Jul. 24, 2015

Face struggles head on!

Struggles,

Everyone faces some kind of a struggle in a life span. I have a couple, 1. Physical disabilities I have acquired while serving in the Army 2. An eating disorder brought on by mother’s great parenting skills, which now reflects with my coping skills and how to handle the military traumas.  3. My childhood was not perfect and I faced things at a young age that no one should have to go through. My parents didn’t love my twin sister and I, we were so neglected that when we were adopted at the age of 4 we were given six weeks to live. I had maggots imbedded in a cut I had on my left first finger. Our knees and hips would dislocate at a slight move, or our elbows and shoulders would pop up out if we reached to hold a hand or ask for a hug. We lacked any kind of skills that were involved with communications. Our adopted parents cared for us, however we were the babies, and their own five did not really accepted us into the family. As a teenager I suffered more mental abuse than anything from my adopted mother. Restriction of food, stories that were made up that were not true.  4. PTSD, being a sexual assault survivor pays a toll; yes you can be strong and live life. However those nightmares will never go away. Witnessing a helicopter crash and seeing dead comrades is also extremely hard to deal with along with friends who have passed while serving. Or some of the things that I have witnessed, I live each day as it is just that one more day.

I know my own story; I know what others have told me of theirs.  I am only hoping that when others read what I have gone through they can find something helpful and insightful. I am definitely not perfect and I will be the first to admit that, I am so far from being so.  I have made my mistakes. I have been through the ringer and back again. I can tell you, life is so short to be worried about little things. After letting go of some of the baggage I have felt almost free. So alive, I honestly do have my bad days. I try my hardest not to let it show just for the fact that it is my bad day not anyone else’s. I reflect on people how I want to be treated; sometimes I am the backlash of their own personal bad day.

After shutting the door to what causes pain, I have really been able to focus on myself.  I take ownership of my actions, behaviors.  Earlier I have stated that I had an eating disorder. Yes, it lives in my head, and occasionally it comes out, I come engrossed. I use to control situations I have no control over, I use to hide myself. I have used my eating disorder to make a statement at the VA. I have used my eating disorder to secretly harm myself. When I don’t eat for long periods of time my inner self grins for it is telling me that I am stronger than those around me. It tells me that science is wrong. It tells me that I choose to live my life this way.

I don’t restrict food for the purpose of losing weight; however that is a huge gain. When I fall into these episodes, I become obsessed with what goes into my body, what comes out. When I restrict to nothing but water I am proud that I can control my ability to adapt to stressors that it may cause. If I become tired I amp myself up by other means. If I am weak I compromise other parts of myself to overcome this. I notice that while I am engaging in this behavior especially I concentrate more on the sexual assaults. I don’t get angry or mad at myself, I try to reason with why and how did this happen. Why would one individual believe they have the right to conflict pain, take something away from someone else? I have tried to reason numerous of times with different outcomes. “If I had only done this, this wouldn’t have happened.”

My body passed out when I was choked, and that is when I was finally raped. I had fought him so hard that he had to turn to chocking me. I don’t know why or how I lived through it, but I did. The aftermath kicked my ass. I walked around as if no one noticed. I thought I had hid the choke marks. The bite marks on my breast were hidden by clothing, however when I held my weapon when I was on the qualifying range. Or when I lifted things my face showed the pain, my body gave up and I passed out. When I woke up my army pants were undone, my shoes were untied, my brown undershirt was untucked, and my BDU (battle dress uniform) was undone. My first response was this is not how a soldier’s uniform should look; embarrassed I jumped up and started to gather myself. That is when my hidden secret was out.  After speaking to the nurse that was called to the code, I was called in to the major’s office with my staff sergeant.  There I let the horrible words come out of my mouth, I was more in fear of my position than what my body had gone through. I was then commanded to go to the hospital for a rape kit. I was commanded to report it. In fact I had no choice in the matter she had called the cops for me.

As I stood in fear watching the investigators, detectives and cops raid through my apartment tearing things up. Collecting samples of everything, I remember standing there in fear of the man standing in the hallway; they had him against the wall. Apparently he had been sleeping in my bed when the cops showed. I begged for them to get him out of my house, and they told me they didn’t have a cause to. I also remember screaming at them, “He raped me!” Crying I could not keep my composure any longer. Breaking point had just happened. It was a very long day followed by a really long night. After the cops were done tearing up my house, taking personal belongings I was escorted to the hospital.

A police office in which my twin sister was dating at the time volunteered for the case. When I saw the look on his face I cried. As we spoke I knew that he generally cared about me and my safety. As he and I sat in the waiting room, with all the people staring at me wondering why a cop was next to me. He got anxious and went up and begged for privacy. We were taken up stairs to a conference room.  As I had sat there trying to digest everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours I found myself to be numb. The officer looked at me, he had tears in his eyes, and he whispered: “I wish this would never happen to anyone.” He was a kind and spoke quiet, he respected my space, and he respected me. Soon as everything started happening: With the interview, the rape kit etc. This officer stood by myside as much as he could. As the interview happened I spoke and he listened, the detective would ask questions, and I would describe it as much as possible. At some parts he would ask if I needed a break, or water. I could tell that he really cared for his job.

During the rape kit, it was hard for me. I felt dirty, embarrassed, I was sore; I felt like it took forever, it was a slow process. Having to undress and hand over my clothing to a stranger, to have his smell on me. To have burses that didn't go away are all things that are now being exposed to a complete stranger. They are being documented and then handed over to more strangers to review.  That became me; I am just a number on the rape kit. I am not a female, nor a soldier, I am victim # 00000. For months in a world I am not familiar with that is just who I am, and even an untested kit that sits in storage.

Life goes on, cuts and scrapes and bruises heal.  Even the emotional pain begins to heal. But it is never forgotten. When I mean heal I mean pushed so far back that you stop talking about it, just to get those around you to believe that you are okay. That you are no longer a “victim” you are now a “survivor”. What others don’t know is how every smell, how some touch, how some sounds, how something somewhere reminds you of everything that happened that night. Sometime it just keeps replaying and replaying it is just a reminder that it is still there. Slowly, you become part of the world you act and pretend that you are fine, and actually you aren't. But the fear still lives there.

If living past the first rape wasn’t hard enough being a victim of another rape, a rape in a place where you are supposed to be invincible, hold power and self-respect. Being a soldier, where you don’t only represent the uniform you are representing a country that holds so much rich morals and values and speak of a god. Rape never occurred in the military is what was talk about all the time. However my sexual assaults had occurred in the military. The difference is when a civilian is involved the military wants justice and protects the soldier, however when a solder rapes another soldier, it never happened. The investigation was an intimidation tactic, a force to allow the military to keep the soldier’s mouth shut. When the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), handed me back my clothing, it was all folded up in a neat pile in a brown paper bag, no samples were taken from it. And the agent told me that if I hadn't been “a female in the army this would not of happened, and because I was in the army it never did happen.” With that, that is what exactly happened I was not allowed to ask questions I was not allowed to follow up. I was given a gag order to keep my mouth shut about it. I was not allowed to seek medical attention; I was not allowed to seek counseling, or therapy. It never happened so there for I was not allowed to seek help for something that never happened.  The date rape pill was never found at the party, the soldiers that were accused were promoted to enforce that it never happened they were then stationed out of the US to establish a new career path for them.

Military sexual trauma what is that? Well it is where you are in the military and you are sexually traumatized, however you have to prove that it exists. So how do you make it exist if nothing was ever documented? How is it different from civilian, well we eat, sleep in the same tent/ barracks, work with the parties that sexually assaulted us. We are reminded every day that they were allowed to get away with raping another individual that the law cannot touch them while they were in the military. To conduct yourself as an outstanding soldier you are taught quickly to withhold fear, embarrassment, sadness, sorrow, emptiness, you are not there to show emotions. You are there to conduct yourself as a soldier.

So here I am trying to deal with all of it. Funny thing is I am still alone, fighting my battle alone. The VA parades around as if their MST programs are to grow self-empowerment, to adjust to civilian life, to learn to trust. However it is sad that I have never been offered this program, I am service connected for Military Sexual Assault, And Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yet I sit waiting for the program to fit me. As long as I have been here I have been hearing the same thing from other Veterans’ so if these programs exist, then why are there no veterans’ attending it? Why is it not being offered as a support system to veterans? Why are victims being turned away from help, why do you have to qualify to receive help? How is it if I was a civilian I could walk in to a center and tell them what I feel is wrong with me and I can receive help, counseling, and even support groups, but at the VA I have to qualify?

I spoke earlier of an eating disorder. My eating disorder feeds off of not receiving the help and care I need, if I am told no, my eating disorder screams for attention. I fought for support for over a year and I ended up at an eating disordered facility. There I was to participate in body image group, DBT skills, one on one counseling, nutrition therapy, art therapy, etc. After being discharged and coming back to the VA I was not offered any of those. In fact for the DBT group I had to three different tests where I was told that I did not meet the criteria for the group. Yet here I sit, not fitting in to any group sessions at the VA. Or I was scheduled to attend a PTSD group and when I showed I was the only female in a room full of men (more than 30 men). And I was the only person under the age of 30. So here I am the only female in a group to deal with PTSD I was being forced to participate in a group that placed fear in my ability to heal, and nothing has been done about it. However my voice started to carry and the beginning of this year our hospital hired a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. I could not be any more grateful for the opportunity I have to work with her. But, still her hands are tied.

I have had medical providers at the VA turn me away because of PTSD and MST. I have been pre-judge; limits set due to the lack of knowledge that some have at the VA. They want a simple fix, and move you through the line. A lot of the providers never served, so they do not face the same difficulties as we do. They cannot comprehend the struggles.