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Trigger Warning - My College Experience/PTSD

I took the next semester off. My life briefly spun out of control. I was in and out of the hospital for a couple months. My downward spiral lead to more trauma since that's when I met the person who would later become my husband. I was lost, alone, and so, so vulnerable. Due to my overall ignorance about anything outside of old books AND my religious upbringing which encouraged guilt, shame, and victim-blaming, I blamed myself for what happened and didn't report it even though the nurses talked me into having a r*pe kit done when I was in the hospital. The doctor who did the examination was so kind he made me cry. Today, I'm baffled by the fact that I blamed myself. It reminds me of a quote from the movie Women Talking:
Where I come from, where your mother comes from, we didn’t talk about our bodies, so when something like this happened, there was no language for it. And without language for it, there was a gaping silence. And in that gaping silence was the real horror.

What happened was horrific. It was easily the most traumatic event of my life - an event that marked a before and after. It's how I lost my virginity.

Anyway, the sorry-excuse-for-a-human-being was graduating in the spring, so I thought that maybe everything would be back to normal when I returned in the fall. Maybe the nightmare would end. He graduated, but he wasn't really gone. He was one of the best athletes my college had ever had which isn't saying much, but it was enough for his poster to be up in various hallways and for his picture to show up periodically on my college's website when I logged in to check my student email. I'll never forget the shock the first time his picture came up on the library computer screen when I wasn't at all expecting it. (What is this? A Lifetime movie?) After that, I squinted and would click on the appropriate icon as quickly as possible.

I managed to avoid the posters and the section of campus where the dorms were housed although I still felt their ominous presence - a constant presence that loomed heavily on my soul. I typically scurried up a couple floors and down long corridors to avoid a poster in the hallway on the main floor, but there were others. My backpack, full of books including Riverside Shakespeare, was quite heavy, but I found the detour worth it. I avoided talking to people because they'd wonder what the hell I was doing. In general, I strived to be invisible. I didn't even like to look at myself in the mirror anymore.

Other than a couple nurses in the hospital, I told just one person (not even my family). I didn't know that her boyfriend belonged to the same fraternity he IT did or that they were good friends. Fearing for his reputation, IT decided to spread rumors about me before he graduated to keep the truth from being heard and believed. I heard people talking behind my back. IT was popular, well-liked, and handsome. I was an average-looking no one. Why would anyone believe me? On one occasion, when I entered my Victorian Literature classroom, a small group of students were seated in the back talking. One of them said: "I just don't get it. Why do you think she's making something like this up?"

"Maybe she's doing it for the attention."

Outside of the hospital, I told one person.

They saw me and lowered their voices to a whisper while giving me a look of disdain. I took my usual seat at the front of the classroom and fought back by giving insightful, well-thought-out comments, earning praise from my favorite professor who would later make me her TA. Maybe people would believe me if I proved myself academically. I won an award in that class for critical writing later that semester.

I didn't talk to or make friends with any other students the rest of my college career (3 semesters). I threw myself into academics, won awards, and, along with 10 other students in my graduating class, graduated summa cum laude. Reading was and has always been an escape. It was also my way of fighting back even when the rest of my selfhood was lost - some of it irrevocably.

Some of my triggers:
- loud noises
- feeling trapped or helpless in some way, including feeling unable to help others
- being touched, especially when I'm not expecting it
- feeling like someone does not care - probably related to being abused by people who should've cared the most
- encountering people who look like my abusers
- feeling like I'm being invalidated
- insomnia


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