TW/CW: abuse, persecutory delusions, mild cursing My best friend's new romantic interest looks very much like my abusive ex and I can't even make eye contact with him without having to leave the room in a panic. We were at a music festival that my partner's band was playing yesterday and as much as I wanted to enjoy my day all I could think was, "Where is he? Oh shit he's not in sight so he's actually my ex and is going to kill me."
Since then I've been having really awful and vivid flashbacks to scenarios with my ex.
If things become serious between them I don't know what I am going to do. I'm having very violent intrusive thoughts and just thinking about having to look at him regularly is causing a lot of distress. I hate him so much for no fault of his own.
Is there anything I can do to differentiate between him and my ex and prevent being triggered just by looking at him? I'm not very hopeful but I would love to be able to be comfortable around my best friend and whoever she is seeing.
I don't know how helpful this advice is but whenever I see someone who looks suspiciously like my ex I have to remind myself of all the things about them that are different; this person has curly hair and my ex didn't, this person is too tall, this person has a different accent. Does your friend know how you feel? Maybe it'd help to get someone else's perspective about him, like your partners. Just hearing about how his personality/etc is different from your abusive ex could make things easier. If things do get serious between your friend and this guy, I'd personally always take the initiative when it comes to hanging out with him. Say you and this new romantic interest are at the same gathering, you can make sure you go up to him and say hi. It's silly, but whenever I have to hang around with someone I'm dreading, it helps that I've kind of taken control of it in some small way. (Sorry if this doesn't make any sense, I've got a wicked cold).
It's such a crap feeling though. The most useful thing I can think of is letting your friend know and maybe arranging things so that you and her partner don't have to meet up as often. Maybe distance will let you feel more comfortable with the idea of having him around.
^Agreed. And remember to validate your own feelings and remind yourself you're not wrong to be triggered by him. You're already doing well to recognize this guy hasn't done anything wrong, so be sure to remind yourself you haven't done anything wrong either.
Keep your distance and ease yourself into this. Your friend should be understanding of any hesitance you have to spend time with him. Even just a "Hey, it's nothing personal against your partner, and it's not that I dislike him at all, he just reminds me of someone who hurt me, so I need to ease into getting to know him."
Guess who sent me an email this morning after having no contact for years... Ugh the coincidence is really messing with me, let alone the thought that my ex is still thinking about me and still has means to contact me. It's so frustrating because from what I can tell they had so many similar mannerisms and they wear similar clothes. It's very overwhelming but I guess I can only give it time and do my best to push past it.
Thank you both so much for your input. I really appreciate it.