I have been fiercely independent for as long as I can remember. To the point of shunning chivalry and sometimes hurting myself because I was too stubborn to let anyone lighten my load, figuratively or literally.
Over the years I've learned to accept help a little more and even sometimes request it. I've learned that I'm not enough to take on the world all by myself. This used to scare me. Now that I've grown a bit and found some people I can trust, it is a bit of a relief. Because now I understand that I'm not meant to take the world on alone.
But one area I didn't seem to learn this was in my marriage. Oh, I did become interdependent with my husband. Especially financially when my health no longer allowed me to work outside the home. But there was still this I-could-get-by-without-you-I-don't-really-need-you thing left over from all those years of my independence and our struggles.
For so many years I have been his strength, his buffer. We both knew that if our marriage ended, as it looked like it would more than once, I would struggle financially but be okay otherwise; he would be a basket case and be lost without me.
But recently that's changed. We tend to pull together in crisis (thank heavens). So his job loss, while incredibly stressful in other ways, has been good for our relationship. We've become closer.
That's not the part that surprised me. The thing that surprised me is what happened during my last PTSD episode (which still isn't completely over, by the way, but is improving).
This last PTSD episode has included so much fear (it always does). It's tough for me to leave the house. It's hard to be around people. I'm claustrophobic. I don't want anyone to touch me or talk to me too much. I try not to visibly cringe when others come near me, but I definitely cringe inside. The nerves in my skin feel like they are all hyper-stimulated at once. My skin hurts. And the thought of someone touching me scares me like when someone comes up to slap your back when you have a bad sunburn.
None of that is new. I get that way every time my PTSD is triggered.
The interesting part is this. My husband has become my buffer. He gets between me and what scares me. Quite often. He'll take the conversation for me. He'll sit between me and others. He'll field phone calls and visits at the door when I just can't face them. I feel safer when he's with me. He's become my protector in a very real way.
For many of you, this may sound like a condition you've always had with your spouse. Why am I making a big deal of it? Because it's not something I've ever had with my husband. It's not something I've ever allowed. It's not something he's ever seen me need. Being protective isn't his natural response when I'm in trouble. He's seen me fight my own demons too many times to think I need him.
But this time I've needed him. And he's come through for me. As horrible as this episode has been, and continues to be, it's been worth it. Because it's allowed a new type of intimacy between me and my husband. I am so grateful for that.