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Inside the Mind of PTSD and Anxiety

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

Around October and November 2019 my team psychologist told me I was dealing with PTSD and Anxiety. I had been dealing with nightmares and anxiety for a few weeks prior but I thought PTSD was more for the military and people in the inner city communities who witness violent crimes. I didn't really think my situation was serious enough to be labeled PTSD.

I have a habit of minimizing my feelings and situations whether they are positve or negative. That goes along with my anxiety I guess. I get anxiety when I am doing really well and sometimes I often tend to disappear after doing something really well because the attention causes me to overthink and makes me uncomfortable. When I am dealing with a situation that is negative I also tend to minimize my feelings and I try to convince myself that it isn't that serious and I'm probably overreacting. This side of my anxiety comes from my freshman year when I tried to speak up about a specific situation that happened to me and the people who I counted on for support didn't believe me and thought I was exaggerating. Ever since then I find it hard to understand my feelings and understand if they are valid. This anxiety is what caused me to wait five months before opening up about the situation that caused me PTSD and anxiety.

Right before I transferred to Syracuse, my relationship with my ex boyfriend turned abusive. The days leading up to that night gave me plenty of warning signs that I should not have made excuses for but I never actually thought it would get that serious. The night my relationship turned abusive was the scariest moment of my life, I was terrified. The scariest thing about an abusive relationship is that you are looking in the eyes of the person you loved and you see they aren't themselves. They are a totally different person. The anger and rage behind their eyes is terrifying and you don't know what they are going to do to you. The other scariest part of being in an abusive relationship is that most bystanders do not help. I was screaming at the top of my lungs and nobody came to help, nobody called the cops, nobody came outside to even see what was going on. That is usually what my nightmares are about. I have dreams about seeing someone getting beat or dreams of my ownself getting beat and in the dreams nobody comes to help. I recently had a dream last Sunday where I saw a girl getting beat and I tried to dial 911 but my phone wouldn't work. I tried to call using someone else's phone and it didn't work either. I just had to sit there and watch it all unfold because I couldn't get help. I woke up that morning with terrible anxiety, I cried a few times. My mom asked me what was wrong and I didn't want to explain. I felt embarassed to still be dealing with this and I also didn't want to remind her of the situation because I don't want her to hate him. I thought I had been over this situation since I've been in therapy and since it's been a year since it happened but I have not fully healed.

Another reason I hesitated to open up about my situation is becuase of the facts of the situation. My ex technically never "hit" me. He never physically attacked me. He did though, chase me around outside, throw something at me, call me all kinds of vulgar names, pretend to hit me, and he had me in a ball outside on the ground while he stood over top of me yelling. He ran up on me a couple times as if he was going to hit me while I screamed and covered my face. The next day he left me voicemails apologizing to me but putting the blame on me. "I'm sorry but you made me do this" "You made me act this way" "You make me crazy I just love you" The scary thing about the situation is that his mother witnessed it and she was yelling at him not to hit me. I just don't understand why she didn't call the cops. At one point she was literally holding him back from me, I just don't understand why she never called for help. The next day she texted me apologizing and saying that she didn't know what to do because she was stuck between a rock and a hard place because he is her son. I will never understand that message because in my eyes, right is right and wrong is wrong. It shouldn't matter if someone is your family or your friend, if they are a threat to someone you stop it. Period.

A few months went by and I didn't talk to my ex at all, I had him blocked. Then one day during the summer I went to a party and he was there. I saw him before he saw me and my mood immediately changed. I couldn't even dance or talk to my friends I just stood there staring at him wherever he went. About twenty minutes later I got a text from a fake number, it was him. This type of stuff continued for a while and then it eventually stopped because I told his mom I would file a restraining order. I dealt with a lot of anxiety from this because I just never knew if he would try to hurt me again. The man that I loved would never hurt me but the man I saw that night in May 2019 was not that person. I no longer knew who I was dealing with.

I eventually told my bestfriends what I was dealing with (they were extremely upset it took so long for me to say something) and they convinced me to get help. I took so long to tell them because I was embarassed and I also did not understand my feelings. I couldn't tell if I was overreacting or i my feelings were justified. But talking to them helped me so much, I cried on the phone (I took my face out of the camera so they wouldn't see) but they provided a safe space for me to open up. I eventually did go see my team psychologist and that is when I was diagnosed with the PTSD and anxiety. He helped me really understand my feelings and he explained to me how victims of domestic violence, whether it is emotional, physical, mental, etc, tend to downplay their experience and feelings. So basically the reason I had such a hard time accepting my reality was because I was stuck in the victim mindset. Once I met with my therapist, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I cried for most of our meeting time but it felt great to finally get an explanation and understanding of what I went through. Some people that I did talk to about my situation didn't genuinely care or didn't really understand how traumatic it is. I had a teammate ask me if I wanted to make a song with my ex's voicemails at the start of it like how some rappers do. It's a fun idea but not when you understand how traumatizing abuse is. There really isn't a fun way to go about it. I make jokes about it alot because that is how I cope with things but it really isn't funny. I can make a joke about it one day and then cry about it the next.

I went through all of this trauma during my basketball season and most people didn't know. I only talked to one of my assistant's about it. Other than that no staff members knew what I was silently dealing with. Imagine having to wake up for 6am workouts when you stayed up the whole night before from nightmares. Imagine having to go to practice after you have been sitting in the locker room bathroom on the floor crying for twenty minutes. Imagine coming back to your phone after workouts to a text from your ex (I don't like using the word abuser or attacker) saying that he's in your area. This is what it's like being an athlete and trying to process trauma while still meeting the demands of your coaches and teammates. The ball doesn't stop bouncing for you. Nobody is going to take it easier on you because you have personal issues. Athletics is a business, that's just the truth. We have to push aside our feelings and focus on practicing hard and winning games.

I have no hard feelings toward my ex. I don't hate him, at the time I definitely did but I don't anymore. I care about him as a person and I pray for him from time to time. I want him to be happy, healthy, and at peace. I don't want him to be fighting himself over this situation because he can't change it. I just want him to get the help he needs and not let it happen ever again to anyone else. I have spoken to him since the situation and we had a good discussion, I explained to him the pain he caused me and how I wanted him to get help.

This situation was scarring for me, I struggle now with trusting men. I was at a guy friend's house one day and he was upset at me about something very little and it terrified me. He never yelled at me or called me names or anything. He didn't threaten me in anyway but I was still scared. He had asked me what was wrong and I didn't even know how to explain to him. How do I tell someone "hey yeah when you got upset with me I thought you might hit me or something or curse me out" So when he asked me (he asked a few times) I just brushed it off and made up an excuse like I was just tired.

This is what PTSD and anxiety looks like for me. It continues to affect me in relationships, friendships, and in decision making. I have learned to accept this diagnosis and I know this is an area I need more support and help in. I am still not in a place where I can openly speak about this (outside of a blog) without crying or getting anxiety. I am on the road to getting better, I have a long way to go but I know one day I will be better.

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