Part of PTSD is intrusive memories, nightmares, recurrent thoughts, etc. My PTSD is manageable but it hasn’t always been. I have actually only had one panic attack in the past 3 or so years which is amazing. I get a lot of anxiety but I have learned to manage it. I no longer am scared to have my back exposed, meaning I can have my back facing a door or open space. That still doesn’t stop a startled response if someone touches me from behind, even when I KNOW that they are coming up behind me.
The most obvious trigger I have is when things get close to my neck due to the fact that I was severely strangled by my son’s father. Here is some sobering information about strangulation and domestic violence:
-Strangulation is often one of the last abusive acts committed by a violent domestic partner before murder.
-Strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence.
-Abusers often use non-fatal strangulation as a tactic to terrorize and control their victims by holding over them the literal power of life and death.
When the police got to me, I had four fingerprint bruises on one side of my neck and a thumbprint bruise on the other side of my neck. I already had swelling along my jawline, above my left eyebrow, blood coming from my ears, and swelling on my cheekbones.
So because of my past with strangulation, when things get close to my neck sometimes with pressure sometimes with no pressure I can freak out. The most recent occurrence, I actually freaked myself out because I was grabbing on to my neck/chin fat (yes I know, negative thinking). Because I grasped too firmly, my body froze. I caused myself to have a negative reaction? How in the hell does one do that?! When people are grasping on to my shoulders an move upward I have to talk to myself reminding myself that they are not harming me. Just little things. This is not to say that I still cannot be caught off guard.
The panic attack that I had occurred in public after someone jokingly used both hands to go around my neck. Because it came unprepared, I fully froze, couldn’t speak, started crying, felt like I was going to vomit, couldn’t move and just stared in a trans for what seemed like hours. The friend I had with me kept talking to me attempting to get me to move from the spot I was at. I couldn’t even verbalize the fact that I could not move. My legs were non functioning. If I attempted to move, I would have collapsed. After about 10-15 minutes I started coming back to. Even though I wasn’t back to normal, I was able to slowly come back to reality which is the best you can ask from someone with a panic attack.
The recent struggles that seem to be taking up space in my life are memories, flashbacks, nightmares (regarding sexual assault but not my specific assaults), and insomnia. It is extremely inconvenient when there is a song, movie title, phrase, smell, etc that triggers something in the brain that just fucks you up. It can be completely exhausting to take the time to redirect yourself out of that pattern of thinking. While the severity is nowhere near where it has been, damnit I am ready to be “fixed”.