I started my blog series with a blanket overview of the why I am doing this and why it is so important for me to share. Now, I am going to start breaking it down a bit. I made my list of all the topics I want to cover as I heal, grow, learn, but had a hard time picking what I wanted to start with. After some journaling and reading over my list I settled on starting with trauma bonding. There is a lot that goes into this, so I won’t be able to cover it all, but as always, if this resonates with you or you have questions, shoot me a message.
Trauma bond is something that happens in your brain during cycles of abuse. The actual brain chemicals go haywire, and you form an addiction to the abuser. I don’t necessarily think my trauma bond was intentional, but it is very strong. The main brain chemical players are oxytocin, which causes the initial bonding, during the love bombing phase, the butterflies in the beginning, all the wonderful things, then you have corticotropin, withdrawal and stress, followed with dopamine, craving, seeking, wanting. Your brain becomes addicted, and you don’t even realize it happened until you are deep in the cycle. To explain this, I’m going to tell you how I became trauma bonded and how every day I am working to release that bond.
I met my ex when I was going through a lot, this was explained to him from the very beginning. We fell in love and fast. He was everything I ever wanted. He took care of me, listened, opened me up sexually, made me feel whole. I am a codependent with a lot of childhood wounds. This made me very susceptible to the trauma bond, but this is a whole different subject that I will be getting into in this series. For all my happy I went to him, he built me up, he really was my perfect boyfriend from the beginning. I put him on a pedestal. I was swimming in all those good brain chemicals that I didn’t see the gaslighting, manipulation and triangulation that was sneaking in between all the magic. Again, I don't know intent, just what my brain was doing.
I was being told from the beginning that his ex-girlfriend’s either were so terrible he cheated for his own mental health, or that they were always jealous of his female friendships, and that he can just walk away like nothing if he feels wronged. He told me how his exes always had a difficult time getting over him. This triggered my codependency and fears of abandonment. I mean, I have never felt this way before so I will be the best, I won’t be jealous, I won’t be toxic and push him away, I won’t fight with him. I can’t lose this wonderful human. I felt special he picked me.
I began to lose my voice in fear that if I spoke, he will leave. He told me he has never felt this way about anyone. We understood eachother. I didn't want to lose that. We would talk about how physical touch never meant so much before and we love eachother's touches. He really was my perfect boyfriend, so ignored all the not good parts.
About a year into the relationship is when I noticed a pullback in communication, things that I really liked, isolation, but this was during covid and after my divorce, so I just put it all off to those things. Our time together got cut in half or more, text responses were getting farther and farther apart. I knew he was working a lot and under a lot of stress, so I just kept hoping, kept trying, being the best, most patient girlfriend I could be, because he was worth it. I wanted him to see he was worth my love. I would have moments of extreme sad, I constantly felt like I was losing him, but then, he was back. He would cook for me, hold me, show me how much he cares. Of course, the distance would soon follow, but he was working, under stress, I must be patient. He kept promising a future, our future. I wanted to believe so badly. All I wanted was him happy, to love.
The last year was the hardest. The pullback was to the point that now he was cancelling holidays, which are incredibly important to me, we started to only see each other one day a week, all the things sexually I discovered I really liked with him, what made me feel sexy, special, started to go away, but I needed him. I was holding onto that high, that deep love that we both stated we shared. I kept fighting for us. At one point I did suspect cheating and lies. I knew in my gut he was hiding someone and some things. I did confront at one point. I was heartbroken, begged him to leave me if he was cheating with this mysterious “coworker” he would bring up from time to time. He acted shocked, couldn’t identify my absolute devastation that was on my face. I started to cry, he immediately got up and held me, soothed me, ahhh… the good brain chemicals. I wanted so badly to believe him. The fears though never went away, they lingered, and the push away/pull towards behavior grew. He stopped liking my post, I began go feel more and more like a secret. At the same time he acted so genuine, so soft spoken, that I believed he was just under a lot of stress, I didn’t want to cause more, I only wanted to help, so I stayed quiet, waiting for the bits of good, the snuggles. I thought he was my forever. He told me I was his.
My body started to go into attack mode. I started getting hives, migraines. I was on a constant stream of Benadryl for the last couple months of our relationship. The breakup did come, but he said it was because he couldn’t be who I deserved, he couldn’t move past his fears about my ex and needed to take care of himself and let me go. I of course was devastated. I was so patient; I was willing to wait out the hard times to get back to the good. He held me that night, cried with me, told me to never let anyone take advantage of me ever, I’ll always be his, he will love me forever. I broke. I couldn’t comprehend what happened. I spiraled.
He continued to talk/text and see me periodically over the next 3 months following breakup. There would be long stretches in between responses, sometimes a week. I would delete his number, start forcing my brain to process the rejection, the pain , then boom, he would respond, I felt like I could breathe again. Then, he would go away again, I would panic, then come back, promise I would see him again, that he still loves me, misses me, just trying to survive and that I deserve more than him.
Finally, something snapped in my head after my therapist mentioned to me that I was trauma bonded. I started researching. It made sense, but I still wanted to believe so badly that he loved me, that we have a chance in the future that I kept taking those breadcrumbs. I dug deep in social media and found the lies and secret hang outs, art events with the “Oh, she’s just a coworker.” Clearly, not. I decided to lay it all out for him, ask, listed events I knew he was at with her, for her. He got mean, cold. I was nothing to him now. Trash, easily thrown out and replaced, yet, I still miss him, want him to talk to me. Still love him, even after all that rejection & betrayal.
My brain went full on spiral. I was getting the panic, the addiction, the need for relief, without any. He was the cause of my pain but had become the cure. I no longer had the cure. I lost significant weight in a short time, I was having serious insomnia and intense flashbacks. My therapist clued me in that I am also dealing with CPTSD along with the trauma bond.
We had one more interaction after my call out text, that was cold, it was pointed out that I had said goodbye, so it has to end. I have been no contact sense. The trauma bond is still there though. It feels like withdrawal. My body is constantly craving something from him, closure, an explanation as to why he did this, the rejection, the pain, but also seeking out that feel good oxytocin. All of the brain spirals!
Now, quickly back to those pesky brain chemicals and to why I am still bonded, months later, and struggling with letting everything go. When in the relationship getting systematic good and then bad, push away, pull towards, the chemicals start to cycle through your body quickly. There is no time for much regulation. You are in a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response always. For me, it is fawn. So, even though you are out, no contact, your body is still craving that feel good, that relief. Your cognitive dissonance is extreme. You don’t know what is real. Your self-talk is at constant battle in your head about who this person is, what really happened, am I overreacting, am I just incredibly sensitive, is there something just wrong with me? I mean he was so nice, so caring. Was this really abuse? It feels like abuse, but he was so great, how could it be?
I also recognize I was not perfect, no one is, but I stayed, loved, supported, even when I knew I should go. I also recognize people fall out of love, but this is much deeper than that. I know it is much deeper than that.
Good news is with work you can break the cycle, break the bond, but it takes work. A lot of gut wrenching, soul crushing work that eventually you leave whole, happy, able to fill your own cup. Right now, I am in that working on me and breaking the bond stage. Still a lot of work to do, but I do it every day, whether that is in my workouts, therapy, reaching out to friends or writing, but every day, I work. I am starting somatic therapy as well to work on my trauma through the body.
I'm personally working on forgiveness & fully letting go, mostly forgiving myself for staying, trusting. Letting go of the anger & feelings of worthlessness.If you are trauma bonded, you do not have to forgive. This is just something I need for my healing. This is the time you focus on you & what you need for your healing.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me and if you have experienced any of this, let me know. You are not alone; you are not crazy. I have found a lot of great resources during my brain spiral research of trying to figure out what was happening to me. There is so much out there now to help you understand psychologically but also physiologically. If you need any of what I found, send me message and I will be happy to share. You are all worthy of happy, healthy relationships. This is not a stab at my ex, he may be healthy for someone else, I don't know. I don't know his intent or what was in his head. This is my story.