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