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How do you help your partner cope with your emotional issues? (ETA a thank you!)

I know a lot of us on GT cope with some sort of emotional or mental issues. For many it's some form of depression or other mental illness. For me it's PTSD. One of the difficult things about dealing with some form of mental or emotional problem is knowing that your significant other also has to deal with your symptoms. And this is especially scary with PTSD, because people can sometimes get secondary PTSD from living with someone who has it. I don't tend to have an angry response all that often...it happens sometimes, but it's more common for me to withdraw, start apologizing over and over, or curl into a ball and sob hysterically. Even so, I know my symptoms affect GreenHunk.

This last week has been strange and hard for us. I think on some level he thinks I am mostly over what happened to me since it's been more than a year, and most of the time that's true. But triggers don't seem to go away. Maybe they do eventually - I hope so. But for now, not so much. Wednesday of last week, the day I turned my coworker in for sexual harassment, we had a fight that was triggered by my being upset about my coworker, combined with his reaction to me coming home from a coffee date later than I had intended to. I'll be honest, paying attention to time is not something I'm particularly good at. It's not that I mean to be flaky or not tell people where I'm going, I just don't naturally pay attention to time. I have worked and worked and worked at this, but when I get stressed I often revert to my natural state of oh-I-forgot-to-let-you-know-I'll-be-late. Obviously that's a problem. But in my past I was often emotionally punished for being out of the house when the Abusive Asshole was home, even with prior approval, so I sometimes assume it's a bigger problem than it even is. This caused a fight where I got home late, assumed GreenHunk was very angry when he was really just kind of annoyed, and apologized all over myself which annoyed him further, leading me to have a panic attack, which made him feel like I was being selfish and didn't care about listening to his feelings, so then he got upset and walked out of the room. Because my ex used to punish me by ignoring me for days, I then thought he was really angry, and I started yelling. He was really hurt. The next day he asked for space, which made me feel even more abandoned and triggered me even more. Things kept getting worse - it seemed like everything he needed just made my triggers worse, and I kept asking for him to give me attention to lessen my triggers and he didn't seem able to or willing to.

Eventually, on Tuesday of this week, things came to a head. I gave him what he asked for, which was to go out to eat and do something upbeat when I really just wanted to cry in bed, and then we talked. I reminded him that when we first started dating I asked him to be there for me emotionally when I was being triggered and in return I would help him with everything I possibly could in his life. And I have kept my end of the bargain. I cook for him regularly. He rarely, if ever, cleans. I do his taxes, I deal with his medical bills, I help him with resumes and cover letters, I give him backrubs. I try so hard to make up for the fact that I need more emotional support than he does. But I do need it. I do need him to regularly put his emotional needs aside when I'm being triggered, because otherwise I just continue to be triggered and it gets worse. I try super hard to give him what he needs emotionally as soon as the triggers are dealt with, but they have to come first or I can't function. This isn't news - I asked this of him a year ago.


But then he said the words I have been dreading forever. "That makes me feel trapped, with no end in sight."

This is probably the scariest thing he could have said to me. Because I truly love GreenHunk. I do not want him to feel trapped. But I also feel trapped by my triggers, with no end in sight. I so want them to go away, but I don't know that they ever will. I'm so sick of reacting like a frightened prey animal all the time.

Of course when I told him this he apologized and said he was being selfish and wanted to be there for me, and he'd try harder. But it's haunting me, guys. I of course offered him an out. I don't want to be a burden to him. He of course didn't take it. I don't want to be selfish, but the truth is I need help managing my issues sometimes. But I'm so worried I'm hurting him now.

So I'm asking for advice. Those of you who struggle with depression or PTSD or some other mental illness, how do you help your significant other manage your problems? I so want him to be happy and healthy, but I can't help what I need sometimes.


ETA: I really appreciate all of your kind and thoughtful responses. I just did some research and thinking and realized that I think I'm wrong to suggest that I should "make up for it" by doing things for GreenHunk. I like doing things for him anyway, but I think what he wants is emotional validation, not me to do things for him, and that's as it should be. You're all right, I shouldn't have to make up for my problems by doing his chores, and it's probably a leftover coping mechanism from living with the Abusive Asshole. I've made a list of common ways I act when I'm being triggered and what I'd like him to do for me: recognize when I'm being triggered, acknowledge the trigger, tell me he loves me, and hold me until my reaction is less severe. And in return, after the initial reaction I will try to manage the aftermath through things I can do by myself, like meditation and music and art and writing and talking to friends, and when I have calmed down enough I'll make an effort to pay extra attention to him and discuss his feelings. I also think I'll look into couples' counseling for us. You guys helped me turn a lot of shitty nebulous emotions into a plan of action, which is awesome. Thank you so much. And thank you as always for listening and for your kind words.

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