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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Dealing With Distance And Emotional Numbness

Discussion in 'Supporter Relationships' started by Mellotron, Jul 1, 2010.

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  1. Mellotron

    Mellotron New Member

    I've been with a girl for the last few months. Within the first few weeks of our relationship she admitted to me that she has PTSD from childhood experiences, which was only diagnosed in winter last year. Up until a couple of months ago, things were great - we really connect as people, almost to an eerie extent and she was very affectionate and caring towards me.

    However, a downspiral began to occur when she got a part-time job that involved a lot of targets and social interaction, at which point she was confronted with the fact that she can't really deal with stress in the same way most people can. She gradually got worse and worse until things came to a head about three weeks ago when she attempted to overdose on painkillers.

    After the doctors made sure she hadn't suffered any permanent damage and the mental health people came to talk to her and give her some advice she went back with her guardians in Leicester (I live in Bristol.) Things seemed to normalise after a few days, and we kept in touch over the phone and messenger clients. However, when she came to see me for a few days last week she became gradually more and more distant from me physically and had occasional times where I couldn't even be within arms reach of her.

    After a couple of days of this she confessed to having entered a state of dissociation and numbness since the Suicide attempt and basically admitted that she didn't care that much about me or anyone at the moment. Since she went back home it's been harder and harder to talk to her - she's never online and only occasionally responds to texts.

    Since reading about this stuff on the carer relationships subforum I've learned that if she wants distance I need to let her have it, but I'm concerned that if I give her too much space she'll use the opportunity to cut me out of her life completely. As someone who suffers from mild Anxiety myself I'm finding it hard to cope with the feeling that she's avoiding me and the uncertainty of the nature of our relationship at this point, and I'm afraid to start probing her about it because I don't want to put pressure on her.

    How can I handle this issue with her in a way which won't make her feel under pressure or guilty for her condition? My aunt recommended setting a specific time and day in the week when we'll talk on the phone, which feels like a good idea because it guarantees communication without pressure, but I was wondering what else I can do, as well as what I should be watching out for at this point.

    I've seen threads for carers who have been cheated on, is this a common enough occurrence to actually entertain as a fear? It's not that I don't trust her, but she doesn't really seem that much herself lately, although she also said that the thought of being physically intimate with anyone made her feel sick when she was at mine, so hopefully that's a non-issue.
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  3. She Cat

    She Cat I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Stress for someone with PTSD is something that most of us, just don't handle very well. I will tell you a short story. My daughter & I were estranged for 6 years. it was the hardest 6 years of my life, and I missed her & my grandchildren every minute of that time. Last August I reached out to her, and we reunited. For the first 8 months things were wonderful, and were going great. Then things started to happen in her life, and the stress started building in mine because of it. Things came to a head a month ago with her, her behavior, and her life, and I made the decision to walk away.

    Stress makes me ill. Mentally, emotionally & physically. I can't handle it, and I don't handle it. I have ended friendships & relationships, due to stress, and now I have walked away from my daughter because of it. I hate myself for being so weak, but at the time, I felt I had no other choice.

    Please, if you love her, and want her in your life. Give her the space that she needs. No specific time for phone calls, no deadlines for her to make, no time tables. Just let her be, and let her deal with this as best as she can. I know this hurts you too, but if you force the issue, you will lose her completely.
  4. Mellotron

    Mellotron New Member

    Thanks for your response. I can definitely see what you mean in regards to setting a predictable time. What is the best compromise I can hope for in this situation?
  5. She Cat

    She Cat I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    I personally think that the best that you can do , is to just let her be. Give her all the space that she needs.... Don't contact her for awhile, and when you do, don't put any pressure on her. Just send a note or something, telling her that you are thinking of her, plain and simple...... No pressure, no demands......I know this is hard, but to be honest, space is vital to us when we are sick......
  6. Nicolette

    Nicolette ♡ Supporter Admin ♡
    Supporter Admin

    While what Wendy says is completely true and I totally also have to decide whether or not you can deal with this. Having a relationship with someone with PTSD can be very draining but also very rewarding if you love the person behind the illness.

    What I have learned through my time here is that some PTSD Sufferers can manage a relationship better than others. From what I have read it is largely due to how well they can manage themselves and how that integrates with the person they love. You, as the other person, also need to be willing to accommodate the illness which is sometimes hard but not impossible.

    Each of us has our deal breakers. For me what's the point of having a relationship if I am alone? Fortunately Anthony had healed enough at the point when I met him that while he would pull away (a lot of it due to external stressors) he never left. Had he done the "I need to be alone away from you" thing it would not have worked for me.

    But, for this to work I had to quickly learn to identify when he was getting sick and learn to let him be - as in not even disturb him to ask him how he was. Very hard sometimes but as time has passed the stressors which we can't control have diminished so we have few problems and Anthony gets less sick than when I first met him. He has also learned to talk to me more so I know where he is at. Its a team effort.

    Good luck and I hope it works out for you.
  7. Mellotron

    Mellotron New Member

    Thanks again very much for the input. It turns out the situation wasn't quite as dire as I'd believed - the lack of responsiveness was due to her phone dying for a couple of days. *slaps head*
    My friend told me I'd be like Poirot, if there were no murders and invented all the clues.

    In all seriousness, thoguh, this stuff is great to know for if she gets worse, and I am determined to do everything I can to work through this. It is definitely hard and I do spend a lot of my time worrying if I'm saying the right things or talking to her too much/not enough but the person she is under her injury makes it more than worth it.
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