Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition caused by a traumatic experience. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, feeling very anxious and difficulty sleeping.
So this entry is an interesting personal piece I wanted to write about, it may be a bit lengthy but it’s something I really want to address and talk about. As someone who has experienced this scenario. For personal reasons, I am not going to go in to full detail about the ‘events’ as I don’t want to upset anyone I know or open up a new can of worms. But here it is..
I had a horrific experience happen to me when I was in my late teens. It was something I went through with some people I barely knew and it was a few multiple things that happened that have traumatised me years later.
The interesting thing about PTSD, is that it isn’t always immediate. Sometimes PTSD can creep up on you later in life when you don’t expect it to…
When the trauma initially happened to me, I walked away from the event partly blaming myself and a bit shaken but I didn’t really react to it in any way. In fact, I was quite open about my experience with lots of people like it was some normal day-to-day thing and had a good couple of years of enjoying life like things had never happened.
The PTSD lurked it’s head when I started having proper relationships with men.
Before I’d hit the age of 21 I had only really had brief relationships with men. As in you call someone your boyfriend for a week or so and then have a rowdy drink-related break up and that’s that. It was in my 20’s I started going into the long relationship process. It was then that I found that what had happened to me was now starting to have a negative effect on my life. Not only was getting close to another man giving me flash backs and insecurities, but I had also developed a psychological physical condition as a result that meant I struggle to get intimate with a man. It’s not impossible, it’s just a process that takes a lot of time and patience.
PTSD is something I hadn’t really heard of until I acknowledged something was wrong with me because I couldn’t just jump into bed with my boyfriend like most ‘normal’ girls so I sought medical help.
It was then that I learnt about the effects of PTSD. After multiple tests and counselling over the years I was advised that there was nothing physically wrong with me and it was all psychological. When I got a copy of a referral letter sent to me from a medical professional, they spoke about me suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from an event in my past. I initially thought they were being over dramatic as I always thought PTSD was a much more serious situation, you always see in films and TV shows about people having it from wars and they’re all sitting in corners crying and having the shakes etc. I wasn’t like that. But the further research I did in to it, the more I realised how complex, like many mental health conditions, PTSD is.
Adjusting to the condition that I had and understanding the effect it would have on my potential relationships wasn’t the real issue I had though. The dating aspect was the part that was physically and emotionally difficult.
The problem is, without trying to be sexist here, men do naturally expect sex and intimacy quite early on when they meet someone. Sometimes on the first meeting even. (I do completely get that women out there are like this too, but I’m a straight woman so my experiences are only with men). When you are a woman with PTSD, specifically in relation to events involving men, this is an awful predicament to be in.
Doctors and nurses kept telling me “the right guy will understand and support you”. But sadly, we live in a generation where people are much more fussy and are more sexual beings than romantic (from what I’ve found anyway), so even in events where I thought the right man was understanding, the truth is they weren’t. At all.
Now, I am not going on to a massive rant like ‘all my exes are dicks’ etc. They all had good and bad qualities, as I am sure they would say about me. But in each relationship, I learnt how much issues with intimacy can effect the other person. Not that I agree with every reaction they have had (one ex told me he thought I was faking it and was just frigid, one snapped at me one day out of nowhere for not getting laid and another drunkenly told me he’d rather me be dead because of the lack of sex) but I have to have some empathy as well in this situation. People in this day and age are very sexually active individuals, and sex is important to validate a relationship. Men get horny. They have needs. To them, I was out of order for not trying harder to make them happy.
I spent many months in tears over the situation that I am in, and how exes reacted and blaming myself for something that was beyond my control. I have had many sleepless nights over it all. Not to mention, the amount of anxiety I experience when I start chatting to a new man hoping for something to develop. There’s always the panic attacks of ‘when is a good time to tell them the truth?’, ‘what if he’s only after one thing?’, ‘how can I put this across in a way that he would still want to be with me?’.
It is a constant vicious circle. That I experience over and over again. Every time I meet someone new. And I constantly have those awkward conversations at family or friend event parties. People always asking me when I will end up with someone, not realising how much of a trigger that actually is. I can’t really explain that the really nice boyfriend everyone liked is no longer with me because I’m apparently shit at giving him what he needs.
The one thing I wanted to express from this post is that people really need to bear a lot of things in mind when it comes to dating other people. Boundaries are extremely important. You need to be honest with whoever you aim to date about your intentions.
I would also like to express a very important fact here that no one seems to appreciate often enough:
No matter who you are with or how serious you are, how long you’ve been together, what they wore that night or that they said they would earlier… YOU NEVER EVER HAVE ‘RIGHTS’ TO ANOTHER PERSON’S BODY. THAT PERSON’S BODY IS THEIR OWN AND ALWAYS WILL BE.
If someone is having issues getting intimate with you, or has reservations about certain things, respect them. If you can’t, then quite frankly you are an arsehole. And I address this to men and women because I have heard women also state on many occasions that they’re holding the rights to have intimacy whenever they want with a guy and badmouthing them when they don’t get it. It’s not always that black and white guys, show some respect.
This story doesn’t currently have a happy ending. I’m still single. Still always dating the ‘wrong guy’. But I am growing as a person from my experiences, I’m trying to handle this all in my own way. The one positive thing I have got from the past experiences is that now, if a guy gets moody about my boundaries, I leave. I no longer hurt myself physically and emotionally by trying to please someone because I am so desperate for someone to just love me for more than just my body. And the thing is, everyone should have that respect for themselves. Know what your worth. The right people are going to also know your worth. And respect it.