Help me please! Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from extra-marital affair

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    Hey mattr,

    I know that it is really hard right now – I have spend the last weeks in a similar state, and it’s true that it very difficult to focus on positive things, as the darkness and fear and rage will swallow every positive thought immediately.

    What you are trying right now is running. You want this to go away. You want to force yourself to be or feel different than you do right now. You are saying “this can’t go on” “I can’t take this anymore” “how can this be if I know it should not?”
    You are telling the part of you that is afraid: “Shut up! Stop crying!” This does not help that part! It’s as if you were telling a child that is afraid: “There is no monster, be quiet!” when you should be telling it “I understand that you are afraid. It is ok to be afraid. I’m here with you.”

    Wat Yue is saying is right: You need to face these feelings. You cannot make them go away. You need to accept them. And then they will transform. It is nothing magical:

    Think of it as a biochemical reaction that happens in your body. You cannot stop it, but you can look at it and understand it.
    Don’t be a hater – be the chemist who looks with awe at this phenomenon of nature (that exists for a reason!) – even if part of that phenomenon is sitting in the car crying and not knowing how to tackle the workday. (Been there, done that.)
    Try to write everything down, even if you have the feeling you already know what it is and feel stupid doing it. But if you know the triggers, and you know exactly and in detail what thoughts follow them and accept that this happens right now and know why it happens, you will start to feel more distance and it will loose its power over you…
    Try to accept that right now it is there, because it wants to tell you something. Let it stay, I promise you it will go away!

    And get help! You don’t need to do this alone!


    Hi mattr

    Firstly, I hope that today and the forthcoming days hold nothing but happiness for both you and your amazing wife. I know that situations like this are especially difficult, but you’ve made it this far- continue trudging on my friend.

    My boyfriend and I have gone through something similar. Without going into full blown detail, our relationship started on a very weak foundation. I was the positive, motivating and strong rock/ shoulder to cry on while he was the depressed, angry and negative one. I had no problem with his sadness; and although I had not experienced depression before myself, I was knew how difficult things were for him and tried nothing but my best to help him through it. I had quite a few curveballs thrown at me throughout my life, but none that got me into a rut that I was unable to pull myself out of. However, after months of put downs, humiliation, lying, mistreatment, flirting etc. on his behalf, he had gotten the best of me and I snapped. Without realizing it, all of his negativity had completely drained me of everything and anything I had left inside of me. There was no more love to give, no more care, no more compassion. I felt like there was nothing left of me. There was emptiness, and by the time he realized it, it was too late. The way I looked at it was, he needed a light so I set myself on fire. I was so upset for a long period of time and couldn’t begin to fathom why he did the things he did to me. This whole situation turned my world upside down and made me question almost everything. I saw triggers everywhere, ranging from the most ridiculous things (Snickers candy bars being one of them because he told me that his ex named his private parts Snickers and let’s be honest, who wants to hear that?) to names, places, items etc. The list was endless. I felt as if the girl I was and knew had been ripped away from me and in her place was this strange, new, dark person. I was so upset and caught up in a lot of bottled emotions. My boyfriend did a complete 360. He got himself together. He finally, after all that time, tried with me. He realized how cheated on and lied to I felt, and he wanted to make that change. He’s been doing a lot for me, and I can’t thank him enough. He’s grown so much from the person who did all those terrible things to me, to the point where I sometimes have difficulty believing that he’s the same person. I’m still recovering. Although I don’t think that I’ll be 100% okay again, I think it’s gotten somewhat better. But I believe in many ways that your post opened my eyes- I too may be suffering from mild PTSD from that terribly painful part of our relationship. Facebook is a trigger for me as well, as I used to catch him talking to other girls flirtatiously and I remember how hurt I would feel- but I would be afraid to mention it to him in fear he would get mad at me. In any case, I understand how you feel. I understand the triggers and the constant uneasiness. My only advice would be remember who hurt you. Remember that it was your ex wife, and not the woman in your life now. Realize that when you feel your anxiety and PTSD acting up, it was your ex’s fault, and make sure that your wife never feels like it’s her fault (unless it is, of course). And remember that once cut, the scar will always remain. It just depends if it heals well and fades, or leaves a nasty mark. Ongoing mistreatment for an extremely prolonged amount of time as in your situation calls for a very painful recovery. People who go through things like what you and I have gone through will always be reminded by everyday things which may prove to be extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant. But just remember that your wife now loves you very much and don’t let the mistakes of another impact your life with her. Don’t feel threatened (I know it’s much easier said than done, but this is being said encouragingly) because she is all yours. There’s a voice deep down inside of you that screams at you and lets you know when something is right or wrong, it just depends on whether or not we listen to it. Listen to your inner voice. Don’t let your insecurities rule you because they can, and more often than not, they’ll destroy you.

    I wish you nothing but the best of luck- please keep in touch and let me know how everything works out.

    The Brooklyn Bella

    Matt R

    Hi and thank you for your response. It’s amazing to me the rawness and openness people have on this website. Maybe it’s the anonymous nature that helps people bear their wounds for all to see. Ironic – here we are talking about social media causing us such pain and at the same time it is that same medium being used to heal. I hadn’t thought of that before ……

    You relate to me and I appreciate that. There is this hurt and wounded child in me that rages at the pain. I do insult myself and am derisive about my weaknesses. I haven’t been able to temper them lately. Today is the first day in several I haven’t started my routine in the morning by crying. Again you’d be amazed knowing my line of work compared to the mental anguish I have. I told my wife about this website and read her my posts last night to help her understand what’s going on. Like always she listened and provided insight and didn’t judge. This morning she came home from work and I felt the anxiety begin to build. I need constant reassurances from someone who’s done nothing to harm me. It’s so weird it almost has to be chemical. I think my adrenaline dump when I caught my ex in the first affair was so extreme that my brain dumps the same chemicals and makes me feel the same as I did at that moment many years ago whenever there is an emotional trigger. I don’t understand the mechanism of my mind. I know I am intelligent and can read people very well. However I get completely mixed up reading anything to do with my own love life because my mind is deceptive to me. How messed up is that?

    At work I’ve had so many people – complete strangers – tell me in these horrible situations that I contact them – that I reached them, moved them – made them feel and think about things they have put away in their minds – and that they appreciate me seeing and speaking to them like they are genuine people worthy of love. I do believe that people as a rule deserve to be loved. So why the hell can’t I believe that about myself? I know I’m a good man who believes in doing the right thing even if no one is watching me. Then why do I punish myself and allow these fears and weaknesses and mental battles to continue? It’s like having hooks in my brain dragging me back all the time. It does feel like I can’t handle it anymore. Yet here I continue to walk and move and exist. And I know love is all around me. My kids, my wife, my family. They love me. But the heaviness in my heart doesn’t go away quickly when I’m set in this PTSD feeling of despair. I feel for all the people like this. It’s a horrible way to be. It’s these moments when I crave the feeling of sunshine on my face. The radiant warmth of something so much bigger than us. I crave peace.


    The first step is dealing with your self confidence issues. The problem is not facebook or any other application. As K Schmidt pointed out not wanting your new wife to be on FB is a way of trying to control a situation that you feel out of control in. The real problem here is that you have attached your self worth to the behaviors of others. A good therapist should be able to help you reframe your perceptions and work on your own self worth and value so that regardless of how others behave or what computer applications they use, you can function without the feeling of panic that you are somehow going to be hurt or embarrassed.

    Matt R

    Hi Jodi. I’m aware of the control issue, which is why I would never ask her to be off FB or even to defriend someone under minimal circumstances. I think I even wrote that. But you are correct about my low self esteem and self worth. I recall when, as I was struggling to deal with my ex wife’s affair and her associated lies, she told me that seeing me cry was a turn off. That didn’t do much for my self esteem. My wife now accepts all of who I am and I love her for that. I know this is a journey I need to make without her affirmation. Her support is amazing but the discoveries have to be made on my own. I’ve worked on my self esteem a long time.



    My husband is a big facebook user, he logs in at least once a day. I made a conscious decision not to become his friend on facebook, one reason is that I am just not that into facebook, and although i did set up an account and used it for a year or two (a long time ago) i don’t use it now. I am not that interested in social media ( ok, I am on this blog!….) so it would not make any sense for me to be accessing and viewing his site and the activity on it. It does not really bother me at all, as far as I am concerned that is his social world and where he relaxes and shares jokes with friends. Probably if i were a big facebook user i would become his friend, it would make sense, but i am not so interested in social interactions on facebook. Apparently his sister was teasing him when she realised i am not a friend on his facebook page! So people i think have different attitudes to this. Probably i am a bit old fashioned and also just not that interested. And i trust my husband and that trust makes me secure.
    I am sorry this is one of your triggers, i am 100% certain that with sustained conscious effort you can overcome your fears. The support of your lovely partner will also help. Good luck


    Hi Mattr,

    PTSD can change the way that a person is neurologically wired. Please be cautious about language like: “I found that the humiliation, betrayal, etc., that I felt for years and years has created a permanent hypervigilance in me.” Just as your brain can change and become hypervigilant, it can also change in the other direction and not necessarily permanent. It just takes time. Time experiencing small successes in calming triggers and grounding yourself. Each success will build upon each other the same way that trauma exacerbates trauma. I think the key is to find the correct balance for you in exposing yourself vs protecting yourself from triggers. Does that make sense?

    I hear much strength in your words. I find your insight and awareness of the circumstances, as demonstrating great strength.

    It sounds to me like trusting yourself is the first issue before trusting her.

    I am most curious about your thoughts of your wife being a trigger to you. This is what I feel has greatly ruined the wonderful relationship I recently had. I can see that my partner was triggered by me, by the role of our partnership and the dynamic of the husband/wife role and feel of it would take him back to the feelings of his marriage. (We were not married but it was the same dynamic) This caused him to misdirect his anger that he never got to express to his ex wife onto me. He did so in a very hypersensitive irrational way. The difference though is that my partner had no insight that this is what was happening for him, so that indeed is an important big difference.

    I think that your insight is a huge asset to you as well as is the support of your wife.

    I hear this struggle you are having with “depending” on her. It sounds like you have shared so much with her already and she has accepted it all very well and continues to love you in a good way and this has been a very good thing for you both. I wonder if this “dependence” you talk about is the very thing that would actually free you both a little bit more? Do you think that maybe sharing, being weak, allowing her to see the full depths of just how vulnerable you are, allowing her to love you in that space of your most vulnerability for a bit of time is actually exactly what you need to be stronger and less dependent? That maybe you are holding back a bit. Keeping a piece of yourself hidden for fear of rejection? That maybe if you allowed it to be exposed, laid it out under the sun to air and dry, that experiencing her love in such a place would actually allow you receive the reassurance that you need to trust and move forward to a less dependent place?

    I hope I am explaining this well. I’ll give an experience that may make it clearer.

    For me, I do not get triggered by a person but by something that person does, a phrase, a touch, a reaction or a social dynamic or such. (With the exception, if a person has abused me then, yes, that person and everything about them can be a trigger) For example I have a fear of someone sneaking up from behind and touching me. So after realizing that my BF romantically reached for me from behind and triggered me, I then need to share this with him to a satisfaction. I need to know that he can respect my fear and learn to be mindful and loving towards me. After I experience his love for me in this way for a consistent period, then my trigger slowly subsides and subsides until it actually is no longer a trigger. I think that I must feel less burdened and less of a need to be hypervigilant knowing he has made a conscious decision to avoid my trigger with me. The trust that we establish through this process ends up with me slowly no longer needing either of us to be vigilant and then as months pass of success I came to a point where I love him affectionately grabbing me from behind, both because it is romantic and loving, but additionally because of the love of us overcoming that challenge.

    (On the other side of things… Whenever I try to ignore a trigger hoping it will go away or hoping to hide it, the opposite happens. I then feel an increased need to be hypervigilant about it. So sometimes my attempts to handle things on my own actually leaves me feeling more needy.)

    I have never explained this in this manner to anyone. Thank you for sharing and giving me these thoughts to ponder, I feel a bit lighter now!


    I wanted to add something re to FB. There is not a compromise setting in how the security features work that would satisfy you both is there?

    Assuming there is not, I would say that if you can identify some of the other most pervasive triggers going on and get a hold on them in some controllable way that the rest may follow and become lessened as a result. I think once you feel overall more safe that it will dial down the intensity on your FB trigger.


    Hey, just another thought. I have heard of couples that share a FB account. Like their couple pic is up and they use the one profile together. Personally, I wouldn’t want that ever but Idk, it seems to work fine for others. Anyway, my point was to find a creative way that may work for all. Assuming that it would not cause anyone to feel burdened or disrupted.


    Some ideas:
    Do something practical rather than thinking it out – thinking is an overrated human skill -amazing skill but can lead to all kinds of misconceptions (remember, using basic logic, things are NEVER what you think they are! – eg can you drink the thought “water?”)
    Try Phil Parker’s Lightning Process to break the pattern of associations
    Check out the work of Peter Levine and David Berluci for PTSD release from the body-mind
    Find a good body therapist rather than a “thinky” therapist
    Read Anita Moorjani’s book to get some perspective!
    Hope that helps

    Matt R

    Sunflower – thank you. It’s so confusing for me to hear (or read) people telling me that I demonstrate great strength when I feel the path I am on is one of weakness. My wife tells me this is a journey that is years long in the making. She did cry today because she saw me disappear and was feeling helpless to help me. That, as can be anticipated, made me feel even worse. Your comments about FB are valid, and I should tell you that she not only has her FB account on my phone but also changed the name to include both of us a long, long time ago. The pictures she has as her main photos are of us and my kids. She is very family oriented. I think my self-esteem is so low right now that everything is affecting me. I told a friend of mine today that I needed to rent Sex in the City, buy a tub of ice cream and just have a good cry out. We both agreed that was funny, so at least I can laugh.

    I am triggered by a lot right now and I feel a desperation to erase my mind and feel normal. If I meditate I can visualize a happy, peaceful relationship free of this anxiety, but it is fleeting and gets flooded with negativity almost like there is a tangible dark energy in me fighting against the goodness that I am grasping for. It all feels dirty and wrong to be this negative. I have a wonderful family and home, but I feel like I am taking it for granted and not being good to those I love. I know I am not being good to myself either. There’s a part of me that needs to die and be reborn. Whatever genesis there is after that, it must feel better than what I feel now.

    I have a meeting with a friend who is an observant Buddhist next week and I hope that this can at least point me towards some inner illumination that I am missing. If there was an off button for my mind, I would be pressing it desperately to stop the flow of negative thoughts and energy I am sure I am putting out to the world. I am extremely grateful to this community for so many stories and words of encouragement. I am ashamed of this time in my life and hope to leave it behind me soon enough. I look forward to much much better things to come, hopefully.

    With deep and humble appreciation,


    Hi Mattr,

    You sound more depressed than I had originally noticed noticed.

    (By the way, I stick with my observations of great strengths that you have in you.)

    I am glad that you have something scheduled to look forward to, I think finding more things you can look forward to May help?

    You may feel so negative but can you do things to “fake it?” Like sometimes when I’m depressed I ask my son if he wants to go bike riding later. He always says yes, and I won’t let him down, so I will end up going even if I feel awful and then I end up feeling quite good about it. Can you find a way to force some activity that gets your body moving or puts you outdoors or that in the past you know you do that feels at least neutral vs depressing?

    Matt R

    Hi Sunflower,

    I am able to force myself to work and muscle through the day ok. I actually broke down again last night because I was just thinking of how upset I’ve been – which made me upset. Today I feel much lighter. My wife sat with me and I wrote two pages worth of things I love and wish for in my life. Somehow that lightened my burden and I’ve had the first easy day in two weeks. When I’m deep in my funk I cannot fake it at home or away from work. I fall apart. I’m hoping I feel better for a long time now. It’s been hard but the writing and this forum have been therapeutic. I want to control this before anything else triggers me again. My wife was worried that I was thinking about hurting myself but that will never be the case. I’ve too much to live for and too much to love. It’s a weird weird thing the power these emotions have over one’s spirit.

    Thank you


    Dear MattR,

    first of all I am sorry that you had to go through this S*it wid ur ex-wife. To be truthful, I have never been thru this but I do understand the pain. I have seen multiple cases of extra-martial affair and I know it is really hurting to the aggrieved partner. In my view, the person who cheats is worthless.

    What I wanna suggest u is that you should start yoga classes and practice meditation. Its a long process but a promising one. Though u won’t forget abt the past but u will have power to fight the post traumatic stress. Meditation brings new light in one’s life and a new perspective of seeing things. Be spiritual coz it does has amazing power of healing within oneself. For eg. u said that ur current wife is spiritual. So she knows, understands and feels how u feel. She understands the pain and agony u have been in and how u r fighting with it everyday. This type of perspective u can get by practicing Spiritual knowledge and meditation.

    I hope you have a very happy life ahead and you forget all your pain


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