So I wouldn’t burn to ash

Trauma is weird, yo.

I have come along a really long way in my recovery, I’ll be the first to admit. The thing is though that my PTSD usually manifests itself at times most people don’t get to see. At times where each of us is at most vulnerable and what most would consider, I’d believe, pleasant.

One example, attraction. If I have come across as extremely constipated in your company, leaving the room at regular intervals, having strange outbursts and going from zero to three hundred in a quick succession, there’s a good chance I fancy you.

In my case, attraction is instantaneous. There’s no ‘let’s get to know each other a bit more at first’ bollocks. It’s either there minute one, second one, or it won’t be there at all. Boom. I’m doomed.

I’d describe it as an awareness. I am extremely aware that this person is in the same room. There might not be any eye contact, no conversation whatsoever, but I’m acutely aware that this person is there and it turns the entire building into a high-pressure chamber. I can’t breathe, all I can hear is my own heartbeat. I have to get out.

It could be because my ©PTSD stems from sexual abuse perpetrated by a partner, but my brain seems to struggle with the concept of pleasure. Even its potential is too much to handle. The fact that someone makes me feel a certain way, and what it might entail, is too much.

I hate to be the one telling you this but if I seem very comfortable in your presence, I’m just not that into you. That seems to be the way I roll. I wish I didn’t.

One of the most shameful things about sexual abuse is that not all of it feels physically bad. What’s happening to you is the worst possible thing a human being can do to another, but your body still reacts to stimulation because that’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s that awareness that something feels awful and good, good and awful, which merges together until you disappear through the ceiling and out of the room so you don’t need to deal with any of it that fucks you up in the head. Maybe I’m fucked up for good. At least when someone punches you in the face it’s quite a straightforward situation to wrap your head around. With this type of stuff, nothing is simple and that’s what gets to you at the end.

This is one of the most sensitive topics of discussion when talking about sexual abuse and it’s not easy topic for me to speak about either. To say I have felt shame because of it would be an understatement. Still, it’s an important, and at the end surprisingly straightforward thing to discuss.

Did my body react naturally in some of the situations? Yes, it did.

Does that mean I wanted it to happen? No, it doesn’t.

Did the person who put me into that situation do wrong? Yes, he did.

That’s all there is to it, really.

Of course, it’s never that simple. It’s the resulting tsunami of shame and questioning that follows that simple physical reaction that really fucks you up, and let’s face it, allows an abuser to keep doing what they’re doing.

It’s also an important thing to discuss when I’m trying to discover why my brain turns into a Windows loading screen in situations which most people, it seems, would like to be in. Situations which, I think we can all agree, can be universally described as not dangerous. That are supposed to be pleasant, even pleasurable, and that is at the core of our humanity.

I can go between bursting into flames and turning into stone within seconds in situations involving romantic feelings, lust or attraction and I genuinely think there is a physical reason behind this, linked into my brain functions, caused by everything I described above happening to me hundreds of times in a space of a long time.

I have lied in a person’s arms like a frozen corpse, unable to tell them what is going on and our distance, even though minimal, has in reality been the size of a universe.

In those situations, I haven’t even been attracted to that person. I don’t think I could’ve even been able to go that far physically if I had been. It would’ve been just too much.

It’s quite funny that attraction and relationships are described via fire imagery, such as flames because I genuinely feel like I’m burning when near the lucky sod who is the subject of my fancies.

I can’t look at you in the eye because you have the power to turn me into ash.

I’m not an easy person to be with. I’m not even saying that this is through any fault of my own, but I just recognise that I’m not. Not everyone can handle it either. Nobody wants to raise their hand and say ‘this person’s sexual trauma is too much for me, I kinda don’t want to deal with that’, because it doesn’t make you look like a very nice person. This still shows you have at least some resemblance of a backbone and I still appreciate that a million times more than you telling me that me freaking out over intimacy is all right and then just ghosting me.

I don’t need anyone telling me that I’ll meet a person one day who will want to deal with it because they want to be with me. I’m sure that’s the case too. Ironically as someone who is educated in using words, this is one part of my life which I can’t make better by writing about it. It’s out of my control. An imposing presence that arrives as it pleases and stays for as long as it likes. I have worked so damn hard in my recovery and the fact that this still happens just as unexpectedly and intensely as ever feels incredibly unfair.

Still, I don’t need anyone’s pity. The reason I talk about this is because feeling good is so mixed with feeling awful in my brain that I don’t know will I ever be like others in that regard and that in itself makes me feel very lonely.

I used to waitress at weddings and they always made me acutely uncomfortable. Regardless of the occasion itself, they always felt very fake and setup to me. I’m genuinely sorry on behalf of anyone trying to be romantic with me, because I’m pretty sure I’d sit through it out of politeness while feeling incredibly uncomfortable whilst also burning with shame and sorrow because I know that at the back of my head, I wasn’t always like this.

For some seconds, I can forget. I can have the sun. I can feel the glow of another person’s attraction without it burning me or my emotions turning themselves off. I can feel that genuine human connection underneath the manipulation and horror that fucked up my brain chemistry.

It’s short-lived, though. I will start feeling panicky sooner rather than later. However, it’s the presence of that fragile flicker of untarnished humanity that keeps me going.

I still have hope.

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