Nassimbwa, 29

Nassimbwa

Source: Courtesy of Nassimbwa

Where I’m from: I am from Kampala [in] Uganda, but I came to America when I was three. Been in Maryland for 26 years.

What specific experience triggered your PTSD?: I was raped when I was 14 years old and I did not tell anyone. To be honest when you say PTSD it feels weird to say I have experienced it because at the time I had no idea.

When did you become aware that you were suffering from PTSD?:  I did not know that I was experiencing it because I did not know what it was until college. I kept my rape a secret for 14 years and looking back at my behavior I know I experienced PTSD right after I was raped. I was aggressive, depressed, had nightmares, promiscuous, bulimic, and experienced drug abuse.

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 particular reason that is holding you back?: You can say the person I spoke to was a professional because she was a survivor herself. I attended a suicide workshop where a sexual assault survivor named Laquisha Hall told her story about begin raped by her pastor. I asked her how she was able to tell her story and she told me, “One day you will be able to tell yours.” That was at age 25. I finally told my mom at 27-years-old that I was raped at 14 and she asked me [why] didn’t you say anything. My response: I was scared, blamed myself, and ashamed. After telling my mom I told everyone I knew that I was raped. It was a weight lifted off my shoulder and I was not ashamed anymore. What happened to me was not my fault.

Who/What do/did you turn to in moments when you are triggered or find yourself in a negative head space?: Before I told anyone I went to drugs and alcohol. Now that I am not alone, I turn to the love of my life, my journal, my blog, family/friends.

What do you do to celebrate yourself in spite of what you’ve been through?: I empower other women by volunteering as a victim advocate at a sexual assault center where I help women/men who have just been sexual assaulted. I also have a business where I empower other women called sisterhoodofnaturalhair.com letting women know that it is okay to be yourself no matter what you have been through in life.

Do you feel there is enough awareness around PTSD?: No, especially in our schools. I did not recall our schools teaching us about mental health. In health class they need to address those issues because it is real life.

What do you want people to know about you as a survivor of PTSD?: That I am not a survivor of PTSD. I am a survivor of many things and in the words of Cardi B, “Knock me down 9 times and I get up 10.”

What would be the one word that describes you as a survivor of PTSD?: Resilient.

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