Hello, Friends,

I have had bullies on my mind the last couple of days.  Anytime bullying makes the news, it makes me think, and remember.  I mentioned in my last post that I was the target of bullies as a child.  I won’t go into a lot of details, because they are still painful for me.  I know that this blog is about MST – but what is Military Sexual Trauma if not an extreme form of bullying.

I think that one of the things that I truly loved about the Army was that there was a connection and friendships formed quickly.  I was different – but in the Army – I was the same as all of the other girls.  We shared a similar mission.  As you know, I went from the Guard to the Active Duty.  I was always the “weirdo” in school, but in Basic Training, I was the funny girl that people enjoyed spending time with.  There was acceptance.

My first few days on Active Duty were frightening.  I was 19 years old and I didn’t know anyone.  Everyone always seemed to be in a group and I wasn’t sure how to make friends.  I still struggled socially.  I hadn’t been there more than a few days and we were waiting in line for something…just like we always did.  These two very beautiful girls were talking about a party that was coming up.  I still remember their names, Pam and Maria.  Suddenly, out of the blue, they turned to me and said, “Hey, Joan…got any plans on Friday?”

These two pretty, popular, cool girls were asking me what I was doing Friday…why?  I couldn’t believe they were asking me this question – did they forget I was new here?  I simply responded that I really didn’t have any plans.  “You should come with us!  We are going to this great club.”  I couldn’t believe it was that simple.  In high school I would have been reminded that I didn’t have any friends because no one liked me.  Any questions about my plans were always the opening joke to the punchline so I was pretty excited. 

As it turned out, their boyfriends had a friend, so this would be a blind date…so to speak.  Actually, it was more of a handful of unattached girls being introduced to a handful of unattached guys.  We had a great time!  I made a lot of friends and these girls were more than willing to invite me into their little group.  The men I met that night weren’t about “hooking up,” their goal was to meet friends and maybe find someone to date. 

That night I discovered the simple joys of true acceptance.  They didn’t expect me to be anyone other than who I was.  They asked nothing of me except friendship and I expected nothing but the same.  The Army was the first opportunity that I had to be liked for who I was. 

Maybe that is part of why I took the first assaults so hard.  It not only destroyed who I was – it ruined who I was becoming.  The new open and happy me was being attacked.  The bullies had found me again.

I guess I really mean this to be an open letter to all of those who are bullied.  I want to encourage you – it does get better.  There are times it also gets worse.  However, there have been too many suicides lately.  Too many beautiful young lives cut short.  It is a little like smashing the egg just as the chick is being born.  Don’t smash your own egg! 

I am now in a place where I have a lot of friends – good friends.  People that I trust.  People that I enjoy just the way they are and they do the same for me.  It is okay for me to be different, it is okay that they are different, it is okay that you are different.  It’s old school – but there is something to be said for “I’m okay and Your okay!”

We recently had an event that brought some of our VSO members together.  It was a good time standing in the kitchen working our butts off to get the work done.  Three of the guys were picking on me – but it wasn’t cruel – it was funny.  I was giving as good as I got!  It was good.  It felt like being home again.

We were at my parents house for Thanksgiving and my father has my basic training picture up in his office.  One of my sons called me to come here.  I looked at the little girl in that picture.  My son said, “You know mom, you look a lot like Denise Richards in Starship Troopers.”  I laughed at him!  I was an ugly little child – that is what everyone said and that is what I believed. 

I looked at that little girl and suddenly it occured to me:  “You know – he’s right…I do look a little like her.”  Thanks, son!





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