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ratstar

Confusing breakup - ex has depression and just started trauma therapy

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Hi everyone, 

I have been struggling to understand this situation for a while now and I was just wondering if anyone had any insight. And I also just need to vent because this whole thing is honestly heartbreaking and confusing. 

My boyfriend broke up with me a month ago which was completely out of the blue for me. I had just moved to a new city to study and although we had both discussed that we were going to have difficulty with long distance when we discussed it he said he didn't want to break up because of it and that it would be difficult for him because he is big on physical affection and proximity but he still wanted to make it work. 6 days in he breaks up with me on a video call, which was going completely normally until he made a face, I asked him what was wrong, he didn't want to talk about it then but I pushed him to (my mistake) and then next thing I know he is sobbing his eyes out telling me that he's being having thoughts that 'he can't do this' and because he feels that that is dishonest to me 'that's why I'm doing this' (breaking up with me.) He said that he loves me, that I'm the most beautiful girl in the world and that he will never love anyone like he loves me and that he still wants to be friends and visit me. He said that at the moment he doesn't have the emotional space to be in a relationship, that he needs to learn to put himself first and love himself before he can love anyone else. I asked him why we couldn't continue the relationship but just change some things and have me support him and he said 'I don't want to- no I can't'. At a certain point this got too upsetting for me and I hung up and said bye to him. 

Then the next morning he messaged me and said he has been in CBT therapy for a month (which I knew) and that his trauma has been very much alive (which I didn't know.) He was sexually abused by his father and separated from his mother at a young age and later when he lived with his mum who has PTSD she had a stroke and he became a carer for her when he was a teenager and his family didn't help him at all. I think he has CPTSD (he isn't diagnosed but has every single symptom i.e. emotional flashbacks, anxiety, difficulty trusting etc.) He messaged me that he felt he needed to break up with me because we both needed to 'grow' and that he doesn't want to drag me down with him and that he is at the worst time of his life which has come after the best year of his life. When we spoke on the phone he told me that he is reliving old memories and new ones that he doesn't know how to deal with. He said he is having flashbacks and body memories and that he feels emotionally numb. He said that if we had sex he wouldn't 'feel anything.' When I asked him if he saw a future for us he said he didn't even see a future for himself. I think me pushing him made him even more determined in the breakup as he told me that he hadn't been sure before but now he was more sure and wanted us to 'go our separate ways.' He also has addiction issues (weed) that he only admitted to me then for the first time. 

The reason I am confused is because he seems to be acting erratically. His mum said that he has left all of his group chats with his friends and is calling them all losers that aren't doing anything in their lives (this isn't true) and has a particular problem with one of his friends (who in all the time I've known him has been very good to him.) The last few months of our relationship were difficult, but overall good in my perception. I also come from a traumatic background and I had about 5 major stressful events happen in my life and because of that I was extremely triggered and difficult to be around for a while. However, as much as we had our downs we had mostly ups, we had a lovely summer and did a lot of things together and had a lot of discussions about our relationship and by the time I'd left for uni I thought that we had resolved our issues and our relationship was stronger. 

For a week or two after the breakup I blamed myself and thought that I had put too much pressure on him with my own issues. Whilst I do think this had an impact, more and more I am unconvinced that this breakup was due to our relationship. Apparently he told his mum that one of the reasons he broke up with me was that I had asked him to change one of his song lyrics, which to me seems absurd. He seems to be coming out with so many reasons but none of them really make sense to me. In the weeks before we broke up he was constantly telling me that he loved me, our conversations were very normal and loving, even the days before and on the breakup he was telling me that he wanted to be with me, that he missed me  and planned to come and visit me. Even in the last week he was telling me that he can't wait to live with me and build our lives together. This is so confusing to me, why would he say these things and then suddenly break up with me?

I could be wrong and a part of me tells me that I am but I really feel that the CBT he has been doing has been the last nail in the coffin for him in terms of stress and he has essentially gone into survival mode. On the day he broke up with me he had to move house back into his grandparents house (which he has difficulty living in because he doesn't get on with his brother) and he hadn't packed anything, in addition he hasn't set up anything for his university course. I have been reading a lot about the PTSD 'stress cup' and I really feel that the impact of his trauma being dredged up  in therapy in addition to these things has put him in crisis. I can't over emphasise how intimate and loving our relationship was, we could talk about anything, enjoyed doing a lot of stuff together and I never once felt he wasn't in love with me. 

However, I know this is a common occurrence  - a mental health crisis happens and a partner disappears. I have a lot of hope for reconciliation but at the same time I know not to get my hopes up. The only thing I can really do is give him is space and time. However, I do worry about him a lot, what he is going through sounds awful and I wish I was closer by as I partially feel that if I was, this wouldn't have happened. I just hope he hasn't completely written us off because that would be a shame. At the same time, I know that if we ever got back together I would have to insist that he was sober and in therapy/ managing his mental health. I don't know at the end of the day, I am hoping that I am not being lied to even though I don't really think I am. 

I am hoping that once he finishes his CBT therapy his mind will settle a bit and we can have a talk when I return home for the holidays.

Edited by ratstar

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Hi @ratstar and welcome to the community. It is sad to read about the breakup. With everything going on, it must be difficult to lose this relationship and I sympathize. Since you asked for insight, here's mine. 

I hope you're looking after your mental health. One way you might do that is by recognizing (and challenging) narratives about this being your fault. We're all familiar with these stories, the hurt we self-imflict. The stories of blame seem to serve a purpose by offering the illusion that we have control over other people's feelings, decisions and problems. If only I'd done this, maybe he wouldn't have done that. 

On 10/14/2020 at 4:54 AM, ratstar said:

he didn't want to talk about it then but I pushed him to (my mistake)

I wonder if you really believe that he hadn't already made up his mind? Considering what you wrote about the face he made (non-verbal communication), unable to utter the words, he probably knew you'd pick up on this and investigate the cause. 

On 10/14/2020 at 4:54 AM, ratstar said:

I think me pushing him made him even more determined in the breakup

Perhaps eliciting a definitive answer from him about the status your relationship was necessary. Healthy too, if we take in account your emotional state as you start Uni. It's important to know where you stand in a romantic relationship, don't you think?

On 10/14/2020 at 4:54 AM, ratstar said:

I blamed myself and thought that I had put too much pressure on him with my own issues.

My experience as the one being left involved passing through a long Blame Tunnel: the Blunnel, a wretched dark passage that’s difficult to navigate. Are you seeing an end to it, or does a part of you want to hold on to the notion that you could've controlled the outcome had you been more ____ or less ____? 

On 10/14/2020 at 4:54 AM, ratstar said:

I wish I was closer by as I partially feel that if I was, this wouldn't have happened.

Does that narrative endure scrutiny? Perhaps if you don't leave for Uni? Perhaps a pattern develops. Rather than living life as you choose, you circle his life in an eroding orbit until you collide. 

On 10/14/2020 at 4:54 AM, ratstar said:

why would he say these things and then suddenly break up with me?

Because hurt people tend to hurt people. The childhood abuse he endured was awful and it still is. He is getting help (not everyone does) and his commitment to therapy is such a relief, don't you think?

The good times your shared were real and the trauma was always present, hidden from view, a large bump beneath the carpet. For survivors, the center can hold only until the environment changes. Then the background becomes the foreground again. The great news is he now has a chance to heal. 

Wishing you some relief; tears of sorrow and anguish--that can help. 

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On 11/1/2020 at 11:29 AM, Atra said:

Hi @Atra, thank you so much for your reply it has given me a lot of reassurance and clarity. Since I made the post I have slowly been feeling better and better - I have realised that I cannot change what happened and I could not have controlled his actions. 

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The stories of blame seem to serve a purpose by offering the illusion that we have control over other people's feelings, decisions and problems. If only I'd done this, maybe he wouldn't have done that. 

I guess I feel that I added to the pressure he was under with my own emotional issues which I don't think is untrue. However you and others who have told me this are right, I could not control his reaction to this. If he was unable to be in a relationship for whatever reason that is wholly his prerogative and whilst I might wish it wasn't the case, it was. I have realised that if we hadn't broken up then we would have broken up at a later date for the same reasons, his inability to communicate with me clearly about what he was feeling and his lack of capacity to be in the relationship. It is difficult when you wish someone was different to how they are, but I am trying to accept that this is him and he has made his choice.  

 

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wonder if you really believe that he hadn't already made up his mind? Considering what you wrote about the face he made (non-verbal communication), unable to utter the words, he probably knew you'd pick up on this and investigate the cause. 

To be honest I don't know - in hindsight for a month before he had been giving me strange hints and mixed messages, for example asking me if I wanted to be in an open relationship at Uni because he would miss being physically close to me (?) or saying that if we ever broke up we would still be friends. I don't think he really knows what he wants in general at the moment and his behaviour seems to align with that. The day after he broke up with me he told me he 'wasn't sure.' Again, I feel that he is or was in an extremely volatile and confusing place and it is best for me to not be involved at this point. 

Quote

Perhaps eliciting a definitive answer from him about the status your relationship was necessary. Healthy too, if we take in account your emotional state as you start Uni. It's important to know where you stand in a romantic relationship, don't you think?

I agree, at first I was sad about having pushed him away from me but I realised that he did that himself. It is a normal and healthy boundary to not be able to be friends immediately after a breakup and in retrospect I am proud that I reacted in that way, I recognised what would be emotionally painful for me and stuck to it. I think it shows how detached he was from the relationship at that point that he could ask me to be friends with him and if he could still visit me immediately after breaking up with me. I guess I felt that if I could have remained friends with him and supported him through this time in his life it would have showed him that I was worth sticking with or that he could trust me, but I feel that that would have been deceptive and needlessly painful for me. In addition, I don't want to be in a relationship that is so volatile and lacking in boundaries. 

Quote

My experience as the one being left involved passing through a long Blame Tunnel: the Blunnel, a wretched dark passage that’s difficult to navigate. Are you seeing an end to it, or does a part of you want to hold on to the notion that you could've controlled the outcome had you been more ____ or less ____? 

I am definitely seeing an end to this. 

Quote

Because hurt people tend to hurt people. The childhood abuse he endured was awful and it still is. He is getting help (not everyone does) and his commitment to therapy is such a relief, don't you think?

I am relieved that he is getting help although I am not sure how helpful CBT is for childhood trauma. However, it seems to have given him a sense of responsibility over his own life. His mum and some of our friends seem to thing he is 'self destructing' but that is only an outside perspective and either way I think he can only come out of this stronger. I am deeply sad that his healing came at the expense of our relationship, or rather that he felt the need to purge me from his life but that is something I have no control over in the end. I am accepting that I don't want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with me, for whatever reason. 

Quote

The good times your shared were real and the trauma was always present, hidden from view, a large bump beneath the carpet. For survivors, the center can hold only until the environment changes. Then the background becomes the foreground again. The great news is he now has a chance to heal. 

I agree. In some ways I find it hard to distinguish whether this happened due to his trauma/ therapy or whether it was the relationship. In the end I don't feel it is possible to really separate the two. I hope he is able to make himself happy and be well, even if that is without me (as hurtful as that idea is emotionally.)

 

 

Edited by ratstar

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When I was barely keeping my chin above depression's deep water, I made my world very small. Breaking off contact with friends, breaking up with my partner of 4 years (during a couples therapy session), stopped replying to texts or phone calls. Made my home into a bunker.

I'm proud of none of these behaviors and hated myself for hurting others. And yet, it felt like the only way to survive at the time because I could not live in a larger world filled with confusing demands of people. Sick me couldn't ask for what I needed. 

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On 11/4/2020 at 10:39 AM, Atra said:

When I was barely keeping my chin above depression's deep water, I made my world very small. Breaking off contact with friends, breaking up with my partner of 4 years (during a couples therapy session), stopped replying to texts or phone calls. Made my home into a bunker.

I'm proud of none of these behaviors and hated myself for hurting others. And yet, it felt like the only way to survive at the time because I could not live in a larger world filled with confusing demands of people. Sick me couldn't ask for what I needed. 

I do empathise with this particularly as I have also had experience with depression in the past and did a similar thing - cutting off contact with all but a necessary few, unable to engage with a support network. It has only been through living with depression for more than 10 years that I have learnt how to manage it and avoid being sucked too far down the deep hole that it can create. I was thinking actually about this time last year when I was processing a lot of trauma and how my ex would say that I was like a zombie, and how anything he did would set me off and how I spent many months questioning our relationship. It is remarkable how differently I feel and see that time now, when I am in a place of relative stability and in a healthier mental state. I cant presume to know how he is feeling but I am resolved to grant him the same empathy and understanding that he did with me at the time. 

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