living with ptsd

Living with PTSD: Me and the Starbucks barista

by Tess Bacchus

Well, I guess for most women this would be a non-encounter kind of encounter. For me, on the other hand, this is fodder for insomnia, fear and Jesus fucking Christ, it is a trigger.

Lately, in the last six months or so, I have developed a serious addiction to short, half-sweet mochas from Starbucks. Here’s a fucked up thing. I have all sorts of food allergies and sensitivities to food and really shouldn’t be having any of that. You know, as I type this I realize this has nothing to do with the crux of the story. Anyways, ignore all of the above.

I go to a Starbucks almost every day to get ‘something’ (that is none of your business) and there is a young, male barista who works there. The guy is always super blush-y around me.  I try to not think about this because this is what I need to do to function in the face of male attention.

I go in one day, like any other day, and the barista says to me, ‘You’re the short half-sweet, mocha, right?’  (Wait, a minute! It does matter what I order and drink. Ha!) Now, if you knew what I looked like and if you knew my personality you would get why this comment would be hilarious to me. I am a short, half-sweet, mocha. I laugh, with genuine mirth. A rarity for me with people I don’t know, and never-ever with strange men. Usually my wall is fucking up, and fucking thick. Then he asks my name for my order, and we chit-chat for a few seconds. All good right? Nothing weird about this? Nothing odd? Nothing terrifying?

Well, I guess for most women this would be a non-encounter kind of encounter. For me, on the other hand, this is fodder for insomnia, fear and Jesus fucking Christ, it is a trigger. Is it ever a trigger!

The fear starts and I can’t sleep at night. I switch to a Starbucks twelve minutes farther from my house. Now I have to drive 16 minutes instead of driving 4 minutes, or just walking there if I feel like it. (Let’s be honest and admit those minutes make a difference in our lives. Why do you think there are so many Starbucks?) Those old familiar feelings of being watched and followed start all over again and I have to talk myself down.

But, you want to know what the worse part of all of this is? The trigger wasn’t the barista. There was nothing threatening about him. It wasn’t the chit-chat. The conversation was just harmless ‘being friendly with the customer’ conversation. The trigger was that I laughed. It was the moment I let my guard down and one of my masks slipped, and for those few minutes I was freely me. I had let go of the tight reigns of control. And somewhere inside of me that triggered the expectation, the fear, and the thought that I will be punished for that one pure moment of openness. That I deserve to be made to suffer for this brief slip of control.

I know this is all me. I recognize it for what it is. I have been here before. I see my disorder and call it by its’ rightful name, PTSD.

-Tess Bacchus

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