Trying to Cope with Exploring my Trauma While In Relationship

Candlelight

New Here
Hi All!

I've just joined the forums after beginning to accept the fact I actually have C-PTSD. I've been in treatment and recovery for sexual compulsivity/addiction the last few years and I know now I need to start addressing trauma which has been partly behind that. This is leading to some thoughts further down about my relationship, but I wanted to give some context first even if it's technically an introduction. It might be quite a read but I want to keep it all in one place.

About 6 years ago I left a relationship with someone who was violent towards other people (though did not physically abuse me), very manipulative and absolutely shredded my self esteem. We got together when we were 16 and it lasted two years. I honestly cannot tell you how insane I feel when I try to think about it, I can factually state events that happened yet I still try to downplay the fact I'm traumatised by it all. I was convinced that not having been physically harmed, that he was alright sometimes, that he was young too so couldn't have known better, or that he was very possessive of me, I couldn't be considered someone who'd been abused in any way. I rationally know that to look at it objectively there are red flags all over it. I don't know if it's appropriate to go into too much detail here but I'm willing to discuss it openly. After I ended that relationship, we were still living together in my university halls for the first year (in different rooms) and he would try to convince me to get back together, and then started stealing from housemates and denying it when he saw it wasn't going to happen. I was genuinely afraid to be near him because suddenly I started to see there was a very real possibility he'd lash out at me, so I avoided being in the same parts of the house if I was in the house at all. A few months into university I met my current partner who's a few years older than me and in no way similar to my ex partner. Unfortunately it was then that I realised that I'd developed a lot of coping mechanisms that were really unhealthy, which thankfully I've worked on over the time we've been together. I was obsessively jealous, emotionally manipulative, would swing between thinking I was a gift and constantly seeking reassurance, and then there was all the compulsive sexuality. I didn't like to link my behaviour to my previous relationship. I blamed myself for naturally being that way or trying to diagnose myself with different personality disorders that might fit, I was just totally against the idea of being traumatised. I'd joke about it, see people's reactions when I told them about the stuff that happened and not register that they were uncomfortable with me laughing it off as if it were nothing. My current partner knew about it but I suppose I was hiding it from myself so well, he didn't see it. A few years into being together, a friend sent me a message to warn me not to read the news - my ex had been arrested for sexually assaulting a minor. I felt angry at myself for not bringing up his behaviour with me to someone who could have stopped it. I felt angry at other people for being surprised he wasn't the person they thought he was. I was barely angry at him. Again, a while after that, I can factually state it happened but I can't emotionally connect to it, it feels like those parts of my life happened to someone else. I would rarely get triggered (or so I thought), things like hearing certain words or his name would make me uncomfortable, and only once or twice did my partner accidentally set off a memory by doing something without knowing. I thought I'd accepted what had happened, that I could live with it.

Recently, there was an incident with my partner where something really stupid set me off and I dissociated, which is something I do now and again when I'm really stressed. It feels like I mentally start distancing, and then my hands start going numb, and I can't really speak or look at people. Over the last few weeks it just feels like living in lockdown, both working from home, I'm hypervigilant over his moods and I'm exhausted by it. It feels like I haven't been able to recover from that last trigger and something's flipped in my brain to be alert constantly, my body doesn't feel right and my tongue doesn't sit right in my mouth. He'll get stressed by work and I instantly feel like I've done something heinous and annoyed him so I have a need to avoid being near him and a need to seek reassurance all at once. We're not often intimate because he doesn't have much need and for the first time in a while I didn't feel like I missed that. This weekend I knew it was getting too much and after talking with my therapist and him telling me that there's nothing wrong with accepting I have C-PTSD, I asked my partner if we could spent an evening together but that I wanted it to be mindful, present and attentive because I needed to feel safe and grounded again. I felt terrified being with him, I felt this need to constantly swallow down my fear and my lower body was not online which is really unusual. It worked out in the end but it's just absolutely driving home this point that I've pushed these feelings down for so long, masqueraded them as something else when I couldn't, and never addressed that I really am living with trauma. I could deal with isolated incidents, and blame the rest on general stress, but now I'm seeing how it's integrated into everything. I can't seem to calm or ground myself at all in this situation of being near someone else all the time and feeling like I need to watch everything I do. There's no reprieve and I don't feel like anyone I know understands how scary this is. I'm glad to have found a community of people who for very unfortunate reasons do understand what I mean. Despite all this, I still listen to these negative thoughts which by now I should know aren't my own. When I do admit that the state I'm in is probably trauma related, I still blame myself for feeling overwhelmed, as if I shouldn't be affected because it "wasn't that serious" or "it was years ago". I think the real issue for me right now is not knowing where it's going to go, thinking I knew a few triggers and assuming that was all. I guess I'm just after some solidarity or shared experience, just knowing this is part of it, and maybe how others deal with these feelings. Thanks for reading if you made it through all that!
 

spinninghaze

New Here
Hi!

First off, it's a great thing that you've recognized your own behaviors. It's definitely no easy feat! Good job, and I mean that genuinely because it really isn't easy. It sounds like you're on a good path - with acknowledging your trauma. It's okay to feel like it's not real or be in denial. That's definitely part of it for a lot of people!

Just like you, I've been in a really bad relationship that I convinced myself "wasn't that bad" - despite it being, objectively, "that bad". I've learned that it's alright for me to have flashbacks or need some 'me-time'. The most important thing to do is look after yourself and be gentle with yourself. 😊

Things will get easier :)
 

Candlelight

New Here
You're not alone with these feelings.
Makes total sense that all this is coming up now, and that it is confusing.

When you put it in the context of trauma and trauma responses, it all makes sense.
And there is light at the end of the tunnel.
It won't always feel like this.
Thanks, I think I was trying to talk myself out of it because "surely I'd have felt it before now if it was really an issue". It threw me, going from not feeling it to feeling it all the time but I guess I need to remember that just because I was avoiding it, it doesn't mean it was never there.

Hi!

First off, it's a great thing that you've recognized your own behaviors. It's definitely no easy feat! Good job, and I mean that genuinely because it really isn't easy. It sounds like you're on a good path - with acknowledging your trauma. It's okay to feel like it's not real or be in denial. That's definitely part of it for a lot of people!

Just like you, I've been in a really bad relationship that I convinced myself "wasn't that bad" - despite it being, objectively, "that bad". I've learned that it's alright for me to have flashbacks or need some 'me-time'. The most important thing to do is look after yourself and be gentle with yourself. 😊

Things will get easier :)
I appreciate the reply, I think most people who know me would say I don't give myself enough credit and it's hard to be honest in the way that I am now. I've got a real issue with constantly feeling like I need to be productive or doing things for other people but it's just another way I've been conditioned by the past relationship - feels a bit ironic that I know looking after myself will help me move past it but I don't feel like I deserve it because of the things I need to move past!
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks, I think I was trying to talk myself out of it because "surely I'd have felt it before now if it was really an issue". It threw me, going from not feeling it to feeling it all the time but I guess I need to remember that just because I was avoiding it, it doesn't mean it was never there.
All it means is that you stored those traumatic feelings away until a time that you are more able to manage it all.
I didn't feel for 30 years. And feeling things now from back then is super strange.
But being kind with yourself, and showing yourself immense compassion, and giving yourself time and space, will really help.
 
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