health

'A text I sent to my boyfriend went unanswered. Then he came home a different man.'

Content Warning: This post discusses PTSD and will difficult for many people to read. 

My boyfriend is a good man. The type of guy who prides himself on being generous, a good provider, an outstanding father, and a great friend.

When we got together, I became that insufferable person who annoyed my friends constantly with comments about how ‘perfect’ he was. He organised surprise dates, he wanted exactly the same things out of life I did; a large family, an undramatic relationship, travel, loyalty and an unbreakable bond to be envied by others.

He was energetic, funny, unafraid of intimacy and an out of this world lover. In short, I’d found the one, my soulmate.

Tziporah Malkah reveals her struggle with PTSD. Post continues after video. 

And then one fateful afternoon. A text I sent him went unanswered. Strange. He wasn’t the type to leave me on ‘Read.’ And I became an anxious mess, sensing deeply that something was wrong. And it was only when our housemate arrived home that evening from work pale-faced that my concerns were realised.

In all but a few seconds, a text-and-driver had collided with my boyfriend’s car on his way home from work. Injuring his strong capable body, and ending his father’s life. And that moment was the moment everything changed.

In the weeks that followed, my boyfriend was understandably vacant and pained. I held his hand for countless hours at the hospital and drove him and his grieving family across the state. I tried to be the understanding girlfriend whilst he, his family and friends drowned their sorrows in alcohol.

And be his soft place to fall when he needed it. But after a few months, my understanding turned to confusion. My boyfriend hadn’t resurfaced yet. I was living with usurper, someone who had taken over his body but lacking his personality and zest for life.

Then, one morning, I had had enough. He had once again decided to blow off plans we’d made for a date together, to drink himself into a stupor with his mates. And I spoke up for myself. Telling him that I needed him, and that it wasn’t OK. I can remember it so vividly, the bile that he spat at me. ‘How dare you speak to me like that, you’re an ungrateful c*#t!’ And the verbal attack that proceeded is by far one of the most traumatic moments of my life.

I was called almost every unspeakable name in the book and had empty beer bottles lobbed at walls behind my head. And at the end he demanded I apologise. His eyes black with rage, I complied.

To make it all the more terrible, I was pregnant with our first child.

It’s been 18 months now, and I have just gotten used to the new person he is day to day. And we have since received a formal diagnosis. PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Seems simple and self-explanatory enough.

ADVERTISEMENT

My boyfriend experienced great stress and now he has a disorder as a result. But to live with it, it is so much more than that. I lay there at night paining as he writhes around in bed, knowing the nightmares that plague him are dark beyond my imagination, filled with mashups of repressed memories and gore his mind has created to torment him.

He is wrecked with anxiety, deep bouts of depression and an uncontrollable rage. Not caused by me but directed at me anyways.

That’s the thing about PTSD, things around you, that were never a threat before, become your worst enemy. It could be that his boss spoke down to him, or that he can’t find his keys, or that I borrowed his phone charger. Or even that I just speak when he is already overwhelmed. Or for no reason at all.

His reactions vary from icing me out for days, or spitting vicious comments, screaming at me until I stop talking or abandoning the house all together because he ‘can’t bare the sight of me.’

It’s far worse when he drinks, which thank God he is avoiding doing. For now. PTSD is also an invisible injury.

To the outside world my partner looks healthy and the same as he did before the accident. And for everyone else time moves on. The offers of help that were there after the accident have dried up, and it’s as if everyone has forgotten. His dearest do not know about the war zone our home has become, and he probably wouldn’t discuss it if they asked. As being vulnerable is what he fears most. So, I am his only vestige of support outside of his fortnightly psychologist appointments.

Leaving him was tempting during the worst of it. I would daydream of throwing my commitment to the wind, taking my daughter and forcing myself to stop caring about his accident and think of my own needs. Maybe being a single parent, without a volatile partner would be easier? Maybe I could one day find someone else who would be slow to anger and unafraid of intimacy? Maybe I could rediscover a fulfilling sex life?

But I didn’t leave him. He needed me. He didn’t choose this disorder. It was just as forced upon him as it was on me. I’ve had to learn and accept that this is his mind’s twisted way of working through the trauma and protecting itself. And I love him, the real him on the inside.

The man that resides somewhere behind the wall of mental illness that I see coming back more and more often. The man who smiles without having to fake it. The man who appreciates my opinions on the world. The man who enjoys talking about the future with me. The man who I can lean on too, when I need someone. The man who is so desperately sorry.

There are no upsides to your partner developing PTSD. I jokingly call it BBD, Bad Boyfriend Disorder to my psychologist. But there are lessons. Lessons of personal strength, unconditional love, and to never take anything for granted. Because it may all go away in a second, completely out of anyone’s control. And there is also the lesson that time does heal some wounds, even the ones we can’t see. And I still live in hope that we’ll be a stronger couple for it. One day.

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

00:00 / ???