Healing from sexual violence while also trying to keep up with our academic obligations can be overwhelming. Sometimes we may not understand why studying, completing extra-curricular activities, or just feeling social is becoming increasingly difficult. Many people who are involved in traumatic events have a brief period of difficulty adjusting and coping. But with time and healthy coping methods, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely disrupt your life. In these cases, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Symptoms of PTSD and trauma disorders:
- Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time
- Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic even
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Irritability or anger
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or drinking too much
- Trouble sleeping
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
Here are some suggestions that can hopefully help you feel better about managing school and trauma-related mental health issues.
- Find a therapist or counselor. Many people struggle with trauma for different reasons, and most therapists have experience in treating symptoms. A therapist can help you find the best way to manage and overcome your specific symptoms.
- Try to identify which symptoms affect you. Which symptoms do you experience and when? Is there a pattern? Does going to a particular class always cause you to have flashbacks or panic attacks? Is hard to concentrate on studying? Does it feel too uncomfortable to be on campus so you just don’t go to class anymore? You may find that the trauma impacts nearly every aspect (if not all) of your academic life. That’s okay. It did for the author of this article, and it does for so many other survivors.
- Try to come up with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rated solutions. For example, if going to class on campus is becoming impossible, what would be your top 3 solutions to this problem? Would taking classes online or at a different time be better? If a crowded campus is uncomfortable for you, maybe try taking classes in the morning, when campus is less crowded. (Taking a leave of absence is okay, too.)
- Break your work down into manageable steps. It can often feel overwhelming to think of your work as one big project, but doing things one small step at a time may help you feel more accomplished. For example, instead of simply attempting to draft a thesis, you might try breaking it down into steps such as: doing a search for related literature and references, compare/contrast previously published studies, draft an introduction, draft methods, draft results, etc.
- Be open with your professors, if you want. If you’re comfortable, let you professors or advisor(s) know what is going on. They may be more lenient with assignment extensions or exam dates, etc. If this is something you do want to do, I think it would be beneficial to have specifics in mind on what you’re struggling with and what you may need.
- It’s okay to take a break. It’s perfectly acceptable to need and want to take a break from school, especially if you were assaulted on campus. Whether you need one semester or a few years, your health and well-being is more important.
School is difficult and consuming enough without battling anxiety/depression/PTSD alone – it’s okay to reach out for help and to ask for what you need from the people who are able to give it to you. Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault is here to support you. Email us at SunDevilsASA@gmail.com. Emails sent to that address are confidential and read only by SDASA’s founder.
Adapted from Pandys.org.