My heart began racing as he walked down the hall. Soon, the pounding noise filled my head as blood rushed through my tensed limbs. Although I hung my head low to avoid being seen, my eyes were trained on his every move as he knelt to tie his shoe right in front of the kitchen door. I was stuck with nowhere to run and hide. He was waiting, right in the way of my escape.
Sound frightening? This was just a normal guy who probably had no idea that I was in the same hall as him. However, all of my being was clamoring to bolt and find safety. PTSD can cause strong reactions like this where one goes into flight or fight mode even though the need might not be real.
What is real, however, is the depth of the terror and trauma the person with PTSD is experiencing. Many people fail to understand this. Some might even misinterpret it and grow frustrated. For example, what if that man knew my fears? Would he be sympathetic and try to give me space? Or would he, like others I have met, take offense?
Triggering the PTSD is someone else would be difficult to understand and accept. Who would want to know that they strike terror in another human or bring back awful memories? This response is not necessarily their fault. Some people might say or do a similarly harmful deed. Others, however, might have a similar but benign trait or another such connection that brings out the anxiety in someone with PTSD. Should they be blamed from this characteristic that harms no one?
I carry guilt regarding who triggers my PTSD. Why should this young man make me want to hide while I wish another one would show more interest in me? How do I hug a new acquaintance but shy away from someone I have known for years? What reason has this man given me to fear him?
Recently, I have become even more aware of how my triggers can hurt not only myself but those involved. In the past, this might have made me stay quiet. After all, my agony can be dealt with by stuffing it inside by using unhealthy coping skills.
However, I have grown and moved further in life. Pretending to be fine while dying inside is not the way I want to live. Thus, I made the decision to speak up for myself instead of holding back when the fear tormented me. Was I in huge danger? Probably not, but that does not mean I must live in terror. Dealing with my PTSD can be done in counseling and by myself. That does not mean I should stay silent when someone makes me feel vulnerable or unsafe.
Speaking up for yourself when in danger or frightened is not weak. Doing this can be a great sign of wisdom and strength. Be careful not to blame anyone for your PTSD or the traumatic events in the first place unless they are truly to blame. Instead, focus on your own emotions and the lack of security. Honesty about what might have triggered the fear is important. Did someone make an inappropriate remark, or are you picking up on a trait that reminds you of the past? State what bothered you without condemning the other person.
There is nothing wrong with wanting safety and asking for help when it is broken. All people should be just but also secure. I am trying to give myself the grace to put up boundaries, ask for help, and state what is frightening me without accusing others of being the full problem. That is no crime.