h2>Dating : I’m Gonna Complain About Dating and PTSD Again
And then I’m gonna find my big girl pants.
Let me start by saying ARGHHHHHH.
Okay. We got that out of the way.
I would like a relationship. I really would. And casual dating is apparently fun for no one. For me, what makes dating a super-giant-pain-in-the-ass is this:
I have PTSD, and men trigger me.
I’m also heterosexual, and I want to date and have sex with men.
So you see my problem.
When we first meet, I am struggling with intrusive thoughts.
I can manage them, but when I meet someone new who I do not yet trust, my brain is always looking for exits. Expecting the worst. Formulating an escape plan. For about 93% of the date, I’m wondering how exactly I’m going to escape certain death, and trying to act calm and normal. The other 7%, I’m maybe actually enjoying the person in front of me.
And I cannot help it. Not until I get to know and build trust with someone. That’s just how all of my first dates go. I’m not thinking about getting laid. I’m thinking about getting murdered.
When we start to know each other better, I have the impossible decision to make.
When do I tell him?
I do not want to frighten him away, and there’s a lot of misinformation about PTSD. On TV and in movies, people with PTSD become violent, superhuman.
My symptoms usually cause me to hide. I am not aggressive like Wolverine. So how do I battle the misinformation and feel heard?
And will he still see me as the same person, or will he think I did a “bait and switch”…that I made up a cool, chill girl, and now I was showing that I actually wasn’t that person?
How do I communicate that I am that same person we went on great first dates with?
How do I let him know that during those great first dates, I was actually scared the whole time?
And how do I tell him that without him taking it personally and thinking he did something wrong?
And there’s the chance this discussion will traumatize me.
When I tell someone I have PTSD, the two absolute worst responses are:
“Are you sure?”
These are both variations of not believing me. They’re infantilizing, judgmental. So many men have not believed me because they think nothing that happened could have been “bad enough.”
The second question implies that they want to know what happened so they can determine whether or not the incident is PTSD-worthy (or maybe they want to know if I was assaulted, because that would “ruin” me in their eyes).
The other response is the “So, you’re crazy” response.
I don’t even think I need to explain why this one is hurtful.
If a man responds in any of these ways, my vagina slams shut like a bear trap. I immediately lose all interest. The trust is gone.
I ghost, I ignore messages, I just…fade away. Most of the time, I can’t bring myself to explain why. It’s too hurtful.
I must beware the boyfriends who do not want me to grow.
On the flip side, I have to be careful not to date someone who is too accommodating. Who is okay with me staying inside all the time. Who does not encourage me to go to therapy. Who does all my grocery shopping for me. Who lets my world get smaller, and smaller, and smaller.
Someone like me, who has a lot of anxiety and avoidance tendencies…is easy for a controlling boyfriend to latch onto. Be it narcissism, another kind of abuse, or someone else with avoidance tendencies, my particular symptoms could definitely attract the wrong type of person (as they have in the past).
But I have to go through this to find the person who is right for me.
I know, eventually, I will be able to find someone who doesn’t take my PTSD personally. Who will believe me. Who will not call me crazy. Who will encourage me to keep pushing back on it, to keep healing. Who will hold me when I’m scared, but also coax me into doing new things.
If I could wake up tomorrow and have that person with all that knowledge already next to me, I wouldn’t hesitate. I want to be buying Groupon trips with my bae, not trying to figure out if a stranger has negative connotations with PTSD.
I know it’s just a numbers game, basically, and I have to meet a bunch of dudes, feel them out, and whittle down the pile.
It is exhausting, but I’m really going to try to make it as fun as possible, to give myself mental health breaks, and to keep space for myself…as I try to find someone else.