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Mental Health

My Experience with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

As a survivor of sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, has greatly affected my life. It has affected me mentally, emotionally, and physically. But it has also affected me in positive ways. Without my experiences of sexual violence and my PTSD diagnosis, I would not be in the Women’s and Gender Studies program, studying sexual violence and educating myself more on its commonly overlooked realities. 

When I was first dealing with my emotions after being sexually violated, I couldn’t function properly. My grades suffered, I barely left my dorm room, and classes were very difficult for me to attend. The only place I could bring myself to go was to visit the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Officer and to get myself some food. I experienced panic attacks frequently, I had lost all sense of my identity, and I lost all love for any of my previous interests. There were a few times that my friend had found me collapsed on the floor, with the inability to move or talk. This experience is called freeze mode from the commonly known fight-flight-freeze mode (F3 mode) that panic attacks are accompanied with. I became unable to sleep if my room was completely dark, and I couldn’t sleep if my roommate wasn’t in my room. 

This experience definitely made me challenge myself as a person, as I had to find out who I was and what I wanted in life. After a few months, I realized that the education program was no longer of interest to me, and I had no motivation to continue in it. I had already taken a few Women’s and Gender Studies classes and found myself more invested in these courses than any others I had taken. That’s when I decided to switch programs and start conducting my own research about sexual violence since this was now my newfound interest. I started volunteering with the Sexual Misconduct Office and started looking into the Bystander Initiative on campus. Through both of these programs, I found an identity I would have never found if I didn’t go through my experiences as a sexual assault survivor. Although I look back on this experience and how horrible it made me feel, I also look back on it, and I’m thankful for how much this experience has changed my life.

I am comfortable sharing my story because as someone who has learned to accept her sexual violence experience, I want to help educate others about the importance of supporting survivors, as well as how each survivor has different ways of dealing with their trauma. My trauma has given me so much to look back on and has helped me address sexual violence from a pro-social bystander point of view.

Shaye is a third-year Women and Gender studies student, who is very interested in writing about feminism. She is involved with the Sexual Misconduct Office, the Women and Gender Studies student association, and she is also a writer for HerCampus UWindsor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching Netflix and hanging out with her bearded dragon, Minerva.
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