You don’t have to be a combat soldier or veteran to have PTSD. Victims and survivors of rape and incest can develop it. Targets and survivors of severe bullying and abuse can also have it.
Although many of us survive and, better yet, overcome whatever or whoever tried to harm us, it still leaves scars on our psyches. Our abilities to regulate emotions are deeply affected as is our abilities to find stability, happiness, joy, love, and intimacy.
I know this from firsthand experience. Because of the severe bullying I had suffered at school, I was a very angry, hypervigilant, and vengeful twenty-something back in the 1990’s.
All it took was for someone to stare or look at me the wrong way and I’d very rudely and belligerently ask them what their major malfunction was. If someone got in my face, approached me in a threatening manner- did anything to provoke me, I would want to put up my fists.
Because of the trauma I had gotten from the bullying I had suffered in the past, I was determined that no one would ever bully me again.
I remember when I was 23 years old. While standing in the checkout line at the supermarket and having my groceries rung up, another young woman, who happened to be a neighbor I was at odds with, kept standing in line behind me, cursing and shouting at me to “hurry up.”
Sadly, she was one of those people who seemingly stayed into it with everyone in our neighborhood. In a way, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.
When I handed the cashier my cash to pay for the groceries and the woman put a finger in my face, I grabbed her by the back of her head and slammed her face down across the checkout counter so hard, the machine beeped.
Honestly, I don’t know how I kept from going to jail but I was lucky. No. I was blessed!
Fortunately, other than splashing a bully’s face with a fountain drink after work a year or so before, this was the only altercation I’d gotten into at the time.
When I look back, I’m pretty embarrassed of it now. Being young and not having enough life experience yet, I let some idiot cause me to get violent. ‘Definitely not one of my finest moments!
But that’s what trauma from past bullying can do. It makes you hypervigilant, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And when it does, you react. You tell the person off, maybe curse a blue streak in them, calling the person every name but a child of God. Or you double up your fist and give the jerk in front of you a fat lip.
You don’t want to react that way, of course, but it’s kneejerk. Then you end up feeling like a complete heel later. This is what happens when you allow ignorant people to push your buttons and it’s too easy to do when you’ve been traumatized.
Now that I’m older, anytime some creep crosses a line, I usually tell the person to get a life then walk away. But I never stay silent. I’ve found that I can get my point across in only a few words, keep it moving, and continue to feel good about myself. There’s no need to get physical.
And that’s what I would recommend anyone to do when someone is running off at the mouth. If they put a finger in your face, however, there’s no law that says you can’t grab their finger and shove it away. And if the person tries to hit you, then it’s time to throw up those dukes and defend yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with self-defense. It’s how we set boundaries. It’s how we teach people to stay out of our personal space and keep their hands off.
With knowledge comes empowerment!