Exposure therapy

One of the biggest hurdles for me over the past 3 months is the sheer amount of things that have been tainted by the affair. It lasted almost 6 months so there's a lot of memories from that time. On discovery day, I made a haphazard list titled "everything that has now been ruined". I look at that now and roll my eyes at my own drama and I remember how horrible and truly dramatic that day felt. 

My therapist has mentioned exposure therapy and, while I want to believe in her and in myself, I'm unsure. Her idea is that I need to go back to all of these places, albeit with trusted girlfriends with whom I feel completely safe. I know that I'm stronger than I think I am but it feels so much easier to just avoid specific places. At the same time, I know (and thank you to everyone who has been brave and honest enough to push back on me about that) that I cannot let this situation take away things and places that I have loved. The gym being the biggest example. I have been back once, to return the quarantine equipment. I burst into tears on the way there and was able to pull it together to walk in and return the dumbbells and kettlebells. The rest of the day I felt empty and bereft. I have since walked a friend there and I was ok! It sounds like a small thing but it felt like progress. 

There are easy ones like the two bars from the night of their first spark. There are a lot of bars in Brooklyn. Crossing two spots off of the list (at least for the time being) is not a huge loss. There are some that feel a bit far-fetched and arbitrary likes places we visited or ordered food from while the affair was going on. My emotional brain takes over and inserts text messages sent and received even though I know he only texted her when he was alone. Memories are tricky things as they are not stagnant. A wonderful day in Red Hook becomes tainted with the questions of "how many texts were sent before that fun day?" and "how many were sent after?", among others. I have been back to Red Hook, with loved and trusted girlfriends, and I was fine. I was a little sad after but maybe a little less than expected? I've actually been a few times and each time it gets easier and easier. 

I'm looking at the podcast earlier this week as a turning point, a catharsis. I finally feel like I got it all (the funny, the cringe-worthy, the ugly, the STABBY) out and I'm ready to fully rebuild. I'm going to re-visit the list and go back to these spots (fingers crossed I'm not held back by another lockdown!), starting with the less painful small potatoes and working my way up to the ones that make me a little more queasy. 

Here's to safe exposure and better memories moving forward. Have a great weekend, friends.