Thoughts on Feeling Safe
You deserve well-being.
I’ve tried to write this essay on feeling safe like four times now. The last month has been very tumultuous for me. It’s usually really small things that cause the most upheaval too. Back when I still had a job, someone could be harassing women in the store, and I’d be right in their space telling them not to. There was that time when someone pulled a knife on our security guy and blood went everywhere and I was just like, well, then. Startle me from behind and I’ll have a panic attack so intense I might pass right on out. I expect no one has ever said that a panic disorder was even remotely rational.
So there I was a month ago, maybe a little more now, and someone I had placed an unfair amount of trust in did something superficially small. If I told you what it was, it might even get a laugh because I’m a grown man and I shouldn’t have problems over something like that. I’m wildly territorial over my food though. Panic disorders, at least for me, have roots in some poor choices that the adults in child-me’s life should have made differently. For some people childhood memories are a source of comfort and stability. For some of the rest of us those memories are more like inarticulate horror novels.
And there I was, packing my stuff up as fast as I could manage, trying not to let anyone know how upset I was, because PTSD brings the past into the present and pawns reason and boundaries like a cat will sleep on your face if they can. I mean, it’s warm there, probably. In this mix of adrenaline and ghosts, I decided I was going to write an article on safety. I think I did mention that reasonableness is not high in such situations, but safety is what I most wanted. I wasn’t feeling it right then to such a profound level of not feeling it, that I could have convinced myself it wasn’t even real if I half tried.
Feeling safe is real, even if it’s rare for me. I didn’t find the feeling until I was almost fifty, but I really like it and for the rest of my days, I want to have it as much as I can. I also like well-being, safety’s closely related cousin, but that’s for a different article.
So what does safety feel like?
Sitting here in my new room, my little heater purring next to me, and I find I’m afraid to describe what safe feels, because it means saying that some people in my life haven’t felt safe. Fear is so much easier to describe. The constant wariness, the constant need to make people happy with me, the constant need to be perfect, and an overwhelming sense that no matter what I do pain is coming.
Safety is an internal knowledge that pain is not on the horizon. No one is coming to take my food, call me names, suggest that some people just deserve to be hit, or how much they’d like to hit me. Safety is being warm, not hungry, having confidence that I can find resources to continue to meet my needs.
Safety means it’s okay that I’m not the smartest person in the world and I don’t have to promise future resources and success to buy other people’s nonviolence. I don’t have to prove anything. Which is not to say that there aren’t rewards in excellence and achievement, there are, but achievement is not why it’s not okay to hit me.
A lot of safety, aside from the very basic physical safety, seems to be about how I feel about myself and how I feel about myself.
In the parts of last week where I felt very not safe, I imaged myself as a tree, bent by the wind of cruelty and greed that abusive people seem powered by. Then I built a house around the tree and told it that it was a fine tree. The house wasn’t very grand, and the wind of fear and the dark voices from the past broke through the plaster more than once. In this vision meditation, I just kept plastering the holes back over.
I’m a good tree. I do my best to be kind and helpful. I love my cat and work on my art, writing, and studies. I mostly just want to write things that help people and do nice things, eat my cookies, and be happy. Other people have different goals and different wants, but that’s okay.
We each have to find safety in our own way, but I think for all of us, but I think for all of us, it’s about keeping the cold, dark voices out, committing to taking care of ourselves, and being kind to ourselves when we’re not perfect.
I’ll always have a panic disorder, PTSD, and the occasional swerve through depression-misery, but the good days matter too. I matter and so do you. Safety is worth building.
About the Creator
I write a lot of lgbt+ stuff, lots of sci fi. My big story right now is The Moon's Permission.
I've been writing all my life. Every time I think I should do something else, I come back to words.
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.