Archive for the ‘Military Sexual Trauma’ Category

Good night, Brigid 1970 to 2016

June 6, 2016

It is with overwhelming sadness that I write this post.  In fact, I am sitting at my desk at work so I am hoping that I can finish this without completely losing it.

On May 21, 2016, Brigid passed away.

I am going to share the details here because they are incredibly important.  For those of you who know who Brigid really is – please do not share this information with anyone at this time.  There is a pending police investigation.

Back in February Brigid made contact with a man she went to high school with.  She was so excited!  In March she let me know that he had sexually assaulted her.  I begged her to go to the Police, let me come get her and take her to the Emergency Room.  Preserve the evidence.  Let’s get this son of a bitch!  She refused.

She continued to date him.  I couldn’t push her…because the more you pushed Brigid…the more resolved she became.  I checked on her often.  How is he treating you?  Is he hurting you?  No, No…everything is fine.  He is being wonderful.

Brigid had never lied to me…but I suspected she was lying now.  Her granddaughter had left the state to live with her father and it was crushing her.  I sent her away to go to friends in another state.  She came back with excuses that her friend was babysitting and it was too much.  I didn’t know it at the time, but HE was demanding that she come home.

On May 15 there was a physical altercation in a bar.  She left before the police came.  Apparently, she was using medical marijuana but she was terrified because he was threatening her (it is illegal in our state.)  Myst…keep fighting girl!!  Please share her story!!  From what I have since learned he continued to beat on her at her home.  She didn’t want him living there – but he kept moving his stuff in.

On May 19th she began having difficulty breathing.  She told no one.

On the 21st of May she sent pictures of what he had done to her to her friend in another state.  Her friend contacted me and we met one another at the ER at 4:30.  We begged, we pleaded her not to go home.  The doctor brought in psychiatry, the VA Police, and any one they could think of.  She was covered from collarbone to ankles in healing bruises.

All of the tests were normal.  Small elevations that indicated healing bruises…but nothing worrisome except that she was being abused.  The plan was to eat and hopefully get her to the local police station.  The doctor wrote her a prescription that was good for a trip out of state to her other friends.  She LOVED IT!  She felt good, loved, confident, happy, and scared all at the same time.  They had offered her a CT scan to ensure there were no blood clots in her lungs…but she refused.

A few moments away she began having a panic attack.  She asked me to pull over, she was going to be sick.  I helped her through the breathing…years in Emergency Medicine and I saw only the panic attack.  I had walked her through so many I know hers as well as my own.  Within moments I was on the phone with 911 – things were changing for the worse very fast.  Suddenly, I began CPR.  They worked on her for 3 hours and found that she had thrown a very large blood clot in her lungs.  It was immediate and awful and so fast.  I am expecting the autopsy to show more than that…whatever happened, it was catastrophic and I believe it hit her brain as well.

I am sharing too much because it is something that we survivors are at a great risk for…re-traumatization leaving us paralyzed.  Paralyzed physically, emotionally, spiritually.  This asshole knew her secret and he used it against her.  It was one of the last things we said to one another…”Do you think that when he raped you he paralyzed you?” and she said, “Yes.”

Brigid leaves behind two daughters and a 5 year old granddaughter that was the light of her life.  She leaves behind so many people who loved her and cared for her.

We were besties, sisters, hetero-life partners for nearly 20 years.  There was nothing about me she didn’t know and she told me everything…until she was too afraid to tell me anything.  Please, if you are a Survivor…take a hard lesson from this.  Reach out!  I told her over and over that she had done nothing wrong, she had nothing to be ashamed of, I would help her.  I don’t blame her…please don’t believe that I blame her…not one inch!  Reaching out is hard!!!

But I can tell you what is even harder…and this will sound horribly selfish.  Living without her is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done.  No one in this world is like her.  No one can ever replace her.  Some people have said, “You have other friends.” and “I will be here for you, you aren’t alone.”  Well meaning people, but you don’t replace a Brigid.  Not today, not next week, not in a lifetime.  It is a once in a lifetime love…and I am so very grateful that I had her.

Many times over the years things came up that might have been her death…she was a cancer survivor and had some other physical issues.  More than once she and I faced her “death” together.  I could have coped with that.  Death in surgery, death in cancer…I could have dealt with that.  However, I can’t deal with the fact that she was beaten and abused to the point of death.  I don’t know how to live with that.  How do I live with that?  But I have to live.  I have no choice in the matter.  Now I have her daughters, her mother, and her granddaughter to see to.  I have to carry her legacy and her story.

I beg your prayers.  Prayers for justice for Brigid; prayers for me to carry on.

Peace,

Joan

 

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What cannot be raped

December 5, 2014

RAPE: an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: “the rape of the countryside”

I wanted to use this definition of “rape” for this post – because we all know that rape is so much more than “sexual intercourse through force.” Rape comes in many forms. Taking something that isn’t offered, violation of a person’s right to safety and privacy and the simple right to say NO, emotional and physical abuse. DESPOLIATION!

Despoliation – means to take something valuable by force. To spoil something.

I can tell you that my military career – something valuable – was taken by force. It was spoiled. “Professionals” want to run around and talk about trauma and talk about rape – but I think that this definition is so incredibly accurate! In fact, I believe that we need to replace all of the other definitions of “rape” with THIS definition. The definition above does away with several issues – 1) rape is about sex (NO – rape is about taking something by plunder, violent seizure or abuse) 2) Only women are raped (NO – anyone can have something plundered, seized, abused, spoiled or have their body violated) 3) Well – that is what happens when you put boys and girls together (NO – most of the world can be in a room together without anyone being violated!) I could go on and on with this – but this isn’t really the point of today’s post.

Most people know that I love my music! I have been having a couple of tough weeks. Severe nightmares, stuggling to get off the couch, being generally tearful, unhappy, agitated…ect. It also means that I really, really struggle to do anything at work! Happily, I can take a little time to get things ready for SAAM 2015 – so I can listen to some music – watch a few videos – just kind of think about what we might be able to use. I found something amazing today.

I am a grandmother who likes some of what Katy Perry sings. Yes, I admit it…I am a closet Katy Perry fan. Not all of her stuff – but who can’t love ROAR and FIREWORK. Those are two of my “go to” songs.

So I see this Katy Perry video on You Tube (just on the side where you can see just a picture – not the actual video) and I see a picture of Katy Perry in a Kevlar helmet and freakin camo face paint on and I am like – WTH! So I decide to take a risk and I click on it and the song is entitled Part of Me.

Basically – it is a video about a women who catches the boyfriend cheating on her, sees and Marine Corp bumper sticker and joins the Marines. However, the video struck me in a way that Katy Perry never planned. Hopefully the link works for you and you take the time to watch it.

I want to post the words to the chorus as well:

“This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
Throw your sticks and your stones,
Throw your bombs and your blows
But you’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me”

In the video – you see her doing all of those “military training” things that all of us did. (in some form or another) Then she is dancing in a uniform under the blue field of one of the huge stadium American flags singing the words in that chorus and I realized – she’s right!

Yes – they took my career through RAPE. Yes – they violated me, abused me, plundered my life, my career and they spoiled the life that I was proud of. But you know what…they CAN’T TAKE AWAY WHAT I DID! THEY CAN’T RAPE THAT!

They can’t “rape” what I accomplished. Basic training, AIT, my job, the awards and citations I earned – they can’t rape those. They can’t rape the memory of busting ass on the Confidence Course, or throwing grendades or firing expert on the M16 range. I did those thing – they can’t rape that. They can’t rape the values I tried to instill in my soldiers, they can’t rape the fact that there are a fair number of people who remember me as a good NCO. They can’t rape that.

No matter what was done to me – I always got back up. No matter how hard they hit – I got back up. Yes – my career went down in flames but I was fighting – I went down swinging – and you can’t rape that! That goes for every single one of you that are reading this – the very fact that you are reading this…that you are alive…that you get up in the morning and brush your teeth and live – they can’t rape that – YOU WIN!! Doesn’t mean we aren’t bloody from the battle (body, mind, soul and spirit) – but WE WON!! THEY LOST – YOU WON! It doesn’t always feel like that – but it is something we have to begin to believe about ourselves because one thing I can tell you is that every single time I look a fellow survivor in the eyes I don’t see a victim – I see a WINNER. If that is what others see in us – then we need to see that in ourselves. Maybe it is a one day at a time thing – cause I know I sure don’t feel like I have won much this week – but I made it!

Being a good soldier is a part of me they can’t rape – they can’t rape that – they can’t take that.
They can say all of the shit they want to say – but they can’t break my soul. They can’t break your soul. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t do some serious damage – but my soul is still my own.

I was a good soldier and they will never take that away from me and I will learn to be proud of that again – and you just can’t rape that!

Peace,

Joan

Triggering vs. Liberating!

September 24, 2014

Hello friends,

I have been taking advantage of the free time I have in my new job to start work on Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2015 here at my place of employment which we all know is the place that takes care of Veterans but I am not going to say it here.

Things that are driving me crazy is the topic today. Every year I prepare to hear the exact same stupid, freaking statement; “We don’t want to trigger anyone.”
I hate the word “trigger.” Oh – I know that it happens, it has happened to me on many occasions – but I find that people who don’t KNOW squat about MST like to use the word “trigger” to AVOID talking about the issue.

We don’t want to talk about RAPE – it is truly a 4-letter word. No, it is not a comfortable subject, it is not a happy subject – let’s just talk about happy things here and not actually deal with any issues.

“Good morning – welcome to your appointment – would you like to quit smoking? Do you drink too much? Good – here are your pills…have a nice day!”

Thankfully – that is NOT my experience with my Psychiatrist or therapist – but I know that it is the experience for many people.

For anyone who MIGHT be reading this that is not a Survivor – let me define what a “trigger” really is.

Trigger – an unexpected event that hits you upside the head, knocks you on the ground and leaves you with an overwhelming desire to crawl out of your skin and find a very dark room with a locked door that you can hide in. You want a large pillow, or music or television to drown out to voices in your head that are telling you how screwed up you are – how you brought this on yourself and how much you deserved it. The voices call you weak and crazy and stupid and ugly – they tell you that you are worth nothing. No, this isn’t the official definition – but for me…it fits to a T.

Liberation is the opportunity to say, “I SURVIVED!” I have made a life for myself – whatever that life may be – I have continued to exist…to be…to fight! Every now and again, just being alive is a fight. Every now and again getting up in the morning is a fight. Not beating someone senseless can be a struggle. I AM ALIVE! I WIN!
Celebration of Survival is a good thing. Acknowledging the struggle and the pain and saying, “You are so brave!” is a good thing! For those of us who are advocates, this is the most powerful thing we can do. It is important to normalize the experience of Rape, not because it is okay that it happens, but because in the end we all have the same feelings of anger, hatred, sorrow, disgust, shame and self-doubt. It is the only way to help the Survivors! For someone to listen, to understand, to believe is something that is so rare out there in the world.

People die from Rape every day. They die at the hands of the rapist and they die by their own hand because they can’t deal with the damn voices in their head. The voices that tell us that we are dirty, that we deserved it, that we brought it on ourselves. In addition to the voices is the unique experience of MST, where the very people we trusted who were supposed to be on our side are the same voices we hear in our heads. That is what they told us – so it must be true. We hide away and we believe the same lies that they told us then – the same lies that we hear now – and no one is there to call the liars out. So too many Survivors have given in to the depression, believed the lies and taken their own life.

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman wrote this poem for us – in many ways – the Survivors of this experience called Rape. He even answered the question.
YOU ARE HERE! LIFE EXISTS! YOU HAVE AN IDENTITY THAT WILL NEVER EXIST IN THE WORLD AGAIN! We have the ability to change the world with our voices. Many of you who read this blog are fellow Survivors and fellow Advocates. Your verse is your courage to speak out when others stay silent. The nice thing about cyberspace is that nothing is ever really gone once it is out there. The young service member may find your words 5 or 10 years from now and decide to LIVE!

I continue to lead the fight in my little corner of the world. To teach that we need to CELEBRATE survival, HONOR courage and provide HOPE for the wounded. To teach that we can talk about these things – we MUST talk about these things – that it may cause someone to FEEL something is not a bad thing.

Feeling something is what we push away – we keep it bottled down inside of us and hide it from the world. Pretty soon, you feel numb to your own pain, to other peoples’ pain, until suddenly it breaks like a weakened dam and spreads everywhere. We have to help Survivors understand that it is okay to feel the feelings, to express the feelings and then to let them go. When they come back we start again, feeling the feelings, express the feelings and then let them go. Anything else is just a tragedy waiting to happen. If I have to feel the anger every 10 minutes – say FUCK THEM – and then move on…that is what I have to do. If I have to tell to voices in my head to shut the fuck up every 5 minutes – then that is what I have to do.

Celebrate your Survival! Celebrate your strength, your courage, your resiliency! Most important – Celebrate that you are living your life with HONOR! They didn’t – they gave away their honor the moment they touched you. However, HONOR is something that they cannot take from you! Your HONOR – the most important thing we have as service members – your HONOR is above reproach!

Blessings and Peace,
Joan

Working Out

February 2, 2014

Hello, Friends –

Sorry I have been out of the loop for a while. There have been a lot of things going on here. Please keep Brigid and her family in your prayers and thoughts.

I served with this guy in the National Guard. He was a bit of a Forrest Gump character, not the smartest guy, but he was a good soldier. Actually, if you take Forrest Gump and give him a lot of speed…that was TR.

TR had this trait of always wanting to help out his fellow soldier. He could run like no one I had ever seen! In fact, we all used to shake our heads at the PT Test. He would complete his two mile run…usually around the 11 min mark…and then turn around and start running back the other way. Someone would yell – “Hey, were are you going.” His response was always- “Mark my time…I’m going back for everyone else!!” He did, too. He would run back and bring groups or individuals back across the finish line and then go out for other people. He would encourage them, run with them, push them to pass their test. He was something to behold!!

I have been very frustrated lately – I have also been struggling with my depression. I feel like I keep running back trying to help others out – but the race is hard. The Survivors of MST, we all stick together – but those who can make real change…they refuse to see what is going on.

TR is the kind of person I want to be – the one who never leaves anyone behind. So often I feel that I am going it alone right now. Brigid is always by my side – but getting others to understand the urgency, the need – that is often very hard.

I have gone Congressional on the issue of Women’s Peer Support at VA Hospital facilities. I am now working with two local Congressman. It is so important that Female Veterans and all MST Survivors have access to peer support for MST and for Female issues. I have been trying to stress that the two groups are separate. I don’t believe that a Male Survivor would really want to speak to a Male Peer Support Specialist about rape and sexual assault. However, the leadership at my VA doesn’t seem to grasp how many of us there are and how much we need one another! I was hopeful that by breaking down the two issues – Women Veterans AND MST Survivors – that I might get somewhere. I was told that Male MST Survivors have access to Peer Support. Yes, they do – to Males who don’t have any experience with MST! Knowing one of the people they hired – I see him as more of a Perpetrator that as a Peer.

I want to thank everyone out there doing the same work that I am doing. It keeps my heart warm to remember that there are many of us who are fighting the same fights, feeling the same feelings and trying to leave no one behind.

Blessings,

Joan

Trench Warfare

December 6, 2013

Hello, Friends.

It has been a while since I posted – I apologize for that. Life has been busy and I have been struggling. As you know – I was not hired for the Peer Support job. I have actually had three other interviews for other jobs in the system…three interviews – three rejection notices.

It wears on me. Even my boss is stunned – she can’t believe no one has “snatched me up.” She admits she dreads that day. What is really disturbing is when I find out that the person who got the job isn’t as qualified or doesn’t have the experience that I do.

I know in my heart it isn’t me – but let’s face it…the brain likes to tell me other things. The brain says, “You aren’t smart enough, you aren’t good enough, your just not anything enough.”

Then things happen like today. I had a visit with a special Veteran who reminded me that I changed his life. I made an impact – I did something special that no one else has ever done. It is moments like those that make me wonder that I am not “stuck” – I am blessed. Maybe I won’t move up until someone needs me. On the other hand, my husband reminded me that if I would just “not be so much of an advocate, if I would just be quiet, if I would not rock the boat.” maybe I would get promoted.

I have also been bummed that some of the Legislation we are working on has been trapped in committee because no one in Washington can seem to get their crap together on the other issues. Nope – no matter how hard certain people are trying…good MST legislation is stuck. It angers me…It makes me weep for those who are waiting.

It reminded me of trench warfare. I have spent time as both a field medic and a hospital medic. Being a hospital medic is awesome! Three squares a day, clean sheets, comfy rooms…no field gear to speak of. White dresses with white pantyhose and white shoes. No time away from family. Being a field medic is sort of lousy – even in peace time. Weeks in the field, cold MRE’s, shitty coffee – when you are lucky enough to get coffee! No sleep, hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer panic when you are called into action, followed by hours of boredom. Or worse – hours of useless training followed by hours of useless training. Dirty boots, dirty face, dirty clothes. If you are lucky you might get to rack out for an hour or two. If you are really lucky – you might even find space that is warm…or cool…depending on the climate.

The difference between the hospital and the trench is who reaches the wounded first. In trench warfare the only ones who can save the “wounded” are those who are in the trench with them – cold, muddy, dirty, tired. No matter what happens in the hospital – it is those on the line that are the ones that will make a difference.

I had a person in a local store the other day – a stranger to me – suffer a seizure. I just happened to be near the customer service desk when they paged it out. Being a small town – I offered to do what I could until the ambulance arrived. The man had cut his face in the fall, was no longer seizing but was very confused and agitated. I knelt beside him and talked to him, kept him still as the pool of blood got larger around us. They brought me gloves to put on and I wanted to put pressure on the wound but anything agitated him further. A woman, a nurse, arrived on the scene. She would not touch him and when she did – she made them get her a hand wipe. She refused the gloves and just slipped paper towel under him. She acted like she cared – but she wouldn’t touch him. There was blood. I held him until the ambulance arrived, amid the blood, and spoke softly to him. Wounded is wounded – either by blood or by spirit.

The trench is a hard place to be – you are constantly reminded of what has happened to you, what is happening to others and the things you cannot change. You know the enemy – you see the enemy – but you can’t touch them…they are in the wire and they practically mock you as you try to stop the bleeding.

I will stay in the trench – I will man the wire – I will hold the line. I will save as many as I can – no matter who I piss off in the process. Maybe I will spend the rest of my life, the rest of my career in the trench. It will be okay – I will be okay. Someone has to stop the bleeding, bind up the wound, minister to the heart and to the hurt.

There are many of us out here – we read one another’s blogs, we send messages and emails. We are the medics in the trenches. I am grateful for you – because you lift me up when I am in pain.

Peace,

Joan

Triggers

September 2, 2013

Hi all, Prodigal Brigid here. I feel the need to share something that has happened to me, and set me way, way, way back in my recovery. I thought I was doing really well. Even the review board didn’t want to give me the full 30% I was entitled to for the MST I suffered for over a decade. They said I was too well adjusted. Too well adjusted, but not able to drive 50 miles to see my best friend. Too well adjusted, but I deadbolt my door the second I get home, and check several time throughout the day/night to make sure it is locked. Too well adjusted, that I will not open the door for anybody, period, unless the text or call me and let me know they are coming over and when. Too well adjusted.

I’ve got news for them. I am not well adjusted. I am a blubbering mess, terrified, out of my head. And back in therapy again, and all my meds have increased, some doubled. I am also on Worker’s comp now, and am possibly taking an intermittent leave of absence. Can’t go to the grocery store. Can’t sleep. Can’t make it a day without crying. And why? Triggers.

Here I am trying to help others, and now I am just a big ball of jello. Never thought I would be susceptible to this, but here I am. Once a very strong, brave, indestructible woman, and all the doctors and authority figures just keep on asking me if I am suicidal, or want to do harm to myself. Uh, no, harm was done to me. But the thought started crossing my mind a few days ago.

Long story short, I got molested by a woman at work. I have no idea who she is, I never saw her. And I froze and panicked after she whispered in my ear, to make sure I knew she had done this intentionally. That one single incident has set me back, almost worst than when I was gang raped 25 years ago. I can’t explain it, but this one single stupid incident has me terrified. Is she going to do it again? She would be a fool to do so, because I will harm her if I figure out who she is. Mt therapist says it was a case of bullying. My employer states even if they find her, it will be my word against hers. 

But the biggest surprise through all of this, my employer is paying for all the meds and therapy, to help me get somewhat back to normal. And they actually are being very decent to me. Maybe there is some hope. 

My psychologist is going to test out a new PTSD therapy on me, one she has never done before. It will be long, and painful, but hopefully will help me never to react like this again. In the meantime, I can only pray for strength. 

Please pray for me,

Brigid

 

Random Thoughts

August 7, 2013

Hello, Friends.

I am writing from the front lines – or from what feels like the front line – of the war to care for our silently wounded veterans. Please excuse today’s post – it is going to ramble and be a little out of control. I am also dealing with a family situation – my husband managed to take a header down our stairs and broke his arm…so I am a little exhausted from work, worry and caregiving.

I continue to work within the system in regards to the Peer Support issues. I have been told that I was considered “too far along in my recovery” for patients to relate to me. HUH?? I am still scratching my head on this one and others are scratching along. How can someone be too far along in their recovery. For those of us living in recovery – we know that it is a daily battle – a choice we make. We choose to be healthy and to be happy. That isn’t to say that we don’t become overwhelmed, angry, sad, depressed, furious, frustrated or just plain pissed off. That isn’t saying that we don’t want to lay at home and forget the world exists..we make a choice.

Those of you living in recovery know what I mean. The choice is an everyday thing no matter what your “addiction” is. For some people it is alcohol, drugs, cutting, bad relationships, job struggles – for me it is agoraphobia. (Fear of the market place) I would be very happy to seal myself inside my house and lock all the windows and doors. I would be happy to refuse to function. So long as the cable television is on and the refrig has snackage – I could be at complete happiness and peace. When I live that way no one hurts me. There are no dangers. I am surrounded by nothing but peace and quiet. No racing thoughts or anxiety attacks or doubts about my own feelings of being “not good enough.”

I would never wonder why the kindness I try to give is returned with venom. I would never question another person’s silence as anger or disappointment. Never ask the question – “What did I do wrong, now?”

That is my drug. Feelings of unworthiness, shame, being a stupid ass, feeling useless or clumsy. Wondering why some people are just cruel and why we can’t just color nice and not throw the sand in the sand box. Racing thoughts that keep me up at night telling me – you aren’t good enough, you aren’t smart enough, you aren’t strong enough. When I listen to them I fall apart.

The choice of getting up and moving forward is MY Choice – in fact, for most of us who are survivors of sexual trauma – it is our VICTORY. We didn’t get to choose…we weren’t asked our opinion when it came to our sexual assault or our rape. No one asked me…”is it okay if I sexually assault you?” In fact, that is part of why it is called forced sexual penetration without consent. No one asked if we’d mind.

Having the ability to choose – the right to choose – knowing that I can say “NO” or “YES” regardless of any situation is part of recovery for a survivor of sexual assault. Knowing that we are in control – we can take back what was taken from us – it is a powerful thing.

Very few people walk through life without experiencing hurt, tragedy, sorrow or anger. We all suffer from trauma – we are all walking wounded at some point in our lives. Some of us struggle and work hard and make a recovery – some of us don’t. Life is a bit like a food processor – some of us make it into the salad just sliced up and some of us get shredded.

I continue to fight – I don’t know what else to do but fight. Anything else feels like a surrender and surrender is not an option. You know how I feel about “coincidence” – there is no such thing. Maybe this is supposed to happen this way. I am working with people in positions of authority and I have actually gone to the ethics committee because they aren’t caring for women veterans or MS survivors. We will see what becomes of it. Hopefully, someone will stop and think and see where the mistakes are in the system. I am hopeful – there is no other option. To give up hope is to give up on thinking that anything good could ever come of the fight.

I beg you for your warm thoughts and prayers.

Peace,

Joan

Igniting the Fuse

July 19, 2013

Well, Friends…I do believe that I have totally lost my mind!  After much thought and a couple of conversations with people that I work with/for…I have decided to challenge the fact that the Peer Support position that I didn’t get hired for was filled only by men.  I decided to request a review of who was hired and why.

I have ignited the fuse on my PTSI with a blow torch!  The last time I challenged anyone in a similar way…I lost my entire military career.

You ever just get so angry that we, as women veterans and/or MST survivors, are just plain invisible.  I sometimes get the feeling that the faster we go away the happier everyone else will be.  Of course – this isn’t meant to make male veterans feel bad…after all – way too many of you are MST Survivors, too.  You are truly our brothers.

However…when it comes to being a female veteran I sometimes feel that we are treated as somehow “less” than our male peers.  Like we are girls playing “dress up” and not Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airman and Guardians.  It sometimes blows me away at how they sometimes justify (not just VA…but many other agencies) not hiring a female veteran to do something because “they have access to a female XXX, so they do have equal access.”  They just don’t get it! 

I like to put it this way…if I were to say…”I want a women gynecologist.” and they say…”We don’t have a woman gynecologist…but we can get you a female proctologist.” doesn’t make it the “same thing.”  It is the same thing with mental health care…a psychologist is not a peer support specialist and a peer support specialist is not a psychologist.  Two different jobs!

As far as the whole Veteran vs. Civilian thing…I have an opinion on that as well (don’t I always.)  My VA Psychiatrist and my VA Psychologist are both civilians.  They are terrific providers who both truly care and they have been helpful…but there is one difference.  There is no ‘cheddar cheese.’

Apple pie is an amazing dessert!  I like mine with a really thin slice of cheddar cheese and whip cream.  It is still really good with just whip cream…but that little piece of cheddar is missed.  Veteran providers in mental health and health care are the little slice of cheddar cheese.  We are the ones who truly know what it feels like to wear the uniform.  I sometimes feel that I have to explain myself or the situation…but a fellow veteran…they get it!

I would like to use an example from this week.  I had a conversation with someone, a fellow veteran, and he complained that he was hungry.  I said – I got a can of C-Rats.  He said, Sounds great.  I said…It is “ham and hockers.”  He said – No way…disgusting.

That conversation was totally lost on any civilian that doesn’t know what a C-Rat is or what a Ham and Hockers are.  For those of you out there who are really young…ham and hockers are ham and lima beans.  Only Cockroaches and Ham and Lima Beans are going to survive a nuclear holocaust.

Now I am too young to have actually eaten c-rats…we had first generation MRE’s…back in the day when everything was dehydrated and the most common field sick call was “too many potato patties!”

So – I have decided to fight this.  Not so that I can have the job…but so that I can bring better awareness to the desperate need for women veterans to have women veterans as peer support specialists.  Additionally – the need for ANY MST survivor to have the gender preference option in peer support.

Please keep me in your warm thoughts and prayers…because this whole thing has me scared to death!

Dominoes

May 29, 2013

Hello Friends,

The news just keeps rolling in.  Military personnel in high positions being removed from their positions, being reassigned  or resigning due to accusations of assault.  The root of the problem and just how high it goes is now being discussed among the general public.  “Military Sexual Trauma” is no longer an obscure term whispered with shame among the survivors. 

All in all – it is “good” news…as much as sexual/physical violence can be determined “good.”  The subject matter is horrible – the fact that these individuals are falling like dominoes is “good.”  The fact that people are talking about it is good.  The fact that the victims and survivors may no longer have to feel shame is good. 

I was listening to a radio commercial the other night and the announcer said, “are you one of those people who want something done….or are you one of those people who are willing to do something to change things?”

We, the survivors, are the voice of change.  Everyone who shares their story, publishes their blog, speaks out – even anonymously – is the voice of change!  We are the one’s “doing something” to make the world a better place – and to all of my fellow survivors…I thank you for your courage!  You are the light and the hope for a world without military sexual trauma!

Even the anonymous voices, like myself and Brigid, are important voices.  I have found that, in the real world, I can talk about MST and about the terrible things people experience and never tell that person that I am a survivor.  In fact, in some ways it is more powerful….because they aren’t wanting to hear the gory details or feeling pity.  Don’t pity me!  I survived and I am leading a full and happy life…I don’t want anyone’s pity…I want change!  I want justice for those who are being victimized!

Someone said to me this morning – “Well, you never have a bad morning…do you?”  Yup – she was being snotty.  She is someone who struggles with things and she prefers to live in her perceived “victimhood” than to make a choice to live another way.   I would share her life story and her trauma’s here – because she shares them with everyone else – but I will forgo that woeful tale.   A couple of years ago I did a presentation that she attended on Sensitive Practices and Public Law 103 in regards to MST treatment and compensation.  She ran around the area telling everyone that she was going to get an automatic 30% because she thinks she had MST.  I have never met an MST survivor who could go up to co-workers happy and sing-songing that she was going to get free money from the government.  Worried for her I pulled her aside and explained that it was a long, hard and stressful process and that I would be there for her.  I asked her if she needed help meeting the burden of proof…her response was, “I need to prove it?”  Yes, you will need to prove it and I started talking about methods to gain the proof. 

Her response – “Well, it was just five guys in a parking lot yelling cat calls at me…but it scared me.  I don’t have any proof – but I could really use the money.”

At that point I just about lost it.  I thought of the survivors that I know…whose lives have been shattered, who have lost their careers, many dishonorable discharged.  I thought about all of us with damage to our internal organs – or losing organs – because of our trauma. 

The money doesn’t change much in our lives.  In fact, for many of us it feels more like a slap in the face.  I know that when I first got mine my husband was understandably excited…we really needed a new roof.  All I could think of is how I earned that money…”on my back”…so to speak.  The money felt dirty – like the government was telling me what the Army had told me…that I was some kind of a whore.  Thankfully – I have found ways to overcome those feelings…but it took some time.  Watching those guys put the new roof on the house felt nasty.  That is why I always advocate to people to find something special that you really, really want and use some of the money to purchase it.  It doesn’t even have to be anything big – just something that brings you joy.  That way you can change your perception of the money…it worked great for me!  In fact, it worked so good that the last time I had to see SGT Jerk I rode my motorcycle out there.  Instead of feeling edgy and threatened I just reminded myself that in the end he didn’t win…I won! 

I don’t “win” because I have something I want or because I occasionally buy myself a new dress that I really like (something I couldn’t do after they ended my career because of the financial situation.)  I won because I choose to be the winner!

If I could share anything with my fellow survivors it would be that “Happiness is a choice.”  Choose joy!  Choose life!  Choose to be a force for change in the world.  It isn’t easy…sometimes it forces you to push and pull yourself away from dark holes and into the light of day.  There are days that all I want to do is bury my head in the covers and curl up with a cat and pounds of chocolate – heck…there are days that I do that 🙂  But they are rare.

Choosing to be happy is the greatest revenge of all – you see…when I was raped, when I was beaten, when I was assaulted…I had no choice.  They took away my right to choose, my right to decide, my right to say NO.  By God – I took it back!  It doesn’t cure anything – the PTSI, the depression, the panic, the fear…but it does make it easier to live with for me.

I know that all of the recent news is triggering for some – but try to be positive…try to think of it as good.  The dominoes are falling…and when they all fall down they will lead to something better at the end.  My hope is that they will lead to a world without MST.

Peace,

Joan

Interview Follow Up

May 17, 2013

Hello, Friends!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their private messages and warm and positive energy on Wednesday!

I haven’t heard anything yet…I don’t know when I will hear.  I think that the waiting is always the hardest part!  That and making sure I don’t make a klutz of myself in the interview 🙂  I wish I could tell you great news….but I think it went well.

Believe it or not, I sometimes have problems expressing myself in interview situations!  I know…hard to believe I have a problem “expressing” myself.  I never know exactly what to say.  How do you turn around and explain to someone that you would do the job for free – without sounding like a crazy, over-eager and slightly off balance individual.

A friend reminded me of a book that I read years ago by Viktor Frankl called “Mans Search for Meaning.”  He advocates a type of therapy called Logos Therapy/Existential Analysis.  Like I said – it has been YEARS – so I had to research him again.   LOEA is actually something I am really familiar with – but I didn’t know it.  Funny how memory is.  Essentially – I would explain it in the statement, “What if there are no coincidences?”

How do I look at my life and the trauma that I have experienced?  What does it mean to me?  If you have never read it – I would highly suggest it.  It can be very deep and meaningful.  I guess I look at it this way….

TRIGGERING!!  PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION –

“Why do really bad things happen to good people?” 

Isn’t that the question for the ages.  Why was I targeted as a child?  Why is one of my first memories the feel of a man’s organ in my hand, the dank smell of the bathroom, the cold linoleum floor?  Why didn’t it stop?  Why was I re-victimized on more than one occasion?  Is there something wrong with me?  Do I invite this?

If God exists…if He loves me…why did He allow this to happen?  Why do small children, young women and men and others suffer this evil?  No there is a question I would love the answer to!  However, I have an answer…believe it or not…

What if there is something that I am supposed to do?  What if I am supposed to be a part of the “change” that we need to see happen?  I know that God loves me – I know His mercy…how do I know?  Because I am still here!  Because Brigid is part of my life, because I have my husband and my children.  Because Jay and Myst and Butterfly and many others have lifted me up and strengthened me!  Because people who would never have even considered talking about their trauma have found love, acceptance and support.  That is how I know.

My personal belief is that this “life” is temporary.  That we are here to learn things and to help others and to love – and when this life is over – there is Heaven where there are no tears and every pain is wiped away.  Despite everything, I can still love others – I can still give. 

I live with my disease (PTSI) – but I don’t live in my trauma.  Sure, there are bad days – but they have meaning.  My life has meaning.  The world would be a darker place if I didn’t exist.  The world would be a darker place if my friends and readers didn’t exist.  YOU are full of meaning, full of value, full of light!

Brigid often says that she would not change a thing – that her life experiences – as horrible as they are…made her who she is.  I agree.  My experiences have made me who I am.

Just when I wonder if it means anything – someone, completely without their knowledge, brings light to my life.  I have had a couple of experiences this week where a chance conversation has lifted the spirits of both of us.  I won’t talk much about it because it is really private. 

I have to look at this from a Christian perspective, because that is what I am – but Jesus came into this world only to suffer and die.  Through His suffering and pain, He saved the whole world.  I like to quote the Jewish proverb, “He who saves one life saves the whole world.” 

What if I look at my trauma as a “gift?”  What if I get to help just one person?  Many of you know that Jay encouraged me to start this blog…Jay helped me because this blog has been a lifesaver!  I have been told by a couple of people that this blog encouraged them to start their own blog.  I got to help someone.  Those who are also blogging have gotten to help someone.  One become two, two become four, four becomes eight……and the world changes.

I am grateful.  Grateful for my life, for love, for support, for friends that I will probably never meet this side of Heaven.  I choose.  I choose joy, I choose love, I choose peace!  I am in control.  I will trust and believe in myself.  I will share love and joy and peace.  I will make the choice to bring light to darkness.  I will join with those who have made a choice to walk in light and we will, together, light the darkness for those who need help.

Regardless of what happens with the job…that work will not end.

Morning Glow – Pippin

Why won’t my hands stop shaking
When all the earth is still
When ancient ghosts are waking
So many steps need taking
So many plans need making
I think I will
I think I will

Morning glow, morning glow
Starts to glimmer when you know
Winds of change are set to blow
And sweep this whole land through
Morning glow is long past due

Morning glow fill the earth
Come and shine for all you’re worth
We’ll be present at the birth
Of old faith looking new
Morning glow is long past due

Oh, morning glow, I’d like to help you grow
We should have started long ago

So, morning glow all day long
While we sing tomorrow’s song
Never knew we could be so strong
But now it’s very clear

Morning glow is almost here
Morning glow by your light
We can make the new day bright
And the phantoms of the night
Will fade into the past
Morning glow is here
At last!

With all of the news going on – I can’t help but believe that THIS is our TIME!  If you have never heard the song “Morning Glow” I would encourage you to look it up on You Tube.  I love the William Katt version!!  I think it might be true – I think we are about to see the Sunrise!  A new day!  Believe in the morning!!!

Joan