I need to vent. Just get this out… Because having PTSD sucks. Period. When something small happens, most people get annoyed, maybe say something to the person, or shrug it off. Because who wants to waste energy on things that don’t matter? But the same thing happens to someone like me and suddenly I feel violated. Everything feels gigantic and chaotic, like it’s the end all of end alls. I wish I could simply shrug it off, but I can’t.
The problem comes when I feel I’ve been clear with someone and they don’t respect my boundary. I get triggered. I jump to abuse, even when the boundary might not have been clear to begin with. It’s like I can see the whole picture in my head—the thing that happened, my response, the events leading up to it, and then how everyone involved could have handled things better. And I say everyone because usually what leads up to these instances is poor behavior, pride, misunderstandings, and so forth. There is a behavior or an action taken that I react to with a PTSD response. I’ll give an example here…
If someone walks up behind me and gives me a hug (without me seeing who it is), it generally triggers me. The person might be a stranger, which means it’s inappropriate without asking my permission first, or it might be my husband—who has hugged me for fifteen years now—and is just coming from a bad angle. He knows he can hug me, but his action will still cause me to panic and feel under attack. The difference between a stranger doing it and my husband, is huge, yet my response would be to turn around and deck them both. This response is a PTSD response because it comes from being violated from behind in my youth. It has nothing to do with either person hugging me, though in one instance it’s not appropriate and in the other it’d be fine. Either way, my response isn’t to turn around and let them know that’s not okay. My response is to deck them both.
It’s my response that bothers me. And no, this situation didn’t happen. But something did recently that caused me to respond in a way I didn’t like. Sure, others had actions that led me to my response, but my response isn’t healthy. It’s an auto response.
As if these reactions aren’t bad enough, then I try to guilt myself over them. I feel badly, like I’ve done some terrible thing for reacting. Even though it’s a reaction. I can’t own others’ behavior or their choices. I have to remember that their actions led to my response. While I am fully responsible for my response—PTSD or not—I’m not responsible for them or their actions. I have to constantly remind myself that I did not do the initial act. I am not responsible for their actions or the consequences of their actions.
But I’m triggered. I’m frustrated. With myself and with those that don’t respect boundaries. No matter how big or small that boundary is, it’s still a boundary. And when people cross mine, it still triggers me.
I’m working hard on my responses. I hate that I can’t just say to the person, “What you are doing isn’t okay. Please stop.” Instead, I react like I’m being violated in a sexual way, and I shut down. I talk about this because it happens to a lot of people that have been violated sexually. And if the action causing the PTSD response happens to be a sexual one… that’s a bigger mess. My recent experience wasn’t sexual in nature, which helps me in seeing that I’m responding based on another time, another situation.
Talking helps. Sharing with people I love and trust helps. They can let me know if I’m having a PTSD response. If it weren’t for the people I trust, I’d think everyone was out to get to me. I rely on my chosen family and partners to help me see clearly when I’m stuck in this cycle.
I want to be at a place where I can just address things in the moment. Where I don’t get triggered and eventually shut down. I know none of us are perfect. I do. I get that even without PTSD, people often respond based on past experiences rather than with clear understanding of the present situation. Not all, as some are that self-aware and healthy, but most respond with some sort of… pre-existing condition or expectation. But I don’t want to anymore. I want to simply be present and handle things in the moment, where they belong.
Fuck that’s tough…
I’ve had a lot of growth. I see it. Over this past weekend, I was able to share something about myself that I haven’t talked about much yet. I got wonderful feedback too. Information that helped me understand how my responses saved me. They kept me alive. I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed of my level of disassociation, and to have someone I admire and look up to tell me this saved me, had a huge and positive impact on me. This is now the second person I look up to that’s told me this. The more I hear it, the healthier I see these parts of me. Which is good. Because I don’t need to shame myself any further.
The more I also accept these things, the more I see that these responses no longer keep me safe. They are no longer vital to my survival. They need to be changed and worked on, lest I push people away. I also want to know that when I do choose to walk away from someone, that I’m doing it because they are a truly horrible person and that I’m not simply reacting.
This means work for me. It’d be so much easier—and lazy on my part—to simply push everything off on others and take no responsibility, but I won’t do that. No matter how busy I am or how much I have on my plate, I will always do this work as well. Healing work should never be set aside.
I am so lucky to have such amazing people in my life. My husband, D, m, my friends, they won’t tell me what I want to hear. They tell me the truth, which means I have more opportunity to work on these PTSD responses. I trust these people.
This also means that I must believe them when they tell me not to be hard on myself. To have self-compassion. That I’m not wrong for being upset or angry or hurt when people don’t respect a boundary, even if I’m responding in a manner I don’t like.
Despite what my past held, I have a great life now with wonderful people around me. I love what I do. I love sharing my journey. And I’m happy. Even when I’m triggered, I’m happy! It’s this crazy—no, completely sane—realization that I never thought would happen. So I end with this (because no matter how much PTSD sucks, or how much I wish my automatic responses would go away), I have something that pushes me and drives me and makes me feel good… happiness.
*image by Cecilia Johansson on freeimages.com*