Author’s Note: While I have been inspired by the powerful and courageous stories from the #MeToo movement to share my own experience with trauma, I am not a survivor of sexual assualt, and do not pretend to be. I have chosen not to share the details of a traumatic event in my life because I want to stay focused on raising awareness about trauma and mental health issues and not so much on the traumatic incident itself. If you or a loved one are going through a traumatic life experience or battling mental illness, I encourage you to seek out professional help and take a peek at some resources I have found helpful in my own journey below. Peace, Sarah
—————————————————————————————————————————————–I’ve been trying to rewrite my story so many different times now, but tonight I am finally sitting down and doing it.
For the past 5 years I have battled with anxiety and post-traumatic stress due to a traumatic event in my life. For so long I didn’t realize the health issues I was facing were linked to trauma. I couldn’t even acknowledge the fact that what I had experienced was indeed traumatic, much less speak about my experience.
Generally speaking, I think most people think of PTSD survivors as veterans, which is true but doesn’t get the whole picture. This article on the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) explains it well.
According to the Sidran Institute, about 8 percent of all adults, or 1 in 13 people in this country, will develop PTSD during their lifetime. Women are twice as more likely to develop it than men.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have had great support around me to heal. My family and friends mean the world to me and even when they haven’t fully understood what I’m facing, they truly have stood by me and listened. EMDR, a therapy treatment using eye movement and creative reprocessing, has helped me immensely. It was recognized in 2016 by the VA as a successful form of treatment for post-traumatic stress which I was thrilled to learn. I wouldn’t be myself again without the incredible therapists who have walked with me every step of the way.
I wanted others to know and understand a bit more of what it’s like when you are living with mental illness. So, I submitted a short entry to an organization called “Make it OK” that is doing great work to reduce the stigmatization surrounding mental health. Click here on My Story.
People who have experienced psychological trauma do not always develop a mental illness, but they do have a greater likelihood of developing one. There are direct links to communities that have higher levels of povery and violence and those that experience PTSD. Historical and psychological trauma are real. As Clincial psychologist Inger E. Burnett, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, writes:
“Trauma is more than a buzzword – the symptoms are real and have a profound impact on human lives. Until we recognize the fully realize the cyclical effects of neighborhood disorder, violence and its after effects, the open wounds in our communities cannot fully heal.”
For my fellow survivors:
We are the aftermath, the broken pieces, the wounded left behind to fight on our own. We have lived through car accidents, sexual assualt, abuse. We are people who have seen their families torn apart from mental illness, incarceration, divorce. The list goes on.
Trauma lives in the bones of our nation.
I think of the trauma mothers, spouses and 3 year old daughters in pulled over cars have to endure in seeing their loves, their role models, or fathers have life taken away for no other reason than “driving while being black”; I think of all the women coming forward saying “enough”, speaking their stories in spite of reliving the pain of their diginity being violated; I think of all of the migrants here in this country newly-arrived and those who have called this country home long before settlers arrived fighting to make a better life for themselves and their families while trying to fend off the nightmares of the past and the fear of our police state taking all of that away from them.
Some people wonder who those are who battle with mental illness. Some call us “psychos” or “crazies”. Most people just don’t have any idea what it’s like to be battling mental illness.
Everyone and anyone who faces mental illness day in and day out and continues to live the best they can, to put one foot in front of the other and keep going, is truly incredible. I think we all would be a lot better off if we tried to learn from those who are facing mental illness and walk beside them instead of making jokes about their everyday battles.
They are heroes and sheroes. They are warriors. And, I hope we can start seeing them as the incredible people they are.
—————————————————————————————————————————————–Resources: *Will be added soon!