Am I Enough? Rejection and PTSD

In a departure from my usual format, I have asked for & received permission from a friend married to a Wounded Warrior with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to repost a note she shared with some of her friends.  The remainder of this post is dedicated to responding to her pain.  I applaud this dear young woman for her bravery in being willing to share her deep heartache with others.  Her desire is to help others who are dealing with their own confusion and rejection from the man they love.

“I have been silent on here 4 a long time but now I just need to share. My husband came to me last week out of the blue and told me when he retires he is leaving me and going back to his hometown to live and I am not invited to come. I have been trying to rationalize this in my head but my heart is just smashed all to pieces… I can’t make sense of it… I practically begged him to not leave me and told him I would do anything I needed to, to change. I have a back injury that has left me on crutches for the last two months. I have gained about 40+ pounds due to medications and not being able to do much. I even asked him if it was because of that and he says no he just doesn’t want to be around people including me….wow did that feel like a punch in the gut….I am just totally heartbroken and can’t seem to stop crying…I am trying to figure out where I failed him.” ~name withheld

Sweet friend, 

First let me say I HURT for you.  Rejection can be brutally painful.  It tears at our self-image & shatters our confidence.  It always leaves us questioning, insecure, full of doubts about our “enoughness”.  Rejection, especially from someone we love, can cripple us even more than a bad back or other physical ailment. We limp through our days heartbroken, wondering what we could have done differently.  Even today I understand rejection more than I wish I did and have cried more tears because of it than I am comfortable admitting.  

Someone told me year ago that “rejection is God’s Protection”. It certainly didn’t feel that way at the time.  I felt cheated by God in those moments for not “fixing” the situation so I could be happy with the man I loved. It took years before I realized what God had, indeed, protected me from.  In my current struggles, I thank Him for His sovereignty knowing in the heat of my circumstances I can trust Him even when I don’t understand.  I’ve learned to trust God with those who reject me and I pray for their own healing as well as mine. 

Having said all that, May I speak to you as someone who suffered gross violence and lived with my own PTSD as a result of it?  In my PTSD I abandoned ALL my friends, my family and a man who loved more than I’d ever been loved in my life.  Seclusion was, for me at the time, a matter of life and death.  I couldn’t explain it to anyone and I knew they wouldn’t understand if I tried.  I moved in with my rape crisis counselor but I wouldn’t even let her speak to me.  Thankfully, she understood what I didn’t and she gave me plenty of space.  I couldn’t even bear to make eye contact with anyone, feeling like they could see into my soul how wounded and messed up I was and if they pitied me it would destroy me.  I needed to pretend that I was in control even as I struggled to make it moment by moment on my own.  The more anyone tried to get close to me the meaner I became.  I hated myself even more for being heartless with people but felt I would die if I didn’t somehow regain control over my life.  Eventually God led me through extensive counseling, healing and recovery.  I still walk with a bit of an emotional limp but God restored my heart to be able to trust and love again, to even risk rejection from someone new.   

What you need to know is that this rejection is not about you…not about how thin, or pretty, or healthy or loving you are.  Not about how clean you keep the house, how quiet you keep the children, how delicious you prepare the meals, how steamy you are in the bedroom.  You could be all those things and still not reach your husband because the truth is, this has NOTHING to do with you.  Your husband is in a battle for his mind and for his very life…even greater than the battle that raged while he served in the Middle East. He imagines and feels a threat against his soul that if he doesn’t guard against, it will take his life.

Not all combat vets {or others} with PTSD will physically leave.  Most will just check out emotionally, withdraw to a separate space or melt into the sofa watching tv, oblivious to their surroundings.  They may spend countless hours with buddies who understand without a word.  They may bury themselves in work or projects. They may seem normal for a few days, maybe even let you feel close to them but when it gets to be too much, they suddenly “disappear” again.  Life becomes an endless roller coaster.  Sadly, I understand both sides of this because I’ve lived them both.    

I am living proof that there is always Hope for recovery from PTSD.  I would be the last person to tell you to give up on your husband.  However, unless and until your husband is willing to seek counseling and commit to healing in that process, there is almost nothing you can do for him.  The more you push, the more he will reject you.  The more desperate you act, the more determined he will be to flee. The more you cry, the more heartless he may become.  I wish it wasn’t true but I think many who live with someone traumatized by violence will attest to similar experiences.  

Remember I said “there is Almost nothing” you can do…You can pray.  You can respect his space.  You can refuse to view His conduct as Your fault.  And you can become really good at forgiving as God stretches you to love deeper, unconditionally.  Most importantly you can take care of yourself.  It’s what the “Hope for the Home Front” retreat was all about, remember?  In the end if your husband leaves you permanently or simply checks out over & over, you must believe that you did your best and you must not feel guilty for taking care of your heart first.

Our goal at “Hope for the Home Front” is to embrace women who are living with the agony of rejection and the crazy-making of the back & forth, ups & downs.  We don’t spout empty platitudes or offer you 50 cent solutions for million dollar problems.  We simply understand what you deal with every day because we have been there, are still there.  We are here to walk this journey with you…even as you limp along.  We want to listen to you, cry with you, rejoice in little things with you and love you.  The saddest words I read are “I haven’t spoken up for a long time…” because I know the heartache and loneliness that comes from carrying these burdens alone.  Please know, you are Enough, you are Loved, and most especially, you are Never Alone.  

Any woman needing to connect with others who love a man with PTSD and/or TBI, please feel free to write to us at:  http://www.whenwarcomeshomeretreats.com/index.cfm/PageID/1601/index.html

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3 responses to “Am I Enough? Rejection and PTSD

  1. I just read a story in Guideposts last night about this topic. The man was engaged to this woman and when he came home completely pulled away and eventually left for 5 months before any contact was made. After alone time, counseling and finding military friends he was able to bond with her again and she was able to trust him again and eventually they married. So, I just read a story of hope for this very thing. I haven’t walked this situation exactly but everything you said made sense for this and other situations involving rejection to. Good post!

  2. I found this on a friend’s facebook posting. Im still crying. You don’t no how close to home this is for me. My husband left me and our 4 kids a few months after coming home from his 3rd combat tour. We don’t no were he is and I felt like crap and blaming myself since he left. Thank you for writting this. I hope your husband relizes how amazing you are.

  3. This happened to me last month. One day my husband announced he was leaving and was gone 2 weeks later. I spent many days and nights crying and wondering what had happened and how I could convince him to return home. After much prayer and begging/pleading/promises, and us talking, I realized it is not about me. It is his struggle, he doesn’t want to be around people right now. Since I have “eased” up on any pressure, we talk daily and will begin counseling shortly. He still lives elsewhere and has told me he doesn’t know when or if he will want to return home. I continue to pray dialy.

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