Trauma and relationships:
The difficulty of setting boundaries and reading people when you have PTSD.
As a survivor of multiple traumas, abuse, and assault, I have a really hard time setting appropriate boundaries, dealing with problems in relationships, or even building up relationships.
I am not a recluse due to the abuse. I actually have a HUGE heart and BIG INTENTIONS.
I want to love people. Genuinely love them. Be there for their moments. And be friends with someone for years to come. I like commitment and stability in my relationships. I take it very seriously.
That being said, I am constantly blind-sighted to dangers like other peoples' bad intentions, possible new abusers, narcissists, and people who take advantage of my energy.
I am not sure how to tell who is bad or good instantly, even while believing in intuition, so I let everyone in. And then I wait.
I wait until I am handed the shit from their backside pocket. Sometimes, I have waited for years.
But inevitably, most people have a heaping pile of doody just simmering in the bottom left side, just waiting to be flung into our relationship.
Then, there are the times I am to blame.
Because as someone who has been constantly emotionally toyed with and physically hurt since I was an infant, I have a hard time getting close to people like a normal fucking person.
I am not even sure what normal means most days.
But I do know I tend to give off perceived "bad qualities" that I internally know come from trauma.
For instance, I talk a lot about myself and my life experiences.
Example: You tell me something happened to you, and my brain instantly says "oh, yeah tell them about that one time you felt it too." But all you may feel is "wow I wanted to tell her my problem and she turned it into her problem."
Not good. So then I feel stumped on how to make them feel better and I withdraw feeling guilty.
I also don't know exactly how to approach someone, whether in person or digitally. If I have so much love and attention to give, it comes off as me wanting #instafriends, like I am a 90-second bag of microwave steam rice into a bestie- kinda girl. [Yeah, that's a weird metaphor]
But maybe in 90 seconds, I have already psychoanalyzed the way you stand. The way you walk. The way one arm sways while the other one fidgets.
Maybe I see you make eye contact with me and you are blunt. So I feel already like I can trust you. Maybe you smile at me or you compliment me. And that is all it takes.
That might be insane for some people. But for me, seeing in a few seconds that you aren't bad like the danger I grew up with feels safe. At least it seems like there is a big difference.
It's a firm brick. A safe floor to walk across.
Next, I have trouble saying people's names. It is uncomfortable for me to address people, even close to me.
It took me years to figure out why. But now I am understanding it.
Abuse comes in many forms.
For my early childhood and well into middle school, I was an only child who had to sit in my bedroom all the time.
My parents kept me there so they didn't have to worry otherwise. Kind of like rapunzel. But less Disney and more Flowers in the Attic.
No people. No TV. No conversations or connections.
I had my sketch pad and as I got older, a small old school stereo.
Meanwhile, my mother and her husband tore apart the house fighting and she was always intoxicated.
This went on for years and was all I knew.
In school, I liked to talk to people. But I did not have sleepovers, go to birthday parties, or have a way to socialize really. What I did was listen to other people's stories, but rarely tell my own.
I told no one about the abuse.
I told no one about the drugs or cop calls, domestic disputes, or the pregnancy my mother had that ended at 7 mos as an at home miscarriage. A super depressing, graphic, horrible experience for the whole household. I, just 11 years old, could barely understand what happened let alone put it into words for someone else to hear.
So how did I make any friends?
I just started appearing next to people and speaking. Some took me in, some bullied me, and some paid no attention to me at all.
By high school, I gained more autonomy because my mother and her husband worked a lot so I would just not come home right away from school.
At that point, those who had "taken me in" taught me how to Express myself thru observations. They had plenty of stories to tell, tales of what they had tried, and ways to teach me how to be a "normal high school girl."
When a friendship got ugly or someone was treating me wrong, I mostly had no clue. I had no observation skills of who was toxic or dangerous.
Because who is dangerous in their teen years, in a high school, when I had mentally ill parents and a home that was the embarrassment on the block?
I had so much trust. I took so many risks.
First in school with acquaintances. Then with guys. Then with strangers.
I took city trains and buses by age 12. All across the island I lived on and into the city. I would be back by 7 or 8 pm and all would be fine because my parents were at work. But no one would be there in those years to talk to me about emotional or spiritual growth, about relationships, about stranger danger, about the risk of putting your life in other peoples' hands.
I now see why I have a hard time walking in a crowded mall or grocery store.
Why I get short of breathe if someone is staring at me.
Why I have a hard time making eye contact with others.
Why I can't speak most people's names.
Why I ask what is wrong every few minutes or if people are okay, constantly.
I was alone for so long, trying to navigate survival like a blind baby animal.
Trying not to bite the hands that barely fed me and accepting crumbs from those who offered outside my den. Sometimes merely because they dropped crumbs not even realizing it. But I thought that was love.
When I was shown attention, I often accepted it as what I now know is "kindness". And those people were mostly not kind.
When I was shown a little favoring, I often accepted it as dedication, what I now know is "loyalty". But they were not actually loyal.
I now have trouble determining who to cling onto, because should conflict arise I have no idea how to see through it. Only how to retreat.
Should a disagreement happen, I always wanted to be wrong because that meant not being alone. Or if I was right, I knew I had to keep my distance.
Should a person lie steal or cheat, I did see the pickle I was in but I thought to myself "Wow this is a shock, they must need help. And friends help. People who love, help. I should help."
Guys. I helped a lot. At my own expense. At theirs. I helped whether it was wanted or not. I pushed boundaries without knowing sometimes.
But the worst thing I did over and over, was punish my own heart greatly whenever bad people walked out of my life.
I never understood.
I gave them all love. I watered them with attention, was an ear for the problems, and arms for the embraces I thought they needed. I fed those who seemed hungry, both in nourishment of body and soul.
I gave. And I gave. And I gave.
When there was nothing left to give, I went into debt.
But I never once really asked for anything back. Not outright.
I felt embarrassed or pitied to be helped. I followed if people led, but I never suggested. It was safest that way.
And guess what, once I was empty and they realized it ----> they left.
On to the next. The next friend or lover.
It did not matter who it was, whether a blood relative or a close friend, or a trusted lover.
Almost everyone in my life left.
I was a strange alien-like resemblance of a person in their life. Trying to be slightly invested. Slightly interested. Giving love when in person or when they requested, but otherwise distant.
Not being able to say their name.
Not being able to tell them my heart, my soul, my desires.
Never wanting to debate or mention anything triggers so I would not be caught in a possible difference of opinion.
This happened with only my serious relationships. Any "dates" or distant friends, I could pass as normal. And that is no insult to them.
But the closer I got, the more I genuinely felt, I became that alien with horrible personal skills.
Because why risk either bad or good happening.
Why come to someone with a clean slate, a clean heart, and clean hands ---> just to be handed a fistful of shit.
So now, this year, I am finally stopping the decades-long marathon.
I am tired of running with baggage on my back.
I've searched so long for a safe place.
Never realizing that the safe place is within myself, and all I had to do to find home was sit down with myself and knock on the door.
To realize, though I am a fixer-upper, I have great potential.
I have great value. That if I invest in myself, if I carry in palms my own wishes to my hearth, I will listen. Then, I will hold the power to only let in who I think deserves it.
And in the process of rebuilding, I will need to use new tools.
Tools I was never taught or recommended in the past by unhealthy and dangerous minds. People who would have literally seen me homeless rather than loved.
Healing is more than a transition of spirit and heart.
Healing is being educated, being fluid and open, being vulnerable, being "wrong" in the pursuit of what is right, healthy, and safe for me.
It means cutting loose old knowledge, old beliefs, immature intuitive nudges, and impractical social norms. Irrational, one sided, or oppressive attachments.
It means being able to look through my broken, beat-up inner house AND saying GOODBYE for GOOD to all the NOUNS that do not bring me joy.
I know my flaws and I am learning where they come from. Though some of them are so ingrained, it takes a lot of daily effort to combat them.
I've been lucky enough to have met some honest, loving, and committed people in my life.
And I've been brave enough to cut off those who do not serve me well.
All I can tell anyone else who is on a similar path is that you should never fear having an "empty home".
To never settle for clutter and useless people or things in your life when you have the power to completely change at any time.
Do not, for one second, let anyone convince you that being without is worse than having "the appearance of everything" but feeling completely used and alone. ♡
And finally, it takes a healthy, rational, and empowered mind to truly KNOW what makes you happy.
And you will be so surprised to know that once you do the hard healing work, and put it the time, your "list of desires" will be quite different from what they previously were.
Putting health, aligned needs first and yourself first is NOT selfish.
It is the most vital decision you need to make in order to finally live life "on the other side of Trauma."
Mental health blogger, content creator, and creative writer. I write about trauma, mental health, and holistic wellness to empower other trauma survivors. Follow my blogs @Jadedsaviorblog @Startthrivingnotsurviving linktr.ee/jeangrey888