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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Hello, Here Is My Situation.

Discussion in 'Supporter Relationships' started by phraglern, Jan 9, 2013.

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  1. phraglern

    phraglern New Member

    Just over two years ago I was reunited with an old friend via Facebook. I hadn't talked to her in 20 some years, anyways I went to visit her a couple hundred miles away and we clicked and have been together since. She told me upfront that she had MS and PTSD (from an abusive relationship in her late teens) as well as 4 children with slight autism.

    The first 8 months of our relationship was absolutely wonderful. She was the kindest, gentlest most caring compassionate woman I had ever met. Then she and her kids moved in with me and within 2 weeks she started checking out, becoming emotional distant and less affectionate. Without knowing/understanding PTSD I reacted in the completely the wrong way and blew up at her. We made up somewhat, but it has been a steady downhill ride for the last 18 months.

    She went to therapy for about 2 months and at first became a raving *****, then just as she settled down and things were actually getting better she quit going saying she was only going for me.

    Now it is to the point she is sleeping on the couch, and hides in a little girl cave she has made for herself in the basement and smokes pot with her grown daughter and her boyfriend. We haven't had sex in a couple months, no cuddling hand holding etc. She told me a couple weeks ago that ANY physical affection between us makes her so anxious she wants to puke.

    A couple weeks ago I found this forum and read and began to understand a lot. I also started seeing a therapist the other day. My therapist said about the only I have going for me is the fact we are not married. She also said that she wanted to meet my fiance once to get her perception of the relationship. My fiance promptly blew a gasket when I asked her.

    I see mention of boundaries but no real examples or definitions, but Im tired of being the whipping post for her pent up anger, Im lonely, Im Depressed, I am tired of supporting her and 4 kids and getting nothing in return but anger and distance. I don't want to kick this women and 4 kids to the curb but I cant live like this. How exactly do I protect myself? What exactly is enabling? Is there a way to somehow motivate her?

    I fully realize that I will never have back what we had but I am to the point where I cant continue to support her parallel life (my therapist said we are living parallel lives under the same roof at my expense as she has left the relationship) at the expense of myself. I need help.

    Thank you.
    p-no and therapybankrupt like this.
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  3. Bilby

    Bilby Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to motivate her. She will need to want the help herself. Forcing her into treatment or guilting her into it won't work as she will become resentful and angry and certainly won't benefit from it unless she opens herself up to it.

    Setting boundaries is very important - think about the things that you aren't prepared to accept, behaviour wise. It might be that you won't accept that she yells at you, or that you won't accept that she smokes pot downstairs (which sets a terrible example for the other kids). It's important that these boundaries are enforced, otherwise she is getting away with anything and everything and it is YOU who is just having to put up with it. That's not ok in any relationship. There has to be communication and compromise.

    I'm not at all surprised that you feel so depressed and lonely - and you aren't there to be her emotional punching bag. That's not ok - PTSD or not. I hear you when you say that you do not want to kick her and her children to the curb, but please ask yourself what you are getting out of this relationship - is this healthy for you? I'm glad that you have seen a therapist, this is important for you. But at the end of the day, unless she is seeing a therapist too, and getting help, then there is little you can do except let her know assertively, that certain things won't be tolerated. You will need to decide what the consequences are for her crossing the line.

    This is your life too - you are entitled to a happy one.

    B x
    safenow, kabeh394 and therapybankrupt like this.
  4. phraglern

    phraglern New Member

    I think the hardest thing is the kids, though they are not mine I love them like my own. If it was just her this would be easy. I guess Im just really angry too, I entered a relationship with a women and 4 autistic kids plus a grown one. I took on a lot. I have been a good man, a good provider and a good dad. All I have ever asked was to be treated like she wanted to be with me
    p-no, safenow and therapybankrupt like this.
  5. Bilby

    Bilby Well-Known Member

    It's perfectly understandable that you would feel angry. For what it's worth, I have felt that at many times in my relationship and my husband willingly sought help. I did what you did, and lashed out at him, A LOT. It never helped, but I was desperate to be heard, to feel needed, wanted, like I still mattered in some way.

    I can tell you have put all of yourself into this relationship and that you took on a lot - absolutely.

    Have you considered reading the book called The PTSD relationship? I have, and it's a good one - very helpful. But I really am glad that you have a therapist of your own.

    I wish there was something I could say that would give you hope that she will get treatment - but it seems to be that most people don't, until they hit rock bottom.

    Right now, you need to look after yourself, and the children. This is very difficult for them too and I'm certain you appreciate that from what you've said. This is another reason why it's so important that she understands that there are boundaries - it's not just you it affects, but the children too, and they have a right to a happy life.

    Perhaps start by writing yourself a list - what things you find really hurtful and upsetting. Will she listen if you try to talk to her about these things to say that these things make you feel hurt and that it's not ok for her to speak/behave in that way? Do you think she will explode if you do?
    safenow, kabeh394 and therapybankrupt like this.
  6. therapybankrupt

    therapybankrupt PTSD Survivor
    Premium Member

    Welcome to the forum! Bilby has given great advice!
    safenow and kabeh394 like this.
  7. phraglern

    phraglern New Member

    Bilby, anytime I try to talk about how i feel she sees it as an attact and pretty much instantly verbally explodes defensively.
    As for the book, yes I bought it and read it after seeing it mentioned here while I was waiting for new member registration to reopen. I know and believe there really isnt any hope, its just, well the only way to end it puts the woman I love and 4 kids on the street. She gets $500 a month in child support plus foodstamps and thats not going to get her a studio apartment. For her, its her own doing, but the kids are innocent.
    safenow and therapybankrupt like this.
  8. Bilby

    Bilby Well-Known Member

    What an incredibly difficult situation :( You are right, the kids are innocent - no doubt about that.

    So, I guess for you right now, there is very much a feeling of having your hands tied?
    therapybankrupt likes this.
  9. phraglern

    phraglern New Member

    More like treading water with rocks tied to my feet....
    kabeh394 and therapybankrupt like this.
  10. Bilby

    Bilby Well-Known Member

    I really feel for you. I wish there was something that I could suggest.

    Has your therapist given you any other advice about this? Any advice about how to approach her? It certainly sounds like she is in a very self-destructive mode right now. Does she interact well with her children or is her anger/upset largely directed at you?

    I really want to commend you on your dedication to the children, but I am very concerned about your quality of life (and in turn, theirs!).

    Do you have any family around you for support? Is there somewhere you could go, even if it were just for a few days and take the children with you (a little "holiday" if you will)? Would she allow you to do this? Perhaps having some alone time (many PTSD sufferers need this) will help her?
    therapybankrupt likes this.
  11. Bilby

    Bilby Well-Known Member

    P.S. I am hoping that there may be someone else here who can offer some suggestions - either a supporter (like myself) or a sufferer.
    therapybankrupt likes this.
  12. phraglern

    phraglern New Member

    she is actually fairly decent with the kids....she has pretty much set her sights on me as the sole root of all problems on Earth. I have kicked around the idea that since my parents house is close, (but they are in Florida untill spring) spending a week or so there and telling her it is to give her space to figure out if she really wants a relationship and what she is going to do to contribute. That way she can think without the sight of me adding stress to her cup.
    p-no, safenow, kabeh394 and 1 other person like this.
  13. Bilby

    Bilby Well-Known Member

    I think it would be a good idea - give her some space and time on her own.

    I think she really has to seek her in order for the relationship to continue - without it, everything can go very wrong, as you're unfortunately experiencing :( Even with treatment, it can be up and down, but at least then she is giving herself the best possible chance of a happy life, and a happy relationship. She is being very aggressive towards you in her communication and no one can cope with that for very long.
    Dallas and therapybankrupt like this.
  14. Dallas

    Dallas Well-Known Member

    All FOUR children have autism!?!:eek:

    Oy vay...I think I just went blind and passed out. I would run away from this so fast her head would spin!:eek:

    :eek: no words... why would you want to try to be in a relationship like this?

    She is a grown woman and has to take responsibility for herself and her four autistic children. What a nightmare! Why should you sacrifice your life and well-being for someone who wants to puke when you are near her???? :eek:

    Praying for your strength and healing. You need to get out now! You need to heal yourself! Praying for you...:hug:

    kabeh394 likes this.
  15. phraglern

    phraglern New Member

    A little update:

    I know the holidays are a hard time for her and I have been giving her space. At the same time I'm sure shecould sense I was getting to the end of my rope. So for the last month or so I have pretty much left her alone, I have observed her trying hard to 'fix' the outsides. Paying more attention to cleaning the house, showering everyday, dressing better, makeup etc.. She has also sat down and initiated 2 discussions with me over the last month. Well, more like verbal emotional explosions, she said some nasty things to me, but I sat, listened, didn't become defensive and tried to process what she said and what she actually ment. In the mean time I also saw a therapist to see what was in my head and what was real, as well as reading a lot here. A week ago she exploded on me, angry that I had gone to a therapist myself instead of a dr. to put ME on meds for Depression and mood swings. She angrily told me "this ptsd thing, lets call it what it really is, rape, how dare you even think that I want to relive that...." I just sat there, let her vent and told her I would process what she said and get back to her. Well today she blindsided me telling me she had a "ptsd appt. friday", whatever that means.

    A couple hours later i sat down with her to talk about what I had processed. I had paper in hand on which I had formulated my thoughts, feelings and some basic boundry work. She actually sat there and listened! She didn't get defensive, she didn't try to rationalize, she actually listened. I saw tears starting to well up in her eyes as she actually heard what I had to say. She actually agreed with me on things. Previously if I brought up anything of the impact on me she would get so defensive she would argue about whether the sky was blue. She has even been going to bed earlier than me in our bed, at first with a huge clump of blanket between us as some kind of wall, but last nite I was awoken by her actually cuddeling up with me.

    I know things may veer off a cliff again at any moment, but these last couple weeks i have seen the shields slowly comming down. Today I am walking softly so I don't scare her back into her hole as she sticks her head up as opposed to walking on eggshells. I told her today that as we were discussing boundries that " It's your body, and your dicisions. You have the right to tell me no and I promise I will ALWAYS respect that, and will NOT cross that line. I may not always be happy with your decisions, I may grumble, complain or be grumpy, but I will not cross that line." I also told her that it was her battle, that I could not fight it for her or with her, that all I could offer her was my support and understanding and that somedays I may be good at it and some days I may be incapable, but that I was here for her and not against her.

    Anyways I'm rambling, but we are for the first time in probably a year actually really communicating instead of fighting and I can tell she is actually present. For the first time in a long time I have looked into her eyes and saw the wonderful woman I fell in love with.
    p-no and amethist like this.
  16. safenow

    safenow I'm a VIP

    phraglern, you are a lot more patient than I am. I love children, and when I married a bad man the only reason I stayed as long as I did was for his children. But once they were at an age where I could get them safe, I left his butt in the dust. I had to be in hiding for 8 years, because I knew where he'd buried the bodies, and told the FBI. His kids were safe, and that was basically all I cared about.

    I'm glad she is making an effort. Lets hope she keeps that appointment she told you about. I have ptsd, and I have never been able to keep a relationship for any length of time. I never knew why until I was too old to actually be married. For me, being alone was better than being in a bad relationship and now I'm too old to start a new one.
  17. amethist

    amethist The Mystic Duck

    You did well phraglern in the way you got your thoughts together and wrote them down. It is a good way to keep to what you need to say.

    It will be up and down for a long time, but maybe this time you got through to her.

    Lets all hope it is the start of her relying on you for support and not using you as her whipping boy.
    safenow and p-no like this.
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