Don’t touch me…

No, really, please don’t touch me. I’ll explain why. Everybody already  thinks I’m fucking crazy, so maybe this will just cement that belief. I don’t care. I’ve never been able to talk about this in public before, and right now I feel brave enough so I’m going to grab the chance with both hands.

When I ask you not to touch me, I have a very good reason. The very thought of your fingers making contact with my skin makes the vomit rise in my throat and my pulse bound faster and heavier than even the worst panic attack can induce. For you see, I have haphephobia. A fear of being touched. It is much, much worse with strangers, but there are only a handful of people who can touch me without making me sick to my stomach. 😦

It makes life so very difficult. Many people are tactile by nature and when they reach out to touch an arm or shake a hand it induces such waves of sheer terror in me that I’m unable to move. I’m gripped by fear and paralysed by the thought that I am not able to escape. For you see, I’m stuck in a wheelchair. I cannot get away. For some reason people seem to think that they have an automatic right to pat me on the shoulder or grab my hand. So when I scream, yell “Get the fuck off me!” and yank my hand away, they think that I’m just being rude. Maybe I am. But are they not being rude by touching my body without my permission?

My Psychiatrist and I have talked about this before. Well, by that I mean he talks about haphephobia whilst I sob and choke on the words in my throat. Even now, I’m not able to say it. I try so hard but I just can’t.

Maybe if I try it this way. I spent the first 33 years of my life being abused. Both familial and spousal abuse. The familial abuse came from the one man amongst all others who should have loved and protected me. I then left home and married a bastard who was a carbon copy of my first abuser. The abuse was verbal, physical and sexual (as it was in the first instance). It got to the point where I could feel his fingers even when they were not in contact with my skin. I knew that their contact brought pain and suffering. So eventually I came to associate all touch with that same level of pain and suffering.

Even though I know why my phobia exists, I simply cannot move past it. Nothing my Psychiatrist has tried has worked. Not a single thing.

So when you see a woman in a wheelchair who looks like a terrified rabbit caught in the glare of some headlights and she’s sobbing and begging you not to touch her – please think that there’s a damn good reason why and respect her wishes.

Living the dream…

WARNING: THIS POST DISCUSSES SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND DOMESTIC ABUSE.

No. That title doesn’t mean what you think it does. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been having more flashbacks and night terrors than I’ve had in years. I have no idea why these terrors have invited themselves back into my head, but back they have come. Back with a total vengeance.

It is never the same dream or memory two times in a row. Every single time it is different. Every single time I get to relive a horror that I thought was gone for ever. Every time they come back to haunt me and invade my life. Why, why do they do that? Especially when I’ve worked so hard to block them from my mind. These memories worm their way through my memory like poisonous black tendrils of fog through the white mist of my mind. I can do nothing to stop them either. They come unbidden to terrorise me.

The first time that a flashback came back to haunt me, I was trying to recover from my mammogram, which was a traumatic experience. I’m only getting them so early due to my family history of breast cancer. I had been petrified to go. Agoraphobia is a bitch of a mistress. Yet she was in cahoots with her little sister, haphephobia. She was winding me up too. My haphephobia is luckily restricted to being touched by strangers, but unluckily, it is a thousand times worse in intimate areas of my body. So here was I, about to get mauled by a total stranger. I had no clue that if would be as bad though. No idea at all.

The night before my mammogram, I barely slept a wink. Most of the night, I sat with my arms around my knees, rocking backwards and forwards with tears running down my face. Come morning, I had huge black circles under my eyes and was panicking like crazy. Several times I came close to cancelling my appointment and wheeling quickly in the opposite direction. But my carer talked me into going. He was right. I needed to go. I told myself I was doing it for my kids. That was what gave me the courage to face going along.

On the morning of my test, I couldn’t eat a single thing. I was so anxious I couldn’t eat a single thing. My heart was pounding and I was sweaty and shaking. All I had was enough water to get my tablets down. Once the boys were off to school, I got ready to go. We had to set off early as the drive into took a little under an hour to get into the centre of town. The traffic was horrific, so I called the reception to let them know that I may be just a little late. The response I got? “Well you should have set off earlier.” What the hell?

We made it there with just under 10 minutes to spare. My carer wheeled me through into the main reception of the hospital. It was full of people and within seconds, I was freaking out. I had to shut my eyes tightly while I was wheeled into the lift and taken down to the lower ground floor where the X-ray department was. Thankfully it was much quieter and I was able to relax a bit. I booked in at the reception and asked to speak to the person who would be doing my mammogram. I wanted to explain my issues, so they would be prepared for how I was likely to react.

After about 20 minutes of waiting, the grumpiest looking woman you have ever seen in your life came stomping around the corner and over to me. “What?”she barked at me. I asked her if I could speak in private. She tutted! She actually tutted at me and then went to grab my wheelchair from my carer. I screamed get off at her. It was a reflex defence mechanism. I told her that if my carer couldn’t come in with me then I was going to go home. Reluctantly she beckoned for us to follow her.

The room with the mammogram machine in was bigger than I thought it would be, which was a huge relief for me. I felt a little more at ease. I started to explain to her that I was phobic of being touched by strangers. She rolled her eyes at me and barked at me to hurry up and get undressed! As I have chronic pain and multiple joint disorders, I find it very difficult to get undressed quickly. I obviously wasn’t going fast enough for her. She lunged out and grabbed the back of my shirt and yanked it up. This not only jarred my back and caused severe pain, but I screamed at being touched and then went straight into the mother of all flashbacks.

“I had only been married for about six months. The mental and physical abuse had been going on for a while. This one particular night, my ex had been drinking all day and was in a really foul mood. I was scared of saying anything that would get me hit, so I was treading very carefully. He was watching porn, and decided he wanted sex. I asked him if we could wait as I had a really bad headache. The answer was a punch in the mouth. My lip split open and there was blood everywhere. But it didn’t end there. He grabbed my top and tore it open. The buttons went flying everywhere. I tried to cover my breasts but he was slapping my hands away and grabbing at me. The next thing I knew, he dragged me over to the sofa, forced me down and raped me.”

That was my flashback. It was horrible. I was so lucky that my carer was there to talk me down. They had to then go and stand behind the screen while the horrible woman mauled my chest onto the plates. I was sobbing so hard, I thought I was going to be sick. She squeezed my breasts into that machine so hard that I ended up with a large bruise on my left breast. I couldn’t get out of there quick enough.

Why tell this story? These are the dreams I am living. Vivid dreams of my past that will never let up or leave me be. If you reach out to touch someone in either a personal or a professional capacity, please stop and think before you do touch them. You never know the damage, the hell, that you might unleash for them.