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AID Worker in China - My Wife Has Complex PTSD

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Harry, Nov 26, 2007.

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  1. Harry

    Harry Member

    Hi, I'm Harry, Just wanted to introduce myself a bit.
    I'm German nationality working 12 years in China now. 12 years ago we moved to China to do orphanage work with a Hong Kong based AID organisation. My wife is from Austria, at that time we had 2 daughter age 1 and 3 (now we have 3).
    We worked at the orphanage for 3 years, saved many lives, but ours went down hill. And ever since, this experience has haunted us. Before China we felt like a strong couple and a strong family. We have what it takes to help others. During the 3 years there my wife had depression, suicidal thoughts, and it became more and more clear we had to leave this (dysfunctional) environment (with included our organisation, a male dominated society, high stress, death all around us, etc..) in order to save our marriage and family. I felt pretty fulfilled during those years there, at least work related, but she didn't.
    My wife and I have been struggling since. And this orphanage experience came up over and over again. We also had counseling, individual and marriage. But we also never left Asia, which means we have limited resources. Last week my wife was diagnosed by a Australian psychologist with 'Complex and chronic PTSD' and 'Dysthymia', which is a form of depression. A Trauma, which was more like a long term, high stress, dysfunctional organisation and death and high level of suffering environment, trauma, an environment which she perceived as extremely controlling to her. That happened doing orphanage work, in an environment where I was part of the system that caused the trauma, at least in her eyes.
    That makes it really difficult. I am the husband, but I am also a part of the system, which caused the trauma. At least in her eyes. So when ever I do something that somehow triggers her trauma, which is pretty unpredictable... I am the bad guy, blamed, guilty etc... I can relate to her as a husband, but as soon it is work related, it's like walking on egg shells. One will crack for sure and life and marriage gets hard. By the way, we also still work together.
    The other part is, that I have needs too, needs which I want to see met my marriage. But somehow I can not talk about my needs, because her reaction is, that she feels blamed, her needs are much stronger, she somehow feels controlled or overwhelmed, panicked by my needs and I have to back off in order to listen to her needs. It's like, that my needs awakens the trauma. My life constantly awakens her trauma. I give her what she needs, but I don't get what I need. It seems unfair, unequal. I set boundaries, but it's still hard, as her emotional roller coaster is pretty unpredictable to me. And sometimes it's hard to come home from work. I never know what her emotional state will be
    Well, it's pretty complex.
    We haven't given up in 16 years of marriage. But it takes it's toll. Our kids also feel it.
    So, what I hope to find in this forum is a support from spouses, or carers. Dear spouses: How do you deal with a husband or wife who blame you for their condition?
    How do you have your needs met? How do you stay emotionally healthy? I mean: I don't have a community center around the corner. I live in South West China, still a 4 Million population, but this is not Shanghai. This is more like a third world country here in western china.
    Well, I leave it here for now. will write more another time, but first want to see how this forum works.
    Harry from China
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  3. vera

    vera Active Member

    well hello, and welcome to the forum =)
  4. Claire

    Claire Well-Known Member

    Hello Harry, welcome. The best thing I think you can do is start reading here. There's loads of information and a very good Carers section too. The more you learn about your wife's condition the more you will understand and hopefully be able to support her.

    Good luck

  5. hollyberry

    hollyberry Active Member

    welcome to forum
  6. She Cat

    She Cat Policy Enforcement Banned Premium Member Sponsor $100+

    Hi Harry,

    Welcome to the forum....
  7. yaya17

    yaya17 New Member

    Hi, Harry,
    I have severe and complex primary and secondary lifelong PTSD (a mouthful, I know), so I can understand why your wife blames you and sees you as part as the system. What I've gathered from experience is that it's distorted thinking. Clearly, your wife is in a lot of pain, but you're not to blame. You worked in the system, you didn't create it or even knew the effects it would have on her, for that matter. I think there might be some rational part of her that understands that you are not to blame. However, PTSD and depression are extremely hard to deal with, and so we are prone to being taking over by emotions, rather than logic. When I've blamed my boyfriend for irrational things, there was always a voice in the back of my head that kept telling me I was wrong, but it took some time and a lot of help before I realized that it was okay to listen to that voice and not blame him for my irrational feelings. I don't think she does it to hurt you. I know it still impacts you, but it may make it easier for you if you just learn as much as you can about PTSD, it's relationship to irrational thinking and ways in which both you and your wife can cope.

    I hope this helps....
  8. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Hi Harry, welcome to the forum. Your a perfect example of what helping can do, especially when you are not familiar with the lifestyle itself. What becomes quite a culture shock actually is more traumatic than most ever believe. Look forward to hearing from you.
  9. Harry

    Harry Member

    Thanks Yaya for your response, really helpful. My wife is a real emotions-based person, not very cognitive or rational. That really plays into this. She feels something and that becomes her 100% reality.
    What's really interesting in dialogging here is, that you speak things out as they are. Very clearly. Which is almost a bit painful. Like "it's distorted thinking" "your wife is in a lot of pain", "we are prone to being taking over by emotions". You know, it's always this 'belittling " voice in my head, it's not that bad, or, maybe she doesn't really have PTDS, maybe it's just a hormonal imbalance etc... But somehow it is freeing to say things very clearly. So, saying that, you comment really helped me alot, thanks.
  10. Harry

    Harry Member

    Anthony, thanks for your response. Can you say a bit more about this?
    "Hi Harry, welcome to the forum. Your a perfect example of what helping can do, especially when you are not familiar with the lifestyle itself. What becomes quite a culture shock actually is more traumatic than most ever believe. Look forward to hearing from you."

    In what context am I a perfect example?

    The culture shock and trauma I understand though. Many foreigners out here go through this, and a culture shock an easily lead to a nervous breakdown as well. I'ven never heard of PTSD in the contxt of culture shock though.
    But please tell me more about why I am a perfect example for what.
  11. txmomof3

    txmomof3 Active Member

    Welcome to the forum...
  12. nie

    nie Wishing for wings to fly. Premium Member Donated

    welcome to the forum
  13. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Hey Harry,

    Thanks for asking for clarification firstly.

    What I mean is that we from Western society, or those of us who live in our homes, have our cars in the driveway, drive to the shop and get food, etc etc... Western living as such; we think those who do not have these things have it tough, yet we never truly realize just how tough until we think to help. People go and help those less fortunate and often find themselves quite over their head, in that you have such passion and caring to help, yet without even knowing, the trauma that surrounds you becomes part of you, PTSD is an example of this. The effects of helping and doing good often has an impact upon those helping far beyond what they could have ever imagined.

    Some humanitarian missions I did for example; before seeing my first ever I though delivering food to people. I had images expecting them to be living in basic accommodation, having water and some basic needs, yet when I seen things with my own eyes; this was far from the truth. The disease, infections, amputations, health problems, death and so forth was quite overwhelming simply by seeing through my eyes when attempting to do good for others.

    I guess its like an unknown sacrifice, in that many who aid those around the world less fortunate than ourselves often become sick after a period due to mental health. The majority actually from research become ill and can no longer do it. I believe aid programs nowadays are implementing maximum time exposures to aid workers, though I also believe due to shortages that these limits are not imposed, hence nothing has really been fixed to help provide the sanity for aid workers themselves.

    To live in these areas is to become part of the culture, though culture does not typically garnish a mental health problem when they know no different. Typically the aid workers know much difference, hence the lesser environments become traumatic, are traumatic constantly, thus exposure to trauma is all around them without even knowing or thinking of it like this.
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