Divorce and PTSD

I wrote before about the link between PTSD and divorce. After the response I received, I decided to take this topic to a wider audience via The Huffington Post.

When my husband left, I trembled for a year. That’s not just some figurative language used to convey emotion; I literally shook. For a year. My body quaked from the aftershocks of the sudden trauma, my legs constantly kicking and my hands quivering. Those weren’t my only symptoms, either. I had flashbacks and nightmares that took me back to the to the day where I received the text that ended my marriage. The 21-word incoming message read: “I am sorry to be such a coward leaving you this way but I am leaving you and leaving the state.” From then on, the sound of an incoming message would actually send me to the floor, where I braced myself for another digital attack. I felt numb and had trouble remembering aspects of my marriage or my husband. I avoided sights and sounds that were associated with my marriage, often driving well out of my way to steer clear of my old neighborhood. I couldn’t sleep; I was hyper alert, always scanning every room and ready to fight or flee at any moment. I could not eat and my weight fell to dangerous levels.

Visit The Huffington Post to read the rest of the piece.

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37 thoughts on “Divorce and PTSD

      1. One of my first posts was about divorce statistics in the U.S. military. In 2011, it was at the highest it has been since the initial invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Op Tempo has created a loss of family bonds and values. My marriage went to hell during my 4th deployment.

      2. I’ve read some about military divorces. I didn’t realize that the rate is increasing. Do you think it’s related to the type of training or the repeated or prolonged deployments or something else entirely?

      3. Definitely multiple deployments. You get the honeymoon stage when you first come home, and then the two personalities start clashing after a while. The soldier who was deployed tries to make changes to the home system that was in place. The partners clash, they lose intimacy, someone ends up cheating or walking away. I’ve seen it time and again. Hoped it would never happen to me, but it did.

      4. That makes sense about the honeymoon period. It would be like reliving that difficult transition from that fairytale time into “real” life time and time again compounded by the issues facing the returning soldier. It’s sad.

  1. I’ve commented before but I completely agree with this. And the trick you told me about, to layer your memories… I’ll be starting to do that soon. Great post.

  2. my second marriage was ended a couple of month after my second son passed away. today is my late son birthday. and i’m reading your blog now. i just want to tell you that, my ex-wife has found someone new. and here i am talking about her, and writing about my son’s birthday. i think you get the picture. keep the spirit, you. keep on hopipnt that someday you will be happy and enjoying what He gave to us.

  3. Interesting to hear about your physical tremors after the emotional impact. Me? I suddenly developed a subtle speech impediment, like my tongue was too big for my mouth. No one noticed as I talked but they would if I mentioned I had trouble talking. I know too well the pain you felt. I was there too.

  4. Hi StillLearning2B, I’m glad that you found my brand new blog today. Funny enough, as I was typing out titles to future blog entries and saving them, my story of domestic violence, my divorce, and how it has affected me today was one of my future topics. I too have all but been diagnosed with PTSD. I get the very real, very phsyical reactions – sweaty palms, dialated pupils, increased adreniline, flight instincts. While my depression was while I was in my marriage, and lifted after I was freed from it, and I’ve largely recovered, I still do have the occasional set-back when having a disagreement with a loved one. I’m interested in learning more about the EMDR to see if I can set myself free from these chains. You are absolutely beautiful, and I wish you the best in the next chapter in your life!

    1. It’s really interesting how many people experience PTSD symptoms after divorce and it’s sad how often they are discounted. It is certainly worthwhile finding a therapist who is familiar with PTSD and its treatments so that you can be freed from its effects. I wish you the best and hope that soon your triggers are a distant memory:)

  5. oh my god, I just found your blog via Huffpost tonight. It’s like a few seconds of unexpected balm for my shredded soul. Maybe I’ll even sleep deeply for a little bit tonight. Thank you. ❤

  6. Came here from your Top Ten list. My marriage fell apart in large part because he suffered from PTSD…combat of course. He is a Marine and saw horrific things and I can’t imagine what he went through. When he came back at one point is when he dramatically changed. I begged him to get help but he didn’t and now we are divorced. Now, I know I am dealing with stress from how it all fell apart but I wouldn’t say I have PTSD…especially see so many Marines with it from combat.

    1. And that’s part of what makes it controversial. I’ve heard from vets that have experienced both and say that it is similar, whereas others say it is nothing alike. Regardless, nobody’s experience is ever exactly like another’s, whether in combat, divorce or some other challenge. I think it is important to have a dialog about it and acknowledge that people respond in different ways. Thanks for sharing:)

  7. I have just left my husband who was recently diagnosed with PTSD after being in the Australian Army. He was very mentally abusive and ran our house like a military. I found just afterr leaving him I was losing my short term memory and it would gradually come back after a few hours. I believe I have picked up some PTSD and wonder if the memory loss is linked.

    1. Temporary memory loss is pretty common with trauma. The brain goes into survival mode and excess details are often shed. I found that mine started to come back after several months. Make sure you’re sleeping as well as that can also affect memory.

      Thinking of you…

  8. Thank the universe for you. I just wrote a blog post a few days ago about wishing that Post Traumatic Divorce Disorder was an actual DSM diagnosis. I saw you followed, and I found this article 🙂 It is such a comfort to know that although my ex husband married within six months of our divorce, it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong for feeling more tragically wounded. Everyone responds differently. I am already a highly sensitive person, so emotional reactions are much bolder in normal, every day life. Sometimes it can feel so exhausting carrying around this trauma. I was receiving EMDR for another traumatic event that happened a year and a half before the divorce. In the back of my mind was the thought “My emotional reactions to certain triggers are overreactions.” Now I truly understand it is a response to the trauma stimuli. Wonderful article. Helped me immensely.

  9. Every single feeling you described is what I’m going through at this very moment….my hands quiver, my feet just keep shaking, I can’t sleep and I’m on such high alert. Feeling consumed….

      1. I’m seeing a counselor, I started taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds, and I have a group of women surrounding me with calls and texts and visits. It’s a 27 year marriage ending with no words—just bitter rage and a new girlfriend. Damage to finances and ripping my name apart to my adult children and EVERYONE my stbx comes in contact with. I don’t know who he is….met and married at 19 yrs old—and I fear for my future.

      2. It sounds like you have a good support system. That’s important. I relate to the suddenness and the utter destruction. It’s incredibly traumatic and calls everything into question. I found that I needed to focus on the physical symptoms and effects in the beginning. It was easier and more direct than trying to work with panicking and shocked brain. Exercise, yoga and massage all helped to relax the body so that it wasn’t telling the brain that it was in danger. It’s a process. And you’ll make it through. Hugs, lady.

  10. This has basically just happened to my and my ex- fiance., an ex- combat veteran. After a seemingly perfect relationship with him lasting two years, he texted me it was over with a photo of our empty apartment. I was FLOORED. He moved to a new city and insists on communicating with me still, but it’s much to traumatic for me.

    1. Not stupid at all. A PTSD – like response can happen from any trauma. With betrayal, your physical safety may not be at risk but you’re faced with the fact that what your perception and reality didn’t align. That is certainly a blow to your sense of emotional safety and security.

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