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Once Broken: My Journey Living With PTSD

By Justine Marie Benoit

I am not a mental health professional. I am simply one broken person looking to help others find their broken pieces and put them back together. In light of the tragic event that occurred on Sunday, October 1st, 2017 in Las Vegas, my home, I am sharing my experience with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the steps I have taken to heal, to cope, and to rise above.

By definition according to the Mayo Clinic, “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it.” Anyone can have PTSD. All it takes is one horrifying moment in one’s life to cut a wound so deep that it leaves a scar.

My biological father was an abusive man. He was angry, and he beat me almost everyday. One day, when I was about seven, he came home in a fit of rage. I was just coloring, in my bedroom when he stormed in with a gun in his hand, pointed it right at me and threatened to shoot. Terrified, I kept quiet, sat still, closed my eyes, and cried.

It’s been twenty years since that day, and although I have not seen nor spoken to this man since, I am still haunted by the memory of what he did. I still have nightmares. I have anxiety and depression. I’ve had days when I woke up wishing I didn’t. Once broken, it’s impossible to flawlessly glue yourself back together. It takes a lot of time, patience, strength and support to pick up your broken pieces and hold them together. But you will find all your pieces, and you will be able to glue yourself back together. You will remain flawed, but these flaws are proof of your strength and resilience. You are alive, and that is a gift.

There are many ways on how to cope with PTSD, and here are the ways that have personally helped me:

Practice self-care

Remember to eat healthy, drink lots of water, floss and brush your teeth, and take a shower. Treat yourself with your favorite things. Indulge if you wish, but remember to do everything in moderation. Remember, you are practicing self-care, not self-destruction.

Play with dogs

Or goats, or whatever cute creature brings joy to your heart. Studies have shown that having a pet can decrease symptoms of depression. Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”, is a neurotransmitter that increases trust and reduces fear. When you spend time with your fur-baby, your oxytocin levels increase, forging a bond between you two, and allowing you to relax in each other’s presence. So go give your pet a hug, and if you don’t have a pet yet, adopt one. If you’re not in a position to adopt, volunteer at your local animal shelter. They need love too, and believe me when I say that your heart will burst with so much love when these adorable, fun and loving creatures surround you.


Whether it be running, boxing, yoga, or even as simple as taking long walks. Exercise does not only benefit your physical health, but it also helps with your mental and emotional well-being. As Elle Woods says in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”

Take up art

You don’t have to be good at it. Just do it. When you focus your mind and body on a task, you tend to forget about the dark cloud that’s been floating above your head, even for just a moment. It’s also a way to express your self without having to speak it. Drawing and painting was my release when I was a kid. I wasn’t ready to talk, so I let my emotions out through my work. Musicians express their feelings through their songs. Dancers communicate their emotions through their movement. We all get lost in the midst of our art whilst subconsciously speaking our emotions out loud.

Start a journal

I have two journals that I write. One is for processing my thoughts and emotions. When I have a nightmare or when I’m haunted by a bad memory, I write about it. It’s a verbal release for when I’m not ready to talk to someone about it. The other one is something my therapist calls a “Gratitude List”. Everyday, I list down things that I am thankful for, as well as the good things that I am and have become. It’s almost like a mantra that you say to yourself until you truly believe it. It’s also a way to remind yourself of what an incredible person you are, how brave and strong you have been, and how far you have come.

Talk about your feelings

You don’t have to do it today or any time soon. Take your time, and when you are ready, talk about your feelings and do not hold back. It takes a great amount of strength putting on a brave face and holding your emotions in, and that can get exhausting. We’re only human after all. It’s okay to have feelings. In fact, having feelings is good because that means you are alive.

Seek help

It’s okay to get help. In fact, getting help makes you a stronger and better person because you’re being responsible and practicing self-care. Getting the proper care and guidance you need is so important to your journey to getting better. Seek counseling or find a local support group. You are not alone, and there are many of us out here who are more than happy and willing to help.

Surround yourself with love

Spend time with those whom you love and care about, and those whom reciprocate that. No matter how strong and resilient you are, you cannot pick up all your broken pieces alone. My mom and stepdad helped me stand up. My husband made me strong and helped me fight. My Cirque family gave me a super power. I am flawed, but I am whole because of them.

Spread love

Hug someone. Share words of kindness and encouragement. Share pictures and videos of your cute puppies. Give back to the community and donate food, supplies, funding, blood, or even just your time. Every little bit of love counts.

Most importantly, LOVE YOURSELF

There is no one like you in this world. You are incredible, you are appreciated, and you are loved. You are breathing. You are living. You are a gift to this world. LOVE YOURSELF.

Have patience with yourself. Forgive yourself. We had been broken, but we will, in time, pick up all our broken pieces and make ourselves whole once more. We will remain flawed, we will have scars, but these make us living proof that we are strong and resilient. We are alive, and that is our power.

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