I can't stand to be touched!!!!!!!!

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Heather

MyPTSD Pro
I am having the hardest time being touched because of the horrendous flashbacks I've been experiencing lately. I feel so gross inside. The only one I'll let near me is my cat. I know my 7 y/o is getting her feelings hurts and I tell her it's ok to kiss me on my cheek but right now I don't like to be kissed any place else. Anyone have any suggestions on how I can explain to her why I don't want to be touched right now in a way she'll understand? I flinch anytime she touches me.
 
Heather,

I totally get where you're at with touching. The hypervigilance/exaggerated startle reflex is an awful feeling. I was right where you are now just this past summer. I grew up in a family where touch was NEVER safe nor healthy nor wanted, and then my history of abuse & violence made me learn to retreat into fear and loathing of the possibility of being touched.

Thankfully, I learned in my research that gentle, loving touch from safe people could be one of the means of soothing the nervous system to 'let down' OUT of hypervigilance. I let my kids cuddle close to me while reading them books. I had them take their little hands and hold mine while going for walks. I learned to allow them to read their books next to me while I was reading my own (& this helps stop the rumination cycle, too!) I had my hubby gentle rub my back. I took my family OFF the 'lockdown' status I had made them all live under. It was SO HARD. It was SO PAINFUL and SCARY. ...and it ABSOLUTELY has been worth it!

At first, the 'letdown' out of the hypervigilance didn't stay long...just minutes. Then hours. Now, I can ask for touch...seek healthy, comforting touch...and I've taught my family how to give it. I don't have to stay in that hypervigilant and/or flashback state anymore without seeking some comfort from both healthy touch, picking up the phone and talking to safe people, or doing other good grounding activities. It's *SUCH* a relief to know there *is* a choice. I just forget that when I'm in it.

Our children instinctively know that touch is important to good mental health. I firmly believe that the *ahem* upper body fat deposited on our Mommy 'upper arm' areas are meant to help us continue to nurture our children once our children are weaned to give them more surface area to touch. I also believe there *must* be some kind of oxytocin release because when my children are upset, or I am, and they naturally rest their hands on my arms, both of us calm down. I have *no* scientific evidence of that...but that's my belief based upon watching myself and my kids. Might be bunk but if it works for us, who cares?

I hope you will consider letting your daughter cuddle next to you, put her arm around you, teach you how to give and receive healthy touch. She already knows you BOTH need it...because you didn't cause her to unlearn it, the way it was for you.

Good for you, brave Mama Bear!
 
I also wanted to add some gentle ways our children can learn good touch/soothing skills from us that have worked for me (even when I didn't know I had PTSD);

  • The 'draw on Mommy's arm' game - one washable marker, one exhausted Mommy, and 45 minutes later, one calmed down, happy kid. Seriously. Works great for Moms struggling with illness, too. A way to have fun & keep your little one safely with you when you're too exhausted to do anything else.
  • The 'beauty shop' game - a large toothed comb, some barrettes, some hair gel, and your kids get to play beauty shop while learning how to be gentle. We learn to tolerate having our heads touched, too. This was especially helpful for healing my haircutting phobia from trauma via a drunken aunt with scissors.
  • Mommy goes to the dentist - let your kids look at your mouth with a flashlight and brush your teeth with a dry toothbrush. They're amazed at this. Doesn't work very many times, however. :>
  • Painting each other's fingernails & toenails, putting lotion on each other's hands.
  • Be Mommy's blanket - let your kids lay on top of you while you are reading or watching tv. Amazing how calming this is for both. Stroke their hair, kiss their heads...their scent can work wonders on our hypervigilance
  • Put All Mommy's Jewelry On - get out that jewelry and let the kids put it on you and make you pretty! ...or let them play with your rings and put them on their fingers while sitting quietly. My babies still love this one.
It's CRUCIAL that we teach our children what 'good' safe touch feels like. ...so if they ever experience bad, unsafe touch, they'll know it. That it can help us heal is one of the magical benefits of being a Mommy to our babies.
 
I am having the hardest time being touched because of the horrendous flashbacks I've been experiencing lately. I feel so gross inside. The only one I'll let near me is my cat. I know my 7 y/o is getting her feelings hurts and I tell her it's ok to kiss me on my cheek but right now I don't like to be kissed any place else. Anyone have any suggestions on how I can explain to her why I don't want to be touched right now in a way she'll understand? I flinch anytime she touches me.
That's a hard one.

I grew up with a father who didn't like to be kissed or touched that much, and I know why now that I'm older.

At the time though, I took it pretty personally, and even now, I find it so weird that he will let his (now deceased) dog lick him on the mouth but he won't let his own kids touch him.

He's had a lot of damage done to him as a child I think...his parents weren't very loving, so i do understand why he is this way.

It would be really hard to be able to help a child your daughters age understand the reasons why. At her age I'm sure she is completely innocent to the horrors of the world,and rightly so, though I sometimes wonder if we'd be doing kids more of a favor if we taught them about 'bad men" or 'bad women" who did stuff to mummies and daddies when they were kids, and that's why they feel unable to be receptive to touching and being touched.

Maybe you could try and be honest, but at the same time, not embellish as I'm sure she doesn't need to know the details...and see if you can explain it in a way that demonstrates how bad touch can leave a person feeling like they don't want to be touched. Add much re assurance that it has nothing at all to do with her...that it is your own issue...as I think kids can easily take things like this personally, especially if they are quite sensitive.

Not sure if that would help, and it probably sounds a lot easier to write it than it would be to actually say it to a child in a way that they would understand. It's quite a challenge and I wish you all the tact and strength you need for the task.
 
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