It surprised me the first time I heard sexual assault linked with the idea of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and yet it fit. Until then I'd associated PTSD with military veterans who continued to relive their horrible ordeal. When I was a kid, the experts used the terms shell shock or combat stress.
My connection began when I read an article about PTSD and learned about their having flashbacks and recurring dreams. I said aloud, "That describes many of us survivors."
In my first year of healing, those flashbacks occurred several times a week. I felt as if the abuse were happening all over again. At other times, especially when I faced an extremely emotional situation, I numbed out, which was also listed among the symptoms.
One man who wrote me privately told me about his PTSD and said, "When the flashbacks occurred, I dealt with them by drinking them away. I called it recreational drinking, but I was self-medicating."
It's not just the symptoms, but how we react. For some men, the effect is debilitating. I was fortunate because I'm a fulltime, freelance writer. For three months after I started my healing, I didn't work much and I was able to stall on projects. Because the pain and the memories were so new and invasive, I told friends I was just taking off a little time for myself—it lasted three months.
I wasn't cured, but during those three months, an almost nightly recurring dream stopped. The flashbacks came less often with lower intensity.
I'm still not fully healed, but I'm getting closer all the time.