It started with phone calls.
At first I would answer thinking it was my mom or a friend calling. My X raged on the other end of the line seething with sarcasm, hatred, and threats. I’d hop in my car with my baby, and drive to the police department. At the station, with my daughter on my lap, I’d hand write out the incident.
Next it was the frequent calls from lawyers. Restraining orders. Court dates. There was always something needing to be done and it was always urgent. And then there was the endless bad news involving costs, and judges, and decisions.
The PTS started with these phone calls.
The phone would ring, ring, ring, and I’d freeze. My heart would blast out a beat so fast it hurt. And I’d hold my chest while holding my breath. Then there was an inner debate. What if it was important? What if it was him? I imagined more bad news or my X screaming about all the ways he was going to hurt me. Sometimes I was wrong. Sometimes I was right. It was a 50/50 chance.
Even when the storm of my relationship with my X had passed, the ring of the phone made me panic and instantly feel sick with nerves. It had become my conditioned Pavlovian Response.
In an interview with Gloria Steinem she talked about how statistically speaking, the most dangerous place for a woman is not in the streets, but in her own home. She mentioned how Judith Herman compared the trauma experienced by veterans in war to the veterans of domestic violence, and discovered that the veterans of domestic violence suffered far more. This was because with domestic violence, it’s with someone you’re dependent on, supposed to love and be vulnerable with, which is very different from being an adult in a uniform with an enemy.
I slowly healed my conditioned fear over the years. I changed my ringtone to something soft and peaceful. Each time it rang I took a few deep breaths and told myself I was safe. Eventually, the fear dissipated and disappeared.