Thursday, 31 March 2016

What is Post Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (PTRS) ?

In the past I have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a near fatal car accident (that wasn't my fault, I have to add) in Scotland and where the authorities and my ex-husband set me up (another story, or blog, one day). I suffered nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and palpitations, to name a few of my symptoms. It was horrendous, hard to live with, hard to explain to others and hard to be understood which impacted the PTSD further. Its a disorder you cannot see; I had no broken limbs just a broken heart and mind, but I was not mentally ill, in the context of "understood" mental illness, which again further impacted the PTSD. I knew what PTSD felt like for me.

In the past twenty years I have suffered two abusive failed marriages from two psychopathic narcissistic men and this has caused trauma which caused me to relive some of the feelings and symptoms that I had previously linked to PTSD. BUT this time I knew that the symptoms and feelings I was suffering were very different. Once again it was so incredibly difficult to explain to an outsider who had never suffered a similar disorder. One of the main differences this time was "that I couldn't trust anyone, especially men". Another difference was, I only suffered the depression, nightmares but had numerous triggers. The triggers, where times, places, smells, pictures, songs and many items brought back memories that spiraled me down hill. I had to cleanse my life of the memories and triggers and destroy anything that reminded me of either abuser. I had to de-clutter my home and mind.

The main problem and stress was the "mistrust" of the male race (and some females). If any gender seemed too good to be true I became incredibly cynical. I had made up my mind that if a male partner could lie and live a lie for over twenty years (first husband) and ten years (second) how could anything else be true and real. I also began to realise that my whole life had basically been one big fat lie. I had had what I would term as a very happy childhood but my sister's recollection of our childhood and parents was the polar opposite. This made me realise and understand why I was so easily coerced, groomed and gas-lit by my ex-husbands. My truth seemed to have been based on fiction; I thought what everyone said and did was gospel, but I was sadly mistaken. No one had ever explained to me as a child that some adults lie or live double lives. I had believed everyone was honest and see otherwise was a real eyeopener and confusing.

So just this past week, after years of deliberation and wondering, I began to research "why I cannot trust". I read numerous articles and digested pages of information for hours and days and none of it resonated with me until I found several sites discussing Post Traumatic Relationship Syndrome (PTRS). This is me. This is how I feel and see the world. PTRS affects individuals who have been traumatized by physical, sexual, and/or severe emotional abuse within intimate relationships. In PTSD, there is over utilization of avoidant coping, but PTRS involves the overuse of emotion-focused coping. An intimate relationship can mean partner, husband, wife, daughter, son, friend, colleague, any family member, stranger and/or perpetrator of abuse. PTRS means you must be, or have been in, an intense emotional relationship with your abuser and have actually experienced the abuse, whatever form the abuse takes.

Some signs:
Insomnia/sleep disturbance/nightmares/recollections/flashbacks
Restlessness/uncontrollable shaking/difficulty concentrating
Anger/rage at the perpetrator
Not feeling safe in the world
Mistrust in intimate relationships/sexual dysfunction
Weight loss

With PTRS personality remains in tact and does not include the development of a character disorder or the array of symptoms which characterise PTSD or cPTSD, i.e. dissociation disorder. PTRS develops because of the extreme trauma and would not have occurred if the individual had not suffered the trauma. An individuals image of the events are inscribed in our memories and because of the vividness the memory frequently returns to our consciousness and evokes the same emotions as the original trauma which are known as triggers. Acute trauma that is not integrated into our belief systems or world create a state of psychological crisis. In my case, this has created an acute mistrust of men, males and in fact anyone who seems to "trigger" those same feelings created during my past intimate relationships. 

PTRS, as with other post traumatic illnesses, is a world filled with terror and this causes psychobiological changes. This is two fold, one is we believe our world not to be safe or secure and two, our knowledge about our self and the world around us makes no sense anymore. What we once knew and believed is is not true anymore. This breakdown impairs the ability of those suffering PTRS to maintain psychophysiological stability, i.e. mind, body and feelings are basically at odds with one another. The world in particular areas of severe trauma makes no sense anymore and one cannot trust gut or instinct. A new paradigm has to be found and integrated with self and the world and this is a huge challenge and risk.

Finding the internet site (shown below) and reading this research helped me to understand myself better and why, I originally trusted far too easily and too much and why now I cannot trust at all. It has helped me to understand why me (and many others) are an easy target for coercion, control, grooming and gaslighting. My mind and thought processes are never devious or underhand so I have trouble understanding others may be devious or have a hidden agenda. Trusting someone, especially a man intimately, is so scary for me that I cannot ever envisage doing this ever again. Trusting a man and embarking in an intimate relationship almost sends me into a panic attack and certainly triggers me. My brain says it is irrational but my heart and gut says otherwise. I know it is not the right attitude but I cannot, nor do I want, to change it. This is my safe space. I definitely do not trust my gut or instinct; both have been so wrong in the past so what, in Gods name, makes me think they will be any better now or in the future. So it is safer to just not go to that place. If I have been so far off all my life, shifting my paradigm is a massive challenge for the remaining years I am on this earth.

Further reading and information:

I hope this has helped some of you reading this to understand the lifelong implications of severe physical, sexual or emotional trauma on the mind, body and soul. In many cases it is a lifelong sentence.

References: /


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