When you support someone who has CPTSD, what do you call yourself? When you care about them and help them as best you can, what does that make you?
Defining myself in relationship to being a support person has not been easy. Many times I have not known what to call myself or how to express my experience to others. Since beginning this blog in 2016, I have changed descriptors several times. While I really wish there was one term, one word, one exact way I could state my experience, there really has not because my situation changes. There are fluctuations, ups and downs, times of stability and not.
Whatever language you use (and I provide some suggestions below), I believe it is important to have some terminology to discuss the experiences of those who support persons with CPTSD. Here’s why:
- First because having language can help you make sense of your experience.
- Second because language can help to articulate your experience and needs to those who support you.
- Third, language is necessary when communicating with professionals who may be involved in your loved one’s care or your own.
(I also understand the exhaustion of having to provide terms. If you know a loved one, please listen attentively to their words.)
You may also wonder whether the things you do are outside of normal support. For instance, maybe you have conducted a lot of research in order to find the best possible care for your loved one. Another example might be organization of household duties because your loved one struggles with organization and scheduling. In and of themselves these could be normal but they could also indicate a larger amount of involvement on your part than if your loved one did not have a mental health condition.
A recent study from the University of Zürich on the relatives of persons with CPTSD identified common tasks:
Relatives of those affected by a chronic mental illness such as CPTSD support them in several ways. For instance, in offering hope, providing encouragement, or developing opportunities. They also provide support, for example, monitoring medications, or offering help with administrative tasks or with domestic work.
Dr Manuel P Stadtmann
Another thing is – support is subjective. What or how one person offers or experiences support may be different than someone else. If this is helpful, here is how research categorizes social support:
|Instrumental Support||Emotional Support|
|Practical support like help with financial issues, transportation, household and administrative tasks.||Actions like encouragement, care and affirmation of value and self-worth|
What are possible terms to describe yourself?
Here are a few suggestions based on my posts and ideas from a few other sites. The purpose is not to determine whether or not the word is correct or best. Rather, it is to help you make sense of your experience and if helpful, to use these terms or others to articulate your experience.
- Supporting a family member with serious mental illness
- How people heal from trauma, thanks to helpers
- Loss of self, caregiving & being a partner to a person with CPTSD
- Being a caregiver for someone who is depressed
Family (of choice or by blood) and friends
- Fact sheet: family, friends, partners & loved ones
- When someone close to you struggles with their mental health…
Identification by your relationship status
- My partner has CPTSD – five quotes to help me make sense of it
- When your partner has a dissociative disorder
While it might seem like a cliche, I think it’s worth a reminder that you are and always will be more than how you describe yourself in relation to your loved one’s CPTSD. As I wrote in this older blog post You are more than your trauma:
Loved ones accomplish big and small things unrelated to trauma every week. Some coach sports teams, draw or paint, landscape beautiful outdoor spaces, knit and sew, hike, cook, teach a class, or design websites. Sometimes these skills bring in additional income, which is amazing. But most don’t. People are doing them because they love to. Their lives are richer and fuller.
Ultimately, you get to decide how to describe yourself when you support someone with CPTSD. While the terms may change over time or no longer be necessary, having choice can help you articulate your experience to yourself and to others when needed.