Partner with PTSD: How to be stronger/more resilient



New member
Dec 29, 2018
Hi everyone,
A little over 2.5 years ago, my girlfriend was physically assaulted by her boss at work. Afterwards she was diagnosed with PTSD and Major Depression. This is on top of an existing diagnosis of ADHD.

I have been trying my best to provide care and support, while also trying to keep my own mental well-being in check, but I'm having a very hard time right now.

Some details:

When she has a panic attack, she will stay in bed for between three days to a week. She will have insomnia, and if she does fall asleep, has night terrors. She will also not eat unless food is put in front of her (and sometimes not even then). A few times, she has become catatonic.

Her main fear is that she will encounter someone she used to work with and she will lash out physically and cause them harm. This causes her to have panic attacks most shifts she works (2-3 times a week) and prevents her from going outside (except for work and therapy).

I have not experienced her lashing out physically or violently towards a person.

During her panic attacks, she will sometimes tell me that I am useless, a failure, how I don't love her enough, never loved her, how I'm a monster, or the cause of all her pain.

Days later she will often say that these things are not true, that she is projecting, and that she only says these things because she feels like a failure herself.

If, in the moment, I ask if what she's saying is projection, she gets upset and says that I'm dismissing her or accuses me of gaslighting. If I tell her that these things are hurtful to me, she says that she cannot control how she feels, should be able to feel in her own way, and that these things should not bother me because they are just projection. So, to support her, I listen.

I have read several articles on supporting a partner through depression and PTSD, and a lot say to not take the negative things personally. Logically, I know that these things are not true and that she is projecting, but it's really hard to not internalize these things.

When we go to couples therapy, she usually denies that she ever said these things, that I'm misinterpreting, or being too sensitive. I often feel like I'm going crazy.

I have tried to set boundaries. A big one I set was that I couldn't be the only person she talks to. This does not mean that I will not listen to her or be there for her. It just means she should have a therapist, friend, or family member to talk to in addition to me.

She perceived this as rejection, and rejection is a major PTSD trigger for her as well, so she'll bring this up occasionally as something I did that was triggering.

Over the past several months she has been drinking heavily in response to being triggered at work.

Most nights, when she drinks, she will wake me up in the middle of the night, either because she had a nightmare that her old boss was breaking into the house, she wants sex, or she will want to tell me that I'm a bad person.

If I tell her that it's 3am on a weeknight, I don't want to have sex, there's no one breaking in, or that a conversation where she's drunk and I'm tired will not be a productive one, she feels rejected and becomes triggered.

Sometimes she'll fall, drop plates, or lay on the floor catatonic. She doesn't remember any of this the next day.

The only thing that stops her from drinking is me being around. If I have to stay late at work or want to go out with friends, I will come home to her more drunk than I normally would if I came home right after work.

I really make an effort to see my friends and make time for myself, because I need it, but it's hard to relax knowing that the longer I'm away, the worse the situation I will come home to will be.

I have a great friend who makes time for me whenever he can. He recently said that many of my other friends are no longer inviting me to parties/events because they don't want my girlfriend there.

My girlfriend is a really good person! She's loving, kind, generous, and fun, but since the assault, she's just been spiraling and getting worse. These last several months in particular have been a bit of a nadir.

Since a lot of the ways her PTSD manifests is hurtful to me, I can't help but pull away a bit. With rejection being a major trigger for her, I know this is making things worse.

I really feel that if I was stronger and less sensitive, I wouldn't let her words and actions affect me as much. If I had some more armor, I could be a much better partner.

How can I be more resilient? Any advice on how to provide better support will be helpful.

Thank you!

P.S. We are both seeing therapists individually as well.
Poopy Doll

Poopy Doll

Well-known member
Jun 13, 2015
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Unless you become an enlightened Saint, exposure to a toxic person is going to affect you. Instead of drinking, she needs a real punching bag like the kind they having in boxing gyms. Then she can get out her anger on it instead of you. I'm surprised her therapist doesn't have her punching pillows.


New member
Dec 29, 2018
Thank you for your reply!

Coincidently, we live a couple of blocks away from a woman-run kickboxing gym. I've brought it up before, but her fear is that she would learn to be too good at violence, so if she lashes out, she will do more damage. I'll try suggesting that again. She may learn that she has more control than she realizes.

Any suggestions of what I should do?

I asked myself what it would look like to be stronger/more resilient, to picture myself having achieved this goal. You're right, the result is a saint (or specifically a Buddhist monk). Basically I picture myself going about my business unaffected while she does or says what she wants. Though listening to her without emotion or going out without worry while she stays home in bed doesn't entirely sit well.

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