Posts Tagged ‘Veteran’s Service Organizations’

The Interview

May 6, 2013

Hello, Friends,

I am stopping in to ask a huge favor! I am in need of your prayers, positive thoughts and happy energy! After years of being “stuck” in my current job…I have an opportunity for a big interview…BIG – I mean really B…I…G!

For the last year I have been exploring the Peer Support certification and receiving formal training for a lot of the work I already do with my VSO and here at EitW. Many of you know that this blog began as a way to digest my own therapy…make sense of my own trauma and as a place to spew into the WWW everything I am feeling or thinking.

As time has gone on…and as more people have taken to reading this blog – we have reached out to others as a kind of a “support group.” We are not alone. Our experiences are different – but we have a choice…we can live or we can die. I don’t necessarily mean a physical form of death…but that happens, too….but a psychological death where the bastards win. I have chosen to live.

In just a few days I will be interviewing for a job, at my same employer, that will allow me to continue doing what I love doing…helping others to find their way out of the darkness. I would be doing Peer Support on a full-time paid basis! My tail is wagging! My tongue is hanging out drooling!!!! There are no words to describe how bad I want this job! I want this job so bad I am prepared to fall down on my knees and beg!

I am good at helping people – that is what I have been told. I love to encourage people and to lift them up. I was a “bullied child.” Constantly, every day – someone would bully me. I was pushed, punched, slapped – I was sexually violated. That hurt – but what really hurt were the words. “You are stupid, worthless, a nerd, a dog a squirrel. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t smart enough. You are a failure. You bring it on yourself – ya know…you squirrel. You’re fugly, ugly, four-eyed freak.” Even writing them sends a chill down my back…I can hear them – those taunts still ring in my ears. Sometimes…it still affects me. When I feel isolated from a group, or different – I can feel the little girl in me curl up and try to hide in the corner.

I had a few close friends. Not many. I had a couple of great teachers I really liked – they liked me too! We spent time together. One of them got me through Chemistry class with a C…since I can’t do math that was a huge accomplishment!

I like to make people feel good with words. All of the people that I have met through this blog have been such an inspiration to me! They push the envelope, they reach out, they open their hearts. They have encouraged me to do the same. I was at a VSO event this weekend and this woman walked up to me and said, “you are Joan…right? I hear you help veterans – can you help me?” Of course – of course I can help. I will do anything to help.

This feels like my shot, my chance – the one thing that will make everything okay. I recently turned down a “dream job” with my church. The money was good enough…but I called my priest and said…”Father, I’m sorry. The job is perfect for me…but something is wrong! I don’t think I am supposed to leave the VA.” He laughed…and then he agreed with me. He thinks I would be perfect for the job – but he is concerned that it would require me leaving the VA – he thinks God has a purpose for me right where I am.

We both had the same concerns. We both had the same worries. You know I always say…there is no such thing as a coincidence!

Three weeks later I get an interview for a job that would allow me to do nothing but encourage and lift up my brothers and sisters who are living with mental illness. A chance to offer support to their families..I know what it is like to be a mother of a mentally ill son who has a drug problem. I know what it is like to be a homeless Veteran with three young children. To live in a domestic violence shelter. To fight with the system for benefits, for help, for support. I know what it means for just one person to believe in you. Just one.

It isn’t about money, or paychecks or benefits. That isn’t why I work at the VA. I’m not saying the VA is perfect – I can tell you a long list of bad experiences, horrible flaws, ugly days. It doesn’t even have to be the VA – I can tell you about horrible people and experiences in private medicine! Expensive medicine with bitchy, mouthy, hateful people working there.

I’m far from perfect – but I try to give every patient one thing…a smile and a kind word. That may be the only thing I have to offer in a day. Maybe something to laugh about. A moment of respect, a moment of understanding or just a squeeze to their hand to let them know that I care. Every place that serves customers is built on one thing and one thing only – the people that work there. You can have the most beautiful facilities, the best equipment and state of the art systems – but if the people spend their days sucking on sour pickles…it doesn’t mean anything. People will forget what you did and what you say – but they will never, ever forget how you make them feel.

I have had some really terrific success stories drawing blood. I know, clerking and drawing blood doesn’t sound like much – but it is where the rubber meets the road. A link in the chain for how people “feel” about the time they spend here. I told one gentleman, who served in Vietnam, that I felt that he was a “hero.” Three months later he came back with a beautiful letter for me. It said that no one had ever called him that, no one had ever thanked him for his service like that. He was driving one day and it just hit him and he bawled so hard he had to pull off the road. We stood in the clinic hall crying our eyes out. I have that letter and I will never, ever part with it.

Let’s face it – the one thing that all of us have in common, as MST Survivors, is the way the perpetrators made us feel. The way the military made us feel – like we are worthless, nothing, that we are the crazy ones! They all made us feel like we were dirt…rags…something to be used and kicked aside. Then – they told us we were crazy, we were nuts! I was diagnosed by a civilian shrink as a “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits.” Talk about nuts. Cluster B traits essentially mean that you are a “drama queen” and that everything revolves around you. Like I was paranoid and accusing others of things that didn’t happen.

You know what is funny – “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits” has many of the EXACT SAME SYMPTOMS of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Paranoia…check, worried that people are going to hurt you…check. It is partially defined as: extreme “black and white” thinking, instability in relationships, self-image, identity and behavior often leading to self-harm and impulsivity.

In other words – he was saying…”you know, you are bringing a lot of this on yourself.”

What did the VA therapist, psychiatrist and comp and pen people say about it…because I asked my therapist outright!!! She said – no, Joan…you are not borderline personality disorder with cluster B…you are a classic PTSD. Although it took me a really long time to describe myself as having PTSD.

That was quite the moment – I must say. The moment when I realized that it isn’t my fault. That I didn’t “ask for it” or “bring it on myself.” The moment that I realized that I was “normal” – as normal as anyone else that survived this shit. They were the screwed up ones. I’m okay – they are pieces of shit!

Wow – I hope the staff interviewing me doesn’t see this ūüôā Might be the end of the job interview :-)!!

Actually – I’m not afraid of them seeing any of what I have ever written. I care. I care about the Vets I serve. I care about making things in the world right. I may not be able to do much…but I can make it right for the few people I see in a day. Please keep me in your warm thoughts!

Peace,
Joan

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Assumptions

November 5, 2012

Hi All,

I wanted to share what happened¬†last Friday. I called the main VA in Iowa City, to set up my follow-up appointment. The woman who answered the phone had absolutely no personality, and acted like she was very irritated she had to answer her phone. Tip one for this lady, if you don’t like answering the phone to schedule appointments, get another job. Duh!

Anyway, she proceeded in the gruff tone, this is the conversation we had:

VA: NAME?

Me: B****

VA: What’s his last 4?

Me: 1234

VA: Oh this isn’t working, was that V as in Vern, or D as in Dog?

Me: B as in BOY

VA: What’s his first name?

Me: (I gave my first name, which could be considered androgynous)

VA: His middle name?

Me: CATHERINE

VA: Oh

Might I state there is no way anyone could ever guess I was a man on the phone, I most definately have a high-pitched, woman’s voice. She never went on to say she was sorry or anything, just seemed even more irritated that I was a woman. I did make the appointment, but did this whole thing just piss me off. I texted Joan and told her, she wasn’t too happy either. I didn’t read in the rule book, or the guides I got from the VA that ALL VETS ARE MEN. I swear, I put up with enough of that crap while I was in, I sure don’t need it now. And I am not all that thrilled to be going to the VA to begin with. I told my co-workers about her, and they were kind of pissed off too. I said with her personality, she was more like a grouchy old nun teaching school 30+ years ago.

Never assume anything. I am going to lodge a complaint when I have my next appt, maybe get her some sensitivity training or another job. I have figured out there are only a few times EVER that anyone is safe to assume the sex of the person the appointment is for. Setting up an OBGYN appointment, or a prostrate exam. Other than that, and you are at risk for making an ass out of yourself, which is what happens when we assume.

Change can’t come fast enough,

Brigid

Don’t Ask…Don’t Tell?

March 14, 2012

Hi, Friends,

I had a situation come up last night at the VSO meeting that has me wondering…what do I do now?¬† By the time my husband told me about the conversation…it was too late for me to take immediate action.

Our current VSO Commander, who I consider a good friend, told my husband and another individual that he spoke to a couple of OIF/OEF Veterans about joining our VSO group. 

They asked, “Is Joan still involved?”¬†

¬†He replied, “Of course.”¬†

They stated…”Then I want no part of it.”

Of course, this leaves him with a lot of questions.¬† I can’t be sure exactly who they are – but I can tell you what unit they are from and I can tell you that they were probably in the unit when I went after Sgt. JERK.¬†

I was up a large part of the night thinking about how to handle this.¬† The other individuals response was – screw them…we got her and she isn’t going anywhere.¬† I have to say that I am pretty well liked in my VSO – if being tasked for Post, District and State duty is any indication.¬† This morning my thoughts are still racing and I feel like I can’t get enough air.¬† It is my quicksand feeling.¬† I hate that feeling.¬† I know that it is simply a minor panic attack – but I know that it can last for hours…even days.¬† Yes…I know that they say that panic attacks don’t last THAT long…I say – bullpuckey!

Now the question becomes; how much do I tell my friend?¬† Does he have some right to know the situation with my discharge.¬† After all, he is out there working hard and trying to recruit new members.¬† On the other hand, how much of my person do I have to sacrifice to continue to serve in my VSO?¬† When I say, Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell – I am not talking about the policy for homosexuals in the military – I am talking about the fact that MST Survivors don’t want to be asked…and certainly are taught not to tell!

Do I believe that this individual will be respectful of the information that I share.¬† Yes, I think I do.¬† After all, he is a man…and I have little trust in them.¬† However, he has proven over the years that he is an honorable person.¬† He isn’t out for his own gain in the VSO work that he does – for the most part.¬† Have I had multiple arguements with this man?¬† Yup, more than I can count!¬† However, he has usually been respectful, even when we fight like an old married couple.

How much do I tell him?  There are times that I have stepped out an told Рin an effort to encourage people in positions of power to do more to stop MST.  Normally, I get that look of sympathy, pity and a dash of unbelief.  I hate pity! 

I suppose I have to do something.  Either give an explanation or quit my VSO.  Once again Рthe perpetrators are trying to blame the victim.  I just hope that one day this will all end.

Thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Joan

Playing the Claim Game

November 18, 2010

I know that my posts have been sporadic and far apart lately. I have to say, that filing my Comp & Pen claim took just about everything out of me. With all of the real life, day-to-day drama that is this fiasco I like to call my life, I just had nothing to give. So many emotions and turmoil, that I just didn’t know how to put it into words.

I have been in a serious depression/funk for weeks. Of course that is to be expected, but it is hard to deal with. My daughter officially moved out about a month ago, and I have been going through the Empty Nest Syndrome on top of everything else. I still haven’t been able to pack up her stuff, I just look at it and want to cry. My baby girl is all grown up, and making so many mistakes, and I can’t save her. I just have to let her make them, and be there when she needs me.

In the midst of all of this, I got a letter from the VA during the last week of October. They stated that they had received all of my detailed statements, evidence and medical records (256 pages worth), but they needed more information. Let me state again, they said they had received my statements, medical records, buddy statement, and medical records. And I do have killer evidence, if Joan does say so herself.

So, what was it they needed further from me? They wanted a detailed statement, giving all of the details of the MST, and how it caused the PTSD, anxiety and so forth. Did I mention they said they already had this? They wanted any evidence I could give in regards to the rape in Ft Gordon, but she told me on the phone she already had all of that. Then they wanted my medical records, that they stated they already had. They wanted detailed accounts of how all of the episodes of MST had affected me, and it would be beneficial if I had ever been reported for child abuse/neglect or been committed for substance abuse or anything of that nature. That was honestly in the letter. Luckily for me, my dad and sister DID try to have me committed for substance abuse long before I had my daughter, but they were unsuccessful in that mission.

Joan told me to calm down, and just write another statement, answering the 3 page letter point by point, and warned me not to take a tone. Oh she knows me too well. So, on Halloween, I set aside the entire day, and responded, point by point. It took me 6 hours, and it was about 6 pages when I was done. The life was just sucked right out of me after that. I am sure there will be more letters, and more repeating myself in return statements, but that is the price I have to pay.

But the thing that really got me, and it got Joan too, was when a harsh guy from the American Legion in Des Moines called, and left a horrible message on my answering machine. I need to explain that Joan is my 1st power of attorney in dealing with the VA, the Legion is secondary, but they bypassed her. The message was asking for Mr Brigid (you would understand if you knew my real name, but that is my secret). Then the message went on to state that they were calling, because the VA wanted to know why it was I was filing a claim. I listened to the message 4 times, and each time I got more angrier. I called Joan, played the message for her, and she got even more mad than¬†I was. She called him the next day, faxed him her copy of my POA, and explained that in the future, he needed to be sure of the sex of the individual. And also, due to the ‘extreme sensitive nature of the claim’ that his message was very disturbing to me. He immediately¬†caught that I was an MST survivor, and felt like a cad. Joan was very kind to him, and educated him to make sure he also checked what the claim was about before attacking the next poor soul. THANK YOU JOAN.

My therapist is gathering all of my 10+ years of treatment records to send to the VA, and I have now requested all of my oncology records and hospital records. We decided to add the cancer to the claim, as the stress factor contributed greatly to my cancer, and reduced my chances of survival, so I need all of those records as well. The nice part about that is in those records, it references my suicide attempt while I was in chemotherapy (which is also in my military medical records).

My therapist decided that it was time to send me to a hypnotherapist, because I have had severe intestinal issues since February, and all tests have been done that can be. It is stress, but is debilitating at times. As luck would have it, the hypnotherapist is just like me, it is like talking to myself. Just imagine, 2 of me in the world? SCARY! This woman does what is called medical hypnosis, which is used as pain management. I will reiterate that I am not on any medications for anything, those pesky little paradoxal side effects do kind of scare me too much to try anything.

Would you like to know what my hypnotherapist does as a side job? You won’t believe it, because I couldn’t. She does Comp and Pen analysis here for the VA. Of course, she can’t do mine, because it is a conflict of interest, but the VA has already contacted her about a female MST victim in the community who recently filed a claim, and wanted to set up an appointment with her. We are fairly certain that would be me. Much to both of our chagrin, she can’t do it, but she said if she could, I would get full benefits if it were up to here. That is somewhat comforting and promising.

That is about all I have to say right now, I was just feeling a little guilty for not posting lately, but it was just too painful. I promise to post more regularly, and try to go into greater detail of this Comp and Pen process. But I ask for your patience if I slack off again.

Brigid

An A for the effort

July 20, 2010

The duties of my VSO position are keeping me crazy busy this week.¬† Thanks to a little help from friends, we have been able to share a booth out at the County Fairgrounds with Veterans Benefits.¬† It is a great place to chat with people.¬† Even though I would love to sign every veteran up for my VSO – the most important¬† mission is helping veterans get their benefits.¬† We are very lucky…we have a terrific woman as our County Vet-Rep.¬†

So, I am chatting with a guy last night that is a friend, a fellow VSO member and very active with County VA affairs.¬† He knows that I am an MST survivors – he doesn’t know the details.¬† He was talking to me about how impressed he was with a local tour to watch some military personnel doing their jobs.¬† He even said that it was obvious that the women were doing the same job as the men…they were all soldiers.

“My one concern for our female soldier is that they could get killed or captured and RAPED by the enemy.”

He stopped right there…like he himself couldn’t believe what had just come out of his mouth.¬† I watched the red creep up his cheeks and he stammered for his next sentence.

Women in the military don’t worry about the enemy outside the perimeter…we worry about the guy siting next to us at chow!

That is why we are called – Enemy in the Wire.¬† Why worry about the enemy raping you when you have a boss that calls you into his office to hump your leg for 6 months.¬† Don’t worry about getting killed by the enemy when you have your platoon sergeant beating you with a stick.¬†

Rape, Torture, Death…bring it on…as long it is truly the “enemy” doing it and not your brothers in arms.

You know what, though.  I give this guy an A for the effort.  He is learning.  He is trying to understand.  He is open to getting it Рnot just turning a blind eye to us.

Joan

Be a Ripple-State VSO Conference

July 19, 2010

Here it is Monday morning after the State Conferences for my VSO (veteran service organization.)¬† Perhaps you are visiting here because you are one of many that received a business card from a young female post commander.¬† She probably told you that this is a web-blog to women that she is “advocating” for.¬† Maybe you have beaten me to this post and you have begun to figure out that the young female post commander is actually the one on this blog that identifies herself as Joan.

If you have made that connection – I trust you to help keep my “secret identity.”¬† You may ask why Brigid and I use pen names and why we use code names for our abusers.¬† It is because we can’t really be a force for change unless we can be open and honest.¬† We can’t be open and honest if we fear reprisal.¬† We have both been severly punished for speaking up…both of us losing our careers.

I dropped a pebble in a very large pond this weekend.¬† If you received a business card it is because I have a sincere hope that you will be a ripple in that pond.¬† Pass the card along.¬† Share the website address.¬† Make sure you¬† check out our affiliate sites – especially Jay Herron’s site.¬† He will teach you great things about dealing with MST¬†survivors – particularly male survivors.

One pebble in a pond means nothing – nothing without the ripples.¬† Please – be our ripple.¬† Maybe we can’t change the world – but I believe that together – we can make people aware and we can make them think.

Blessings,

Joan

Ranger Wags Part 3

July 18, 2010

I became increasing uncomfortable, but thought that since I had agreed (reluctantly), that I had no choice but to go with him. I was afraid of him getting angry with me. We went to Godfathers (clear on the other side of town in a snow storm), and had a nice meal. During the meal there were no sexual connotations, just conversations about how he had become an Airborne Ranger, and how he was now working for his Father-in-law in construction. I started to relax, thinking that I had been worried for nothing, that this would just be a nice dinner, and I was certainly relieved.

When dinner was over, SSG Wags asked if I would like to go somewhere and have a drink. I said sure, that I could probably get in some place with my Military ID, that it had worked before. We stopped at a gas station, and he asked me what kind of beer I drank. So I told¬†him¬†that I drank Bud Light, and asked him why he needed to know. SSG Wags did not respond, he just got out of the truck, and went inside. When he returned, he had a 6-pack of Bud Light, and I asked him what it was for, he said for me. I didn’t think much of this, I figured he bought it so I could have one on the way to the bar. He drove us to his hotel, the Hawaiian¬†Inn, I asked what we were doing there. SSG Wags said that I was crazy if I thought he was going to risk getting into trouble by trying to get a minor into a bar. He said that he always¬†stayed in the Armory every drill weekend, and had started renting a room at the Hawaiian Inn lately, because¬†PFC U was driving him crazy at the Armory, and he would rather rent a room, than to have to put up with PFC U one more night. And besides, he also had privacy now. I didn’t know what to do, I was extremely uncomfortable, but I thought that I could just have one or two beers, and then he would take me home. I really didn’t like the idea of going into his room, but I didn’t know what to do, since I had agreed to have a drink¬†with him. I thought that maybe I was reading too much into this situation, I mean, he hadn’t said anything out of place during dinner, so maybe this would just be one drink and I could go home.

Brigid

Ranger Wags Part 2

July 15, 2010

Then I received the second letter. The second letter started out as another motivational letter, and he invited me out for pizza when I got back. I was absolutely happy about this invitation, because for two years now I had been hearing about “Ranger Wags” famous pizza parties, and always felt excluded because he hated me. SSG Ranger Wags said that he did not hold me responsible for him being fired. He told me that he knew I had done the best that I could, and the important thing now, was the fact that I did enlist, and he told me how wonderful things would be when I came home. In this letter, one sentence¬†would be offering me more encouragement, and the next would hint about possibly dating. I got a serious case of the creeps, until I finally figured out that he must have just been joking with me, to see if I would fall for it-which I almost did. I came to this conclusion, because from what I had seen, this seemed to be just the thing that he would do. So, I answered this letter, and told SSG Ranger Wags that he had almost got me, but I figured it out. I told him that I thought it was a very funny joke, making me think that he was interested in me (considering the fact that he was married).

The thrid letter he wrote said that he was not kidding about us seeing each other. On the contrary, Ranger Wags said that we WOULD go out for pizza when I got home. He als said that he and his wife had separated, and knowing that I would be coming home soon was the only thing that kept him going. I became more and more uncomfortable, racking my brain trying to figure out what I could have possibly done to make him belive that I was interested in him that way. I did not respond to this letter, I though he would get the hint and stop. I can not remember if he wrote another letter or not, but I think he di, and if he did, I did not respond.

I returned home on 16 Dec 1988, just before drill, and I managed to put SSG Ranger Wags off until February 1989. At that point, I felt that I had no other option, but to go out with him. So, I reluctantly agreed on Saturday of February’s drill that I would go with him for pizza. Actually, he told me that I didn’t have a choice, and that I would be going. I found out when he picked me up that night, that is wasn’t going to be a pizza party as I had been lead to belive. Instead, he said that it was going to be a private party, with just the two of us¬†celebrating my homecoming.

So much more to come, and very painful.

Brigid

Ranger Wags Part 1

July 14, 2010

Hi, its Brigid again, and here I go with another statement, and it is a really long one. This is a statement that I sent to my Section Sergeant when my¬†next 1SG started to¬†demand that I have sex with him. I¬†also sent this same statement¬†to the Inspector General’s office after my commander betrayed everything we agreed on, for me to not press charges. I will follow this with my conversation records that my Section Sergeant, SSG K instructed me to keep. Writing this statement is one of the most painful things I have ever done in my life, still. It was written in July 1997. I have to explain that the name I am using for him is his own self proclaimed nick-name of Ranger Wags.

I met 1SG Ranger Wags about two weeks after I turned 16, in June, 1986. I got a job through JTPA, and my work assignment was to work at the National Guard¬†Armory in my hometown. Ranger Wads was then a full-time recruiter, and was only an E-6 at the time. I really didn’t have much to do with him, but I saw him every day, and he was usually in a very bad mood. I got the same job through JTPA¬†the following summer, in 1987. This is when I began considering enlisting in the National Guard. SSG Ranger Wags ‘worked’ me to enlist, and i¬†went to MEPS in October, 1987. I did not enlist, because I was overweight and had bronchitis. When I finally did enlist, on 15 April 1988, SSG Ranger Wags was no longer a recruiter, and SSG T was my Recruiter, SSG Ranger Wags had been fired.

On my first drill, I was very surprised to see that SSG Ranger Wags was my Section Sergeant. SSG Ranger Wags gave me a really hard time about not enlisting when he was my recruiter. He told me that I might have been able to save his job, had I not been so lazy and just lost the weight earlier. SSG Ranger Wags made me feel responsible for him losing his job, and I felt really guilty about that.

I left for Basic Training in June, 1988. I was shocked to receive a letter from SSG Ranger Wags, since I had not written to him, nor did I give him my address. I later learned that he got my address from Paula, who was one of my best friends at the time, and my unit clerk. The first letter that i¬†received from SSG Ranger Wags was very nice, he wished me luck, and gave me some much needed encouragement. He wrote that Basic Training was nothing but a mind game, and said that he, “Ranger Wags” was pulling for me. I was very happy by this first letter, I thought it meant that he didn’t hold me responsible for losing his job. So, I wrote back and sincerely thanked him for his support.

Living

June 25, 2010

Brigid talked quite a bit about what her life has been like, living with MST and the PTSD that follows.¬† I haven’t really gone into too much detail about that but I thought that now would be a good time.

We had a trainee at work with us, a really nice woman, who is also a veteran.¬† Our male clerk thought she was cute and took the opportunity to make a couple of very inappropriate comments.¬† Nothing hideous, just words, but not realizing that words are incredibly damaging.¬† I encouraged her to say something to the boss.¬† Her response was, “I guess I am just so used to being sexually harrassed that I didn’t think anything about it.”

Let me say that again…”I am so used to being sexually harrassed.”

I know how she feels.¬† It becomes a way of life.¬† They say that we humans can get used to anything.¬† I guess in a way it is true.¬† I got so used to fighting off Clarence every single day that it became as normal to me as brushing my teeth or tying my boots.¬† I got so used to being grabbed or being asked to provide “services” that it became no different to me than saying “excuse me” when you bump someone in the hall.¬† This becomes the new normal.¬†

Where did that “new” normal lead me?¬† In my unit there were two types of females, those who had “relationships” and those who were the “outsiders.”¬† I admit, I reached a point where I had relationships.¬† Primarily – a relationship with a single individual – but an inappropriate relationship to say the least.¬† It put an end to a lot of crap.¬† It became a form of protection.¬† When you “belong” to someone…everyone else leaves you alone.¬† So, I made the choice to protect myself with my own body.¬† It makes me sick now to think about the choice I made.¬† At the same time, it breaks my heart just a little bit, because as Brigid knows…I also loved the man deeply.¬† He didn’t share those feelings – I was just his “sure thing.”

I wonder how many of us made those same choices.¬† The choice of the lesser evil.¬† How many of us discovered that what we thought was the “lesser evil” just wasn’t.¬† It sounds like crazy reasoning…but it’s not.¬† I remember being at annual training one year and this guy I knew in the unit was really, really drunk.¬† He jumped on me and pulled me into a ditch in the company area.¬† He climbed on top of me and started pulling at my shirt and trying to kiss me.¬† I screamed and the person I “belonged to” heard me – he came running with two other guys and they pulled the drunk guy off of me.¬† That put an end to that.¬† I wonder if anyone would have cared if he had raped me – if I hadn’t been someone’s sure thing.

Do you know the difference between a bitch and a slut?¬† A slut will sleep with anybody…a bitch will sleep with anybody but you.¬† This was a joke I commonly heard in my unit.¬† In fact, many of us would simply say…”well, I guess you can just call me a “bitch” then.”¬†

Sexual harrassment and ¬†gender harrassment¬† become as common as the housefly.¬† Since you can’t beat them…you join them – in a way – and the cycle is continued on.¬† Only problem is that with each turn of the wheel the cycle goes faster and grows¬†stronger.¬† Right now it is moving so fast that I am not sure what it would take to put on the brakes.

So what has my life been like?¬† Mostly I live in a state of paranoia.¬† But, just because your paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.¬† I still live in close proximity to some of the abusers.¬† I still see Jerk – now I¬†have Jerk part II in my own VSO.¬† Sometimes I laugh too loud or I am too outgoing or I am just a little too willing to write off some guys “remarks” because I don’t want to rock the boat.¬† I don’t want to put myself back into the position of becoming a target.¬† With a lot of people I hide my intelligence or I hide my insecurity and I just laugh everything off.¬† I live in a constant state of “don’t be a threat” to anyone.¬† When they view you as a threat they will take you out.¬†

My therapist says that I am the queen of “what ever can go wrong will¬†go wrong – only it will go wrong 100 times worse than you ever thought it could go wrong.”¬† She’s right.¬† I know she’s right.¬† Still, it doesn’t stop the fact that I am constantly waiting for it…because when you stop¬†looking behind you…that is when it jumps up and grabs you.

Imagine living a life where trusting another person is harder than just about anything else in the world.  Imagine going into the supply room at work and someone steps in the door and you just want to tear them to pieces to get through them.  Imagine dwelling for days on the comment that your co-worker made to another person because it just makes you all the more suspicious of him.  Then when he comes into your workspace you snip at him for no other reason than the fact that he is sharing your oxygen.

Every place you go…¬†everything you do is covered in memories.¬† Sometimes they are good – sometimes they are horrible.¬† You have to alter your routes to avoid certain places or certain people.¬† You don’t go to strange restaurants and you don’t go to strange grocery stores.¬† You go to the same places to get a tank of gas or a soda.¬† They tore down the gas station closest to my job and now I have to make sure that I have enough gas to get to the next place…because I can’t go in the place two blocks down.¬† Nope – I have to drive 17 miles…because I don’t know anything about the gas station two blocks away.

Even when you are somewhere familiar you keep your back to walls and you wait in the longer grocery line because you know the clerk.¬† Your husband looks at you like you are crazy and he just doesn’t realize what certain things do to you.¬† Or even worse he knows your past and he knows the mistakes that you made.¬† He can’t even begin to realize the reasoning – but you know that in a small place in the back of his mind he will never really completely trust you – never fully believe that you are faithful to him.¬† Even though he didn’t even know you when you made the choices that you made.

There are days you¬†can’t get off the couch.¬† You feel bad because other people are doing things and you really need to clean the bathroom – but you really don’t care.

This is how¬†I “live” with it.¬† It is a new normal.¬† You try to remind yourself that there is nothing to worry about.¬† No one is out to get you – no one is going to hurt you.¬† But you know that is not true.

Joan