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My Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This page added 3 November 2011
By Emma - written June 2011

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by memories of a traumatic event, an event (generally one) that directly affected you or that you’ve witnessed. The disorder commonly affects survivors of traumatic events, such as sexual assault, physical assault, war, torture, a natural disaster, an automobile accident, an airplane crash, a hostage situation or a death camp. You may avoid things that remind you of the traumatic incident, avoid discussing the incident, and keep yourself occupied with other activities to keep the upsetting thoughts at bay. It is important to note that   symptoms of PTSD vary greatly from person to person. Some people experience strong intrusive thoughts and nightmares, while others experience less intrusive memories but more severe anxiety and stress symptoms.

For me, my PTSD has lead to my high anxiety levels around men. I had always been a care free happy girl, the life of the party, with lots of friends, the social butterfly. I was eighteen years old when this all came crashing down around me when I was sexually assaulted. I didn’t tell any one as the shame attached to this was just far too great. As an 18 year old and this being my first sexual experience, locking it away in my head was all I knew. After all, this was what I did when things got violent at home and it was an effective way to keep going.  Now as a 43 year old woman, I know that locking things away in your head can cause leakage.   

After the attack, I started to drink heavily as it was the only way I could go out. When I met a man and he started to kiss me or even hold my hand, I would freeze and from then on act very coldly to put him off. I also spent a lot of time at work and playing sport, anything to keep busy.  I had a lot of depressive episodes when my friends or family were getting married and having children, as having a family was my ultimate dream.  I was desperately trying to work out what was wrong with me.  I wanted to have a family and even a relationship with a man but the terror was paralysing.  I attempted suicide three times by the time I reached 31. I had also started eating a lot and was putting on weight rapidly.  

I suffered from debilitating migraines which would render me sick for days.  I was clueless to what was happening. I never associated these feelings with what happened, I just thought I was mad, insane, even perhaps a lesbian. I was sabotaging myself from any physical attention. I let myself go with gained weight and avoided all types of interaction with others. I have sought help seeing therapists and contributed to many hours of personal and social development whilst volunteering in helping others with their anxiety, so why can I still not allow myself to concur my fears?

It is not uncommon for a person to develop PTSD from rape or some other type of sexual assault. With the help from therapy and meeting some amazing people who knew I needed to peel back each layer very slowly, holding my hand, showing me that not all men are out to hurt me, they made it safe for me to experience a hug from a man that had no evil intentions. I’m still a little cautious around men. I accept that I need to suss out a man first before I let him in, and that’s okay. I now see myself as a work in progress, and I’m able to have some insight into my behaviour, I quite like learning more about myself and others. I still have my ‘meltdowns’ and at times feel the fear, but I’m able to manage the situation. For me it’s the management of my anxiety, understanding where it comes from, and most importantly not making it wrong or bad. That’s the key. 
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