All relationships are different, all people are different, and PTSD looks different for different people. The diversity of relationships is a beautiful thing, however there are some things that many survivors who struggle with PTSD want their partners to know. The below list is what I’ve compiled from speaking with survivors and their partners, but bear in mind that not everything will apply to everybody.
1. It’s OK to tell me about your problems
It may seem that I have so much going on that there’s never an opportunity for you to open up to me, but I would love it if you did. Sure, it may seem like I’m always going through something, and that can make it hard to feel like I’ll be there for you if you need me. I understand why you would feel that way, but I want to be there for you as much as you are for me.
2. I don’t want you to fix me
I don’t expect you to swoop in and save the day. I’m working on me, and I don’t want you to try to do that for me.
3. It’s not your fault that I’m anxious or depressed
Some days are harder for me than others, but it rarely, if ever, has anything to do with you. I get depressed and anxious for a lot of different and complicated reasons. It pains me that you may feel responsible for it, but you shouldn’t.
4. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be there for me
When I’m going through a rough time, there’s nothing you can do to “fix it.” Often, the best and most comforting thing you can do is to just be there for me and love me through my pain.
5. I’ll tell you about my trauma when I’m ready, so please don’t push me
This is a very personal and painful story for me. A lot of people I’m genuinely close to don’t know this about me. I want to tell you, but only when I feel ready.
6. It’s not personal when I need space
Sometimes I just need some time to myself. It’s not you, and it’s not a bad thing. I may just need some time to collect my thoughts. Please respect me when I tell you that I need some time alone, and don’t try to push me or assume that there’s something wrong.
7. Please hear me when I say that I’m not ready for something
I want to go out and to do all the things with you that you enjoy with you, but I may not be ready for them yet. I’m sorry. I hope to one day to be able to take on large crowds or to be in dark spaces, but right now it’s difficult for me. If I tell you I can’t do something, it’s not because I don’t want to, and it’s definitely not because I don’t love you enough to do it.
8. I love it when you try to understand me, even if it’s hard
I know that sometimes the way I think and operate can be difficult for you to understand, but it means the world to me when you try. Understanding all you can about my condition really helps me to know that you care about me.
9. Communicating is often hard for me
Things that may seem easy for you to say or communicate are often very hard for me. Sometimes communicating at all exhausts me, even though I may want to talk to you. I’m sorry if it hurts you when I don’t communicate well with you, but it’s not because I don’t care. I’m working on it.
10. It’s difficult for me to trust you
Even if you don’t give me a reason to distrust you, trust comes very difficultly to me. It’s not because you aren’t worthy of it or that I think you’re not good enough to trust. On the contrary, I want badly to trust you. It’s not that easy for me, and I hope you’ll be patient with me.