of the stick stays in the relationship. I have experienced this in work situations myself. I had a boss who lied to me, cheated me out of money, asked me to do unsafe/illegal things, etc. I stood up to him and to his boss with as much vigor, logic, commonsense, and appeal to emotion as I could, but in the end, they would find anyway they possibly could to get their way. I couldn’t leave the situation because no other companies would hire me with the experience I had. The situation was drastically affecting my welfare. I was operating unsafely. Time was going by and I wasn’t making the money I should’ve been making, and my bills were not stopping. My bosses were making money off my efforts and looking for every opportunity to screw me out of what they should have been paying me. I was getting taken advantage of and I wasn’t getting compensated for it. I had nothing to show for the sacrifice I was making for this company, which included weeks upon weeks of travel time away from home. I felt like a rat in a cage. I felt like a slave. I was powerless to get what I needed. I was alone. Every time the phone rang, every time a message came through my communication system, my stomach knotted up. To this day, I still have a wave of negative energy flash through my body, stomach knots, and feelings of rage when I think about that situation and those people.

That, my friend is trauma. I was in a situation where I should have been safe, but I found myself alone, fighting a losing battle for my own welfare. It doesn’t matter whether it’s physical safety or spiritual or emotional safety. That is the situation I put my wife in. She knew she was being abused. The way I treated her felt unfair, one sided. But because she didn’t feel empowered to leave or to set boundaries, she couldn’t change the situation. She lived like this for over a decade.

Thankfully, we don’t need a doctors opinion to understand the truth. Her experience being married to me has colored her world in such a way that she now has a hard time trusting others. She is getting much better, but the way I treated her led her to believe she was fundamentally not good enough or didn’t really have anything to offer people in relationships. Little arguments still set her off so easily because she still believes I am going to drive a freight train through her life and take everything I can from her while leaving her in shambles. I have trained her to live in fear of never being seen, validated, having her needs met, or having her emotions mean something to her husband. The person who is supposed to make her feel like the most important person in the world, like she is special, valuable, needed, powerful, and beautiful, treated her like a sexual and emotional ATM, and she NEVER (yes, I will say never), ever got her needs met. She was starving emotionally and spiritually.

Hopefully you are beginning to see the kind of trauma she truly experienced and how it doesn’t just go away without a lot of love, support, therapy, and time.

Porn Isn’t That Big of a Deal; Stop Shaming Men Who Look

Yep, a supposedly good Christian man really tried to say that women make way too big a deal of this. If we would just stop shaming them then they wouldn’t have to look because they would feel better about themselves. Basically it’s all our fault they look because we get hurt when they do, and it’s really not that big of a deal anyway. I really didn’t follow the logic on this one, but ok.

Too many women treat porn like an unforgivable sin. First off, what is pornography? Do you realize that there is no such thing as a porn star? They are all in slavery in someway. Even the ones who got into it voluntarily find themselves pressured to do things they don’t want to do (pornharms.com). It’s a lifestyle they wish they could get themselves out of, but there is an abuse cycle that keeps them in it for much longer than they wanted. That’s the ones that were approached in a bar by some studio owner and went along willingly. The ones who got drugged and kidnapped and are now making videos in some warehouse in Sri Lanka are straight up sex slaves. I remember watching some movies thinking, “Wow, she doesn’t look like she’s having a very good time here.” Even when I sought out pornography for my own pleasure at the height of my addiction, it still bothered me deeply to watch these women going through this abuse. And at the time, I didn’t understand it. I really didn’t know that that’s what happened to a lot of the women that end up in those videos. But it is. Every time you watch pornography, you are creating a demand for some woman like your wife or your daughter to be kidnapped and raped in front of a camera every day of her life until she is no longer useful to her captors, at which point she will be murdered. So, since you to contradicted yourself and said women regularly use porn, I will say NOT ENOUGH women treat pornography like an unforgivable sin.

But that’s not really the point you were making, is it? You were trying to say that porn isn’t that big a deal for the user, without any regard to how it affects the people who create it. But let’s just assume for a few moments that, just like the fantasy world most people want to live in, the women in pornographic material are doing it willingly and are fairly compensated. That’s the best case scenario. It STILL violates the law of chastity. It’s still violates the social expectation of marital fidelity, whether you made a covenant in the temple with your eternal companion or married in a civil ceremony. It still hurts the women we claim to love. That is elemental and will never change. If I punch you in the face, you’re gonna be pretty pissed about it, right? Well the same goes for watching pornography. It hurts our wives’ feelings. Period. It hurts them just as much as if we went out and screwed some woman. We are telling them they are not good enough, not beautiful enough. The women in the pictures will continue to be young, fit, exotic, or somehow fitting a fantasy. The older our wives get, the more they realize they can’t live up to that expectation. We are telling them that when we have sex with them, we don’t do it because we love them and want to give ourselves to them and receive them in the most intimate, vulnerable, complete way possible, but rather because we have a bestial urge that they just happen to have the proper equipment to help us satisfy. That doesn’t sound like true love. That doesn’t sound like a celestial marriage. That sounds like abuse. So no, I don’t think enough women treat pornography like an unforgivable sin. Maybe if they did, the divorce rate in the church wouldn’t be so high.

Don’t forget how vehemently President Hinckley denounced unchastity in ALL its forms. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Pres Hinckley, pp 217-219. Go read his comments there, then ask yourself if you aren’t guilty of that type of abuse? Claiming that women have too big of a problem with men who view pornography and that their hurt feelings over OUR egregious sin make the problem worse? God have mercy on whatever man spews that vile drivel in public like you just did.

But Women Have Porn Too!

He then said that women have their own porn, mostly in the form of romance novels and movies, but they just aren’t willing to admit that is what it is. If they indulge then why can’t I?

Women ignore their own versions of porn. Yes, they do. Women of the world who have not made covenants with the Lord. But how can you compare those women to the women in the church who by and large do not indulge in that stuff? I know there are women who don’t wear their garments on cruises with their husband while they’re wearing immodest dresses. They went to see Fifty Shades of Grey. They lost weight and posted immodest pictures of their new bodies on Facebook. But I also don’t see those women in the church anymore. The women in the church don’t do that stuff. But the men do. So you can’t justify pornography usage based on the fact that “everybody’s doing it, even the women who claim it’s such a big problem for them.“ Besides, even if that were a correct premise, try saying that to the Savior when you meet him and see how far past the gate that gets you.

Men are Visual, Women are Emotional

Men are more driven by their eyes and women by their emotions. It’s just sooooo hard for men not to look and they aren’t capable of the emotional connection that women want.

This comment highlights the type of emotional retardation for which men are infamous inside and outside the church in this day and age…Probably since the beginning of the world. I declare that men and women are created exactly equally both in terms of sexual drive and desire for emotional connection. See, once you start figuring this stuff out, you realize that what you were looking for all along in all the ways you acted out was an emotional connection that made you feel loved, important, and secure. Sexual relations are the pinnacle of such a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. But Satan knew what kind of havoc he could wreak if he were able to confuse us into believing that sex was the beginning point in seeking out emotional satisfaction. And he is winning that battle quite handily at the moment. Satan wants us to believe that men are built for watching football and drinking beer and fixing stuff and slapping each other on the back and hurling jestful insults at each other while women were built to connect and talk about their emotions. But that is false. Men were created to talk about their emotions and connect with other men and with women just like women were built. So long as Satan has us believing that we are fundamentally incompatible, he will continue to tear apart our families. But if you can accept that you will feel happy and free when you really get in touch with your emotions and feel a connection to yourself, God, and others all at the same time, it becomes so easy and so clear to see that we are all the same. Male and female, we are all worried that we aren’t enough, that nobody will love us, that we are really a fraud. Relationships with others in which we reveal ourselves and lovingly accept what others reveal to us gives us the true freedom and security from all of that negative self talk Satan wants us to buy and sell every time we have a lustful thoughts or commit an unchaste act.

Be 100% Accountable

Here’s the thing ladies and gents; an addict is ALWAYS 100% responsible for his/her actions. It doesn’t matter if you came from an abusive home, were assaulted, bullied, shamed, didn’t get enough sex, oh I could go on and on. You are always capable of making a better choice. Always! The only thing an excuse can do is keep you stuck in a pit. IF you want to get out you have to be willing to do the hard work to change. Sure God throws a ladder down there in the form of 12 step groups, books, therapists, community, and more, but it’s up to you to grab hold and climb out one rung at a time. We all have trials. We all have bad things happen that hurt us. It is always our choice to grab life by the reigns and move forward with grace and dignity or wallow in the mud feeling sorry for ourselves. This speech by Lynn G. Robbins is an excellent read on the subject of taking responsibility for your life regardless of the circumstances.

Now please don’t think this means you have to stuff down any negative emotion and pretend life is a bed of roses. Nope. You cry. You rage. You process. Then you move on. Healing and growth are lifelong processes. They never stop, so we shouldn’t stop either. You got this. You just have to be willing to do it.

What other excuses have you used or heard to avoid working recovery? What fears hold you back from your own healing/recovery? What are you going to do today to take more responsibility for your life? Come on over to my group Muchness Mamas on Facebook and let’s talk about it!

What is Betrayal Trauma?

In my previous post I told you that I have betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some of you may have read that and said “huh? What in the world is betrayal trauma!?” I know that’s what I thought the first time I heard the term. Understanding is the first step to healing, so this post is all about understanding betrayal trauma and it’s affects on the individual and the relationship.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | When you are betrayad by a spouse or caregiver it can leave deep wounds. Did you know that the symptoms of betrayal trauma are the same as the symptoms of PTSD?

Betrayal Trauma Definition

The term betrayal trauma was first introduced by Jennifer Freyd in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. According to Freyd “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.” (link) So as a wife of a sex addict I experienced trauma when I discovered the ways in which my husband was acting out. When this trauma hit it was a HUGE betrayal because it felt like there was more harm that could come from confronting and standing up to it than there was in putting my head down, walking on eggshells, and trying to maintain the peace. For me personally betrayal trauma has also been sustained by my husband’s anger management problems in our early years as well. Double whammy!

The Affects of Betrayal Trauma

Freyd further tells us that when trauma involves a betrayal we are less likely to be aware of what is occurring or recall the details. Why? Because when we confront the perpetrator it threatens an attachment that we feel is necessary to our survival. Those awesome survival instincts can kick in and literally erase our memory or change it to make the betrayal seem like less of a threat.  I felt like I was all these monkeys combined into one! I refused to hear or see the abuse in my marriage and definitely terrified to say anything about the things I did notice.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | wife of a sex addict | spouse of an addict | PTSD Joao Tzanno

When our conscious mind is protecting us, and our subconscious mind is screaming that everything is not ok it can lead to some pretty severe problems. In a recent study it was shown that ~70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yep, the same thing that military folk come home with is what traumatized wives deal with. Lucky me, I got both! I will say, however, that my trauma from deployment was VERY minimal to the extent that I didn’t even really realize that it existed for a long time. My betrayal trauma due to addiction has been much more in my face and in control of my life. PTSD comes with a lot of really fun symptoms including:

  • Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
  • Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
  • Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Yeah, that’s a lot. All of these symptoms can also take their toll physically. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, joint and/or muscle pain, headaches, weight gain, and even more often manifest themselves when a person is suffering from trauma. “The Body Keeps The Score” is a great book to read if you are more interested in this topic. It’s WAY too much to cover here.

How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Quite frequently all these symptoms are lumped into one happy little diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Here pop a pill and be on your merry way! While I’m all for medication if and when you need it really healing trauma requires far more than that.

4 Steps for Betrayal Trauma Recovery | muchnessmama.com | you can heal from betrayal trauma, but it requires a lot fo work. Here are 4 important steps to get you started.

First and formost you need to get out of your isolation! That is why I have ripped the curtain off my life and decided to start sharing here, thankfully with my husband’s full support and even cheerleading. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! As I said in my previous post 64% of Christina men admit to at least monthly viewing of pornography. I dont’ think there is a single woman in this world who has not been affected by sex addiction in some way. Whether it’s harassment from schoolmates or coworkers or a deep betrayal of a spouse we’ve all been touched. It is not your fault. You don’t deserve it. You are worthy of love and respect. There are a few different groups out there that you can meet with in person. S-Anon is the partner program to Sexaholics Anonymous. They provide pretty good support, but they follow a codependency model which I believe is very unhealthy, so I would not personally recommend them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offers a Spouse and Family Support Group. These meetings are based on some beautiful principles. The leaders, however, are missionaries called by the church. They may or may not have any actual education or experience with trauma. Some meetings can be further re-traumatizing. If your local meeting is not a supportive safe place for you there are many phone meetings to choose from as well. Lifestar and Healing Through Christ are two other groups I am aware of. They both lean towards codependency though, so once again not my highest recommendations. I am also a member of a few different groups on Facebook. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed these groups are secret. If you are interested in learning more about these groups please feel free to contact me. Determined to Rise is also a great resource for connection. I am REALLY looking forward to attending the retreat that they are hosting next month in Utah.

Second, and equally important, is counseling with a qualified therapist. Finding the right therapist can be very difficult. While there are all sorts of certifications you can look for ultimately it all comes down to do they know and understand betrayal trauma. It is also really helpful if they are trained in EMDR and/or neural feedback therapy (more on those in a future post). Both of these help to integrate the mind/body connection and speed up the healing process.  Betrayal Trauma Recovery is an excellent resource for finding a good counselor. They are coaches rather than certified therapists, but they have focused their training on betrayal trauma and most are victims as well. One last note on therapy. NEVER EVER EVER do couples therapy with a man who is still in active addiction. It usually does far more harm than good as it provides a platform for the addict to further abuse you through manipulating and gaslighting both you and the therapist. I would recommend that an addict is working a solid recovery program and attending weekly counseling sessions on their own for at least 3-6 months before you even consider couples therapy. When you do start couples therapy look for a therapist who uses Emotionally Focused Therapy techniques. Addiction is at the root a disease of connection. Learning to reconnect to your own emotions and your spouses in healthy ways is far more important than directly working on any specific marriage issues, especially in the early stages of healing a relationship.

Third, become  a learn it all. No one is ever going to care as much about your healing as you do. Knowledge is power and you need all the power you can get to escape the pit that you find yourself in while dealing with these issues. The first book I would start with is “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse“. If you are dealing with verbal abuse or out of control anger as I was then I would also highly recommend “Why Does He Do That“. For dealing with your own insecurities adn regaining your individuality and muchness anything by Brene Brown is pure gold. I’m currently working through “The Gifts of Imperfection” book via the art journaling class.

Fourth is some solid self-care and self-love work. Self-Care is NOT selfish! You matter. You are important. You can not give to others what you don’t have for yourself. Your capacity to love others, including and even especially your own family, is limited by your ability to love yourself. If you struggle with this I would encourage you to find ten minutes every day where you can just do something you love. Take a walk, do some art, sing in the shower, just do whatever makes you happy. Then look in the mirror and say to yourself “I am a beloved child of God with infinite potential. I am worthy of love. I love you Emily!” Please put your own name in there though. While I do enjoy adoring fans this is about you.

What is Betrayal Trauma | muchnessmama.com | Positive Affirmations | you are beloved | Child of God

Are you or a loved one suffering from Betrayal trauma? What more do you wish you knew about it? I’d love to see you over in my Muchness Mamas group on Facebook where you can discuss this and other topics in a group of supportive and understanding women.

 

Memorial Day- The Dark Side of Military Service

As I have seen all the media hullabaloo leading up to Memorial day this year it has caused me to reflect on my own military service as well as that of my husband. I joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school and served for eight years. My husband waited a little longer to join, he was a few years out of school, and served for 7.5 years. We met while serving and had our first two children together while on active duty. My husband is now currently serving in the National Guard.

We are both proud of our service. We did hard things. We deployed. We were part of something bigger than ourselves. We were willing to die for our country. This is what you hear from most active duty and veterans. What you don’t hear, and what you probably don’t want to hear, is that there is a dark side to service.

The military is one of the most emotionally sick places that I have ever been in my life. It was a dark time for me emotionally and spiritually. The worst mistakes I made in my life were a result of trying to fit in and be a part of a culture that was the polar opposite of the values I had been raised with. The incongruity between my actions and what I knew to be right caused me to struggle with depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

veteran suicide awareness| SmithSquad.com | 22 too many | Marine Corps | military suicide | Mental Health

Did you know that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day? Some articles will try to tell you that this is a trumped-up statistic as the majority of veterans are older. They say these veterans shouldn’t count because their reasons for suicide are the same as any other civilian of that age. I don’t buy it. Military service affects you in a way that never leaves your mind, especially if you have been in active combat. Sure many of these vets may fight their demons off for years, but that doesn’t mean that it affected them any less, or that their suicide is unrelated to their service.

Why is it that mental issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicide are so common among military members? Well I can’t say it any better than my husband did on a recent Facebook post where he accepted a challenge to do 22 push-ups to raise awareness for veteran suicide:

I wanted to accept this challenge because what I can do to raise awareness is to talk about my experience in the active duty ranks of the military. If we want to see a reduction in suicides, we need to address the culture of the military that pressures service members to be supermen and women without feelings. We need to hold military leaders’ feet to the fire with the claim that they care about families. To the military, caring about families means spending money on them when it should mean creating an environment in which the family member who serves is not destroyed by the pressures of the job. We need to transform the culture that celebrates pornography, promiscuity, and alcoholism into one in which service members can feel it’s normal, okay, and healthy to seek help in overcoming problem behaviors. While service members do have access to chaplains and mental health professionals, they are often called names and counseled that their careers will suffer if they use those resources. Leaders don’t want their people to have problems, be weak, or discuss poor leadership with anyone outside the chain of command.

If you think military suicides are a problem, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that the American military is the most mentally unhealthy, destructive place on the planet. Going after suicides can and should only lead to the discovery that the problem is much deeper, much bigger than gets reported in the news. If you want to solve this problem, you have to be committed to going all the way. So called “suicide awareness” campaigns are only a last-ditch effort to prevent the consummation of a tragedy that has been building for months and years in the minds of affected service members. Our young people suddenly leave families and friends, endure the pressures of basic training, and enter a world in which power-hungry, ego-tripping maniacal senior leaders bark orders ad nauseam with no (or feigned) regard for the well-being of their subordinates—to say nothing of the horrors of war many of them experience. After work, these young people live in a world where sex and alcohol are easy to find and seemingly limitless. With young people beginning their lives away from home this way—essentially living like college students with the added dangers of a high-stress job, less supervision, more freedom, and more money to spend—it is no wonder so many of them can’t handle it. I’m proud of my military service and what my brothers and sisters in arms have accomplished for this country, but there is much work to be done. Yes, suicides are a problem, but at the root of that problem is the destructive culture. The problem will continue until the root is cut.

About 3 years into my service I went to see a counselor to address my depression. I had one appointment. When requesting further appointments I was told I had to schedule them during non-work hours, they would not excuse my absence from work for a 1 hour counseling appointment. The counselors on base are only available during work hours. When my husband once sought some anger management classes he was advised against it because it could negatively impact his career. When a young marine I was in charge of took rat poisoning trying to end his life the SSgt over me made the comment “If he really meant it he would have succeeded. Don’t worry about him. I’ll straighten him out.” He was then moved to another direct supervisor because the SSgt thought I was babying him by showing concern. I spent many hours sitting and talking with those who had nowhere else to turn with their problems. When I left the Corps a few marines commented that I should be called Mama Smith instead of SSgt Smith. I was an oddity because of the level of true compassion I showed towards my Marines. “They’re tough, they don’t need you treating them like sissies” was once said to me by my top enlisted leader. When a fellow Marine asked those sharing his changing area to remove a pornographic poster that was on the wall he was ignored and ridiculed for the rest of his time in the unit. I could go on and on.

The fact is that the Military is a dark place full of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. If you don’t conform to their beliefs then you are an outcast, often ridiculed and unjustly persecuted. Add in the pressures of war and the effects of PTSD and it’s no surprise that so many veterans, especially those who were raised with much higher moral standards, are struggling with mental illness and suicide.

 

So what can we do about it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to influence a culture change. What I can do is support those organizations who try to assist veterans overcome the problems that their service has created. At the top of my list is The Valhalla Project. The Valhalla Project is a 200-acre pilot property in the Ozark mountains with homesteading programs for post-9/11 military veterans. It is a retreat and reintegration facility for post-911 combat veterans and war zone civilian workers transitioning back into the civilian world. They work the land as a form of therapy to help deal with the trauma that they have experienced. One of the best ways to help them is to check out their critical needs wishlist on Amazon and send them a gift. You can also follow them on Facebook to be updated on any needs, and share their message with others. Direct donation via Paypal is also available on their blog.

Here are some other organizations who are fighting the mental health battle against veteran suicide:

Do you know a veteran or are you a veteran with mental health issues related to your service? Do you know of any additional resources for those who want to be part of the solution? Please share your stories and resources in the comments below.