Relationship Supporting is draining

Hi,

tl;dr at bottom.

I guess I don't really have a specific purpose in mind for this post, besides just sharing my story with those who can reasonably understand, i.e. fellow supporters, and see if there's any additional advice or perspective y'all can give. In others words, one could just call this a rant/vent.

A year and a half ago, when we were both at college (with all online classes) I met my now-fiancee. We had long conversations and became friends, then got into a relationship. A few months in, I learned she has ptsd from extreme sexual abuse, torture, dehumanization, extreme sleep deprivation, food deprivation, gaslighting, you name it. It occurred during a few months of her teenage years. Just hearing her tell her stories to me (I was the first and so far only one she felt comfortable sharing everything with) was harrowing and filled me with a strong want for justice. That justice meaning both a strong compassion for her and thus wanting to make the world not painful for her or even make up for her earlier pain, and a significant loss of trust in our society and the systems we humans have in place that are supposed to guard people from getting hurt like that (her story was happening under many people's noses who were blind to her ongoing trauma).

Since she hasn't been able to hold down a job since her diagnoses, I've taken it upon myself to give her a place away from her parents (who have not been helpful, sometimes even actively being harmful to her well-being) by working jobs to afford cheap housing last summer, and now renting a better apartment since I've got a much better job now.
My support's taken that tangible form as well as emotional support and other direct means of support during her flashbacks and following disassociative times.

I'm somehow managing this without the support of my parents who I've mostly estranged myself from because of their emotional abuse of me. I don't really have any other people to lean on for significant support either, unfortunately. So that just adds to my exhaustion and makes it harder to keep going.

Her symptoms are bad when she has them, if she has a flashback she will usually spend the rest of the day without access to her memories between her traumatic events and now, so I have to talk to her as if it is an older year. Luckily sleeping always resets her memories, but she won't retain memories made while she's in that state. What that means for our relationship is that I remember the moments I watch her suffer and render her aid, while she continues, for better or for worse, without that memory of either the trauma or what I did in reaction to her event.

Her symptoms have improved, luckily (e.g. flashbacks are now only about one per month compared to nearly every day before) and she's overall got a much better quality of life (e.g. gets at least 4-5 hours of sleep each night instead of being lucky to get 2).

-----

I didn't have any expectation that I would get anything back from my support, especially when her symptoms were much worse and she was suffering so much. She did and does give regular praise like "you're the best, thank you so much" for my support. I value actions much more than words, though, and I feel like our relationship is suffering from a lack of understanding and contribution from her part. I've tried telling her, but I don't think she fully realizes how exhausted I am, and at the very least she doesn't do very much to help out. I've been at the point for a while where I don't think my heart can tolerate guiding her through another flashback session without something changing.

I guess I just expect some reciprocation (or something?) if our relationship is to continue. She does volunteer tangible things like making me meals or doing my laundry, and she's understanding of if I need time alone to rest and recuperate, and frequently gives it, but what I want is for her to give something so that my time with her is restful and helps me recuperate (to at least some degree) instead of it only being the other way around. I feel like she's just taking and taking from me, predicting that I will keep giving and giving without looking for ways to give something in return. I have expressed this to her, that I want her to proactively accommodate my emotions when we're together, and her responses have just been that she can't read people's emotions except for anger (and by my experience she often interprets minor irritations as major anger), probably due to her trauma in combination with how her parents treat her.

Sadly, it's especially painful for me to watch her be really happy about something. My best explanation for this is the fact that she has happiness and energy to spare but that she is not sharing it with me is aggravating my heart/gut which is giving me painful urges in an attempt to make me get away from her (with the expectation that she will only ever drain me in the future).

Something else that's just frustrating is that I have explicitly told her I am exhausted trying to support your ptsd episodes. So I'd think that would let her get around the barrier of not being able to read my emotions, at least for this specific thing. And I can't think of anything she's done to help me out with that. She'll make me meals sometimes, do my laundry, and do other chores/errands but that's it, and I both find that insultingly little of a contribution (just meets the bare minimum), and that doesn't solve the problem of her being draining to be around. I'm significantly doubting myself on this point though, i.e. I think it's pretty shaky, and if you think I'm going wrong here please tell me. (Though also tell me if you think I'm on the right track.)

It's still been months with no change. If it lasts like this, where spending time with her is purely draining my bucket to fill hers without her refilling any of mine, I can't go on supporting her and would have to make the hard decision to break up with her (though I'm definitely still going to ensure she has housing away from her parents, is otherwise minimally okay, and possibly keep rendering emergency help for ptsd episodes depending on our situations), which is looking like the most likely eventual outcome right now.

So, any ideas or other input is appreciated, especially if it's related to an option she could take that would let her better help me not be emotionally drained by spending time with her. But also, just thanks for reading, and I'll be happy to just find some understanding.

tl;dr My fiancee has ptsd. Supporting her through it has drained me. I remember her episodes, she gets no memory of them. She's doing better now, but it's also draining to be around her, and seeing her happy causes me discomfort/pain?

Blessings and love to you all.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

LuckiLee

MyPTSD Pro
Welcome to the forum. Glad you found us. I understand and can totally relate to everything you wrote. I live(d) it.

The only difference is my guy is in therapy and works hard to keep ptsd in check. We work together.

Some days and even weeks at a time can be exactly as you described. Anniversary dates. Flashbacks. Night terrors. etc. all make for s#!tty days.

Your girlfriend has it made. She doesn't have to face or do anything. You do it all and she's taking advantage imo. She's an adult right? Able bodied? Intelligent? She can't ignore her history. She has to face it head on. IN THERAPY! With a trauma therapist. Supporter burnout is real. And you are burnt-out. And will continue to be until she realizes she needs professional help.

One of the best pieces of advice I learned here is "Don't put more energy into someone's healing than they put in themselves."

Put some energy into your mental health. Pronto!!

Good night and I'll see ya around. ✌️
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Welcome to the forum @exhausted_supporter. I edited your spoiler. Don’t worry about trigger warning or hiding things with spoilers. You do not have to censor yourself here. People are in charge of managing their own triggers. Relax and speak freely.

With that being said…


I value actions much more than words, though, and I feel like our relationship is suffering from a lack of understanding and contribution from her part.

I guess I just expect some reciprocation (or something?) if our relationship is to continue.


I feel like she's just taking and taking from me, predicting that I will keep giving and giving without looking for ways to give something in return.

that doesn't solve the problem of her being draining to be around.

draining my bucket to fill hers without her refilling any of mine,

Yep… that all sounds familiar.

@LuckiLee hit the nail on the head. If they’re not proactively trying to work on themselves and the relationship, all this mess is not worth it. That’s the difference between a partner and an emotional vampire.

It’s ok to be exhausted, and it’s ok to walk away if you need to. I would not be able to be with my sufferer if he wasn’t actively trying. It’s hard enough when he is!
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
hello exhau. welcome to the forum.

I didn't have any expectation that I would get anything back from my support

as both sufferer and supporter, i might call this the soul of codependency and/or martyr complex. as a supporter, it drains me beyond human endurance and has the potential for making me even sicker than the person i am attempting to support. as a sufferer, it narrows my vision and healing hopes to a single, isolated pinpoint. it takes a village to live a healthy life. it takes a village to heal. broader and more humane perspectives needed on both sides of the healing/support equation.

kudos on your wisdom in reaching out here. example is not ONE way to influence others. it's the ONLY way. as a supporter, reaching out to take care of myself sets a far better example than tripping down the proverbial rabbit hole with the person i am attempting to support. no one ever saved a drowning victim by drowning with them.
 
I agree with the others that she definitely should be working on things in therapy.

One thing I wanted to ask about though- have you had a good sit down conversation on what your expectations actually are now? You say in the beginning you didn’t really have any and now (it seems to me) she’s trying a few different things (praising you/doing some of the chores) and it’s not enough. But does she know that it’s not enough, does she know what would be enough? Because perhaps her love language is affirmations and yours is actions (can’t remember the actual terminology) and so she thinks she’s showing you love but it’s not reading that way to you. Plus, she isn’t a mind reader so if there hasn’t been a conversation of what you’d like, she may be floundering as much as you.
 
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