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Hello.

Thank you for stopping by! I am a writer and anthropologist with interests in social science, parenting, and mental health.

Alone But Not Lonely

Alone But Not Lonely

Image provided by Claire Jones @jonesy78

Image provided by Claire Jones @jonesy78

I used to like people.  Now I selectively like people.  My “selective isolation” is how I cope with recently diagnosed PTSD.  For 26 years, I buried all memory of abuse I experienced in relationships starting when I was 13 years old and ending with my divorce in my mid-20s.  I told myself these events never happened and, eventually, I “forgot” about them. But my body did not.  Doctors did not have answers for why I experienced extreme chronic fatigue, racing thoughts, and a feeling of heaviness crushing my chest usually accompanied by my old friend, depression.  One doctor curtly responded, “What do you expect from this visit?” when I refused medication because first I wanted to fully understand what was going on with my body.  I understand now that my fatigue is my body shutting down and going numb as a freeze response to these triggered traumatic memories.  My selective isolation is how I protect myself as I learn to move through this turbulent terrain of disorienting memories.  This is not my forever, but this is my right now.

As I move through the healing process, I am learning big lessons about whom I can trust with my truth.  I was surprised when I learned the answer is very few people.  It seems that judgment is an inherent part of human nature, while empathy is a gift that few possess.  I find as I recover memories of different abusive events, I am blamed and shamed by people I once trusted.  I have resorted to what I call “selective isolation” to protect myself during this vulnerable stage.  Normally, I am a very social person.   I am an extrovert and I thrive on talking to people.  I love meeting new people and I am comfortable going to parties when I do not know anyone. I still recharge my energy by talking with people, but just select few people.  I still like to go out, but only with my trusted people.  I do not want to be around people I don’t know or with whom I do not feel a connection. I am triggered so easily and as a result experience waves of anxiety and disorientation. I have been triggered during a job interview, during family gatherings, and at a professional meeting.  When this happens I suppress my anxiety; internally I feel the hot pressure invading my body, like the steam in a teakettle fighting to escape.  I keep my composure and hide my internal battle until I am in a safe space to release my emotions.  I am very good at suppressing my thoughts,  but I cannot do it anymore.

Ironically, I feel freedom now more than I ever have in my life because I have been given the gift of honesty with myself.  I am learning to accept my whole self and my whole past, unashamed.  I am a survivor, but I am not defined by my abuse.  I see a therapist, attend support groups, and have a psychiatrist.  All of this professional help is teaching me not to be controlled anymore by  the memories of my abuse and my abusers.  Because I am very selective about with whom and how I spend my time, I appreciate the things in my life that I normally take for granted. I love the giddy, silly laughter of my children and when my husband smiles at me with happiness in his eyes.  I love the sunshine and the way it glows through the trees in my yard.  I love my house and how warm it feels.  I love my kitties’ furry necks when I snuggle them and feel their soothing purrs on my chest when I am having a tough moment.  I am learning to accept the thoughts in my head not as scary moments that should be avoided, but as moments that can be learned from and let go. I practice letting go with mindfulness: I accept my thought and then visualize it in a bubble that gently floats down the rapids of a winding river.  As I learn to acknowledge my past instead of bury it, I am feeling healthier and stronger every day.

First published on The Mighty.

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