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Are people with ptsd self absorbed?

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My wife says yes! I say no!

Inline with [DLMURL="http://www.ptsdforum.org/thread6.html"]PTSD symptoms[/DLMURL], I believe spouses feel and see another side of what is happening with us, that they truely cannot understand, nor comprehend, and thus label us as "self absorbed" when were having a bad day. These two main categories with their associated components is what helps me to describe why I don't believe PTSD sufferers are self absorbed, and more a consequence of what is happening to us.

Avoidance comprises:
  • Losing interest in normal activities
  • Feeling cut-off or detached from loved ones
  • Feeling flat or numb
  • Difficulty imagining a future
Arousal comprises:
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anger and irritability
  • Concentration problems
Now, I have removed some of the sub-components of both categories, as they aren't as relevant to what I am going to describe. With the avoidance component alone, which everyone with PTSD suffers, we already feel like shit... so we aren't generally out to be expressive, outgoing personalities, regardless what we were like previous to PTSD. Arousal then summates, we sleep like shit near nightly, whether we know it or not, the slightest thing can make us angry, and we can't concentrate on a damn thing, which then frustrates the hell out of us 24/7.

Now this isn't an "about me" issue, this is what is going on within us 24/7, its just how bad one or more components are going on any given day. People without PTSD have little to none of these basic things happening, let alone if I had thrown on the trauma itself, these side-effects of PTSD wear us out. Generally, if a person without PTSD has had a hard day, or something stressful goes on out of the ordinary, they generally do very little when they get home, or relax. They want to be left alone sometimes, they want to just relax, and not have to take the rubbish out, yada yada, as they had a bad day.

Now, compound what people without PTSD feel when something really goes to custard within their day by 5+, add trauma, and this is what a person with PTSD is sufferering all day, every day. We don't get to choose which days are good or bad. We don't get the luxury of just having the occasional bad day. We don't have the luxury of control over certain stressful things as someone without PTSD does. Yes, we can remove ourselves from a situation.

So, for those who don't have PTSD, you need to really read this, and read it several times to comprehend what is said I think. This is not about an us and them thing (those who have PTSD vs. those who do not), this is not about us "self absorbing" ourselves, or "wanting pity" or the like, this is about something we have little control over, even when we are trying to control it. Attempting to control some PTSD symptoms alone wears me down on days... trying to push myself to talk, or be nice, or things that those who don't have PTSD take for granite on occasions. I know from myself, I don't have the luxury of choice on a bad day / week, as my mind literally will not respond to what I am telling it, instead it does its own thing, regardless whether I want to be nice (trying my hardest) my brain say no, and I have no choice in that. I don't know exactly what it is, whether it is the chemical imbalance that causes these overwhelming, over powering emotions and moods within us, but a part of us takes over that even we may not / don't like, but we have little choice to stop it.

People think that is wrong, and that we do have a choice. All I can say is, maybe if you had PTSD you would have a different opinion. Yes, when a person without PTSD has a bad day, and is told to bath baby, or take the bin out, or cook dinner, etc etc, they may snap a little, they may snap a lot, they may say nothing and just do it... but then increase that by 5 and appropriate the same reactions from a person with PTSD, because that is what it feels like inside. From the toilet roll being the wrong way round, to a door rattling or a truck driving past the house, they are just little things we try to block out from tipping us over the edge, but with the huge amount of internal push and pull going on inside us, it takes every single bit of effort for myself to just remain upright sometimes, let alone be told to cook dinner, wash baby, take out the rubbish, etc et... all of which are very appropriate tasks that a spouse / partner should normally do, without debate or consequence, but put PTSD on top, and you really place an unbalanced weight into the equation, which could swing any direction within a 360 degree direction.

A person without PTSD might stub their toe when walking along, swear and curse, and its all over. A person with PTSD does the same thing, though now they have some anxiety going on for whatever little or big reason, depression, guilt, fear, rage, etc etc, all sitting in the back of the brain attempting to be controlled, but the overwhelming desire surpasses my thought patterns of control, and stubbing my toe could cause me to swear and curse, punch anything that is near me to help release some of this other rage, anxiety, etc etc sitting there, kick something, tell anybody who comes near me to help or check on me to pissoff, etc etc, all without even actually making one rationally decision or thought for myself, as PTSD has done it all for us

I will bring you back to that study that was conducted, where a group of people studied PTSD, though couldn't ascertain conclusive information from veterans in the field to what caused it, so they sent them into the field (operational environment) with the soldiers to study first hand. All of the group got PTSD after being shot at, life endangered, death and destruction was all around them. Lets face it, they hadn't been prep's for what they were going into. Most of that group after getting PTSD killed themselves. Was that being self absorbed? I don't think so, because what they thought was self absorbed suddenly turned around and bit them on the arse to experience first hand constand pulling and pushing internally, to a point where they weren't strong enough to handle the trauma they faced, thus ended their lives. This is a true story... and outlines where what those without PTSD view as self absorbtion, those with PTSD view as a struggle to fight the internal demons 24/7.

I doubt anyone without PTSD will ever understand fully, unless they develop it, at which point all their worst fears and nightmares are about to come true. Many people with PTSD commit suicide. Why? Because the disorder is so serious, it pushes us beyond what is considered "normal" human boundaries and capabilities, and we have to attempt to constantly remain on the side of sanity, fighting the internal trauma to not step over that line, and if we do, lock ourselves down immediately as we are a danger to ourselves at that point. The problem is though, is its very hard to be rational at that stage of PTSD in full flight.

I would be really interested to see both spouses and sufferers points of view on this, as I think we would have people from both sides fore and against, but more importantly, maybe we can find some of the problems to why those around us think we are self absorbed, when we merely think we are going into defence mode in an attempt to try and heal ourselves quickly, before things get too much too quick.
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wow. You certainly ate your spinach today!

Bit tired, so not really up to deep thinking. I walked 7 miles in driving rain today - not clever and no, the dog was not impressed either, but I needed to walk and I didn't really care about the weather at the time.

I think maybe we are self-absorbed sometimes. Maybe this is because our "self" has suffered so much damage and confusion that we need to concentrate real hard to just hold our "selves" together. This is hard on a good day, but throw in a bad day and hell, it IS all we can do to sit in a corner somewhere and just tryand hold ourselves together.

This is very deep stuff - can't really get my head round it.
I don't think I'm selfabsorbed when I can't handle everyday tasks, I'm begining to understand that it is something out of my control. It's not my fault, it's something I have to deal with everyday, even though my partner may try to be there for me... the littlest request (having to cook a meal, let the dog out, etc.) sets me off like a firecracker. I'm a small girl, but even my 100lb pittbull gets the hell out of my way when I snap. It can't be considered self absorbed if I can't control it.

I do feel self absorbed when I freak and expect my partner to keep the peace. Maybe he had a bad day too, and doesn't need my "freakouts" added to his day. I know he keeps stressful things to himself, just so that I don't have to deal with more madness, and to ask this of someone.... makes me feel kinda self absorbed. So I'm trying to explain my frustration to him rather than take it out on him...

to me the arguement can go either way
Well, Anthony has certainly opened a can of worms with this one. He knows, as you will all soon, that I think people with PTSD can and tend to be self-absorbed. I understand, that to keep the illness at bay, that time and space is needed to get things in perspective. Anthony would have to agree that I am better now at facilitating things/life so he can have the space needed to get back on track. Why then do I consider those with PTSD self-absorbed? AND I would like to add this disclosure that I do not think it is the case all of time but certainly, in my experience, it is a feature of PTSD and cannot be excluded from the illness or the person. Simple really. From my perspective, those with PTSD have chosen to take on a number of life components of their own free will - with the exclusion of PTSD of course. That is family, pets, mortgages (etc). The way I see it, you choose it, you have a responsibility for it or in the case of pets and children a SHARED responsibility. Taking Anthony for example, when he is ill, he becomes uncommunicative and withdrawn to the point where simple life tasks such as feeding the cats is difficult. Often he will have to be reminded a number of times (adding to his stress and frustration) and sometimes he just plainly does not hear me because he is in his own world. It is self-absorption in the fact that nothing else that is going on in the world is important or relevant to the point where even responsibilities take a back seat. His needs are paramount to the exclusion of all else. Looking at the dictionary definition of self = reference to one's own person, absorb = to swallow up the identity or individuality of; to engross wholly and absorption = the act or process of absorbing; preoccupation. If that doesn't describe someone ill with PTSD, what does?

Can this be helped? To a degree I believe that it can. Taking care of yourself if you have PTSD minimises the impact on those around you. Simply saying to your partner, friends, whatever that you are feeling unwell and need to sleep, walk, vent or have a days break is not unreasonable. This does two things: first it sends a clear message to the other person/people that you are aware of not feeling well and you are doing something about it, secondly, it allows the other person to facilitate making life a little easier without feeling angry, taken for granted (etc). Doing what makes you feel better - talking to others, exercise, sleep, medication (if necessary), eating - all of the things that will allow your body to naturally kick in the healing stuff and fight depression. The thing that ticks me off the most about PTSD (and you will see me mention it time again) is the perception or the reality that those with PTSD will not do something to make themselves feel better or worse, deliberately abuse substances that make them feel like crap. Alcohol being the primary contender that I have in mind - it is a depressant!!!! Hello!!!!

Those without PTSD will never really understand the internal workings of the illness but those with PTSD find it hard to grasp that their support people are doing it just as hard sometimes. Managing the home, looking after the kids, working, uni, walking the pets, walking on eggshells, keeping the home calm - whatever it may be. This all takes physical and mental energy. I guess the challenge is finding the middle ground (I will let you know if we ever discover it!!) so those with PTSD get the break that they need but those without it get a chance to rest. In the immortal words of Dr Phil "you can't give what you don't have" - it applies to all of us - not just those with PTSD.
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