When I recently asked my husband if he loves me, I expected him to provide the usual answer. But this time he upset me with something different.
In my black and white, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder world, routine and control are my safety structures. For me, living life is like participating in a liturgical church service. I ask questions that I already know the answer to, and await the affirmation that keeps my life in order.
Mr. Me knows how to play this game. After all, he’s been doing it for years. He knows that I often require affirmation to keep me operating ‘safely’. That my need to always maintain my emotional equilibrium is the first rule of any engagement and after that, it’s simply a matter of following procedure.
But this time Mr Me broke the rules and bowled a bouncer at me. (A cricket term for a ball that bounces right in front of you causing you to protect yourself with a bat.) There was no excuse for his rebelliousness. He simply decided that he no longer wanted to play by the rules of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and took a stand.
By now you’re probably thinking that I live in a naïve and sterile world made up of my own rules. That I’m dominant and controlling. That I’m selfish and calculating. But, nothing could be further from the truth! Let me explain why.
Possibly the saddest thing about trauma for a child is that they cannot easily develop into the adult they were designed to be. Their natural, emotional growth is espaliered into fractured branches, each neatly groomed to ensure survival.
Those branches display a tightly controlled expression of manipulation. Each one wrapped tightly to a brace for support. Underpinning the suppleness of childhood with unbending truths.
Truths of vulnerability; value; and security.
We construct a method of coping that protects us from the uncertainty created when our self-awakening meets our experience. As a consequence we believe that the fractured, carefully tended self, because of its experience, is the real us. When the natural us begins to emerge as it always will, the self-doubt and confusion require expression. That expression must find an ‘emotional’ outlet.
Add to this the physiological effects of trauma such as the intense release of adrenalin and noradrenalin at the moment of trauma that cannot be reset. The stimulation of neural pathways and receptors that can no longer be satisfied with ’normal’ activity levels. The memories, visual images, the smell, the feel, the sounds and the taste of fear on your tongue that both together and independently can make the trauma inescapable. (Being able to taste fear is a reality.)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t limited to child victims of crime. Anyone whose self-perception meets a traumatic reality, with which it cannot reconcile, will experience PTSD. The symptoms of which can include depression, anxiety, unmanageable anger, confusion, insomnia, excessive sleeping, weight gain or loss and illicit drug or alcohol addiction just to name a few.
Amazing has learned to live contentedly with my insecurities and quirks. He knows, like any spouse would, that I rely on him for emotional support and that it can be more often than a ‘normal’ person might require. He also knows that there are times when I can confidently emerge and tackle my demons with unwavering certainty.
And it’s because of this that every now and then he’ll throw a bouncer at me to measure where I am on the scale of neediness. Knowing he may need to pick up some pieces, he tells me he’s not sure if he still loves me. Then, he smiles, winks and tells me he loves me beyond measure.
So I punched him! (On the arm of course – girl style!)
This week from Oscar Hammerstein II – Do you love me because I’m beautiful, or am I beautiful because you love me?
Deb Shugg is an awarded business woman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor. If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)