Relationship Last ditch effort

adrift

New Here
Hi everyone,

This is my first post on the forum.

I am here in a last ditch effort to talk out my experiences with other supporters, as I'm not one to give up on a relationship too easily.

So here goes:

My partner has spent many years working in conflict areas. His life was threatened many times in the course of his work. He has seen a lot of death.

He is a lovely guy. He has never been violent or verbally abusive towards me, beyond the odd nasty comment when he is stressed. Instead, he seems to have completely internalised his trauma through alcoholism (which has now reached end-stage) and severe neglect of his physical health.

He exhibits pretty much all the hallmarks of PTSD - unwillingness to trust, irritability, chronic insomnia, pushing me away, self-destructive behaviour, flashbacks, you name it. And yes, he has been diagnosed with PTSD.

But the thing that I cannot handle is the fact that he is now in such poor health that I am increasingly frightened that, if he does not start to take action to try and manage his PTSD, I could lose him to a serious disease and/or death. He keeps saying that he's trying, but in the entire time I've known him, he has made no significant changes to his life.

He has had a number of very close calls, in terms of his physical health, in the past 6 months - and the frequency of these health crises are increasing. My anxiety is going through the roof - I am literally terrified for his life. This has eventually resulted in me doing all the wrong things, in terms of my behaviour towards him.

Very recently, it has gotten to the point that I have ended up lecturing him every time I speak to him. I don't mean to, but that's how it keeps ending up. The years have worn me down. Our last discussion went very badly, and I have now withdrawn completely from the relationship (at least, for the time being) and started therapy in earnest, in an attempt to manage my anxiety and try and come up with a better strategy for dealing with my fears about his health.

Time is running out for him to take action to save his own life. I am not being melodramatic - he has had life-threatening episodes on numerous occasions in the past few months. I don't want to go into too much detail, but to be clear: I am not referring to suicide attempts here.

I am really struggling. I know that only he can help himself. Increasingly I feel like I should just walk away, and it may come to that. But, as I imagine many of you here can probably relate, it feels like a horribly heartless thing to do.

For now, I am just trying to address the things that I have control over and can improve on ie. my own mental health, and my own behaviour.

I am unsure at this point whether I am actually here to seek advice, or just tea and sympathy. Please, I hope no-one responds to this post with harsh words. I am simply being honest, and trying to admit my own mistakes - I know that I haven't been overly supportive of my partner recently, but I am actively working to address that.

Thanks for listening.

D
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
I am not referring to suicide attempts here.

Is it a round-about suicide attempt? Like maybe he wants to die, or he doesn’t care if he dies right now?

I’m so sorry... I can’t imagine how hard it is watching all that. It’s hard when somebody you love is self destructing and you’re totally freaking helpless to do anything about it.

I’m glad you’re getting help for yourself. I think that was the smart thing to do. Take good care of yourself!
 

adrift

New Here
Is it a round-about suicide attempt? Like maybe he wants to die, or he doesn’t care if he dies right now?

I’m so sorry... I can’t imagine how hard it is watching all that. It’s hard when somebody you love is self destructing and you’re totally freaking helpless to do anything about it.

I’m glad you’re getting help for yourself. I think that was the smart thing to do. Take good care of yourself!


Thanks for your message Sweetpea. We have some very frank conversations about this. I understand that, in the past, he has made a few abortive attempts to take his own life in an active way (however not since he has been with me). But he swears to me that now he absolutely wants to live.

Drinking seems to be the only coping mechanism he possesses. His general strategy is to constantly numb and distract himself from the hard truths about his life and his health. To be fair, he has tried to give up drinking a few times but has always started again straightaway, as soon as he is by himself.

I am not one to shy away from difficult conversations, so we have talked about all of this ad nauseum. He keeps saying he will address these problems - he says he wants to get better - and then... nothing. Nothing changes. I have read up a lot on alcoholism and apparently, once it gets to the chronic stage, where there is a physical dependency, the brain has shrunk and and the brain pathways continually reinforce the habit - it is extremely difficult to break the habit.

So, to answer your question - I think the self-neglect probably started as a form of subconscious punishment, possibly a form of drawn-out suicide attempt - born of self-loathing. He hasn't addressed his negative view of himself, but I think it is more complicated than that now - it's a long-term habit that is so entrenched that it is proving very difficult to break. This is the conclusion I've drawn from extensive conversations with him and all the reading I've done on PTSD, depression, alcoholism and anxiety - all of which he is suffering from.

I am choosing to focus on the PTSD, as the alcoholism is a symptom. At first I just tried to encourage him to stop drinking. But I don't know how much success he will find in trying to give up drinking yet again, if he hasn't addressed the PTSD first.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
I am choosing to focus on the PTSD, as the alcoholism is a symptom. At first I just tried to encourage him to stop drinking. But I don't know how much success he will find in trying to give up drinking yet again, if he hasn't addressed the PTSD first.

That’s very much true. Substance abuse and PTSD isn’t a combination I’d wish on my worst enemy. Untreated PTSD alone is a bitch... Is he refusing PTSD treatment?

You know, you’re allowed to have boundaries even if you are the “healthy” one. You don’t have to be a martyr and sacrifice your mental health to try and save somebody who won’t save their own life. I know how hard it is when the guilt sets in... “he’s sick, he can’t help it, he needs me, etc.” The truth is that the only person who is responsible for his health and recovery is him, and he doesn’t automatically get to take you down with him just because he has PTSD. It is OK to not continue the relationship if he refuses treatment. It doesn’t make you “cold” or “mean”. It makes you realistic about your own mental well being. You’re the only one who gets to decide what you can and cannot tolerate in your life.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
How heavy he's drinking is gonna make any PTSD treatment start nigh on impossible...

What's his motivation to minimize the drinking, if there could be any?

Developing other coping mechanisms is doable but if he's head deep relying on a single one to pull all that weight, he would need to find something to begin build balances, first.
 

adrift

New Here
That’s very much true. Substance abuse and PTSD isn’t a combination I’d wish on my worst enemy. Untreated PTSD alone is a bitch... Is he refusing PTSD treatment?

You know, you’re allowed to have boundaries even if you are the “healthy” one. You don’t have to be a martyr and sacrifice your mental health to try and save somebody who won’t save their own life. I know how hard it is when the guilt sets in... “he’s sick, he can’t help it, he needs me, etc.” The truth is that the only person who is responsible for his health and recovery is him, and he doesn’t automatically get to take you down with him just because he has PTSD. It is OK to not continue the relationship if he refuses treatment. It doesn’t make you “cold” or “mean”. It makes you realistic about your own mental well being. You’re the only one who gets to decide what you can and cannot tolerate in your life.

On a good day he will agree that he needs to seek treatment. On a bad day he will insist that he can deal with it himself - despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The worst of it is having to listen to him brush off the latest major health scare as if it were funny anecdote. It's often not until I impress upon him how serious it is that he treats the incident with the gravity it deserves. Sometimes I wonder whether he is starting to lose touch with reality. I hope not, maybe it's just a defense mechanism, but I do wonder.

Thanks for your words about boundaries. I am well aware that I possess one of those horrendous people-pleasing/Florence Nightingale personality types that tend to self-sacrifice for others. Over many many years, I have learnt that a line needs to be drawn at some point, and I am willing and able to do this if necessary. I won't hang on to this relationship forever, don't worry.

Thanks again. It's nice to have someone to talk to about this.
 

adrift

New Here
How heavy he's drinking is gonna make any PTSD treatment start nigh on impossible...

What's his motivation to minimize the drinking, if there could be any?

Developing other coping mechanisms is doable but if he's head deep relying on a single one to pull all that weight, he would need to find something to begin build balances, first.

Thanks for your response Ronin. I'm not sure I understand quite what you mean by his drinking preventing him from starting PTSD treatment.

He often says that he wants to stop drinking because he doesn't want to lose me. This concerns me greatly - it means that his motivation is extrinsic, not intrinsic. I keep telling him that he should be doing it for himself. His opinion of himself is pretty low though.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
I just mean that trauma treatment is brutal. Pulling bullets kind of brutal, not like treating a cold, mental health wise.

Start that with nothing to support you and you're back to drinking... or worse.

And yeah, I get the self loathing. Maybe a good starting point, up the self confidence in little bits, even if it still feels awful / nothing / futile for a few years. Reminders that's a feeling / those change.

Reminders he did so much admirable helpful shit for others in f*ck all situations in no time... and he *needs* to buy *himself* the time now.
 

adrift

New Here
I just mean that trauma treatment is brutal. Pulling bullets kind of brutal, not like treating a cold, mental health wise.

Start that with nothing to support you and you're back to drinking... or worse.

And yeah, I get the self loathing. Maybe a good starting point, up the self confidence in little bits, even if it still feels awful / nothing / futile for a few years. Reminders that's a feeling / those change.

Reminders he did so much admirable helpful shit for others in f*ck all situations in no time... and he *needs* to buy *himself* the time now.

Ah I see. Yep, he's avoiding it for that reason, I suspect.

These are all good tips - thank you. I have tried to give him a few of the strategies that worked for me in the past. I don't know if he's tried any of them.

And yes, I often remind him what an amazing, selfless person he is and how much I love him. How do I know if I'm getting through to him though?
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
How do I know if I'm getting through to him though?

I know my partner is serious when he actually does what he says.

When he’s symptomatic he tends to be a “big talker and slow walker.” Talking and making plans is easy, but actually doing something is hard. Sometimes it’s because what he’s planning isn’t realistic, but most of the time it takes awhile for him to “unf*ck himself”, as he puts it. He needs to decide what he needs to really do, get into the right headspace to take action, and then he can actually make something happen.

I’ve learned I can’t really help this process along much, outside of just offering some encouragement and being a cheerleader when he accomplishes his goals. Sometimes he’s a hardheaded man, but a lot of times it’s the PTSD slowing him down and throwing a monkey wrench into the works. He’s got to work hard to overcome that. That’s why I know if I see actual action or process he’s is serious.
 

adrift

New Here
I know my partner is serious when he actually does what he says.

When he’s symptomatic he tends to be a “big talker and slow walker.” Talking and making plans is easy, but actually doing something is hard. Sometimes it’s because what he’s planning isn’t realistic, but most of the time it takes awhile for him to “unf*ck himself”, as he puts it. He needs to decide what he needs to really do, get into the right headspace to take action, and then he can actually make something happen.

I’ve learned I can’t really help this process along much, outside of just offering some encouragement and being a cheerleader when he accomplishes his goals. Sometimes he’s a hardheaded man, but a lot of times it’s the PTSD slowing him down and throwing a monkey wrench into the works. He’s got to work hard to overcome that. That’s why I know if I see actual action or process he’s is serious.

All of that sounds pretty familiar. Cheers!
 
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