The Gang of Five

I was accosted earlier to-day by a gang of teenaged thugs.  It was a terrifying experience for me, especially since I’m 65, with mobility impairments, and I have PTSD.

Of course, I did what any of you would do.  When the gang had circled me, I dropped my shopping, whirled into the first, and dropped him to the alley floor like a raw egg.  The next one I bounced off a trashcan six blocks away.  I was getting winded, so I gave vicious kicks to thugs Three and Four, and now even their grandchildren will be eunuchs.  Thug number Five remembered a previous engagement.  I finished my defence with a dramatic ‘WAH!!’and the thunderous applause of admiring crowds.

That’s what happened when I finally got home.  What actually happened is that I mastered my terror enough that I did not try to run – that would have encouraged them.  I was lucky there was no violence and this band of children in hoodies merely enjoyed frightening vulnerable senior citizens.  I consider myself lucky that the power of prayer is not a myth.  I was genuinely frightened.  I still am.

I called the police to ask advice for the future, and an officer came by.  I think he was disappointed not to take a report, or arrest someone. 

It still hasn’t really hit me yet.  When it does, my PTSD will know exactly what to do.  In the ‘winding down’ phase, I will feel ashamed, cowardly, and weak.  I will tell myself a dozen ridiculous things I could  have done.  My sense of being everybody’s victim will amplify many times over the next couple of weeks.  I will feel guilty about having taken up the officer’s time when all there was for him to do was to suggest I get pepper spray.  I will be ashamed to be me.

I’ve already talked to one person, and been told, ‘There’s no need for you to feel those things.’  It wouldn’t matter with whom I spoke, because the response is always the same.  

What people who don’t have experience with PTSD do not understand is that there isn’t a choice.  A single event opens the gate to numerous prior traumas, memories of denigration and verbal abuse about, among other things, being a coward.  The emotional cascade I have described is inevitable.  It doesn’t have to be a near-attack; it could be a flashback or a traumatic memory that triggers it.

It’s easier to manage these things when I don’t feel that I’m wrong to be experiencing the feelings I’m having.  I suppose (I don’t have a lot of experience with this) it would be even easier if I were getting the kind of support that is actually supportive.  ‘This is what your past is telling you.  In your heart it feels very real, and it’s a terrible thing to go through.  This is what PTSD does.  You are actually okay.’

When I’ve been a peer support for others in PTSD crisis, I often tell them, ‘this is what PTSD does.  You can feel comforted that you aren’t crazy, you aren’t actually those things you feel.  In fact, as a person with PTSD, your response is perfectly normal.’


Paul TN Chapman
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