Whitney is a beautiful, strong woman that I am proud to call one of very best friends of several years. I hope you will be inspired by her story of living with PTSD.
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something you hear about people from the military coming back with after they have been to war, but it is also common in women that have suffered from domestic abuse. I learned this the hard way. PTSD is not something you get cured from. It is not something that goes away with time, or something that you learn to ‘live’ with. Truthfully it does get better as time goes on for some, but for others it has lasting and long-term effects.
When I was 18 years old I started dating the man that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I was young and naïve. My ex was five years older than me. I moved in with him right out of high school and it was only 2 months later that he quit his job. This left me to pay all the bills on minimum wage. This set a precedence for the next 7 years of him quitting and being fired from jobs for reasons that at the time seemed reasonable to me, but now, as I have matured, seem silly. The abuse in the relationship started slowly. He would tell me that I could not wear something, or simply throw away things that he did not approve of me wearing. Then I was not allowed to paint my nails or wear jewelry and had to do what he said. It soon progressed to name calling and serious verbal abuse. Then he convinced me that we should have a baby. I did not know that by doing so he would think that he owned me. After my daughter was born my ex began to physically abuse me. He did not hit me, but he would grab my wrists and squeeze till it hurt and spit on me, or just shoved me around. I made a lot of excuses that since he never ‘hit’ me that it was not abuse. Then one day he tried to kill me. My ex threw me into a toilet and broke the bowl in half with my body by slamming me into it as he was strangling me. It was thanks to my neighbor in the townhouse adjacent to ours that I survived that day.
During the entirety of our relationship, I smiled. I told nobody about what was happening. I was covering up the depression that I really was feeling. After he tried to kill me, and our relationship was done for good I still smiled hoping that others would not see how scared I was. I hid my panic attacks, and the fact that I cried at night. Then one day as I watched my daughter sleep I knew I needed help for her sake. For her I had to rebuild myself. I sought help through a local women’s shelter. They told me about group meetings that I could attend for women that have been through abuse.
At first, I was afraid to talk at these meetings. Then listening to the stories of the women attending I realized that I was not alone. When I began to talk one of the women suggested that I see a therapist, because it sounded like I might be suffering from PTSD. This was something that I never thought could be a possibility. I went to therapy for a year, I told no one because I thought that it made me weak. My therapist wanted to put me on anti-anxiety medication, but I was worried that it would cause me to be unable to perform at work or be able to take care of my daughter since I lived on my own. Then my therapist changed offices and I was placed with a new one. This therapist listened to me and had me try meditation. Slowly my panic attacks became less, and my flashbacks stopped.
Nearly 5 years later I am now married to a wonderful man, I have just given birth to another daughter, and I am one year away from receiving my degree in psychology. My last panic attack was a year ago, and I am hopeful that I will not have more even though I know it is probably inevitable. I still get afraid sometimes when it is not warranted, but I know that the fear will not ever go away. I still meditate every night and try to think of the good in the world rather than the bad. I know that the panic can consume me if I do not talk about my feelings, and for that my husband has been a blessing. He allows me to talk to him about what has happened and he understands that I am controlling due to the lack of control that I had before. PTSD cannot be cured, but with therapy it can be managed. I will live with the results of abuse for the rest of my life. I can only hope that other women will learn from what has happened to me and get help. Do not be embarrassed or hide from those that love you. Seek help.”