Piecing things together

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @HealingMama . Please, first of all, disregard what doesn't resonate with you below. I'm only offering this is in the hope it might be helpful. Especially as per teasing apart ADHD and PTSD. (@Friday is superb at that. It is also only from my perspective, what I've experienced or learned, and not reading all the posts above (since, in that case, for me it seems the PTSD interferes. JMHGuess).

The best way I've learned to tease things apart is this: as childhood trauma mimics ADHD, it is critical to tease out. ADHD however is most frequently developmental. Perhaps the wrong term to use but by that I mean consistent through the lifespan. Even if there is hyperactivity and it physically abates, 'mental hyperactivity' is present. It also has a very strong genetic component. Furthermore, it may also be inattentive or combined type. Studies have shown as high as 100% of people with ADD (nomenclature that includes ADHD), self report Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. That may be experienced also as for eg, terrible intolerance for sounds like someone chewing. But most of all it is experienced in response to real or perceived rejection. I would personally describe it as more of a sensitivity or anxiety, assuming the worst but without huge running internal dialogue of cognitive distortions, or self-justification. It helps to learn much more about it, as I think you said you and your H (?) both have it. I think they said it can appear in about 14 million combinations! I believe there are 7 executive functions that can be primarily affected. Emotional disregulation proper is no longer a criteria, but many of the top researchers say that is totally inaccurate, and the #1 thing most struggle with. The biggest difference I would say there, is if it is a Personality disorder or something else co-morbid, it doesn't make sense that emotions could change more fluidly with different thoughts or distractions (more common with ADD). And people with ADD (so they say) are quicker to also forgive. For example, there may be the blow up but less the continuing resentment (though that's not a great way to describe it as we can all choose to nurse resentment). I relate to the 20 cups of coffee and a pack and 1/2 of cigarettes improving concentration and reducing anxiety, since it refines focus. ADD is badly named- it's not lack of attention but attention to too many things. If you can check out the new VAST terminology suggested by Ned Hallowell, really amazing stuff and I think way more accurate. (But even he says, 'we all need the other Vitamin C- Connection').

On the other hand, JMHO but PTSD is darker, specific, and intertwined with a lot of beliefs and past memories. A trigger isn't necessarily meaningful on the surface, but it is loaded within the context of trauma, whether it's a cookie, or a carpet type, or the sound of wind banging a piece of metal. The thoughts within the present espouse a logic which would make sense 'within' the trauma, but not in the current moment. The underlying feelings of fear , horror, inability to escape or stop it- those are sort of what I feel. A sickness to the stomach. The stress cup fully applies, and I would say very differently than temptations to emotional disregulation with ADD. Because the meaning is different. The emotions can be the same superficially, but the thought process not entirely. Overwhelm, vs terror or flight-or-fight, for example. Longer-term reptilian brain results, I would call it. 'Issues' vs genetic life-long propensity and sensitivity.

However, on the other hand, now you also have to factor in attachment style. Becoming afraid or activated in response to your H is less avoidant than it is anxious, if that is what you routinely react to, or more specifically how you routinely react. And disorganized attachment is both fearful and avoidant. Avoidant people usually feel overwhelmed physiologically pretty quickly and shut down rather than activate, or leave because they don't feel worthy of their partner. The exception to this rule is for people primarily avoidant (all is a spectrum) they can be more activated if the perception is that trust is broken, because they do not routinely share or trust many (or any) others. But even then there is less long term attempts to activate because of subconscious fear, including fear of abandonment- one does not seek out what one expects to fail, or thinks doesn't exist. Plus, avoidant attachment inclined people expect to own their own stuff, and the other person to do the same. Similarly, we can be a combination of attachment styles: I know I come out about 70% avoidant, 25 % fearful avoidant and 5% anxious, though it can be changed and I have become a wee bit more secure, I think. Small increments with healing and a few good and forgiving people. Attachment is neither wrong or right, it just 'is', and it's malleable. It applies to all relationships: family, partner, friends, work associates. It can be different for different relationships. It is often least secure the closer one is because of increased vulnerability. However, the dyadic of 2 people influences each other. So, for example, if both are anxious one may become less so, by soothing the other.

But- and this is perhaps the biggest part where the rubber meets the road: for every relationship a person has to work to make it work. Gottman and other researchers have as much as said, if you want better quality it's really necessary to examine yourself and how you think of and treat the other person, all the time. The clearest example of this to me is also something easily seen in conflict resolution and effective communication. For example, take defensiveness: if one person says, 'you always are whining', the other person often says, 'No I'm not!' (i.e. whining). They do not usually think/ say, 'help me to understand what you mean', or 'I am sorry I've been self-absorbed and focused on my own trials and not yours', etc. So when we say, "You do not care", we probably are acting in the exact same way- we have not been caring of the other person, have missed their cues or misunderstand their needs and challenges. (If your H is avoidant and overstimulated he likely finds it hard to share. Impossible, if it will be shot down). This goes both ways. But in this case, you are on the same side. And by the sound of it under plenty of pressure with child-rearing, etc. Even there, the likelihood any of your children having ADD too, is very great, as are sleep issues, which you may be seeing.

One caveat, I think people with ADD, or anything they've had for life, for that matter, or people who do 'not' have it i.e, have 'not' had it for life, don't assume others think or perceive the world differently than they do themself. But the experiences day to day are very different for someone with ADD than without. Equally, if someone has a very anxious attachment, when that is 'triggered' (I do not mean trigger as in PTSD, but rather threatened to be removed), they frequently react seemingly outside of their control (not their fault but still their responsibility to examine and address.) Now, it's easier to have someone respect and try to meet the other person 1/2 way, but the other person has to communicate and be fair too, everyone has their struggles. I do have to disagree as regards independence and attachment; from what I've learned interdependence is the truest, healthiest form. When it comes to PTSD however (to me), it's outright trauma and fear and cognitive distortions to the max. It needs trauma processing, and all the Time-Timers or attempts at distraction in the world won't change it, whether it's drinking, drugs, overwork, running, self-blame, blaming others, etc. From the bit I've learned of treatment resistant depression/ SI/ PTSD, self-compassion has to be learned through regulating one another.

When it comes to Gottman, he's really saying being vulnerable and attune to one another. Not to spend the time with contempt or blame, but understanding of the other and looking at the world a bit through their eyes. I don't think healthy support of one another is ever a bad thing, but I think most of us need help learning how to give it, receive and cherish it, or both. And much depends on whether we have experienced inter-relational trauma, and what work we need to do. Sometimes the easiest part is just shelving all the thinking, doing some self-care, getting what you can within yourself in order. And just saying, 'I love you', if you mean it. Not, 'I love you' (for what you can do for me). There are worst places to start. We don't have any day guaranteed (says both My Traumas and reality). There might be something to be thankful for.

This is not to say that it is wrong to leave a relationship. nor is it a given that the other person really genuinely does care for you, or can or is even able to put in the work. Nor is everyone a good fit, nor can some people tolerate (let alone love-despite-it or love-even-with-it) what are the realities of ADD, PTSD, or even particular attachment styles. And that is ok. People all deserve to be with someone who wants to be with them, and appreciates them, is what I figure.

Sorry for the long read, if you made it this far. (I likely couldn't!) Hope something is helpful, it's miserable to be suffering and unsure but that can be a great moment for growth, +/ or learning. (And PTSD often makes that feel impossible, because we are 'there', not here, though we look like we're here. But I can say for myself in my gut, heart, thoughts and conclusions- those times to greater or lesser degree, usually greater, I'm not in 'today', at all. JMHO.) Best wishes to you. 🤗
 
Last edited:

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
@HealingMama I should add one obvious thing, and missed the edit. I think there are (also) lots of things to love about ADD- the energy, the creative thinking, usually a sensitive heart, spontaneity, kindness. I can't think of one thing good about PTSD, though. And as per attachment, that's the 'way' or the 'how' one is inclined to connect, or to distance, irrespective of the ADD or PTSD. if the reasons getting in the way relate back to either one, you've found your source.

For example, if someone forgets and meant to, it might be ADD. If someone is triggered by something, and all they can think/ feel/ taste is the past, it might be PTSD. If someone isn't interested enough to follow through, it might be the relationship. If someone feels afraid or uncomfortable when they know they don't really have sufficient cause or it's been good or ok, and therefore avoids, it might be an insecure attachment.

Hope that helps.
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
My first appointment with the therapist went well. I think she does a great job creating safety.

She described my marriage as an "active trauma" and she is right. There are issues about my marriage I don't talk about here bc I am embarrassed. My husband has legal problems that make finding work difficult. And those problems cause consequences for myself not just him.

I told her that I realize we might need to just end the relationship but I can't follow through because my mind just forgets how awful things get at times.

I mean even if my husband becomes better able to meet my emotional needs again, his issues will still be there. He will still struggle to keep a job, make a decent living, etc. He will still need a caretaker. Maybe a huge part of my problems right now is my marriage not my PTSD (or maybe it's the marriage AND the PTSD).
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
@HealingMama I should add one obvious thing, and missed the edit. I think there are (also) lots of things to love about ADD- the energy, the creative thinking, usually a sensitive heart, spontaneity, kindness. I can't think of one thing good about PTSD, though. And as per attachment, that's the 'way' or the 'how' one is inclined to connect, or to distance, irrespective of the ADD or PTSD. if the reasons getting in the way relate back to either one, you've found your source.

For example, if someone forgets and meant to, it might be ADD. If someone is triggered by something, and all they can think/ feel/ taste is the past, it might be PTSD. If someone isn't interested enough to follow through, it might be the relationship. If someone feels afraid or uncomfortable when they know they don't really have sufficient cause or it's been good or ok, and therefore avoids, it might be an insecure attachment.

Hope that helps.
Yes thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. It's interesting as ADHD definitely affects emotion regulation and so does PTSD. You gave me some good food for thought in figuring out what might be from what.

I know that much of my trauma is attachment related, so attachment style vs trauma trigger is a bit harder to tease out.

I am sure I sound like I have anxious attachment based on my posts here. It is actually fearful avoidant as I swing between anxious and avoidant, you guys just don't see me for the avoidant parts as I just isolate or my husband will try to suggest a date which I complain he doesn't do but then I am lukewarm about it. Or I say yes but then sabotage it. It's a mess.

I am very embarrassed about the state of my marriage and all the baggage I am dealing with there. A lot of it isn't mine. I am worried I cannot address my past trauma more than I already have until the chaos caused by my relationship is better controlled. And I don't know how to make it better controlled without divorcing. I wish I were not so embarrassed or I would say more about these pieces and maybe get advice that way but it's just too hard to talk about this publicly.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Please don't be embarrassed @HealingMama , if any of this was easy I don't think this site would exist! And putting even what is known (and factoring in all the unknown) to work irl is really hard! In fact, when you feel so awful, really support is what you need first and foremost. 🤗

as ADHD definitely affects emotion regulation and so does PTSD. You gave me some good food for thought in figuring out what might be from what.
I think the emotional regulation affects everything, all aspects of life that invoke any emotion, including our internal environment! But 'what' the emotional regulation refers to, the content, I think is different when it's related to the PTSD.
attachment style vs trauma trigger is a bit harder to tease out.
An activated attachment system would feel out of control to reattach or conversely un-attach. Whereas a trauma trigger could include avoiding repetition of the trauma (not the person for the sake of the person themself.) Is how I've 'felt' it.
I am sure I sound like I have anxious attachment based on my posts here. It is actually fearful avoidant as I swing between anxious and avoidant, you guys just don't see me for the avoidant parts as I just isolate or my husband will try to suggest a date a date which I complain he doesn't do but then I am lukewarm about it. Or I say yes but then sabotage it. It's a mess.
^^ It's, and you're, not a mess. Have you considered that as being still anxious? Because becoming disinterested doesn't have to be avoidant (it could be exhausted, or expecting things can't change). Avoidance is often fear of the closeness- not disinterest (it is based on fear). For example, if you fear (more) a successful repair, that's more avoidant. If you fear things won't change that's recognizing you're more anxious (anxious that things won't change). Many avoidant people have a certain sense of relief when a relationship ends, not because they don't care but because the stress and fear because of attachment is gone. The attachment itself is painful. (Which actually sounds more like your H.) Many avoidant people don't reach out for more attachment for very long if they feel it's not wanted. However, fearful avoidant attachment style does cycle back and forth., but are not as relieved to be un-attached (as I understand it). Also more concern to meet everyone's needs, and resentment that their needs (that are unexpressed) are not met i.e. feeling you're the only one giving (your whole life). Whereas conversely the push and pull of PTSD (for me) goes right back to unworthiness, fear, not wanting anyone else to suffer because I have problems.

Also, a question you can ask yourself, is when you reach out angrily wanting a response (a protest behaviour), and tank on the date or self sabotage (a deactivating strategy), do you hope it's going to change your H's behaviour or response? For an anxious or fearful avoidant person they would say yes, an avoidant person would say no.
 
Last edited:

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
@Rosebud
Great questions. I'll have to give them some thought.

I ask for closeness then freak out when I have it for very long. I start to feel suffocated. In my last major relationship I was only avoidant, he was constantly chasing and asking for more than I wanted to give. That is also before I ever had any EMDR. And that relationship only happened because I wanted a one night stand and the next day he says so are you my girlfriend and I couldn't tell him what I really had in mind. Detached sex is a common strategy of the fearful avoidant from what I've read.

Are: attachment system activation vs trauma, I told my husband that what happened this last time left me feeling just as I did with my mother. Scared of being alone, wanting comfort, but scared to try to get it because the source of comfort is unpredictable and unreliable and therefore scary. It felt like the same experience my body remembers.

Thank you for the reassurance. I am not embarrassed about my PTSD. I cannot help that I have it. I am embarrassed about my husband's legal situation though and the way that it could reflect on me. I believe in giving second chances but a lot of people don't and judge those of us that decide to do so. I mean on the one hand you can't help who you fall in love with and for what I expected my life to look like, it did not matter. But I should have foreseen possibilities that I was not considering. He's not his charges but practically it causes problems for all of us.

When I protest from an anxious place yes I want it to change things. In the past, he would bend to my stated desires by for example reassuring me about something or coming back, and I would become even more angry with him. I don't remember the specifics of those incidents unfortunately. Is it possible that those were similar to the way we express anger from a place of fear and sometimes express more of it when it's safe to do so? Maybe so.

All I know is that I ask for things that build emotional intimacy but then I don't respond to them well unless he does it like right when I first ask for it. If he circles back later, then who knows how I'll receive it. Sometimes I'll be enthusiastic about it, sometimes I'll have an urge to pick a fight because he's trying to make things nice and calm and calm is dangerous, and sometimes I'm going through the motions of it. Nowadays the latter is definitely partly from a feeling of hopelessness. But before it was definitely fear of intimacy bumping up against fear of abandonment.

If I ask for the thing and don't get it til later my state is so variable I have no way to predict how I will respond. All I have been able to do is temper the destructive aspects of that dynamic. I haven't found a way to become more consistent. I'm hoping that working with someone specializing in dissociative disorders can help with that.

And yes I understand avoidance comes from fear but the deactivation involves dampening the emotions, so you don't necessarily feel that fear. You just don't want the closeness, maybe you feel suffocated.

I don't know. Half the time I think he's just convinced me of stuff that isn't true due to how he processes situations. For example, if we have a nice experience and the next day I'm frustrated with him, he may think this is evidence of a "push pull" situation and I'm like no, it just means I experience you one moment to the next, and a nice time doesn't magically create a buffer where I won't be annoyed when you leave dirty clothes everywhere.

Like truly, I don't even know what is the accurate objective story for our dynamic. I know what practical factors are an issue but who is accurately describing things.... I have no idea. I know I've got tons of ambivalence and inner conflict which can be disorganized attachment. I know that I used to be numb so I didn't feel my needs for anyone. And I know that even when I want to end the relationship, unless I get him out the same day, I don't have the constitution to make it happen.

All I can do is work on myself. I've got self care planned for today. Hopefully it will help me feel better.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Yes it's plenty to deal with @HealingMama .

I wonder if starting simple may help? For example, a laundry basket turned in to a game, both of you can bet on who can get more clothes in for (x, even a day off laundry- which is bound to make for practise? ) I know it sounds corny and contrite, but if it results in a change, bringing you closer and say, even 80% improvement? It may do wonders. And add a good laugh? I know things are tense, but even circling around indicates desire or good will. It sounds like you need to get to know each other again, if you want to make it work.

I hope you get a good rest and a gentle reprieve.
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
Yes it's plenty to deal with @HealingMama .

I wonder if starting simple may help? For example, a laundry basket turned in to a game, both of you can bet on who can get more clothes in for (x, even a day off laundry- which is bound to make for practise? ) I know it sounds corny and contrite, but if it results in a change, bringing you closer and say, even 80% improvement? It may do wonders. And add a good laugh? I know things are tense, but even circling around indicates desire or good will. It sounds like you need to get to know each other again, if you want to make it work.

I hope you get a good rest and a gentle reprieve.
Thank you. You are right gamifying stuff can have a positive impact. For sure. He mostly is good about chores now. It took a long time to get there. You are right starting simple makes sense. Safety is really where we need to start. Nobody feels safe. But how do you create it when you don't know it? How can I take my turn generating a safe space even when I'm triggered to the max? How do I contain my own experience and create a different one for him, and how exactly do I work through those triggers if I am effectively suppressing them to be sure he doesn't feel any chaos? And if I already have to be a caregiver to him, is that even a reasonable thing to expect from myself, to also prioritize his emotional needs over mine on a regular basis? I'm sure if I did that he would feel safe. I am capable of doing that. I just put on my work hat.

But I don't want to. I am selfish. I don't want to set aside my needs while I'm already taking care of him in so many ways. He's not my dependent. He's an adult. He occasionally gets mad and is like how can you act like that with the type of work you do, and I'm like those are necessarily one sided relationships. In a marriage there are supposed to be expectations on both sides, and if you don't meet your partner's expectations and they believe them to be reasonable, it causes problems.

I kind of want to give up trying to have a connection with him at all. It doesn't work and when it does work it never lasts. And it's so very painful and disappointing to go from connected after lots of effort to disconnected. (Yes that sounds very anxious attachment)

Speaking of avoidance, we will have a great day where we communicate well, and the air gets cleared (like last night), and then almost every time the very next day he's got some issue, usually a health issue, where he's sulking or moody/distracted/withdrawn and it's very distancing but without having to take responsibility for wanting distance. I wish he'd just ask for space like I do but instead he just becomes unavailable. And if I ever try to bring this dynamic into the light of mutual awareness he has a big problem with that (naturally). I don't have many opportunities to experience the avoidant part of my fearful avoidance bc he monopolizes that part of the spectrum.

But the times that I do experience the avoidant side of myself, he's much nicer about it than I am to him. He's much more accepting of the unpredictability. I wish I could be too.

So him being moody triggers the hell out of my PTSD. It's jarring, unpredictable, hard not to personalize especially when he can put on a nice voice speaking to our child then turns to me and drops the nice voice. It's hard not to personalize that even without PTSD.

He said tonight he was anxious but he didn't sound anxious. He sounded like everything I did was wrong. Even though I was trying to be there for him, be gracious and helpful. It was not great. I tried to continue showing graciousness but after like the 5th time of speaking to me like I was an enemy and like everything I did was wrong, I got upset. I wish I wasn't so aware of nonverbal communication but it was a survival strategy learned a long time ago.
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
Second night in a row my son was up multiple times crying, asking for hugs, couldn't identify where he hurt, low grade fever, I got maybe 3 hours of sleep and it was broken sleep. He gave me his sore throat. I had to call in sick today. Two days in a row of almost no sleep and I can't function well enough to do my job the way it needs to be done.

Lots of feelings. Wish I could go back to sleep as I desperately need to.
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
Talking about my husband or my marriage is probably avoidance.

I need to focus on me.

I want to talk about what therapy was like. You see, I have unusual somatic experiences on a daily basis. I don't want to describe them because I will sound psychotic. I suspect it's related to dissociation issues.

By the end of the therapy session, I felt integrated in a way I basically never do. These somatic issues were not happening. I felt calm, grounded, and integrated is the best way to describe it as the usual experience is a very sort of medusa not integrated thing.

I did not even realize how "integrated" I felt in my body until I spoke to husband afterward and by the end of the brief conversation where no "red flags" happened, I was aware somatically that my previously "put together" felt sense had started to unravel... Back to this medusa stuff.

... And now I'm crying for no apparent reason. I want to feel like I did after the therapy session all the time. So many of my experiences are... Complicated... By this somatic issue. I can't even really talk it about it with anyone bc I sound crazy.

It's very lonely having an experience that probably no one can relate to.

I joined a Discord for dissociative people but it seems primarily populated by very young people who are possibly role playing in some cases, and fewer older people like myself who just keep cycling back and forth to awareness of parts then forgetting about it again. So I don't even feel safe asking there about this issue.

I am definitely not psychotic. But this would sound like a tactile hallucination. Kind of. Those happen on the surface of the skin or inside the body. It's not exactly like that. It will be a really long time before I can comfortably discuss this in therapy.
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
My life is too busy generally speaking.
But until my husband has a job I do not feel that I should cut back on anything.
It will be nice to do it when I can. Hopefully soon.

I believe I use working long hours as avoidance.

A regular 40 hour week and maybe 3 hours extra for passion projects sounds like a good goal. That gives time for family, self care, and space to process my stuff.

I compartmentalize so well that I have to make intentional spaces to feel my feelings (except relational triggers). General emotions just get sent away and I have to go find them and open the boxes up on purpose.
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
Finally got some decent sleep thanks to my husband agreeing to handle the wakeups. My son woke several times again complaining of pain and asking for hugs.

We are getting ready to travel this weekend to visit family, including my original abuser. She's become much easier to be around now that she's older and had to rely on other people. I'm going to be sure I've got my Xanax though. She has not seen my son in over a year due to COVID and he likes being around her. I monitor her treatment of him very closely so she doesn't do to him what she did to me. She knows not to do anything like that. It's funny how narcissists change their behavior around people that have leverage against them.

Last night I became intimately aware of how my husband has the capacity to do the stuff I've asked of him, as I witnessed him doing those things for other people. It hurt. I did not protest or even try to discuss it. I just sent a message asking what days next week he is available to finalize our divorce petition. He was thrown off of course as we were getting along.

I do love him. But I don't see how I can do my trauma work as long as the relationship is causing attachment problems and making me feel rejected. He's been doing so many nice things for me, he got me chocolate yesterday, i do see those things.

I explained to him that bc he gets mad and literally pushes me out of the room when he no longer wants to have a certain conversation, I experience a lot of rejection and feeling unwanted, and unless he also makes it explicit that he wants to be closer to me in the good times, the overall message is that I'm unwanted. I need a good support system to work on my trauma history, and if my husband makes me feel unwanted I don't see how that is good support.

(Thinking of what we discussed earlier about independence, I am aware that for most of these conversations, my goal is not to get dependency needs met but rather to address some issue between us. The dependency needs come in after he shuts the door in my face and doesn't also say "this is a temporary thing I need to calm down and then we can finish the conversation.")

I feel like this is a rational evaluation of my situation rather than my usual ambivalence and confusion. I may post in the relationship area for feedback on that.

He could offer practical support by handling more parenting etc, while I'm working through trauma, but I also am feeling like, how can I really show myself compassion and respect if I am continuing a relationship that makes me feel like crap, shouldering his financial burdens and needs, as well as the complications of his legal issues?

I told him I could handle one or two of these but can no longer deal with all three, and I was hoping the emotional stuff could get fixed but it doesn't seem to be getting fixed.

So that's where I'm at. Even if we file the papers we have a year to decide whether we want the change to stick. Maybe if I can follow through on this I'll earn some self respect. And maybe he will decide to look harder at his own shit. Who knows. He was planning to go to some temp agencies today. I hope he still does it. He needs a job whether we are together or not.
 
Top