The We Shall Overcome Series is a collection of stories from women who have faced hardship with courage.  We hope these stories inspire and encourage you as much as they have us.

Meet Jenae and her life after being robbed at gunpoint and suffering from PTSD.   
Jenae Bartlow
 In 2015 I had the awesome opportunity to go on a 5-month internship to coastal Kenya. My colleague and I worked in one of the poorest areas in Kenya, a tiny Muslim village in the middle of nowhere. We taught in the village school where the students had practically nothing besides the clothes falling apart on their backs and the meal they would receive once-a-day for school lunch. We developed incredible relationships with the local people and the children and teachers at the school.
  
After about a month and a half, my trip took a turn for the worse.  

We developed incredible relationships with the local people and the children and teachers at the school.

February 10th is a night I will never forget. That evening, my colleague and I were returning to our walled compound.  When we entered, six armed men busted in with us.  They began to attack our night guard by putting a machete to his head and severely beating him everywhere else.

I froze in terror.  I couldn’t process what was happening right before my eyes. Someone else began to scream and ran to the back of the compound. Suddenly, I saw two men sprinting toward me, eyes locked with mine, with a machete and a gun in hand. They yelled, threatened to kill us, and chased us around the compound.  We were trapped. My colleague and I hid but there was no way to leave and nowhere to run in the small compound. They found us and cornered us with their weapons. We were shoved and I was pushed against a wall as they raised their weapons.  My mind was racing.  I was preparing myself to be raped and killed.  Instead, they tried to pry my ring off my finger, but still managed to steal all our belongings. Then they left.

"I was pushed against a wall as they raised their weapons."

 When we were sure we were safe, we made our way to the front of the compound, only to find our night guards shoes scattered across the ground at an empty post.  We learned that a few locals took him to the hospital and cried our goodbyes.  The attack only lasted twenty minutes but it felt like hours.

Two days later, we learned that our night guard had miraculously survived, but that didn’t stop my panic attacks.  I kept hyperventilating, trying to control the terror surging through my body. No matter what I did it wouldn’t stop.  I could barely sleep and when I did, I had horrendous nightmares. My colleague and I opted for counseling, which enabled us to cope enough to stay on the field and finish our internship. However, after several attacks in the area and an attack on our supervisors, we had to leave the country very suddenly and without saying many goodbyes to the people who we had grown so close to. My heart was broken and I was traumatized, which led me to numb my emotions entirely.
  

"I kept hyperventilating, trying to control the terror surging through my body. No matter what I did it wouldn’t stop."

When we relocated, I continued to have frequent nightmares and panic attacks. One night I was home alone in our gated compound and I heard the gate rattle and dogs begin to bark. I immediately sprinted to shut and lock all the house doors and windows, grabbed the biggest kitchen knife I could find, and curled myself into a ball under the kitchen table for half an hour hyperventilating. I felt completely powerless against the looming fear and PTSD.
Upon returning to the States, I buried Africa in a suitcase and shoved it under my bed, never to be thought about again. I plastered on a fake smile and rattled off a happy-go-lucky story about my trip when people asked. To everyone around me, my life looked like I was living the dream...I traveled all over the US, went on grand adventures, and posted amazing Instagram pictures of my travels.
Inside I was dying.
I fell into a deep depression as the PTSD symptoms worsened. I could barely be touched by men without fear overtaking my body, loud noises petrified me, I was constantly tense and paranoid of what everyone was doing around me, and the nightmares and panic attacks continued. I started drinking to make me feel better…to feel SOMETHING, but it only made me feel worse. My depression grew to the point where I did not even want to live anymore. I felt completely hopeless. I felt completely alone. I just wanted to die.
  

"To everyone around me, my life looked like I was living the dream...I traveled all over the US, went on grand adventures, and posted amazing Instagram pictures of my travels.
Inside I was dying.
"

 I hit rock bottom and had no choice but to do something.  I got help.  I reached out to family and friends and relied on my faith to guide me.  Finally!  I could conquer the giant monsters of PTSD and depression. I realized that I didn’t have to try to walk alone and take care of my own problems.
It’s okay to not be okay and to accept the help of others. Vulnerability isn’t weakness. It’s strength! I recognized that I was letting the circumstances in my life control me…I was a slave to them. I took control of them and refused to let them govern who I am or define me any longer. I refused to allow past situations to have such a hold on my life, that they determined my future. I overcame by giving up. I gave my life to the Lord and allowed Him to heal me. I kicked fear to the curb and allowed myself to process and heal.
When I first re-opened my “wound,” it was painful. I hated digging up the past, but once I cleaned out the infection that was diseasing my life, the wound started to heal. It became a scar. That scar tells my story and I will never be ashamed of it again! My scars and story have been able to impact people in ways I never thought possible. I’ve seen lives transformed.  I’ve been able to relate to people’s pain and love them in ways I never thought I would. It sounds crazy, but I look back at that horrific attack and I am thankful. It made me strong.

"I look back at that horrific attack and I am thankful. It made me strong."

Jenae is an Oregon Native finishing her Graduate Degree in Virginia.  Post graduation she is excited to marry her best friend Miles..