Adrienne Ruiz's soft voice belies a woman tortured with persistent images of her battlefield experience in Afghanistan.
"We entered what we called a choke point, two hills, we entered it, we received massive rocket propelled grenade and direct fire with armor piercing," said Ruiz.
It was an attack that changed her life that July day in 2008, and an attack that is still fresh in her mind today. "I had a massive brain hemorrhage, yes, and along with that, cervical two, three, five and six blew," Ruiz said.
Ruiz's physical wounds are mostly fixed. But it's the emotional battles she fights every day. "It's horrific, and you remember it, you remember everything you did," Ruiz said. "And, to take human lives? You live with that, but it's how you choose to live."
Ruiz has PTSD, post traumatic stress syndrome, a diagnosis that she received despite her denial of the symptoms. "I kept telling everybody, I'm ok, I'm fine, I'm fine," Ruiz said.
The symptoms of PTSD can vary from insomnia to flashbacks to emotional outbursts, but it's not uncommon for them to seem normal when the person returns home. "Many of the symptoms are normal symptoms when someone is deployed, and when they come back, they don't initially seem like they're abnormal," said Dr. Alan Peterson, a psychologist with the University of Texas Health Science Center, who treats military patients with PTSD. But those symptoms are manageable with treatment.
"Don't feel that it's embarrassing, or it's a stigma, or you'll never be able to go through on goals in your life, you can," said Ruiz. "You really can."
Ruiz gets help from a therapy dog that helps her deal with her anxiety, and she works with a therapist. She has hope, and knows it will get better. "I just want to make a point to brothers and sisters out there, that, yeah, you're going through hell, you hit bottom, but the most important thing is that there is hope," Ruiz said.