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In honor of National PTSD Awareness Day, HelloBeautiful set out to tell the stories of real life trauma survivors.

Here in conjunction with the Women’s Prison Association, eight Black women bravely shared a sacred piece of themselves–their personal experiences with trauma.

From sexual violence to gun violence to military service, each story here reflects the lived experiences of so many around the globe.

According to the National PTSD Center:

  • About 6 of every 10 men (or 60 percent) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50 percent) experience at least one trauma in their lives.” Women are more prone to experience sexual assault, child sexual abuse and women are more likely to blame themselves after a traumatic experience, the report says.
  • About 10 of every 100 women (or 10 percent) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).

Black populations are at a high prevalence rate for PTSD due to repeat exposure to racism and the increased chance of being a victim of traumatic crime. 9.1 percent of African-Americans have been diagnosed with PTSD—compared to 6.8% of non-Hispanic white Americans, according to the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

May we treat each story below with care and learn to open our hearts to others–especially those walking the path to healing.

Kimberly Brown, 48

Kimberly Brown

Source: Courtesy of Kimberly Brown

Where I’m from: Jacksonville Florida, by way of Brooklyn, New York.

What specific experience triggered your PTSD?: I served in operation Iraqi Freedom during 2007-2008. In May of 2007, I watched as an incoming rpg hit a detainee encampment that I was working in and 8 detainees were killed.

When did you become aware that you were suffering from PTSD?: I was diagnosed when I came back in January 2008. I attempted suicide on June 6, 2008 (my birthday) and was “voluntary” submitted to the veteran’s administration hospital for treatment by my command.

Have you spoken to a professional about your experience? If so, has it helped you find a way to cope with what happened? If not, do you believe medical attention unnecessary or is there a reason that is holding you back?: I am currently still seeing a professional psychiatrist and therapist for my PTSD and depression. It has helped me, but I get those times when noises or stress triggers my episodes. I still suffer from insomnia and have been on medications to help me. I don’t think there is anything holding me back as much some environmental as well as certain stressors that trigger a response.

Who/What do/did you turn to in moments when you are triggered or find yourself in a negative head space?: I have a pet and I go to my therapy sessions to find better coping mechanisms when I find myself in a negative head space.

What do you do to celebrate yourself despite what you’ve been through?: I celebrate life now. I just turned 48 and I’m traveling to Europe in two weeks outside of my military duties for the first time.

Do you feel there is enough awareness around PTSD?:  There is and there isn’t. While we acknowledge when celebrities commit suicide (RIP AB and KS) there are 22 vets a day that still commit suicide. Mental health for veterans still needs work.

What do you want people to know about you as a survivor of PTSD?: That everyday is working to keep the demons at bay. I have good days and I have bad ones. But, I know that I have people that love and care for me. That keeps me fighting everyday.

What would be the one word that describes you as a survivor of PTSD? The key word in your question….survivor.

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