Ring, Ring. It's PTSD
I’m a happy lady. I have friends, a job, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to the time I was involved with my ex-husband (aka Dick).
My day to day life is mostly free of triggers and symptoms. In fact, as I passed my five year anniversary of leaving Dick, I wondered if I might even be cured of the disorder aspect of post traumatic stress. Then I realized I had put off replacement of my cell phone for far too long. I knew I delayed mainly because I experience a lot of PTSD symptoms when shopping for a phone.
Why would buying a phone set off my PTSD?
My negative experiences surrounding phones vary. In the last two years with my violent ex-husband, I was not allowed to have a phone as a part of his control tactics. Before that, he had smashed more than a couple of my phones when I tried to call for help during assaults, but I was permitted to buy another relatively soon after. Preparing for the successful escape from my marriage, I went with a friend to get a secret cell phone. I remember being so afraid my phone would make some sort of noise while Dick was around that I fully dismantled it and hid it in rotating locations outside our apartment. Our final altercation included him finding out about my phone; he had caught me packing up some things when I thought he would be gone. I had the phone on me and when he pinned me to the bed and pounded on my left side, he saw it.
I worked really hard in therapy and in support groups for years. I got to a point those memories didn’t bother me regularly, but they all came back in a big way if I simply considered getting a new phone. My first hangup is the personal information side of things. I avoid consolidating my name, address, phone number, and social security number in one account like the plague. My sense of safety is fully intertwined with the notion that Dick can not find me. I have made it two years now on a network that let me give them a false name and address. I know I can “feel safe” using this subpar service, but being afraid to go to a normal carrier who will require more information than I am comfortable giving makes me feel trapped. It is all too reminiscent of being trapped with Dick for seven years.
I built up my courage over the course of two months to apply with a mainstream network. I’ve tried a few times now and it has gone the same in each instance. As I belly up to the counter, my insides go wild with classic PTSD symptoms. My heart races and my thoughts spin while my stomach churns and I pump sweat. I stutter, most of my attention on the surroundings, scanning for danger, rather than my task at hand. Hypervigilent, I fight the one thought I can make out clearly: run, now, fast, far. It plays on loop.
The salesman asks me for my information. I check with him to be sure I really have to give it all up. He has the answer I don’t want. I feel the burn of scratches on my cheek and jaw from the first time Dick ripped my phone, a blue prepaid brick, from my face as I called for help running from his screaming, fist-swinging self. Run, now, fast, far. I struggle to remember where I am. The unsuspecting salesman turns to address another customer, letting her know he’ll be with her shortly. Unable to do anything else, tears welling in my eyes, I turn and speed to safety.
Outside I make it to my VW, and sit in the pilot seat hot faced and hyperventilating. Time goes static. At some point I find my recovery mantras. This is my new life. I am safe. I may feel afraid, but I will be ok. This is an old feeling, a leftover. I am safe. They stop my tears, but I know it will be a while before my whole body can calm down. When I can see straight, I go home.
At home, I berate myself for “not being over this” and “for being so stupid.” Over the next week I muster up the fortitude to go in again.
What triggers linger in your life?
Do you get sideswiped by triggers that get you to question your progress? How do you handle them? Do you have friends or family who support you through it, or do they ask why "you're still on that?" Do you have any tricks to help yourself get back to normal?
As always, thanks for letting me hear what you have to say about this!
Rebecca encourages survivors of domestic to speak about their experiences and to lean on each other for support.