Look Out For Dropping Shoes


Recently, I came across a quote that a friend had shared on FB from Tumblr. It was one of those posts that you have to stop and read, not just a meme to glimpse and keep scrolling. This one not only made me pause, but truly sit and contemplate the accuracy of how a stranger, who did not know us, could still seem to know us so well. That may be one of the things I love the most about Facebook, you find out that you really are not alone, in anything.

  This may seem like basic common sense, but one interesting (and kind of terrifying) thing I recently read was that some individuals who grew up in an emotionally abusive environment find that their anxiety level actually decreases in the presence of those who are mean or overly critical of them because it’s familiar. Their nervous systems are hard wired to react to that kind of treatment as “normal” in the sense that it knows what to do with it–what defense mechanisms to employ when, etc.

   Meanwhile, kinder, more peaceful, and healthier relationships are quite a dramatic adjustment, and ironically feel less predictable because of all the threats that are absent and never materialize. It feels suspicious or too good to be true, which in turn ratchets up hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal. Instead of knowing what BS is coming because it always does, there’s the nebulous sense that the other shoe is just waiting to drop. Safety and respect can feel the most unsafe for a while, because as far as the traumatized nervous system is concerned, those things don’t exist, or if they do in any form, there must be a million unseen strings attached.

    This is part of what traps a lot of people in abusive relationships, consistently draws them to want to please assholes, or keeps them moving from one unhealthy environment to the next–a highly toxic comfort of familiarity where being on the receiving end of cruelty feels like “home”. 

angstmonsterwrites @ Tumblr

Even nearly 5 years into a healthy relationship with Troy, there are still times when our base instinct is to grab the binoculars and scan the horizon for falling shoes. We hate that we still get that feeling, because we know it is not Troy who is responsible for the action.

Cause and effect” is a relationship between events or things, where one is the result of the other or others. This is a combination of action and reaction. Only in the case of PTSD, the two are not directly related. Imagine seeing someone’s angry face and their arm raised, fist coming forward towards your face, your brains natural response is to flinch. Now imagine your partners laughing smiling face with their arm raised to brush something from your hair. Your response to the second, is not going to be the same as the first, because the situation and circumstances are not the same. The trouble with PTSD, is that our brain can not always tell the difference. We respond to the gentle brush of a hand, the same way one would respond to a punch to the face, we flinch.

Trauma responses are not always about physical stimuli. We say the rhyme as children, we all know it. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Oh the lies we teach our children. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words leave deeper scars. Emotional and mental abuse, are still abuse. The wounds they leave can not be treated and healed with bandages and stitches.

We are lucky, that Troy is who he is, and how he is. We still flinch, but we do it less than we used to.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, please contact your local or national hotlines for assistance. The path out, is not one you need to take alone, there are many of us who have cleared the way to help you.


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