I believe serious illness can also result in a PTSD-like responses in both the ill person and the partner. Memories or flashbacks of particularly difficult, frightening, or painful moments can intrude. Both partners can be overly vigilant about the slightest symptoms and fearful of a relapse, even if the illness is in remission or the chronic symptoms are well managed.
What can a couple do to manage these PTSD-like symptoms?
- Talk about it with each other. Tell each other that you are worried and watchful. Talking about it won't cause a relapse to happen. If anything, it can reduce stress.
- Remind each other that -"That was then, and this is now." Use this phrase almost like a mantra to repeatedly remind each other that the past is past and there is no need to respond in the current situation as if the past were about to resurrect.
- Get some sleep. Tiredness puts us more on edge.
- Distract each other. When one partner starts to become fearful or worried, turn on the TV, read a book aloud to each other, go for a walk, talk about the kids or the neighbors, even pick a fight about something petty.
- Speak to a therapist. If you need extra help, get it. There is no need to suffer if help is available.