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Living With PTSD

Question:

Help Dr. Dombeck. My finance is a veteran at 37 yrs old, he has PTSD, he says he’s bipolar and clinically depression. I have noted mood swings but they got worse after he was denied for his VA disability. He’s shut me off. He says he loves me and is in love with me but his actions sometimes say otherwise. He’s now on the Internet talking to other people instead of talking to me. He said his Psychiatrist told him it’s better to talk to strangers than your loved ones. He’s now saying you do your thing and I’ll do mine and then I’m feeling happy again we continue our relationship. I’ve suggested couple counseling but there’s no answer. Please help I don’t want to lose my finance – help me to understand what’s going on. Thank you.

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Answer:

As always with these letters it is very difficult to know what is really going on. If we are to take your complaints at face value, what might be going on is that you’re living with a man who is suffering from a serious psychiatric illness which is consuming his emotional energies. PTSD occurs when someone has been exposed to serious trauma. Combat experiences and the like will do it sometimes to some people. In PTSD trauma memories cannot be resolved and put into the past; rather they reoccur and cause great anxiety and stress, often accompanied by guilt or feelings of failure or regret that do not end. To avoid feeling the raw pain of this emotion, it is fairly typical that a PTSD patient will shut down emotionally, at least as much as is practical. Though he might not be intending to shut you down, all emotion is connected at the hip. If he numbs himself to his trauma, he almost certainly ends up numbing himself to you, as intimacy is also vulnerability and he won’t want to feel vulnerable. What the psychiatrist may have been saying is that it is easier for him to maintain a safe distance with strangers than with you.

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p> The thing about PTSD is that it doesn’t necessarily get better quickly or at all. It especially doesn’t get better if the patient is unwilling to accept help. So, despite the fact that you want to have a relationship with this man, he may be more or less incapable of having one (of the desired intensity) with you for the duration. So, if this assessment has any truth, you’ve got a difficult decision to make as to how you want to proceed. Would becoming a selfless martyr/caregiver make sense for you? Would you be better off finding a more available man? Difficult questions. I strongly suggest that you seek counseling of some sort (via a mentor, therapist or someone like that) to help you sort this all out.

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