ANDREWS, TX (KWES) - Post traumatic stress disorder in veterans comes in many forms, whether it stems from combat missions, sexual trauma, feeling alone or worrying about family. Now more and more women are showing signs of the disorder In fact, 20 percent of female vets have been formally diagnosed.
"I'm not crazy, but PTSD is not something you can just wake up from in an instant," said Kathy Harrington.
Military life is all Kathy knew.
"Both of my parents are both army. They met in the army and it just seemed like the thing to do to get away from a small town like this."
Kathy grew up in Andrews. After she graduated high school, naturally, she enlisted in the army.
"When I first went in, it was kind of a shocker. Basic training was extremely difficult, but it was rewarding at the same time. Seeing how I grew from a teenager to an adult in such a short time," said Kathy.
Kathy got to see the world like she wanted, but it didn't come without a price.
"It's still a man's world. It's still run by men and when you try to step up and say something bad happened to me. They don't really listen to you and it's a very hard thing."
Kathy says she was harassed by men and women while serving, even being attacked several times.
The ordeal left her shaken, especially when she says it was reported and nothing was done.
"When the person who has physically harmed you is promoted and given a better position, it's hard to have faith in your own government because you know this is going on, but I toughed it out you know, I kept on. I kept on," Kathy said emotionally.
It's that resilience and her dog that has helped her cope with PTSD following leaving the army. She's now been battling the disorder for more than 10 years.
"I didn't even realize I had PTSD, I actually was just having problems coping after getting out of the military because I was so used to doing things certain way. Then when you get out of the military, you're free to do anything."
Kathy was diagnosed after visiting a therapist for a few months. Although she is now on anti-depressants, every day remains a struggle.
She's bounced around from job to job and has been unemployed for the past six months.
At any time, something could trigger a panic attack.
"Everybody has different triggers of what can happen," said Kathy. "If a vehicle goes by and it backfires, I'll be on the ground in a heartbeat because it sounds more like a bullet going off. I don't sleep well at night. Confrontations, I can't get into confrontations because my fight or flight kicks in and it's hard because you have to go out in the work force and try to work and deal with your PTSD and you can't take your pets with you."
Kathy spends most of her time at home, unable to find a job.
She takes comfort in her dog, who seems to be in tune with her disorder.
"He just loves to love on people who are stressed out. He's very aware of it."
Kathy says she knows she will be battling PTSD for the rest of her life, but the key is getting help and learning to cope.
"Females, we are a tough nut to crack. We want to say that there is nothing wrong with us. Just keep going even though there is something going on. I hope that they know that there is help out there," said Kathy. "They just have to want to get better. You just have to want it really bad."
Kathy found help through the Disabled American Veterans Midland Odessa chapter..
For more information on the help that's available, call 432-557-4578.