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Why 'Tough Love' Doesn’t Work for Me as a Trauma Survivor


Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) and I’ve lived through many kinds of trauma my whole life. When you grow up with trauma from abuse, it shapes you into an entirely different person, an extremely sensitive one, because you had to be sensitive to your surroundings. You had to be sensitive to every sound, to changes in voice or body language, to anything that might tell you to run or hide so you don’t become subject to someone’s changing emotions. Your room was your safe place where you listened to the screams, but once you left that room you were vulnerable and the anxiety and fear that come with that debilitate you.

And sadly, it’s always been this way. There have been periods of my life when there wasn’t abuse, but it seemed nowhere was ever safe because I always ended up in this place: hurt, vulnerable and alone. And because of what I’ve been through, my emotions are extreme. I feel everything like third-degree burns, or someone’s piercing my heart with a knife. The pain is extreme, my thoughts are extreme, and sometimes it gets too hard to cope with that, especially when the flashbacks or nightmares happen. I can never escape the hell I’ve been through. And when I’m in these situations, the worst thing is tough love.

Yelling at me, putting me down, telling me to get over it and let it go, that I’m stronger than this, that I’m better than this, all while being frustrated or angry at the fact I’m upset in the first place. And yet, all of that just sends me deeper into my fear, anxiety and insecurities. They make the situation worse in every possible way because you’re triggering exactly what caused this in the first place. I need you to understand that if you want to help me.

What I really need is actual love, kindness and empathy. You want to help me through my spells, and help me get through the darkness that tries to consume me whole?

Just sit with me. You don’t need to talk, but if you do, only say it’s OK to be feeling what I am feeling. You may not understand it, and I don’t think you ever can, but that doesn’t mean you’re helpless. Give me a hug, if I’ll let you. Sometimes I won’t want to be touched. But just sit with me. Sit with me in the dark until I can see the light again. I promise you I will; I just need a little support because doing all this alone can get too overwhelming.

Photo by Casper Nichols on Unsplash