Guest Blog- “Look, Don’t Touch”
Look, Don’t Touch
by Sarah Hartshorne, Project UROK Vice President and Production Coordinator
I don’t like being touched. I mean, I love it. But I hate it. Let me back up a little. On the one hand, human contact is the best thing. Necessary, even. Have you ever gotten a massage? It’s the friggin tits.
On the other hand, a lot of my natural impulses make me super anxious about being touched. And it used to be that even something as simple and harmless as someone putting their hand on my arm was enough to make me totally disassociate unless it was one of the maybe 5 people in the world that I felt comfortable around. (I’m an only child and I didn’t have the *most* friends…)
And I was terrible at hugging. My mom always said hugging me as a kid was like trying to hold an adolescent stork.
Part of that was being tall and gangly. I looked like a Great Dane puppy. But mostly it’s because sometimes a hug, even from someone like my mom or dad or close friends, could make my brain feel like I was being attacked and like I was going to die.
Of course, I didn’t know until recently that that’s what was going on. I just assumed I was a terrible person who hated other humans. I was secretly terrified that I was a sociopath. I mean, what kind of person is bad at hugging?
Then I got older, and all I wanted to do was smash my whole body against everyone else’s. Specifically, I wanted to smash my face against Leonardo DiCaprio’s face.
Or, failing Leo, the new kid in our class who told me he liked my butterfly barretts. I was terrified and assumed that I would be terrible and awkward at it. And guess what? I WAS TOTALLY RIGHT. Luckily, everyone else was terrible at it, too.
I remember hiding in the library and reading every. single. article on how to be a good kisser that I could find, but the fact is that everybody sucks at it for the first few years. Think about how terrible babies are at eating at first. It’s like that: gross, a little endearing, and universal.
Sometimes it’s super fricking awkward to be a teenager. And if you look like, say, a Great Dane puppy, it’s just…always awkward. And on top of that, I had a tendency to totally disconnect from my body. So in high school and college, I struggled to form healthy relationships. And that included all kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones.
There were a lot of times when I’d be in a disassociative state, but to everyone around me it would just seem like I was suddenly really distant and cold. It was like I had resting bitch face coming out of my mouth. I had no idea how to reach out or comfort people that I loved when they were struggling, so a lot of people stopped turning to me with their problems. On top of all that, my ADHD was so bad that I could barely make it through a conversation without making people repeat themselves 3x. Man, seeing this all written out makes me realize how amazing and patient my high school and college friends are. Thanks, guys.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of hard work to get more comfortable being intimate, dealing with shaking hands, riding crowded subways and, I don’t like to brag, but I am now totally awesome at hugs. Seriously. I crush it.
It’s important to take stock of your accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem. I’m super proud to call myself an affectionate person now, even if that’s something that comes naturally to most people. Some days I even pat myself on the back for being able to pat someone on the back.
Of course, it’s a process, and sometimes I have harder days. And when that happens, people’s instincts are to hug me, which isn’t always what I need. Sometimes I need space.
It’s a weird thing to talk about though, because I don’t want my friends to feel bad for being relaxed and themselves around me. I don’t want people to be afraid to touch me, even though sometimes I’m afraid of being touched.
It’s the age old issue of balancing self preservation with being polite or a good friend. It’s also a matter of knowing when you really aren’t up for something, and when you need to shut up, push through and let the hugs happen.
Luckily, I have an amazing network of people who are supportive and understanding about what I want and what I need, and when those two things are the same.
Ok, that’s all. Goodbye.
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