I think it’s safe to say that when one is involved with someone suffering from PTSD you inevitably become the emotional punching bag. And let’s be honest – it SUCKS!
I would consider myself a pretty strong woman as I grew up with a father who made it his job to point out all of my (and my family member’s) defects. For 18 years I had someone tell me why I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or thin enough. I left home to attend college only months after my husband and I began dating. So in what seemed to be overnight I went from having a man in my life who constantly brought me down to having a man who thought the world of me. And for the first time in my life I learned what it was like to have self confidence. And I LOVED IT.
But this all changed when my husband got out of the Army, moved in with me, and began demonstrating signs of PTSD. I became his emotional punching bag and this new role took a major toll on me.
During my husband’s outbursts he would say horrible things to me. Mostly name calling but somehow I also got blamed for what was happening to him – even though we all know that I (or any other significant other) are not at fault. I was screamed at, cursed at, and treated like an idiot for not understanding what he was going through. This left me with no choice but to walk on egg shells around him because I didn’t want to be the cause of another blow up. I had to watch everything I said and the tone with which I said it because he would interpret the silliest thing to be an attack on my part. And this was exhausting.
Then there were the mood swings. Happy one minute, sad or angry the next. One day he loved me and wanted to be with me forever, the next he wanted to leave. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! This caused a lot of insecurities on my part because there was always that worry in the back of my mind that one day I would come home and find all of his things gone. Plus, who wants to feel like the person they love doesn’t want to be with them? Especially when I was trying so hard to make him happy.
I think most people who know me would agree when I say I am a happy, positive person who never sees the bad in people. My husband, on the other hand, became this incredibly negative person who thought everyone was out to get him (and me). His constant paranoia started to affect the way I viewed people. It also made me scared of going out to certain places at certain times and I was never like that before!
There were plenty of times during my stint as the emotional punching bag when I thought my husband had truly become someone different – someone who I could not be with anymore. The person I fell in love with would have never treated me this way. But the fighter in me prevailed during those hard times. I stuck by his side because deep down inside I knew he was what I wanted and I knew that one day things would get better (and they have). It certainly wasn’t easy and it didn’t help that I kept everything I was going through all to myself. There were lots of days where I had to remind myself over and over again why I was staying.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Living with someone who suffers from PTSD has definitely made me a stronger person and it has made our relationship stronger. It has also taught me that I can’t base my self confidence on how he treats me or how much he compliments me. I am a strong woman with lots to offer and now, I embrace that!