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How long can we go without a hug? Not very long

Today I found this article on the website of El País: We can stop the economy, but not repress the affections: how long will we last without a hug? My answer is clear: not very long. With my history of childhood and adolescent trauma, a complex trauma caused by my parents' inability to respond to my emotional needs during my childhood and adolescence, possibly sexual abuse (I will never know), invasion of my intimate self, and - especially during my childhood - arbitrary violence on the part of my mother, it is now impossible for me to live without hugs. I recognise myself quite well in descriptions of complex trauma or Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it is true that confinement has triggered a retraumatisation in recent weeks.

I have always been very open about my need to break the confinement, and I don't feel any guilt. I have lived a childhood and adolescence marked by an absence of affection. I hated my mother, I rejected her, and I could not tolerate any physical contact from my mother as long as I can remember (which is only from the age of 8-10). My childhood is a big black hole, in this sense amnesia is not selective, but total.

When I left my parents' house, I had to learn to first tolerate and later enjoy hugs, I had to learn to feel, to figure out how I was, and it's still a struggle sometimes to feel. I am still learning to trust other people and unlearning my fear of abandonment, I am overcoming my low self-esteem, my problems in relating to others, with trust and intimacy. I'm learning to become aware of my boundaries, and when my boundaries are overstepped, which I still have a hard time with, I often only become aware of it months later, with an accumulation of boundary violations. I am learning to value my needs and desires, not to ignore them in order to belong to a group (something that happens to me a lot).

With this history of mine, confinement has been brutal. I have relived aspects of my trauma, the pain and helplessness of my adolescence, the pain of my childhood. I have lived through despair and thoughts of suicide so powerful that they have caused me to be afraid of myself.

Complying with the #stayhome has not been a viable option for me. I needed to meet friends, and to embrace (with limits). I needed to get out, especially when I was reliving my trauma, I needed to sit by the river and cry, and when one day the police controlled me and threatened to take me to the police station it was brutal, and caused another desperation and a physical tension in my body that reminded me of the tension I always felt during my adolescence. A brutal flashback. I had a hard time relaxing and calming down.

But I have also experienced the affection of my friends, of my network of affection, which has allowed me to sustain myself during confinement. The calls (no video, please), the messages. I don't know where I would be today without this affection. It has been these friendships that have allowed me over the past four years to deal with my complex trauma, and to take my recovery process to another level.

The "new normal" with a social distance of 2m scares me, and in reality I know that for me it is unbearable, and that I will not respect it. I have lived the first 20 years of my life without hugs, or, rather, with a fear of being hugged by my mother, which for me was unbearable. Now, I can't give up hugs, kisses, affection. I would go back to the pain of my childhood and adolescence, a kind of permanent flashback. I value my mental and emotional health more than this "new normal". By this I do not mean that I do not understand certain measures of social distancing. But they seem unreal to me, a dystopia. I am afraid to think of the collective trauma caused by confinement that this new normality will cause. And I am opposed to unlearning again - as in my childhood - to expressing affection physically. I have had such a hard time learning it, and now I cannot and will not unlearn it again. It would be a return to my childhood, to my trauma. It would be emotional suicide.

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Article | by Dr. Radut