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Oct 16 2015

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD – A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

Sometimes using an analogy helps enhance understanding. What if you met someone with PTSD inside a video game? What would their Big Boss look like? What kinds of Side Quests would they be going on? How would this affect your life if you are their partner and trying to play the Relationship video game with them? This is a three-part article that uses the analogy of a video game to help you if you are in a relationship with someone with PTSD.

Part 1 – Understanding Your Partner – helps you understand what you will face when getting into a relationship with someone who is struggling to heal and integrate a trauma history.

Part 2 – How to Help Your Partner and Your Self – discusses things to do the help your partner out and to help empower yourself and take care of yourself in the relationship and

Part 3 is An Organized List of Things to Do summarized from Parts 1 and 2.

So, here is Part 1 – Understanding Your Partner…

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy

morning light

It’s 9:42 am, Saturday. I’m lying on my bed typing on my laptop. The room is full of deep shadow; a little light filters through the Ikea feather comforter tacked over the window. A bird calls outside as it flies past – wheeeee, wheeee, wheeee. It flies from the parking lot to the field of tall weeds next to the housing complex, the lone bird in the gray morning. The backs of my legs and sides of my arms are getting chilly but I am ignoring it because I am denying the presence of fall for a little bit longer. Outside, it begins to rain.

At around 8 am, I went into the other bedroom where my boyfriend sleeps. I opened the door and in the darkness I could just make out the outline of his iPad hovering in front of the dim light on his face and hands. I walked in and said, “Cuddle?” He scooted over and let me under the covers.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

outside, it begins to rain

I held his hand. I said, “I want to write about how people can help their partners who have PTSD. You’ve learned some things, right?”

He said he has learned to leave me alone. (! ๐Ÿ™ )

“I give you space when you want it. I let you sleep in your own room if you feel like it. I give you freedom.”

I said, “But you let me cuddle when I want also…and remember for a while you would put your hand on my heart if I was triggered and it would calm me down?”

He reaches and strokes my heart. I know it sounds funny, but asking him to place his palm over my heart (center of my chest) for a little bit, or kind of stroke like a couple of inches from above to below my heart chakra, was a technique we found would calm me down during a particular phase of recovery. It’s probably like finding a spot on your cat that you discover if you pet it, it will make them stop being stressed out.

The Selfish Nature of Trauma Recovery

I know this all sounds me-centric.

It actually is, but it’s not because of selfishness.

As selfish as I’ve been during this time with PTSD I’m not a selfish person at all.

It’s just the nature of trauma recovery.

I have always been too selfless and a caretaker, putting my own needs last, but trauma reversed that for a while.

In fact, my boyfriend and I are both naturally caretakers, but he can be selfish when he’s angry and I can be selfish when I’m in a trauma reaction, so it kind of balances out in a weird way and ultimately ends up being a lot of past wounding to work on within both of us.

I will explain all the trauma-based dynamics using the metaphor of a video game.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game AnalogyThe Relationship Video Game

So imagine that you are – let’s just say you’re a guy and you meet, let’s just say, a girl, and she has a pretty heavy-duty trauma history and she is involved in recovering from said history.

You decide to get into a relationship with her.

So you, metaphorically, click on the DOWNLOAD link to download the video game “Relationship with Girlfriend” from The Universe to Your Life.

You see this little check box there that says “click here to agree to the User Agreement.” And, like most people, you just click the little box and don’t actually open up and read the Terms and Conditions listed in the User Agreement. Likewise, you skip over the Rules and Gameplay section and jump right into the game. It’s probably like any other video game, right?

Well, my friend, let me tell you that buried in that User Agreement and those Rules, in the fine print, are some things it would behoove you to know about before embarking on your epic adventure, brave soul.

As you’re happily choosing your avatar and naming him Axtwerphatron, and contemplating whether to wear the Yellow Flame-eater Death Tunic or the Black Leather Mythical Magical Robe, there is a Boss Fight gearing up for you that you have never seen the likes of before.

You do know that part of the agreement is you get to have a partner to go on adventures with – your lovely girlfriend. Great, you think, this will be epic. (yes I admit Metaphorical Boyfriend Person uses the word “epic” way too much but that’s just his Way)

So you walk into the video game all avatared up and you’re ambling down a dusty country road and come to some huts with straw roofs.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

you arrive at a village
image of the village Arni from the game Chrono Cross by Square Enix (image source)

There’s some old guy there standing by the well who explains with great gravity that this is such and so hamlet and there’s such and so evil dark force loose in the world. And could you please help save everyone and here you go, some tattery armor and a sword for ya!

You bid the old geezer adieu and take off down the road. The pretty ferns sway in the virtual wind and you marvel at the wonder of their insane level of realism and try to imagine how many hours the graphic artists had to put in to achieve this and if they have actual lives or are chained to their desks in some basement somewhere. There are birds even and a stream with water lilies, fancy that!

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

the ferns sway beautifully in the wind
image screenshot from the game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Game Studios

Pretty soon you begin to wonder where your oh so amazing partner could be exactly. The title of the game specifically mentioned the word “girlfriend,” so where is she?

You saunter down the road and enter a bustling seaside city. On a whim you go into a house. It’s very dark; you turn to leave but hear a whimper. You look and on a mat on the floor in the corner – it’s her! It’s Girlfriend Person Epic Partner for Adventure! You rush to her and ask, “What happened to you?”

How Big Boss Trauma Affects Your Partner in this Relationship Game

Big Boss Trauma wears many disguises:

She looks up at you and says, “There’s this monster here. It takes on many forms. Sometimes it’s like a black fog. Sometimes it’s like a reflection in the water or sky. Sometimes it’s a fire-breathing dragon. Sometimes it’s an internally smoldering hot coal slimer.

Big Boss Trauma takes away many of her strengths, skills and attributes in the very beginning of the game:

“When I arrived, the monster made it so I can’t feel sensation in my body anymore. He also removed the top half of my brain so that I can’t think logically. And he made it so my body is hard to control. Sometimes I hurt myself accidentally, like hit myself on things or cut myself, and I don’t know how it happened. My body does things on its own.

Later you learn from the Rules that there are three species of Big Boss Trauma. The first species will remove half of your partner’s brain and all their body sensations – your partner will be challenged mentally with mental organization and memory problems and also with dissociation and moments of lack of physical coordination. The second species of Trauma will remove all your partner’s skin and muscles and turn them into a skeleton. They will struggle with a profound loss of self and part of their quest is to capture their skin and muscles – they will have more need to re-establish safety, boundaries, protection, identity, willpower, self-direction, action and movement. The third species of Trauma will leave its victim’s skin on but will break all their insides, but it will be done in such a way that nobody will be able to tell anything happened. In this case, part of the victim’s quest is to fully acknowledge and repair what was invisibly broken even when people around them keep telling them nothing is wrong – they will be challenged to fully validate their own truth because of the way the monster makes himself and other things invisible. Your partner could have all three kinds at once, if very unlucky. Beyond these initial differences in their behavior, Trauma monsters all have the same tactics.

Big Boss Trauma takes her Health away daily:

“Every day, no matter how much I try to hide, the monster finds me. And every day he takes all my Health Points except just 1. He leaves me with just 1 Health Point and I have to use that 1 Health Point to try to vanquish him so he won’t keep coming back.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

“I can run but I can’t hide” she says.
image from the game Bound By Flame by Spiders Studio (image source)

Big Boss Trauma injects her with fear, slow motion, immobility and paralysis:

“This monster has a plasma rifle that shoots neon green plasma and fills me from head to toe with neon green. When that happens I am filled entirely with fear; I fear everything and I move in slow motion, like molasses. I fear tons of things I never had any fear of before. It can take forever for it to leave and it never leaves all the way.

“Then, he also has these little mini versions of himself – his children I guess – well sometimes they aren’t that little they’re huge – anyway these things run around and give me electric shocks all the time. He calls his children “Triggers.” Sometimes I’m electrocuted for hours and can’t move because of the shock.

Big Boss Trauma turns her into a Wild Animal or Wild Animal Eye from time to time:

“Sometimes he turns me into a wild animal and takes away my humanness, so I do things like that animal does – the animal is usually spooked by things but sometimes is angry and violent. Sometimes he turns me into an eyeball of a wild animal, not even the entire animal, and I watch all directions at once for danger and that’s a huge preoccupation; when I’m Wild Animal Eye I just watch and watch.

Big Boss Trauma disguises her friends:

“If I do make a friend, he disguises them with images of himself. Probably soon he will put his image over you so don’t be surprised if I begin fighting you, thinking you’re him. When he puts his image on top of people, I fear and don’t trust people I would have trusted before.

Big Boss Trauma causes system-wide errors and deletes things from her memory:

“He also goes in and deletes all the skills I’ve learned in the game from my hard drive or reverts the game back to previous save points. He can cause errors and everything kind of starts flashing and going erratic and a message comes up and says, “Your System Has Encountered a Permanent Fatal Error,” or “Your System Has Encountered An Infinite Loop.” When that happens it takes me a while to get to the bottom of it and get the system to work again. He’s always the one who caused it.

“So if I learn a new skill or make any progress, most of the time he erases it. I’m always losing my weapons and armor that I earned too. So I’m always starting at the beginning. Even if I do something in the morning it can be gone from my memory by evening. It’s very disorienting! I’m eternally fighting the same battles so progress is very slow.

She wins sometimes only to have to begin again the next day:

“So every day I rest and rest until I have the energy to get up and then I go out to try to find the monster. Sometimes I win one skirmish. I make him weaker and recover some of my Health Points. I feel good for once. I feel energetic. I celebrate my victory. Sometimes he’s even gone for a bit and I go out and see if I can socialize or go to a movie. Then I become confident and try to create an overall strategy to win. But the next day, the monster takes almost all of my Health Points away again or plays other tricks on me.”

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

“Sometimes I win one skirmish.”
image from the game Final Fantasy XIII by Square Enix (image source)

She wants her character to survive but it’s a challenge:

“I’m normally a very strong person. But with all this going on, I’m having trouble keeping my character alive. I have to be really creative to keep going. I’ve never been someone to pray or even think about praying but I pray every day now. I pray that I will make it through the game to the next Level, Level 2.

She used to be happy but her sole focus now is survival:

“Usually I would relax and chat with you right now, maybe go out to eat somewhere. I’ve always been a happy person, and I used to enjoy socializing with friends all the time. I was even the person who was there for others. I’m pretty sure you would see a whole different side of me if only the monster would leave me alone. But he won’t, so I’m here fighting now, and I’m really exhausted. He’s actually able to attack me when I am sleeping sometimes so it looks like I’m resting right now but I’m actually fighting him.

“I’m deep in a dark hole. Every day I inch up closer to the light. Whenever I achieve a significant number of inches up closer to the top of the hole, I can handle more parts of life, think better and I regain memories and skills I had lost. I know I’ll make my way out; it’ll take some effort but I can do it! I won’t be who I was entirely but parts of me will return and new parts will be gained – I’ll come back as something strong and good one day! And then we will go out and maybe you can teach me to play tennis or something… I can’t do anything right now though, there is so much danger. I must keep fighting to survive, I must save myself, I am my only hope, I have to keep fighting…”

Her voice trails off and she slumps down into the covers and curls up holding the old blankets to her chest. Her breath is labored and you can see now a faint neon glow coming from her toes where they stick out from the blankets.

“Oh, I see.” you say. “Wait a minute… why are you in such a big, multi-step Boss Fight when you have no armor or weapons yet and the game just started?” you ask.

“I don’t know. I just am. I have a few weapons I picked up,” she says.

You look and you see a trowel, a pair of scissors and some chain mail with holes in it on the floor near the mat.

“Hmmm…” you think to yourself, “Perhaps I need to go back and read the User Agreement and also the Rules of the actual video game.”

Because you thought that the rules for this game were that you were going to be part of a team of epic proportions. But your team member is barely alive. You thought maybe you’d get some of your needs met. Things like – companionship, affection, intimacy, love, exploration, fun… That is how it’s supposed to be when you press DOWNLOAD right? Girlfriend Person Epic Partner for Adventure is downloaded into My Life and we have fun?

Well… no.

Sorry but you downloaded a game that includes the Big Boss “Trauma,” and this game has a different set of rules for a while. ๐Ÿ™

So, you find the link to the rules buried in the game manufacturer’s website and open it. This is what it says:

Rules & Gameplay for Being With Girlfriend Battling Trauma History V.1

“You will have a partner in this game but they will have a Mega Quest in the beginning of the game.

“That Mega Quest is that they will have to face a Boss Fight every day in the beginning of the game, rather than just one Boss Fight at the end when they are strong as is usually the case.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

your partner will be on a Mega Quest for a while
image from the game Venetica by Deck13 Interactive (image source)

“Your partner will not, as in other games, automatically periodically grant you various Gemstones like – Companionship Gemstones Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced; Emotional Support from Novice Gemstone through to Master Gemstone; The Going Out Together Frequently Enjoyment Gemstones1-10; The Achievement of Milestones Together Gemstones1-5, etc.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

your partner can’t go collect the Gemstones until later
image from the game Ori and the Blind Forest by Moon Studios (image source)

“They will not give you the Gifts from their Satchel that other games have for free in the beginning, Gifts such as Effortless Affection, Ample Time to Just Chill, Abundant Intimacy and Energetic, Enthusiastic Traveling Together. Instead, they have to earn all Gems and Gifts before they can give them to you, and before they can earn them they must beat the Big Boss Trauma (“beat them” technically refers to the process of learning to transform him into other things at will, as he never actually goes away or dies).

“They will have very few weapons or armor and thus it will be almost impossible for them to beat Trauma in the beginning. They will have to use every ounce of their ingenuity.

“They will go through three levels. Each level will take them approximately 3 years to complete. Strangely, they may find themselves back in an area of the game from a previous level inexplicably at any time but they will get out faster every time.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

Trauma takes many forms. Here he is jumping out from behind a rock as an internally smoldering hot coal slimer.

Level 1 (“Acute PTSD/Nonfunctional”)

In this level they must focus 90% of their time and energy on Trauma, and cannot focus on you much of the time. They can go out to the park and sit in the sun; taking them lovely places is a great idea during this time. However they may be somewhat preoccupied because Level 1 has all the Huge Monsters. The Triggers, for example, are Huge Monsters on this Level (they are smaller in subsequent levels). All manifestations of the One called Trauma are so dangerous it is beyond any reason, they are 100% dangerous. In order to pass Level 1, your partner will need to – not feel safe all the time – but just have had experiences of taking a triggered state and, using therapy or healing exercises, make their own body calm down. They will need to have experienced removing the neon green plasma and electrical shock from their body enough times to know it’s possible and to know there is hope. In general, they will only be calm during therapy and for about 2-4 hours afterwards.

Level 2 (“Battling PTSD/Struggle and Torment”)

In this level they are struggling but can actually put Trauma into a cage once in a while, and then they can go out with you and actually have fun on those days they have Trauma in a cage, and they can be present with your needs at these times. Level 2 has to do with gaining skills and confidence in managing the daily struggle and torment, and gradually overcoming being totally exhausted, shut down and passive.

Level 3 (“Conscious Recovery”)

“In this level they have control of Trauma 2/3 the time and they are always conscious and aware even if Trauma is beating them up for whatever reason for that 1/3 of the time they are overtaken by it. They have achieved consciousness of themselves but have many, many Side Quests still to go on. In Level 3, they can finally spend some time finding Gems, Gifts and Life Skills that they can share with you. They can go with you on joint Quests sometimes.

“You partner wins Level 3 by obtaining weapons that shoot things like Love, Gentleness and Compassion and although Trauma never goes away she can now turn it into small fuzzy animals with these new weapons. “Winning” does not involve killing Big Boss Trauma, because he cannot die, it rather involves developing the skills and obtaining the proper weapons and magic spells to be in control of how he manifests. Winning Level 3 is quite advanced and involves a lot of effort.

“After Level 3, she enters an ongoing Maintenance phase, a time to learn to hold onto what has been achieved and stay balanced, so even for many years after the initial 9 there will still be some effort involved.

“This is a strange game because the biggest Boss fights are in the beginning when she has fewest resources, the Boss comes in many disguises, and the Boss never goes away even at the end of the game.

“There are many Side Quests within the game that are vitally important for the Mega Quest, such as:

Partial List of Side Quests Your Partner May be Engaged in During the Game

  • Ask For Help, aSide Quest in which they must force themselves to go get help no matter how hard it is. They must find Falco and traverse the Swamps of Chaos during this Quest.
  • Re-Embodiment – they must return themselves into their physical body and reclaim all the physical sensations and 5 senses that were stolen.
  • Quest for Brains – They must re-access parts of their higher brain function by capturing the top half of their brain that was hidden by the monster deep inside Piiyo Mountain. They must climb to the top of Piiyo Mountain and speak with the sacred goose who is the guardian.
  • Quest for Muscles – they must move the trauma energies stuck in their system out from where it is stuck by finding and allowing the actions their body needs to express (usually done in Somatic Experiencing therapy)
  • Quest for Skin – they must rebuild their abilities to protect themselves by building a layer of emotional protection in the form of a skin of sea serpent scales and an armor for physical protection made of any element they choose.
  • Quest for Visibility – they must make what is invisible visible by obtaining a secret magic potion; then they must proclaim their truth from the top tower in the castle to all the land.
  • Self-Organization Shard Recovery – They must recover the shards of mental organization that were scattered across the land by the monster.
  • Mourning All the Graves is a Side Quest in which they grieve and make adjustments to losses and find meaning in new and different circumstances.
  • Breaking Down The Perceptual Invasion is a Side Quest during which they must use their sword to strike down false reality screens and false character shrouds created by the monster and develop the capacity to perceive what is outside of a trauma based reality.
  • Quest for Empowerment – They must turn helplessness and reactivity into effectiveness.
  • Quest to Love and Melt Anger – They must find weapons that shoot love and attack their anger and violence with them until the anger turns to sorrow and melts into the streams coming down from the high hills.
  • Quest for Advanced Self-Analysis is an Advanced Quest during which they are required to untangle tangles of re-traumatization and feedback loops and “reversals.” There are many Tangler Cats and Puzzles to face during this Quest.
  • Soul Retrieval Quest – They must travel far and wide to find the lost parts of self, including under the ocean.
  • Quest for Interdependence – This Quest comes after all the others. They are to recover boundaries, social skills and relationship skills. (for more Side Quests see the article about 15 Trauma Healing Goals)
Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

your partner will have to go on many side quests

“While their Mega Quest is pretty clear – they must always focus on Big Boss Trauma until they get to Level 3, then they will have some time to focus on gathering Gemstones, Gifts and Life Skills as well as to go on numerous Side Quests – your Quest is more flexible, and it is therefore yours to create. In other words, you get to define your own Quests.”

You stop reading for a moment. You, as Axtwerphatron, are now idly swaying in the square in the middle of the city like you’ve had a few too many. You get a hold of yourself and walk purposefully up to someone and poke them and they look around and up in the sky and say, “Hmmm… I don’t know,” which is entirely unhelpful.

You decide to find your way to the docks.

This game is completely different from what you thought it would be. You see a large vase and are overcome with a strange feeling, a powerful urge to enact violence against the vase. You hit it as hard as you can with your sword. It shatters everywhere but nobody notices the blatant destruction of public property and a coin jumps into your bag from where the vase once stood.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

you develop an uncontrollable urge to destroy vases

Sheathing your sword, you keep walking, contemplating your fate.

You arrive at the docks. A regalia of ships sways back and forth, the water reflecting the brilliant golden light of the setting sun. The lapping sound of the water is soothing and graphical man hours mind-boggling.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

the ships sway peacefully in the water
(image source)

You thought that this would be a different kind of game, a more positive game. One with more perks.

You know you do have some of your own Bosses that you will have to face in the game eventually.

There’s Addiction, but compared to Trauma it’s not as disruptive, at least your personal Addiction monster isn’t. It’s not stealing your Health points every single day, although on the days it comes around it can be a real pain and cause some serious problems. But you have some time in-between to reflect and suit up for the next fight.

There’s Anger and Low Frustration Tolerance, but they come on the scene maybe once every few days and you have to face them and do your best to try to overcome them. You admit they are Big Bosses for you and as yet you have not vanquished them, rather you always get thoroughly clobbered. They always take control of you, make you emotionally closed, mentally rigid and verbally destructive, but you think in time you will be able to overcome them. You can prepare for these battles because, you realize with relief, at least most of the time they aren’t around.

The fact is, your adversaries are not daily occurrences. In a way, the Rules were right – you can choose which things to fight, while she can’t. You can pick your battles while her battles pick her. And right now they pick her every day almost 24/7.

You begin to realize that this video game takes a long time to issue rewards. It’s not one of those games where by the end of 10 minutes of gameplay you already have 1,000 coins and have raised 20 Spellcasting Skills and vanquished 80 Moronic Dingbats and have a brand new shiny Needler to boot. In the beginning it’s kind of sparse and might not seem worth it.

You sit down on a bench to think. You want to consider your options.

After a while, you resume reading the Rules.

Rules Continued:

“In this game you will face a choice point.

“You will come upon your partner and see that she is in an arena, fighting a Big Boss and that Big Boss is kicking her ass. You will realize she fights this Big Boss most of the time, leaving little time left for you.

Being in a Relationship with Someone with PTSD - A Video Game Analogy (Pt. 1)

Big Boss Trauma has many arms to touch many aspects of your partner’s life.
image from the game Final Fantasy XIII by Square Enix (image source)

“Choice Points:

“You can choose to exit the game and delete it from your system.

“You can choose to try to play it but whine and complain that it isn’t what you thought it would be and it’s no fun and it’s too hard.

“You can go on your own Side Quests and seek Gems and Gifts and Life Skills and build yourself up apart from her while she gets her ass kicked.

“Or, you can step into the arena, put on your armor, pull out your sword, and help fight the Big Boss with her.

“Each path is totally legitimate in its own way.

“1. To Stay or to Go? You have the right to leave and go get your needs met in another video game because we are all free. We have free will. You are not obligated to anyone to stay with them for any reason. If you feel you need to go, that is fine.

“This is actually a complicated choice. It boils down to whether the longer term benefits of the relationship are worth helping someone who has been broken put themselves back together in the short-term, or whether it would be better to be with someone who has not been broken. I will go into this in more detail in Part 3, but it involves making an assessment of their capacities for self-overcoming, understanding what characteristics they had before the traumas, trying to make a guesstimate at how long the most debilitating phases of their PTSD will last, listing which needs you won’t get met and which needs you will get met during this time and how that should change later on, defining what you personally get out of helping another person heal, and measuring all of these variables so your choice is consciously made.

“2. To voice your upset or not to? Maybe it sounds bad but complaining and whining are totally legit things to do. Or, more accurately, emotional self-expression is important whereas self-repression is unhealthy. You actually should share your upset about your situation with others. This is because it’s a pretty legitimate upset. Everyone feels difficult feelings like sorrow, despair, longing, confusion and anger when their needs are not being met and their hopes are being let down. It’s good to express these feelings to someone who can listen attentively though, like a therapist or a friend. Your partner may or may not be able to hear you.

“It’s also of utmost importance to express feelings harmlessly, as they teach in Nonviolent Communication. That is an entire course but it boils down to not attacking, not blaming and staying heart centered even when upset or angry. In other words, this isn’t about malicious talk behind her back, or making her feel bad by getting angry or sulking while around her, when it’s not her fault this Big Boss is part of her game (she did not ask to be broken she was broken – the fault lies with the perpetrator).

“This is a pretty complex area as well. Technically, complaining is a bit different from self-expression. Sometimes complaining doesn’t solve anything, whereas honest self-expression can move emotions from one place to another and bring greater understanding, in effect un-sticking an area of the relationship where a wound or grievance was holding things static. I guess the main point I’m making here is the less self-repression there is in a relationship the better. You have to bring up anything that bothers you. If it begins by complaining that’s fine but try to go from there towards honest emotional self-expression with someone who can truly listen.

“3. To just do your own thing? Strengthening yourself by facing your own enemies and Bosses and building Life Skills etc. is important – actually it’s pretty essential for a healthy relationship for each member to focus on their own development and life and growth independently, but if you become too independent this is not really being in a relationship anymore, it’s being with yourself while in the same physical space as another person. This can happen when there’s just too many areas of disconnect going on, too many repressed emotions and too many unresolved conflicts. If this is the case, you have to begin asking what your reasons are for being together. In most cases if things get this bad your growth will be better served alone, but going to a Nonviolent Communication Class together (or something similar) and trying to hash out all the hot spots of the relationship might create more connection and make it worthwhile to stay.

4. Going in there and helping her fight. How about that option? You didn’t know you had that option did you.

Why don’t we return to the game and find a few wise advisers to help with this one…

***

Axtwerphatron does not know it, but he has, with him in his satchel, some Magic Spells and Secret Weapons that nobody else in the entire world has, and that are very powerful against Big Boss Trauma. All he has to do is realize he has them and learn how to use them. Stay tuned for Part 2 when Axtwerphatron meets three wise advisers who show him why he’s the very best Hero for helping his partner win against the Big Boss Trauma, and what he will gain at the end of the game if they succeed together.

And then in Part 3 I will create a handy list of helpful things to do for your own empowerment and education, as well as to help your partner, if in a relationship with someone with PTSD (based on everything discussed in Parts 1 and 2).

(Later I will also expand on the actual video game and write a post detailing all Levels and Side Quests)

***

Please Note:

This article is about a “Big T” trauma, an extremely damaging event or series of events that had a huge, life-changing impact on a person, before which they were relatively well-adjusted. There may be some ways these observations can also be applied to C-PTSD – Complex PTSD/Developmental Trauma – the effects of childhood or prolonged trauma on the adult personality – but I have not looked into that yet. This article features a case of PTSD in which the debilitating symptoms are temporary – lasting for 9 years, which is just used as an arbitrary example as every individual case is its own case. PTSD can have a shorter duration or may be a chronic condition depending on the attributes of the person and of the traumas. Additionally, since every person and relationship is unique and complex, the things I have experienced may not pertain to your relationship. The article is also based on an examination of just one facet of my relationship, leaving out many factors such as the science of human compatibility, additional mental illnesses, addictions and physical illnesses.

__________________

Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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