An extra post today 🙂
In the last post, I wrote about a lot of what’s been taking away from “me time”. It’s a good way of burying my head in the sand because I can’t cope with what’s happening around me as well as I want to.
One reason I’ve been avoiding “me time” is because that coping strategy only works when I feel physically and emotionally safe in my environment: home, neighborhood, work, traveling, etc. Right now, my neighborhood and workplace do not always feel safe. Triggers are part of it, but experiences count too.
In order to get back to the “me time” and other positive self care strategies, I have to bring back the safe feelings.
Issue 1: feeling safe in my neighborhood
Have you ever noticed people in your neighborhood who set off your instincts? You can’t see or hear anything “wrong” from their appearance or interactions with other people, but you know there’s something “not quite right” about them? There are a few people like that in my neighborhood; they are unsafe and dangerous. I avoid them by crossing streets and not looking them in the eyes. And I make sure my posture and body language say “don’t bother me; I am not vulnerable” instead of the opposite as often as possible.
Also, I’ve been known to talk to the hotline while I walk home; it helps that people hear one side of the conversation and think I’m a little crazy. This way, they actively avoid looking me in the eye and walk around me too. As much as I’d like to be friendlier, past experience has taught me that being friendly and chatty with neighbors or people on the street gives the appearance of an easy target.
But this did not deter the older man in a wheel chair who stalked and stopped me on my way home one night as I walked from the train stop to my apartment – a trek I’ve made numerous times in the 21 months I’ve lived in this city.
You might think, oh he’s a disabled old man in a wheelchair; how dangerous is that? Disabled people do not have a monopoly on goodness and vulnerability; they can be and are predators same as people without disabilities.
Even after I crossed the street and turned away from him, he followed diagonally to cut me off from my apartment building. With one hand outstretched, and the other hidden or resting close to the hand rest, he looked at me and asked for money. I ignored him, and he wheeled closer. Finally, I turned to see him within 5 feet. So I turned around and flung my hand out like I was going to throw the container at him and yelled at him to stop. He tried to wheel closer, but I kept yelling and waved my hand again. His face turned cold, eyes hard and mean, but didn’t get any closer.
We stared at each other in a standoff until I walked into his space with aggression in every step. Then I turned away to walk around and back towards my apartment. He tried to say something, but I made a gesture that had him hesitating. And the counselor on the phone with me that night, started speaking to me again. When I answered her, he turned away and looked as if I hurt him. But I kept on moving and talking to the counselor. A few minutes later, he got picked up by a van. They disappeared, and I continued home.
That was a Friday night.
The Monday morning afterwards, a van similar to the on from Friday slow parked/crawled along the sidewalk I walked on; same route I take every morning to get to the train station. The van followed me down the block and beeped its horn until I crossed the street to the next block. To say I was shaken and scared is easy. Triggered and feeling unsafe in the neighborhood that had been safe up until that weekend? Yes that too.
My solution: write in an anonymous tip to the police using their website form; letting friends at work know what happened so they understand if I call or text on my way home; and using the hotline to keep me company when I walk home late if I feel anxious.
Issue 2: Feeling safe in my workplace
One of my biggest issues with PTSD is hyper-vigilance. It takes a long time for me to acclimate to changes in my workplace – especially integrating new people; different levels of noise (stimulation); and understanding boundaries. One aspect I never thought I’d have to deal with also is sexual attraction – not me because I’m still frozen, but a man being attracted to me and treating me odd because of it – and bullying that can come from close-knit groups of people sharing information with each other.
The new people in the office have a different work culture than we do in our office. They get together often and are friends with each other, or are friendlier than my coworkers and I are in that we go to work to work and chat infrequently during work hours. Apparently, the man whose interest I caught started talking about me to his teammates and other people who work in my area. Those people started off friendly enough, but soon started acting unfriendly and somewhat hostile in their body language.
That makes me very uncomfortable. These people are in and out of the shared work space and do not modulate their voices. That means I can hear snippets of conversation and other stuff even with my headphones on loud. And with my headphones on loud, I am more likely to startle easily when people do come up to talk with me. I am also more likely to feel hyper-vigilant and anxious because I can’t use my normal coping methods (listening to and recognizing the foot treads/voices/sounds of people who come and go around me) to ensure the safety of my space.
But worst of all, the negative attitude and hostile body language combined with knowing they are talking about me behind my back is triggering and reminiscent of how I lived the first 25 + years of my life. Work felt like a battlefield I wasn’t equipped to handle; not with the neighborhood scares and all of the anniversaries/flashbacks/memories popping into visit.
So what am I doing to feel safe again?
I am going back to basics.
- Eat, sleep, drink liquids (and maybe something alcoholic if I feel like it), treat myself with kindness and compassion to start.
- Use my gratitude mantra as often as necessary to remind myself of the blessings in my life.
- Use my safety mantra as I wake up in the morning, go to bed at night, wake up in a flashback, or have a nightmare.
- Stock up on my favorite grounding foods and flavors.
- Enjoy reading silly books and splurge on a few new ebooks
- listen to music
- Continue on my personal style journey
- Fight back using what quiet strength, resilience, persistence, intelligence, and strategy instead of letting my emotions win
- And not do anything sometimes
Thanks for reading