I woke up this morning and found out a reader was concerned that she made the wrong decision in leaving her boyfriend. She writes:
I just ended a relationship with my then boyfriend who has Combat PTSD. He has done three tours in Afghanistan. He told me in the beginning of our relationship however being naive I thought it was just flashbacks (which i never saw). Anyways fast forward...we have been on a roller coaster relationship with him....when he pulls away again!
I have left him be this time, and doubt I there will be any reconciliation because I will not go through the heartache again unless I know he has been in therapy.
Is this the right thing to do? I am beginning to think I am going crazy.
OK, first things first. It sounds like you had no idea what you were getting yourself into, which is very common. It doesn't make you a bad person. A lot of people think they know or have heard others talk about PTSD and think the stereotypes are true. One of the major challenges Combat Veterans with PTSD face is a lack of education on the part of the general public. I don't say this to assign blame. It is what it is.As you all know, I try to stay away from offering advice or passing judgement on other people's actions. What I can do is draw off of personal experience to flesh out a given situation with the hope that added insight will allow a person to make an educated decision. So that being said, here goes:You want to know if you did the right thing or if you are going crazy? One thing I can tell you for certain, you are not going crazy. You are facing the dilemma that so many have faced before you:
Is It My Fault? Am I Causing Him to Pull Away?
In short No, and No. This is not your fault. Not even remotely. As for pulling away, it's a classic PTSD move. Traditional PTSD symptoms also happen to cohabit the same space as depression. Depression can cause people to withdraw emotionally from those who love them. I am guilty of this. I have done it on numerous occasions and it has been very difficult for my wife and I to manage. I go into this in a whole lot more detail in a previous post, It's Not Her Fault. I encourage you to read it. It is written to a veteran who recognizes that his wife blames herself for everything. It may be insightful for your ex to read as well.
Does Saying I Can't Handle the Heartache Make Me a Bad/Weak/Selfish Person?
Being with someone with PTSD, combat-related or not, is very difficult and heart-wrenching. Not everyone can do it. It takes a massive amount of intestinal fortitude. You are the only person who knows if you've reached your limit. It doesn't make you a bad person for looking after your own emotional needs. How can you care for someone else if you can't care for yourself? It sounds to me like you have a healthy sense of self-worth. Don't let that change.
Can His PTSD Get Better Without Therapy or Am I Just Second-Guessing Myself?
Possible? Yes. Probable? Not even remotely, from my experience. The human mind doesn't just flip a switch and everything is, all of a sudden, OK. It sounds to me like you have established that his refusal to get help is a deal-breaker for you. If this is the case, it sounds like a decision made rationally. From my experience, emotional withdrawal is a constant threat. Even for folks who have been in therapy and are fairly well equipped to cope with their PTSD. For the untreated, it's near unmanageable. I know it was for me until I got help and I still struggle with it every day.
I hope this helps answer your questions. If there are any points of clarification you need, please let me know. I also encourage the community to chime in on this post and offer support. As always, I wish you the best and hope you find the answers you are looking for!
Yours in Health,
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.