PTSD, Safety and Trust

PTSD tells me to trust no one, I’m slowly learning that not everyone wants to hurt me.

Last week, lying in a hammock in the middle of the Šumava national park, drinking fresh tea from blueberry leaves we’d just collected, and listening to a reading of ‘The Lorax’. I felt safe, something I haven’t felt in well over two years. It came as a complete shock, in the middle of an orientation week for an outdoor education company.

It’s hard to feel safe, when both your body and mind are constantly telling you that you aren’t. Most of the time, my brain is on high alert, constantly scanning everyone and everything for potentially dangerous situations. I struggle to relax, and only when I’m climbing is there any sense of relaxation. But even when I climb, I’m mindful, but there’s no feeling of safety. I may be in control of the danger, but it’s still danger and the adrenaline still races through my veins, which is why the moment came as a complete surprise.

Home is somewhere I should feel safe, but I don’t. ‘He’ knows where I live, which uni I went to, he’s been in my house, in my kitchen, my living room, my bathroom, and my bedroom. He’s been in basically every room in my house why is why I really struggle with being at home and have been looking forward to going back to summer camp since the day I left, I don’t have to be at home for 7 whole weeks. Most people who struggle with PTSD experience ‘triggers’, smells, sounds, sights or even feelings that bring back intense physical or emotional reactions to the trauma, for me home is one of these and it’s pretty hard to avoid, as I still live there.

I think for me, feeling safe comes with trusting people, and I struggle to trust the people that are closest to me. I find it easier to trust people I haven’t known very long. For example, last week in the Czech Republic I found myself opening up about my mental health and talking about things like panic attacks with two amazing people, (Georgie and Teal, you’re awesome!), who I’d only known a week. Maybe because they are so far removed from where I live, who I know, my life more generally and especially what happened ‘that night’ and ‘him’.  Also, these two people were just filled with positive energy, I felt like I could connect to them.

Similarly, I found it super easy to speak to my friends at summer camp (Zoé and Marta, you guys are amazing), and still do on the phone as opposed to talking to my family when shit gets hard. Most people at home are connected to him in some way, everyone knows someone who knows someone else etc.

All the friends I went to college with, and even some from uni either know or have mutual friends with ‘him’. Most of them still have him on Facebook. All but maybe two have no idea what happened, so they have no reason to not have him on social media and I wouldn’t tell them, but I see him on their friends list and it panics me, as for all they know, he one of the good guys.

My family also all know and trusted him. Trust is a weird thing, in some cases It is there almost immediately (shout out to my summer camp friends, and you guys at 3E!). in some cases, it can take months or even years to build, however it can always be lost instantaneously.

Feeling peaceful, or safe has been somewhat of a dream for over two years, even though it was only for ten minutes or so, it gave me hope that these moments, however brief they may be, are possible. Now I’ve returned home, the feelings of safety have left and reality has hit me again, but tomorrow I embark on EMDR therapy (a post on that coming soon!), which hopefully will help me start to heal.

 

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