Letting go is hard. When my mom was a young teenager, her family left Cuba in disgrace. In 1966, the Revolution was over, Fidel Castro was in power, and many of the changes that would prove him a ruthless dictator were already taking place. My grandparents were both teachers–intellectuals were reviled in communist Cuba because they were considered among the most outspoken against the new regime. Before she left, my mom saw signs posted around the campus where her father taught, declaring him a traitor. The government seized their house, and they were only able to bring two suitcases among the five of them. I’ve never seen a picture of my mom as baby for this reason. On the airplane, she had to surrender her Cuban passport for refugee admissions to the United States. To this day, she has never again set foot in Cuba.
My husband and I both have PTSD. Though it may sound strange, sharing PTSD is part of the reason we bonded so quickly after we met (we married a week after our one year anniversary). Although we developed posttraumatic stress disorder as the result of different–but not wholly dissimilar–traumas, we have some of the same symptoms, and are able to understand the daily burden of pain we each experience. Love is not only based on positivity and tenderness; being understood is powerfully attractive as well.
In my experience, living with a partner who also has PTSD has both its benefits and its pitfalls. This checks out with the experiences of other couples I’ve interviewed and read about. I’m not a psychological expert, but following is a list of the benefits and disadvantages I’ve gathered about being involved with someone who also has PTSD
I stared at the ceiling as wakefulness poisoned my body. That’s really what it felt like: poison. My limbs felt as though they had anchors tied to them. Rising from the bed was an Olympic feat. By the time I was fully awake, my joints ached, my heart panged with relentless, unnameable sorrow, and my mind was bloated with anxiety and self-loathing.
That was how I started my day every day for years when I lived with untreated depression. I’m not alone. The World Health Organization estimates that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression each year. Over half of those people are women.
I write a lot about my post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, but not as much about my depression–at least not directly. But depression is a serious matter, even without other conditions compounding it. Even before I was traumatized, before I touched any drugs, depression controlled my life in many ways. Depression is probably why I became involved with an abusive man. Depression probably led me to start taking drugs. Without depression, I probably wouldn’t have the other problems I have. Despite that, It took me years to recognize my depression, and even longer to do anything about it.