This is an open letter from the spouse of a PTSD survivor.
Waiting For The Explosion:
Living With Someone Suffering From P.T.S.D.
a Survivor’s Partner
Living with a person who is dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be a real challenge. My wife was brutally raped and beaten in January 1995. The echoes of that night still reverberate through our marriage occasionally. While I can only speak of my experiences in our marriage, the messages I’ve seen on the Secondary Survivors email circle and the guestbook for partners, seem to indicate that our experience is not unique.
Waiting and anxiety are recurring themes in a relationship with a PTSD survivor. Waiting for the next explosion to come, dreading it and faintly hoping that maybe, finally the storm will be over. Waiting for life to return to “normal” (and what was “normal” anyway?) and fearing that the present darkness would be with us forever. Wanting to remind her that
I have valid needs too. Waiting to be told yet again, “You don’t understand.”---You’re right, I don’t. I try, the Lord knows I try but I simply do not have any experience to relate this to. I’m sorry, I am struggling to see, to process, and to empathize.
We gained a measure of closure in 1999 when a court case was settled. In some ways or family may never gain full closure.
We finally received settlement and covered the medical expenses. It was a long day in coming.) It is hard to look ahead when what is behind you still needs attention.
My wife is fighting a battle towards healing and wellness. Most people don't see that when they look at her now. It has been and still is a very long, brave and heroic battle.
Sometimes when she is fighting the world or herself, she may miss what she’s aiming at and hit off on me verbally instead. I’m glad she doesn’t exhibit violent behavior and never has, but she, like everyone else dealing with PTSD, does sometimes have a short temper, irritability disposition or a suspicious air.
These are little things, but over a long time can add a real stress to a relationship. Stress that only professional counseling (individual and joint) will heal.
These past several years have been hard on her, on me and on our family. I am confident, however, that with time, counseling, and the Grace of God, our marriage will be healed and we'll emerge stronger than ever.
We will never be the same people we were before the attack, but we pray that we will be wiser and more compassionate towards others and to ourselves. I wish I could say the bomb squad can rush in and defuse the bomb we all are waiting on, but it doesn’t happen that way.
My feeling is that the explosions will get smaller and less frequent as time goes on. We may very well may have the occasional “pop” for the rest of our lives. I think and pray that I can live with that. You can too. Keep working for the best in your marriage, even if it means getting help to do it. It isn’t easy to live with the PTSD but, we know that it too, can be overcome.
A spouse of a rape survivor who has PTSD.
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