HealthMental Health Dating With PTSD: What Is It Like?

Dating With PTSD: What Is It Like?

I deal with PTSD which makes dating very complicated for me, but it's okay to be exactly as you are and be kind to yourself.

I have had a terrible couple of days. It’s so weird; I was happy before. I was actually SO happy, and writing poems and buying floor mats online. Now suddenly here I am, apologizing to my co-passenger in an Uberpool for crying so much in the backseat. “It’s a breakup-thing.” I told her, creepily awkward-giggling through a teary face. She was sweet and understanding about it and even left me a little “Take care” before getting down at her destination. So, why is Kavita crying so much? Who broke up with her? Well, I broke up. I broke up with someone who liked me, because I liked them. Because I LIKED THEM! Okay, I’m going to try my best to explain.

For context, I deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which brings with it a terrible amount of mind-numbing anxiety. The icing on the PTSD cake, is that I also am diagnosed with this personality disorder called Schizoid Personality Disorder, which makes it difficult for me to form attachments in life (i.e. close friendships, genuine romantic relationships etc).

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I fit so well with this man I recently met. I remember seeing him for the first time in a café, and liking the shape of his hands, the lines on his forehead. He was beautiful and fascinating to me. We spent a day together of chai, a bookstore with string lights and sitting at a bench, in our glowing energies midst the dull chatter around us. It was the first time that I really gushed over someone, to my girls. My mind has always been very tricky with the moods and reactions; I have always been unpredictable to myself. I can jump from 0 to a 100 in a heartbeat, and so when I, a usually detached person, was so passionately interested in someone …a part of me stuck a fork in her forehead in frustration. (Not literally!)

Also read: Tom Makes Breakfast: A Personal Narrative On Intimacy & Casual Relationships

When I first started therapy and we were working on all the parts of me that work in independent, contradicting ways, as if they have their own separate identities ― my therapist, asked me to draw all the “people” that I felt were operating inside my head. I drew about five characters, one of which was the “Water-part” who is this calm, flowing river-like but sad girl, who is also a constant in my life. She is usually quiet and sweet if I let her be, if I stay in my comfort zone, don’t go out, don’t meet people or indulge in creative projects, or events with people (perceived as threat) involved.

As soon as I cross that boundary, she is an overwhelmed, anxious mess, screaming and crying for me to get back to my safe place. The thing about the Water-part is that, she does not know how to tell danger from safe apart. Growing up always afraid, in an abusive home, everything really was a threat. I could only be in the living room till my father came home, had to eat little or much depending on his state of mind for me to avoid being called a slut and other hurtful things, couldn’t go out much or talk on the phone, had to sleep quickly at night before I heard or saw too much. The Water-part is stuck in that state of mind, and does not realize that in reality I am actually out of the house, and that there is no harm in talking on the phone or going out for a coffee with someone (or in investing time to see where it goes, with a nice person that you happen to really like). When you have PTSD, your brain is fixed in the time of trauma and so it keeps applying the same coping mechanism to protect you from harm, oblivious to the fact that circumstances have changed and there is no real harm to be protected from.

So, when we stood by the blue-green sea and I told him that I wasn’t sure if I would see him again and he couldn’t wrap his head around my irrational, unprepared, tangled sentences …it was understandable. I couldn’t understand myself either. Dating with PTSD, is like being in one of those haunted houses ― you’re just scared throughout and are walking as fast as you can to get out of there; you know the mechanical witches, sound effects and actors are not really dangerous but in the moment, it feels like they are.

Every year in front of birthday candles, on every fallen eyelash and each delicate dandelion, I have only wished for one thing ― happiness. So when I lay with a friend in my quiet living room and said while I stared at the ceiling ― “I am getting so sick of myself“, I almost cried.

I have been very open about my mental illness, and I believe that talking about it has helped me deal with it better. More times than not, it’s the compassion and kindness towards myself that calms my anxiety, makes it more gentle and forgiving. But there are times like these, when I just can’t figure it out and I get tired of the person that I am. I do often wish to be a normal amount of fearful and anxious, to go watch a movie at the theater without freaking out or feel butterflies in my stomach when I like someone, instead of feeling like someone’s died. I am at constant war with myself and sometimes, I am just exhausted; I feel drained.

My purpose behind writing this piece is the same as always ― to find clarity in my chaos. It’s been exciting in a strange way, to finally be able to cry about sabotaging a possibly beautiful thing; it’s realistic. Maybe this is the ‘butterflies in my stomach’ for a scared and detached person ― sitting in a bed with a headache, and crying because you ended things with someone for liking them too much, while you eat a yoga-bar. Ha-ha!

If you, dear reader, are someone who deals with a mental illness ― I am taking a moment here to close my eyes, and imagine giving you a big hug. Mental illness is exhausting, dating is a little complicated in itself and life is unpredictable but hey, there is no rush to fix things. It’s okay to be exactly as you are. Take a moment to breathe, and give yourself the space to destruct and learn to create again. And if you know or are dating someone with a mental illness ― be kind. In a world where mental health is completely neglected, it’s emotionally draining to deal with behaviors that you barely understand yourself.

And lastly, if you are Kavita ― I am not really sick of you; I actually love you. Kisses!

Also read: A Recipe For Chai And A Hope For Better Days

Featured Image Credit: Flora Thevoux via Salon

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