I haven’t known trauma firsthand. I knew that going into the refugee clinic, I should read about PTSD before hand. I read up on the diagnostic criteria and committed as much to memory as I could. What I found instead were women with real life horror stories that couldn’t fit into any criteria. These women’s only crime in life was to have been born as women. They were traumatized for different reasons that included war and conflict, but the abuse happened at the hands of their husbands. These women suffered PTSD as a result of intimate partner abuse, not from wars  they lived through or the bloodshed they saw but being physically verbally and sexually abused by the men whom they had entrusted their lives with.

There are stats about how in North America, a husband is deadlier to a woman than a terrorist. In this loaded political climate, even in war and conflict, a woman’s deadliest weapon is a man who turns against her. Namely a man who abuses his biological advantage that he’s been given over her and destroys her with it. He also takes advantage of her undeserved love and grace and ever yielding forgiveness and uses that against her, to keep her coming back, to keep her apologizing, to keep her thinking it’s her fault and she could do more.

My biggest fear in life is probably being in an abusive relationship. Because I know myself and how I fall fast and hard and deep, I know that I would be one of “those” women. The women who others question “why doesn’t she just leave?” I  probably would not be able to leave. I can see myself being someone who easily falls prey to a man who I gave everything to who I simply want to forgive over and over and would do anything to change myself to make the relationship better.

A woman gets married and ultimately surrenders herself. I know that the feminist agenda will push that the surrendering and commitment is equal both ways but it can’t be. Women generally speaking will always give more and have to give up more of them themselves. In a marriage, they are inherently trusting this man with their safety, their attention, their sexual pleasure, the right responsibility of finding a father for their children, And unsurprisingly, as it turns out, this degree of vulnerability is very easy to take advantage of.

This clinic was a dramatic difference from the usual psychiatry I see. For one, it touched me on such a personal level to speak to these pure, pure women, whom I felt nothing but empathy for. I wished so badly to see them again and help them in any way I can and wish them the best. It was also different because these women’s only crime was being a woman. No drugs. No reckless behaviour. No attention-seeking gestures. No alcohol, ever. Almost nothing in their life that was solely for them, or solely for pleasure. All work, no play. In stark contrast to the repeated drug-induced ER presentations, which have clearly exhausted me to the point of lacking empathy for these poor decision makers any longer, these women had no fault of their own in developing their life-altering psychiatric condition. They are literally seeking to just survive a minimally decent life.

It was a jarring experience, and while I didn’t think I’d ever feel “good” about going to the refugee clinic again, that very quickly changed. I got an email forwarded by the resident I worked with from the family doctor of one of the women I saw, for whom we started Prazosin. In less than 1 week, 1 unbelievable week, the family doctor described an incredible remarkable difference in the patient’s fear and anxiety behaviours. She was able to walk in public to get to the office, the nightmares had decreased significantly, and most importantly, she had hope that she might live a normal life again.

That was probably the single-handedly most rewarding moment of my short psychiatry career so far. And I will definitely be going back to the refugee clinic now.


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