MST is Combat PTSD


Something has been bugging me for a long time but I haven’t exactly known how to write about it.  Sometimes, you have to reveal that you have PTSD and that it is a direct result of your military service.  People will often assume that you served in a combat role.  I am never “okay” with them believing that I am a combat veteran – because I am not – but you don’t really just want to come out and say Military Sexual Trauma.  People look at you funny…like there is something extra special wrong with you.  My solution is just to say, “PTSD that is non-combat related.”  From there they can make up their own minds.

At the same time, saying “non-combat” really bugs the hell out of me.  Because I have been in combat.  Not against a “declared enemy of the US” but against my own kind.  Trust me, you spend six-months of your life trying to duck your supervisor because he is going to drag you into his closet sized office and pin you against a wall…you know what “combat” is.  It is a different kind of combat – but it is combat all the same.

I have heard war stories from countless veterans, none of them share exactly the same experience, not from war to war.  Not even from person to person.  Two people can be in the exact same platoon, the exact same squad in the exact same foxhole at the exact same moment and see the experience differently.  Even with Brigid and I, there are similiar themes, but our assaults were very different.

One thing that is different is the “after-life.”  Eventually, a combat veteran returns to his/her place “inside the wire.”  He sits with his buddies, has a hot meal, puts her feet up on her cot.  He/She is safe, they relax, they breathe a sigh of relief to return.  After my “shift” on the ambulance or in the TOC I was always very happy to hit the rack for a few short hours of rest, so I have some aspect of how that feels.  Nobody was shooting at me, nobody ever had, but it sure felt good to be out of the loop for a while.

For the Military Sexual Trauma survivor there is no safe place.  We are often in a perpetual state of watching the wire, listening for movement in the “bushes” and watching for shadows of the enemy.  We never get to rest inside the wire, because the enemy is there, waiting for us to relax.  The “buddies” you want to rest with may just be the ones waiting for you to close your eyes and drop your guard.  There are no friendlies.  You are in many ways a POW, a prisoner of war, left at the mercy of the people who have control over you.  Sometimes you really do fear for your life, sometimes the paranoia is so overwhelming that even someone who may be able to help you just becomes another “bad guy.” 

Just like “combat” veterans, we survivors of MST, continue to fight our war.  It isn’t a war where you earn a medal or a commendation.  It is a war where sometimes the only recognition you receive is within yourself, knowing that today you lived, and maybe did something that you never thought you could do.  Something like a visit to the casino, or filing your VA compensation, or reaching a hand out to someone who has experienced the same kind of “combat.”  I guess the only glory in “war” is suriving.

Joan

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