In January of 2020, my boyfriend and I tried to have sex but I still wasn’t ready and I wanted him to touch me only through the fabric of my underwear. But he thought that I got mad at him and it made him anxious that I was suddenly anxious and he responded in a way I didn’t like. At the time I thought he was mad at me for not wanting sex and so I had a panic attack. (That wasn’t the case but at the time I thought he was mad. He wasn’t mad at me at all, just anxious.) So when I have panic attacks, I sometimes scream and cry. After 10 minutes of me doing so my dad wanted to know what was going on. I was sobbing on the floor. my boyfriend was staring at me speechless. My dad and mom were staring at me too. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted my dad to ask my boyfriend what happened so he could explain. I was so mad at my bf at the time though. My dad didn’t ask him. He didn’t seem mad or worried at all. I thought dads were supposed to be protective. He just stared at me. And all I could say was “just ask him what he did”. But he wouldn’t ask.
That memory still haunts me. My depression has gotten worse. Not just because of that, but because of other things too. And I don’t know how to overcome it. I feel like I don’t have a family. I’m still with my boyfriend but I feel so numb inside.
It sounds like this memory really is stuck in your craw--and for good reason. This sounds like trauma. But I want to emphasize that this does not mean that it’s your fault or that you’re broken. Traumatic events can happen to anyone. I always say that the things that bother us or stay in our minds are for a reason, and this is no exception.
Trauma makes people feel stuck in the moment when the event happens. Time may have passed, but our brains have not moved along with it. It’s genuinely part of being human; your brain is so shocked that the event happened that processing the event makes your mind feel like cheesecloth.
So after a traumatic even takes place, people tend to get stuck in danger mode. This mode is exhausting and rough to be in because people tend to have a harder time trusting others and are more reactive and easier to anger or annoy. Folks that are stuck in danger mode like this are prone to trauma responses, meaning they do not respond to situations in the ways that they normally would, and they are more likely to perceive danger in the first place.
I have a resource on what trauma is and how to deal with it. I recommend giving it a perusal:
As I read your post, it really sounded like when one thing went astray (once again, not because you did anything wrong), it all started spiraling out of control. It also sounds like everyone seemed to freeze up during your panic attack and that this is not the first time you have had one. Does your family intervene at all when you have them? Does your boyfriend? If not, this may mean that they don't know how to respond properly to the situation. It will be important that you speak with them about this openly and honestly and provide them with some resources about panic attacks, so they know how to help you while you're having one. The communication channels among everyone need to improve so that no resentment can fester, which I see is happening.
I do have some resources that explain how to support someone who is having a panic attack, which I highly recommend sharing with your family and your boyfriend:
I do think that everyone would benefit from doing their own research as well, but giving them a helping hand like this should be a good start. In fact, do you know if perhaps your family would be open to family therapy sessions? Or if your boyfriend is open to couple’s therapy? I think it would help them learn how to support you. It’s unfair for them to expect you to shoulder everything on your own; they should learn to understand you and be there for you.
Speaking of support, I think it’s worthwhile to examine whether what you’re feeling around sexual contact is simply nervousness from inexperience or genuine fear. I do have an article that explains more about this fear so you can better understand why you feel the way you do:
Of course, I am not trying to offer a diagnosis--merely trying to offer some more insight. It’s completely okay to feel apprehensive or nervous, especially when you’re inexperienced--but full-blown panic attacks or other very strong reactions tell a different story. I also say that your boyfriend needs to exercise patience and understanding here, so your panic responses can be kept at a minimum. It may also be better to go with your original plan and just take things step-by-step. Baby steps are still steps in the right direction.
Feel free to come back if you have any other questions.
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