Gabrielle Union has opened up about how the pandemic triggered her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), saying it made her feel ‘exposed’ in front of her husband Dwyane Wade.
The 48-year-old actress talked about being a rape survivor and her struggles with PTSD during a candid conversation with Taraji P. Henson and co-host Tracie Jade on the first episode of Facebook Watch’s Peace of Mind with Taraji.
‘For whatever reason, every time I talk about being a rape survivor, people are like [gasp] and then they forget,’ Union said. ‘We are so conditioned that we know what someone looks like who has suffered from PTSD, we believe we know what rape victims look like. And it’s not me.’
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Candid: Gabrielle Union, 48, has opened up about how the pandemic has triggered her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Candid: She talked about being a rape survivor and her PTSD during a conversation with Taraji P. Henson and Tracie Jade on the first episode of Facebook Watch’s Peace of Mind with Taraji
Union was 19 years old when she was raped at gunpoint while working at a Payless store the summer before her sophomore year at UCLA. She wrote about the traumatic experience in her 2017 book We’re Going to Need More Wine.
‘During my rape, I floated over my body, I hovered over my body and it wasn’t until the dude asked me to hand him the gun that I came back into myself, [I] tried to kill him,’ she told Henson.
The Bring It On star said she started therapy less than a week after the attack and has been going ever since.
‘Being able to have the language, to know what was happening to me, to define the terror that exists to this day in my body, in my spirit, in my soul, to be able to say, “Oh, that’s post-traumatic stress syndrome,” I need it,’ she said.
Union went on to detail what it feels like when she suffers a PTSD attack.
Trauma: The actress was 19 years old when she was raped at gunpoint while working at a Payless store. Union is pictured in 1993, about a year after her attack
Getting help: The Bring It On star said she started therapy less than a week after the attack and has been going ever since
‘Usually my right arm starts to feel like it is going numb, and it just feels like a full-body heart attack, the way you would imagine a heart attack, but in your knees, in your legs, in your arms, in your chest, in your eyeballs,’ she said. ‘Trauma can take so many forms.’
Union admitted the stress of the pandemic and the racial unrest ended up negatively affecting her mental health, which she didn’t anticipate when she first started quarantining.
‘I thought quarantining was right up my alley — I love silence, I love hunkering down at home,’ she said. ‘But you add in our former president was so rooted in racism and white supremacy and hatred and evil, that he inspired so much of it, we have been in the midst of an onslaught, a daily barrage of the brutalization of black and brown bodies, that we are just taking in every day, all day.’
Union said Wade, 38, ‘was aware of [her PTSD], as a fan,’ but quarantine has required her to be even more vulnerable in front of him.
‘I think it has been hard during the quarantine because we are in the same space,’ she explained. ‘I have not been home in any kind of consistent way since I have been an adult, so just getting to know my husband, which sounds crazy, I was like, “Oh, every day, every day you’re going to be here, okay ahh yeah I guess this is healthy.”‘
Hard to handle: Union said her husband Dwayne Wade was aware of her PTSD, but quarantine made her feel ‘exposed’ because he could hear her speaking to her therapist via Zoom
Open: Union admitted to worrying about scaring her husband away ‘because damaged women aren’t supposed to be lovable.’ They’re pictured with their two-year-old daughter Kaavia James
Family: Union is stepmother to Wade’s children Xavier Zechariah, 7, and Zaire, 18, and Zaya, 13, who recently came out as transgender. He’s also the guardian of his nephew Dahveon Morris
‘I just feel a little bit more naked, exposed,’ she continued. ‘Because I am just on Zoom with the therapist and I can hear the household, and then the doors open and … there is not enough space, you know what I mean, and that kind of worries me sometimes.
‘You know when people are like, “You gotta keep the mystery about yourself. Don’t tell him everything.” I’m like, “Well, s**t then, the pandemic, you got the whole thing.
‘So you have to find out: “Do you love me for all of … the baggage?”‘ she added, admitting: ‘You get worried that maybe you have revealed too much and you’re going to scare them away because damaged women aren’t supposed to be lovable.’
Union and Wade married in August 2014 after five years together. They welcomed their first child together — Kaavia James — via surrogacy in 2018.
Wade has three children from previous relationships: Zaire Blessing Dwyane, 18, Xavier Zechariah, 7, and Zaya, 13, who recently came out as transgender. He is also the guardian of his 19-year-old nephew Dahveon Morris.