Finding yourself again

This article contains mention of PTSD and sexualized violence.


I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in August 2021. PTSD separates you from your body and the possibility of getting that connection back seems out of reach. You feel scared to reconnect to yourself, and then feel embarrassed by that fear. The thought of intimacy makes you want to run away and hide. There is a sort of helplessness to it all. You question whether you’re broken. You’re not. But it's scary to be vulnerable again after you’ve had your sense of safety completely violated at your most vulnerable moment — that’s not something that gets easily fixed.

My anxiety still makes me feel jumpy, but more often than not, what I feel is fatigue. I feel the rigidity of being on guard at all times and never quite feeling safe enough to exist. The idea of being with another human ever again feels terrifying because first you need to feel safe in your own body.

As much as I would love to say you can girlboss your way through sexual trauma, lighting some candles and pulling out a sex toy isn’t going to make all your PTSD symptoms disappear. The first time I tried doing that, I had put so much pressure on myself to “just do it” that it got to the point where I was just assaulting my body again. I didn’t realize that I had to slow down and reapproach my body like it was the first time I was seeing myself as a complete person. I had to reacquaint myself with my sexual self, with extreme kindness and patience.

I now understand my own boundaries. I don’t feel guilty for not being where I wish I was. I don’t feel shame for not moving past the foreplay because I am trying to reconnect to myself. I am still healing, and I shouldn’t feel like I need to be anywhere except for where I am right now. I’ve only just started my healing process, but being patient with myself is necessary if I want to open up to others and be vulnerable again.

Part of my healing has been coming to terms with my sexuality, with my Queerness. Once I was able to embrace my Queer side, only then did I feel I could let go of this facade I had created — one where I felt like I had to be the epitome of every straight man’s wet dream. Once I was able to embrace my Queerness, I was able to see sex not just as penetration, but as a highly-personalized process. There is no hierarchy in healthy relationships or sex — rather, it’s about being in the present and connecting with your partner and yourself.

I can’t change what happened to me. I can only move forward from my trauma and hope that my willingness to speak out will help someone else. My intimacy journey has only just begun, and I have a long way to go, but I have faith in myself. With patience, love and kindness, I’ll get there eventually. ❦

This article is part of Intimacy, The Ubyssey’s 2022 sex issue. You can read more here.