Wendy’s Story

Wendy’s Story

Although I am considered a foreign wars veteran, I’ve never been in battle. I’ve never seen war or the terrible things that many soldiers have, but I suffer from PTSD. I am a victim and I am a survivor. My PTSD was caused by Military Sexual Trauma (MST), a VA term that I fear because it was, and is, such an issue in the military.

I have never healed. I have mastered the cover-up, the pushing down of emotions and sweeping pain under the rug. I have created a public persona, a mask I have worn for decades. I’ve always thought I was, for the most part, functioning and handling it. In doing so, I have robbed myself of a full life. My experiences have been dulled, not only by the prescribed anti-depressants (I have been on a few different ones and, after the roller-coaster ride of emotions, settled on Zoloft), but by the scar tissue. I never allowed myself to love fully or have relationships, even with my own son. I read another soldier’s story on here and got chills, it was so similar to mine.

I have pretended the assault did not happen for over 20 years, so this is very difficult to write. It happened in Korea in 1993 sometime in February. Some details are crystal clear and some are fuzzy. It was a Friday night, cold and raining. I know this because my perpetrator waited for my bus to drop me back at the base after Synagogue. He brought an umbrella and said he did not want me to catch my death by walking in the rain. What happened may have been worse than death. He walked me to my barracks; my roommates were out partying as they usually were on Friday nights. I had not been in Korea long; I had been in the service around six months. I was dubbed Combat Barbie, called a prude and many other things because I was not friendly with the boys, and I kept to myself. I was harassed from the beginning, but nothing prepared me for this. The assailant was visiting the camp and was high-ranking. He was a large man, an Army Sergeant Major or something like that. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name, or what he looks like really. He walked me to my room, which I politely said was not necessary many times. He came into my room, uninvited. He came toward me and pushed me down. He said he would not hurt me if I didn’t struggle. He reminded me that no one was around, so I should not bother screaming. I was wearing a dress as I usually would on Friday nights. I had on tights and he ripped them off and forced himself inside me.

I was crying and saying, “Please don’t,” but the assault continued. When he was done, he left me, crying in my room. I cried for a while and then worried about my roommates finding me that way. I went to the bathroom to vomit, and I was in the shower for a long time. Over the weekend, I bought boxes of douche; I used it every day for like a month. I felt nauseous all the time.

I told my Platoon Sergeant, about the assault, and he told me to go to the doctor and get checked out, but it is too late to report and nothing would happen with it. My Platoon Sergeant had been in the service for a long time, seen this happen before, and said the backlash from a “claim” like that was far worse. He advised me to not say anything to anyone else. I remember going to the doctor many times after that. For months I had gynecological and throat problems. I was just sick all the time with a range of symptoms, which I now know to be anxiety. All I know was I was a complete mess.

“Scar tissue” is what I call my defense mechanism of not allowing myself to feel. It has made it difficult for me to form relationships. I don’t let people get too close. I’ve created distance between my family and myself. I’ve avoided personal relationships. I don’t allow anyone to really know me. The hard outer shell I’ve created I liken to scar tissue. Just like the scar tissue around a torn muscle, I was protected, stronger. The thing is, what we don’t talk about is that muscle underneath never heals. Most people will tell you that when you are injured, the worst part of recovery is physical therapy. The pain of healing and rebuilding is torture. I’ve feared that process my entire life. I’ve avoided dealing with my mental health; the thought is terrifying and filled with “what ifs”— How long will it take? How difficult will it be? Will it change me? Will I finally break, and more importantly, will I be able to put myself back together? In the back of my mind, I have always had an escape plan: a bit of money stashed away to keep me afloat when I fall apart and could not keep my job. I have lost a few jobs, working six months or less here and there until I ran out of sick time.

I am currently in treatment at the VA. It is free. The ability to be broken, to let myself feel, has taken over my ability to keep it together and that scares me to death. I know I always needed help, but the timing was never right. I needed to be a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend and an employee. What I could not be is broken. I couldn’t take time off of life to deal with what is wrong with me. As I said before, I was functioning.

I am exhausted. I can’t keep up the facade anymore. I have issues with rage and other issues I did not even know I had until I took an online test and realized I had nearly all of the signs of PTSD. I have issues with anger management, relationships, my memory, food and alcohol, sleep/nightmares, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction. I also have difficulty concentrating, call in “sick” more than most people, and am super alert and startle easily (I have to sit facing the door).

I need to go to therapy and be consistent with it. I have seen half a dozen therapists over the years and never stayed long enough to be fixed. As soon as the pain became too much, I would quit. I always told myself that the therapy was not working, even that it made it worse by bringing everything back to the surface.

As my responsibilities have dwindled (my son is off to college), my symptoms seem to worsen. I have had to keep it together less and because of that, I have become less able to keep it together – less able to keep the cover tightly secured on the pot. How I managed to keep it on simmer for 23 years, I can’t explain. As I feel the temperature reaching 212 degrees, I feel the time has come to bring it out in the open and face the pain and heal. I want to break up the scar tissue. I need help. It is never too late.

If you are reading this, and like me got chills because you know exactly what I am talking about, then reach out and get the help you deserve!