"I used to be really ashamed of what happened to me," U.S. Air Force veteran Alex Crichlow says.
Alex was the only woman among 26 men in her division and repeatedly suffered sexual trauma. It was about 30 years ago when this happened but the effects are everlasting. "It completely derailed my life," she says. "I gained 71 pounds, developed diabetes, and suffered from severe clinical depression."
Her lowest point was being rushed to the hospital after collapsing in the street. "Lying there and looking at the lights, I decided I didn't want to go out like that. I survived rape, I survived many other things and I have a daughter," Alex says.
When Alex got out of the hospital, she found a training program that not only helped her get in shape, but also helped her deal with mental issues such as paranoia.
PTSD never goes away but you learn how to cope and how not to let it defeat you.
It's been five years since Alex's hospital visit and she is no longer diabetic, 71 pounds lighter and is helping other veterans who are suffering from PTSD and military sexual trauma. Alex is also one of the founders of WholeVet, a program in San Francisco that practices the mind, body, spirit and community approach to healing.
The free program for veterans includes physical fitness and training sessions, personalized nutritional counseling and psychotherapy. The vets who have joined, she says "run the gamut." They are in their 80s, 50s and their 30s.
Making a difference in their lives has had a major impact on Alex. Although "PTSD never goes away," she says, "you learn how to cope and how not to let it defeat you."
If you would like to make a donation to WholeVet, here is the information:
Checks payable to:
401 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 123
San Francisco, CA 94102