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I have C-PTSD and the last couple of years have been intense. The last time I flew and was strapped in next to a strange man, I had a terrible panic attack and very nearly clawed my way out over him to escape. I only stayed onboard because my beloved brother-in-law and sister-in-law were counting on me to make their wedding cake! And I take cake very seriously. I could have forgiven myself for not making their wedding, but not for failing to make their wedding cake.
Over the weekend I went to Brussels to help a woman friend redecorate her flat after a breakup.
It was the first time I have traveled in Europe since we moved here three years ago; last December I had to miss a friend’s wedding in Luxembourg because I simply couldn’t handle flying. I was so scared of this flight I asked my husband to come to the airport and help me get on the plane! Which he did VERY graciously and kindly.
I’m not afraid of the actual flying part at all; if I’m seated with women in my row I am as relaxed as a slightly claustrophobic person can be in a crowded, small metal tube.
I had checked in early to get an exit row seat, so I would have lots of room on one side at least. But when a strange man sat down next to me and his arms and thighs touched mine, I felt like I was gonna die. (Weirdly, this doesn’t happen much on public transit, where I can get away easily.)
Again, someone I loved was counting on me, so bailing out was non-negotiable. This time, when I started flipping out, I had my sketchbook handy so I quickly made these drawings of an armored corset body* for flying with PTSD. I imagine the spines to be made of vulcanized rubber, permissible for travel. The shoulder, arm and thigh pads are also rubber, so you don’t feel the flesh of the person next to you, and the mesh “NO” skirt snaps off for using the loo. I chose Mother Nature’s warning colors!
The stewards looked over my shoulder at my drawing and moved the man next to me to another row, murmuring, “more space”. My spell worked!!
The flight was relatively empty, and so it could have just been fat bias – as a US 14/UK 18 I fully and completely occupy even larger European plane seats. My friend Suzanne said stewards are sensitive to people who are a panic risk. I think they saw something in my eyes or my drawings and felt it was best for me to have the row to myself.
Gradually I calmed down and the feeling that my vagina was full of spiders receded.
Do other people get that? Like a creepy echoey crawling awareness of the vulnerability of your genitals, when you’re triggered? I feel like if they do, this armored corset body could be a popular garment. Until the day comes when, inch by inch, we make a better world.
*a corset body is the specific name for a true corset that includes a built-in crotch covering of the same sturdy materials. It’s a term used pretty much only in the serious corset community. What Americans call “teddies” or “bodysuits” are called just plain “bodies” in the UK/Europe, and “corset body” seems to be derivative of that.
A good C-PTSD resource.
RAINN’s resources for trauma survivors.