Thrive on Campus//

Life as a Graduate Student with PTSD: Part 2

"Would they believe me?" That was the one question that constantly ran through my mind when I would share my story with others.

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.

“Would they believe me? That was the one question that constantly ran through my mind when I would share my story with others.”

For the longest time, I buried those feelings, those emotions, those vivid images of what happened to me in 2015. But I will never forget the day everything came flooding back, it shook me to the core. A part of me wanted to run away. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure if I would ever tell my family about what happened to me; I was so afraid they wouldn’t believe me. After somewhat coming to terms with the fact I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I knew it was time for me to take back my life. I no longer wanted to be a victim of sexual assault.

What some don’t understand are the changes we face when dealing with PTSD. Yes, my academic status was back on track, but I still didn’t feel like myself. To be honest, I was scared I was never going to be the same. I began spending all my time focusing on being a mental health advocate for others. I knew I could use my voice to help others, not realizing at the time I was also helping myself. Prior to remember everything that happened to me, I spent most of the time pretending everything was okay. I put on a brave face when I was around my family and friends, but deep down I was angry. So much anger and sadness inside, but I couldn’t figure out why. Some would constantly tell me I was talking in circles and it frustrated them. It wasn’t until I began talking to my counselor, things started to make sense. Even then, it was difficult talking about what happened to me. To this day, I still feel like I am talking in circles at times. The constant flashbacks, some worse than others — I honestly thought I was broken.

It wasn’t until I started leaning on certain people in my support group, I learned things were going to get better. Zujaila has been there since the beginning; she is so full of life and has an amazing personality. She and I met back in 2016 when I became extremely active on campus, when I was working on my Mental Health Awareness Week. She was my go-to person when I needed input. Little did I know our professional relationship would turn into a life-long friendship. She is one of my best friends and is someone I can always count on, no matter what.  Chester is another important person; he too is a remarkable human being and he is so full of life, always having a smile on his face. He has a way of claiming me down when my head feels like it’s going to explode from all the homework and the chaos happening in my life. And of course, Zev! He is one of the most angelic people I’ve ever meet. I’ve had the honor and privilege of knowing him since 2016. He too helped me during my Mental Health Awareness Week! In fact, too this day, he’s been helping me on all my events. Zev knows exactly when to make me laugh. His personality is so upbeat. I am truly lucky to have all of them in my life! All three are people that I trust and respect, which is something that is very difficult for me. I can’t wait to share more with you later, about my support group.

If I could give one piece of advice, through my own personal struggles with PTSD: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. We are all amazing human beings who have so much to offer this world, whether it’s getting multiple degrees — I currently have three! Two undergraduate degrees, one in Criminal Justice and the other in Psychology and one Masters in Criminal Justice. I am currently working on my second Master’s Degree. Despite all my struggles, I graduated with the highest honor one could when completing their undergraduate degree, Summa Cum Laude. I was so proud of myself. At that moment, I had finally started to take back my life and it was by far the greatest feeling in the world.

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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