Coping with PTSD in a Big City
I realised when I spent some time with ex-university friends living in a small city in Europe that they not only asked how I was feeling, but insisted on knowing, and then followed up with support. This was in the run up to being hit by PTSD, yet something was simmering. It struck me that I no longer had this in London except from my boyfriend and my therapist friend.
It's not because people close to me are bad or insensitive or selfish, but that I think this city wears us down, and when we reach midlife new problems set in: finances, children, elderly parents, bereavement, neighbours, illness, worry about illness. Everyone is struggling to cope and survive and the escape is social media and box sets. We know more about fictional characters than each other because we spend more time with them. The city tips everyone over, sealing up all our reserves for hearing and supporting each other.
Experiencing a different city, smaller, sunny, clean, smooth steeped in natural and man made beauty with good air, and a short pleasant drive to the sea, in a culture and climate where being with people is top of the wellbeing list did me the world of good. Having friends who wouldn't let me dodge questions about how I was feeling prepared the ground for me to release old wounds. It struck me that spending the whole day talking, really talking, had become a luxury.
Fast forward to shutting down and coping with the onslaught of the flashbacks, I realised some friends never contact me unless I make contact. I notice that some people post their daily moves and moods on Facebook. I'm shy on Facebook and feel silly and self conscious interacting but I try to like something every day, I have tried to accept that this is the choice of communication and community for many people. I decided to post a photo from a recent holiday with my boyfriend. The worst of my flashbacks were over and I was exhausted and in need of a rest. Although by night the nightmares raged, by day I was able to find peace staring at the sea. I put up a photo of me looking serene, having not posted for a year.
I was astonished that the likes surpassed 100, just over 50% of my FB friends. Was this because like a good FB person I had 'liked' them? The first comment within minutes was from a supportive friend who knew of my PTSD diagnosis. I replied to her that even in difficult times we can find joy. Of the 98 or so other people who 'liked' the photo and didn't know my situation, only one picked up on this comment. 'Is everything ok,' she wrote. I replied privately. 'Not really, but let's speak.' I then got a list of all her social commitments and how busy she is. She never called.
Many people who 'liked' the photo have seen me face to face and ignored me. I wish I had the guts to write: Guys, babes, don't like my photo, say hi to me, ask me how I am and mean it. Yes, I did get a buzz from the likes, of course. I suddenly realised why people post regularly. We all need some kind of affirmation and if the only way to get it is this way, well, why wouldn't you?
Yes I'm sad and I'm angry, and I find this all harder to deal with than the PTSD itself. You see, that's ugly, unpleasant, difficult, horrible. But it's a glitch, and I believe that glitch can be fixed, I believe I can be healed. But do I have faith that I can change the way I feel about how communicating with others? That's going to be tougher.