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Thread: PTSD & Relationships [Long]

  1. PTSD & Relationships [Long]

    Hello. I'm constructing this post with measured despondancy.

    A few years ago I had a psychotic break, as compounded by PTSD and complicated grief. I have managed to get myself through all that without formal therapy or therapeutic drugs and am well on my way to complete recovery. However, as you might imagine, those events had a huge impact on my relationships with those around me -- in particular, my marriage.

    My husband and I cannot seem to talk rationally about the events of the past few years. Every time we try to, it ends up being a full-frontal attack on me, not just of what has occurred, but who I am as a person. Naturally, there are complicating factors.

    When all this began, I changed. I began doing things that my husband didn't understand, such as being drawn into specific sitations or throwing myself into specific activities. In hindsight, I can see that this was a combination of attempted coping/healing mechanisms but I didn't know that at the time and neither did he. Because I kept doing certain things even though he didn't want me to, he was hurt and began to withdraw from me. Because I was heading into a crisis with no means of recognizing or articulating what was going on, and because my husband had withdrawn, I began to actively seek support from others - primarily in the form of online friendships.

    By the time my crisis reached a peak, my husband and I were almost completely estranged. He was of the opinion that, "I got what I deserved", that I had, "brought it on myself," that "19 out of 20 people would not have been traumatized by those events," and that I should, "Get over it!" Absolutely devastating words for someone to hear when they are finally confronting the depths of their own personal trauma and anguish. People in crisis do not take their pain to those who believe they "got what they deserve". I took my pain to my online friends. I don't think my husband has ever forgiven me for this and I'm not sure that I've forgiven him yet either. Both of us felt abandoned by the other.

    As a result of my friends' support, I began to heal but my relationship with my husband has suffered greatly. He still has a great deal of anger and fear about these events. For example, at one point in time I was sleeping very poorly due to nightmares. I would often get out of bed in the night and surf the net. I was trying to find some understanding for myself, but this only increased his fears that I was having an online affair. It didn't help matters that my libido has virtually vanished - from what I understand this is fairly common with severe depression.

    Meanwhile, for 12 - 18 months after my psychotic break I was very ill. It took everything I had in me just to try and piece myself back together and deal with all the emotions that had been unleashed. That was probably the worst time for everyone involved because that was the period of time when I was finally dealing with those aspects of grief and trauma. I required enormous amounts of time alone. I didn't want to go out. My skin was gray. I drank too much. I wore nothing but pajamas. I was mired in pure despair. I wasn't capable of taking care of anyone but myself. I wasn't able to contribute to the household as a parent, partner, or financial contributor. The burden fell upon my husband to do all that, and he did. But he also felt the loss of his partner and deep resentment at having to pick up the slack. This was channeled outward into some very harsh judgements: "You're lazy; You have no respect for me; You have no respect for our children or home; Our children have no respect for you."

    He was also deeply hurt by the depth of my withdrawal. I've tried to explain to him that it wasn't personal -- it wasn't because I didn't love him. I withdrew from just about everyone with the exception of those two friends who had been such good sources of support through my crisis. Both of those friends are male. I love them both, just as I have loved every friend I've had before them. Neither friendship is a romantic relationship although they are respectful, emotionally intimate, and caring. Both of those friends acted as an informal therapist. Elements of transference and projection certainly came into play, and have since been resolved. I was very dependant upon those two people for some time, much as I would have been very dependant upon a therapist or support group if I'd been seeing/attending one during that time. I don't have any delusions about those friendships. I don't compare my husband to those people. I'm grateful that I had them in my life. I was able to share pieces of myself with them that I never could have shared with my husband. My friends had faith in my ability to do the painful work I had to do; my husband would have tried to protect me from that pain.

    I've now been back to work for almost two years. I've stepped back into an active role as a parent and financial contributor. My energy levels can still be very low, but I have taken back on more of the household tasks than I used to. I am still friends with those two individuals but I'm no longer in crisis and no longer as dependant on them as I once was. I am healing. My marriage is not. The trust and intimacy that once flourished between us has been severely damaged.

    Throughout all this my husband has been quite adamant in his refusal to learn anything about brief reactive psychosis because, "it scares him". I can't even share the miracle of my recovery with him. He doesn't want to talk about it -- any of it. He just wants me to be what I was. He wants our life to get "back to normal". I think he has read a bit about PTSD, but that only came after months of me begging him to. In explanation he says, "I've been really busy." For four years apparently.

    In spite of this, he claims that he loves me more than anything and would do anything he could to help me. Yet he keeps insisting on NOT doing the one thing I have repeatedly asked of him -- Learn about this so you stop judging me so harshly. Stop saying the things that you are saying and undoing months of work to restore some semblance of personal identity, confidence, and esteem. Walk this with me so I don't have to feel abandoned by you and forced to seek support from others, whereupon you feel abandoned by me.

    Meantime, I can't let go of the words he has said, even though he insists they were only said in moments of anger.

    The area I live in has a shortage of therapists. It takes months to get in to see someone. Months ago, I did book us in. Each time it has been our turn to go a crisis has arisen in my husband's life and he has not been able to go. Those crisis aren't fabricated on his part, it's just been unfortunate coincidence. I have gone myself to see the counselor but the counselor and I are not the ones who are married to each other. We cannot heal the marriage between my husband and I without some degree of involvement by my husband. For his part, my husband doesn't want to go to marriage counselling. He says he feels uncomfortable opening up to others. I'm beginning to wonder if he'd feel more comfortable opening up to a divorce lawyer.

    We had an argument the other night -- perhaps the worst one we have ever had. Once more, it was all about me and my failings. I find that elements of our arguments are now taking on "flashbacky" effects. I'm beginning to dissociate during them. The verbal attack becomes too overwhelming for me to deal with. I feel there is nothing I can do or say to defend myself. Shades of the past. The original trauma is suddenly back in my face. This isn't healthy for me.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on what I can do? Is this a common pattern in spouses? I recognize that my marriage is not healthy, but I don't want a divorce. My husband says he does not want one either. But neither do I think my marriage can survive by pretending that none of this ever happened. My husband is hurting. I'm hurting too. We don't seem to be finding connection in that hurt. I feel that my efforts haven't been acknowleged, and I feel that I'm somehow supposed to "get well" while forever apologizing to those around me for having "gotten sick" in the first place.

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  3. #2

    PTSD & Relationships [Long]

    My guess is that there has been so much hurt on both sides over the past few years that any conversation between you is going to be coloured by those experiences and those hurts and thus will always revert to defensiveness and blame (you hurt me, you hurt me too, you hurt me worse...). By now, honestly, I think it highly unlikely that thw two of you alone will be able to break those patterns. I think you understand that you need a couples therapist to help you do this, TM. Unfortunately, your husband may need further convincing.

    Without an impartial therapist who can help both of you focus on unhealthy patterns of communication, etc., instead of the mutual pain and mistrust, I don't see a lot of hope for this marriage to survive. Somehow, I think you'll need to find a way to get that message to your husband.

  4. PTSD & Relationships [Long]

    Without an impartial therapist who can help both of you focus on unhealthy patterns of communication, etc., instead of the mutual pain and mistrust, I don't see a lot of hope for this marriage to survive. Somehow, I think you'll need to find a way to get that message to your husband.

    Yes, I think you're right. All I can do is try. My husband and I need to see either a counselor or a lawyer; preferably the former but the latter may become necessary and what is most healthy for both of us at some point.

    Meanwhile, for anyone who might be reading this at some later point, here are some links I've found to be very helpful in regard to PTSD and Relationships.

    - Effects of Trauma

    - PTSD and Relationships

    - PTSD and the Family

    - Caregiver Burden and Related Problems

  5. #4

    PTSD & Relationships [Long]

    Thanks for the links, TM. I have to run to the store before it closes but I'll have a look at them later...

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