How Being Diagnosed With PTSD Influenced My 2013 Academic Life.
Previous to beginning my 2013 quarter at Clark College, I was immersed in a trauma which contributed to my diagnosis of Severe Depression, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and PTSD.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have been present in a life or death situation. I will admit PTSD is life altering and reshapes who you are.
If you attain anything from my writing today, please note: Rehabilitation acquires time, in many instances a lifetime. It has been six years, and nevertheless I’m still coming up against countless triggers.
My recovery began in 2012.
I perceive as if for you to fully grasp the severity of my mental state in 2013, I should disclose the circumstances that contributed to the trauma.
It happened the day my sister broke up with her boyfriend of six years. My sister Jessica, my five-year-old nephew Damian, as well as my mother were all at home. We had just sat down to watch a movie when the door behind me started rattling.
I went into the kitchen to find my sister and nephew staring attentively out the glass back door. Seconds later the sound of a commotion came from the front of our house–the front door was wide open, and there stood my sister’s ex-boyfriend, Mike, pouring gasoline excessively over the loveseat.
As Mike approached me, he insisted “this is what you deserve. ” This phrase became ingrained within my mind; taunting me and instigating panic attacks.
Only then had Mike moved close enough to touch. The smell was now so potent. Mike stood facing me furthermore, pouring gasoline out into a puddle at my feet as I froze.
Mike then shifted directions, going down the hallway in the direction of the bedrooms. My sister bolted past me and headed in the direction of Mike. Jessica dared to snag the jug away. The two fought over the gas, splashing the gas all over each other in the process. Ending with gasoline in Jessica’s eyes and overmuch of her body.
I recognized my sister scream “he poured it on me!” I proceeded straight towards her voice; Only to nearly collide with her about halfway there.
I stepped out into the grass of my backyard cell phone in hand dialling 911. By the time we ran to the front of the house mine, and Damiens bedroom had bright orange, yellow and red flames engulfing the windows. I stood petrified in the middle of the street and screamed. I tried my best to calm down so I could relay to the 911 operator what was happening.
An Ambulance and police officers came and attempted to help my sister flush her eyes out. I got into the ambulance with my sister and we were on our way to the hospital.
I was questioned by a detective whose first question oddly was where Mike was? I answered “jail hopefully.”
Later in my discussion with the detective I was informed, at that moment I was the most level headed person. This being said, I would need to tell my sister her boyfriend of six years had burnt ¾ th of his body in the process of setting the fire. I was advised I’d have tell my sister what had happened would be on the News. I was shocked no consent was needed. My sister being a private person would not be pleased.
I walked back into the emergency room. Just as I reached her room all our phones started ringing with multiple calls coming in. As I glanced up at the TV I could see my house on the news already. I tried to quickly reiterate to my sister the devastating news that Mike had burnt most his body and we were on the News.
A police officer requested my sister clothing for evidence. I knew my sister would be mortified by wearing oversized men’s clothes that the police officer offered from his squad car. Due to her and I looking pretty much identical in appearance and size; I gave Jessica the clothes I was wearing.
Sadly it all wasn’t over. My family and I had to go through the many hoops of the legal system, not to mention having lost all our belongings and our home. On a positive note, State Farm Insurance acted quickly and made sure we had everything we needed. But when your in shock nothing can make things seem better.
My family and I went to Mike’s sentencing. It was an intensive time for my family and I. The judge threw the book at Mike and gave him 16 years in prison.
On a positive note, my trauma encouraged me to help others who have suffered in similar ways–this is why I decided on becoming an Addiction Counselor.
Directly after the fire, I went into intensive outpatient services through Kaiser Permanente. I learned a lot about mental health issues and how to cope. After successfully finishing the program in 2013 I still had a great number of triggers to deal with. Directly after the fire, I went into intensive outpatient services through Kaiser Permanente. I learned a lot about mental health issues and how to cope. After successfully finishing the program in 2013 I was stable enough to deal with many of my triggers.
I’m would be able to function in this type of environment. It was only a conversation! My teacher pointed out our location in Hanna Hall and the fact that we are practically sitting ducks, if a shooter ever emerged.
Unfortunately, the conversation continued with the teacher reminding us that we would have to choose who would have toppled the shooter if this event
occurred–this was too much for me as I was just at the beginning of my healing journey.
Recovering from PTSD is a constant battle with your triggers and symptoms. For me, it could be the smell of gasoline at a gas station to an Eminem song playing on the radio. It could be night terrors where I scream all night and wake up drenched in my sweat multiple times a week. Or my anxiety acting out in German class because of what the teacher was talking about.
I wanted so badly to be at Clark and feel safe. At that moment in my life, my body shut down. I was unable to function well due to my severe anxiety and PTSD.