Recovery isn't easy, no matter which way you look at it. It's even more difficult without the right individuals around you. As some of you know, recently, my PTSD has been triggered and I'm left to pick up the pieces, yet again. Despite having gone through this before, I still need to do the difficult work of solidifying my support system, and ensuring that the current individuals around me are safe, and will be able to support me. Every stage of mental illness is different and unique, and regardless of my previous experiences with the individuals in my life, they need to gain my trust for what I'm going through this very moment.
Yesterday, a friend asked me to come to his house in the mountains for a few days to help me in my recovery. This friend is a very large part of my support system, and I can trust him with everything, but I still needed to verify that he will be safe during the current phase of my PTSD. Instead of agreeing, or just saying no (like I was temped to), I proceeded to interrogate him to verify whether or not he is safe. I needed to make sure we were both on the same page before agreeing. I don't do this for everyone, just the individuals that I are already part of my support system and I know I can trust. It'd take far too long for me to gain every form of trust from a new individual.
Here are some of the things I need to verify to clear someone as safe before being around them during the beginning stages of my recovery. These things apply throughout my recovery, but especially in the beginning when I'm still try to get my footing to be able to dive into my recovery fully.
Recovery isn't easy, but with the right people and environment, it's not only possible, but it's also a great way for us to grow and thrive in our daily lives.
Will you take anything I do personally? Especially with PTSD, I can not control if I will be able to talk, walk, sleep, eat, drink, or anything else. I can not guarantee if I'll even be able to look at you. All of these things can be taken the wrong way. I've had friends in the past think that I hate them, and/or that I don't want to be around them for one reason or another. The truth though, is that this has nothing to do with anyone but me.
Will you drink while I'm around? Compared to some of the other things on this list, this is minor. However, this is still a big enough deal that I need to know about it. When individuals drink, at times they are more forward with their opinions and thoughts. For someone barely functioning and is doing his best to hang in there, i can not risk a word or two that might cause my mind to unleash past traumas around these words. I need people consistent, and present around me during this time.
If this does not go well, will you blame me? I need to know that if I ruin your life because I'm not being sociable or any other reason because of my PTSD that you will not take it personal, and hate me for it. Chances are, things will be okay. But I need to ensure that the individuals around me understand that being around me is a choice that they're making. They don't need to be there. They don't need to support me. All of that is their choice, and if things go downhill that's on them.
Will you hate me if I change my mind about anything? This question was in relation to another question that's not related to safety and trust. I had asked, "can we grill some burgers?", because I make amazing burgers, and I am obsessed with myself doing amazing things. But then it occured to me. We won't make burgers for a couple of days at least, that means I could change my mind a dozen times between now and then. I need to make sure the individual won't hold any retracted decisions against me.
Will you trust me with my own recovery? There are times when I am catatonic for hours, and other times when I want to swim in freezing tempurature. There will be times when I want to eat everything, and days when I eat absolutely nothing. Nothing I do will make sense. And that's okay. But despite all that, I need to be trusted with my mind, with my recovery. It's the only way I will accept having you around me.
These are just a few of the things I need to ensure my safety around individuals during this time. The beginning stages of recovery are vital in building the foundation that I Will use for healing. All this might seem extreme, but when your mind has turned against you, and is telling you everyone has too, and you deserve it, then you need extreme. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Support and Recovery, but for me, it's vital.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.