I think touch is an interesting topic. I’m talking about physical touch between people. A hug, tapping someone’s shoulder and shaking hands, amongst other things. Physical touch, it would seem, is a “normal” part of daily life for many people. For me, it’s not.
I can go days, weeks, months without touching anyone or being touched. I suppose the only exception to this is at work. My hands occasionally touch a customer’s whilst reaching for groceries to scan or giving them their change. Sometimes my psychologist will touch my hands or feet to try to help ground me. Aside from those situations I rarely come into physical contact with other people.
Generally touch scares me. It can often be threatening and intimidating, especially when unexpected or from strangers. In seconds unexpected touch can trigger flashbacks and/or dissociation. I can “disappear” (dissociate) just like that *snaps fingers*.
My worst experience with touch that was not intended to be threatening or intimidating happened at work. We were extremely busy and customers were lined up at the registers. I was making my way to the service desk to find out what register I was on. A female customer came up behind me, put her arm across my back and her hand on my shoulder and asked if I would open another register. I panicked. I answered her question and continued on my way. After that I couldn’t get grounded and was close to tears.
It seems so ingrained in my brain that physical touch is bad and threatening. I can tolerate and be grateful for gentle hugs from friends and family, providing it isn’t unexpected. It was interesting at work yesterday as two workmates gave me a hug. I’m ever so grateful that they said what they were going to do before they did it. I’m also grateful for having workmates that care so much.
I’m not sure how this can be changed. I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay with unexpected touch. Maybe, in time, I’ll learn that touch is safe and not everyone is going to hurt me. In my brain touch equals pain, terror, torture.