My parents raised me to be loving and accepting of everyone. I have tried to live this out in my everyday life – even taken it to an unhealthy extreme. However there are certain people who I cringe to be around for no reason. Often, I go out of my way to avoid them or make up excuses to leave their presence.
Now, the desire to avoid annoying, negative, or unsafe people is normal. However, my aversion to certain people surges even for normal, kind, and friendly people. Not only does this fill me with fear, it also brings a large amount of guilt. Why do I shudder in front of loving woman? What is it that terrifies me about that man who simply smiled at me?
The truth is that there is usually nothing wrong with these people; they are just normal folks trying to go about their lives. But they trigger memories of past trauma inside of me. Thus, I have trouble separating them from difficult experiences in my life. Suddenly, the man who placed his hand on my shoulder is a predator. Someone walking toward my car in a crowded parking lot has plans to kidnap me. Even the wife of someone who frightens me becomes an accomplice to her husband’s deeds. Paranoid, I long to turn in invisible.
This fear does not only cause my thoughts to run wild; it effects my entire body. As my heart begins to race, I feel unable to breathe. Thus I begin to hyperventilate. Sweat glistening on my skin, I clench my fist until my fingernails leave imprints on the palms of my hands. My body’s reaction might seem extreme but to me, it seems logical. After all, I am terrified for my life and well-being.
For years, I hated myself for the fright I felt being around certain people. I labeled myself as judgmental, shallow, and unkind. Attempting to end the anxiety, I put myself into unsafe situations or hung out with people who mistreated me. However, the terror remained no matter how hard I fought against it.
Now, I am finally beginning to understand that I am dealing with PTSD. Because of this, I have paranoia around certain people. This terror usually has nothing to do with them. However, it is also not my fault. Just because they trigger my PSTD does not mean that I am judging them; it simply means that they remind me of demons from my past.
Thus, I am going to continue to work on facing and releasing my past trauma. As this healing process strengthens me, I hope to feel less terror around others. Yet I also am learning that my anxiety of certain people is not a wrongdoing on my part; it is part of the illness. Thus, as I grow less frightened, self-compassion builds up inside of me.