The next Instalment from our mystery blogger:
cave troll (Photo credit: matthewb)
This is the fourth post in the series The Other Side of the Glass, where I explain in detail what it feels like to live with PTSD. I’m writing this series to give Beth, and anyone else that has a loved one with PTSD, an understanding of what it is like to live without emotions or to be emotionally numb. Each person suffering from PTSD has their own trauma, their own symptoms, and their own circumstances, but I’m just trying to give you a glimpse of what it is like to live with this horrible disorder.
What does it feel like? is the first in the series. If you have not already read that post, it would be best to start at the beginning.
In our first three posts we examined what if physically feels like to lose your emotions, how that alters your daily life, and how damaging it is to your relationships.
So what does a person with PTSD do next? For a man, we go to our caves.
As I mentioned in one of the other posts, men do not like to talk about our problems. We like to go to a nice quiet place and think and come up with solutions. We want to fix what is broken.
Personally, I could see my world was crumbling down around me. My relationship with my ex was obviously destroyed, and I could no longer relate to friends and family around me. Due to the abuse, I was too humiliated and embarrassed to speak about it with anyone. For the two or three people that I did reveal what was happening, I started to avoid them as I could see the pity in their eyes. I quickly grew tired of the, “How are you?” questions. I just wanted to be normal again and since I couldn’t figure out how to be normal, I became more and more secluded.
Even in a group I would isolate myself. I would stand off to the side and not get involved with the conversations that were going on around me. I didn’t want to reveal too much about what was happening behind closed doors. I didn’t want to explain how I missed Monday Night Football because I was being punched in the face by a woman.
There was also a certain level of envy that would creep in. I didn’t want to see all the other couples that were in love. I didn’t want to see all the laughter and happiness. I didn’t want to pretend to laugh, force myself to smile, or feign joy.
Along the way, I discovered that my PTSD had triggers. “Triggers” were certain situations that would cause me to become more “blank” or they would cause The Void to increase within me.
For example, I made the mistake of going to a romantic comedy at one point. As I watched the characters on screen fall in love, I could feel my insides become more and more vacant. Watching them kiss made The Void take over to such an extreme that it physically hurt. To explain what it felt like, I can only liken it to extreme grief. My soul was empty and in pain. I realized I could not watch another love story until I was stronger. The trigger was just too painful.
Stressful situations were also a trigger for me. Beth’s husband may have other triggers, but I would assume a stressful situation would be common among all PTSD sufferers.
Beth may already know that blank stare when her husband shuts down completely. Hopefully she can take notice of what caused it and help him to avoid those triggers.
Because I didn’t want to feel worse, I withdrew into my cave more and more. Because my options of entertainment were limited, I was drawn more and more to gaming and porn.
Xbox 360 buttons (Photo credit: Alfred Hermida)
The ex complained to the therapist about my gaming. The therapist simply explained that I was playing so I didn’t have to think or feel. That made complete sense to me. When I played, I could get lost in my fake world and I didn’t have to think so much. I just acted on what was happening on the screen.
I started to play more and more. I played before work, during work, and after work. I was pleased when I could out-think the other players and I could beat them. It was also a great way to get get out some of my frustrations. My online cave was comfortable to me. I was a good player and others respected me.
There was one other thing in my cave. Masturbation, because it was a physiological level, felt good, so I kept it in my cave.
Let’s face it, men masturbate. It’s what we do. I’ve read that 91% of men masturbate, and the other 9% are pathological liars. We think nothing of it. Depending on our sex drive, we’ll rub our penises wherever and whenever we are inclined. Great sex doesn’t prevent masturbation, it just makes us masturbate more as we think about the great sex we are having!
Masturbation became part of my daily routine. I did it so that for those 15-30 seconds, I could feel GOOD. It was the only time I felt something good. It was the only time I felt ANYTHING. It was the only time I felt pleasure. Of course, it wasn’t emotional, but at the time I didn’t care. I only felt something that was pleasurable and enjoyable and that was a good thing.
The porn watching was just a means to an end. Quite often the porn was boring or gross or was so ridiculous that I hardly found it stimulating. I was just looking for something that would help me achieve the pleasurable part. It was like a needle for a heroin addict. I didn’t care about the needle (porn), I only wanted the high (orgasm).
I read Beth’s posts on her husbands porn watching and masturbation. On the one hand, I have to commend him for being honest with her. For years, I lied and hid all of my porn and masturbation. I denied it up and down when I was questioned about it. I learned to work “the system” and I knew when I could and couldn’t masturbate. I became increasingly adept at hiding the porn. In the end, no one ever found out about it. Ever.
On the other hand, I feel bad for her husband. She is trying to make him stop the one thing that feels good to him. She puts up blocks and barriers and chastises him as a mother would do to her child. She asks him who and what he thinks about when he masturbates! I cannot imagine how emasculating and embarrassing that would be.
Beth, let the man have his time alone in his cave. Let him have his thoughts. Let him have his fifteen seconds. I swear to you that there is no emotional connection to it. He just wants to feel SOMETHING.
I’m sorry that he is broken and he craves those those fifteen seconds of bliss out of the other 86,385 seconds of the day. I’m sorry some of your friends have great breasts or a nice butt, because it is just a means to an end and it means nothing to him. I’m sorry that he looks at porn because it really does nothing to his soul. It is only something for his eyes to focus on so he doesn’t have to think. I’m sorry that it hurts your feelings to know that he wants to do those things alone, and in private.
Maybe you can’t. Maybe there is a reason for your hatred of porn. Maybe your feelings about it are completely justified, I don’t know. All I can tell you is that if you continue to make this a big issue, he will continue to do it, but he will start to hide. Porn is everywhere. If he wants it bad enough, there are a million and one places to find it between your home and the office.
He is a good man. He is just broken. He is in his cave.
But my message is one of hope. I’m here to tell you that he won’t be in his cave forever. I was able to crack the glass case and escape. I will discuss that in my next post and hopefully you can take what I’ve learned and help your husband escape as well.
*****A note from Beth: I know many of you are going to ask about the porn and my opinions of it, I know most will more than likely agree that I should cut him some slack with regards to masturbation and porn and while I would agree- in a situation which wasn’t so messed up as mine- I do not agree in this case but I do apreciate the opinions and I do understand it. Let me first direct you to this post about our porn in our past (here), this one about progress after the revelations (here) and finally my outright opinion of porn in general (here). Now I will share what I replied to our mystery blogger when he emailed me and gave me the heads up that I probably wouldn’t like what I was about to read:
‘I’ve read it and I don’t mind – it’s another opinion And therefore I
welcome it – and thank you again for doing this. It will be posted as
What I will say though is… No lol I’m sorry but I am not
going to encourage him to take the easy way out. I would enjoy sex alot
more with someone whom actually enjoyed it with me, I would prefer a
relationship which wasn’t so one sided but I don’t opt for those, I
stick it out and sacrifice a lot of my own happiness for him – for US
and this is the one thing that not only pushes us further away sexually
but also encourages lying and secrecy. I put up with that for the past
year and I am not going to do it again.
I encourage him to pleasure himself WITH me – the way a loving, committed marriage should be in my eyes and so far that seems to be itching that scratch. He gets to do it himself, I get to be part of that, he gets his release and I get another
day of not worrying about the lies. Does that make any sense? Again, I
get it, I understand it more from his (your) point of view but from our
history it’s crossed the line into borderline addiction and it’s
destroying us… I’m just not prepared to let that happen.’