CF and Partner PTSD
Last updated: April 2023
Being a partner to someone who has cystic fibrosis (CF) can be hard. It can be exhausting, scary, and confusing. As someone with CF who has a partner, my husband, I've learned that the partner of a CF patient can develop mental health struggles. These struggles can range from depression and anxiety to quality of life.
I've heard the topic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) talked about more over the past number of years. Another topic that has begun to be talked about is about the healthy partner experiencing PTSD from their partner's traumatic event.
Anyone can have PTSD. My husband experienced this firsthand during my medical trauma event.
My husband’s experience with medical trauma is not the same as mine. But we both developed PTSD from terrifying events we experienced during some of sickest days with CF. As I was getting tests and treatments, he was watching me and supporting me during those hard times. We both had to process a lot of uncertainty and traumatic moments. And these shared events that my husband saw caused him to develop PTSD.
Supporting while struggling
Being part of a support system while struggling with your own PTSD can be difficult. Partners of CF patients have a front row seat to all the things their loved one is going through. They see what happens when everyone leaves the room, and the reality of the prognosis sets in. The partner of a CFer doesn’t experience what is going on, but they do witness what is going on.
When I talked to my husband about his experiences, he often said he was more worried about me than he was about himself. His main concern was making sure I was okay. Additionally, he said that he sometimes felt guilty. He felt guilty because he was watching me suffer and couldn’t make it go away.
Seeking mental health support
It might feel selfish to seek mental health support when you have a partner who is having a hard time with their chronic illness. But seeking mental health support, or therapy, for yourself may help you be a better person and partner. Another way to seek support as a partner of someone with CF is to reach out to someone in the CF community.
During one of my admissions to the hospital, my husband reached out to one of my friend’s husbands. This friend had CF and was in the hospital at the same time as me. Our husbands texted each other and met up for a coffee. They were able to support each other and have a deeper understanding of what was going on. The perspective each husband had was unique and shared.
Being a partner to someone who lives with CF can be hard. And it can be traumatizing. Seeing your partner have traumatic events because of CF can be scary. Accepting that you might be having a hard time coping with what you are seeing isn’t a sign of weakness. And seeking support isn’t selfish.
Loving someone with CF is an honor and a privilege that not many people experience. And being able to be your healthiest self is part of that experience. Remember that it is okay to take care of yourself. It is okay to look for a therapist of your own who can help you process the unique experience you have as a CF partner. And remember that your partner wants you to be healthy, just like you want them to be healthy.
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