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General *sigh* and so it continues - Dealing with the aftermath of ending a toxic relationship

It is hard, can be really hard. Especially when reasoning for your own situation instead of someone else's. Always messier when you're in it and it's important to you in different ways. We want to make sense of everything in the least messy way possible. To neatly put it away.
It's hard but wishing you well.



Or, she is genuinely distressed. Curious to what the "what she wants" in this example is.
Speaking from experience as someone labelled as manipulative by adults for these things (and more.) while having no ulterior motive as a child.
Not that kids don't try to get their own way at some point. But these are the most commonly vilified things in genuinely struggling children.
Good question [email protected] .She is Age 16 - she demands luxury items and expensive products or she literally starves herself- she lives in another country .My friend's daughter .
 
It is hard, can be really hard. Especially when reasoning for your own situation instead of someone else's. Always messier when you're in it and it's important to you in different ways. We want to make sense of everything in the least messy way possible. To neatly put it away.
It's hard but wishing you well.

Thank you - you’re right, it is hard… but I’m hoping it’ll get there before long :)
 
I hope so too for you. I try to remember to celebrate the smaller improvements along the way. It’s all a step forward.
Identifying distorted views also helps. Not just for people with PTSD.
 
I hope so too for you. I try to remember to celebrate the smaller improvements along the way. It’s all a step forward.
Identifying distorted views also helps. Not just for people with PTSD.

Thank you!
I’m hoping that speaking with this therapist will help - my brain has definitely swung backwards and forwards between some wild interpretations of this situation - “Oh, she’s awful. Oh wait, no - I’M awful. Oh wait… it’s ALL awful! Oh wait… no, it’s all okay! OH, NOW IT‘S BAD AGAIN!” 🙈🤣

I guess that’s pretty normal, in the end…

A good majority of people will just tell you to your face what type of person they are. My policy in life is to believe them.

Our culture particularly in North America has this wedge of toxic positivity where when someone tells you their flaws, we are encouraged to be like "oh you're not really like that!" Sometimes people aren't like that in which case that's great. But sometimes they are, and they will almost always have warned you in advance.

I do the same thing and most people ignore it as well, until it hits them through prolonged exposure to me that I am being serious. (I will never form a real emotional bond to another person, including anyone who is friends with me. Yes, even if it's been a long time. Yes, even if we get along very well.)

Even on this very website people will be like "omg don't talk like that about yourself!" when I am being 100% genuine. (Of course I suppose in my case it's more complex as I often say I have zero feelings at all when there is evidence I do. But the bond thing is still very true and is diagnosed in me.)

The narcs and sociopaths and empathy deficient people (including me) see nothing wrong with it, so they are happy to talk about it openly (sometimes to the point of bragging, in fact - like your ex did).

Unfortunately it so happens that extreme trauma or mental illness can produce extreme and often abusive or incoherent behaviors. Most people with shit like bipolar can engage in serious harmful behaviors during mania and if it is untreated as it's neurodegenerative. Same with other psychosis based disorders like schizophrenia.

Whereas issues like cluster B personality and factitious disorders (the most severe type that includes pathological lying and violating the rights of others) typically do have some form of genuine trauma as a causative factor. It isn't an excuse to behave abusively but it can indeed be a result of sincere mental illness.

My point basically is: it's OK even if she actually did have real trauma that resulted in mental illness that made her behave horribly to you. You are still legitimate to break up with her and never give her the time of day again. Just because this stuff can be relative to real issues doesn't mean you are obligated to accept abuse.

Yeah, thaf’s helpful!
One barrier to ‘believing people’ Is that… I think if someone says something bad about themselves, they immediately sound more self-aware. And self-awareness is a good thing. So then that can almost tempt a person to overreach and kind of… gloss over the thing that’s actually just been said.

You’re right though.
I’m trying to learn to be okay with the tension between acceptance and disconnection.

I don’t think I’ve ever had to separate myself out from someone who I genuinely quite like, or to recognise bad behaviour but still be somewhat understanding about where it may be coming from.

I’ve disconnected from hurtful people before, and given up after a time without feeling particularly bad about it.

This one has so many conflicting feelings and motives and hopes and wishes,.. I’d rather excuse the crap behaviour, chalk it up to humans being human, and have a distant but amicable friendship.

I hate the visceral ‘slam the door’ type outcome… especially when it doesn’t reflect the complexity of my thoughts and feelings towards her…

But for now, I suppose this is how things have turned out.

Maybe if I wasn’t human myself I wouldn’t have my own ’stuff’ stirred up by the situation, but I am, and I can’t switch that part of me off and be ‘perfectly kind’ all the time. I’ll react badly to some things too, and I won’t behave perfectly when i’m quite deeply hurt by someone,

*sigh* the world can be complicated sometimes - and I’d much rather we all just found ways to accept each other and get along…
 
Maybe if I wasn’t human myself I wouldn’t have my own ’stuff’ stirred up by the situation, but I am, and I can’t switch that part of me off and be ‘perfectly kind’ all the time.
I expect that there is probably confusion here that is being misinterpreted as complexity within the relationship, because most people don't understand how (or even believe it is possible to) someone could totally fake emotional responses to where they appear completely genuine. I have had whole entire friendships with people where I didn't feel anything about them at all, and they had no idea.

It's not something that I prefer to call attention to, because it is a profoundly different way of reality than how other people function - but a majority (other than PTSD/psychosis moments of genuine distress) of my affect is a mask intended to make people feel comfortable. (I'm not antisocial, so it's a little different for me, as I don't get any type of supply from interacting with people - I am drawing from my limited supply of energy to engage with others. It costs me and does not provide me with benefit most of the time.)

And rather than admit that we got fooled (this is not, in my opinion, a useful framing of events anyway, but it is common for people who suddenly experience abuse like this to feel humiliation as well. Personally I don't believe there is anything foolish about wanting to be kind to people, there is simply more to learn about what types of behaviors we are conditioned to accept)

It is far easier to assign more meaning to your interactions than actually existed for her -- but which did exist for you, which is why it is very painful now. Because faking emotions on this level causes others to develop genuine feelings for you in turn. If the other party never had any intention of forming a reciprocal bond and instead was only using you for your responses -- once you discover this, you realize that you've been used.

Moments where you two were very intimate, where she was sharing extreme details of trauma and breaking down all over you and you built her back up, etc etc. While it's certainly possible or even probable that she wasn't actually lying to you about the fact that she has experienced trauma, she was exaggerating and purposely baring it all so that you would feel obligated to help. The internal impetus is very different, and this is the crux of why it hurts.

You believed she was different than she really was, based on a deliberate effort on her part to induce those beliefs. You then fell in love with said person. But on her end, she was just satisfied when you had a strong emotional reaction (particularly if it was in favor of her). Eventually she got bored (one person can only respond in so many unique ways to the same prompts), so she cut you off.

Ultimately leading you to wonder what just happened, because her abusive behaviors were so at odds with the mask. All said, my caution is that you avoid associating having strong boundaries with being unkind. You can be a perfectly kind person while still refusing to accept abuse or interact with people who abuse you. Sometimes, in fact, it is the kindest thing you can do for them.

Perhaps one day she will grow out of this tendency and learn healthier ways to obtain attention and get her needs met (beyond physical/sexual violence and lying/exaggerating), but you are not required to parent her or be her therapist to get her to that point, nor to endure harmful behavior while waiting for her to change. You posted this in the supporter's section, but really, she caused you criterion A trauma by threatening to hurt you in multiple ways.

The things she did to you actually meet the threshold of causing PTSD. And as she is now, it is almost guaranteed that she doesn't care. It is of course exceedingly regrettable (my apologies for being unable to offer a more robust sympathy), but perhaps you can pull some learning out of these experiences. For one thing: boundaries are neutral, they are not kind or unkind. Two: you do not have to hold space for people who abuse you. Three: empathy without boundaries is just self-destruction.
 
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Thanks for the reply!

I appreciate your openness about your experiences and your thoughts on the situation.

There's no pressure to keep engaging if it becomes a lot of effort, but I do find it helpful in piecing things together, and processing it all.

It's really helpful to speak to people who actually experience these things, and it's also helping me to learn what I need to take away from the experience going forward.

So thank you for that!


Anyway:

You're right in what you said in your post - I *do* feel sort of humiliated.

I think of the times that I nearly broke things off there and then - or the ways in which I nearly put forward my position more forcefully... and then didn't, because I wanted to be as patient as possible; and because gentleness seemed like the best approach. I wonder if she lost some respect for me in those moments or not. But if I had pushed my own interests more forcefully, I'd probably be sitting here wondering if I was too hard on her.

So in the end, I guess you have to accept that you only find yourself in these positions when the person isn't right for you, and that's almost an end to it.

But yeah, I do feel smaller because of the way that I responded to some of it, for sure - and I wish I could go back and assert myself more.

It is far easier to assign more meaning to your interactions than actually existed for her -- but which did exist for you, which is why it is very painful now. Because faking emotions on this level causes others to develop genuine feelings for you in turn. If the other party never had any intention of forming a reciprocal bond and instead was only using you for your responses -- once you discover this, you realize that you've been used.

Moments where you two were very intimate, where she was sharing extreme details of trauma and breaking down all over you and you built her back up, etc etc. While it's certainly possible or even probable that she wasn't actually lying to you about the fact that she has experienced trauma, she was exaggerating and purposely baring it all so that you would feel obligated to help. The internal impetus is very different, and this is the crux of why it hurts.

You believed she was different than she really was, based on a deliberate effort on her part to induce those beliefs. You then fell in love with said person. But on her end, she was just satisfied when you had a strong emotional reaction (particularly if it was in favor of her). Eventually she got bored (one person can only respond in so many unique ways to the same prompts), so she cut you off.

I wonder if this is true...?

Let me push back a bit so that I understand better:

Lots of people with CPTSD (if that's all she has - there may be more going on), wouldn't agree with what you wrote, would they...?

She seemed to have very, very big emotions... and seemed very gentle/sensitive-hearted in lots of respects (played music, wrote poetry, loved flowers... although wouldn't show you those things until she felt really safe...)

But it is true that the real empathy I experienced from her seemed to be about the BIG stuff - the life disasters from my past, or whatever.

Flexible, 'in the moment' empathy after I had a tough day - that stuff didn't seem so present...

And it is true that many of her relationships in general (family, friends, community groups etc) have been very challenging, and that she seems to default to blaming the other party, rather than taking a share of the blame.

And our relationship often was framed as "Good for *me*" or "Bad for *me*" - which is different to how I'd usually consider things, because I usually look for an organic/instinctive, spontaneous, mutually edifying thing, which I don't tend to consciously frame in such logical categories (maybe I should though!)...

I often figured that the times where she seemed to lack empathy was down to big emotions followed by a shut down - or feeling triggered and retreating into her shell, rather than an inherent lack of empathy per se... though she did turn things on and off with me pretty quickly, and pretty robustly...

Perhaps one day she will grow out of this tendency and learn healthier ways to obtain attention and get her needs met (beyond physical/sexual violence and lying/exaggerating), but you are not required to parent her or be her therapist to get her to that point, nor to endure harmful behavior while waiting for her to change. You posted this in the supporter's section, but really, she caused you criterion A trauma by threatening to hurt you in multiple ways.

The things she did to you actually meet the threshold of causing PTSD. And as she is now, it is almost guaranteed that she doesn't care. It is of course exceedingly regrettable (my apologies for being unable to offer a more robust sympathy), but perhaps you can pull some learning out of these experiences. For one thing: boundaries are neutral, they are not kind or unkind. Two: you do not have to hold space for people who abuse you. Three: empathy without boundaries is just self-destruction.

Yeah - as for boundaries being kind etc, I do need to remember that. I think I mostly feel bad that I responded emotionally, and not from a solid place of reason.
If I'd gently spoken to her at an appropriate moment, I'd have found that easier to stomach.
I didn't like how I almost kind of... 'lashed out' (emotionally - but not in a super angry way), and I didn't like how I was kind of being reactive rather than responsive.

I hate how that's happened to her a few times, and now I'm another person to do it - so it's like an ongoing narrative for her - and I don't really like seeing that behaviour in myself (I prefer to be calm, measured and intentional).
I didn't mean it to go that way... but... it's happened now!

As for the trauma of this - I wonder what the reality of the situation is - I mean, she never physically hit me (although I sometimes wondered if it might go that way one day)... but it has left me feeling unsteady around girls my age in a way that I've never felt before (all sort of shaky, etc) - I think I just need to process things well and give it time.
 
Lots of people with CPTSD (if that's all she has - there may be more going on), wouldn't agree with what you wrote, would they...?

They may or may not. My assessment is based on what you have shared, and based on my own experiences both internally and with people who behave in similar ways. It isn't intended to be definitive, but rather to offer insight into some potential construction around her behavior. If you disagree, that is perfectly valid. However, in general, PTSD alone is not responsible for the behaviors that she engages in (if we are speaking diagnostically, although this is not intended to be diagnostic, just informative).

This is where my assessment comes into play - it is really talking about the "rest of it," so to speak. Her pattern of unstable relationships, her splitting (idealizing you one minute, then vilifying you the next without warning), her emotional dysregulation, her need for supply/"reassurance" and most importantly, her statements on manipulating others and her ability to turn it off and completely forget about you in the end.

These behaviors aren't typical of PTSD and are not included in PTSD diagnostic criteria. They are included in cluster B personality disorders such as BPD. To me, this appears to be the result of an empathy gap: some empathy, some of the time, for some circumstances. PTSD actually can result in empathy gaps and aggression as well, but it does not affect one's fixed/stable traits on its own. It is primarily based in disordered neurological excitation and hormonal imbalances (cortisol, adrenaline, etc).

seemed very gentle/sensitive-hearted in lots of respects (played music, wrote poetry, loved flowers

Indeed. I write poetry and play music as well. Sunflowers are my favorite flower. People who have deficits of empathy do have emotions, but those emotions are self-centered. They are very rarely interoceptive sensations reflecting another person in the moment. Based upon her actual behaviors (threatening to hit you, threatening to sexually assault you, dropping you when you no longer gave her supply, etc) I believe it's a matter of her fixed/stable traits (of which empathy is one facet).

Of course I am not able to diagnose anyone on the internet, especially having never spoken a word to them. It is equally possible that my analysis is 100% incorrect.

I didn't like how I almost kind of... 'lashed out' (emotionally - but not in a super angry way), and I didn't like how I was kind of being reactive rather than responsive.

You're allowed to have ways that you prefer to be, so it's OK that you didn't like behaving how you did. Personally, I view reactive behavior to abuse differently than I do unprovoked aggression. It is a result of nervous system excitation (an unfortunate consequence of having human neurology) and repeated, deliberate attempts to violate your boundaries - even if you haven't named them. They still exist inside you, and anger is a sign that injustice has occurred.

I hate how that's happened to her a few times, and now I'm another person to do it - so it's like an ongoing narrative for her

It is an ongoing narrative for her because she has an ongoing pattern of deliberately provoking people when they do not respond how she desires. This is her responsibility, not yours. While you're responsible for your own behavior, you are not responsible for the course of her life, her past history, nor the way that her future unfolds.

but it has left me feeling unsteady around girls my age in a way that I've never felt before (all sort of shaky, etc)

Acute stress responses are very common in the aftermath of abuse. Your instinct to reach out and process is a good one - the science shows that people who receive foundational support in the wake of traumatic events have a much greater likelihood of a positive prognosis. Essentially, support and validation and structure can offer one resilience factors to developing disordered responses such as PTSD.

Nonetheless, it is regretful that she caused you harm, and I am pleased that you are no longer in this environment. Healing isn't so linear, but having patience and compassion for yourself and refusing to take on more than what you are responsible for, will be of immense assistance.
 
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I’ve been following along and what I notice is a huge amount of effort in trying to understand her. What happened for her to treat you like this. to be blunt: that is not the path to healing. That is the path of staying stuck.
the path to healing is internal. What made you accept this behaviour? What is acceptable to you in a relationship and how do you articulate that? It’s about you understanding you. Rather than you mind reading why someone treated you in a certain way.
 
I’ve been following along and what I notice is a huge amount of effort in trying to understand her. What happened for her to treat you like this. to be blunt: that is not the path to healing. That is the path of staying stuck.
the path to healing is internal. What made you accept this behaviour? What is acceptable to you in a relationship and how do you articulate that? It’s about you understanding you. Rather than you mind reading why someone treated you in a certain way.

Yeah, you're right :)

I was chewing over you wrote here, and I think it's just that... I want to know how to feel about it. And how to categorise it.

I wake up missing her, but is it even her that I miss, or is it my image of her?
Or else am I catastrophically misreading her condition, and her struggles; was I being over-sensitive about her behaviour, and do I need to change course somehow?
Am I walking through life with a colossal blind spot about my own behaviour?

And some things feel like... difficult behaviours wrapped up in virtuous statements... She told me about her new boyfriend very bluntly, and said she wouldn't talk further.
Which is actually completely okay, I think. But it's the sudden and total u-turn from just a couple of weeks ago when she was getting in touch proactively, sending lovely messages etc... talking about loving me just a couple of months ago... calling us 'special' etc...

On the one hand, you can't argue with her wanting to respect her boyfriend and set boundaries with exes... but it's the sharp change in the context of everything else... and as if there's no continuity from what came before (It's not like it was communicated in an empathetic way: "I realise this could hurt, and I care about you, but I'm seeing a new boyfriend now..."). It's almost like we were very suddenly in a business relationship with no warning...

So sometimes it's things like that - the mixture of the hurtful wrapped up in the good.
I feel confusion about how to separate that out, and to know if I'm responding appropriately or if my emotions are clouding my judgement...

Well, maybe that's just how these things run. And you're right, I have to reach a point where I stop ruminating on it.

It's just hard when things don't seem to marry up in your brain, and so you feel you can't 'map it', or respond appropriately to a situation when you feel you must be missing something... and that if you could just get a very clear sense of what's actually taking place... you can respond knowing that you're doing the right thing...

I'm not asking anyone to solve that here or whatever (I don't want to put that onto other people), I'm just reflecting :)

Thanks for the reply!
 
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They may or may not. My assessment is based on what you have shared, and based on my own experiences both internally and with people who behave in similar ways. It isn't intended to be definitive, but rather to offer insight into some potential construction around her behavior. If you disagree, that is perfectly valid. However, in general, PTSD alone is not responsible for the behaviors that she engages in (if we are speaking diagnostically, although this is not intended to be diagnostic, just informative).

This is where my assessment comes into play - it is really talking about the "rest of it," so to speak. Her pattern of unstable relationships, her splitting (idealizing you one minute, then vilifying you the next without warning), her emotional dysregulation, her need for supply/"reassurance" and most importantly, her statements on manipulating others and her ability to turn it off and completely forget about you in the end.

These behaviors aren't typical of PTSD and are not included in PTSD diagnostic criteria. They are included in cluster B personality disorders such as BPD. To me, this appears to be the result of an empathy gap: some empathy, some of the time, for some circumstances. PTSD actually can result in empathy gaps and aggression as well, but it does not affect one's fixed/stable traits on its own. It is primarily based in disordered neurological excitation and hormonal imbalances (cortisol, adrenaline, etc).



Indeed. I write poetry and play music as well. Sunflowers are my favorite flower. People who have deficits of empathy do have emotions, but those emotions are self-centered. They are very rarely interoceptive sensations reflecting another person in the moment. Based upon her actual behaviors (threatening to hit you, threatening to sexually assault you, dropping you when you no longer gave her supply, etc) I believe it's a matter of her fixed/stable traits (of which empathy is one facet).

Of course I am not able to diagnose anyone on the internet, especially having never spoken a word to them. It is equally possible that my analysis is 100% incorrect.



You're allowed to have ways that you prefer to be, so it's OK that you didn't like behaving how you did. Personally, I view reactive behavior to abuse differently than I do unprovoked aggression. It is a result of nervous system excitation (an unfortunate consequence of having human neurology) and repeated, deliberate attempts to violate your boundaries - even if you haven't named them. They still exist inside you, and anger is a sign that injustice has occurred.



It is an ongoing narrative for her because she has an ongoing pattern of deliberately provoking people when they do not respond how she desires. This is her responsibility, not yours. While you're responsible for your own behavior, you are not responsible for the course of her life, her past history, nor the way that her future unfolds.



Acute stress responses are very common in the aftermath of abuse. Your instinct to reach out and process is a good one - the science shows that people who receive foundational support in the wake of traumatic events have a much greater likelihood of a positive prognosis. Essentially, support and validation and structure can offer one resilience factors to developing disordered responses such as PTSD.

Nonetheless, it is regretful that she caused you harm, and I am pleased that you are no longer in this environment. Healing isn't so linear, but having patience and compassion for yourself and refusing to take on more than what you are responsible for, will be of immense assistance.

Thank you - this is helpful.

I know it's kind of impossible to know what's going on for another person just by reading about it on the internet, but it at least serves to show me that these kinds of situations can be very layered, and complicated to understand in any meaningful way.

And that perhaps many of our interactions were marked by us talking about different things with the same words - and that even emotional expressions like tears etc may have been experienced by us both differently without me really realising it.

The 'healthcare provider' information available online about CPTSD seems pretty scant, and the truth about complex trauma in general is probably a lot more nuanced and complex than a person can easily find online...

So - when you're talking about someone's 'fixed/stable' traits, you're talking about who they are from Monday to Sunday, at all hours of the day; and the opposite to that would be a trait which appears when triggered/under stress etc?
 
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