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Relationship Communication

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Unless held at gunpoint ,gagged and bound - everyone has a choice to communicate.
I think @Sideways said it best - avoidance is a behavioral symptom. So while everyone has a choice to communicate, the symptom of avoidance will result in the choice not to communicate pretty much 9 times out of 10. This is such a documented phenomenon that you can write a post about it here and literally every single person with even a passing familiarity in PTSD will tell you so. It's a little more complicated than "all adults have agency to communicate, so they must be [XYZ] if they don't."

With XYZ being: cruel, malicious, irresponsible, etc. With mental illness, there has to be a dual understanding: yes, we're responsible for our behavior at the end of the day (so you have to make a choice of your own - do you want to put up with this, knowing that this will be your life, and that we are probably not going to be able to change a deeply engrained symptom of mental illness without years of effort?)

But also, in order to make the decision to communicate we have to fight against a pretty seriously engrained symptom of disease, and that can be very hard when we are at our limits. The human brain is only capable of enduring so much stress before we stop being able to cope with it in "responsible" ways. When I was in a relationship, the single time I tried as an adult, it didn't work out because I would routinely go weeks between talking to him (PTSD and SZPD, both disorders that impede socialization, heh).

Eventually I sort of clued in that I was just causing damage (as I was so ill, that even this awareness had eluded me - I genuinely didn't realize that "oh yeah, your partner cares if you don't speak to them for days and days"). So I broke up with him. It caused short-term pain, but now I'm sure he's doing just fine and probably has moved on as it's been a few years.

But if I hadn't, then it would be up to him as to whether or not he could put up with the very serious symptoms of mental illness in the long-term. It doesn't make me malicious, I was just too self-centered to be in a relationship and I didn't realize it until I was actually in one.
As an example we know that an injured animal retreats.
Speaking on behalf of myself I am not trying to recover from an injury, I am trying to recover from trauma.

An animal who has trauma will react negatively if it feels it is in the same situation. A dog repeatedly beat with a stick will tremble, shake, whine, uncontrollably urinate, or may even become aggressive at seeing a stick in its new owner’s hands, even if its new owner just wants to play fetch. No matter how much the new owner cares for, is concerned for, has compassion for, or loves it, in that moment the dog only sees that stick. What the new owner has to offer (treats, soft words, etc.) means nothing compared to what that stick means.

It’s a dog. It isn’t misreading the new owners attentions. In that moment the stick (not the new owner) = ‼️ danger ‼️As long as the new owner holds that stick, they can expect a negative response.If the new owner keeps trying to play fetch with a stick, no matter how well intentioned, the dog will inevitably withdraw, stop eating or runaway, etc. because the new owner wasn’t ’listening’ to the dog’s non-verbal cues. The stick, not the new owner, means it will be hurt again and it needs to escape. It is more than just defensive, it is a survival reaction.

Most often the trust-building must start over no matter how much the new owner cares for, is concerned for, has compassion for, or loves it. The new owner holding a stick broke that trust. To regain that trust, the new owner must follow not what they think is best for the dog, but follow the dog’s lead on what it is ok with.

No, it is not straightforward because just like every animals’ trauma may vary, more so will humans’. So there is no definitive answer or sure-fire best course of action if it isn’t straightforward.
However, if there were boundaries communicated and mutually agreed upon (like a no contact rule) and you make the choice to break the boundary, then the consequences of that choice would need to be considered. The pros and cons.

A few other examples I personally would also ask of myself if it was me:
  • Were conditions set-up on when the no contact rule was made determining when it could or could not be broken?
  • Were there only certain reasons they could go no contact?
  • Who determines what is justified and what isn’t for going no contact?
    • What if the supporter doesn’t think there is a justified reason, but the sufferer believes it is, who is it that was mutually agreed upon to have the final say?
      • (From my personal experience, very frequently my reasons don’t even make sense to me or are rational. So I personally can’t imagine giving that control over to another person. For me personally it would make me feel trapped. How would it make your partner feel?)
  • If the boundary is broken, who is it that has the most to gain on the pro side? Supporter or Sufferer? (based on hard facts, not assumptions of what is thought they, the sufferer, may or may not need.)
The answers would depend upon what you and your partner communicated and mutually agreed upon prior to the event occurring, of course.

My 2 pennies worth just based on my own perspective. 😁

Ta Ta for now!
With that being said, if somebody cannot function enough to give a wee bit of a heads up to their partner that they’re not dead in a ditch when they disappear, then they’re probably not healthy enough for a relationship. That’s the absolute bare minimum standard for a relationship.
Hi @Sweetpea76- Thank you for this response. I am re- quoting it at this point as it truly best describes my personal experience as supporter and with much respect I agree with you.
Very grateful for all the detailed and very insightful responses on this thread of Communication.It is very well received and appreciated .I chose to quote your reply as it captures in a nutshell, I guess ,what I in my own personal experience am trying to express in my " feeling" component of the brain or anatomy ,despite the scientific view point.
Hi @Brumbyinthesunshine . I apologize as I've only briefly scanned some of the other posts and agree with what others have said.

I was kind of confused, since I actually wouldn't say that quote in regards directly to any sufferer as just a 'given', and have no memory of writing it? I can only guess it must lack some context, because I would only say it if:

1. the supporter was at a loss and I was recommending it as a last resort
2. the conversation could be mutually agreed upon (and brief)
3. the relationship was well-established or sounded there was depth beyond an initial phase
4. both people have seemed to have a positive history of caring and commitment at some level
5. there sounds to be a sense of goodwill and an attempt at understanding
6. there is context to where it may be useful +/or possible

In other words, a supporter expressing a need to try to meet their need. But, it doesn't mean the need would or could be met. It would rely on both the sufferer and supporter making a near impossible often effort to do it, or want to do it, and then actually finding a way to do it. But a request, never a directive, and never with pressure, and not with blame if it did or didn't happen. Not control, but asking. And asking may have a reply of yes, no, maybe. Idk how, I can't, not now, or silence. Or something else entirely. Since as said above, a sufferer often can't,, that is one very relevant option. Which is the truth. And a supporter often needs more. And that's fair too. But not necessarily an option.

JMHO too, I also think it's easier to recognize our own worry for others than ever assume others would worry or think about us. And yet I am not sure it's a feeling most people want thought about them, anyway. Everybody is doing the best they can in most circumstances. But it can also be self-consuming in many ways. In a overwhelming or survival and suffering sense especially.

Just my $0.02.
I was kind of confused, since I actually wouldn't say that quote in regards directly to any sufferer as just a 'given', and have no memory of writing it? I can only guess it must lack some context, because I would only say it if:
You were actually quoting @southwest in this thread. The full quote from your post is as follows:

ETA (and I'm sorry I missed a post and made a booboo with the quote, but you said): "I think what they wanted was someone that would always side with them and never show that they were upset. If I set a boundary say something like please send me a "I'm okay but I need space text." When they would cut communication for a week or more without warning I was told I'm not being consistent."
So you didn't actually say this, hence the confusion. It was incorrectly attributed to you.

<ModNote : Attribution fixed.>
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@Brumbyinthesunshine It seems like there is a lot of effort, in both this thread and others, to “define a sufferer”.

Now, one of the cool things about supporting someone with PTSD, is that one only needs to become an expert in exactly ONE amalgamation of PTSD; your sufferer’s. (Or for those of us wih many sufferers in their lives, ideally, one at a time!) Their symptoms, their patterns, their personality, their stressors, etc., and how they vary (often times disappearing entirely). And then how to Tetris in our own personalities/needs/wants/lives/etc. into theirs, if possible, or to what degree is possible.

The thing about PTSD/CPTSD is that not all sufferers experience all symptoms, and even of those who do? Often experience 180 degrees difference between symptom, &/or opposite expressions. For example? Fight v Flight. Comes from the same place (adrenaline), but opposite reactions TO that adrenaline. Moreover, just looking at people with Fight response, to their PTSD dropping adrenaline at them, at random times? 1 May direct that AT the people closest to them, whilst another would never & directs (or diverts, like exercise) elsewhere, whilst a 3rd isolates until they’re calm/clear headed, and a 4th pours that energy work/socializing/etc., a 5th uses drugs to chemically stomp on the response, a 6th gambles, a 7th puts themselves in danger, an 8th gets insomnia for a week, a 9th… list goes on. All VERY DIFFERENT expressions & coping mechanisms to deal with the. exact. same. symptom.

Similarly, because sufferers are all different, what supporters are dealing with, with their sufferer? VARIES. Tremendously, in many cases. For example? I know quite a few supporters who wish their sufferer would STOP updating them, constantly; either using texts as a captains/guards logbook, up to micromanaging every ounce of fuel spent -or- using them as a therapist, or parent, instead of a partner.

Attempting to pigeonhole what a sufferer is, &/or what a supporter needs/wants? Is why you’re getting so much pushback from both sufferers and supporters. Because even with all the caveats? (Some, most, nearly, etc.) you’re attempting to globalize, instead of speaking from your own experience.

Some things, of course, one can infer given the attempts to globalize (tendency to isolate, for example), but mostly it’s all very amorphous & mushy, with no real understanding of where you are coming from, your challenges, your victories, what went wrong for you / where you hit your limit, where your soft/hard limits were, what you thought went right, etc. Your own personal experience.

- Who was your sufferer? Were you married, dating, best friends, siblings, neighbors?
- Had you known them your whole life, before their trauma, after their trauma, before diagnosis, after diagnosis, before any treatment, during treatment, after treatment? Decades of history, or a few whirlwind weeks?
- What were your challenges? What went well? Things you excelled at? Struggled with? Sharp learning curves? Surprises? Etc.
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