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Relationship PTSD

Jessie MaComment

What It Feels Like To Be A Victim of Love

With every new encounter comes a new set of memories- some good, some bad, some forgotten, some ruthlessly haunting. They say “Time heals all wounds,” but I don’t really picture a grandfather clock performing open-heart surgery on me with its pointed fingers. “Time" doesn’t actively do anything. It’s what you doduring that time that can heal or perpetuate the pain.

So, in the time that comes after a traumatic experience, what should you do? How do you ensure that you are using it to heal? I’m no expert psychologist, but I know that diving into a situation full of triggering stimuli is not healthy.

In romantic relationships, particularly messy, hurtful, or downright abusive ones, you (needless to say) end up with a fresh set of open wounds. And no matter how much you or Father Time nurse them, you will have noticeable scars after ‘recovering’.

And naturally, you will be averse to jumping into another relationship that brings with it similar, or even related, reminders. People “rebound" (not that I condone this,) in search for the opposite feelings- if they were insecure before, they want to feel affirmed. If there was too much pressure, they renounce commitment. If their self-esteem was damaged, they seek friends, family, and partners who make them feel like a valuable living creature. And so on. Very simple. We do this, perhaps, not directly or consciously.. but my larger point is that we try our best to stay as far away as possible from that which had hurt us in the past. We do notrun into the arms of people who are holding the same weapons whose blades and bullets match the stitches on our hearts.

In this way, I feel as if all of my experiences are somehow still with me. I don’t carry them on my body in such a literal or morbid way, but somewhere deep down inside of me is this desperation, this begging whisper, this plea, "Please don’t put me through that again. Please don’t reopen these wounds. Please…"

If this was all TL;DR, here is a visual representation of what I feel.


Figure 1. Hypothetical shit you can go through in a relationship, things to heal from, things to avoid. “Triggers.”


Figure 2. What the right person can do to aforementioned triggers. Mute them. Calm them. Make them fade. Push them to the furthest back corner of your worries. You may not be able to forget them, you may never grow not to fear them, but someone can help deem them irrelevant within that particular relationship with them.


Figure 3. What has instead happened, to me. All of my past experiences have been once again made real, have snowballed and avalanched and stormed its way into creating this monstrous, terrorizing wall, a wall that’s been built by all these triggers made no longer triggers, but provoked realities.

When someone reintroduces this hurt into your life, reminds you of everything you never again wanted to feel… When all you want to do is love, but your heart is now guarded by this “wall” you/they’ve put up. What do you do? As someone who’s always worn her heart on her sleeve, it’s shameful and humiliating to admit that fear is what is keeping me from doing the one thing that I’ve always been good at: loving someone. But, like a PTSD victim, I’ve seen too much. I’ve felt enough pain. I know how ugly and destructive it can be- and at a time when I’m finally starting to trust and believe in myself, I really can’t afford that kind of backpedaling.

To be fair, this wall wouldn’t be here if those building blocks didn’t exist in the first place. I guess you can blame everyone that has ever once hurt me, for laying down the foundation for this fortress. But I wanted them to be assuaged, wanted them to disappear. The right person would’ve helped gently push them away. But my hurt had been placed in clumsy hands.

And now, (and in no way am I reducing a serious mental/emotional disorder to my love life; it is simply what I felt could be an appropriate analogy), my post-trauma self is dealing with the same Re-Experiencing, Avoidance, and Hyper-Srousal symptoms that follow. I have horrific dreams and unwelcome deja-vus. I deprive myself of the potential of loving and being loved because of my crippling fear. I Am. Always. Anxious.

The “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. And this new person may, indeed, be harmful. But, they can also very well be well-intending. You will never know unless you give them a chance.

But how do you even begin to open that door when you are so aware of all of the horror it can bring? How do you hold out your hand while you are still remembering, running your fingers over your scar tissue?

How do you let someone
help you break down a wall,
when all of its bricks
have been laid by them?

Really, I want to know,

How do I let myself love again?