As a result, my fallback position in every situation became not only that the worst could happen but likely that it would happen to me. That was my precedent for entering adulthood. As a young adult, I made many decisions either not considering the negative consequences at all and then being terrified once I had made the decision OR imagining the worst-case scenario ahead of time and shying away from it altogether. I had a high level of intellect and rationale, but it was not consistent, and my actions did not always follow that pathway.
Trust was not a part of my makeup. The combination of my lack of trust, and my belief that the worst could happen colored my ability to understand any situation that I was in or to navigate it. This carried over to my perception of what was happening in any given situation. I realized in my late 30s, after my round of scream therapy, that I often heard what someone was saying to me but just as often misinterpreted their intent or even what they had said. This was my brain’s way of proving to me that I could not trust anyone or myself and that I had to be cautious.
It was an extremely slow process, but I started slowing down my responses and reactions so that I could rethink what was actually happening instead of the old messages my brain was determined to send my way. It has taken a lot of practice. I have made mistakes and learned from them.
Still scrambled after all these years? Maybe. PTSD was not recognized because of rape at the time that it first happened to me. Delayed therapy only hurts and can sometimes cause permanent damage in myriad ways. Decades later, I may still have the same negative thoughts and misperceptions, but I also know enough to reassess that initial reaction and respond in a much healthier way. It might mean that I have to step back from a situation until I figure it out. But the reactions that were present in my life for so many years are now able to be controlled.