Can we talk about “The Discussion”. You know the one. The one where you like someone, begin to trust them, and then you have to explain why you might have the odd time when you seem to completely lose it. It’s the one where you try to be honest about your life up to that point and you watch as yet another pair of eyes contract with fear. You can almost see their brain going to their happy place as they work out where the hell the nearest exit is. Yes. That Discussion. You try to put a positive spin on it but you know from that moment you will always be the “sad one”, “the one who needs help”, quite possibly even “the one they worry will go ball sack crazy at any moment”. You become the one they fear. Usually it’s about three words after the first mention of PTSD. So it runs. “I have PTSD I have to…….” and you’ve lost them. You’ve been signed, sealed, and delivered into the looney bin and anyone associated with you becomes an angel of mercy for putting up with you. Hell will have frozen over before they even hear any additional diagnosis or how hard you’ve worked to still be breathing. Man, I can hear the clang of the garbage pail lid as they toss me inside.
And that’s the discussion. But it isn’t. A discussion requires two people to have a conversation. One to tell truths and the other to ask questions when they don’t understand. Then once the big ideas have been discussed it can become more back and forth about the little things like what do you do when you feel an episode coming on. Fuck I hate that term. “Episode”. It makes me feel like my life is a soap opera complete with a third cousin twice removed coming back from the dead as your sister. It’s not an episode. It’s a few days, a week, maybe a month, hell, may be longer when you have to work through something that you shouldn’t ever of had to. Then once the healing is done everything is “O.K.” Well kind of. It depends how bad it’s been and what’s happened but that’s usually something that only a few privileged people get to see.
Yes the average person sees you as a burden to others and a risk to their own health and safety, but that’s ok. They’re only human, and hey, they know everything about you don’t they? No. Actually they don’t. They know what a few letters mean. They might understand vaguely what those letters stand for. But what they don’t know is why you have to use them and why you have to have “The Discussion” in the first place because they’re too busy hiding the knives and writing you off of their Christmas card list. What they don’t know is the sheer horror that bought you to the condition. The struggle thereafter that finally got you to a place where some doctor was able to tell you what the hell was wrong with you and maybe, just maybe, not stuff you full of drugs but start to try and untangle the mess. After that it’s not exactly plain sailing either.
No. Once you know what you have and you start to be treated you still have to function, still have to heal, still have to work through all the crap and the shit and at the same time work, interact, and remember to breathe. But it’s “a process”. And all the time you just want someone to say “I like you for who you are” without them having a white coat on or be another member of the group. That’s the thing. We’re not working through all the things we were given to carry just to stay safe in a ward or just be friends with our fellow sufferers. The reason we’re doing it is so we can get our rightful place back in the world and be seen as equal. Not “special” with a slurring of the “Thpecial” just equal and to have the same right to live, love, fuck, and fuck it up as everyone else.
True there are times we have to go to our quiet place. True there are moments we get scared or start to lose it. Doesn’t everyone? But somehow we become monsters and people run when we have a moment. The real monsters are the ones who did it to us but they get ignored and we are the ones left feeling like Frankenstein’s abortion. Am I asking for pity. Hell no! I don’t want to hear people say “it must be terrible”. What I truly, really, totally need is people to say “tell me it all.” People to say “I may not like what I hear but I’ll listen. Maybe we can break it into a few coffees but I want to hear it all so I understand how strong you were to make it to saying hello to me.” And that’s ok. It’s ok knowing everything that has to be said to break it down into pieces where the other person can handle it. But for someone to say that means that the truth is spoken. Someone outside of this head has heard it and recognizes it for what it is. Otherwise it stays locked inside and keeps going round and round and round and somedays I won’t get dizzy but some days I’ll end up throwing up all over the carnival.
That’s “The Discussion” but while it doesn’t happen I still work every day on keeping things even. I still have to feed and clothe myself and remember to remove the pencil from my nose metaphorically. So I have given up waiting and begun to speak. “Hello” I’ll say “my name is Pete and I have PTSD which led to BPD and I am strong. I don’t expect you to want to talk to me again but I am here and a reality and I deserve to live whole.”
See the knives are still safe in the drawer…… well for now. Until you ask me whether I keep a gun in the house and who “looks after me?” That would be a “No” and a “Me”.