The phrase “It’s not you, it’s me” has been haunting me the past few days. However, two words are changed in it that makes all the difference: “It’s not you, it’s my PTSD.” In fact, I wanted to name this post that, but it appears that I already had that idea.
Lately, I have been more jumpy than usual. A man who looks homeless walking down the street sends shivers up my spine. The words “kiss” and “smile” cause flashbacks with both images and physical sensations. Even sweet remarks about how I look can make me cringe.
Worst of all, my fear around men has intensified. Certain people remain safe, thankfully, such as my little brother and father. However, I have a strong desire to keep all guys (especially new ones) far away from me. What if they touch me? My thoughts often race into terrifying directions in a manner of a few seconds.
This all sounds silly, I know. However, dealing with it is not only draining but also discouraging. Why should I judge men that I do not even know? They do not deserve my rejection. After all, most people that I associate with kind-hearted and well-meaning. Still the fear that they have ill intent haunts me.
Thus, guilt usually accompanies my anxiety. I want to love everyone and be kind to them. Yet some men scare me for no logical reason. Other guys to not bring out that terror in me. What is the difference? Sometimes the distinction makes a bit of sense. A person who is loud and crude will obviously frighten me more than a quiet, gentle man. But other times, the PTSD triggers leave me confused and ashamed.
I am trying to practice self-compassion, but it is difficult. Sobbing because someone is outside my house, harboring fear for years after someone accidentally touched my stomach, not being able to think when someone stand too close – all of these reactions are overly dramatic for a normal person. Realizing that they are part of PTSD is hard not only on me but also my family and friends. My siblings still do not understand how terrifying certain people, situations, and words are. Their bewilderment and my parents’ exasperation only add to my self-degradation.
With PTSD, knowing when you are truly in danger is a daily struggle. Tonight, some men will be over for supper. That is already hard on my eating disorder. The fact that they might trigger PTSD and haunting memories leaves me all the more nervous. Yet I know that I am safe right now. My parents will sit by my side. I can always return to my room. Nothing bad will happen. I will be okay.
Sometimes, reminding myself that I am safe in this moment is all I can do.