Once again, a ramble. Warning: Boundary Violations, Racism, Ableism, Violence, and listing of some of my trauma. If you wish to avoid being triggered by some of the backstory, scroll down to “How did I deal with all that trauma?“
I have listened to many stories about PTSD. The flashbacks, the not feeling safe, the constant dread of not knowing something at the last second will absolutely ruin your day even as you try your hardest to keep it together.
There are many aspects to my trauma. Ableism, Racism, Transphobia, discrimination against being aromantic and asexual, family abuse, school abuse, possibly religious abuse, possibly conversion therapy, and so on. However, the bulk of this ramble is going to be on how I navigate the triggers related to race.
I am autistic and so most people’s facial expressions and body expression does not come natural to me like at all. This makes it easy for me to take people at their face value, but that also leaves me vulnerable to more subtle aggression. So often, people were barely hiding their aggression at me and I thought that we were neutral or even friends. It makes it hard to trust people.
Additionally, people violated my boundaries quite frequently. Asking them to not play a certain thing or do a certain thing while I was around would result in them deliberately doing that to me. People always say “Assert your boundaries”, but when I asked for just very basic things like not calling Black people the n word, I was left alone and lonely. I had no friends for a long time.
It felt that I was living in a very fake world. Nothing felt real. People acknowledged the hundreds of years of history of that slur, but called me overreacting and would distance themselves. People would state that I was overreacting when someone threatened me with violence for talking about math, but all hell would break loose if someone tried that on a white dude.
It got to the point that I was never believed. It made me intensely distrustful. It made it feel like asking for anything was seen as too much. Too much to expect to not be punched, too much to expect to not want for people to talk about that you should be genocided, too much to expect that people shouldn’t trigger your trauma and overload you sensory wise to laugh at you having a massive mental crisis.
It made me just stop talking to almost anyone. Then people got worried that I wasn’t talking to anyone and tried to blame my mom for the trauma, but they themselves caused the bulk of it. It was just too much. I shut down for years in my life. I did eventually get better, but I had to do a lot to get here.
How did I deal with all that trauma?
First, I left the entire environment. As long as you have an environment that will sabotage you, you cannot fully heal. You have to go. This is going to vary on the circumstances, and you might not be able to leave immediately or soon. But the longer you stay in an unsafe place, the more things are going to escalate.
Second, I learned about the subtle aggression people did so that I can tell that apart from non-malicious people. I also learned to pay attention to frequency of the subtle aggression. If it’s here and there, I assume that it’s obliviousness. If it’s consistent, they’re probably doing it on purpose, especially if multiple people have already pointed their prejudice.
Third: I started accepting my boundaries. My boundaries were rejected for so long that I actually thought not asking to be called slurs was too strong of a boundary. But, I started slowly building them and it turns out that there are people who think that’s not cool either. I started accepting that it was not okay for people to grab me unexpectedly (unless an emergency, like getting me out of a burning building). I started being okay with saying no to people if they did that sort of thing. For a lot of people with PTSD, you may wonder on how to do this.
- Start! No seriously, that is the first step. Do it just once. You have to break out of that inertia. You will probably be scared, but once you do it, you help to break out of that inertia. Your inertia is not laziness or weakness.
- After that, start slowly with some of the biggest things that have haunted you. The ones where it always comes to bite you if you do not. Remind yourself why you created that boundary. You might upset some people, but those people were never going to respect you. They weren’t respecting you before, they aren’t respecting you now, and their actions indicate that they will not in the future.
- Have a plan on dealing with rejection. Will you handle it by deep breathing? Will you handle it by exercising? Will you handle it by journaling, drinking water, making memes, the sky is the limit here! Make your own unorthodox plan, one of my most unusual coping strategies is to distract myself with 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication mentally. People with dyscalculia, do not try this at home.
- Distance yourselves from people you constantly disagree with. That is draining.
- Lastly, it’s okay to have relapses in this. You don’t have to be perfect, just keep trying and going at it.
Fourth: Connecting with other people like you. No offense, but people without trauma aren’t going to get you. You should connect with some people and learn from them too.
Fifth: See if you can identify your racial triggers. For me, I noticed that a consistent racial trigger are groups of white women who are staring at me. I looked up what could be causing this and this is how I learned about white gaze. It not only makes you feel less alone, but other people may have documented this. So, now when I notice that white women do this, I can not only tell myself that it could be racially motivated but that it is not my fault that this behavior is acceptable.
Lastly, take this one day at a time. Healing takes years. This stuff takes a lot of emotional processing. It’s okay to have random bouts of crying. It’s okay to wonder what is happening to your mind. It’s okay to crash just to deal with the trauma. It’s okay to wonder why many people are wanting to push others to go through the same things that you did- the world is not just and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it.
Reader, this was an extremely emotional piece. Please, take care.
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