by Kristy Southivilay

Please note: This content contain mentions of sexual abuse.

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We often imagine PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as being reserved for military veterans, or mothers experiencing postpartum PTSD after childbirth; but PTSD can happen to anyone who has gone through terrifying events that have significantly affected their well-being. Car accidents, unexpected deaths, military combat, or sexual assault can lead to someone developing PTSD — essentially anyone who has experienced or witnessed a trauma can develop it. The symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and severe anxiety. Certain sights, smells, or actions can trigger intrusive memories from the traumatic event, forcing someone to relive the worst moment of their life. [1]

In fact, nearly 50% cases of PTSD in the United Statse are a result of sexual or physical violence such as rape, sexual assault, partner violence, muggnig, childhood physical and sexual abuse. And 30% of PTSD cases are from sexual violence. [2]

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I remember telling my family and friends in high school about my disorder. I remember the shame I felt telling people that we shouldn’t do this or go there for the fear of triggering one of my flashbacks. I remember telling my partner at the time that I remembered my abuser vividly, even though the incident happened 10 years ago. I avoided going to places I knew he would be. I averted my eyes from anyone who looked even remotely like him. Nightmares recurred on a nightly basis, and I would wake up fearing for my safety. I hated sleeping alone; I was tormented by the fact my abuser was still out there. I could recall all the smells, sounds, and sights from the night he sexually assaulted me in graphic detail. I was afraid of anyone laying their hands on me again.

Trusting people became harder, and I had to live with the fact he took a part of me by force. I never wanted to be in that position again, lying scared and speechless, hoping that it would pass quickly so I could go home and forget about it. But the memory never went away, no matter how much I tried not to think about it and move on with my life. It continued to affect my day-to-day interactions with my families and friends.

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Over time, I felt tired of feeling like a victim to my own trauma. I knew deep down that I was more than what happened to me. Despite the pain that my abuser put me through, I knew that it was in no way my fault. [3] Medication and regular visits to my therapist helped me cope with my PTSD. I figured out what my triggers were and cut off anyone who had ties to my abuser. I started to take control of my life again, and my panic attacks happened less frequently. I discovered within myself the power to take control of my life again.

Recovery is very much possible. It’s okay to admit that I got hurt, and that I am still hurting over what happened. I have to tell myself sometimes, it’s okay to not be okay. The range of emotions I’m able to experience makes me feel alive. I’m happy to be alive. No one can really know what kind of battles people go through in their daily lives, but I believe if we take the time to understand each other and encourage one another, good things can happen, and recovery is always possible. My abuser has no more control over me, and I will not allow anyone like him to ever make me feel less than I am. My disorder does not define me. It does not define you.







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