January 6, 2013

Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD

Several years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety Disorder. I am Service Connected Disabled (70%) and live with daily symptoms caused by two rapes while serving in the Army on two different posts, on two different continents. My assailants were both soldiers I served with. In another series, I am revealing my story. In this series I will address how I have lived with my experiences and symptoms.

Since considering posting my story, my anxiety levels have been through the roof. My hands shake, I am nauseous, I sweat, I constantly look over my shoulder, my legs bounce (tap?) when sitting... the list goes on. Most of the time I am able to deal with my symptoms and most people don't even realize I am having a problem. I have nearly 20 years experience hiding what is inside me.

Recently, I saw the movie Invisible War. Though the movie is excellent and needs to be seen by everyone, it set me backwards in coping with my experiences. I began to remember details I had worked hard to suppress. I remembered more clearly the second time I was raped and that was something I had buried deep as I could never tell anyone about it. After trying to get help the first time, there was no way I was going to put myself through the hell of being persecuted again.

I have been angry and frustrated the last few months after seeing the movie. People close to me expressed that they noticed a change in me. My ability to camouflage is failing. Everyone I saw looking at me "knew." Every man was a threat. Every woman a judge of my dress, behavior, mannerisms, speech.

Being an educator I did what academics do best: I researched. I had heard about Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) but didn't really know what it was. After reading about it, I made the request to my VA therapist and started CPT this past week. Posting my story and my therapy online is to both help me heal and help others find their way.

Michelle Monte is a Professor of English and is working on several essays. She is an assistant editor for Journal of Military Experience 3. Michelle served in the Army and Army Reserve from 1992-2000.

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