Regular writer, Jackie Walker, offers an insight into the effects of PTSD on relationships...
I’ve just returned from a week in the south of France where I was working as part of a new charity Talking2Minds. The charity helps ex servicemen and women and those from other uniformed services – police, fire, ambulance etc get rid of their symptoms of PTSD in just 3 days. The charity also offers help to those who suffer from PTSD by proxy. It’s easy for most folk to give more than a nodding understanding to those suffering without thinking of the others who are involved in that person’s life and the challenges they too must face. Any of the normal relationship problems are present, and then doubled or tripled in force.
I spent time this last week with Sharon one of the other Master Practitioners on the course whose husband had suffered from PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers and then in the Police Force. I asked Sharon how their marriage had survived and the simple answer was because they both wanted it to.
With reflection Sharon now realises that at the time she was giving, giving, giving to her husband and in the process she lost herself. She became unimportant and her only focus was her husband’s welfare. Even taking time out to go shopping or to the cinema made her feel guilty at leaving him.
We’ve all heard the expression ‘loved to death’. Even though her intentions had been pure and made of love, she was denying her husband a sense of himself. He was so mollycoddled that he didn’t have to do anything for himself.
After her husband had been through the programme, he then continued to be involved with the charity and trained to be first a practitioner and then a master practitioner. At first the changes frightened Sharon as she felt she was now becoming redundant, and if she was redundant who was she and what was her purpose in life? She followed him into the programme and went through the training too. They now make an invincible team – as practitioners and in their marriage. They both had big lessons to learn in terms of responsibility – her letting go and him standing on his own two feet - literally as he’d been relegated to a wheelchair. He now walks tall and strong in more ways than one.
There are many stories amongst the men and women about relationships which breakdown due to the inability of the sufferer to be able to open up to their feelings and emotions. The ones they concentrate on are those which pull them down. In that low state, it’s almost impossible to reach out and give love back to those who are loving them. Add to that drugs and alcohol and the world they live in is one of their own making and imagining, a dark and threatening environment. The drugs and alcohol taken to help them snatch a few moments sleep, free from images they’d rather not see.
One of the few things Sharon wanted from her husband was a look, a word, a touch to show that he loved her. I heard this too from Fran whose relationship with her husband is now at the stage of separation. Although her husband has now been through the process it has come a bit late for her. She wanted to be acknowledged, she wanted emotional input to the relationship and he just couldn’t give it. Now that he can, they are working together to separate gently and with mutual respect and understanding.
Talking2Minds is approached by more partners looking for help for their suffering husband or wife than the sufferer themselves.
As we gathered the group together in Folkestone last week, there were tears from a couple of wives who were dropping their husbands off. In their eyes you could see love, fear, hope, and resignation. I spoke to one wife who felt it was a last ditch attempt to have her husband back. After 20 years of it, I admired her tenacity. Imagine her surprise when he turned up on Sunday with outstretched arms to hug her, something he hasn’t done for well over a decade. Now she too will have some readjustment to make as her ‘new man’ isn’t someone she’ll know well. His change in outlook will affect hers and she will have to own her part in the process, just as he has.
The guys who felt they had nothing to offer a partner, who felt that looking after themselves was more than enough trouble are now beginning to wake up to the possibility that they too can have a loving relationship and that they deserve it. The ladies who get involved with them are lucky, these are guys who truly understand emotion and are no longer afraid to show it.
Getting under the tough exteriors to find gentle giants, men with warm loving hearts and a resolve to create their new lives was an awe inspiring experience. Gone were the haunted eyes, replaced with sparkle and laughter.Those who avoided eye contact engaged again. They went home independent from alcohol, fear, hurt and sleep deprivation. Our success rate is 100% with no relapses.
Talking2Minds are now fundraising to open our HQ centre in Lydney UK and develop funding streams that will allow us to treat thousands of clients per year in a cost effective manner. If you want to support us please visit www.talking2minds.co.uk for more information about how to donate. If you want to find out more about the treatment or have a question to ask for yourself or for a loved one then please contact us via the above site.