Relationship I have PTSD, I'd like to hear advice from supporters

Roland

Confident
Hello everyone, I'd really like to get some opinions and advice from supporters of people with PTSD.

I have PTSD myself, and so my tendency is to isolate when I'm struggling. While I know this isn't exactly healthy, I see it healthier and safer than lashing out, or "bringing everyone down with me". I also have a hard "boyfriend/family/friends aren't therapists". That said, I don't have a therapist.

In a PTSD sufferer/supporter relationship dynamic, how do you handle trauma and trauma reactions? Often supporters have their own shit too. Is it preferred to be completely open and honest about everything, or are some journeys better travelled alone?

I struggle with this, I often feel like I shouldn't be in relationships at all, because of my illness, because of the way I react and I don't want to hurt anyone, I'd prefer to be alone than to hurt someone. But also, why be in a relationship to end up alone (by isolating myself)?

Any advice or opinions about the relationship dynamics are welcome, supporter or suffer, but I'm especially interested in hearing supporters opinions.
 
P

Paula

Hello everyone, I'd really like to get some opinions and advice from supporters of people with PTSD.

I have PTSD myself, and so my tendency is to isolate when I'm struggling. While I know this isn't exactly healthy, I see it healthier and safer than lashing out, or "bringing everyone down with me". I also have a hard "boyfriend/family/friends aren't therapists". That said, I don't have a therapist.

In a PTSD sufferer/supporter relationship dynamic, how do you handle trauma and trauma reactions? Often supporters have their own shit too. Is it preferred to be completely open and honest about everything, or are some journeys better travelled alone?

I struggle with this, I often feel like I shouldn't be in relationships at all, because of my illness, because of the way I react and I don't want to hurt anyone, I'd prefer to be alone than to hurt someone. But also, why be in a relationship to end up alone (by isolating myself)?

Any advice or opinions about the relationship dynamics are welcome, supporter or suffer, but I'm especially interested in hearing supporters opinions.
I too am struggling. I have decided for me not to ever let anyone in because of trust issues. I have been doing EMDR for 4 yrs now. It works,if you let it work. You need to be in therapy to help you not isolate. Maybe group would help if you can't afford individual therapy. The most important thing is to know that support is available to you. I am so thankful for what has been given to me.
 
Hi @Roland I think @Sweetpea76 has good advice. And also to remember while you follow that advice (potentially) not to keep abusing yourself with negative self talk .

I think also not everything is just ptsd- proper: some differences are independent of it, like attachment styles or what each person defines as their minimum through to optimal desires for contact, etc. Expectations or definitions can vary which is why communication (if backed up by consistent actions) can help.

I don't know how to handle that any differently, it's like an established pattern. I don't want to make people I care about feel alone and shut out and I definitely don't want to hurt them.
^^ I think that's a good thing to explain if relevant.
I isolate and struggle to communicate what's actually going on in the moment, and if I do communicate, I tend to feel threatened by closeness (especially when I'm struggling) and will lash out. Since I don't want to lash out, I prefer to isolate.
^^ This is also. But it is also important to trace back why you would feel inclined to do this. Is it from your relationship to parents, or past partners, etc?
What's the balance between communicate and share what's going on, being open and honest

Vs codependency, I need you to need me, being enmeshed with one another?
^^ This isn't any technical definition by any means, but to me co-dependency (often seen with care-giving, addictions, abuse, narcissism, etc) involves a loss of the care-giver's identity, +/or is done to keep the peace. There is an inappropriate (and deleterious) taking on of other's responsibilities, and like enmeshment there are poor or non-existent boundaries. So the person can only 'like' what the other likes, 'dislike' what the other dislikes; have no personal power or choice.

Conversely, interdependence is having each other's back, sharing, confiding with trust, mutuality while respecting each other's unique identity. Negotiation. With a partner I believe there should be shared dreams. I think even Gottman says, the biggest factor for continuity is `stopping the presses to listen and support when the other person needs it. But I don't think he means that at all in the way of co-dependence, but rather in the way of attunement and fighting (our) selfishness. (Which does remind me, however, that ptsd is a selfish disorder (JMHO) ). Anyway, think more 'sweethearts' than one person using the other. Mutual respect, appreciation, safety for one another. (I think the last should apply to all relationships worth keeping).

This isn't meant to make you feel badly, if you have gone through co-dependency or abuse or enmeshment or incest (including emotional incest) or narcissism and react badly to allowing anyone in. it's just that recognizing it is the 1st 50% of the battle, The next 50% is actually learning how to overcome the largely involuntary response to push away or isolate. If you have only been on the used end, it feels very uncomfortable to share or co-support or even expect anything normal or any support for yourself is possible. Though many relationships fail without ptsd in the mix, that is another challenge and if you've got it you have to be the one to question yourself (like @Sweetpea76 said).
 

Roland

Confident
If you’re in a relationship, and you want your partner to stick around, you have to tell them why you’re acting the way you’re acting. That’s the bare minimum.

You don’t have to tell them all the details of your trauma. Just telling them that you have PTSD and you’re overwhelmed is a start.

As far as lashing out goes, I have hard boundaries about that, because it sucks to be the designated target. He can lash out, but I’m not going to stand there and listen. If he wants to talk he needs to talk to me like an adult. I will turn on my heel and walk out of the room. It’s amazing how fast that nips lashing out in the bud.
Good points, I'm glad you have clear boundaries, that's great

I too am struggling. I have decided for me not to ever let anyone in because of trust issues. I have been doing EMDR for 4 yrs now. It works,if you let it work. You need to be in therapy to help you not isolate. Maybe group would help if you can't afford individual therapy. The most important thing is to know that support is available to you. I am so thankful for what has been given to me.
So I've heard EMDR isn't recommended if you have multiple traumas? Do you have multiple or single event traumas?

I've been thinking and looking for what to do next for myself therapy-wise, I don't know what to do. I have been considering group therapy though.

Hi @Roland I think @Sweetpea76 has good advice. And also to remember while you follow that advice (potentially) not to keep abusing yourself with negative self talk .

I think also not everything is just ptsd- proper: some differences are independent of it, like attachment styles or what each person defines as their minimum through to optimal desires for contact, etc. Expectations or definitions can vary which is why communication (if backed up by consistent actions) can help.


^^ I think that's a good thing to explain if relevant.

^^ This is also. But it is also important to trace back why you would feel inclined to do this. Is it from your relationship to parents, or past partners, etc?

^^ This isn't any technical definition by any means, but to me co-dependency (often seen with care-giving, addictions, abuse, narcissism, etc) involves a loss of the care-giver's identity, +/or is done to keep the peace. There is an inappropriate (and deleterious) taking on of other's responsibilities, and like enmeshment there are poor or non-existent boundaries. So the person can only 'like' what the other likes, 'dislike' what the other dislikes; have no personal power or choice.

Conversely, interdependence is having each other's back, sharing, confiding with trust, mutuality while respecting each other's unique identity. Negotiation. With a partner I believe there should be shared dreams. I think even Gottman says, the biggest factor for continuity is `stopping the presses to listen and support when the other person needs it. But I don't think he means that at all in the way of co-dependence, but rather in the way of attunement and fighting (our) selfishness. (Which does remind me, however, that ptsd is a selfish disorder (JMHO) ). Anyway, think more 'sweethearts' than one person using the other. Mutual respect, appreciation, safety for one another. (I think the last should apply to all relationships worth keeping).

This isn't meant to make you feel badly, if you have gone through co-dependency or abuse or enmeshment or incest (including emotional incest) or narcissism and react badly to allowing anyone in. it's just that recognizing it is the 1st 50% of the battle, The next 50% is actually learning how to overcome the largely involuntary response to push away or isolate. If you have only been on the used end, it feels very uncomfortable to share or co-support or even expect anything normal or any support for yourself is possible. Though many relationships fail without ptsd in the mix, that is another challenge and if you've got it you have to be the one to question yourself (like @Sweetpea76 said).
I like the way you phrase what you say in here. It's logical and easy to follow. I also like that you bring up attachment style, this is vital.

You definitely bring up a lot of the mechanisms I have and why I have them. I grew up abused by my dad, thinking his anger was my fault. My Mom was "emotionally close" to me starting when I was around ten years old, we were like "friends". I have avoidant personality disorder, so I avoid close relationships and people in general, but then I also tend to be codependent, when I'm close to people, I feel the need to serve them and "help" them, otherwise, what do I offer them in the relationship. I know why I'm like this, I grew up with no boundaries.

Analyzing things is definitely the first step to move forward, and boy have I done a lot of that.

@Sweetpea76 As far as lashing out/hurting people, I don't mean angry-wise. When I get close to people and feel threatened by closeness I tend to use psychological abuse, lying, deception, manipulation, to get them away from me. Since I'm aware of that, I avoid doing that so hard I isolate, because I don't want to hurt people.

Wow, I'm an asshole, right, just told you I'm abusive. Yeah, so my dad was abusive, I have a part of my personality that is a direct reflection of him. It showed on my psychological evaluation. Narcissism, schizoid, masochist, antisocial, turbulent. This isn't my main personality, but when I get threatened, that part of my personality comes out to "protect my inner child".

I don't say this to justify my harmful behaviors, I am completely 100% responsible for myself, my trauma, my reactions, my toxicity.

I just don't see a way out.

I don't want to hurt people.
I don't want to hurt myself.

I isolate myself because I don't feel safe with people, but I want so badly to become a better person and just be okay and not hurt anyone, and be able to have healthy relationships.

I guess after writing this, thinking, reading people's responses it screams *go get therapy* I've had very poor success with therapy, I went to Christian Counselors who claimed to be trauma informed and use "cbt" but I have learned that cbt in their practice stands for "Christian Bullshit Therapy" not cognitive behavioral. haha... but anyways, I recently had a psychological evaluation, hoping to get some direction, I was diagnosed with ptsd, avoidant personality disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I'm considering working on things on my own (for example reading the body keeps the score, art therapy, journaling), group therapy, EMDR, internal family systems, or getting a real therapist. This forum has helped a lot and I'm really glad I found it, I'm still sorting a lot of shit out and it's nice to find that others are going through the same thing.
 
Wow @Roland , you are doing great, and easy to see you've put a lot of thought in to it at a heart level.

I think in time it is possible the diagnoses you have might be refined. But it can be a lot on the mind to think of yourself in those terms.

I did forget, the most important part is if you want to do differently, and are up to the steps to action that, even if they are baby steps. And there's no wrong answer. But the only person you can change is you, your role, your responses. And others are free to think, feel and act as they see fit, you can only manage your own feelings, and take responsibility for yourself. And be aware of how your behaviour impacts on others.

That alone is a large job that even a T can't help with, your willingness and efforts and self-honesty. But you are doing that already.

(JMHO.)
 

Roland

Confident
Wow @Roland , you are doing great, and easy to see you've put a lot of thought in to it at a heart level.

I think in time it is possible the diagnoses you have might be refined. But it can be a lot on the mind to think of yourself in those terms.

I did forget, the most important part is if you want to do differently, and are up to the steps to action that, even if they are baby steps. And there's no wrong answer. But the only person you can change is you, your role, your responses. And others are free to think, feel and act as they see fit, you can only manage your own feelings, and take responsibility for yourself. And be aware of how your behaviour impacts on others.

That alone is a large job that even a T can't help with, your willingness and efforts and self-honesty. But you are doing that already.

(JMHO.)
Thank you very much. Sometimes it feels like I'm moving forward and doing better, other times it feels like I'm doing worse. I just don't want to get worse, I want to be better. But I guess that's all part of the process, it goes back and forth and up and down.
 
Yes I suppose it does @Roland , though I haven't cut myself that slack either. But it is true. That, and the fact that I don't consider ptsd 'friendly', to me: I think if if had it's way it would have long since resulted in my demise too. But it's not something separate from me, either. I like David Burns- wish I could have the 2 hours with him he says it takes to rid depression and anxiety for good. I also like how he emphasizes 'we' are in the wrong, because this may sound harsh but I think ptsd can be 'selfish'- it ends up what are our symptoms, how do we get back to baseline, how do we manage, how do we get safe, what we can't tolerate (includes the stress cup), etc. Well, only speaking for myself, that precludes gratitude, even memories get screwed up, and is really challenging to show up for other people or just not avoid or run away. So it's very hurtful. I think that's what is totally correct with @sweetpea's 1st post- look at your thinking. Same thing David Burns is saying, but just matter of fact.

Also, the NPD you mentioned- well I don't think people with it normally feel a need to seek out help, or feel it could be their pblm. So there is that.

Definitely true that processing is like peeling an onion or getting to the end of the Internet, I say. 😳🙂
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
When I get close to people and feel threatened by closeness I tend to use psychological abuse, lying, deception, manipulation, to get them away from me. Since I'm aware of that, I avoid doing that so hard I isolate, because I don't want to hurt people.

This is where a little communication could save a lot of stress and drama in a relationship.

“When I’ve gotten close to people in the past, I’ve had a tendency to do ^^^. I don’t want to do this to you, and I’m going to try not to… can you be patient, and maybe call me out on it if you see me starting this behavior?”

That takes the situation from “abusive jerk” to “proactive partner.”

This is why supporters come here. If we got that type of communication from our partners we would be better equipped to function in our relationships, and we wouldn’t need to seek advice from people on the internet.
 

Roland

Confident
Yes I suppose it does @Roland , though I haven't cut myself that slack either. But it is true. That, and the fact that I don't consider ptsd 'friendly', to me: I think if if had it's way it would have long since resulted in my demise too. But it's not something separate from me, either. I like David Burns- wish I could have the 2 hours with him he says it takes to rid depression and anxiety for good. I also like how he emphasizes 'we' are in the wrong, because this may sound harsh but I think ptsd can be 'selfish'- it ends up what are our symptoms, how do we get back to baseline, how do we manage, how do we get safe, what we can't tolerate (includes the stress cup), etc. Well, only speaking for myself, that precludes gratitude, even memories get screwed up, and is really challenging to show up for other people or just not avoid or run away. So it's very hurtful. I think that's what is totally correct with @sweetpea's 1st post- look at your thinking. Same thing David Burns is saying, but just matter of fact.

Also, the NPD you mentioned- well I don't think people with it normally feel a need to seek out help, or feel it could be their pblm. So there is that.

Definitely true that processing is like peeling an onion or getting to the end of the Internet, I say. 😳🙂
It's hard to find a balance. People with PTSD are "selfish" really because they have to be, they have limited ability to show up for others because they are constantly being drained by symptoms. I definitely hear you though, I hate to see supporters in codependent style relationships, trying to "fix" their suffering loved one. It's not healthy at all. Just because one person has PTSD doesn't give them more priority in the relationship, the other person has needs and issues too.

I don't have NPD, my dad does, and I have a trauma split from my main personality that is a mirror reflection of my dad. So there's me, the adult responsible me, that is very self-aware and all that, also very caring and empathetic. Child me that is wounded. Then that narcissist mirror image personality that protects my inner child. Trauma splitting happens in early childhood trauma, it's also called structural disassociation. Basically, as a child, I wasn't safe, so part of me "split off" resulting in a fractured me. I'm not connected to myself, I don't have disassociative identity disorder either, just trauma splitting. So for example, I get close to someone, and feel threatened, (often feeling like I can't get space), so then that narcissist part of my personality spurs up to create drama and protect my inner child. (Through means of psychological abuse, lying, deception, manipulation).

Thank you for your responses on my post, I really appreciate it and it's given me a lot of insight.
 

Roland

Confident
This is where a little communication could save a lot of stress and drama in a relationship.

“When I’ve gotten close to people in the past, I’ve had a tendency to do ^^^. I don’t want to do this to you, and I’m going to try not to… can you be patient, and maybe call me out on it if you see me starting this behavior?”

That takes the situation from “abusive jerk” to “proactive partner.”

This is why supporters come here. If we got that type of communication from our partners we would be better equipped to function in our relationships, and we wouldn’t need to seek advice from people on the internet.
That's wise.

I wasn't able to save past relationships from that harmful behavior, because they refused to call me out on it, despite understanding and knowing what was happening, they thought it was better to allow me to do that. But allowing me to do that never helped at all, I lost respect for that person, and it would lead to a pattern like this:

Me:
Become close
Feel threatened
Not being able to get space
**Insert harmful behaviors**

Them:
Gets hurt
Withdraws

Me:
**returns to main personality**
Realizes I hurt them
**Urge to self-harm/leave relationship permanently**

Them:
**Forgives me and lets it keep happening**

Eventually I created a ton of space in the relationship, I isolated so hard from them because I couldn't stop the pattern, and they wouldn't either. It was like they enjoyed the drama I caused them, but wanted me to stay close. Now my relationship to them is very distant, because I prefer that to continuing a toxic cycle of harm.

I don't want to repeat that in future relationships.

I really like that idea
This is where a little communication could save a lot of stress and drama in a relationship.

“When I’ve gotten close to people in the past, I’ve had a tendency to do ^^^. I don’t want to do this to you, and I’m going to try not to… can you be patient, and maybe call me out on it if you see me starting this behavior?”

That takes the situation from “abusive jerk” to “proactive partner.”
I think the other thing that I need to recognize is that needing space is not bad. In the above relationship, the other person was codependent and wanted to be enmeshed with me, and I was like that too, until I started getting worse. But it's about communicating that correctly.

Thank you very much for your insight, it's been really helpful to me.
 
Well that's amazing that you understand all that! I apologize, re the NPD. I don't understand structural dissociation entirely though there is a great thread on it here from @shimmerz .

I kind of more feel like I don't have skin, let alone fur lol. Just for me, I can't afford the leeway though of not challenging the symptoms (though the drain is inevitable) because it isn't reality, usually - it's a reliving of a yesteryear. And I will never likely be normal but the best I might do is one foot here.
 

Roland

Confident
Well that's amazing that you understand all that! I apologize, re the NPD. I don't understand structural dissociation entirely though there is a great thread on it here from @shimmerz .

I kind of more feel like I don't have skin, let alone fur lol. Just for me, I can't afford the leeway though of not challenging the symptoms (though the drain is inevitable) because it isn't reality, usually - it's a reliving of a yesteryear. And I will never likely be normal but the best I might do is one foot here.
I'll have to look for the thread you're referring to.

I was amazed that my psychologist was able to see and recognize it for what it was. The evaluation is done in like three appointments, and she was able to recognize why I tested high in antisocial, narcissism, and schizoid, without it being on the disorder/style level, so it was a trauma split like **mind blown**.

Yeah, it's hard. Trauma permanently changes a person, and PTSD is something that is now part of who you are. You can get better and cope with symptoms better, but when you're 88 years old you'll still have PTSD. Hopefully, you'll have learned how to live with it, without it infecting every area of your life. (By you, I don't mean you specifically, but you as in "anyone with PTSD"). In a way it is selfish, but I think it has to be. A person with PTSD needs to take responsibility for their symptoms and their healing and get better. It takes a lot of work, but it can be done. No one's brain is a rock, it can always change and improve.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
And I will never likely be normal but the best I might do is one foot here.
Hi @CoolBreezeonahotday - love your name btw. Thanks for bringing up the thread 'Structural Dissociation'. It was such a help to me. And so much valuable input from peers on this board!

I wanted to say, I hope normal isn't where you get to. I think it is an unrealistic goal, myself. I hope you find your authentic self and learn to love it. Happy healing!

I'll have to look for the thread you're referring to.
Hi @Roland. Here is the thread. It was very helpful in figuring out how to control some crazy somatics that were destroying my life. When I realized the behaviours (which were regressed and a desperate attempt to find safety) were just a 'part' of me, it allowed me to get to them one by one and heal the underlying cause. I hope it helps you.
 
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