Today, a guy walked really fast up to me on the subway platform with his hands in his pockets. He was trying to pick up a paper I dropped, but I backed away and started to tear up. He then looked at me like I was crazy and made a comment about me thinking he was some sort of criminal. I wanted to explain my actions but he had already walked away.
I have PTSD because of something that happened 2 years ago—right around this time. The store I was working at was robbed in the middle of the day. One guy held me to the counter and pressed his body and hands on my ass and up my leg. The other guy pointed a concealed gun (which he showed me in his bag) and took money from the cash register. It must have only been 45 seconds. Now whenever a person walks really quickly up to me (like the robbers did) or looks like they are hiding something, it brings on a panic attack.
That wasn’t my first robbery experience. Two years prior to that one, the store was robbed and I was also the only person on the sales floor. It didn’t affect me as much—even though the robber digged the gun into my stomach and pressed with every hesitation I made at the register. I was just starting grad school and intensely focused on my semester—basically running on nerves and putting the memory in the back of my mind.
Even though it’s been awhile, I still get that warm rush of adrenaline every time I see a dodgy person with their hands in their pocket. Oh man, especially on the subway. Every Christ lover and homeless man turns into someone with a gun. It’s awful.
That guy this morning had zero right to say that to me. Fuck you, I don’t think you’re a criminal. I think you’re an asshole that’s so conceited you couldn’t think past yourself and why I might of been upset. I’m really anti people that aren’t self-aware /aware of triggering situations, but blame emotional reactions on something petty. Okay, cool…you have no idea why I got upset. How about you ask instead of jumping to conclusions? Or how about you step back and let me calm down? One time, this guy playing music on the subway asked the women to smile at him…and when one woman didn’t he called her out on it…and this woman was clearly upset. All she said was, “My mother just died.” Why try to include this woman in your stupid performance?
People, please, just be aware of the world around you. It doesn’t revolve around you. Others are going through shit/trying to handle the world in any way they can/attempting to go to work without having a panic attack.
A person recently told me to ‘just get over it.’ Gosh, I wish I could. I wish it would wash away. But once your sense of security it taken, you can’t really look at the world the same. I’ve gotten better, though.
Even if I did get over it, that’s still a pretty terrible thing to say to someone. “Hey, you know that thing that made you lose sleep from crying all the time? You should just forget about that. Get over it.” Whatever the scenario becomes apart of your DNA, and it’s hard to ever really feel safe again. Believe me, I’ve tried.
My situation is minor in comparison to other people’s PTSD triggers. And those people with way worse situations probably have some asshole in their life that has told them to get over it.
Tips on being an ally for someone with PTSD (from my own experience):
* Be Patient. You don’t just get over it. It takes awhile to feel secure after you have a shock to your system.
* Be conscious. You want to go on a date? Awesome. Don’t take them to laser tag quiet yet.
* Ask boundary questions. “What don’t you feel comfortable with?” is a great start. Depending on the situation, you may have someone that is totally okay with a hug but not with any sort of grabbing.
If you are a person dealing with PTSD, or want to learn more about it: check out the National Institute of Mental Health.
Laura Delarato is a web producer, writer, social media consultant, video creator, and the brain behind Pass The Cake, Please fashion blog. She has spent a lot of the past 10-years of her life in internships, college, part-time jobs, graduate school, and in front of a computer typing away her next brilliant idea. Her work has appeared in Playgirl Magazine, Kong Magazine, London Glossy Magazine—and at one time CosmoGirl! Magazine. Laura spends a lot of her time typing code to make the internet work, performing improv at The Magnet Theater in NYC, and performing burlesque on every dingy bar stage she can find. Laura likes to be a total badass by participating in body-positive/fat-acceptance activism, crafting pasties, discussing the beauty of pornography, and wearing all the short skirts. Follow her at @lauradelarato