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NOT JUST A VETERANS’ PROBLEM

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder acknowledgement, funding, research and treatment is largely focused on war veterans. But research shows that the most pervasive, chronic form, Complex PTSD, stems from childhood and/or adult trauma, especially sexual and physical abuse. While many men experience non-combat related trauma, women are twice as likely to experience PTSD and C-PTSD, and our stories are more often ignored, mistrusted, or dismissed. The way rape victims and perpetrators are treated is a perfect example, as is the experience of molested children, often shamed into secrecy. We carry these traumas and secrets in our subconscious and bodies while we push toward the normal lives we want, stumbling on our demons along the way, seemingly getting stronger and more successful. Some of us shut off emotionally, or drink or drug excessively, or become workaholics, or fight depression or other illnesses. Some of us are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. We are strong, courageous women, but if we get triggered, by a familiar smell, a nightmare or an assault, that leads to a flashback, a memory we may or may not have known existed, but that we know is real because it seizes our entire beings, our experiences are demanding to be recognized. It is time to stop blaming, shaming and abusing ourselves. The popular statistics that 10 percent of women experience PTSD are inaccurate. Most of the women I’ve known have been sexually abused. Others have been assaulted or experienced severe childhood neglect and abandonment. Three close friends have committed suicide. Two others died of alcoholism and addiction, their coping mechanisms for the unbearable symptoms trauma can unleash. Some are surviving. Others are thriving. Recovery is possible, but it takes patience, persistence, determination, and an open mind. These can be hard to maintain when symptoms are making it hard to function. Depression, isolation, anxiety, hopelessness, and even suicide ideation can come with PTSD on its worst days. And as we get better, inevitable setbacks can be devastating. It’s not a quick process, but a way of life, a commitment to an authentic version of yourself that embraces your whole experience and how it can enrich and improve your life if you can hang in there like I have, like many of us have, and find your way to recovery.