Relationship In a 3 year long distance relationship with a veteran with PTSD, he is now avoiding coming to see me after 3 years of not seeing each other

Sweetpea76

Moderator
You didn’t offend me. I was just making a point. I’m blunt because I’ve been on this rollercoaster for a decade. Being a supporter is the least romantic thing ever. It’s all about reality.

PTSD isn’t like having regular emotions. This is a whole new ballgame. It’s difficult to understand as a supporter until you experience your sufferer being symptomatic and you learn more about the disorder. None of us know what we’re doing at first.

I would venture to say that because you are long distance he has been able to mask a lot of the reality of his PTSD from you, even if he has shared what seems like a lot. My sufferer is very, very, open and told me about his PTSD before I saw any symptoms. I thought I knew, but I really didn’t. “Knowing” and seeing are two different things. It didn’t hit home for me that he was *actually* mentally ill until it was obvious.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
This goes beyond feelings into symptoms.
PTSD is a broken stress response.
Just quoting for truth, bolding for emphasis.
I am very empathic, and feel what others feel, I know how overwhelmed he is, moving IS a huge step, but the trip to come see me is just to visit, for 2-3 weeks, and you are right, he IS afraid he may come here and it wont work out, now he is thinking about all the things that could not work out and what a risk it is, but he now wont even come for the vacation to SEE...i think it is natural to be worried, moving to another country is a big step, but thats life, right?
Everything you're saying here ^^^ is completely reasonable. Even someone in the best of mental health might find this challenging. As you said - this is natural.
There are no guarantees in life, or any relationship, its like getting married, people getting cold feet, you can always get divorced, move back home....but one needs to take the leap, no?
But THIS ^^^ is where the situation with PTSD makes it different.

Because you're again, right. The worst that can happen - rationally - is that it doesn't work out, and that'll be a difficult blow. And, you're right on about the importance of taking the leap...

For a person with activated PTSD - their idea of the worst thing that can happen will connect to the worst that happened in the traumatic event. It's not logical, OR emotionally intuitive, except to the person with the trauma. Also, it only partly responds to reminding yourself that it's distorted thinking.

Just talking about my own trauma for a second - when I'm struggling to manage it, and I'm under stress? Something like facing a major life change that could get me where I want to be...but also, could fail. If I make this choice, it might be wrong, not work out - I might fail - well, that then (to me) isn't any different from failing to escape my abduction. And THAT failure resulted in torture.

One the PTSD brain goes into it's loop, it just...keeps....looping. So now, I'd believe that taking that risk, "taking the leap" WILL result in unbearable, almost unsurvivable containment and pain and hopelessness.

In order to properly empathize with what he's going through - if that's something you wish to do - you need to understand his traumatic event(s), and how the worst of that is triggered by the current, present-day situation.

Then, you need to accept that these are symptoms to manage, not choices to navigate.

When things are really activated and stress is high - a good analogy could be, you may as well try and convince a person in the middle of a heart attack that - in fact - the heart attack doesn't have to be happening, and they can get it to stop if they change their thinking.

Don't get me wrong, changing the thinking is an ESSENTIAL part of PTSD recovery. But it's only part of it. With a lot of hard work and practice, it's eventually possible for shifting one's thinking to be the equivalent of a well-timed nitroglycerin tablet taken before the onset of the heart attack, in order to help stave it off. And even then, sometimes it isn't enough.

Trauma processing - essentially acknowledging, facing, feeling the traumatic event so that it becomes unstuck, and then loses it's power - is the bigger part of PTSD recovery.

Do you know how much work he's done on re-incorporating his trauma narrative, and lowering the potential for being triggered and getting caught in a trauma loop?
 

Freida

MyPTSD Pro
I would venture to say that because you are long distance he has been able to mask a lot of the reality of his PTSD from you, even if he has shared what seems like a lot.
This.
So much this.
I'd be great in a long distance relationship because I could decide what to do when I'm symptomatic. Feeling good- pick up the phone. Feeling like the world is out to get me? Don't answer or make an excuse.

But now he's going to be right in front of you ALL the time. He won't be able to hide the demons. And for many of us hiding the demons is the very most important part. And chances are that the minute you see what a mess he is you will bail on him and he will be stuck in a different country trying to sort out how he screwed it up and wondering where he will be safe now. (No - not saying you will. Saying that this is the natural progression of ptsd logic.)

So ya - I'd be losing my crapola too.
 
Just quoting for truth, bolding for emphasis.

Everything you're saying here ^^^ is completely reasonable. Even someone in the best of mental health might find this challenging. As you said - this is natural.

But THIS ^^^ is where the situation with PTSD makes it different.

Because you're again, right. The worst that can happen - rationally - is that it doesn't work out, and that'll be a difficult blow. And, you're right on about the importance of taking the leap...

For a person with activated PTSD - their idea of the worst thing that can happen will connect to the worst that happened in the traumatic event. It's not logical, OR emotionally intuitive, except to the person with the trauma. Also, it only partly responds to reminding yourself that it's distorted thinking.

Just talking about my own trauma for a second - when I'm struggling to manage it, and I'm under stress? Something like facing a major life change that could get me where I want to be...but also, could fail. If I make this choice, it might be wrong, not work out - I might fail - well, that then (to me) isn't any different from failing to escape my abduction. And THAT failure resulted in torture.

One the PTSD brain goes into it's loop, it just...keeps....looping. So now, I'd believe that taking that risk, "taking the leap" WILL result in unbearable, almost unsurvivable containment and pain and hopelessness.

In order to properly empathize with what he's going through - if that's something you wish to do - you need to understand his traumatic event(s), and how the worst of that is triggered by the current, present-day situation.

Then, you need to accept that these are symptoms to manage, not choices to navigate.

When things are really activated and stress is high - a good analogy could be, you may as well try and convince a person in the middle of a heart attack that - in fact - the heart attack doesn't have to be happening, and they can get it to stop if they change their thinking.

Don't get me wrong, changing the thinking is an ESSENTIAL part of PTSD recovery. But it's only part of it. With a lot of hard work and practice, it's eventually possible for shifting one's thinking to be the equivalent of a well-timed nitroglycerin tablet taken before the onset of the heart attack, in order to help stave it off. And even then, sometimes it isn't enough.

Trauma processing - essentially acknowledging, facing, feeling the traumatic event so that it becomes unstuck, and then loses it's power - is the bigger part of PTSD recovery.

Do you know how much work he's done on re-incorporating his trauma narrative, and lowering the potential for being triggered and getting caught in a trauma loop?

Just quoting for truth, bolding for emphasis.

Everything you're saying here ^^^ is completely reasonable. Even someone in the best of mental health might find this challenging. As you said - this is natural.

But THIS ^^^ is where the situation with PTSD makes it different.

Because you're again, right. The worst that can happen - rationally - is that it doesn't work out, and that'll be a difficult blow. And, you're right on about the importance of taking the leap...

For a person with activated PTSD - their idea of the worst thing that can happen will connect to the worst that happened in the traumatic event. It's not logical, OR emotionally intuitive, except to the person with the trauma. Also, it only partly responds to reminding yourself that it's distorted thinking.

Just talking about my own trauma for a second - when I'm struggling to manage it, and I'm under stress? Something like facing a major life change that could get me where I want to be...but also, could fail. If I make this choice, it might be wrong, not work out - I might fail - well, that then (to me) isn't any different from failing to escape my abduction. And THAT failure resulted in torture.

One the PTSD brain goes into it's loop, it just...keeps....looping. So now, I'd believe that taking that risk, "taking the leap" WILL result in unbearable, almost unsurvivable containment and pain and hopelessness.

In order to properly empathize with what he's going through - if that's something you wish to do - you need to understand his traumatic event(s), and how the worst of that is triggered by the current, present-day situation.

Then, you need to accept that these are symptoms to manage, not choices to navigate.

When things are really activated and stress is high - a good analogy could be, you may as well try and convince a person in the middle of a heart attack that - in fact - the heart attack doesn't have to be happening, and they can get it to stop if they change their thinking.

Don't get me wrong, changing the thinking is an ESSENTIAL part of PTSD recovery. But it's only part of it. With a lot of hard work and practice, it's eventually possible for shifting one's thinking to be the equivalent of a well-timed nitroglycerin tablet taken before the onset of the heart attack, in order to help stave it off. And even then, sometimes it isn't enough.

Trauma processing - essentially acknowledging, facing, feeling the traumatic event so that it becomes unstuck, and then loses it's power - is the bigger part of PTSD recovery.

Do you know how much work he's done on re-incorporating his trauma narrative, and lowering the potential for being triggered and getting caught in a trauma loop?
Thankyou, joeylittle, for your amazing, well thought out and helpful response, i was beginning to feel a tad attacked, and felt schooled, when all i am asking for is advice, so i truly appreciate yours. That has all helped me (as much as it can) understand. I have seen his responses to an extent; in supermarkets and restaurants, he is on edge, has to have his back to the wall, hates fireworks...all common things i believe for veterans. I dont think he ever saw a therapist, he took 5 years to get through the deep sadness and despair (he told me, he used to cry and drink most nights for a long time). He saw all the horrors of war. I can never begin to imagine what that does to a person, and their nervous system woudl be shot for a long time. I have my own trauma, from having NPD parents, so i am often hypervigilant and go into fight or flight quickly, also a highly sensitive, my personality also tries to work people out, to help them. Its been a wonderful relationship, truly. He is the most beautiful, compassionate, loyal and caring man. It kiils me this is his burden to carry. I wish i could help, i would do anything possible.

Obviously dealing with me being a total stresshead for over 2 years due to the border closures and not being able to see him, has not been easy for him, but he has always been the strong one, i have been the stressed and sad one, it all just got too much for him i think. I know i need to work on my self too. I wonder if he is consciously aware of what is going on inside him, as in , all that you said, do you think he is aware that is what is happening? That he associates the possible negative outcomes with the worst outcomes he has seen and experienced in the military?

Have you any suggestions on how i can help him, how we can make this work?

I am so sorry for all you went through. There seems to be so much pain and trauma in the world, it breaks my heart.
Sending you love and light from afar xx
 
This.
So much this.
I'd be great in a long distance relationship because I could decide what to do when I'm symptomatic. Feeling good- pick up the phone. Feeling like the world is out to get me? Don't answer or make an excuse.

But now he's going to be right in front of you ALL the time. He won't be able to hide the demons. And for many of us hiding the demons is the very most important part. And chances are that the minute you see what a mess he is you will bail on him and he will be stuck in a different country trying to sort out how he screwed it up and wondering where he will be safe now. (No - not saying you will. Saying that this is the natural progression of ptsd logic.)

So ya - I'd be losing my crapola too.
Thank you Freida, gosh, that all breaks my heart. I thought i knew the extent of it, he never said much more, other than how affected he is by fireworks, being in a mall or supermarket for too long, having to have his back to the wall in a restaurant....he knows he can be totally vulnerable with me, and he has been, in so many ways, and he knows i would never judge him, but again, i cannot ever know how he truly feels inside, how hard it is for him...thank you for sharing your insight.....any suggestions for helping him through this? xx
 

Freida

MyPTSD Pro
I thought i knew the extent of it,
Nope--- you are just getting the "common" highlights. The things people expect from someone with ptsd. The reality can be much, much worse
any suggestions for helping him through this? xx
Hmmm.... first thing that comes to mind is let him know before he comes that you are willing to give him space when he gets there. As in both physical and emotional space. That means accepting that sometimes he will need to be away from you in one way or another. That's part of what would be freaking me out --- not being able to escape

Plus traveling can be really, REALLY stressful and he may just be realizing he's not going to be able to do that. How does he explain that to you without looking like a total loser?

I wonder if he is consciously aware of what is going on inside him, as in , all that you said, do you think he is aware that is what is happening? That he associates the possible negative outcomes with the worst outcomes he has seen and experienced in the military?

Maybe. Maybe not.
But.
And this is a really, really huge BUT

If he's not willing to do therapy chances are he's not going to get better.
Oh sure, he can go thru bad times and think he's got it beat or go a few years without a flare up and think it's gone away
It doesn't.
It's not that easy.

He can get help - but he has to be willing to do the work
If he's not?
Then you may have a really rough road ahead of you.
 
Just quoting for truth, bolding for emphasis.

Everything you're saying here ^^^ is completely reasonable. Even someone in the best of mental health might find this challenging. As you said - this is natural.

But THIS ^^^ is where the situation with PTSD makes it different.

Because you're again, right. The worst that can happen - rationally - is that it doesn't work out, and that'll be a difficult blow. And, you're right on about the importance of taking the leap...

For a person with activated PTSD - their idea of the worst thing that can happen will connect to the worst that happened in the traumatic event. It's not logical, OR emotionally intuitive, except to the person with the trauma. Also, it only partly responds to reminding yourself that it's distorted thinking.

Just talking about my own trauma for a second - when I'm struggling to manage it, and I'm under stress? Something like facing a major life change that could get me where I want to be...but also, could fail. If I make this choice, it might be wrong, not work out - I might fail - well, that then (to me) isn't any different from failing to escape my abduction. And THAT failure resulted in torture.

One the PTSD brain goes into it's loop, it just...keeps....looping. So now, I'd believe that taking that risk, "taking the leap" WILL result in unbearable, almost unsurvivable containment and pain and hopelessness.

In order to properly empathize with what he's going through - if that's something you wish to do - you need to understand his traumatic event(s), and how the worst of that is triggered by the current, present-day situation.

Then, you need to accept that these are symptoms to manage, not choices to navigate.

When things are really activated and stress is high - a good analogy could be, you may as well try and convince a person in the middle of a heart attack that - in fact - the heart attack doesn't have to be happening, and they can get it to stop if they change their thinking.

Don't get me wrong, changing the thinking is an ESSENTIAL part of PTSD recovery. But it's only part of it. With a lot of hard work and practice, it's eventually possible for shifting one's thinking to be the equivalent of a well-timed nitroglycerin tablet taken before the onset of the heart attack, in order to help stave it off. And even then, sometimes it isn't enough.

Trauma processing - essentially acknowledging, facing, feeling the traumatic event so that it becomes unstuck, and then loses it's power - is the bigger part of PTSD recovery.

Do you know how much work he's done on re-incorporating his trauma narrative, and lowering the potential for being triggered and getting caught in a trauma loop?
Hi again Joeylittle,
I have been thinking over all your wonderful advice and explanations. I have drafted a rather long email, saying a lot of this (with total love and acceptance).....do you think he himself is aware this is the reason for our breakup? Would it be triggering to bring this up with him? I dont want to appear as though i am psychoanalyzing him.....or that i know better, i dont, i just dont know if sufferers are aware of why they do things at all times? Maybe he really believes it is just the stress of the long distance relationship, and has not gone "deeper" than that.......i dont want him to be mad at me, i have owned all my part in it, being so stressed for so long, but maybe it woudl help him? i dont know.....its a fine balance.. I would so appreciate your advice on this! Its quite a long email and i copied in what you said above, as you wrote it so well....
 
Nope--- you are just getting the "common" highlights. The things people expect from someone with ptsd. The reality can be much, much worse

Hmmm.... first thing that comes to mind is let him know before he comes that you are willing to give him space when he gets there. As in both physical and emotional space. That means accepting that sometimes he will need to be away from you in one way or another. That's part of what would be freaking me out --- not being able to escape

Plus traveling can be really, REALLY stressful and he may just be realizing he's not going to be able to do that. How does he explain that to you without looking like a total loser?



Maybe. Maybe not.
But.
And this is a really, really huge BUT

If he's not willing to do therapy chances are he's not going to get better.
Oh sure, he can go thru bad times and think he's got it beat or go a few years without a flare up and think it's gone away
It doesn't.
It's not that easy.

He can get help - but he has to be willing to do the work
If he's not?
Then you may have a really rough road ahead of you.
Hi Freida, thank you for liking my last comment (in response to things joeylittle said) , i was wondring if you have any advice around this (the email noting things)...thankyou xx
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Freida

MyPTSD Pro
just dont know if sufferers are aware of why they do things at all times?
for me? Nope
After years of therapy I'm finally able to notice triggers and notice when I'm off balance, but I still struggle sometimes with putting them together and seeing how A + B =C

Usually it's more along the lines of A+B=the smell of purple x 4 😁
Then the loop starts, and I'm sucked in until I'm not.
Hubby can try to "reason" with me, and these days he can get thru most of the time, but at the beginning he just pissed me off because he always missed the part where...
I AM IN DANGER AND SOMEONE IS GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ya. pretty much that and air raid sirens are all I heard. So trying to get thru to me?
nope. doesn't happen

I'm torn by the email idea but thinking that if you do send one it should be short. Very short.
When I'm in that place I have a really hard time concentrating, so if someone sends me a long email I'll just scan it and move on. I wouldn't really "read" it

I think if someone sent me one that just said "I know you are having a hard time, I still love you, let me know if there is anything I can do" would register.

But I also have talked with enough supporters to realize how hard that is on them because it is so open ended. It basically puts you on the back burner for an unknown amount of time and that's totally unfair

So basically I'm no help with this LOL
 

Friday

Moderator
There are no guarantees in life, or any relationship, its like getting married, people getting cold feet, you can always get divorced, move back home....but one needs to take the leap, no?
On the one hand? I’m totally with you.

On the other hand? What’s the worst that could happen…

1. YOU are my actual, full stop, soul mate. And you will be gangraped, tortured, and lit on fire -to die screaming- in front of me, whilst I’m powerless to do anything about it.

2. You are a manipulative POS, who will not only hurt ME (which is whatevs) but will cause our children to suffer such pain as a child should never know. Whether you kill them, or break them, or turn them into copies of you? I have no control or say in.

Meanwhile? What’s expected?

You’re a damn fine person. That I will hurt. And you will hurt me. And both of us will be worse off for having known, much less loved, each other.

As @joeylittle said… what we expect? Best case, worst, middling? Is often tied to our trauma. I’m a combat vet. I expect to lose the people I love most, to violence outside of my control. If I don’t actually have “eyes on”? You’re not reeeally real. But a memory, a hope, a thought. Even if I’m talking to you, on coms, because… I’m not there. And am powerless to effect anything not in arms reach, and even then? May only be able to witness. I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I expect to lose the people I love, at the hands of the people I love, which makes it ALL my fault. As I made the decision to put them in the line of fire.

To ME? That’s sense. Life is fleeting. At best. A moment. A chapter. A time. Defined by the situation at hand.

It may not be sense? But experience is what teaches “common” sense, and expectation. So it’s my own experience that informs my decisions.

I don’t know if that helps you let go, or fight harder. I don’t know if MY experience applies to you, or your love. It’s just my own piece to share.
 
for me? Nope
After years of therapy I'm finally able to notice triggers and notice when I'm off balance, but I still struggle sometimes with putting them together and seeing how A + B =C

Usually it's more along the lines of A+B=the smell of purple x 4 😁
Then the loop starts, and I'm sucked in until I'm not.
Hubby can try to "reason" with me, and these days he can get thru most of the time, but at the beginning he just pissed me off because he always missed the part where...
I AM IN DANGER AND SOMEONE IS GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ya. pretty much that and air raid sirens are all I heard. So trying to get thru to me?
nope. doesn't happen

I'm torn by the email idea but thinking that if you do send one it should be short. Very short.
When I'm in that place I have a really hard time concentrating, so if someone sends me a long email I'll just scan it and move on. I wouldn't really "read" it

I think if someone sent me one that just said "I know you are having a hard time, I still love you, let me know if there is anything I can do" would register.

But I also have talked with enough supporters to realize how hard that is on them because it is so open ended. It basically puts you on the back burner for an unknown amount of time and that's totally unfair

So basically I'm no help with this LOL
Hi Freida, thank you so very much for sharing...you really are helping me understand, as much as that is possible! It was so interesting that you mention the email being short, my fiance (well, ex i guess :( always had trouble reading my text messages when things were heightened or emotionally intense, he called them a wall of text, that he literally could not read or take in, as it was too overwhelming, and he prefers to talk on the phone than send messages. He said it is like his brain sees all the text and goes "nope" and shuts down. What causes you to choose to not read it and scan it instead? Is it the same type of mechanism where it is just too much overwhelm?

I guess what seems to be the million dollar question, is if PTSD sufferers are aware that their reaction to something stems from the PTSD, or do you all think it is just a reaction, given the circumstances....sounds like from what you say, it is not always obvious, it is just a response to what is happening, in your mind anyway. I really dont know if he feels this is all because of the stress of the situation (long distance, the long visa process we will have to endure, etc) or if it is all due to the fear of loss, his PTSD response, needing/wanting the safety of his life as it is right now with no i/ little uncertainty.....i dont want to offend or upset him and assume "its your PTSD causing this fear response and breakup!".....it is such a fine balance of loving unconditionally and wanting to be supportive, and possibly coming across as "blaming" him when i am in no way doing that....

I am so grateful for your response Freida xx
 
On the one hand? I’m totally with you.

On the other hand? What’s the worst that could happen…

1. YOU are my actual, full stop, soul mate. And you will be gangraped, tortured, and lit on fire -to die screaming- in front of me, whilst I’m powerless to do anything about it.

2. You are a manipulative POS, who will not only hurt ME (which is whatevs) but will cause our children to suffer such pain as a child should never know. Whether you kill them, or break them, or turn them into copies of you? I have no control or say in.

Meanwhile? What’s expected?

You’re a damn fine person. That I will hurt. And you will hurt me. And both of us will be worse off for having known, much less loved, each other.

As @joeylittle said… what we expect? Best case, worst, middling? Is often tied to our trauma. I’m a combat vet. I expect to lose the people I love most, to violence outside of my control. If I don’t actually have “eyes on”? You’re not reeeally real. But a memory, a hope, a thought. Even if I’m talking to you, on coms, because… I’m not there. And am powerless to effect anything not in arms reach, and even then? May only be able to witness. I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I expect to lose the people I love, at the hands of the people I love, which makes it ALL my fault. As I made the decision to put them in the line of fire.

To ME? That’s sense. Life is fleeting. At best. A moment. A chapter. A time. Defined by the situation at hand.

It may not be sense? But experience is what teaches “common” sense, and expectation. So it’s my own experience that informs my decisions.

I don’t know if that helps you let go, or fight harder. I don’t know if MY experience applies to you, or your love. It’s just my own piece to share.
Thank you for your reply, Friday....so much to take in, I am trying so hard to understand and make sense of everything. You give me some good insight...he is a combat vet so has been exposed to great loss and seen the unimaginable - i can never assume to know or understand what that is like, or the effect it would have on you psychologically, and how it would affect your nervous system, probably forever. I feel it is definitely part of the reason he ended things, due to the overwhelm and so much uncertainty and fear of the future, now it is a possibility and he can actually come to see me, after almost three years of waiting. The waiting, in different countries, is much safer, i suppose, for him.
I feel ex military are trained, or make themselves, always be in the present moment, they have to, or its do or die. He seems to be like this, always wanting me to stay in the present, not worry about the things in the future that could go wrong....but now he can come here, he is all about all the things that could go wrong, all the what ifs, being stuck in another country, etc.
I dont know what the answer is, all i know is i love him, unconditionally and would do anything to help him and us make it through this.
thank you Friday x
 
Top