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Seeker206

PTSD and Vulnerability

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This is regarding family relationships, and less so, friendships. Because of my past, it's hard for me to open up, show vulnerable emotions, or reach out. I've had really bad responses in the past. I'm so afraid of the pain that I don't know how to risk it now. Specifically, if I really want something, but it makes me feel vulnerable or I'm scared of people responding in a hurtful way (even if inadvertently so), I will project the opposite of what I want. I won't be mean or push them away, but I'll put up a "boundary" that I don't even want there, keeping them at arm's length. I'm terrified of coming across as needing/demanding more than "normal." I'm naturally intense, and have always craved a level of intimacy I've only found with God. I'm not looking for that with people now, but I'm running into the problem of family members offering/wanting more than I'm opening up to, because of my fear. With the result that people have been brought up short, surprised, and seem to be backing away a little to reassess the situation. When I realized they did want more, I kicked myself, but now I'm just not sure how to change my stance without seeming wishy-washy, unstable, untrustworthy, or whatever. I don't want to keep them at arm's length. I just want to protect myself, but if it's safe, I do want closeness. 

Can anyone relate? Has anyone worked through this? How? It's so hard for me to monitor myself in the moment. Knee-jerk reactions take over because I get scared of hurt - my C-PTSD at work. 

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I keep family at arms length in real life.  The times I open up more and act emotional they have an oh boy here we go again response with sighs or eyes rolling.  I'm pretty much myself around strangers because you have to get to a point where I'll probably never see these people again who cares what they think mentality.  So I guess if you want closer relationships with family practice opening up to people around you where their reactions don't mean as much and build your way up to family.

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I'm so sorry you've had that response...I know how painful that is. It sounds similar to what I had growing up. I'm floored by how much they've changed over the years. I'm not sure how to adjust. There is that distrust issue, I think. I was much more forthright over text, but when it came time to talk, I think something inside me did clam up. 

That's a good idea about starting with low stakes. Unfortunately, I don't have all that many people around me right now, and the ones I do have...I try, but one of them doesn't really like me -- personality clash -- and the other one is always busy, often distracted, and...I've been trying for 6 months to figure out how to reconnect with her. I feel trapped. It's just an odd situation. I've tried with a few people at church, with mixed results. You're braver than I am if you've reached the point of being open as a default with strangers. I've been a fortress with everybody, but that has been changing. 

In the meantime, I think I'm most concerned with correcting the misleading impressions that I've already set with changed family members, which are no longer appropriate to the people they've become. I don't want to set our relationships down the same old road when it's obviously time for a fresh start in the right direction. 

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I'm not sure I would say open with strangers is the right way to say how I am.  I go out into the world and do my thing and don't let people I don't know stop me from doing it.  I used to be someone that couldn't even go outside enough to go to the mailbox.  I can't live my whole life in fear and survive this world.  Changing family's impression of you takes a long time and a lot of work.  You have to consistantly be the new you you want them to see over and over again until it sticks.  It's taken a few years for them to change their mind about me.

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5 hours ago, Seeker206 said:

I was much more forthright over text, but when it came time to talk, I think something inside me did clam up.

Maybe (just maybe) you would be more comfortable introducing the subject in writing.  One advantage to the written word is that you can take the time to carefully choose what you want to say, and review it before sending it.  Something kinda like -- ... been hurt in the past ... do want to work on a good relationship ... can we start fresh and slowly build a strong bond? ....  

Of course, only if this approach feels right for you!  The only actual suggestion I will make is to keep the first written contact short and simple.  If the person is agreeable, there will be a 'second contact' to continue the process.  But, if the person turns out to be a "wolf in sheep's clothing", you will not have given them more ammunition to shoot back at you.

Just my two cents worth, which is probably over priced at that.  🙄

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