Families living with Survivors of Complex PTSD

Trauma and often associating PTSD or Complex PTSD has an enormous impact on partners and families as well as survivors. They are often the primary caregiver and in the case of suicidality the first line of defence. They live with the trauma day-to-day and often the practical mundane daily functioning of the household can fall on their shoulders. They find themselves in a position of supporting their loved ones through unbelievably traumatic episodes such as flashbacks, bouts of depression, dissociative periods and other mental illnesses associated with trauma which they are not professionally trained to deal with. It puts enormous strain on families, relationships both partners and children and tests these kinships to the maximum.

Professionals such as GPs, Psychiatrists, Psychotherapists, Counsellors and Support Groups are invaluable and increasingly Online Support Groups are emerging which provide invaluable help. I have found the Blue Knot Foundation (formerly Adults Surviving Child Abuse) and my Psychotherapist fantastic for our family and during the night Lifeline 13 11 14 (Australia) in periods of suicidality have been good. However, we have had to work hard at devising a plan with my Psychotherapist and allow half an hour at the end of each two  hour appointment for my partner and I to discuss how we are managing as a family. How the children are coping, how our Autistic son is managing with my repeated Clinic admissions etc. My husband is given the opportunity to talk about his feelings. The Psychotherapist keeps him abreast as to my status and communicates clearly if I am in a danger zone. It is an ongoing process and we can never afford to take our eye off the ball and we have to work together as a team to protect the family unit. Taking care of my partner and the family is as important as taking care of the survivor if the survivor is to heal and stay well.

Education for partners on the survivors condition is also crucial. Knowledge is one of the best lines of defence. Know what you are dealing with. Arm yourself with as much information as you can and educate your partner. There is no shame in PTSD or Complex PTSD. There is no shame in Trauma or abuse. Your partner is one of your most precious allies is healing so do not feel guilty about letting them in. It is much easier for them to be on the ‘ship’ with you than in the water floundering around in the waves unable to swim through lack of knowledge about what to do.

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