I checked my website mail on the 18th and found a very heartfelt cry for help from a kind and generous young woman who was asking my advice. Here's what she said:
I have dated a veteran with PTSD for 3 months now and over the past month he has slowly closed himself off from the world and now from me. I have tried to reach out to him in numerous ways only to get an awful "silence" in return. He has told me that he cares for me very much and wants to see things work out between us, but his behavior says anything but that. At one point he was extremely depressed and would not answer my texts or calls when I was checking in to see if he was alright, I feared he might hurt himself because he has cut himself of from family, friends, and then me. Is this typical of PTSD, to shut out the people who love you the most????? He knew he was hurting me with his silence yet he let it continue.
My struggle is this: do I just continue to pray for his healing from a distance and send him love with my thoughts in hopes that things will get better because I so want to be there for him, or do I let it go and try to move on........... Any insight into PTSD and intimate relationships, about what to expect, how to handle when your loved one goes "AWOL", and thought processes of vets when this is happening to them would be greatly appreciated. It is also extremely painful to sit back and watch someone you love dearly suffer and not be able to help!!!!!!
Sorry this is so long....so much to say. Thank you for your service, your dedication to helping others through your journey, and for listening to people like me who want to help our loved ones pain stop! You are a true blessing.
For obvious reasons, I would really love to hear back from women who have suffered through this uncertainty. I can't give insight into how to best cope with this, but I can do my best to give insight into how a veteran may be feeling in his shoes.
Starting off with some PTSD and Depression 101: Emotional Detachment is the BIGGEST ENEMY in a new relationship with a veteran. I know, from my experience, the intensity of the emotions a had for my wife scared me. I wanted to close myself off, but I couldn't. I tried, and she saw right through it. The major difference was that I was not depressed at the time. When someone is experiencing strong emotions and is depressed at the same time, it's like overloading a circuit. The breaker trips and the connection is severed.Since I first met my wife, there have been times where my depression and PTSD caused me to become emotionally inaccessible. Those are the hardest times a loved one has to live through. Knowing how much it hurt my wife, it is also some of the deepest guilt I have ever felt.This is where it starts to get a little dicey: Emotional Detachment, caused by the PTSD and Depression can be serious cause for concern. Alienating friends and pushing loved ones away is standard, par for the course depressive behavior. Here's the tricky part. Before I started getting serious treatment, my mother had gotten some amazing things as gifts for me if I wanted them. I told her I didn't and proceeded to sort through all of the stuff that meant anything to me and prioritize who would get what. I was having serious suicidal thoughts. I am not saying this to scare you, just to make sure you are aware of the warning signs of suicidal behavior. IfTHIS sounds like your man, get him help!!
Is this typical of PTSD, to shut out the people who love you the most????? He knew he was hurting me with his silence yet he let it continue. Let me describe for you how it felt when I was suffering from a PTSD episode and depressed at the same time. Just imagine the situation:I get home from a long day at work. I sit down and my daughter, barely over a year old, wants my attention. I give her a hug and hand her off to mama. I sit down without saying a word and start playing Xbox360. My wife sits down in front of me (her cue for rub my shoulders, oh love of mine) and asks how my day went. My response was a non-committal grunt and that was it. She got up after a few more minutes. I never said hi, I never said anything. I never touched her to reassure her. She knew full well what was going on. Looking back the only way I can describe what I felt was like being in a sound proof glass room, my PTSD between me and my family. I banged loud and hard on that glass, wanting to touch my wife, tell her how much I love her. My PTSD had taken over. It took over because I was afraid. I was afraid that if I didn't have my PTSD under tight control, I could hurt my family even worse. Don't let anyone with PTSD buy into this line of self-deluding bullshit.Yes, I said that harshly - it's something I have to remind myself of every day. If you are afraid of your PTSD, it takes over your life. The fear of what will happen in ANY situation overwhelms a person. What could have been a safe place or event or past time all of a sudden becomes dangerous - what if the PTSD gets out of control? Yeah, WHAT IF?? I had a conscious choice to make: Confront my fear of my PTSD ruining every aspect of my life or not. I chose to keep my family in one piece and to start learning how to rethink my relationship with my PTSD. It's still a work in progress but I am making strides in the right direction. For your sake and his, I hope he chooses to love over living in fear.Two real-world pieces of advice: Find a vet center near you. They can get you into support groups and help educate you on what to expect. Lastly, after educating yourself and hearing from the spouses and caregivers that will definitely give you perspective, you need to be fair to yourself and your veteran: Is my love for this person strong enough to support this relationship? You NEED to ask yourself this question. If you don't think you have the ability to love a person in this way, it doesn't make you a bad person. Being in a relationship like this takes a very strong committment from day one. You have to answer that question if nothing else.OK, that's my input based on my personal experience. There are many other people that I would love to ask to share their experiences here. I know many will. Also, you are more than welcome to join the Facebook Page community and find outreach and understanding there as well. You can remain anonymous and just listen to what folks have to say.I hope to hear from a lot of you on this subject matter. Let's band together and help out a young woman in love!
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.