Season 1, Episode 12
C-PTSD and Moving On – Be Here. Be Now. One Day at a Time
January 21, 2021
It is looking more and more like I will be on my own for quite a while. This week I continue to process what is going on in my life. I share my final email to my wife in hopes she will be able to read it with an open heart and mind.
We have our 3rd and hopefully final meeting with Migración, Costa Rica´s equivalent to Immigration in the US. We have been working on this since before we moved to Costa Rica in December 2015. It has been a long, strange trip. There is no reason to believe that this meeting will result in my permanent residency and if I so desire, the next step would be to apply for citizenship. I can have dual citizenship here in Costa Rica. That may not be a bad idea. Until then, I am still a Gringo and if he government wanted to boot me, they could.
I also talk about Moving On. No, not the political organization, but moving my life beyond the boundaries of my marriage with the knowledge that we are not likely to reunify. That is not the worst thing that could happen. I believe we will make much better friends than we were as lovers. It could turn out to be an incredibly positive thing for both of us.
Here are some websites that I hope will enhance your understanding of the material I talked about today. Thanks for coming by. Thanks for listening.
There is an article on Bustle.com Jay Polish lays out the dynamics in relationships when C-PTSD is part of the picture. You can read it in the link below.
If you are thinking about moving to Costa Rica and become a resident, this is where you begin.
There are a lot of people here who are living full time here, but do not apply for residency. They are perfectly happy with the perpetual tourist method. That means, every 90 days they need to leave the country and return. This is not as hard as it may seem and, in most cases, can be done in as little as an afternoon where you drive to the Costa Rican border with Nicaragua, walk across the border, get your passport stamped and walk back into Costa Rica. It is a bit intimidating as the Nicaragua has armed military personnel everywhere and it can be intimidating. Costa Rica is not in a hurry to discourage these people from living this way. Many of them own property and employ Ticos. It’s a case of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
Here is a nice article from Barton Goldsmith Ph.D. He gives you some sound advice if you are thinking about staying friends with your ex or your soon-to-be ex. Turns out it is not a good idea for a lot of people and if you have C-PTSD then be very, very careful. Prioritize yourself. Take your time.
Season 1, Episode 12
C-PTSD and Moving On - Be Here. Be Now. One Day at a Time.
Hello and welcome to Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. I’m your host Ray Erickson. Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it. I’m really happy you are hanging out with me on this journey.
Last week I talked about sending an email to my wife with the hope of setting a limit and hopefully, begin a dialogue about what each of us need in this relationship. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to wait long. I received her response on Monday.
As I began reading, she talked about some fears and my hopes went up, but when I hit the third paragraph, I must have pushed a button. Her words were agitated and defensive. How dare I talk about respect? I told her I felt disrespected when there was no response. In her anger, she focused on my shortcomings. Everything she said about me was true. There would be no point in arguing with her about that. Her focus was entirely on me and if I was normal, then everything would be alright. But I’m not normal. Neither is she, but the big difference between us is I know I am fucked up.
It was clear to her that I was the source of the marital discord. Why don’t I just let go of my family? Why don’t I just forget the past? Why don’t I control my anger (triggers)? I realized, she really doesn’t understand C-PTSD. To her, C-PTSD isn’t real, and she doesn’t understand why I am having such difficulty. This of course, made me sad, not mad, but sad. Sad that the woman I have loved for over 12 years is unable to understand that trauma impacts people. Life knocks us around and at times we are wounded. Sometimes we are wounded deeply and our entire way of being is changed.
All week long, I was afraid to go back to her responses and it wasn’t until Friday morning when I read it again. I was not mistaken, and I felt sick to my stomach as I read her words and I realized that she is not aware that she has been acting out her own trauma her entire life by being super strong, super competent, super busy and super unemotional. She calls it equanimity. She does not let herself feel vulnerability in any way and there is probably little I can do to change that. She has always viewed emotionality as weak and undignified. I know this is true of her and she is not likely to tear down those protective walls. The ball is now firmly in my court.
All I can do is speak from my heart and hope I am heard. There is no good that will come from confronting her fears, fears she refuses to acknowledge. The best route for me is to let go and accept the probability that our marriage won’t survive this challenge. That would not be the worst thing to happen. And, in keeping with my optimistic tendencies I am hopeful we will be better being friends than we were as spouses. That would be a win-win for me. I want to be able to hear from her without my heart jumping into my throat. I need to regain my autonomy and my sense of well-being. It’s a good trade. She gets her independence and I get my sanity. Not bad, if you ask me. Here’s my reply to her responses.
The other day, I revisited your responses to my big email and as I write this, I am feeling a lot of anxiety. I know it’s irrational and an emotional response bigger than what the situation calls for. However, this, my love, is what happens when people have PTSD or in my case, Complex PTSD. Anxiety explodes onto the scene and there is little that can be done to prevent it. Your responses to my email suggest you do not believe C-PTSD is real. It is real, very real, in a bio-psycho-social way. I am simply asking you to learn about it. If you want our marriage to recover you are going to need a strong understanding of this very real phenomenon.
Mi amor, I am not trying to change who you are. I am asking you to learn what every person who loves someone with PTSD needs to know. I have been asking you for years. Am I trying to change you by asking you to learn about C-PTSD? No. I’m asking for understanding, compassion, and support.
You can put your faith into Neville, That’s OK. You can have Neville and you can practice his techniques and you can learn about and understand C-PTSD. You can become a better listener and practice Neville. There is no conflict here. The problem lies in refusing to take C-PTSD seriously.
You have built a giant fortress around your heart, my love. It has kept you safe, but in your efforts to be safe you have become rigid and inflexible. You are hard when I need you to be soft. You run away when I need you to be near. You shut down when I need you to be open. The fortress has kept you safe, but it has also imprisoned you.
In your world there is always a battle to be fought and a war to be won. You, my love, are a warrior. You are Ertuğrul, the Ottoman king. You have made yourself powerful at the expense of knowing love. You have been hurt so deeply that you dare not even think about it. I understand these deep wounds. You may not acknowledge them, but they are there, and they are impacting your life.
When you recoil from your fears and retreat into your fortress of strength it is a “Trauma Response”. It is your version of my triggers. I cling, you run. Same thing, different responses. The resolution to this dilemma is to do the opposite of what we have done in the past. We need to override our amygdales and not let the hippocampus rule our lives. Like it or not we were both wounded as children and we are doing the best we can, every day. Some days are better than others.
I see strength in vulnerability, and you see weakness. How do we bridge this divide? What are we going to do?
Well, there you have it. I am still trying to turn things around. I just don’t bang my head on the wall once, no, I bang my head on the wall over and over and over again. I am predicting a hard response, but I will be delighted if her response is soft, open and sincere. But I expect it will follow along the same path as her first response and she will be a little ticked off. We will see.
Meanwhile I need to move on. I need to move forward. Whatever the hell that means? Moving on. Is that where the cowboy mounts his trusty steed and rides off into the sunset? Most humans have a great deal of difficulty with moving on from intimate relationships. But when it comes to things, I move on quickly mostly because every time I have moved, I lost stuff, and there have been dozens of moves in my life. Seems like I have lost nearly everything I have ever had. It just disappears. I could have sworn I saw it as I packed, but somehow, it’s gone when I arrive at my new destination. So, things are things, and I don’t get too attached to things. And when I do lose something, I have learned that the best way of finding it, is to replace it? Yep, as soon as I replace it, it shows up. If anyone can explain this phenomenon, please do. For me, it goes into the same category as missing socks, only the socks never show up.
So, what does moving on look like for me? I don’t really know, but I do know, it starts with reconnecting with me. This is where I am at right now. I have been giving little pieces of myself away for years and I feel fortunate to have enough of me left to be comfortable in solitude. I don’t call it being alone. I am never really alone. That voice in my head is chattering all the time. Only in our minds do we create isolation and there is a big difference between isolation and solitude.
Isolation implies deprivation, separation, and disconnection. Isolation is painful and lonely. Nobody chooses isolation because it is extraordinarily painful. It is emptiness with depression and anxiety filling in the gaps.
Solitude, on the other hand, implies choice, connection with self and wholeness. Solitude is an exercise in self-reflection, healing, and growth. Solitude is a choice; it is a desire to reconnect with ourselves and reconnect ourselves with the world. Solitude is peace with joy and enthusiasm filling in the gaps.
I’ve been craving solitude for a long time. There was little alone time for both of us since we moved to Costa Rica. We have been together almost continuously since December 2015, 24/7/365 for 5 years. There has been a day or two here and there, but for the most part, it has been her and I against the world. As the conflicts and triggers increased in frequency and intensity it wore me down. I became deeply depressed. I’m sure this shit wore her down as well, but she would never admit it. We both needed time to ourselves. We both needed change and I don’t think it would have happened had I not insisted on it.
I feel terrible that she is not able to enjoy the fruits of her labor. This is lovely little house in a remarkably beautiful and peaceful part of the world. We would have destroyed all of that and the satisfaction this little casita brings to us. The drama between us would have continued until we completely broke. At least I hope we are not completely broken, but we might be. I am hoping that separation is preventing us from destroying what we have left in our[RE1] relationship. I continue to emphasize the importance and the value of communication. That is the best thing I can do for us right now. But, at the moment, my emphasis is on me. I need to step back and reassess what I need from me and what I want from relationships.
I’m a social worker. I want people to feel good about themselves and to love the life they are living. I encourage people to hang onto the good stuff and get rid of the bad stuff. We don’t need the bad stuff. Deal with it as soon as you can and get back to the good stuff, whatever that is for you. Fuck the bad stuff.
Deal with it means deal with it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t pretend it doesn’t bother you, Bad stuff bothers everybody. Bad stuff is hard to deal with and it may take a long time to get it dealt with. Don’t give up on yourself. And if you feel isolated it may be very tempting to give up. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? If yes, then change your mind. Turn the isolation you created into the solitude you need for healing. You have the right to the good stuff. But you need to actively go for it.
So, what is the good stuff? What’s the good stuff for you? Here’s what I consider to be good stuff for me.
Good stuff for me is not really about stuff. The older I get, the less stuff I need. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but I don’t need much. I don’t get overly attached to things. If my car door gets a little dent in a parking lot, I don’t sweat that. Dents happen. My list of the good stuff has more experiences on it than possessions. Don’t get me wrong, I do like stuff, I like toys, but I don’t need a roomful of toys to be happy.
The goodest of the good stuff for me is intimacy. I am not referring to sex even though sexual intimacy is wonderful. I am referring to emotional, mental, and tactile intimacy. For me sexual intimacy isn’t even intimacy unless the other three are present. If all four of these intimacies are present in your primary love relationships, then there is something good going on. If you don’t have all four happening in your marriage or with your significant other, then don’t expect much sexual intimacy. Oh, there may be sex, but it won’t be very intimate.
So, I am moving on. Been here before, but there is a real qualitative difference this time. The difference is it was my decision. I am grateful my wife knew I needed solitude and graciously moved in with her son. Do I want her back? I don’t know. Getting back now would be a really bad decision for both of us. I need to be taking me into account and for me, I can’t do it. I have no idea if and when we will reunify. This moving on thing, really, has just begun.
My decision to be on my own incorporates each of those times when being on my own was NOT my choice and my world crumbled under the weight of my grief. These were horrible times. Times when I became suicidally depressed. Times when I felt my heart being ripped out of my chest and thrown away. My love was unworthy which meant, I was unworthy. This is what happens to people with C-PTSD. Life beats the shit out of us until we are spent, our value is less than nothing. It’s a real bitch and I would bet, some of you have been there in your lives and there are some of you who are there at this very moment.
How the hell does one move on? Anybody have a pill for that? Is there a tapping solution for despair? Can we pray ourselves back into health? What is the best way to move on from broken dreams and lost love? One day at a time is going to be my approach. I am enjoying the process of my podcast and I plan to be doing it for a while. That should keep me busy until I can recover those parts of myself that I so generously invested in love.
Nobody knows nothing right now. It’s going to take time. But what will happen is our appointment with Migración on Wednesday. That means I am recording this week’s episode on Tuesday with what turns out to be a rather good hook, “Will Episode 13 be my first episode of Out of My Mind in Costa Rica as a permanent resident of Costa Rica?” Let’s hope so.
That will be good news for next week. I will also give you a little audio tour of Migración, a little snippet of what it’s like to emigrate to another country. I’ll also let you know how my follow-up email was received if there is a response. Right now, I am hoping my wife and I can make it through this overnight visit without incident. I’m playing it safe and I don’t plan to poke around in any area that could be sensitive. In fact, I will probably hold off on sending the email I just read until after the meeting on Wednesday and my residency has been determined. Meanwhile, I will simply be a good host.
That said, I’m going to cut this one a little short today, because I need to prepare for my wife’s arrival on Tuesday morning. Wish me luck. No don’t wish me luck. I don’t believe in luck. But I do believe in good fortune. Wish me good fortune and I will do my best to bring it about.
Thanks for listening and please, if you can, make a comment or review Out of My Mind in Costa Rica. Send me an email at [email protected]. I love to hear from my listeners. Have a great week and until next time.
Be Courageous. Be Strong. Be Kind. I’ll catch you later. Bye.