General My wife has PTSD and it's messing me up

Mardonb

New Here
My wife has PTSD and tells me some disturbing things. She was diagnosed to three years ago. When she shares this, it's always different, something I had never known. It messes me up inside. Last night she said "It gets worse", I'm like"WTF how does it get worse?". She got upset that I was inquiring and started that she doesn't have to talk about it. I underlined that it comes out eventually and would like to get the shock over with. I went into an anxiety state and head to funk to take the edge off. We both see it own therapist. Any advice, similar story?
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Are you talking about her sharing her trauma stories? Yeah... that’s going to be up to her. I’ve been with my partner for years, and he is very open with me, but I know I don’t know all the details of his traumas, or even *all* his traumas.

The way you react to her stories is something you have to manage. That’s your responsibility, not hers. Telling those stories is retraumatizing... that’s why you will never get all the details, at least not all at once. She can probably only manage a little at a time when she is ready. Whether you can handle it or not is on you. If you cannot handle it she may not trust you when it comes to sharing those stories.
 

zaniara

MyPTSD Pro
Actually I don't think a partner needs to be able to listen to trauma-details. Maybe to bits and pieces. But talking about a trauma can actually be retraumatizing for the victim. That's why therapist trained to deal with them sometimes pace you and stop it and work on grounding techniques, since otherwise it might retraumatize more than help or heal. The victim needs to stay within the "tolerance-window".

Trauma-therapists also have people they can see and get help and guidance from, since it's difficult to deal with hearing about really horrible stuff. They need help to be able to. But then they have a private life too where they can rest from it all.

Do she have a trauma-therapist? Do you ask her to tell you 'everything' or do she want to tell you?

I would never want to tell a partner everything. Maybe the big picture sort of, and possibly when it's necessary: as if something really triggers me and he would need to know more to not trigger me or understand my reaction.

But after trauma-therapy I don't need to talk about it much, since I've processed most of it. Either way I would really not go into detail about it with a partner, since that's not important. Me being alive and here is important.

You can say no and put up healthy boundaries if it is her telling you a lot of bad stuff. You can love her but you can't be her therapist.
 

Mardonb

New Here
Actually I don't think a partner needs to be able to listen to trauma-details. Maybe to bits and pieces. But talking about a trauma can actually be retraumatizing for the victim. That's why therapist trained to deal with them sometimes pace you and stop it and work on grounding techniques, since otherwise it might retraumatize more than help or heal. The victim needs to stay within the "tolerance-window".

Trauma-therapists also have people they can see and get help and guidance from, since it's difficult to deal with hearing about really horrible stuff. They need help to be able to. But then they have a private life too where they can rest from it all.

Do she have a trauma-therapist? Do you ask her to tell you 'everything' or do she want to tell you?

I would never want to tell a partner everything. Maybe the big picture sort of, and possibly when it's necessary: as if something really triggers me and he would need to know more to not trigger me or understand my reaction.

But after trauma-therapy I don't need to talk about it much, since I've processed most of it. Either way I would really not go into detail about it with a partner, since that's not important. Me being alive and here is important.

You can say no and put up healthy boundaries if it is her telling you a lot of bad stuff. You can love her but you can't be her therapist.
Thanks for the reply. She shares things at random times like on date night or the emergency room for example. It takes a week or so to process it. I would rather she keep between her therapist but because it just comes out, I said she should just lay it on me so I can get over the shock.
 

zaniara

MyPTSD Pro
She shares things at random times like on date night or the emergency room for example. It takes a week or so to process it. I
I understand it really takes time to process. But you can actually say stop and make her quit. Because you don't have to be able to listen to it all. Maybe you could have code word and you say it when she starts?

Getting it all out at once is just not constructive or even possible. Trauma-memories come up in fragments and parts and catharsis is NOT a possible way of dealing with them because then the person who have ptsd only get retraumatized. And then NOTHING is processed.

If she can't accept that you really can't hear everything, and especially not on a date-night, you might need to deal with that problem and get help with your communication.

I know I sometimes, before trauma-therapy, told my partner stuff in situations where we were supposed to be close or possibly intimate, but I did so partly to test or push him away.. I wasn't aware of this, but deep down I felt so terribly scared of intimacy and thought he would never love me if he "knew everything". So I blurted stuff out.. and it wrecked the situation and I managed to create a distance. Sometimes before trauma-therapy I also believed that if I only got to tell someone everything I would be whole.. but it wasn't realistic. Or true. I mostly scared people away.

Make sure she doesn't tell you instead of her therapist too.. because then she won't get well. The therapist is an expert on this. You're not.
 
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Freida

Sponsor
from the sufferer side?
hubby and i had this conversation when I first started therapy. We sat down one night when we were both calm and in a good place and discussed how much he should know. In the end we agreed that his knowing the details of my dramas would be too much for him to handle because it would be too upsetting for him since there was absolutely nothing he could do to fix my past.

It was a fine line, because we really had to work past my immediate thoughts that if he knew the truth he would no longer want to be around me. Ya - that kinda hurt his feelings - alot. But its also typical ptsd thinking.

Then we decided that we would discuss how my ptsd affects our relationship. First up - no more of me taking off (one of my time honored coping mechanisms ☺️)

Long story short-
If my ptsd is making me act a way that affects us today then we need to talk about it - when we are in a calm place.
If I need to talk about my past? I do that with my T or on this forum.

It's not a perfect solution - but it seems to be working so far.
 

Friday

Moderator
I said she should just lay it on me so I can get over the shock.
It makes sense... if you’re talking about memories.

The thing about trauma/PTSD is that while some of it may be memories? Some -even most or all- of it doesn’t “store” properly. Instead of a memory, your brain is registering it like it’s happening right now... or just happened yesterday.

Imagine a (physically) painful memory that you have. Like hitting your thumb with a hammer, or closing the door of a car on your hand. Now? Imagine every time you told that story? You actually had to hit your thumb with a hammer or slam a car door on your hand. That’s the difference between remembered & relived. In a memory? You can remember the pain, but you don’t actually feel it the same way. You don’t break out into a sweat, or leap back swearing, and your hand doesn’t swell up, etc.

Now imagine an (emotionally) painful memory that you have. The death of someone you love, for example, or an ugly divorce, or similar. It’s perfectly natural/expected that the day you found out? You’re going to be a hot mess. The day after? Still a hot mess. The week after? Yep. Still a hot mess. Because it JUST happened. And then, over time, it all becomes a memory, and you pull yourself together, and pass through your grief. There are stages, the person who has JUST lost someone? Isnt “all better” when they can go back to work, after taking some time off. For a time, often quite a long time, every time you think of that person you’ll hurt. And you’ll hurt fairly randomly, out of a clear blue sky; hit by grief missing them, or rage at how they wronged you, not even needing to think of them. Passing through the stages isn’t a magic wand kind of thing, it takes time. <<< Again, when you’re talking PTSD? Traumatic events don’t process “right”. So the emotional reaction, and the complete f*cking disaster someone is expected to be right after their dad dies, or their wife leaves them? Is the same with Trauma, as if it just happened yesterday. Even if it was 5 or 50 years ago.

Super sucky, amirite? To be “stuck” in the moment you broke your hand in the door, or lost your dad, or marriage ended? Reliving it, rather than remembering it, creates that kind of time-machine. No matter how much your MIND knows, your brain and your body are zapped back in time and it’s just happened.

“Processing Trauma” / the goal of trauma therapy is to move Traumatic events from the right here right now part of your brain, into the “it’s in the past” memory part of your brain. TOTALLY doable, and with fantastic results, but it’s a brutal process... reliving the worst moments of your life, over & over & over. Being raped a thousand times. Losing your child, over and over. Breathing in your best friend, in a greasy mist like chorizo fumes, as their head explodes from the round passing through it.

Sometimes people processing trauma (or eyeballs deep in symptoms) can’t STFU about it. Becuase to them? It’s happening, right here and right now. Other times? You just can’t talk about it, right now. Can’t even think about it. And people wanting you to is like the annoying friend who wants all the gory details of your breakup, when you still love her, and hate her, and if your friend doesn’t stop talking about her? And wanting you to talk about her? They are going to first find themselves on their ass, and then persona non grata in your home. Even when it’s your best friend, that you would do anything for; you’re just too wrecked at the moment and want to be alone, or play a game of pool in peace, or laugh about somehing fun, not get all hurt and angry, again.

PTSD? Is “just” totally normal human responses... “stuck”...in time. One moment doing laundry, the next moment being raped, then back to folding the laundry. One moment things are in the past where they belong, the next moment it’s happening again, right here and right now, and then poof. Back in the past. Ish. Maybe only as far back as yesterday, but not right this second.

Getting back to being in the present all -or most- of the time? Happens. But in the meantime? It’s a bit of a clusterf*ck.

***
The thing I concentrate on as a supporter (I wear both hats)... is how do I help get them present, without being their therapist, or their happy sock, or doormat. It’s a fine line, sometimes. But my job? Is partner. Lover. Friend. It’s not to fix them, or be used by them, or their punching bag. <<< ALL of this? Comes down to boundaries. My own. What am I willing to tolerate? (Not what can I tolerate, I’m tough, I can take a lot of shit. That doesn’t mean I rate being shit on, or want that in my life.) Aaaaaaaand a whole lotta other Q’s that basically? Break down to what to I need/want my life, and my relationships, to look like? Then do that.

Being really strong/secure in my own boundaries? 1) Doesn’t happen without practice 2) There’s no way to even know what my boundaries might look like if I haven’t been in that situation before, so it’s an evolving process. 3) Means that if I need/want to NOT be listening to all the gory details? Or am fine with it in situation A but not situation B? I need to make that happen. Whole lotta different ways to accomplish that. (Agreeing on XYZ in advance, reminding them as needed, telling them in the moment, changing the subject, leaving the room, etc.).

Having empathy with WHY someone is doing something, doesn’t mean what they’re doing has no effect on me. But that person can’t even deal with their own emotions, right now, much less mine. So unlike the give&take of each person looking out for the other’s emotional needs & wants, when we’re both doing well? When my partner is doing badly, I’ve got to be really secure in my own self. What I need, what I want, and how to go about achieving that. Very much the same as I’d do if their dad died yesterday, or they were just raped. I’m still there for them. I still support them. But when they’re consumed by shit? My getting sucked down with them doesn’t help either of us. It’s not being strong to sacrifice, in a long term situation, it’s being stupid. Because if I’m going to be stepping up to help them, I have to not be a mess, myself. Which means that whole boundaries thing. ;) Gotta put on your own oxygen mask, first.
 
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