My PTSD manifesto

Occasionally people who have been traumatized have gravitated to me because I’m open about having experienced a serious trauma and (mostly) recovered, but they don’t seem to realize how deeply their past still affects them. They haven’t done any trauma recovery work, and they show up in my life.

I believe they show up because their unconscious is seeking healing. Or perhaps angels bring these people to me so they can see for themselves that recovery is possible. You know, I don’t mind being a role model for recovery from trauma. I’ve come a long way in 10 years. I’ve worked at it.

It’s not like traumatized people wear signs stating that. The sudden discovery that a new friend or love interest has been traumatized can create a huge amount of distress for me. Even though in hindsight, their craziness now makes more sense (“oh, of course that weird behavior was a trauma response”), it can still really be a shock.

So I just want to put this message out there:

If you’ve been traumatized and feel attracted to me because I’m open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on my recovery, first of all, please tell me clearly and up front (or as soon as you realize) that you’ve been traumatized, emotionally abused, get triggered, have flashbacks or nightmares, are shell-shocked, or whatever history or symptoms are affecting you. There’s no shame in it — you didn’t ask for it. I’d rather know than not, and I just might be able to prevent you from making a big mess when your judgment isn’t very good. I will help you find help and support you emotionally — in a way that is healthy and not co-dependent.

If that’s what draws you to me, just own it. Do not be asking me out on dates and withholding information about your untreated trauma. That’s creepy, and the thing is, you can’t really hide a trauma in your history until you are healed. You may naively think you can, but it seriously disregulates your nervous system and makes it stuck in either dissociation or hyperarousal, sometimes both. Your trauma-related weird behavior will show up in your most intimate relationships sooner or later. Having untreated trauma is like having an elephant in your living room whose shit is piling up.

Secondly, if you’re not getting professional help, please do that — get professional help. And let me know that too, because I’m going to worry about you if you don’t, and I’d rather be happy than worried.

Please do not look to me to help you beyond being a friend and a cheerleader for your recovery work. I am a blogger who’s open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on recovery. This blog (read About me, and do a search on PTSD or trauma to find related posts) describes some of my recovery experiences. Please feel free to ask me about them or try them yourself.

There is absolutely no need for you to just show me your wounds without any warning. Seeing you suddenly be triggered by your past trauma triggered painful memories of my long struggle of not knowing I had PTSD and then finding out, and then spending long months doing some intense processing, healing, and putting my life back together in a new, healthier way.

Your behavior freaked me out badly. It took acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic assistance to start to get over it (at my expense, I might add, which you have ignored, which also makes me think less of you), and I really don’t trust you now.

After I witnessed your triggering and saw empathically how damaging your experience had been, it hit me hard. I emotionally dropped, rolled, and came up ready for combat. I was so ready to protect … someone … from something! And you had something to do with it.

Recovery from trauma doesn’t mean being bulletproof. It means being more embodied, emotionally present, and energetically open than before recovery, while still being an ordinary person who cannot read your mind. I have more compassion now and am more of a whole person, and I need to set clear boundaries to take care of myself.

It breaks my heart more than you can imagine that the innocent gesture I made triggered fear in you. It’s not anything I take casually or lightly. It’s emotionally disturbing to witness someone with their wires crossed, whose mind mistakes the present for the past, whose mind mistakes someone who has never traumatized them with someone who did.

I wish you’d told me as soon as you knew instead of showing me like that. That would have been important communication. You scared me, once again.

With help, you can heal your poor damaged nervous system and experience more peace and stability and aliveness in your life. I am recommending Somatic Experiencing Practitioners to people these days.

Please find your way to help. I wish you well.

So this is for everyone: if you know that I have had PTSD and you have had untreated trauma in your life, and you come around seeking a relationship, please tell me up front, do your own recovery work (I’ll be rooting for you), and get yourself in decent emotional and relational shape before you expect any intimacy from me, for both our sakes.

I look forward to talking with the healthy you.

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About Mary Ann Reynolds

Blogging about body, mind, heart, spirit, and well-being at The Well: bodymindheartspirit. Offering bodywork and changework, specializing in Ashiatsu barefoot massage and craniosacral therapy. Also a former Truth Be Told board member now serving as a volunteer editor for the Truth Be Told Community blog, serving women behind and beyond bars.
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5 Responses to My PTSD manifesto

  1. toothfairymum says:

    Fair enough! I like your comment “I do relationship the healthy way” All the best, Karen x

  2. Thanks, Karen. Appreciate your support.

  3. Imago says:

    Well said! I’m a clergy person with PTSD who can handle almost any trauma while in the collar thanks to good training and very clear boundaries, but when traumatized people insinuate themselves into my personal life, it sends me into a tailspin even after decades of hard therapeutic work. Caring does not involve being receptacles for others’ misery. Setting limits and sending them for the help they need is the very best thing any of us can do.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Imago. Your comment just confirmed my decision.

      I don’t believe it’s necessarily true that two people who have experienced trauma shouldn’t date or be friends. It’s more a matter of whether each person can really take good care of him/herself as well as another. Not getting effective treatment for trauma is not taking care of yourself, IMHO, and puts others in the position of being a care-taker. And hiding the information that you’ve been traumatized is just plain untrustworthy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed. I should have said, “when traumatized people (or anyone else needing professional help) insinuate themselves into my personal life expecting me to help them under the guise of friendship.”

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