Not Just for Soldiers Anymore!

I have been debating with myself about sharing this on the blog.  I’ve hemmed.  I’ve hawed.  I’ve gone back.  And forth.

To share or not to share?

I’m a pretty private person, and I tend to keep things inside.  Perhaps it’s the reason all this happened in the first place.  But then, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, I decided to share this here because if even one person out there is going through something similar and it helps them, then it’s worth it.  I don’t want all of this to be for nothing.

Here goes . . .

{For visual interest, I have included pics of me in my recent spring purchases, so if you don’t care to read all this nonsense, at least you can be somewhat entertained by the fashion. Winking smile}

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$11.99 it!


My ex broke up with me almost a year ago.  The relationship was shorter than the recovery has been.  But this relationship was so different for me than any other I’d ever been in.  When I met J, I had recently gotten out of a nearly 5 year relationship.  While there was a lot of love in that relationship, there was also a lot of dysfunction.  By the end, we both knew it was time to let go and say goodbye.  Losing that love was a loss, and I felt vulnerable and hesitant to pursue another relationship.  But at the same time, I was ready to move on, curious to see what else was out there.

While I don’t want to get into the specifics of J’s situation because that’s his story to tell, he was also in a vulnerable place when we met.  Perhaps it was one of the reasons we were drawn to each other.  We both needed someone, but at the same time felt a need to be needed.

I remember how those first weeks were both exhilarating and terrifying.  J “got” me in a way that no one ever had.  I could let my guard down, be myself, tell him anything.  In the past, I had always worried that the person I was with would figure out that I wasn’t really who they thought I was–that I was a fraud in some way and they would leave me.  But I knew that J loved me for me, not for some pretend image of me that I had to live up to.

At the same time, I was so scared to really open myself up to him completely.  Because of his circumstances and the fragility I was feeling after my recent breakup, I was hesitant to really let him in.  He was patient, gentle, encouraging.  He promised that I could trust him and let my guard down.  And, because he was just so different from anyone else I had ever known and because I think I really wanted to, I did.  It was the most free I have ever felt in a relationship, and also the most secure.  I told him all the worst things about me, and it didn’t change the way he felt.

He stayed.  He loved me even more.  He was the elusive one.

I remember thinking, “Oh!  So this is what a relationship is supposed to feel like.  So this is what I’ve been looking for all this time.  It does exist!”

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Needs a belt, but cute, no?

At the same time I was riding this incredible tidal wave of loving and being loved, I also felt my old insecurity creeping in.  He was IT for me . . . but what if I wasn’t IT for him?  Even then I knew that if he betrayed the total trust I had given him, I wouldn’t recover from it.  For someone who doesn’t like to gamble, it was a huge risk.  But I felt, deep down in my bones, that it would be ok.

Months later, when he ended it, I was blindsided.  I didn’t see it coming, couldn’t understand why . . . and he told me it wasn’t me.  He had things he needed to sort out for himself.  But I couldn’t accept that.  I held onto the hope that we were meant for each other for months and months.  Along the way, we were still talking, still seeing each other from time to time . . . he gave me reasons to hope.  But it was an emotional rollercoaster, and I felt out of control.  J would want to see me, give me lots of attention, act like he wanted to be with me.  And then he would disappear.  When I would completely fall apart after this happened again and again and again, he acted like it was somehow my fault.  My misunderstanding.  My mistake.

Bottoming Out

Eventually, I got to a very dark place.  The darkest of the dark places where you’re so low you don’t want to climb out again, and there really seems to be no reason for anything.  Keep in mind, I was keeping all of the J stuff to myself this whole time.  I didn’t want to admit to anyone the agony I was feeling.  I wanted to take care of myself.  When I realized I couldn’t, I knew it was time to ask for help.

Asking for Help

My parents were there for me in the most incredible way, dropping everything to come see me for a weekend to try to sort this all out and get me back on track.  Unfortunately, even though I needed help, I wasn’t entirely ready to accept it.  After all, almost everyone who I had ever depended on had left me; I needed to depend on me and not anyone else to get me through this.

But me on my own simply wasn’t getting it done.

After my parents left, I started seeing a therapist.  It helped to some degree, but I was just so frustrated that it wasn’t helping more!  Why was I still thinking of him all the time?  Why did I still have so much anxiety about him?  Why couldn’t I just move on from this?  Eventually, I just poured it all out for her—that I was sick of feeling this way, that the therapy wasn’t helping, and that I was pissed about it!  Essentially, do something for me, lady!!!

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They're hard to see in this pic, but the top has the cutest ruffles! Love!

Getting Better

Here’s where my debate with myself really started—to share or not to share?  Because  you see, I am now being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Yep, PTSD.  Apparently, it’s not just for soldiers any more!  When I realized that I was experiencing the same kind of emotional trauma that post-war soldiers do, I was upset all over again.  Was I, as I suspected, just completely crazy?

I did a lot of research on PTSD and here’s what  I found out:

  • PTSD is a lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear and helplessness
  • Symptoms of PTSD often are grouped into three main categories, including:
    • Re-living: People with PTSD repeatedly re-live the ordeal through thoughts and memories of the trauma. These may include flashbacks and nightmares.  They also may feel great distress when certain things remind them of the trauma, such as the anniversary date of the event. I have nightmares regularly.
    • Avoiding: The person may avoid people, places, thoughts, or situations that may remind her of the trauma.  My anxiety over running into J is paralyzing at times—to the point that I will sometimes stay home or go to a different grocery store just to be “safe.”
    • Increased arousal: These include excessive emotions, problems relating to others, difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, and being “jumpy” or easily startled.  I have a lot of trouble relating to others, my sleep is awful, I am most definitely irritable, and I tend to be pretty jumpy.
  • About 3.6% of adult Americans — about 5.2 million people — suffer from PTSD during the course of a year, and an estimated 7.8 million Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

From the National Institute of Mental Health

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I will wear this with different shoes, but I love the nautical look!

While this was incredibly upsetting, it was also strangely validating.  There is a reason these persistent thoughts of J won’t go away.  There is a reason I’m so jumpy and anxious all the time.  There is a reason that months and months later, I still have nightmares.  There is a reason I’ve been feeling like I can’t relate to anyone.

But still.  WTF?  PTSD???  No fair.

The therapy I’m undergoing is called EMDR–Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  It involves tapping into your subconscious through simulating the rapid eye movement you experience during REM sleep and re-training your brain to be desensitized to the traumatic event.  Sounds kinda wacky, huh?  Basically, it’s not just for PTSD patients, it’s for anyone who is feeling “stuck,” excess stress/tension, depression, anxiety, restlessness, sleep trouble, fatigue, or changes in appetite.  Um, pretty much me in a nutshell.  In the more severe cases, EMDR is also helpful for those who have panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares, among other things.  Also me.

The theory behind EMDR is this:

When an upset is experienced, it can become locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. This upset is stored in the brain (and also the body) in an isolated memory network preventing learning from taking place. Old material just keeps getting triggered over and over again and you end up feeling “stuck” emotionally. In another part of your brain, in a separate network, is most of the information you need to resolve the upset. It’s just prevented from linking up to the old stuff. Once processing starts with EMDR, the 2 networks can link up. New information can then come to mind to resolve the old problems.


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Both pieces from LOFT--needs a belt or a necklace or something . . .

In EMDR, you start with a list of traumatic things that have happened in your life.  You put the things into order of least traumatic to most traumatic, and then begin the treatment with something on the list that doesn’t seem completely devastating to you any more.  This is a way of kind of easing yourself into the treatment.  I guess the theory is that you have to bolster yourself up to handle the heavier stuff on the list.

The therapist sits somewhat close to you, facing you, and waves their fingers quickly back and forth in front of you while you follow them with your eyes to simulate the rapid eye movement that occurs during deep sleep.  There’s a series of questions you go through to help you process the event, starting with how you currently feel about it and how you would like to feel.

So, I am trying it.  So far, I don’t know that it’s helped, but I think I am making progress.  I have a new awareness of myself, and I’m not afraid to admit how I’m feeling, whereas before I would have kept it bottled up until I was ready to explode.  Progress there, that’s for sure.

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Forever 21 Nautical! :)

I may mention this again here; I may not.  I just wanted to put it out there so that if anyone else is experiencing prolonged difficulty getting over a breakup, you know you’re not alone and there may be very good reasons for it.

In all honesty, I still feel pretty broken, but I will be whole someday.  For me, that’s reason enough to keep trying and reason enough to hope.  You’ve gotta hold onto something, right?

20 thoughts on “Not Just for Soldiers Anymore!

  1. I’m sending this post to my mom. I just found out last week that my sister-in-law was diagnosed with PTSD. Of course, my mom told me and I technically don’t know, but maybe my mom can send this to her somehow.

    Thanks for sharing! It’s not easy. I’m not really good at sharing personal stuff AT ALL in general so being able to put something out there takes a lot of strength AND is probably a step to recovery that you didn’t even realize. :-)

  2. Kira says:

    Thanks for sharing this Melissa. I will be praying that the therapy works for you and that you start to feel ‘at peace’ with everything. You’re an amazing girl!!!

    Love the new clothes too! :) Love you!

  3. Renee Byard says:

    Awww….thanks for sharing, Melissa! I’d say that it says a TON that you are willing to share….such a great moment in recovery! I’ll bet there are more people than you realize out there that suffer in the same manner. The “post traumatic stress disorder” makes SOOOOOO much sense! Thank you for that! As I think back to a certain time in my life…..I can see and say the same! I think it can be debilitating to realize that the perfectionism that you ‘thought’ existed in your relationship, didn’t really exist! You give your all and yet it backfired! BUT……I really feel it’s more the people on the other end that should be the sufferers…not us! It’s truly THEIR problem that we manifest into our own, because the hurt is so intense! All of it DOES happen for a reason….I know right now it’s difficult to see beyond the horrible feeling of present. ONE day….this will all be a time to look back and reflect. Some very positive things will come out of this. You have probably helped numerous people, just today….in knowing that they are not alone. Thanks again for being so open! YOU are amazing AND AMAZING things are around the corner. It’s just difficult to know where the “corner” is during the trek of the miles in getting there~

    • Thanks, Renee. It’s nice to know that other people “get it.” It has been hard to trust myself after being so sure about him, which I think is part of the trauma of it all, but I’m working on it. One day, it won’t be so bad anymore–that much I’m sure of!

  4. Melissa- you are amazing. A.Mazing. Thank you for sharing, and know that I bet a lot of people might be experiencing something similar and don’t know how to handle it. I know thatyour post is touching others.
    What I find in life- in sooo many ways- is that just saying things aloud to myself. Being brutally honest and expository, is what makes a difference. Because if you’re willing to really let it all out and admit to yourself what’s really going on- you’re only going to move forward.

    Beautiful post.

  5. This was such a great post. Thank you so much for sharing. It is really hard to be that open and honest with yourself, let alone the blog world. Therapy can do wonders and it is refreshing to hear someone talk openly about it.

    • Thanks so much, Becky. It really is hard to be open . . . to even admit that I’m trying therapy. But at some point, you do have to be honest with yourself, and what I figured out was that I did need help. I hope anyone else who’s struggling will feel some validation from reading this and have the strength to ask for help if they need it!

  6. tra says:

    reading your post about your breakup and stuff, seriously seriously seriously made me feel not so alone in wondering about what happened in my breakup- a lot of the same things happened- we thought we were MEANT to be…and then he ended it out of the blue…and it’s already been 4 months and i’m still hurt! (well i still see him where i work and workout so that just contributes to the pain) along with him texting me randomly. i mean, he’d text me something flirtatious and then he’d just not even look at me in the gym. i’m not itching for his attention, but it just amkes things awkward and confusing.

    it’s a little sad becuase i too am guarded and told him everything, my eating disorder, my worries….and he just dropped me like that. don’t know if it’s possible to trust again. :/

    and btw, on a happier note, you are just extra cute in all those pictures! everytime i try to take a picture like your dress ones i end up looking weird. ;D

  7. Oh my gosh, were we dating the same guy??? Ugh–the random flirty texts and then nothing! The worst! It seriously makes you feel like you’re going insane! I hate that I let him play with me that way for so long. I know exactly what you mean about feeling like you won’t be able to trust again. I kind of just want to lock my heart up in a little box and never open it again! I will say this: it will be a very long time before I get into another relationship. But I also know that I will be ok on my own–and I think I might even be better! :)

    Thanks for the sweet compliment, too!

    • tra says:

      UHHH that would suck!!! if we were dating the same guy! yeah i got the randomest texts at the randomest times…and then just ignored in real life! i don’t like that game EITHER!!!!! it’s just so frustrating. i feel the same way- on my own is a good deal for now! :D

      i’m here for ya! thanks for letting me spill about my horrid breakup! :D

  8. wow. i am sorry you have to go thru all of this…..i know relationships are sooo tough….that they can do the strangest things to us. all of the PTSD made sense though. i hope that you are healing and your heart is becoming happy again~
    i have been thru a rocky relationship w/ a breakup (more than once) and then we got back together (more than once) oye…..however, i feel like i am spinning down the same road again. i know that while i do have some faults i feel like my significant other does not accept any responsibility for ANY of his actions, and somehow manages to try and make me feel like the bad guy….
    i wish you the best of luck, it sounds like you are on your way to a happy life! thanks for sharing such a personal part of your life!!

  9. Melissa…. We have so much in common. When I met A I had just gotten out of 6 year relationship. I thought A was the ONE, I thought he was my soul mate and we would be together forever. The relationship lasted a year & half, we have been broken up for 4 months and I’m still devastated!

    Thank you so much for having the strength to share your story. I hope you’re doing well. Please email me if you ever want someone to talk to who understands. I’m still in one of the darkest places I’ve ever been and I’m hoping/praying I will see the light soon.

    How is the EMDR–Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessin going? Do you think it’s helping you?

    • Oh my goodness, I HATE this for you, Sara! Isn’t it just the most awful feeling in the world? I wish I could tell you it gets better faster, but it’s been months and months and I’m still so broken.

      I told the therapist doing my EMDR that I didn’t feel it was helping and wanted to try something more radical (I was thinking maybe hypnosis?). She said she didn’t feel she could help me anymore, so I just went on my way. Read: I broke up with my therapist and she just kinda said “OK.” Where do you go from there???

      We should definitely be in touch over email! Feel free to email me anytime! I will say some prayers that your recovery comes quicker than mine! Sending you the biggest hugs! XO

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