How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?

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briasmith12

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How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« on: June 28, 2018, 07:00:11 AM »
Hi all,
I, as I'm sure most of you have, have dealt with misdiagnosis. It doesn't help that I've never been fully honest with my therapists (before now) about the real extent and variety of childhood abuse, which I won't go into here because it's irrelevant. Suffice it to say that I have been managing my life unhealthily, but with most people being unaware, including DH. He knows about the panic attacks, the chronic and severe depression, etc., but I'm having a v difficult time explaining why "all of a sudden" him bear hugging me or being in my face makes me anxious. I realize he won't ever fully understand and I know I did this to myself by not being present and honest, but I do need him to understanding that I've struggled with this my whole life and that it's nothing new. To somebody who's never experienced dissociation or depersonalization, maybe it's an impossibility. I have lived so long in the world of this person whose life I was wearing that I don't know how to explain to him that I'm not exaggerating or making it up. That's a huge trigger for me and also a v large part of why I'd not ever been honest with therapists or psychiatrists about my symptoms/feelings.
Any thoughts?

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Deep Blue

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2018, 01:17:06 PM »
Hey Briasmith,
For a millisecond I thought I had written this post.   :doh: I am in the EXACT same boat.  My husband and I are coming up on our 6th anniversary.  The difference is that he only knows I have ďanxietyĒ. He doesnít know I get panic attacks weekly or that I have clinical depression and knows nothing of cptsd.

I always thought I would NEVER tell him.  Recently, Iíve just started to consider it.  I am working on a letter to share with him. I donít know if I will ever give it to him.  Just thinking about telling him is an improvement for me.

Iíll be interested to see how other people went about telling their significant others?  Iím with you that I donít think people can really understand trauma unless they have experienced it.

Much love
Deep Blue

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woodsgnome

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2018, 05:02:13 PM »
I can't explain it to myself, let alone others. I mean yeah, I can pinpoint all the circumstances fairly well (probably too well  :'( ), but getting to how this still affects me creates a predicament. I did have one relationship where I explained a bit afterwards, as it was less awkward then while the relationship was in place; or maybe it never really was stable, being there was always this missing element that I naively thought would disappear on its own.

I guess so much of the how to tell anyone conundrem (inside and out of close relattionships) is very individual, depending on their background, what you think they understand of life in general, etc. It's harder not knowing what to expect, but I was surprised even more when I found a singles forum where the discussion was about whether they'd date someone they knew had experienced mental (unspecified) problems. The no, woudn't consider it reply came in with a very high percentile. Not surprising in one sense, I suppose; but another addition to the stack of problems we'd rather not have.

I'm still as fragile as ever so I pretty much avoid the whole situation nowadays. Given that I live extremely isolated, that rather tips the scales. Still it hurts knowing that here's yet another aspect of 'normal' life that crashed due to abuse and now it needs such careful nurturing just to keep surviving.

Sorry I didn't have any definitive strategy to share. I guess if there's something to try, it might be to introduce the other person to some of the literature (from this site, forum, blogs or books, videos, etc.) that explains cptsd and how you fit the picture they describe.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 05:06:07 PM by woodsgnome »

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briasmith12

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2018, 02:26:35 AM »
Hey Briasmith,
For a millisecond I thought I had written this post.   :doh: I am in the EXACT same boat.  My husband and I are coming up on our 6th anniversary.  The difference is that he only knows I have ďanxietyĒ. He doesnít know I get panic attacks weekly or that I have clinical depression and knows nothing of cptsd.

I always thought I would NEVER tell him.  Recently, Iíve just started to consider it.  I am working on a letter to share with him. I donít know if I will ever give it to him.  Just thinking about telling him is an improvement for me.

Iíll be interested to see how other people went about telling their significant others?  Iím with you that I donít think people can really understand trauma unless they have experienced it.

Empathy is just as important as good advice! It's so helpful to me to know that other people have experienced the things that I have. My previous therapist (??for whatever reason??) didn't directly address the dissociation or depersonalization/derealization even though I definitely drifted away more than a few times during our sessions and he knew to what extent it affected my life. We were working on MBSR, which is not helpful for me. I can't regulate my feelings so the only thing that happened were more panic attacks and more yelling on my part. Therapist had me convinced it was ADHD until I talked more extensively to DH (who actually has ADHD, since childhood) and realized it didn't fit. I basically stumbled my way to C/PTSD through trying to manage the dissociation on my own, which isn't possible.  :Idunno:
Anyway, I talked to DH last night about how I felt, that I was afraid that he thought I was making it up or exaggerating or "insert negative thought here". His response was "Did I ever say that?". Of course, my response to that was "It doesn't matter. What matters is what I feel about what I think you feel." He was supportive and sympathetic, which just makes me feel worse, of course, because now I just feel like I'm ruining his life because he has had to deal with my chronic feelings of disconnect from him.  ???
If I have any advice to you from somebody who's kind of making it up as she goes, it would be to break it slowly. In a fit of depersonalization several years ago, I told him about it, and how it was so difficult for me to feel love, even though logically my brain knew that I loved him when I was present. I started by telling DH a couple of months ago that I was having regular panic attacks. Then we started talking about the overwhelming guilt and how it was impossible for me to ask things of him without becoming incredibly anxious/panicky/guilty/suicidal. I left the suicidal part out. He still doesn't know about that, and I don't feel he needs to at this point. Maybe later. Then last night I tried to explain how I wander from depersonalization to emotional dysregulation and back again. Eventually I'll tell him about how I feel as though I'm the witness for two lives: one where this woman makes decisions without him (which happens more than I care to admit) and one where a woman is paralyzed with fear if she fails to make a decision that aligns with what she knows he wants.  :aaauuugh:

I can't explain it to myself, let alone others. I mean yeah, I can pinpoint all the circumstances fairly well (probably too well  :'( ), but getting to how this still affects me creates a predicament. I did have one relationship where I explained a bit afterwards, as it was less awkward then while the relationship was in place; or maybe it never really was stable, being there was always this missing element that I naively thought would disappear on its own....

I'm still as fragile as ever so I pretty much avoid the whole situation nowadays. Given that I live extremely isolated, that rather tips the scales. Still it hurts knowing that here's yet another aspect of 'normal' life that crashed due to abuse and now it needs such careful nurturing just to keep surviving.

Sorry I didn't have any definitive strategy to share. I guess if there's something to try, it might be to introduce the other person to some of the literature (from this site, forum, blogs or books, videos, etc.) that explains cptsd and how you fit the picture they describe.


I 100% understand. It's impossible to put into words exactly what it feels like to feel so incredibly alone and removed from the world. I don't know how to navigate this part of C/PTSD. The part where I try to reconcile my present with my past. Hopefully the new psychiatrist and therapist will do better than the ones previously. In any case, I plan on being persistent and refusing to continue to be treated for a condition that is not relevant.
I'll definitely send him to some links, that's a great idea. I've resisted giving him any literature because I have done so much work creating this facade of happy perfection (at one point, he literally told me to care more about things because he felt like an a** asking things of me on a daily basis because I asked for so little), that, again, I'm terrified he won't believe me.

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LilyITV

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2018, 12:47:53 AM »
I need help with explaining this to my partner.  My therapist suggested he come in so we could discuss it together and how to help me.  When I communicated this to my husband, it turned into a complete disaster.  He is deeply hurt that I am afraid to be vulnerable with him and that I talk to my therapist about certain issues.  I was trying to explain that he is the closest I've ever gotten to being completely vulnerable with someone, but I just couldn't get that across.  My husband wants to be my protector and I am too afraid  and ashamed to let him.   I also can't explain to him what my childhood was like and how it made me into the person I am today.

So I guess this is still a work in progress for us. 

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Boy22

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2018, 02:32:28 AM »
LilyITV, I am wondering if using a cancer analogy would be useful?

ďSO, if I had been diagnosed with cancer would you come with me to meet the surgeons ans the oncologists? ..... Well I need therapy for a serious reason and I would appreciate your support by coming with me to meet my therapist.Ē

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woodsgnome

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2018, 03:33:03 AM »
Boy22 makes a good point with the comparison to having a dire physical illness explained by someone with more advanced knowledge ahead of what the general public usually knows.

Maybe your h is afraid of cptsd, and though it's serious and can have enormous detrimental effects, perhaps he's unaware of what sometimes gets pointed out on this forum -- that cptsd is more like a severe injury and not a major mental illness (albeit certain aspects can veer in that direction and is still very serious unless carefully dealt with).

Some people too have a problem with how they regard therapists and their role as caregivers possessing special insights that other people don't always have. I know I have to be careful regarding what if anything  I tell about seeing a therapist, as I've learned that many have some pretty bizarre and very stereotyped notions of what therapists really do and what their relationship to their clients really is like.

So while cptsd isn't necessarily as catastrophic as cancer, its effects still require careful handling, which is what a good therapist should be trained to provide, and which is why we choose to consult with them. Much as we would with a medical doctor.

Either way, it's potentially a troublesome area. Lots depends on your husband's flexibility, it seems, from what you've shared. I wish you well with this situation.  :hug:
« Last Edit: October 23, 2018, 03:35:23 AM by woodsgnome »

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movementforthebetter

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2018, 08:13:52 AM »
Somewhere in the books, research,  videos articles section here I found something that talked about how C-PTSD had some parallels to autism. It framed a lot of the symptoms and neurological effects of C-PTSD as part of processing inputs differently, or the inability to process certain inputs. This was immensely helpful to me, both in understanding and accepting myself, but also in explaining to others. It could be for you, depending on how educated, understanding and empathetic he is to those on the autism spectrum.

I personally like this analogy better than comparing our condition to a disease. Autism and C-PTSD both result in neurodivergent people who navigate the world differently than others, and requires active coping, management of symptoms, and care to thrive.

I'll see if I can find the link. Also, it's reasonable if this doesn't resonate for you as it did for me. I think one's approach to care will grately influence if the analogy fits.


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LilyITV

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2018, 01:30:14 AM »
I spoke with my therapist about this at my last session.  First she asked me if I had looked up anything on the internet about my condition...which caused me to kind of freeze up.  She has never given me any kind of diagnosis and for whatever reason I don't want to tell her I've been doing all this reading about C-PTSD.  So I lied... I said I had just been reading up on anxiety in general.  She told me that she does not really focus too much on the diagnosis and mostly focuses on the treatment. 

She gave me a very general website about anxiety disorders to share with my husband to start the conversation.  She also asked me what I would most want my husband to know about my condition and she would help me explain it to him.  I didn't know where to begin because there's so much I'd want him to know. 

One thing that I wanted to help my husband understand is that although my childhood looks so perfect to him on the outside looking, I spent so much time being afraid and ashamed.  My husband is a child of divorce so the fact that I come from a two-parent household is like a fairy tale for him.  She suggested I say something like, I was the one living it and I am the only one who knows what it would be like.  Everyone's experience is different.  We then discussed the fact that my husband had brothers he was really close to while I had absolutely no one.  Also the fact that my husband's mother, even though she was strict, knows how to show affection and always was hugging them and telling them how much she loved them.  My father was not good at showing affection.  I know he loved me on an intellectual level but I don't remember him ever saying it out loud or him ever hugging me.  My mother was better at it, but our relationship became distant after she basically completely emotionally abandoned me at age 9. 

I thought thinking about what I wanted him to know was such a good way of talking about this.  I want to come up with other things because there is so much.

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milk

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2018, 01:27:34 AM »
I have some thoughts to offer about working through the ‘all of a sudden’ feelings you mentioned when you are close with your SO. But first I have to offer a background so you understand how I got there.. TW*

I was in a relationship with someone I had been friends with for many years, Theil - we enjoyed being together and we respected one another (being sensitive to where we were - he was going through a major life change and I recently connected with my biological father after 26yrs.) As we became more intimate I started having emotional flashback’s. I didn’t recognize these feelings till it was over. i felt a need to shower, to run away, aching stomach pain — I doubted his intentions, considered that he was a predator (was not true). I didn’t understand what I was feeling. I didn’t know how to talk about it. Theil kept asking - he didn’t understand because we were ‘biologically connected’ (his words to describe when one partner has sensations that sync up with the other partner when you are apart) Our American Indian heritage (honors the body and spirit like a wild animal) validated these ‘magical’ natural urges (everything was right), so having the feeling to flee was the strangest barrier for me. I treated Theil poorly, blamed him for abuses done to me in the past, I came around to what I was doing - but it scared me, I didn’t know myself. We eventually ended our relationship because he needed more and I didn’t know where to begin with managing the Ef’s. Months later he returned and we talked it through. He was in a better space and so was I. Theil wanted to have kids and get married, I let him go and went overseas, far from my home country. I was not able to commit to a relationship then because I needed to know myself better; a family deserved nothing less. Overseas I met a man with a fierce soul and quiet resolve, the strongest biological connection ever, all too familiar and strange —- a poetic balance; it was the first time I experienced intimacy with no Ef triggers. I grew from this.

It was worth the wait. I am open to a love and family. It feels good to be present.

Bria, you asked about thoughts on how to express what you are feeling to your partner. For me, taking the time to love myself intimately helped me to connect with my body in a healthy way; to reinforce positive sensations that I needed to experience to free myself from the emotional flashback. Connecting with my body is physical and spiritual - Native American mythologies about the earth and womanhood open me up to know myself intimately (I share this because sex is physiological yet the mind shapes our expression) With my last partner, I asked for what I wanted to feel - going slow - letting myself open up to feel and know sex with calm and relaxation, building up to excitement and vigor. Eventually I didn’t flee, fight, or freeze, if I did have this urge, I explained to my partner in the moment through a visualization of what is happening and that it would pass when he helped me to write over the memory. I asked him to rewrite the memory with me, and he loved that. In the beginning we initiated our sex play with simple gentle pleasures - going slow until I felt ok to continue.

I hope my share helps you to find a comfortable and fun way to release the sensations (EF) you feel with your SO :  )
« Last Edit: November 11, 2018, 05:28:49 PM by milk »

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LilyITV

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2018, 04:12:08 PM »
Thank you so much for your post milk!  Your posts are always so fascinating!  I can really identify with what you said about having EF's with your partner, but not realizing it. 

I realize whenever I'm getting close with my husband, I feel an intense desire to run away.  When we're sharing a tender moment, I have trouble just being there in the moment.  There's just so much anxiety.  I love the idea of rewriting memories. 

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milk

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Re: How did you explain c-ptsd to your significant other?
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2018, 08:57:24 PM »
LilyITV, it gives me pleasure to help others your thanks is appreciated.

Enjoy rewriting memories with your husband. It is strange when you start noticing how often it happens (the ef’s), the fun part is turning it around until the present takes over, and you are doing it together - wow!

I was fortunate a few years back, to have found a brilliant counselor for two years; she helped me to reclaim my sense of intimacy through DBT therapy practice that supported me while I was single and later when I was in a relationship. So I pass on the kudos to her!
« Last Edit: November 11, 2018, 05:31:38 PM by milk »