Re: Partner with PTSD... pointers, tips?
I can help. I have, myself, been traumatized and- firstly- it's very very sweet that you want to help and you're taking initiative to do so and your wife should count herself very, very lucky.
Secondly... whoof, where to begin.
Figure out what her triggers are- things that remind her of what happened to her. Some triggers might just make her feel all creepy-crawly and squeamish. Some of them might make her a little emotional. Some might startle her. Some might send her into a full-blown panicky, screaming, sobbing, incoherent mess wherein she literally thinks she's back at the time and place the trauma occurred. Ask her- on a good day when she's feeling fine!- about her triggers. If she tenses up when you ask her, "Does ____ trigger you?" that's probably a yes. If you think something might be a trigger, but you don't know and you don't think it's a good time to ask her, assume it is.
Once you've figured out her triggers, act accordingly. This usually means to approach the issue gently. Very gently. And if you can, always ask her if she wants to be exposed to a trigger before you expose her: "I read that this movie has a rape scene. You're sure you want to watch it with me?" And if she says yes, and triggers during the rape scene, ask her if she wants to turn it off.
If she wants to avoid her triggers, for the most part let her. It's not your job to play exposure therapist. However, if she's not currently seeing an actual therapist and her reactions to being triggered or her efforts to avoid triggering stuff are extreme. Ask her gently if she'd consider getting help. Approach this gently, and don't accuse her of being "irrational" or "crazy" or anything: "I know dogs frighten you, and I'm rather concerned about how scared you get around them. I can see that our neighbor's chihuahua terrifies you. Do you think maybe getting therapy might make it easier to live next door to Paco?"
If she triggers in public, hold her hand. Maybe stroke it. If you're close, maybe whisper something soothing in her ear. Tell her she's safe with you.
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