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Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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According to the National Institutes of Health, “post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real illness. You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a hurricane, rape, physical abuse or a bad accident.

"PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.” According to Golier and Yehuda's article, “Neuropsychological processes in post-traumatic stress disorder”, women are at an increased risk of developing post-traumatic disorder; rape and sexual assault are the largest causes, though many US female soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder. I once had a professor describe post-traumatic stress disorder as being constantly fearful. When he said that, I kept thinking: yep, I know exactly how that feels.

I have lived with post-traumatic stress disorder for almost three years after being raped my sophomore year of college. Both times were in relationships a few months apart; I was still traumatized from the first incident that I did not realize that the second relationship was also abusive until I was being trained as a sexual assault crisis counselor my junior year. Post-traumatic stress disorder changed my life dramatically: I could not concentrate, I debated suicide and I could barely function. For example, I once curled up into the fetal position and hyperventilated during an organic chemistry test. I believed that the assaults were my fault (which is never true about abuse!) My body felt constantly heavy and I was stuck in a constant depression. There were days that I wondered if dying would be easier. However, I was lucky to have supportive professors and mentors who helped me through; without them, I would have never graduated college or be around today.

There is a great line from my counseling manual: “healing is a lifelong process.” I have come a long way from my mental state three years ago, with tons of support from friends and family, therapy and medication. Nevertheless, there are still the flashbacks and the nightmares, but I have learned to cope with them. However, the most effective healing is helping others who have gone through what I have.

Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch received her bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in May 2009. She is the Hartford Women's Health Examiner and she writes about abuse on Suite 101.

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Thanks so much for this post, and your honesty about your experiences. For anyone who believes they may be suffering from PTSD, here's the National Institutes for Mental Health's home page about it:


and here's the Mayo Clinic's page, which includes information about symptoms and treatment:


September 15, 2009 - 6:00pm

I can't even begin to imagine what living with PTSD is like for someone. An excellent support system is necessary in order for anyone with the disorder to make the attempt to function with the rest of society.

An old co-worker of mine had PTSD to the point where a task such as going to the bathroom was difficult for him. Something that anyone hardly puts any mind to was one of the most difficult things for him to do. You see, he had the urge to go much like everyone else, but the carrying out the task took much longer than it would take most of us. I don't have much history on him...I know he was in Iraq and I know that when he had to use the restroom while stationed over there, there was always someone looking over his shoulder--no privacy, just intimidation. Only he knows what happened while he was there and I truly hope he got he help he rightfully deserved.

September 15, 2009 - 12:33pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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