On my daily walk this morning while I was drinking my tea and listening to music with my ear buds in, a woman I passed, more than 6ft away, made a motion for me to put my mask on. My first knee jerk reaction was tell her to “FO” as I was doing my best to wear a mask any time I went outside. To my defense, my mask was just below my mouth as I was drinking tea and no one was around me, so I thought I was okay.
This interaction made me get tears in my eyes as this woman didn’t understand my story and it triggered something inside me. I know my reaction was due to getting little to no sleep last night (nothing related) so I checked myself and thought this was good time to educate people that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reality of DV Survivors.
When wearing a mask was first implemented, I really struggled with wearing one. Not because I didn’t want to stay healthy, or keep others around me healthy, but because having something over my mouth and nose is a trigger for me as a survivor of DV.
PTSD affects 7.7 million Americans over 18 in a given year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it can affect anyone who has experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event, which includes women who have been through violence or another trauma.
When a man put his hand over my mouth to keep me from screaming while I was being raped at the age of 13 and when a man put his hand over my mouth as an adult to keep me from screaming when he had me pinned down on the kitchen floor while he was beating me and threatening to kill me with a knife, is why I have a difficult time wearing a mask. These are just two incidents that explain my trigger with masks.
Not wearing a mask, is not a political statement for me but a mental health issue for me. Every day I put a mask on, I take a deep breath and let it out before putting it over my mouth and nose. I can tolerate it over my mouth, but when I have to go inside a store and it is mandatory to put the mask over my nose too, it is a challenge as the flashbacks come to the forefront, especially the first few times I had to put a mask on. It is getting easier to wear a mask and I make every effort to wear one, but sometimes I just have to take it off around my nose so I can at least enjoy my many walks throughout the day.
Unfortunately, I have other PTSD triggers but have learned over the years to be able to manage them. Part of being a Recovery Coach for DV Survivors is helping them with managing their PTSD symptoms as I can understand what they are going through and have learned techniques to help manage the symptoms.
So to the lady that set me off this morning, thank you for the opportunity to educate people on PTSD as a symptom of DV as I could have said “FU” but I chose to take a different path and put my mask all the way on when I passed you again coming back and you had your mask off until you saw me. I don’t know your story so I will not judge.