By Jennifer Woolwine

Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Health + Wellness

baghdad to barnyard

September 29, 2020

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Hello friends! I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) about a year after I returned home from my deployment in Iraq. My symptoms include panic attacks, nightmares, exaggerated startle response, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, disorientation to time and place, insomnia, irritability, social isolation, difficulty in obtaining and maintaining gainful employment, and hallucinations.  It is exhausting not only mentally but physically as well. I also suffer from psychogenic non epileptic seizures and received disability retirement when I was only 27 years old.

According to Dr. Selim Benbadis, “Psychogenic non epileptic seizures (PNES) are attacks that may look like epileptic seizures but are not caused by abnormal brain electrical discharges. Instead, they are a manifestation of psychological distress,” ( Benbadis, S.R., 2014)

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“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

I normally do not share about my PNES episodes because it is something that I am extremely embarrassed about. I have had PNES episodes in crowds, at work, waiting in line at the grocery store, and at home with no one around. It is just how my body reacts to stress. Thankfully, my husband has witnessed quite a lot of PNES episodes and knows exactly what to do. Usually, he just holds me until the episode passes or puts an ice pack on the back of my neck.

Since we moved to the farm, my PNES episodes have decreased dramatically. Being on the farm, I am away from crowds, triggers and it is where I am most comfortable. The farm is very therapeutic for me and gives me purpose, a routine and structure. For someone that has disorientation to time and place, sticking to a routine is key.

Being a farmer means I get up early and spend time outdoors, no matter the type of weather, because the animals need to be fed and watered. Even if I am having a bad day, instead of staying in bed all day and becoming further depressed, I take a walk to the barn and spend some time with the animals. The farm also gives my mind something else to focus on besides my PTSD and chronic widespread pain.

The farm has become a sanctuary for my husband and myself and we would love to share it with other disabled veterans one day. We want a safe space where veterans can come and enjoy a walk in the woods, help with a current farm project, spend the day in the garden or enjoy time with the animals. I want to share the benefits of country living and how our farm can help others.

We all have stories to tell, and this is just part of mine.  If you have any questions or special inquiries, please send me an email and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for your support! XOXO


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  1. Michele says:

    Jennifer, I just love your braveness and willingness to share. I can’t imagine how awful it must be. So happy you have found some solace on the farm❤️ And to want to offer to others is just amazing!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my blog and leave a comment. I really appreciate your support and encouragement. I just want to share my experiences and I hope that it helps others. If there’s anything you would like to see a post on, let me know. Thanks again Michele.

      XOXO Jennifer

  2. Alyson says:

    What a intensely important and helpful story to share with others, so wonderfully written. And yes, brave. I will enjoy reading along here. Thank you for sharing with us all. And of course, thank you for sharing those sweet donkeys of yours too! Congratulations on the new blog. Looks fantastic. -Alyson

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I don’t know why I was so nervous to share my story with people, everyone has been so supportive and I am so grateful. We have all gone through trauma, and bad experiences that have shaped us into the person we are today. I just want to be able to share how farm life has made such a difference in my mental health recovery. I think we can all learn from each other. Thank you for checking out my blog and taking the time to comment. If there’s anything in particular you would like to see a blog post about, let me know. Enjoy your weekend! XOXO – Jennifer

  3. Donna says:

    You are so brave! Thank you for your service and sacrifice serving our country. You were so young to be so far away. Thankful your journey brought you to David and eventually the farm. Loving your blog and all your farm family ❤️ – Donna

    • Thank you Donna. I am so incredibly grateful for where I am today. Even though Iraq was very difficult, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It made me into the person I am today and brought David into my life. I am so glad you enjoy my blog and thank you for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment. XOXO Jennifer

  4. Kipper says:

    This is such a beautiful & authentically written blog! You’re a courageous, amazing woman with so much to good to share with the rest of us, and I can’t wait to see what you post next! Much love! Kipper

    • Thank you Kipper! I am so grateful for our friendship and thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to check out my blog. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful fall weather! XOXO Jennifer

  5. Dee says:

    Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story and your truth with us. I think it is so important to do so, and give voice not only to what is going on with you, And I believe that there our others who will benefit from your story my dear friend. You know I think you’re absolutely amazing, and you are. I’m so proud of you!

    • Thank you so much Dee. I appreciate your support so much and the response I have received has been nothing but positive. I am so blessed to have such an amazing support system. Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. XOXO Jennifer.

  6. Thank you for your vulnerability to share your story with us. I have a family member who I believe suffers from PNES and this has been helpful. Praying that you continue to recover in the peaceful place God has blessed you with. I know your farm will soon help other vets too. God bless you!

    • Oh really? I would love to know what helps them with their episodes. I feel there is such a stigma that comes with PNES. I am glad I am able to share my experiences and hopefully it can help others. Thank you so much for reading my blog posts Shawn. Means a lot to me and I greatly appreciate it. XOXO Jennifer

Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a combat veteran and wife who is passionate about animal rescue, homesteading, and mental health advocacy. Jen's amazing journey of transitioning from military service to homesteading can be followed on her blog and social media platforms @baghdadtobarnyard.

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