“You can talk with someone for years, every day, and still, it won’t mean as much as what you can have when you sit in front of someone, not saying a word, yet you feel that person with your heart, you feel like you have known the person for forever…. connections are made with the heart, not the tongue.”― C. JoyBell
These days everyone prides themselves that they are “in touch”. We are on the Internet, on our Mobile Phones calling from our cars, on the street, in the Cafe, texting on the run. We can be contacted anywhere but are we really listening and are we really talking. In the 21st Century it is now widely accepted that we are time poor hence taking advantage of so much technology has to offer. It is terrific for our work lives but it comes at a price to our personal lives and in times of crisis can prove disastrous.
We have to ask ourselves are we really engaging truly with our friends and family when they need us most or have we all become ships passing in the night. For those suffering from Complex PTSD communication is very difficult and it is hard for families/partners to understand. Summarising: Complex trauma is a very real and destructive form of trauma, which at present is insubstantially captured by a diagnosis of PTSD. Complex trauma is often identified in conjunction with a dissociative and/or personality disorder. One of the most misdiagnosed of those disorders is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), DID is often indistinguishable from certain traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This often results in a misdiagnosis for those experiencing complex trauma.
The reason a dissociative and/or personality disorder is often present in those with complex trauma is that the perceptions of reality after enduring prolonged trauma are radically altered. This perception is much different than the reality perceived without prolonged trauma. Reality becomes torn, moulded, and shaped to fit within a traumatic atmosphere. Due to longevity and exposure, this distorted picture of reality becomes normalised for the patient who experiences complex trauma. One of the largest problems when dealing with complex PTSD is that the sufferer has a high risk of suicidality or self-injurious behaviour. Therapists are often stuck between a rock and a hard place with many Complex PTSD sufferers, due to the legal obligation in treatment to ensure that their patient does not harm themselves or someone else. This can limit how hard they push to achieve the results needed for change.
So you can see how fraught interpersonal relationships between close friendships and family members and sufferers from Complex PTSD is. The solution is not down the end of the telephone (though that is not to say you discount all technology, some online support groups offer excellent help and organisations such as Lifeline offer invaluable help in a crisis) but Face-to-Face, one-on-one time spent together is irreplaceable. Open the dialogue slowly in a zone both parties are comfortable. It can be started with regaining simple pleasures such as going out to the movies again, a simple repast at home or at a restaurant. Companionable silence at first can suffice but be in the same room. Avoiding each other is not going to make the problem go away. If possible allow some time at the end of a therapy session for partnership time. Even if possible have relationship counselling support. Your partner is your best ally in your frontline of defence against fighting the demons of childhood abuse but you need to let them in.
Do not be ashamed or feel guilty. If you lock them out you only succeed ironically in making them feel guilty that they are not doing enough to help which is all they want to do. Establish boundaries of course for what is suitable for discussion with the Therapist and your partner but do not be afraid to let them support you on low days or be afraid to admit you are having flashbacks. You do not have to reveal the content if you do not want to just that you are having them and hopefully having your partner there helps you feel safer. If it does use that tool and tell them. That is a bond then that cannot be broken and will only serve to make you stronger.
The days you cannot go out – admit it. There is no shame attached. Explain, communicate and answer questions as best you can but sit down with your partner and talk about it. It is not fair to expect them to be mind readers. Slowly letting them see your fears will illicit understanding and respect. Trust me I know and now I have an ally who can sit with in the Emergency Department waiting to be stitched following a self-harm episode. He understands why it happens and does not blame himself for not protecting me but rather blames my abusers which is exactly where the blame should lie. This is what true communication does it lifts guilt and shame and opens love to those who deserve it.