Monday, 4 June 2018

PTSD: Have I Lost a Part of Myself?

There are a lot of things that have changed in recent years, and the aftermath of being assaulted and carrying around the consequences of that event have been on my shoulders for a long time now. Although things haven't really worsened, they haven't really improved either, despite the fact that around three months ago marked four years of, well, dealing with it.

I touched briefly on hyper-arousal and spending my life looking over my shoulder out of fear in my PTSD post, and I noted my wariness when it comes to having to deal with the opposite sex. Obviously, there are exceptions to this - I trust my two best friends, family members, and another close friend of mine who is male. But other than this, I am not open to confronting or having exchanges with men, in particular on a night out, but pretty much in any situation. I hate when they stand too close, I hate when they try and push me into conversation, I hate when they stop me when I'm trying to just get to my destination in peace whether I'm walking or using public transport. I've even had colleagues try and push me into drinks even when I've said I'm busy, and it's unpleasant and uncomfortable, to say the least. It's not nice for any regular girl, never mind one traumatised by past events.

I've never been one for physical contact. There are few people I hug, and those I do, I've generally known for most of my life. This hasn't changed, or if anything, it's gotten worse. Pats on the back or claps on the shoulders or anything of the sort from male colleagues has me ducking away in discomfort.

On the other hand, I've always been somewhat confrontational, but I've found that this has lessened in the last few years, out of fear of what could happen. Living with PTSD has shaped me a lot, and I find it weird that in situations in which I once wouldn't have thought twice about telling someone to fuck off, I now find myself gritting my teeth, standing rigid - sort of paralysed by fear, I suppose -, edging away when I think it's safe to. I find myself overwhelmed in bars on a night out, trying to stay as far away from the males in the place as much as possible - be it fifty year olds or guys my own age -, and find comfort only when friends notice and pull me to the side and away from anyone else that isn't familiar. I find myself on edge when loud drunk men are up the town, and when they're in a cocktail bar banging on the table 'in time' to the music whilst rat-arsed and shouting the wrong lyrics. I notice now that I cross to the other side of the road when I'm walking alone at night even if it's just a single man that's approaching from the other direction, and I have become so aware of the way I flinch away from anything loud, angry and aggressive - even when it's in my own house.

At the same time, I notice my standoffish grow worse, especially when I'm confronted with new people, and my aggression has somehow risen in recent years. Not to those around me, but to those I don't know. There is this part of me that shies away from any and all confrontation with the opposite sex, but there's this other part of me where I become like a defensive dog - hackles raised whilst I growl at whoever I deem a threat. I bite my words out, I'm unfriendly. I don't want to chat, I don't want to just smile, I don't want you to know where my favourite place to drink is. For all I know I'll bump into you the next time I'm there, and that's not OK. More often than not, now, I will backchat them all I like in my head, but in person I'll try and ignore them as much as possible, and/or walk away.

If I'm honest, this new-found nature of mine to simply walk away is taking some getting used to. People around me don't always understand that I can't just let my sharp tongue go off on one anymore. I can't use my words to bite back. Even people who've known me my whole life don't understand this shift in attitudes, and I wish that I could have it back. I don't want to be fearful and looking over my shoulder, but also I wonder that if I didn't, if I somehow managed to revert back to my reckless, biting nature, would that be more stupid than brave? Would I be putting myself at risk of danger by being 'fearless' in confrontations? The more I watch and research of true crime, the more I think that this could be the case.

But, in having lost my scrappy tendencies, I find myself feeling lost, even if it has been a long time since I 'lost' my bite, my edge. I am no longer the person I once was, and I'm changing all the time. Sometimes, for the good. Mostly, for the better. But when it comes to my fieriness, this thing that make me 'me', I wonder what it means to be on the verge of altogether losing my confrontational streak. Am I losing a part of myself? Did I allow one of my biggest traits to be smashed up in the wave of confusion and fear I felt after the attack?  It wasn't just my pride and my body that were bruised - a part of me, what I know of me, an inherent trait of mine, was damaged too.

I'm not sure why this change has affected me so much. I suppose from a young age I've been a bit bolshy, and I've always been able to stand up for myself. It's something that I feel people can credit me for - in the main, I've never really taken shit from anybody. (Except, you know, boys who trample all over me, but that's a whole other story). I've always had people admire this thing about me, and so I've always held it up as something I'm proud of. Without it, I feel exposed and odd. Out of place. Uncertain. Incredibly lost. I feel without it I've reverted into some child-like state where I rely on my family and my friends to look out for me, and I find myself on the edge of tears when I'm left alone somewhere unfamiliar and/or with people that are unfamiliar. Whilst I'm supposed to be getting older, I'm depending on the people around me to do right by me and to look out for me like I'm a kid again more and more, which in turn kind of interrupts my need to be independent and do things by myself, for myself.

Honestly, there's no real point to this post or an answer to my questions, I just really had to get this out as it's something that's been on my mind for a while, and because I want to share my mental health and, in some parts, treat this blog as a bit of a diary, it's the perfect place to share my thoughts. As I think I mentioned in my other PTSD post, I feel like it's not talked about as much as other mental illnesses, and I want to shed some light on it. If you got through all  this, thanks for reading, I appreciate it. <3

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