A Prisoner in His Own War
It was July, a very hot week. I had only been back from University 3 months having just completed my degree. I was feeling lonely having come back home again and nobody to talk to.
I joined a local dating website where I had met him. He responded to my advert having noticed I lived local to him, only to find out he lived in the same estate as my mum. After a week of passing messages, we warmed to each other. He asked me if I would like to come round for a cup of tea and I said yes. I knocked his door anxiously and he opened the door. The first thing I noticed was his broad build, which I found very attractive. He was tall, looked confident and made me feel welcome. I sat down on his soft couch as he went to make me a cup of tea. I noticed how clean and tidy his house was and quite minimalistic. We were both nervous. He went to sit on the opposite couch and began talking to me. I noticed how striking his eyes were, his warm glowing skin and very short hair. I knew he was unique and felt safe in his presence. After a few more meetings, we began to sit next to each other. I was desperate to kiss him and touch him, which I had told him in a text message. He took the first step and started to kiss me. I immediately felt a bond, a connection. He took my hand and guided me upstairs to his bed. We made love and it was very passionate and very comfortable. I was so happy to be with him.
A month later, he introduced me to his daughter. A couple months later, I found myself moving into his house officially. His daughter was from his previous partner and came to visit every other weekend. He was such a great dad, very caring, overprotective, and very attentive towards her which I admired. I was yet to find out about his traumatic past and did see the signs, but thought nothing of it. He suffered severe back pains and shoulder pains and I really felt for him. I began to give him back massages and after encouragement from him, I found myself attempting to slip his discs back into place. This became a habit throughout our relationship. I asked him how he got this bad, and he opened up to me about some of his experiences in the Army which caused his injuries. I began to ask more questions out of curiosity but he wouldn't tell me much more about his experiences as he would find it extremely upsetting. This added to my curiosity. I left it as that. On the odd occasion, we would go out to a Food Store but soon after arriving, he became anxious within the crowd, acting agitated and becoming breathless. I'd ask him if he was okay, and he said he doesn't like being in crowds and needs to go and sit in the car. I just took it as him being a typical guy, who doesn't like shopping, but every time we went out, he'd experience these emotions again. I asked him what was wrong and to talk to me. He said it was because of his time in the Army. I was constantly on edge in not knowing how he was going to react next to anything that was beyond his control, constantly worrying. His symptoms were escalating in a variety of forms.
On 13 Feb 2006, on a hot and sunny afternoon, he proposed to me in Cyprus in the Salamis Ruins. When nobody was around, he quickly got down on his shaking knees, and presented an oak box with a silver ring inside and proposed ever so quickly then quickly stood up again. It was so quick that it didn't feel very romantic but looking where I was and who I was with, I felt happy and happily said yes.
Our engagement was pretty much on hold after that. 2 years later and still we were engaged. He never once talked about marriage, or having children. 'When shall we get married?', I would ask, 'I can't wait', I would say excitedly. The usual answer would be, 'we can't afford to. What if you run off with someone else? You don't want to be with me, look at me, I'm ugly. How will we manage?' This was his answer to all my questions about our future, whether it be about having children, getting married, moving away, getting a house together. He was constantly delaying the date of the wedding. I very much wanted children and he said he did too, but when it came down to it, talking about it, he became defensive and tried to find something bad to say about it, 'we can't afford to, we will have no money, what will you do if I am working and you are not? I knew we would cope. He had a full time job, good wage, and lots of family support. You can't help thinking that he's a self centered nasty person, but then when you think that you start to feel guilty because you know he can't help it.
This finally ate me up to the point where I left him for a week. I thought we were over but was missing him so much. This traumatised him to the extent where he tried to 'top' himself while I was around his house gathering up my belongings downstairs. He tied a bit of cord round his neck and jumped out of the attic, but the thin delicate cord snapped and he ended up with a sore head instead. I didn't know at this point what had happened till we got back together after a week where he later told me about it. This event caused him to get help and seek doctor's advice. The doctor put him in touch with SAFFA who then put him in touch with Combat Stress. Our 3rd get back together would be when he got his appointment with Combat Stress. He was there for 2 weeks. After coming back from Combat Stress, he told me about everything he was taught to ease his stress. He was told to meditate and listen to relaxation music and eat a healthy diet. He also needed regular counseling but its availability leaves a lot to be desired.
I made the effort to read up on his condition in detail and went to a group session at Combat Stress for wives and partners of victims with Post Traumatic Stress. It did help me a lot and listening to people's problems which made me feel like I wasn't alone, the fact that there were people out there feeling the way I do. I of course being the new girl was asked to speak first about my experiences. It was hard and tried hard to hold my tears in. My partner picked me up and while driving home, he asked if I was okay, and I broke down and cried all the way home. I told him everything I said and what everybody else said so that he would understand how I am feeling and that it wasn't all about him.
A month or so later, he received a diagnosis stating that he did have Post Traumatic Stress. The waiting list for the next appointment was a long way a way and in this time I knew he would deteriorate. He badly needs a variety of counselling for him to get better. Combat stress has a very large waiting list and is hard to keep regular appointments. Not to mention there are only 3 centers in the country. There are not enough organizations that support PTSD which doesn't help because it is hard enough for the victim to open up at all about what they are experiencing. The NHS doesn't have enough resources in this country to make it a priority and it should be made a priority. All they were willing to provide was more prescribed medication.
I know where his traumatic experiences occurred but I will never know the full details and the extent of the traumatic experiences he went through. He was a soldier in the Army and was deployed to Northern Ireland aged only 22 years, and was stationed there for 2 years. During his time there, he experienced horrific scenes and being amidst live fire which contributed to triggering his Post Traumatic Stress. His after affects of these traumatic events deeply disturbed me and played on my mind. His Flashbacks (during the day) & Nightmares (while you sleep) - (re-living the event over and over again. He would see it in his mind, but could also feel the emotions and physical sensations of what happened - fear, sweating, smells, sounds, pain. For example, 'Cars beeping their horns loudly', were triggering off memories of gun fire. His nightmares forced him to replay about what happened to him in Ireland and woke up sweating and distressed. He'd be having the occasional nightmare, where I would be woken by his shaking, waving his arms about and moaning, 'leave me alone, no'. I'd shake him to wake him up and noticed he was sweating. He apologised for waking me but I was more worried about him. The fact this was beyond my control was out of my hands and upset me deeply. He would tell me about some of his dreams where he was being shot at, chased and witnessing bloody events.
I could never play aboard game with him that involved a lot of patience as he would get irritable. He lived with the trauma in everyday life and affected him in many ways. He wasn't always able to relax and sleep well. Every time we were shopping, or outside in a busy crowd, he'd start getting breathless, start to become anxious and begin to sweat. He would have to leave and wait in the car for me. When walking past the butchers, the smell of blood and meat would make him feel sick. The smell triggered flashbacks of blown up body parts, the blood and devastation. Traveling on a plane would make him feel anxious as he knew he wasn't in control.
He suffered Avoidance & Numbing – Not opening up to your feelings, keeping your mind busy so that you don't have the risk of re-living the experience over and over again. He would have liked to have avoided all busy places. For example, 'never leaving the house' so that you don't face people, noises, knowing, the feeling of not being in control. He would say, 'you feel in control in an environment you feel safe in'. He found it hard to show any affection and understand any problems I may have had about myself. I would go to give him a kiss and he would pull away. I'd ask him, 'does he not love me? And would say he does, very much so. He said, 'trying to feel nothing at all', helped him block out all pain he felt.
He would occasionally feel the need to be on guard. Being alert all the time, always on the lookout for danger. Feel anxious, and find it hard to sleep. He would feel jumpy and irritable. The traumatic events he has been a part of have undermined his sense of life being fair, not being safe and secure.
His emotional reactions to stress were often accompanied by his Combat injuries. Unexpected loud sounds such as the beeping of horns of cars, fireworks, and screaming would make him jump, being unable to react to loud sounds made him feel anxious and have anxiety attacks.
Unlike ordinary stress, his PTSD is with him every day and all the time. They have made his physical problems worse which sadden him and frustrate him even more so.
4 years into the relationship and there was only so much I could take. I felt deeply unhappy, frustrated and depressed, so much that we never had sex anymore. My constant battle against his condition had me getting used to our relationship as being all about him and not us as a couple. I didn't feel like we had a relationship anymore, and felt enough was enough. I suffer with Polycystic Ovaries and along with that I had depression. My condition against my partners was like a bomb waiting to go off. I didn't feel like our life was going anywhere. His lack of trust in other people, especially me - and the world in general - is central to complex PTSD but I could not deal with that. I couldn't even befriend a male without him thinking he was going to snatch me away. He does live in the past and believes nothing or nobody will be any different. He doesn't know how to manage, in the present and future. I felt like I was always talking to a brick wall and that my problems were of no concern to him. Leaving him was very hard for me but I knew this was going to happen some time or another. I still feel bad and guilty for leaving him as I know a lot of his problems are not his fault and I know there's a good person there. I remember him for him for being a great dad, being attentive to my dislikes and likes and the warm cuddles at night on the couch. But then I remember we never really had a relationship and we were both not doing each other any favours. I am angry that there are not enough resources to help people with Post Traumatic Stress and isn't a high priority as it should be. I still get that warm feeling when I see him and I do miss him. He thinks I have left him because he won't provide me with children, but it's so much more than that. But I know I have done the right thing. And yet, I still feel guilty.
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