About a month ago I got dinner with a friend who I have known since high school. At some point the conversation turned to what it felt like to support me when my PTSD emerged for the first time during our undergraduate years together, about six years ago.
“Yeah Thomas, it was rough,” she said. “I remember I had to set super clear boundaries with you, because if I didn’t pick up the phone when you called, you’d freak out.”
When my friend told me this, I felt mortified. Though certain memories from my early PTSD feel crystal clear – crying in bathroom stalls, starting therapy with L, walking back to my dorm room at night listening to “Braveheart” by Neon Jungle – others feel lost in a blur. This friend, who supported me through it all, reminded me of how I acted at my worst. When my PTSD emerged, in addition to experiencing panic attacks, I lashed out at certain friends for minor things they did. Right before the onset of PTSD, I had expected too much from a different friend. When my friend who stood by me through it all talked about this time last month at dinner, I felt embarrassment and red-hot shame flow through my veins like lava. I wanted to crawl under the table and hide, and then I wanted her to kick me in the stomach for my past self’s behavior.
I share this because I want to practice transparency about my behavior and the mistakes I made. On this blog I often write about valuing compassion, social justice, perhaps to the extent that I portray myself as some like, amazing human which I am because I dump mediocre men and stan iconic K-Pop and pop music. But I was messy! I have made mistakes and I have mistreated people.
Since then I have grown. I went to therapy, and even though a lot of time it felt horrible, I learned so much. I learned about how to handle my trauma and how to regulate my emotions. Since all those years ago I have made healthy, supportive friendships with clear boundaries and open, loving communication. I apologized to the people I hurt. My growth does not excuse my past behavior, nor am I done growing.
I share this for anyone out there who feels like a shitty person, because as cliché as this sounds, I think we can become less shitty if we work at it, even when feelings of shame and self-loathing and exhaustion emerge. I also write this for any Asian folk out there aka the two Asian people who may stumble upon this blog by chance because ten years ago while in high school I posted about my obsessive crush on Key from SHINee, lol, because if I had known about PTSD or therapy earlier in my life, I definitely would have sought support sooner, support that is often stigmatized or inaccessible to our communities.
Gonna end this post with some gratitude. Thanks to my iconic therapist former therapist L and all the therapists out there spreading healing and light. Thanks to Caroline Knapp for enlightening me about feminism and body image and true self-empowerment. Thanks to this blog for serving as a space for me to share my life over the past decade and for my readers for not complaining about how weird I am. And, thank you to the friend I got dinner with, for sticking with me through my messiness. You da best.
Wow so I wrote this post about a month ago but saved it up and did not have time to post it until now. Reactions to this post? How do you cope when you think about past mistakes you’ve made or embarrassing/harmful things you’ve done? How can we honor and grow from those experiences? I have like 100 blog post ideas but grad school has been super busy as of late so fingers crossed that I can post again soon-ish!