How My PTSD Diagnosis Gave Me Strength


I’m 46 years old living in Miami, Florida, and in 2013 I was diagnosed with Complex post-traumatic stress disorder. For 17 years I had been verbally and psychologically abused by my husband.

But up until 2012, I was fine. I was facing each instance of abuse individually and surviving. My brain had not compounded them all together. Instead I would bury each instance, neatly packing it away before the following day. It worked for many, many years. Over time, it was like I had forgotten all the traumatic events all together.

But suddenly in 2013, I began to have flashbacks of past experiences coupled with intense feelings of fear, rage, pain, helplessness and hopelessness. I can’t stress enough the word intense. These feelings were overwhelming and took over my entire body. I was frozen as the flashbacks came, and when they passed I could still feel them in my body.  

It’s hard to describe, but I’ll try: Imagine the closest person to you dying. Now imagine them dying again. Now imagine, to you, they die every day. When the phone rings, it’s not them when it should be. You want to call them three times a day, but you can’t because they’re not there. You set the extra plate on the dinner table out of habit. It feels just as real, even when it’s not happening.

Day after day, month after month, the flashbacks came with a vengeance. I could recall every word he said and every gesture he made as he ripped into me. These were the early symptoms — later came the anger. Then the,”How could he say/do this to me.” Then the need to resolve it, but the inability to do so. In desperation, I reached out to my sister one day and said, “Why am I feeling like this now? I don’t remember being this torn up when this was all actually happening. Why now?” She took it well and simply said, “Apparently you thought you had forgiven him for those things, but you didn’t. Now they’re coming back to haunt you.”

I went to go see a psychiatrist, and it took about a minute for her to tell me I had Complex-PTSD. I should have been mortified, but I was relieved. She put a name on what I was experiencing. I went home and poured myself into the Internet to get a better idea of what was happening to me. 

I put my whole family together and broke the news. Some understood, most didn’t. PTSD is mostly spoken of in regards to soldiers. But they were prepared to do whatever it took to support me when the time came. After many years the time did come to face my relationship. I simply said, “I have filed for a divorce and you will be served.” I was terrified as always, but courage only comes in times of fear. Having the diagnosis of C-PTSD gave me the strength and the courage to do what I hadn’t been able to do for 18 years: leave. The diagnosis didn’t break me, it made me. It gave me the name Survivor. It gave me the identity Fighter. It gave me a new motto: Never again.

When my doctor asked me if I was still suffering from the abuse, I could answer, “Not anymore.”  She said, “Good, because if you are still suffering from the abuse, you cannot be treated.”

Then she asked me if I was still experiencing pain. “Yes,” I said.

“Good,” she said. “I can work with pain. It means now you’re consciously aware of the trauma he’s brought into your life. You are ready to confront this head on by letting the pain in, accepting that someone has wronged you, owning it and changing it. You cannot change what you cannot confront.”

That changed everything.  


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

To My Daughter With Down Syndrome on Your First Day of Kindergarten

Dear Addison, Today you enter kindergarten. You — a big, beautiful, grown-up little person — begin your educational journey. It’s hard to believe you’re the broken baby I cried over in the NICU. It’s hard to believe your bouncing ponytail, infectious smile and sparkling blue eyes are in my life when I remember all too [...]

There Are 2 Sides to Every ‘Can’t’ for My Son With Autism

Some days, I see this: He can’t make himself a snack. I have to prepare and supervise every meal. He can’t stomach new foods. I have to cook the same limited menu. He can’t use a knife. I have to cut up his food before he eats. He can’t hang out with friends on his [...]

A Letter to the Person Who Judged Me for My Cerebral Palsy

Frankly, I’m used to it. So used to it, I’m almost numb to it. You’ve always judged me for my pronounced speech impediment. I’ve never said my r’s correctly or talked normally at all for that matter. You’ve always judged me for my coordination differences. I’ve caught countless balls with my nose and glasses in [...]

Student Becomes First Person With a Disability to Join School’s Sorority

Alexis Cain is now a proud Alpha Sigma Alpha ladybug. Cain, who has Down syndrome, is a senior at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, where she was recently accepted into the Beta Nu chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha, The Odyssey Online reported. This makes her the first person with a disability to join a sorority [...]