Now at 22, I can count on one hand the number of friends I have. And use only one finger for those who could hold the honor of Maid of Honor or Bridesmaid at my wedding. But even that one close friend, who doubles as my cousin, is distant due to busy schedules or low funds or well, whatever other thing is a priority over each other. I can remember two times where my life revolved around friendships: 4th and 5th grade. In elementary school things felt so simple and friendships just felt right. It was easy to run around and go on adventures with my 8 best buddies, like a scene from the Little Rascals, us girls.
I was the epitome of a young, care-free child.
Then we moved to another city and my old friends drifted apart from me. I tried to acclimate to my new environments and even made new friends. Then puberty hit and I felt uncomfortable with my body in ways that didn’t make sense to me. Simultaneously my PTSD started.
I coped with my PTSD by becoming a people-pleaser and perfectionist. I encompassed myself in school, work, and church. Every way I could make myself busy while also making others pleased became my goal. My free time outside of school engagements became consumed by books and television and movies and video games. In those worlds, I could be someone else and somewhere else; I could escape to whole new realities. I managed to actually have a few best friends. But I was a castle, an impenetrable fortress. Just in case, I always had the gate down with people-pleasing soldiers guarding the entrance. At the beginning of high school, I pushed my best friend away and that’s when I raised even the drawbridge to my castle as double reinforcements. So I became the person who made everyone else encouraged, served in every capacity I could, and hid behind People-Pleasing Perfectionist. Never able to show anyone who I really was. It led to another best friend relationship being one-sided and destructive. Then it led to only acquaintance social groups.
I’m trying to figure out how to navigate the social world again. It’s hard. Like stomach-churning, anxiety-ridden, physically painful hard. For all of my life I had been told that secrets should never be shared. That surviving sexual trauma is something to hide and it leaked into every sphere of my life. The foundation given by my parents was shattered by my dad’s abuse, of the friends I shared with it was never brought up again, church welcomed broken people but not their brokenness, and God was rooted into my mind as having very human qualities. There is no healing in silence.
My PTSD has been kicking my butt lately and it has caused a lot of strain on my pursuit of healthy relationships as well as on my already healthy relationship with my husband. All I want to do is run away and hide. Running away, pushing people away, reminds me of a quote from the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants.
God, don't you love to run?
Yeah, it's the best high you can have.
Exactly! It's like you're just in this place where nothing bad can happen, you know.
Like if you just push a bit further, if you keep moving...
Nothing can touch you.
I too want to run away so fast that none of the bad can catch up with me. I want to run and run and run to feel alive and free. The idea makes me feel invincible.
But eventually I’ll have to stop and catch my breath and then my dark trenches will catch me. Running away is only a temporary thrill and Band-Aid. Running towards is life-altering freedom.
I’ve never navigated the social world as me so I’m still trying to figure out what a healthy friendship is. But this is me trying to find freedom. Are you?