Despair, Self-harm, and Hopelessness in the Pit of Betrayal Trauma Part 2: Finding My Way Out Of The Dark

Despair, Self-harm, and Hopelessness in the Pit of Betrayal Trauma

Part 1: The Darkness that Nearly Swallowed Me Up
Part 2: Finding My Way Out Of The Dark

Warning - this post is about self-harm and suicidal thoughts and may be intense or triggering. If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours, at 800-273-8255 or

If you are reading this, you fully understand there is nothing quite like the feeling of unravelling after D-day. I felt that too. After the numbness and disorientation subsided, the searing pain was constant. There was no reprieve. Day and night, this obliterating pain and confusion was derailing every thought, making the simplest of tasks feel like walking through wet cement. Even the small amounts of sleep I actually managed were haunted; there was no relief. My mind was uncooperative, only allowing me to see the betrayal, and nothing else. I saw betrayal everywhere and in everything: brushing my teeth, washing dishes, taking a shower, and driving to work. There was nothing in my life left unscathed from this bomb so carelessly dropped in my lap.

Over the months to follow, the hopelessness set in to the point that I just didn't want to be me anymore. I would have traded places with just about anyone to be someone else who was not so damaged, someone who had been "enough." I could no longer see any value in being me or in living my life. I even fantasized about getting cancer, as that would provide a relief from the life I had. It became clearer that this situation was irrevocable, and I believed there was no point in living. I could not see even a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel and I didn't have the energy to care anymore. I started to believe that my kids and family would be better off without me, and could readily find someone to take my place who would be "more" than I had been. If my husband could replace me that easily, my kids could too. Clearly, the problem was me.

The self-loathing was constant and intense. My negative self-talk told me I was worthless and ugly, and no wonder he didn't want me. I constantly compared myself to "her," and always lost. The urges began to increase and became harder to ignore. I wanted to - no, needed to - punish myself for being such a loser, and I hated myself for not being good enough. My body had failed me in this competition with the affair partner, so I took out my rage on it. In a variety of ways that surprised me in my creativity, I harmed my own body, again and again. I felt the compulsion to do this, and then the act of self-harm would provide some initial measure of relief, taking the edge off the pent-up pressure, soon to be followed by guilt and shame, then confusion and disgust for being so weak, and such a pathetic loser. I could not inflict this violence and rage on my husband or the affair partner, so I took it all out on myself. It was a vicious cycle and my husband was terrified. I did not want to live, and I thought about it constantly. I obsessed about it. I mentally crafted detailed plans which would ensure a lethal outcome. I thought about one plan in particular so often, I was secretly worried I would compulsively carry it out before I could even finish the thought, but I was conflicted. I did not tell anyone about the specific plans I made, and felt like I was looking in from the outside, and losing my mind.

I began to make plans to ensure things were organized for my family in the event of my death, and wondered how my kids would feel. My reality was so distorted that I was really not sure it would impact anyone all that much. After all, since my husband chose someone else I must not have ever mattered, so would anyone really miss me? Wasn't I easily replaceable? I could not think clearly, but was also aware of that fact, which scared me and increased the self-loathing toward myself and my weakness. I prayed and prayed, and felt totally abandoned. I stopped caring if it would ever get better. I just accepted that this darkness was the sum total of my life. I gave up and no longer hoped for anything more.

One day at work, my desire to die was so intense, I did not know if I could get home safely without carrying out my plan. While googling lethal doses of over the counter medications I had at home, the information for the suicide hotline came up on my phone. I called, alone in my office, sobbing on my desk. I hung up. I really didn't know what to do and did not want to talk to anyone. I did not see how they could help me.

The following day, after a tumultuous series of events, I was taken from my office to the hospital in the back of a police car under a mandatory mental health arrest. It was humiliating, frightening, and a total loss of control. I had a very real fear that my husband would not come to pick me up, as this was his opportunity to finally dispense with me and move on from his crazy, broken wife and all the stress and drama we had endured since D-day a year earlier. He did come, however, and tearfully struggled to decide whether he could keep me safe enough to be discharged. It was a series of events I will never forget, and I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation for people in any situation who are so incredibly lost that they feel there is no hope. I know now that God was with me. He kept me safe. I did not feel Him but I know He was there, weeping alongside me.

Today, I don't feel all of those things. In fact, I was pondering my progress recently, and it struck me that I have not felt those urges in a while. That is not to say life is now all butterflies and rainbows, but I no longer want to die. I no longer want to take out my aggression, anxiety, and desperation on my body through self-harm. That may not sound significant to people who have not walked in my shoes, but to those who have, I want to encourage you that it does get better. These intense feelings do diminish. I am still battling trauma and depression, but the feelings are calmer and more manageable. I can think clearly now. I thank God every day that I am still alive to love those around me, and that I have another day to try again to move toward healing and wholeness.

The physical scars from my self-harm have faded. I shudder to think of a different outcome in which my family potentially wondered why they weren't enough for me, and the damage it would have caused to all the people I love. I came closer to ending my life than I would like to admit. I will never forget this season, and the extremes to which the pain from infidelity has taken me. Now I have empathy for those who walk this way. I know they are not weak. I know the strength it takes to keep going. I know how out of control it feels and how the light is totally eclipsed when you are in the darkness, and you no longer even believe light ever existed. I understand that now.

I hope I can use this to reach out a hand to someone still in the blackness, and gently encourage you to hold on just a little longer. Just wait. It will get better, but you have to be patient, take courage, and look for the light. Let people help you. You DO matter and people DO care about you. No matter what your spouse did, or what he or she is doing now, you still matter. You always mattered. Your spouse can't take that away from you, and if you hold on long enough, you will be here with me to reach out your hand to someone else who just can't see any light yet either.

Luke 12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

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Jen, your blog posts resonate

Jen, your blog posts resonate more strongly with me than any other content I have found both on this site and any others since my D-Day. Your recent posts detailing your journey into and out of the dark have me sobbing at my screen for you have so clearly written the words both in my head and my heart. I have recently been told I have a place in the Harboring Hope series and i'm so hopeful it will help me find my footing back onto solid ground where these thoughts of self worthlessness and "not enough" lessen their hold on my being. But in the meantime, thank you....thank you for letting me i'm not alone.

Thank you Kristie

I'm so sorry that you can relate to these feelings but I am glad to reassure you that you aren't alone and that it will get better. This has been such a surreal journey that I never could have envisioned or remotely understood before enduring it, and it can be very lonely.

Sharing these intensely personal thoughts and experiences is a bit scary to be honest, but the risk is very worthwhile when I hear that it has touched someone by providing a measure of understanding or comfort. So I really appreciate you making the effort to let me know and your comment is very meaningful to me. I wish you well in Harboring Hope and beyond. Hang in there.

Is there Light at the end of this darkness??

Thank you for putting into words I have been feeling since D-Day 8 months ago. Suicidal thoughts have consumed me since D-Day, the feeling of not being enough, the pain of being so easily replaced after 25 years of marriage. Consumed by the pain of betrayal who could have imagined that the human heart was capable of such pain that move through your whole body like a bolt of lightening. Last week Saturday I yielded to the call to end the pain and took handfuls of sleeping pills, Tylanol and anti allergy pills. I ended up hospital, God saved me..... the battle continues the despair the pain praying that the darkness will not catch up with me before I reach the light. I hold on to what you said I matter, their are people who love me and would be hurt if I wasn't here.


I'm so sorry you are feeling this darkness. I do understand what you are feeling.

I'm very thankful you survived and are here with me and the others on this site. You are NOT alone, even though it can feel that way. This is the hardest thing most of us will ever face and no one is prepared. I hope you have someone in your life you can lean on - a friend, family member or therapist.

One thing that someone said to me when I was intensely suicidal, was that if I took my life my kids would probably be left feeling like they weren't enough for me. That struck home, as "not enough" was the way I felt about myself due to the affair, and I would never want my children to experience a fraction of that pain. I had become convinced no one would care if I died, and I still wasn't sure, but it made me stop and think. It was so hard as my thoughts were very muddled at the time so nothing seemed to make sense other than wanting to escape the pain.

I will say it again - you DO matter and there are people who love you. God created you and He does not make mistakes.

I'm glad you're here, and I am thankful you reached out with your comment. I will be thinking of you and praying for you tonight.

So true... I would never want

So true... I would never want to subject my four children to the pain of not being enough. Thank you for your kind words.

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