Next step

When I returned to the VA in NYC I met with Nurse Fran (made up name) and she sat me down and explained that I needed treatment. That I suffered from PTSD and that there was help.

I found myself wondering briefly what the heck she was talking about.  All I wanted was to speak to someone about what happened to me back in 86 and get that off my chest.  I wasn’t suffering from any illnesses, mental or physical. But before I could bring it up she began her spiel.

The fact that you don’t sleep, you have nightmares, you are hyperviliginant, blah blah means that you suffer from PTSD and our course of action is for you to see a therapist, attend Distress Tolerance classes, join a DBTgroup, Anger Management and conduct daily mindfulness exercises.  Whoa? Now my head was reeling.

“Um, Nurse Fran,” I whispered, “I’m not crazy.”

That’s when she went into detail and explained to me what the lasting effects of this sexual trauma were.

Briefly, I’ll tell you because its important that I write down my story if for no other reason than to offer therapy to myself.

I haven’t had a good nights sleep in years and I thought this was just my body reacting to the age and my sleep cycle.  But if look back on it, after my daughter was born my sleep patterns became non-existent. Durrring my pregancy I found myself sleepy but I couldn’t get to sleep because I worried about  . . .  well I worried. After she was born that worry intensified an over the years that lack of sleep or difficulty in staying sleep has become the norm for me.  Here’s where it get tricky and falls into PTSD. Before the trauma I slept like a rock afterwards I can wake up if the wind blows the wrong way, or if I hear any noise. My body rarely enters REM because I’m worried that someone will break in an rape me.

Before I go on with Nurse Fran, let me just say what happened so that everything will make sense.  In 86 I worked on a military base in Colorado.  For a couple of months I’d endured the crude  comments directed at my sex. I had complained to both the commander and the sargent but both of them dismissed me because according to them, “females shouldn’t be in the service.” With no where to turn I just internalized the frequent comments and the patting of the ass, the accidental touching of my ass, breasts or body.  Of course it made me mad but once you are told that you are a pussy you have no where to turn to. At the time I was married and I did wear my rings so as long as they were words I could deal with the daily assaults.  There were two guys however, who were malacious in there comments and always had something nasty to say about my body, my father (who was an officer, therefore I was often seen going into the O club with him when he was in town), and my ability to do my job.  So on this fateful day (corny wording huh), I entered the latrine because that’s what pregnant women do, pee all the time and performed my ritual. I remember the door to the latrine opening and paid it no attention because after all I was in womens’ latrine.  I pulled my pants up, adjusted the outfit and exited the stall. That’s when I was greeted by this man standing there with another one just inside the entry door to the bathroom.  Yes, I yelled. Yes, I pleaded, more for the child I was carrying. Finally I just sailed my mind away and took what they gave. What I did afterwards I can’t tell you. I do know this. I learned to function by rote. I learned to stop trusting. I learned that the military doesn’t care. I learned that women are the lesser creatures and that its extremely hard for us to find allies when we have a crisis. I learned that my joy at being pregnant died that day. I learned to hate that day but most of all I learned that you can survive but it changes you.

I will get back to Nurse Fran later but for now let me finish.  My daughter was born a few months later. I loved her but there was always that kernel of hatred for what I endured. In my warped mind I had convinced myself that if I hadn’t been pregnant at the time I would have fought off my rapists. To this day I still beleive that although I know its unrealistic I have to hold onto to that shred of power in order to function. Two years later I gave her to her father because I couldn’t function. I had started having serious problems. Crying for no reason. Having a hard time sleeping, rising, working, loving, sharing, driving, eating etc., Of course I once again figured that it was the stress of having a newborn baby. The stress level rose until I started thinking about suicide.

Tomorrow I need a break right now

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In the beginning

 

That’s what I’ve been given a diagnosis of. P T S D. If you don’t know what that stands for, it means Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many people associate this disorder with war but in my case its origins began with RAPE.

I wasn’t aware that I was suffering. I assumed, wrongly so, that  I was who I was and left it at that. Until I became homeless and found myself in a VA shelter.

The first two months in the shelter I found myself walking around in a daze. Every day I passed a bulletin board but not once did I pay attention. But one day, and I know this sounds contrived but I was at my lowest point, contemplating suicide and I stopped at the bulletin board and began to read the outdated, useless flyers.  There was one flyer that did catch my attention though and it addressed my situation to a T.

Did you experience any unwanted sexual attention, uninvited sexual advances, or forced sex while in the military? Does this experience continue to affect your life?

If so, please see a MST coordinator at your local VA or call xxx-xxx-xxxx

The answer to the first question was yes, however the second question was iffy. I was raped in 1986 and its now 2014 so it should be behind me, right?

I mulled over the wording for a few days. Glancing at the poster as if it could contain a magic cure. What exactly was MST I kept thinking? Finally I worked up the nerve to dial the number listed and was told it was disconnected. “Okay,” I thought that’s out, which meant I would have to show up at the VA and ask. After about three weeks I got up the nerve to enter a VA Hospital and ask where the MST clinic was. I was directed to the 2nd floor reception desk, where I encountered a man manning the desk. Surely they don’t’ think I’m going to ask a man about MST much less discuss rape with him. So I turned around and headed back out. Again and again I repeated this scenario over the course of a few weeks until finally I found the courage to ask the receptionist about MST. He immediately placed a call and a few minutes later I was greeted by a friendly woman who announced that she was the MST coordinator and could make an appointment for me to see her.

“Whew.” With that deed done I settled back into my routine. Well, let me just say I tried to settle. However, the task of telling my story didn’t give me relief it created even more anxiety in my days and nights. I won’t bore you and tell you how I had more nightmares than normal, how my sleeping pattern which was already worse became nonexistent. Nor will I tell you that while I waited out the week I read more books than normal. What I will tell you is the anxiety increased and the suicidal thoughts that I had been keeping at bay surfaced.

Finally that day arrived and I met with the MST Coordinator who I will call Nurse Fran. She was friendly and kind as she took me back to her office, whereas I was a basket case. Chewing the side of fingers I sat down and waited. She asked me benign questions or what I thought were benign.

“How are your sleeping patterns?” she asked.

With a giggle I replied, “What sleep? Either I wake up every hour, or I just stay up and read or I take a Benadryl capsule, barricade the door and fall into a deep slumber.”

“Do you have repeated, disturbing memories or thoughts or images of a stressful military experience? “

With another HAH HAH I could only say, “ of course I do, how would you feel if you had been raped and then you have to enter a VA hospital?”

“Do you have disturbing dream of the experience?”

“Sometimes, but since I rarely get a good nights sleep I rarely dream.”

“Do you feel upset when something reminds you of your military experience?”

“Yes,”

 

On an on it went and finally I found myself getting mad. I had spent the past week reliving my story and this woman wants to talk to me about dreams and angers. None of these questions was relevant to my rape. Instead it seemed that she was going through a checklist that was designed for someone else.  Perhaps, I thought I’m in the wrong place.  My only thought was what a waste. And on the heels of that thought came relief. See I’m fine. I don’t need any help.

Minutes later the questions stopped and Nurse Fran began telling me that I have PTSD, depression and a bunch of other things that really made no sense. She suggested that I come back the following week when she could discuss with me a plan of action.

Leaving the VA I was struck with wonder. What the fuck I kept thinking is PTSD? I wasn’t in a war. I was raped and one has nothing to do with the other right?

Well, the answer is yes, they are interconnected. But that day I didn’t know that, I just thought, again wrongly so that if I could just tell my story I would be fine.

I don’t want to keep anyone in suspense, not that I  think this blog will be read. However, I need to stop because my hotspot plan is only for so many gigs so if you are reading this come back another day and I will continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PTSD MST Rape