Well, hello again, everyone!
Today’s question is: “He doesn’t want to talk about it [his PTSD], or tell people. But I don’t think he has anything to be ashamed of, and I think it will help people understand why he is acting this way. What should I do?”
First, a disclaimer: I usually try to write in a way that applies as widely as possible. This time, I’m answering a reader’s question, so not everyone might relate. I know that not everyone who has PTSD is male, or married. If you have a different question you’d like me to answer in a post, please let me know.
This reader’s point of view goes sort of like this:
“Honey, you have nothing to be ashamed of; you didn’t choose to get sick, this happened to you. It’s no more shameful than a physical injury. I want to tell people so that when you need your space, they can be more understanding.”
Makes perfect sense, right? So – why is her husband (and maybe yours) so adamant that he doesn’t want anyone to know?
Because being able to talk about it happens at a point in his healing called acceptance, and he’s not there yet.
Because he’s still used to being Superman, and it’s hard to wrap his head around the idea of being this “sick guy” who needs to be fussed over.
Because he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired, and talking about it just reminds him when sometimes, he’d just like to forget.
Because talking about a problem is the way we women naturally tend to cope. Guys like to fix things, and if they can’t fix it, they don’t want to talk about it.
Because facts and feelings are two different things – so his head may understand that this illness is not his fault, but he may still feel shame, guilt, and anger at himself for “allowing” this to happen to him. He may feel broken or weak, and helpless that he can’t just “buck up” and shake this thing off.
If he’s sick enough that he can’t work right now, he may be struggling with the fact that he can’t work to provide for his family.
If his illness has led to out-of-character temper outbursts that have frightened you and the kids, he may have feelings of shame and guilt about that, too.
And thinking about it all is just so painful and overwhelming, that he just can’t. Not because he’s being to be stubborn, but because it’s all just too much.
So… That leaves you, the spouse, in a bit of a conundrum: his behaviour is different, and maybe he can’t attend family functions, so friends and family are asking what’s wrong. Yes, it would be a lot easier if he was ready to talk about it – but he’s not there yet, and pressuring him won’t speed his healing process.
So – what do you do?
You take care of you. This is tough on you – so get support from other spouses who can relate, and consider getting some counselling yourself, to help you cope.
You can be helpful by doing other things, like offering a smile or a hug. If he’s okay with it, maybe the two of you can talk with his therapist about what might be fun, trigger-free things for the two of you to do as a couple, or things to do as a family – because making life seem a little more “normal” might be just the ray of hope that both of you need to see that life can go on.
I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…
~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.
*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.
**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel free to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is copyrighted. The photo gracing today’s post was taken by Wojtek Rajski, and I’d like to thank him for generously allowing me to use his work. Please do not copy photographs from Coming Back Home without permission.