By Kathleen Cara
The first year after the divorce my focus was on healing myself and helping my kids through this transition. Dating was not even on my radar.
Eventually I decided to expand my social circle, to add more friends, and be open to dating.
I came up with the term "not dates" to describe going to dinner or a movie with a guy whose company I enjoyed, but had I no interest in dating.
In talking to my friends about guys I went out with, I would often refrain from referring to them by name. I would give them code names or labels "hot guy from the gym"
In retrospect I realize that these were examples of AVOIDANCE.
Avoidance is one of the Four Symptoms of PTSD, as a I learned from my training as a social worker.
2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event (not going to firework shows because the sounds are reminiscent of bombs exploding) - See more at: http://birminghampostherald.com/index.php/family/item/380-love-ptsd-a-new-advice-column-for-the-brokenhearted#sthash.B7tBaePI.dpuf
I was putting up space btwn me and them, keeping a safe distance from feeling vulnerable or emotionally intimate.
I did not want to consider these relationships as having any possibility of "going somewhere"...bc I'd been somewhere before, and I got hurt, deceived, and betrayed. I did not plan to revisit that kind of pain again anytime soon.
I was trying to avoid anything that would remind me of love, of falling for someone, or of trusting someone.
I can remember really starting to like a guy I had been dating for a few months. We enjoyed being outdoors, had great conversations, we spent a lot of time with his family and with my kids. I was starting to fall for this guy. And I can remember the mental image I had of sliding down a really steep hiking trail, grabbing at tree branches and roots desperate for some kind of stability, something to stop this terrifying fall into love.
See avoidance is a great way to insulate us from danger, but in PTSD this is taken to an extreme and it isolates us. In our "safe" place by ourselves no one can hurt us. But no one can help us, encourage us, support us, take care of us, love us.
By ourselves we are not able to practice how to trust someone with an emotional burden, therefore we carry them alone. By ourselves we are not able to practice how to forgive someone if they were absent minded or inconsiderate when they had a lot of things on their own plate, therefore we become judge mental and resentful.
You see, the problems arise when we leave our safe little nest and have to be around others at Thanksgiving, or at work, or with our kids (who rarely consider what kind of emotional needs we may have...even when it is blatantly obvious we are about to lose it).
Avoidance is simply not sustainable. And when faced with the inevitability of interpersonal challenges, we will crumble.
But by practicing healthy coping skills we can learn how not to be as effected or as devastated by the same set of circumstances.
*Kathleen Cara is a pen name due to the sensitive nature of Ms. Cara's professional work.