Managing PTSD And Paying It Forward This Holiday Season: How Giving Can Transform Your Mental Health with Karmai Alexander

by Hadassa Delhomme

Growing up in a Muslim household, the holiday season was never a strong point of interest for young Karmai Alexander. While she was on active duty in the military, she admitted being the first to volunteer to work the winter holidays. Although she did not celebrate the traditional holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah, she did enjoy the ambiance of the holidays season.  Specifically, being with friends and family and watching the seasons change in her hometown.

While on active duty in the Army, Karmai was a victim of military sexual assault. Like many cases, Karmai did not report her assault. Instead, she went home, got married, had children, and tried to fit into the typical box of what she thought life should look like… but eventually she found out that something wasn’t quite right. After years of mental health concerns, she was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from her assault.

Years later Karmai manages her PTSD through various coping mechanisms and a love for art. “I cope with my PTSD by being more aware of my surroundings and the emotions that come with them,” said Karmai “Once I figured out what my triggers were, I was more prepared to work around them.” Other ways Karmai manages her PTSD are breathing exercises, painting, meditating, and taking time to practice gratitude.

While adjusting to her new normal, Karmai decided to join the Birdwell Foundation for PTSD during the winter months of 2019. Before then she never truly acknowledged that she had PTSD. It was through meeting other veterans who have suffered similar situations that she was able to begin to heal. Today, Karmai works as a Director of Media and Digital Content for Birdwell. Even in this capacity, Karmai continues to be hands-on with their patients.

“The most effective tool I have found to manage my PTSD is helping others who also struggle with PTSD,” said Karmai.  “A majority of the time, when I am experiencing a trigger, helping someone else and talking through what’s going on can benefit not only me but the person who is also in need.”

There is a popular holiday theme that states it is better to give than to receive. This theme rings true for Karmai and many others at the Birdwell Foundation. Veteran suicide and depression rates skyrocket throughout the holiday season. Foundations like Birdwell can place themselves as a firm resource for those who may be struggling. They even provide services for spouses and other family members.

Many people at Birdwell can relate to Karmai in the sense that talking to another veteran or first-responder who truly understands your struggle can be beneficial. Overall, Karmai wants you to know that if you are struggling this holiday season, please reach out for a helping hand. She chose to seek help, and now she can help a lot more people through the help she received. You may be the person that someone else may need.