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contrived but I was at my lowest point, contemplating suicide and I stopped at the bulletin board and began to read the outdated, useless flyers.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?”
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.