On Tuesday, the 49-year-old actress shared a powerful post on Instagram explaining how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety affect her daily life after she was raped at age 19.
"As a rape survivor, I have battled PTSD for 30 years," she began her post. "Living with anxiety and panic attacks all these years has never been easy. There's times the anxiety is so bad it shrinks my life."
Union described how leaving her home or even "making a left-hand turn at an uncontrolled light" can fill her with "terror," and how her anxiety can make any anticipation she feels about a fun event, such as the Met Gala, turn "into pure agony." She urged readers to "believe" people the first time they explain what they're feeling, noting that everyone doesn't experience anxiety the same, "and that's OK."
"I don’t need you to try to 'fix' me," she added. "I share this as I hope everyone living with anxiety knows they aren’t alone or 'being extra.' I see you, I FEEL you and there is so much love for you. Always. Love and light good people. Be good to each other out there."
Union, who has been married to Dwyane Wade for seven years, has spoken openly about being raped over the years and shared a detailed recount in her book of essays, We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True. In the chapter titled “Code 260” (the criminal code for rape), Union describes the harrowing details of getting raped at gunpoint while working at Payless Shoes when she was 19 years old.
In hindsight, Union wrote that she's thankful that the assault occurred in an "affluent neighborhood" with an "underworked police department," an "underutilized rape crisis center," and "overly trained doctors and nurses and medical professionals."
"The fact that one can be grateful for such things is goddamn ridiculous,” she pointed out.
The traumatic experience made her scared to leave the house for a year, and the fear "spiraled" into avoiding any places where money could be exchanged because she was scared of getting robbed.
Union has also been open about her relationship with therapy and how it has helped her develop confidence after years of doubting her self-worth. In a 2018 Redbook interview, she spoke about going on a book tour for her bestselling memoir and shared that her PTSD was triggered after a number of fans read her book and felt compelled to share their own experiences.
“On my book tour, a lot of cities felt like a revival -- there were so many disclosures of abuse during the Q&A portion of talks and during the book signing; even as I was driving away people were flagging down my car in tears," she recalled. "I didn’t realize how big the need was for so many people to just get it out, to have someone look them in the eye and say, ‘I believe you.’"
Not surprisingly, the stories took a toll on Union, who stressed that she doesn't regret women opening up to her.
"I cried a lot," she said, " I Skyped a lot with my life coach, because the horrors that I was taking in triggered my PTSD. But I feel a responsibility to offer that sense of safety and support. And luckily I have the means to help myself at the end of the night."