I lived through some hard times in the Navy……
It’s hard to believe I was once that young woman, looking smart in my uniforms, carrying myself with an air of seriousness that might have betrayed a small piece of the bitterness I had locked up inside. Sexual assault and sexual harassment; who should have to deal with these issues as a young woman, locked into a corner by men who have too much power?
I was once a happy-go-lucky gal, running deck plates in the Navy; a young sailor who was excited to go to sea, to help build a ship from the ground up, and to work hard and party harder.
I look back and wonder how it all went so awfully wrong. I was 21 years old and as an E-3 and below, barely out of Navy boot camp, I had no rank and no authority. I was young, pretty, fresh-faced, petite, strong-willed, extremely motivated, and also naive and insecure. I checked onboard my first and only ship on April’s fool’s day in 2001, and I had no idea how ironic it was, and it would all be the worst cosmic joke ever played out in my life.
I joined the Navy trying to find myself just like every kid my age was, and it led me to some dark corners I had no control over. Sexual assault, endless harassment, and stalking by Chiefs and Senior Chiefs high up in my chain of command occurred, and I stuffed everything down to survive. Because I knew when I reported it, which I eventually did, that I was the one who was going to be blamed for it. Which happened.
How does one heal, and relax the anger one has towards so many people, so much senselessness, so many lost years, and so many stolen chances?
After years of thinking and overthinking everything, full of rage to the point it pushed me to attempting suicide several times, I was finally saved from myself before I did myself more harm and caused the one’s around me any more pain.
I was able to get into an all-women’s MST (military sexual trauma) PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder) and began intensive cognitive behavioral therapy in a VA facility. It was two extensive months of living on-campus attending group counseling, one-on-one therapy, and daily workshops built to reprogram me and change the way that I think and function as a trauma survivor which finally turned the key. Sexual assault changesd the way a person thinks; shut them up in a box. I had to get out of that box, and then I had to relearn how to think so I could be free!
Two long months later I graduated the course on St Patrick’s day in 2011, and walked off the base a completely new person, set free from myself. I faced a new burden; realizing what a lie I’d been living, and stopping the spiral downward constantly blaming myself and hiding behind anger, but I now had the tools to begin conquering this mountain. And I wasn’t alone. I had a strong man’s love, his hand in mine, and a year later we would start a new life together. Sexual assault is not a joke; but we can heal from it. And we can help others as well, without knowing it.
He would become the stable rock in my life, enabling me to face myself, to learn who I was finally; to decide who I wanted to be, and to somehow figure out how to have integrity again. I had to stop blaming myself, and I had to forgive, which is a whole lot harder than it sounds.
The intrusive thoughts are tough, sometimes so ugly and uncontrollable that I just have to distract my mind by tossing myself into my old ways of dealing with stress; jogging, working-out, painting, reading books.
Now I also have a home to clean, kids and a husband to take care of. That really helps, realizing I have a man standing behind me, a former sailor who was on the ship next to mine when everything went down hard, who knows the truth for what it really is. When I met him I was truly free to be a normal person again. Albeit, I have my twitches and my idiosyncrasies; but I married a good man, who is truly unconditional in his love and acceptance.
I have to pinch myself, sometimes, and ask “How did I deserve this?” Sometimes I don’t feel like I do. But I know who I am now, and who I want to be.
I am a sailor, artist, poet, writer, traveller, fire fighter, wildland fire fighter, and now I am a happily married wife with kids who favor their father. I really want to be a compassionate person, a person who spreads healing, who tells the truth and lays the facts out that happened to me objectively, and I don’t need anyone to believe me to have peace and keep going.
My story Darker Than Navy Blue documents the ugliness, happiness, and craziness that comes from being a sailor in the US Navy, especially as a woman. I don’t blame the Navy for what happened to me. Men made horrible choices, and I had no control over their actions.
I witnessed a lot of things, and had many horrific realizations, and for such a seemingly small time of my life – three years – it is packed to the brim with memories that I can happily take the good with the bad now. That’s a miracle.
I truly have nothing but pride having served my country honorably; and I finally have peace with it all to be able to tell my story, warts and all, with no shame, and no more anger.
Thank you all for reading this blurb, and coming to my page to find out more about my story.