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How Spoken Word and Trauma Come Together to Tell My Story

Sitting in my aunt’s house, in a bedroom where I’ve been staying for about a month, I look around. I am surrounded by medicine bottles, clothes are everywhere, papers are strewn all over the room and my weighted blanket is around me like armor.

See, I’ve been in treatment for about six months dealing with mental health issues, but the main one that has affected me is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I’m a 21-year-old woman, and I was assaulted like many other women I know. People who experience a traumatic event such as war, assault or a fire, can develop PTSD.

Symptoms that develop from PTSD include:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Severe anxiety
  • Flashbacks
  • Mistrust
  • Nightmares

I get really hypervigilant, even during the day. Hypervigilance is when your senses become hyper-aware of your surroundings. I have a weighted blanket to combat that, but it can only do so much.

I was doing treatment at The Emily Program, when I was upset that I couldn’t make it through a whole session of yoga without having to leave the room. I get hypervigilant when the room is dark. It gives me bad memories.

I was always leaving the room, until one therapist told me to write. That’s all I needed. I broke down crying, and I wrote down things that made me mad, upset and things I’ve wanted to talk about during treatment. Once I was done, I just edited it a little bit, and it became a poem.

I didn’t tell anyone about it, but once art came up, I told the art therapist. I told her it was important that I told someone this. I gave her my journal to read the poem, waiting and watching her facial expressions as she read. She looked up and told me that it was really good.

I was surprised for some reason. I told her I felt like it was just really important that I did it and I wanted to perform it. It was so exciting to have someone show me that they believed in me as much as I believed in myself.

The next day was a slam poetry event downtown in St. Paul at a little coffee shop. So I did! I performed it. When I did, it was like all the people went away and the only person I was speaking to was myself. Afterward, I got amazing feedback about how admirable it was of me to stand up and say something about such a serious issue. I also got asked if I knew where the poem was going.

All I can say is writing about what happened to me has shown me my own feelings about the trauma I experienced because sometimes I don’t know what I’m feeling. Spoken word has helped me. I don’t get as many panic attacks anymore, and I feel more confident about taking on the world.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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