Another very difficult symptom of PTSD to deal with is avoidance. It is natural to want to avoid anything, any place, or anyone which could trigger a flashback, memory, emotion, smell, sound and many more associated with the traumatic event (s) which caused your PTSD. The biggest trigger for me was being around the military environment. Some could say that’s my biggest avoidance and I would have to agree with that. However there is avoiding and there is leaving in order to retain as much of the person I am as possible. I’ve already lost some of who I am and I truly cannot cope with losing much more of ‘Michelle’.
I don’t like losing the person I once was and it has been really difficult to accept. Having my friends, family and colleagues seeing the difference in me I like even less. Avoiding going out to social events has been something I’ve become accustomed to. Call it self preservation on my part for more than one reason. Firstly if I don’t go out then none of the triggers can seep into every one of my senses. No triggers, no crowds, no ‘white noise’, no panic attacks. Secondly, my friends won’t see the once confident, witty, cheeky person they once knew, melting into my self. All they will see is me nervously looking around, laughing in the right places yet not really hearing anything in particular, eating hardly anything because I’m too anxious and leaving the ‘party’ far too early for fear of them witnessing my panic attack. It has been so much easier to just shut myself away from it all….until now!!
I think my turning point was when I decided to confront my abuser. This has been haunting me for so long and finally gaining an admission from him I felt like a weight had been lifted. I also felt an inner strength and fight that had been knocked out of me. I decided following this that I’m not prepared to hide any longer. I will deal with everything as it happens, each trigger, flashback & emotion. I can let it beat me or I can fight to get my life back. Maybe not as I knew it but mine all the same.
I have spent the last 2 weekends doing things I never thought would be possible for a long time to come. However, having the tenacity to stand and fight whilst receiving support from those around me means I’m not hiding behind a locked door any longer. Last Saturday I was kindly handed 2 tickets to a Man Utd home match in an executive box. This included a meal and drinks so I could be there early enough to avoid the crowds. It also meant that being in a box I was not penned in with no escape route. Friday I bought tickets to see Phoenix Nights, Peter Kay being my favourite comedian of all time. I wrote to Manchester Arena to see if they could assist me in finding seating etc away from the crowd. They were extremely helpful and provided a seperate seating area next to the private boxes and really close to the exit. It was a fantastic spot and I was able to enjoy the show. They also told me when it was 5 minutes before the end so I could leave before everyone else. I only experienced 2 real issues, one of which was when I needed to go to the toilet. It was soooo busy in the corridor and I just had to take a deep breath and focus on the toilets. It felt like my feet were actually walking through treacle it was such a struggle and I almost went into panic mode. The second ‘moment’ was during the show when 2 big bangs went off. I almost jumped over the balcony!!!!!
I know there will always be triggers wherever I go and I can prepare for most of them. I have coping mechanisms in place which means I’m not too restricted in where I can go. Also with support from places such as the arena it is not impossible to have some form of social life again. For this I am extremely grateful and I hope it encourages you that nothing is impossible. In the deepest darkest times try to hold on to the thought that it isn’t going to be a ‘constant’. I know my experience will be up and down and I’m sure I haven’t had my final visit to the dark place but my current experience proves it’s not all dark. You just have to push yourself beyond what you think you can manage. Sometimes it will work, other times it won’t, but if you don’t try to fight you will never know.