How to date a person with PTSD

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. People tend to come up with things that they need themselves. That’s why it was so funny when the guy who started Ashley Madison claimed that he didn’t use the site himself and then it turned out he actually had. 

I recently installed dating apps on my phone again until I inevitably delete them again because people are trash. We all face a choice just how much we reveal of ourselves on dating apps but when you suffer from something like spicy memories things can get extra tasty. Tell or not to tell?

In my case PTSD is something that is nearly impossible to ignore in a setting like this because it affects my relationships with men. Of course this leads to a cluster of problems but that’s not what this post is about.

Now that I have come across a person or two who aren’t at least immediate trash I went online trying to find resources that I could pass on to them so they could learn more. PTSD is a disorder that’s very difficult for an outsider to understand so any extra info is most welcome.

Of course I couldn’t find anything (as there’s such a wealth of information available on trauma disorders as it is), so I might as well get crack-a-lacking. Can I have an upbeat theme song on the background please?

*~ Advice on dating a person with PTSD ~ *

 1) You probably don’t know anything about PTSD.

And this is fine. Not many people do. I didn’t until I actually found out I have it. You probably have only heard of PTSD associated with war veterans. Even though this is only a small portion of people with PTSD and many of my fellow trauma bundles find this quite offensive, I’m actually glad. Anyone can understand that war is some heavy stuff and it’s not too far-fetched for many to imagine that something like that can have a profound effect on you.

However, this isn’t the only scenario where you can get PTSD. It can come from a world of scenarios: accidents, assaults, natural catastrophes. This isn’t due to the person not being strong enough or because they’re dwelling on it. I spoke to a genuine trauma specialist and she explained to me that PTSD is a genuine injury to your brain: the normal memory-forming process has been disrupted.

Instead of filing this distressing situation away to somewhere where your mind can return to it without becoming as distressed as you were when you first experienced it, your brain glitches and goes back to how you felt at that exact moment you first experienced it.

Lets say my dad died. I would be devastated because I love my dad and would mourn for him for a really long time. Still, if everything goes as it’s supposed to, ten years down the line I will still be sad when I think about my dad but I won’t be as devastated as I was when I first found out he had died.

With PTSD, this natural process is out the window. If something reminds me of my dad’s death, I will lose him all over again. I am right back there.

It’s horrible. It’s not their fault.

2) Don’t ask why they have PTSD.

They’ll tell you if and when they’re ready.

3) Don’t assume.

Trauma is weird yo. No matter how trivial or random, it could be a reminder. When someone with PTSD gets triggered, they can react in a variety of ways. Some get teary, some get angry. I’m definitely the latter.

I, for example, have a thing about the word ‘no.’ If someone asks me something and I say no to it, I expect the topic to be dropped no matter what the discussion is about. If the subject is brought up again from another angle, despite me saying no, I flip.

Lets do an example.

Person: You would look cute in this dress.

Me: Nah, it’s not really the sort of thing I’d wear.

Person: You should still try it, you’d look adorable.

Me: Jesus Christ are you thick, I said no! 

I probably sound like a complete basket case. Would it make more sense if I’d tell you that I was sexually abused and whenever I would refuse sex, my abuser would ignore the fact that I said no and kept pushing it? Of course I know that you’re not my abuser and this situation has nothing to do with him. I am being what I call ‘reactive’. I don’t get angry easily but when triggered, the outburst is so immediate that it’s out of my mouth before I even have time to realise it. Once I get out of that immediate reaction, I’ll apologise.

The best thing you can honestly do is to be understanding.

Because it’s not personal. It really isn’t. I’m sure it’s not nice to be snapped at seemingly out of the blue. I can assure you that sudden re-experiencing of a trauma, plus the upset caused by it and shame following the angry retort is not pleasant either.  It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

4) ‘What could I do to make you more comfortable?’

This is the best thing you could ever say.

5)  Ask questions

Besides why they have PTSD, ask questions. It shows that you’re interested in their welfare. Everyone is different in their reactions and the best way to navigate those difficult situations is to discuss them when things are calm. I get panic attacks at times and when it happens, I really struggle to speak.

The best thing for me to do is to go into a small, enclosed space, like a toilet and sit with my head between my knees until I calm down. If a space isn’t near, I need to occupy myself in some way. One time I went out and read all the license plates in cars outside my work. The worst thing you could do at that moment is to try talk to me about it.

How could you know that? You couldn’t. That’s why I need to tell you and you need to listen.

6) Are you up to this?

As you may have figured out by now, PTSD sucks pretty severely. It’s not easy to deal with. It does affect relationships. It does creep up on you when you least expect it. It’s awkward. It’s heartbreaking.

You know what though? It’s worse for the person who actually has it. Everybody likes to think of themselves as a person who can handle something like this but the truth is, not everyone can. Not everyone is considerate or strong enough to do it.

It’s not great for your ego to realise it but honestly, too bad.

If you realise that you can’t do it, at least be honest about it. This isn’t about you.

I thought I’d start with these thoughts. If peeps find these useful, I might do another entry.

Before you go, in case you have missed me spamming this on twitter, I am taking part in the K2B charity walk in May to raise money for the Birchall Trust, which offers counselling to people whose lives have been affected by rape and sexual abuse in Cumbria and North Lancashire.

If you would like to visit my fundraising page, here’s the link

Thank you x

One comment

  1. Brilliant, as always. Oddly enough, my husband and I both have some issues along those lines, and somehow, most of the time, we “get” that the other needs space, is reacting to a bad memory, etc. Yes, it freaking sucks – on both ends. Yes, I’d dearly love to take out my anger and pain on those that caused it in the first place, even as I don’t want to interact with, or face those demons again. So, we move forward. We talk. We listen. We respect the need to be quiet or escape.
    Thank you, Lovely. You are a treasure and a survivor.

    Liked by 1 person

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