Today I’m going to give you a “behind the scenes” look into PTSD and relationships, and how we were able to bring it back from the brink of destruction.
People look at us today and think we had it easy, and that their relationship should be 1,000X better because they compare their relationship to our current one.
You get to see me and Brad (my boyfriend) as we are now… laughing, cuddling, hugging, and having a great time!
But! What you don’t see is how horrible things were just a few years ago.
We are very happy now, but things used to be extremely dark.
I want to share this with you not as a sob story, but to show you that I am just like you.
Things got really really bad, but we were able to take this living hell and turn it into something truly beautiful.
Let’s start from the beginning…
Looking back it seems almost too perfect, almost like a different life.
I used to work as a sailing instructor for the University of Rhode Island (URI). The sailing program ran throughout the year, they offered courses for the college students, and also had classes for the public to take over the summer.
In his final year at URI, Brad registered for the spring semester beginner sailing course and I was assigned to be one of his instructors… His class had a total of 3 instructors, we all took turns teaching.
Brad and I didn’t really connect or interact much until one COLD spring afternoon. The winds were blowing up around 15 knots from a recent storm (for those who don’t know, 15 knots equals about 17 miles per hour).
But, we were feeling particularly good about this group of students, so we decided to challenge them a bit and see how they would fare in the storm!
Our regular boats were called “Tech Dinghies”, they had a single sail and meant for one person, but on windy days we would usually put two students in them to help level out the boat so they’d be less likely to flip over and capsize.
Since Brad was the best in the class (he made me write that), he wanted to challenge himself further and asked to be put in a “Laser”, a lighter, faster, single person sailboat (which he had never sailed before).
We were a little hesitant on letting him go at first because of the wind AND the cold, but he was so excited to try it so we all gave in to his request and agreed that he could take out the laser.
So Amy, one of our other instructors rigged up the boat, got it ready, and put Brad and the boat in the water.
As soon as he pushed away the dock he sped off… Completely out of control right from the start. Amy and I just looked at each other with slight grins, knowing what was going to happen…
About 200 feet away from the dock Brad was hit by a big puff of wind and he (kind of dramatically) fell out of the boat and the laser capsized.
I ran over to the Boston Whaler powerboat that had been warming up, released it from the dock and sped over full throttle to help.
As I was driving over I could see him trying to get the boat back up, but I noticed that something was wrong. The entire fiberglass deck of the boat was cracked and torn apart, making it un-sailable.
I pulled the powerboat up next to him and he just looked up at me smiling and said…
“Mhmm…” I replied as I went over to pull him out of the water into the powerboat.
I grabbed the two shoulders of his lifejacket and just plopped him down on the bottom of the boat. He kind of just layed there floundering in awe and said…
“Wow… How did you do that?! You’re really strong…”
That was how we first met. The rest of the day he sat next to me on the powerboat talking about how he loved producing music, and how I loved playing guitar.
The rest is kind of history.
We started dating, Brad got a job at the sailing center, and things were great!
Both of us were happy, we were working together at an awesome fun job, but the inner pain and turmoil inside of me was reaching it’s breaking point…
Our relationship only lasted about 3 or 4 months.
No one knew about my PTSD, at this point in time I probably had been living with this secret for about 13 years.
I was able to hide it away, have my nightmares in silence, and find private places to hide my flashbacks.
And I really cared deeply about Brad, but the nightmares and flashbacks, on top of the stress at home, caused me to drive him away.
So, I left him with little to no reason why I was breaking up with him, and he was devastated.
He thought that things were going great, and this just came out of nowhere.
Brad later told me that he went home and couldn’t sleep for weeks.
At this point we were both confused and had no idea what was going on.
I didn’t even know that I had PTSD, I thought it was something that only army veterans got…
And, I just kept hoping and hoping that it would go away because I was too afraid and embarrassed to admit what was happening to me.
Anyways, another 8 awkward months went by… We still worked in the same place and we would say hi to each other, but that was about it.
One evening, after everyone else had left work, Brad and I were all alone at the sailing center.
I don’t remember how it happened, but we started talking…
At first we talked about random stuff, but then started sharing how much we missed each other.
One thing lead to another and bam! We were back, better than ever! We were happy and things seemed to be going great again.
Another few months passed and Brad started to notice that I was stirring in my sleep every night. So he started to ask questions…
“I keep noticing that you’re really tense at night, and it looks like you’re having a lot of bad dreams… is everything okay?”
He’d ask, I’d brush it off…over and over and over again. I was a closed door. No one knew my secrets and I wasn’t about to open up right now.
But yet, he was relentless, he kept asking me and asking me… And thank god he did!
Because I eventually opened up a little bit about my nightmares and why I was having them.
If I had to pick a point in time that started everything, it was this moment here.
The moment where I admitted that something was happening to me, and that something was not right.
It took months for me to open up fully about everything that happened, and some secrets even took years.
But, once I opened the door I could start healing. I still had no idea what PTSD was, or that I had it, but at least we knew something was wrong.
So at this point we both had no idea what was going on.
Brad would tell me that he would spend hours researching online to find what was happening. And one day told me that he thought that I had PTSD.
I didn’t really know what to think. I was scared, nervous, and embarrassed to even think that I could have PTSD.
After all I did an amazing job hiding it for over a decade at this point, I didn’t want people to think there was something wrong with me.
I don’t know what it was, but it seemed like all of a sudden things started to go from bad to worse.
At night I’d have vivid nightmares that would last hours and hours, and my days became more and more consumed by even more flashbacks.
It got to the point to where flashbacks were taking up over 90%, if not 100%, of my waking hours. Brad was there for every step, always positive, always hugging me through every single flashback.
I would cling onto him for dear life and just prayed that this living hell would end.
Brad was incredible and he would always find ways to make me laugh and smile, especially when I didn’t feel like it.
But, we were both still clueless about what needed to be done, or what I needed to do to get rid of this.
Brad would always tell me that he didn’t know how we were going to beat this thing, but we were going to do it together.
…And that he was there for me until the end of time.
We started to get into more fights, Brad would spend more time alone away from me, and sometimes he would even take a few days alone and go back to his parents house.
Things got really really stressful. Then Brad said, you need to get some help.
You need to do something because I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
So, I put my pride on the shelf, pulled out my wallet, and ended up spending my life’s savings, over $10,000, on trying new things that might help.
I tried anything and everything I could get my hands on.
Some things helped, and some didn’t, but I was moving forward.
I started to see a little bit of progress, and things finally started to look up. But then something happened that absolutely devastated me…
Seemingly out of nowhere, Brad told me that he needed space… Like a lot of space with no contact.
He told me that he couldn’t handle seeing me in so much pain anymore, he said that he was constantly stressed, that his hands were twitching because of all the fear, he was massively depressed, and that he hated himself and his life.
Brad was my lifeline…
He was the person who I thought I could depend on until the end of time.
He was my entire heart, and he made me feel like I was home for the first time in my life.
I thought everything was over.
I probably cried for 3 weeks straight, I moved back in with my parents, and felt more broken than I ever had before.
It felt like everything was lost.
One time during our time apart I got a text from Brad… He was asking if he could see me.
I agreed to meet him at lighthouse near my house.
The parking lot was right on the ocean and it was probably 11 O’clock at night when I saw his car drive up.
I got out of my car, and he stepped out of his. He walked up to me, held me tight, and started crying.
We stood there for what seemed like an hour before his cries subsided.
When he calmed down a bit all he said was, “I’m sorry…” and “thank you”.
I told him that I loved him, and that I was always there to help him if he needed anything. That night, even though we didn’t say much, was the first time we really connected in over a year.
We then both went our separate ways for another month or two…
That night I realized something.
With this new understanding I was able to take a new perspective on things.
He still loved me, he still wanted to be with me, but he was so hurt from seeing me go through what I went through that he needed time to heal on his own.
I was a hard thing to accept, but it made things a lot easier.
We slowly rekindled our relationship yet again, and we started REALLY slow.
I wanted him to take things at his pace, so we started texting, then calling, then meeting, and then living together again.
It was a long process, but I had to help him feel safe.
Overtime we grew together as a team, there were rough spots that we needed to overcome, but we were committed to each other again and had a deeper understanding on how PTSD affects relationships on both sides.
It took over a year for us to get to a place that we both consider better than “normal”.
We both took the time to get help when we needed it, learn as much as we could to overcome our own challenges, and help each other grow as much as possible.
Now we feel like an unstoppable force, we know we are not perfect, but we are always striving to be better in every way we can.
This was a key for our success as a couple. We are always looking at how we can improve what we have.
And the journey through PTSD has given us a great gift.
We are now able to connect and understand each other on a level that most people never do.
PTSD sucks, yes, but when you beat it (and you will) you are going to find that you are much stronger than you ever would have been without it.
So for that I am grateful to have had PTSD.
I hope that this story of mine helps you understand that you are not alone in what you’re going through.
It is an extremely hard thing to endure, but it is something that can draw your relationship closer than anything else…
Overcoming “impossible” odds has a way of doing that for you…
Never give up, and I believe in you 1,000%!
Wishing you the best today and everyday!
Want to learn HOW Brad and I were able to fully recover from PTSD and save our relationship?
See you there 🙂