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If My PTSD Could Speak, This Is What It Would Say to You

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering.

You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

If I had any choice on the matter, I would never choose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be a disorder that has become my constant companion. It’s a disorder that can make you feel utterly alone in a room full of people who love you. A condition that convinces my worth is only unworthy and my love never enough.

• What is PTSD?

It’s difficult to explain what it’s like to be in my brain when an attack occurs, but if my PTSD could speak, this is what it would say in those moments:

I can’t breathe. There is never enough oxygen in this world to stop this suffocating feeling hitting me with full-force right now.

That stranger makes me nervous. I should watch out for them and give myself space. They feel like they’re breathing down my neck even if they’re literally feet away from me in this checkout lane. Are they looking at me oddly? Are they a threat? I should be careful anyway.

Run! Get out! Fast! Now!

I feel like I’m dying.

I’m numb. I shouldn’t be numb. Why am I numb?

“I love you, Lydia.” How? Why?

“I want to stay.” Yeah… But for how long?

Did I say something wrong? Please tell me. Don’t tell me, I’m not sure I can handle your answer.

Am I a good girlfriend?

I’m a bad sister.

I’m a terrible friend, aren’t I?

I’m likely the worst daughter in the world.

Loud sound. Racing heartbeat, sudden adrenaline rush to fight and flee. Where the fuck is an exit?!

That loud discussion is really arguing downstairs. I’m tense now.

Are you upset with me? Are you going to hit me? Do I need to duck?

I’m hysterical, bawling my eyes out while curled up in bed because I misunderstood my partner.

I ruin everything.

I’m a burden.

Who would want this mess that I am?

Scanning crowds for any potential threats. Fidgety. Nervous right under the surface of my calm exterior.

I’m enjoying myself and then PTSD reminds me I should be vigilant. Never put your guard down.

Hypervigilance is my friend. Be alert. You have to.

Only I can truly protect myself.

Being vulnerable is scaring me right now.

Please don’t break my trust.

Please mean what you say.

Please don’t mean what you said.

Please don’t hurt me.

Don’t touch me.

Hold me.

No, I can’t handle your hands even reaching for me.

Give me space. Can’t a girl get some freaking space?!

Too much noise.

Too many voices going on right now in this room.

The light is blinding and overwhelming.

I hate that smell… It reminds me… No, don’t go there, don’t open that can of worms… Too late.

I can’t read that expression; is that person mad at me?

He mentioned “commitment” and I don’t know if I can be “stuck.” I’m so scared.

I’m always scared.

My boyfriend hasn’t responded to the last meme I sent: He’s falling out of love me, isn’t he?

I’ll never be a “normal” girlfriend. You should probably find someone else.

For once, be the exception.

Don’t leave me alone.

Stay. Please just… stay.

I wish I wasn’t like this. I wish… I wish I was “normal.”

PTSD sucks.

What I would ask on behalf of my PTSD is to try and be patient with me. This diagnosis may sometimes try your patience, hurt you or cause a strain on our relationship, but it’s not a reflection of my love for you. When I become avoidant or shut down and struggle to communicate, know it’s not as much about my choice to do so but out of self-preservation. Try to remember that I have both remained silent and spoken up in the past only to experience the same outcome and that was the trauma that gave me this disorder in the first place. My brain is just trying to survive and protect my body and heart all over again.

And know, know I understand that you are not remotely like the hurtful individuals that wounded my heart and soul and brain. If I could give you anything in this world, it would be a girl to stick by your side without this disorder. I often feel not fully whole and I so much want to give my all.

PTSD may trigger my flight to leave, but your love, like a magnet, draws me to you and that’s why I ran into your arms. It’s why I am so determined to fight to stay there, battling the inner war PTSD wages against me every single day. I often internalize and rarely share that struggle with anyone. I’m not sure I’d know how to, anyway.

PTSD may complicate things — I may even feel like a life complication to you at times — but if my PTSD could say only one thing to you for sticking with me, it would say thank you. Thank you for being patient, for seeing me, for validating me, for loving me. Thank you for being safe.

Photo by Katie Drazdauskaite on Unsplash

Originally published: February 11, 2021
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