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Shycat

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I have a psychiatrist. I've had other pyschiatrists--they've all tried their damnest, even the one who flipped the doctor/patient relationship mid-session. Even he earned his fee by helping me accept that I didn't need a psychiatrist, the number up to five now that have taken my case and dismissed me to annual appointments for paperwork. I am what I am, subject to physiologic, prolonged adrenaline surges triggered by the obvious and ambiguous. I know PTSD now when I feel it, and yet still sometimes I can't pinpoint what set it off. It still can sneak up on me while I'm trying to be normal. Prolonged? How long is prolonged? What's it like?

Depends.

A credible threat from a trusted person, blindsided, a sense of powerlessness, a physical encroachment--for example, a hand that slips off my shoulder and inside the neckline of my shirt? That one lasted five full days. Five days of roaring adrenaline--unable to lie down, unable to take a deep breath because of muscle tension I couldn't control. Pounding heart. My bed at night might as well have had a catapult in it. I tried to lie down, and I could. For about as long as I could pass my hand through an open flame. I made myself eat--going so far as ordering delivery pizza with all my favorite toppings.

I couldn't taste it. Have you ever read a book that uses this phrase-- "The food turned to ash in his mouth." That is a real phenomenon, and bizarro to experience. Force the chewing, try to taste Pizza Hut, thin and crispy, beef, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives. Nada. Texture, yes. Flavor, no. Textured cardboard---ash. (ETA: This had it's bright side--I lost a pound a day.)

People tell me I need a thicker skin, less empathy, etc. I tell them I walk in the world with no skin. People tell me I need to establish thicker bounderies-express discomfort early, before I go red alert. It's all a mystery to me. Bounderies? I was raised, trained, and taught very early that I had no right to boundaries and any attempt to maintain them brought on a much worse experience. In other words, fighting back, or even the whispered word of explanation, was the surest way to a near death experience. I was taught to take what comes as my due, my fault, and my responsibility--I don't like this behavior? Then I need to change myself, not bring it on myself.

I've lately had a little twinge of PTSD, and I used those exact words. Words that 9 psychiatrists can't erase from my core identity. "I brought it on myself." It took me a day to realize what set me off--and it wasn't what I immediately thought at first. I was in full surreal, swimming in flashbacks mode already. I really DID bring on the "come on" I received. This hand didn't slip off my shoulder. It was firm, though, and he was very tall. I felt held--even though I wasn't. I smiled. I engaged correctly, and I broke and ran. Literally ran, leaving behind contacts on the desk I'd just paid a hefty sum for. I was down the road, breathless, before I realized I had to turn around. Go. Back.

And that's just a metaphor for what I'm in the midst of. Going. Back. Going back into the world, amidst people who can't tell just by looking that I walk without skin. Following the directions of my favorite psychiatrist turned friend, I am trying to achieve growth. I am trying to believe him. I am trying not to be terrified. I am trying not to cry.

Today...what is today. Wednesday and Thursday ran together with no sleep. At the end of the day, when I finally made it home. I reflected. Only me. Only me this could happen to. How many hugs? Hugs, for God's sake, from strange men. Hopping in the car with a total stranger, clearly on the make. Three. Yup, and the last one I accepted as it was meant, and I returned it--comforted, safe. Not assaulted, not threatened. His name, number, and email on a little slip of paper, tucked inside my purse.

"Call me."
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