Communicating with Someone Who Has Shut Down Through PTSD
Hello, I am trying to find the things I should do and the things I shouldn’t do when approaching my husband. He has just been diagnosed with PTSD after years of alcohol and drug abuse. He is a VERY loving man who will suddenly change and push me and his loved ones away. Over the years I have dealt with it by moving completely out of the picture due to the accompanying abuse and thinking it was just an alcohol problem. After his last episode, which left him nearly dead, we have talked in depth and he talked me through the episodes where he just disappears. We made a pact for me to ignor his rejections and just keep ‘kissing him’. When he started sliding this time I managed to get him to a doctor and he was diagnosed with PTSD. But now I’ve lost him again. It is like a Jeckyl and Hyde situation as he cannot remember when he was in the ‘zone’. He only remembers the repercussions. Before, when he used to hit me he would experience huge guilt, recently he has been loosing total trust in me because of the way I have reacted. He has found an ‘enabler’ at the moment who pays for everything and doesn’t trigger his trauma so he is in no danger other than massive increased alcohol consumption and codependency. However last week he was experiencing psychosis and foned me in a frantic state asking for help whilst shouting at me. I seem to be making matters increasingly worse by contacting him. This isnt just a lovers tiff, it is a life threatening situation and I have no support and no indication of what I should do and, more importantly, what I should not do.
A. These are the facts as I understand them: your husband has been diagnosed with PTSD due to his use of alcohol and drug abuse; his alcohol use is not under control; when intoxicated he can become violent and psychotic; you have been advised to keep “kissing him” while he is intoxicated and to ignore his “rejections.”
You also wrote that he has an enabler and that he is “in no danger other than massive increased alcohol consumption and codependency…[and] it is a life-threatening situation.”
It’s unclear who is the enabler. Are you referring to yourself or someone else?
It’s difficult for me to give you specific advice because I would need more information. If I had the opportunity to ask follow-up questions, I would have many.
Your husband’s life may be in danger because of his drinking, but I believe that your life might be in greater danger. He is actively, drinking despite being aware of the fact that he can become violent and psychotic while intoxicated. He is dangerous, and he doesn’t seem to care about how his behavior affects others. He continues to drink despite it significantly damaging his life and the lives of those around him.
You asked what you should and should not do in this situation. You should not be accepting of your husband’s behavior. You should keep your distance from him until his drinking is under control. You should not “kiss him” until he no longer rejects you — I take that to mean that you should physically kiss him until he stops pushing you away. Such a circumstance puts you in danger of being physically harmed.
I do not understand why he was given a diagnosis of PTSD. Given the information you have provided, it would seem not to be indicated, however there may be much more information available to the diagnostician, which would make the diagnosis appropriate.
You should ask your husband to seek help. If he’s unwilling, then you should keep your distance. You should seek professional help to assist you in learning how to interact with your husband and how to navigate this dangerous situation. Counseling could help you with this very difficult set of circumstances. I hope I’ve helped. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle
Randle, K. (2014). Communicating with Someone Who Has Shut Down Through PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 6, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/03/30/communicating-with-someone-who-has-shut-down-through-ptsd/