The United States Marine Corps.
The service branch’s name alone inspires awe and admiration. The idea of becoming a part of this elite military force is exciting, with the lure of the respect promised along with the title, Marine. The pride in that membership, in holding oneself to a higher standard.
But for some that have earned their place in the ranks of Marine Corps veterans, this is not always the case. I am one of them…or at least at one point I was.
You see, I am a female Marine. To go a step further, I am a survivor of military sexual trauma, also referred to as MST. Getting even more personal and direct, I am a survivor that reported. Basically, I did what many choose not to, for whatever personal reasons. To be clear, it is every victim’s right to decide how they want to proceed after an assault and no one else’s, but in my case I ended up with an open report of sexual assault. Because of that, it has been difficult to speak about my service, my time in, where I was stationed. The anxiety around the topic has caused me to leave this huge piece of my life out of conversations. Where it should be a point of pride, it became a source of humiliation.
Now that is heavy information all by itself, a piece of my past with many dark corners and snaking paths I may venture down at a later time, in a later post. I want to try and keep my focus on recovery and the long hard road of that never-ending journey. While it is important to remember the past, to reflect and to learn, one must not allow it to hold you back from happiness.
After the assault and being bounced around at the military’s leisure to different therapists and psychiatrists (again, more on that later), I was finally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD. I had heard of it but really did not understand what it was, why I had it, or what to do with myself from that point on. I felt shame. So. Much. Shame. I hated that I was broken, that he did this to me, that my beloved Corps allowed this to happen and was angry with me for trying to stay alive. It was a very dark time, one of processing, emptiness, numbing the world out, one of clinging to life with every ounce of will I had left lest I give into the urges that wanted to end it all.
But I survived. I am still here. Ten years later and I am still battling the same demons that tried to suck my soul like the dementors in Harry Potter. The difference is they have become more familiar, I have learned their tactics and developed my own methods to combat their offenses. Survival is a journey, not a destination. You are constantly on a path to living the best life possible, a traumatic experience or not. For victims, it becomes more of an insane obstacle course than a freshly paved road with no elevation changes. When that happens, you sometimes need support to make it over that impossibly high wall.
My type of trauma is unfortunately far too common among men and women in the services. While I am a veteran and will write frequently regarding topics directed to that subset, my story can also relate to those that have suffered non-military traumas and are living with PTSD. I decided to share my story and journey post-assault in hopes of helping others cope with this monster and find ways to live their lives to the fullest regardless of what someone stole from them. This is about reaching our fullest potential and truly living. Because we are survivors.
While I wasn’t allowed to choose before, I can now decide that I will not remain silent, rising above his violence towards me and helping others to do the same in their own stories. It’s going to get real, it’s going to be raw, and there will be plenty of sarcasm laced with nerdy references along the way. But this is me, this is my journey, and I thought maybe, just maybe, it would be worth sharing.