How I've Spent 14 Years Avoiding the Reason for My PTSD


Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

August will make 14 years — a very, very long time in the life of a 30 year old. Fourteen years ago my life changed forever – and I can count on one hand the number of people who know why. No one sees the pain, the torment, the fear, the desperation. No one.

For 14 years I have kept a secret that has only gotten worse with time. Flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stopped being things I associated only with war and soldiers, and became part of my own life. Fourteen years later, I’m not over it, and I may never be.

I’ve spent 14 years trying to pretend it never happened. I convinced myself I just needed to forget about it. I believed it would get better if I just ignored it. I was wrong. It never got better — I just got older.

Fourteen years later, it still hurts. It still haunts me. Consumes me. Terrifies me. It still makes me feel weak, foolish and dirty. It reminds me that I’m a “failure.” A bad person. Unlovable. Pathetic.

For 14 years it has broken me down, and left me feeling alone. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t say the word. I can barely type it without throwing up. And yet every day, I question if I deserve to use that word. Why didn’t I fight harder? Maybe I really wanted it to happen, otherwise I would have fought harder. Therapy has taught me that those thoughts aren’t true – but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have them.

Any man in a blue and white plaid shirt will send me screaming and crying, hiding in a corner. It only takes a glance, because I remember that shirt so well. I remember the moon out the window, the slamming front door, the feeling of disbelief and horror. I remember the pain, and I still feel it. I still feel it.

These are the realities of PTSD. These are the realities of the last 14 years of my life.

I never thought someone would tell me I had PTSD. Not from “bad sex,” as I spent so many years calling it. He was an acquaintance, not a stranger. He didn’t have a weapon. What right do I have to be “traumatized” by it? He was a likeable, well-known, respected, church going, 19-year-old college student. I was an introverted nerdy 16 year old virgin, with a lot of speeding tickets already. Who is going to believe me? I didn’t believe me. Sometimes I still don’t. 

If I wake up shaking, sweating and terrified — I don’t question why. I know why. The only question is if I am going to try to go back to sleep or not. Probably not. If I start feeling claustrophobic and overwhelmed, am I going to ask you to please just hug me for a minute so I can close my eyes and feel safe? Doubtful. I’ll just make up an excuse, and go cry alone. I always cry alone. Because you can’t cry in front of another person without explaining why you are crying. And I’m not about to do that.

I may never “get over it.” I’m not even sure what that means. But I know I have spent too many years avoiding the truth, the reality and the word.

Fourteen years later, it’s time I learn to say it.

Fourteen years ago – I was raped.

It shouldn’t be a dirty word, and no one should ever be ashamed to say it. But for me, it’s like poison. I don’t want to hear it, think it, read it or say it. But there, I did it.

I was raped.

Now if I could only explain the strength it took, and the terror I felt, just to type those five letters — maybe then PTSD would be a little easier to understand. For all of us.

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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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic


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