Peer support subsequent to trauma contributes to full recovery

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -- including complex trauma (cPTSD) -- is debilitating, breaking down the body through anxiety and stress, and it poses a significant suicide risk in sufferers. MyPTSD seeks to help and inform those who are directly or indirectly affected by these conditions through peer-to-peer support and educational resources.

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Dating A Woman With PTSD

Discussion in 'Supporter General Discussion' started by ZAFF, Nov 19, 2008.

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  1. ZAFF

    ZAFF New Member

    I am dating a woman who has found out recently she suffers from PTSD related to her childhood. I am at a complete loss because I do not understand it, how it is, the feelings associated with it etc. I've done reading a lot about Combat vets, not too much on individuals that had childhood experiences that they carry throughout their entire life. I truly love this woman with all my heart, and every time I try to help, either by showing her what I found, wanting to talk about it, it blows up in my face. I want to be strong for her when she feels weak. I dont know what I am doing wrong. I want to be there for her, I wish I could take this pain away, and I know I cant do that. For those of you out there with a partner who has PTSD, what am I doing wrong? How do I go about showing her that it is okay, that I am there for her, that I will be strong for her. I told her I know this will be a life long thing, that I will always be there for her. She feels that she cannot come to me because "I dont get it." I know I dont get it, but I've done some research to try to understand someone with PTSD, and try to help her, but it always fails. I know I am losing her because of this. And I dont want to lose her. Thank you guys.

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  3. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Welcome to the Forum ZAFF, :smile:

    I cannot speak for your situation, however, from what I have read here in your post, I don't think you've done anything wrong- perhaps, at worst, just lacking in information. In fact, from what you said your girlfriend has told you about the ptsd - and that says something right there! Also, you said that you've tried to research and learn about ptsd itself. Also, you have come to this Forum.

    Ultimately, she must face and accept this on her own, including working at healthier ways to manage this.

    Speaking only for myself and my VERY LIMITED experience at acknowledging what I am dealing with to others, although I've experienced this since childhood, I found that it a relief to be treated as "normally" as possible, that is, when there isn't some horrendous confrontation or anger expressed towards me because of my lack of ability to "be the way I want to be" during the bad times. (This is not a carte blanche excuse for bad behaviour, however).

    You must take care of yourself for your own sake. The "happy coincidence" is that you will make healthier decisions for yourself, and that will be a great model for her, too, no matter what.

    Taking it one day at a time helps, too.

    I think if you keep reading this forum it will provide a lot of great information and support for you. I'm sure others on this Forum will be able to provide you with great information, too.

    I wish you (both) the very best.
  4. KarmaIsABitch

    KarmaIsABitch Active Member

    My childhood experiences also gave me my PTSD. As far as the feelings and difficulties, you can read my introductory post to see all about me.

    Childhood PTSD involves violation of trust. In certain situations, she will feel threatened and react out of a fear that comes from very deep inside her. Ask her directly how she responds under these circumstances and how you can best react to help her.

    When you react the way she's asked for, it may not work. She may have to work at building trust and remembering that you are there for support. You'll both need to keep talking about what went right or wrong and how it will be handled better next time.

    Unfortunately, PTSD generally causes people to lash out at the one they feel safest with. It is the least pleasing compliment you will ever receive, but it is something to remember.

    If you need more info, drop me a line anytime.
  5. ZAFF

    ZAFF New Member

    A little more

    Guys thank you for your responses.

    I know the things that I have done they have not worked. Usually when she's flooding, I have tried to talk to her about it. This consists of questioning, pressing for answers, pushing her to talk, overbearing with a lot about our relationship. I know not to talk about our relationship as its hard enough for her to work out with what she's suffering with. I try to tell her that I am here for her, that Im not going anywhere, that I love her, how beautiful she is. At times she just blows it off. She says she can not feel safe with me, I dont get it, she wants her own kind. She doesnt believe in my words. Yeah I know I talked a good talk in the beginning, we got together, issues that I am dealing with came out while with her. She became aware of PTSD. She is the most wonderful person I've met, with a heart of gold. She's always been able to put herself aside for people to help them. She has always been an easy person to talk to, I've never felt so close to someone. She's always been there for me. I dont want to give the impression that she's some monster when she's flooding or when she's stressed out with anything that she has been revealing in therapy. She's not like that at all. There are times that she can say some hurtful things, but everyone does that, I know I have even done that to her. I know people who suffer from PTSD can say things like that, so I try to not take it too personally. A lot of the things she says I do take personal. How do you know whether or not to take things personal? In the beginning when she discovered she had PTSD, she was loving towards me, but since then she's kind of secluded herself to just herself. I try to stress the "we" but it doesnt do anything. I try to emphasize on our relationship, that Im always there. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to handle the affects on me personally, how to be more for her, show her that she can be safe with me?
  6. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Dear ZAFF,

    This may not be of much use to post but I do so for only one reason, I have heard myself (in bits and pieces) having been described as you have described your gf, (not to say I have her qualities), but I can say for myself, it is probably hard on her part to believe these things if her self-esteem is drastically low. I hope someone posts the "answer" here, as I myself do not know what it is.

    I can say that very little said in moments of stress/ meltdown/ terrible frustration, pain or confusion on her part is likely to be meant to be taken personally (though it sure is convincing to the person with ptsd that you're acting in everyon's best interests to leave, because you are afraid to hurt them). More accurate are the moments of reduced stress and "rational" talk. But, you can't "recover for her". No matter how much you love her, you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't Cure it. But you CAN (and must) take care of yourself and make healthy decisions for yourself. (And if things work out, if she is able to get some help and work at her recovery, she will need you "healthy and strong" to best support her, too.)

    Please re-read Karma's post prior- very good suggestions, IMHO.
    One possible thing you could do is leave a book out where she could see it and look at it privately without having to talk to you about it- don't say anything.

    One thing they do have on this forum is lots of great info on how to handle how this affects you personally.

    Best wishes and peace to you.
  7. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Sorry this is so long ZAFF- forgot one thing.

    Wouldn't get too hung up on worrying that she feels "safe with you" (if you are doing what you can - for yourself too, are legitimate, sensitive and genuine). Speaking for myself THOUGH IT IS THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD to me to feel that way with "someone, or somewhere", most of the time (for myself) it simply "doesn't exist", though I know it is possible. For me, some of it comes from recognizing that I have resources and power (as an adult) that I never had as a child.

    If she has dealt with this most of her life, as I have, she undoubtedly has used coping mechanisms that might not be working so well anymore, and that's a terrifying feeling.
  8. TLight

    TLight I'm a VIP

    Boy, yes, I've lashed out at my bf's because I didn't trust them.........and they turned out to be not trustworthy also. I was good at picking daddy over and over and hence, retraumitizing myself. It was all very stressful.

    This new guy,I think I can trust. He really wants a relationship (hard to find when you are dating at 43), he has a steady job (one of my triggers), he wants the same future as I, he seems to be very sweet to me so far, no put downs, etc.

    Trust, I sure don't want to put this one through hell. I have to really stay on top of what is going on with me and not react to anything too quickly. I've already done it once and it hurt him........this was just in the first week! It was the money thing, a sensitive issue since I've been taken advantage of a lot. But He was very understanding and talked it through with me...........

    I so don't want to hurt anyone. Your gf needs to get into therapy for herself and her suffering. I'm still suffering.........but I think I can call myself stable now and the PTSD is under control, mostly because I don't have to deal with stressful work..........I don't think I ever can again. Perhaps a checker at a grocery store, people don't yell at you there...........Or just keep writing. As long as I keep my stability, I will have something to offer this wonderful man, and his love will only serve to heal me.

    I'm hoping for a beautiful life from here on out, and I'm going to choose to believe that. I wish the same for you two. You sound like a wonderful man to help her with this........she is lucky. And kudos for you for not taking it personally, for it is certainly not personal.

    Hang in there with her, but make sure she becomes committed fully to her own healing or this will not have a good outcome.........the PTSD will destroy it and leave you both with heaps more pain.
  9. ZAFF

    ZAFF New Member

    She is in therapy working through this. I dont want to give you the impression that she's mean or coldhearted, she's the complete opposite. Times when she is flooding, I try to comfort her, usually by talking with her but that leads to more questions and pressure from me. I know she's getting fed up with me, she probably doesnt even want to be with me anymore, we had a good thing going, and yes I know I brought it upon myself, times when I should have left her alone, but my wanting her to open up to me was just because I wanted to show her that I care, to ensure her that I know this is going to be long and tough, and something with us for the rest of our lives and that I would never abandon her. But one thing I was certain about was my love for her, that we could get through these episodes. That we could overcome anything. I've made the mistakes of trying to talk it over with her, usually something would come out, whether it'd be something she say, and she's real good about controlling her temper, controlling what she says, because she knows she can dish out words that hurt. I know if I just left her alone, things probably would have been different. I sure hope that its not too late, I know its at a brinking point but I dont want to give up on her because I think we would live a great life together and I certainly dont want her to give up on me. I subscribe to this forum to try to relate to other partners of ptsd sufferers, and to learn more about this disorder, so I could take what I can from the posts that I have read here and apply it. Whether or not that was a good thing for her, I do not know. I am also in therapy for other issues, I have learned that I suffer from dependent personality disorder, Adjustment disorder, Depression and mild Anxiety. I have made the mistake of putting a lot of that on her, but I always felt she was my "safe zone." Not to take anything away from her or anything, but it isnt a walk in the park with me. I have become needy and clingy, constantly needing reassurances, all of which I dont understand about myself. I know I have my issues to work out, and I have tried my best to keep them to myself, she has an uncanny ability to read my mannerisms and my facial expressions and tones, and know something is bothering me. I try to just keep this talk to my therapist now. I know that I would do anything for this woman, I thought in the beginning just love and care would minimize the effects of ptsd. I have realized that it really doesnt, and the one thing I should have done was left her alone. I love this woman so much and its like I know that I would do everything for her, be everything for her.

    Thank you guys for your responses
  10. kers

    kers I'm a VIP

    How long have you been dating her?
  11. Malkanthi75

    Malkanthi75 Active Member

    Welcome to the site. I can't say too much at the moment as I'm not a carer but I assume that my hubby felt the same way. You must feel powerless at the moment and it would hurt seeing the person you love transform into a person you don't know. I think you're doing all the right things you're there for her. One thing I always ask my husband to do is to let me feel with out him taking it personally. If I feel negative and blurt out negative things, reassure me but let me do it (as long as it's not at his expense). If I feel angry allow me to feel angry, I have a process if I go through that process then I get over it and a few minuets later I'm back to normal. Another thing I suggest is to perhaps not push her or question her, it may make her feel overwhelmed if you do this too much she could become a wounded animal boxed in a corner. Just keep letter her know that your their for her when she is ready to talk. I really hope some of the carers here can help you I know that you all need as much support as we do. Are you doing some sessions together? Good luck and stay strong and don't forget that you too can reach out.
    Ace Ventura likes this.
  12. ZAFF

    ZAFF New Member

    Almost a year
  13. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt!
    Premium Member

    First I am both a sufferer and a carer.

    Now two things.. when I read your post I thought "wow he is strangling her with love" and "trying to share what he knows coming off as a know it all"

    Okay granted that sounds harsh. (and yes I do realize that is not your intentions what so ever, you sound quite loving actually)

    However I think you just need to BACK OFF. I realize you want to help but all your doing is making her run away. Give the girl some breathing room. Let her learn about it.Give her the chance to discover what she needs to. Keep learning for yourself but don't try to teach her also. That just comes off as you know it already and we all know that isn't the case nor your intentions.

    Stop crowding her with questions and declarations of love and devotion. You have to prove it. Talk all you want it won't matter one bit. Your actions do. Instead of panicking and trying to figure out what to do and what is wrong just BACK OFF. Give her some space so that she has the room to get it under control. She won't be able to manoeuvre through her symptoms with you hovering. She will tell you when she's ready and able. No amount of questioning will change that.

    It sounds like your trying really hard. That is wonderful.. just give her a bit of space and I'm sure you'll do just fine.

  14. yogi

    yogi New Member

    I am new to this--- i have been dating a guy with PTSD and I have been reading lots of materials and information--in all of that i realized I have "partial" PTSD--I was abused by a brother in childhood and have had recovered to a great degree--being treated for survivor of incest (Courage to live)--have had multiple therapists, self help books and increasing spirituality (through Unity Church) and have made progress---in meeting this guy with PTSD, it has brought up deeper layers of me needing work; so in a certain way this is a "happy coincidence" to stimulate me to continue to grow. but my god, it is hard. Hardest is understanding how at times he can be close and loving, and then completely stop. So all this information is very helpful. thanks
  15. missy8888

    missy8888 Active Member

    Hi, i am a carer. My boyfriend suffers from combat related PTSD.... I am on this site, trying to get info/help too.. i don't know if this helps, but i will share what i have learned so far....
    When she wants to pull away...and be alone.....LEAVE HER ALONE!!!!.... i know that stinks and its hard to hear...............BUT DO IT!!!!!!.... not tahe it has nothing to do with you and your relationship...
    when my bf isnt feeling well...he needs time alone to sort out his head and feel better........usually its just a couple of days...(and it's a living hell for me when it happens) .... when he goes into isolation.....i never make him feel guilty, or let on i am upset.... I just let him know i understand and let him know i am here if he needs anything....i also say that if he doesnt know what he wants...maybe wants company but cant handle talking, that i have no problems being silent and just watch tv together... i tell him he doesnt need to explaine his mood or talk about ...UNLESS he wants to.... and when he does....I LISTEN...........i dont ask to many questions....the more I LISTEN....the more he will talk..........
    in one of my posts i asked for advice on how much space to give, and i was told that its ok to check in and just see if they need anything..ect.. let him know i am here, and that i am ok... cause making them feel guilty for doing things makes them worse....
    i try to not let it feel personal...its hard... but i try to think of the space he sometimes needs to medicine... to get well..... that usually makes me feel better.... (usually,lol).... cause i know that when he feels better, my sweet awesome bf comes right back........ be patient.... hang in there........ u can message me anytime, and ask me what ever u want....when she is in her moods....instead of bugging her........ good luck!!! big hug.
  16. Luthien

    Luthien Well-Known Member

    I suffer from PTSD, and I lash out at my husband a lot. Usually because I think he doesn't understand. Sometimes this is true and he wont be able to because he hasn't experienced what I have been through, but most often it is because I myself do not understand and cannot explain what is going on with me. So, he tries to help and I lash out saying "you don't understand!" and sometimjes even getting totally crazy if he doesn't back off.

    I think your gf is possibly pushing you away when it comes to the PTSD because she doesn't understand what is happeneing to her, she can't explain it to herself, so how could she explain it to you? She then just gets worked up, because it is a scary feeling and a lot of scary stuff we go through. To have someone being pushy on top could add to her fear, even if you're just trying to help.

    As just about everyone else has said, I would give her space. Let it be known that you're there, you wont leave, and then wait for her to come to you.
    Another thing, if she hasn't told you the trauma, and you are pushing for details you're going to run into trouble, you'll just scare her off even more.

    I want to commend you for caring as much as you do. All of your questions are good ones and it is very clear you love this girl and want to help her.
    I hope you find helpful answers and information on here.
  17. fin

    fin I'm a VIP

    I dont know how helpfull or not this will be but it might so...
    while you want to be helpful there is a good chance she might well have heard this before and also I dont know what has happened to her but it may be that people she should have been able to trust have abused or not been there for her.
    While you know they aren't you and while no-doubt she knows that you are different it is sometimes very difficult to continuously believe and believe in someone else when others have let you down, is a hard thing to keep trying to with regards to you being there...the only thing you can do is continue to do just that, dont be too "heavy" about it. But continue to be there...and in so doing a much stronger trust will eventually develope and I am not saying she doesn't trust you...but for me personally trust seems to have an ebb and flow quality to it. Flashbacks etc can alter not only mood but trust levels for me. And people that I once thought I could trust I may have a problem with after a trigger...
    Consistency is a key. And dont forget you are wanting her to get well not just for you but it has to be for her for you might be worth thinking about - as it is not always good to look to the other person for your support(not saying you have to cotton-wool her or anything like that but)as in this case she has the issue-hearing how it sucks from you might not be too helpful- so somewhere you have to go to let off about how you are feeling about things is good.
    sometimes saying nothing also helps, just being there. the better you get to know her the better hopefully the being there bits will be.
    I personally think it rather good and a nice thing you are doing in trying to find out more to help...but dont use that to her. and remember everyone is different and in their trauma they are too so not all the answers you find may be the ones that work.
    Discernment in all things...and time-be patient
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