Thrive on Campus//

Life As a Graduate Student with PTSD: Part 1

"I knew it was going to be a long journey, but I was ready for whatever life threw my way."

Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

In 2017, my life changed for me once again. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), due to a traumatic experience in my life. More on that, later! As I began to slowly wrap my head around what was happening in my life, I wondered how I was going to juggle school. Luckily, at the time, I was only taking two graduate courses, but I was also creating a new mental health event. I was nervous and I was scared, but I knew I needed to be strong not only for myself but also for my friends and my family. Breathing a sigh of relief, I started seeing a counselor on a regular basis. It helped tremendously, but I was afraid of what I would uncover. The flashbacks came flooding back, and I felt weak. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why certain things would trigger those horrific flashbacks. I remember I was at home, working on one of my classes when suddenly, a song came on; at that moment, I began to cry. Crying profusely, I felt so unsafe and it nearly broke me. I slowly pulled myself together, the wave of insecurities passed, and I finished my homework for the night. I knew this was only the beginning of what my life would be. At first, I was so angry! Why was this happening to me? I just wanted it to end. I just wanted my life back. I wanted to be a graduate student who didn’t have PTSD. To be honest, I felt very alone. Yes, I had my amazing support system, but I was so tired of feeling so vulnerable. This wasn’t how my life was supposed to be. I just wanted the nightmare to end.


Continuing my sessions with my counselor, I began working on myself. I started journaling when the flashbacks would resurface. It was one of the many tools I use to help with my PTSD. I knew it was going to be a long journey, but I was ready for whatever life threw my way. Focusing on my classes, I would spend some time beforehand, writing down my thoughts and my feelings. It would help for the most part, but there were times something would trigger a flashback. My grades began to slip, and once again I became frustrated with myself. On top of everything, I started distancing myself from the things I use to love. I would put on a brave face and attend events on campus, but deep down, I feared what might happen. I knew I needed to do something to not only help improve my grades, but to help me lead a normal life. I began creating playlists of songs that would help keep me stay calm and I was able to focus a little more. My grades began to improve, and I was so proud of myself. I would listen to those same playlists right before I would attend an event or go on an outing. It was another one of my secret weapons to help with the PTSD. It was a huge accomplishment in my eyes. I knew at that moment, I was going to be okay and that I was on the right track. Yes, I still have a long way to go, but I know, I can do this. With the help and support of my family and friends, things have gotten better. Every day, I wake up and I’m grateful for all the amazing things that have come my way.

Not only am I a graduate student, but I am also a student leader for two amazing organizations at Arizona State University, I am a victim/survivor of sexual assault, and I’m an entrepreneur who has PTSD! I am the founder, board member, and CEO of the BEE Daring Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation for college campuses and mental health. And I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you. Stay tuned!

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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