Sharing a journey through treatment to demystify the process for anyone nervous about starting therapy. Reflecting on the conversations to find the lessons to move forward.
I took some time to speak with Stephen this week I wanted to understand his perspective on this journey. I often wonder how it impacts him.
I know I am getting lots of amazing support not just from a brilliant psychologist but also from wonderful friends. But he just has to muddle through. I am aware how much some things have changed for us. I hope for the positive but some things are just different and I worry about how he copes seeing me upset at times or working through the new ways we interact.
Luckily it seams the changes are all positive from his perspective so that is good, what I had not appreciated is how much the PTSD had affected him before. I previously thought I managed to direct it all inwards, how wrong was I. That coupled with the fact I had lived with my symptoms for so long I had not appreciated how bad they had become. Along with the fact I like to minimise was a combination for denial.
So what was it like back then…
He told me on occasion he would say something or do something and he wouldn’t understand why it upset me. It could have been a joke or overly tight hug and I would pull away or grumble off telling him I was trying to get on with something and I couldn’t be slowed down. And the vibe I gave off was well not always a good one.
He often felt like he was walking on egg shells.
I feel awful that I oblivious to how tricky living with me could be. I am caring person and I tried so hard to shield him from the sleep depreciation and the emotional roller coaster. Clearly even when you try to do that PTSD finds a way.
What he notices now…
He feels like I am a lot less on edge. He can feel I am more relaxed. I don’t jump at every sound, or every time he enters the room. (Well at least most of the time).
We have both noticed my sleep is vastly improved. It’s not perfect if it ever can be. But having previously had maybe a night a month I slept through I now often sleep through the night. The nightmares are less frequent and again not every noise or change is waking me. It’s heavenly.
Our intimacy is very different. It got a lot worse before it got better and there are some things which I think will just be different for good. Like he can’t hold me in a cuddle if I try to pull away. But we talk a lot more and are both learning. I understand that the things he does are from a place of love and he understands that my discomfort with them is not about him.
Dad to day things are very different and still changing.
So how can you help a partner who is supporting you through therapy?
Open and Honest…
Be as open as possible. Even if it just means saying I don’t feel comfortable sharing this with you. Be honest always and share as much as you can. I don’t manage to talk to Stephen about everything I discuss with Chris, but I do share a fair bit. We tend to have a download after every session and I will tell him my homework and the key points if I am able. Sharing your feelings and thoughts and giving space for theirs can help you both understand more about the others perspective.
Time for them…
Make sure they get time for themselves. We have been really careful to protect Stephen’s hobby time. I have been aware some times that I want him with me, however I know that this is the time he needs to recharge so as hard as it is at times, I always encourage him to take that time. I truly believe investing that time is so important for his well-being.
Be willing to learn. Learn how your behaviours impact your partner. Learn what they struggle with. Learn how to find balance. Learn about your condition. Try to be open to learn new ways to operate in your relationship. I am constantly to trying to find things that work for us. It is sometimes a tricky balance but this can’t just be about me or him. The reality is the world, circumstances and relationships change constantly, you have to keep learning if you want to keep them alive.
It’s ok to depend on them…
Lean in. Dam this has been and probably still is a hard one for me. I am so bloody independent and I hate to feel like I need someone to be there for me to hold me up. That being said I am trying to lean in more. To seek comfort from Stephen to not go it all alone. This also gives Stephen the chance to feel he is helping. In the past if I was ill or upset I would never hug Stephen I would just want to be left alone or get on with it. Now sometimes I actually ask for a cuddle. I know weird!
Accept them for who they are…
Accept them for who they are. They might not always react the way you expect or want them too. They are a unique human being themselves and it is important to understand and accept them for who they are. I remember one conversation with Stephen I was asking how he would feel about hearing more about my past. I had always assumed that he would want to know but that I was just with holding. He told me he actually didn’t really want to hear about it. He worried it would upset him thinking about me and the things I have faced. It was not the response I expected in some ways it was good to know it was not just me avoiding, in others it made the idea of opening up a little harder.
If they don’t feel able to support you, you can either try to understand why and work through it or you could seek the help you need else where.
I wonder if you have ever experienced supporting someone else through therapy what was it like? Could I do more for him?
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