I just came back from a dinner party. A simple sentence with a seemingly simple meaning. But let me take you on a journey through what this sentence means to someone with PTSD – that someone being me.
Logical Brain – Everyone goes to dinner parties. They are fun and a great way to meet new people.
PTSD Brain – I don’t understand why anyone wants to leave the house, let alone go to a house filled with strangers. I will have to talk to about something (who knows what), and why do people like meeting other people?
Logical Brain – Pick a nice outfit to wear and get ready. You don’t need a nap today. This is a productive day with lots of opportunity.
PTSD Brain – I don’t like clothes. Pyjamas are my wardrobe. Why would I want to have a shower? That takes at least 15 minutes. I DO need a nap – like right now! Why am I awake? Opportunity is so overrated.
Logical Brain – Ok you’re ready to go – good. Now don’t worry about how noisy the house will be. It’s only people. You are safe and really don’t need to overreact about a few strangers.
PTSD Brain – Where are my earplugs? I will definitely need them. I hope the room I find to sit in is quiet. I don’t want to be a downer. Will I have a corner to stand in? – but not too far from the front door. How many hours do I need to be there?
Logical Brain – Ok, you made it to the house. Go in and smile and make small talk with people. Eat some food and mingle like everyone else does.
PTSD Brain – I’m frozen in this car. Literally, my legs won’t work. Come on legs – don’t be embarrassing. Ok, I made it out of the car. There is a stranger at the door. I wonder if they will judge me by my tattoos? How many hours do I need to be here again? Small talk doesn’t escape my lips at all. I found a corner – that’s good. But food doesn’t sound appetizing and if I leave this corner someone may talk to me and I may lose my spot on the wall. I don’t need to eat. Eating is overrated.
Logical Brain – Act normal. It’s just a dinner party.
PTSD Brain – I can feel tears welling up in my eyes. My eyes are burning so I shouldn’t make eye contact with anyone or I will be a blubbering mess. My chest is heavy and I feel sick. Why would anyone want to go to a dinner party anyways? Especially with me. I don’t understand. It looks so weird people going up and eating like it’s normal. How are they not nervous to do that? Oh great, I just made eye contact with my daughter and she can tell I’m about to cry. How much longer do I have to be here?
Logical Brain – Run for it! You’re about to cry you crazy person!
PTSD Brain – I can’t breathe! I need to leave. I’m crying and I can’t stop. I need to run to my car and hide. I just ruined everything. I’m so embarrassed! What’s wrong with me? I used to be able to socialize and be smart and fun. Now I’m a blubbering mess in front of my kids. What the hell is wrong with me? I hate myself.
Logical Brain – Don’t forget, you have PTSD – this is your new life now.
PTSD Brain – I hate you logical brain.
Logical Brain – I miss me too.