Ask Amy’s life has been too easy.

Dear Amy: Your response to “Suspicious” seemed fairly responsible and complete, but she said she had PTSD after a cheating incident 20 years ago.

I assure you, adultery does not bring on post-traumatic stress disorder!

— Upset

Upset: “Suspicious” said she believed she “had a form of PTSD” after this cheating episode. PTSD is extremely serious, but the term seems to have entered the lexicon as a shorthand to describe extreme distress. I didn’t take her wording literally. (c) Ask Amy

I originally blogged about “Suspicious” here. To recap, the letter writer seemed traumatized by her husband’s adultery when she was nineteen. Ask Amy gave some unduly harsh advice, calling her accusations against her husband “baseless”. And then Ask Amy diagnosed her with a condition (obsessive rumination disorder) that, as Ashley Leia pointed out to me, doesn’t exist. (I thought it sounded unfamiliar! It made me picture cows chewing their cud and mooing. Maybe Ask Amy regularly communes with cows?)

So now we have a letter writer who believes that the original letter writer doesn’t have PTSD. That’s belittling. Reading the original letter, she’s obviously messed up in the head by what happened. (The only other possibility is that her husband has been gaslighting her for years.) Regardless of whether the letter writer would be diagnosed with PTSD or something else entirely, saying, “adultery wouldn’t cause PTSD,” is demeaning.

There’s a fine line, because someone can, in theory, pretend to be traumatized by something that wasn’t traumatic. I’d call that fake trauma. You’re trying to get sympathy, and you can’t come up with anything that’s legitimately traumatic, so you give a sob story about something ridiculously minor.

But I can tell by reading the original letter that the letter writer is very much affected and hurt by what her husband did when she was nineteen. Her symptoms go way beyond faking it or playing the victim.

And now, Ask Amy’s doubling down on her already bad advice by saying, “Well, I don’t think she really has PTSD, but I humored her casual use of the term.” That’s nice, Ask Amy. Real nice. I’m telling you, I can tell bullshit from truth, and the original letter writer is totally messed up in the head over what happened.

PTSD is extremely serious, but the term seems to have entered the lexicon as a shorthand to describe extreme distress.

So, what the letter writer’s been experiencing for twenty years isn’t extremely serious? Hello? She can’t shake her obsessive thoughts that her husband is being unfaithful. FOR TWENTY YEARS. How much more do we need her to suffer?

PTSD isn’t all about battlefield disasters; and similarly, mental illness isn’t all about being tied up in a straightjacket while drooling and muttering incoherently. How many people out there buy into that sort of thing? Mental illness (broadly speaking, but also encompassing PTSD) can appear in the form of an everyday person. Typically, when I leave the house, I leave my straightjacket at home and I clean all the spittle off my chin. But that could just be me. [Eyeroll.]

I didn’t take her wording literally.

That’s obvious, because Ask Amy was very patronizing to the letter writer.

As for whether adultery could cause PTSD or not, I’d recommend this one book or movie (I’ve read the book but haven’t seen the movie): The Silver Linings Playbook. I think that makes my case that adultery can cause PTSD.

It’s possible that the letter writer doesn’t have PTSD. From the sounds of it, what happened when she was nineteen sent her into a tailspin. I’ve been there, where something happened that was really mind-altering, and not in a good way. I wouldn’t call it PTSD (in my case) because I don’t have flashbacks of these incidents, nor do the incidents haunt me. But just because it’s not PTSD doesn’t mean we need to mock someone for still being upset by something. Is that our attitude? “It’s not PTSD, so get over it.”

It’s a tough issue, because like I said, there’s a fine line between playing the victim versus actually wanting to get over something. In the letter writer’s case, I can tell she wants to get over it by reading her letter.

I remember a while back Sonya helped me finally, at long last, get over Nate (aka Mr. Wrong). At one point in the very emotional process, she asked if I really wanted to get over him, and I was like, “YES! Oh my gosh, yes, I really want to!!”

There you go. She must’ve feared I was just enjoying the drama for drama’s sake, but whenever I need more drama in my life, all I really have to do is visit my mother. No, I was hellbent on getting over Nate, but I was really hurting and didn’t know how to do it. But all’s well that ends well, and God bless Sonya. She got me there!! I’m so over him now, even to the point of regretting having treated him so terribly. [Shaking my head.] (Poor guy never stood a chance.)

Getting back to the letter writer. If twenty years have gone by (as in the letter writer’s case) and the event is still causing issues in her personal life (which it is), then I don’t care whether or not she has PTSD. She needs help one way or the other, and that’s the important thing. What Ask Amy did by telling her off was unhelpful, uncompassionate, and sort of cringey for me to read. I’m not sure what’s wrong with Ask Amy, but she has some bad attitudes about different issues.

6 thoughts on “Ask Amy’s life has been too easy.

  1. It’s weird that some random letter writer and Ask Amy are getting into it over whether or not another letter writer has a diagnosis of PTSD that was never actually diagnosed. Whether or not the original letter writer has a diagnosis of PTSD is between her and whatever mental health professional happens to be assessing her. Regardless, she had lasting effects from that major stressor, and there’s no need to just write her off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, and I just thought her original advice was so hurtful. It’s like, someone reaches out and asks how they can help themselves and their marriage, and they get scolded for having issues. Ugh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally agree with Ashley Leia! I think it was downright stupid of Ask Amy to even answer that letter writer. What was that exchange supposed to achieve? I just hope the original letter writer didn’t stumble upon this or else I don’t want to imagine how upset she must have been to have two random peeps discussing her case like that. Whether she has trauma, PTSD, some other traumagenic condition or none at all, or even no trauma, in this situation it doesn’t really matter and is no one’s flaming business. It also doesn’t make much sense to me to discuss it even with the best intentions whether she has it or not because traumatic experience is so subjective and also there’s no way of telling whether she is traumatised or not just by reading her single letter, not even if one is a great mind reader. And where in PTSD diagnostic criteria is it specified that it can’t be caused by adultery? I’m sure adultery must be quite a rare cause of PTSD but how do we know it can’t cause it? We don’t know the whole picture and perhaps there is just some one little piece in it that makes it all much more traumatising, or perhaps there is something else she’s dealing with deep down that was more traumatising and she just thinks it’s all because of adultery. Or maybe her parents had something similar going on which affected her in some way indirectly but very strongly and negatively. Maybe she had some tendency for trust issues from the get go and then her trust was abused by many people so that they got worse and then also by her husband and that was just too much and did traumatise her a lot. Or maybe she had a similar thing going on in some previous relationship. The possibilities are endless here so we just can’t say anything. Oh yeah, I do hate people deciding on behalf on others what can or cannot be traumatising for them and to what degree!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, there’s a lot going on with this!! In the book I referenced, this guy has all these weird mental health issues, and at the very end of the book, we find out that he walked in on his wife/fiance (don’t recall) in bed with another man, and it messed him up in the head A LOT. And it was credible, and that’s how I’m convinced that affairs could indeed cause PTSD. I mean, sure, of course, you coud get cheated on and NOT get PTSD, but even that shouldn’t be belittled. I’d probably be crushed (at least) if it happened to me, and in Ask Amy’s original advice, she asked, “Why aren’t you over this already? Other people get over it.” I have to agree with you that Ask Amy shouldn’t have fielded this question, because she didn’t accomplish anything at all other than making that person feel really hurt, which was… sort of mean. And I’d assume that anyone who says they’re traumatized is indeed traumatized; but for me, it’s been a learning lesson to realize that a lot of people fake it for sympathy, which I learned decades after repeatedly giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. I wish I never had to accuse anyone of that, but… I think it’s a real thing. Definitely not for this letter writer though, because I can tell she’s deeply upset. You raise excellent points about how the adultery could be traumatizing for the letter writer. I was thinking along those lines as well with the original letter, that she was nineteen and life was moving too fast, what with her five kids that came along, and she was never able to cope or process it properly. God bless her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, I know people fake trauma and I know such too. But it’s much easier to tell when you know a person for longer like you did these people, and I think the benefit of the doubt is a good thing here, until you get some real evidence of that it’s highly likely that they fake (I guess you can never tell with 100% certainty unless you’re a mental health professional or live with this person on a daily basis). Oh yeah, I don’t know such things for sure if it really works like I think it does but logically you’d think that if your life is moving so fast, with a lot of even relatively minor adversities/difficult events (like childbirth for example) along the way and no time for the brain to process any of them it would all get overwhelming enough at some point that just the amount of all that unprocessed stuff could largely contribute to trauma.

        Liked by 1 person

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