Wednesday, October 20, 2021

It’s your life, do with it what you want.

June 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Bras & Boots, Most Recent Posts

It seems like a long time ago when I joined the Army. I was naïve, didn’t have any ideas about what I could do and wow, the army wanted me. Man, did I feel important. No one back then told me how smart I was, or how I could make it in college and this just seemed like the answer. So, at 17, I joined the U.S. Army. My mother’s advice: “It’s your life, do with it what you want.”

Twenty years later, I retired as a Sergeant First Class – ten years active and ten in the reserves. I was proud of how independent I was. Then things began to crumble – I couldn’t concentrate well at work. Things that made me happy lost their luster. I became so depressed and I didn’t know why. I didn’t have friends. I couldn’t keep a relationship going. What happened to that proudly independent woman?

I knew I needed help and I reached out for it at the VA. Once I reached out, things seemed to just get worse. Great huh? I sunk so low and was in so much pain that suicide seemed the only answer. Luckily, there were a couple of angels guarding me and I was not successful in my attempts.

I don’t share all this to depress anyone but to share a very dark history of my life. The details of my Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are not important at this time, but the message of hope is. It took me a very long time to realize and accept that I have PTSD and MST. I don’t talk about it all the time anymore but it is always there. I unconsciously avoid my triggers, to try to live ‘normally’. When my PTSD rears its ugly head, I am so pissed that it has to remind me at the most inopportune moments that my brain and body are permanently scarred from these illnesses.

As I continued therapy, I have started to learn that I want to share this message of what has helped me so that maybe it can give at least one person who doesn’t think it is possible but they WILL get better. What works for me may not work for you, but it is about learning who you are, and developing into the beautiful person you are meant to be.

The hardest thing for me to learn was to accept help. I had always been independent and capable. I relied on no one. I realize now that I did this mostly for survival. I was ashamed to admit to myself that I could not do it on my own.
I, was not perfect. I had learned my whole life that I was the only person that I could depend on. Now, I had to reach out to some stranger? As humiliating and humbling this first act was, it took me even longer to learn that reaching out to ask for help was what normal people did. I learned to do this in very, very small steps. It was the most difficult part of this whole process of healing for me. I could not depend on anyone my whole life. Now, I had to learn to do this unnatural act. What if they said no? People did, I got hurt, learned something then kept on going on. What if….. There were a million “what ifs”. I learned there are people that you can’t depend on. I also learned that harder-to-learn lesson, that there are people out there that will help you. If you don’t reach out, you will
stay where you are in that lonely, painful hollow life that you created. When you reach out, it is scary. When you reach out, you are taking a huge risk. Try just a small step and see where it takes you.

It’s been about ten years of little steps for me now. I have learned a lot. A lot of the trip has been painful. I’ve learned that feeling is a good thing. The numbness that shielded me was necessary to survive but now is my time to live. To live I must have all of my feelings. I need to know when I am angry, sad, hurt and happy. These are part of my ‘tools’ for living. Before, when I was numb, I wouldn’t know when I had been hurt, or if someone or something made me angry. While I may experience pain, now I can figure out what hurt me and what to do about it. What is even better is that when I am happy, I truly am happy and it is not masked. I continue to learn what makes me happy and keep taking steps in those directions.

I’ve realized I’m not supposed to be alone. Being part of society is part of what being human is all about. We are social creatures. Making friends is hard work. I had no clue how to do this. I kept distancing myself from everyone to protect myself. This was important to do a long time ago but now, as I heal, it is important to develop friends. At first this seemed impossible, so I did what I used to do – what how other people were in friendships, read about friendships and learned what I could. Then I took the hard steps and after a lot of trying I have been learning and growing and I have friends. Not just the social kind, but ones you can depend on. After all the small steps I have taken, I am grateful for what I have now. It wasn’t easy but it IS possible.

I also found it important to learn about who and what I am all about. I found pastimes that I love to do. I found many of them give me great joy to do. It’s not about perfection, but the process. I love to garden. It’s not just about the flowers but the preparation of the soil, the gentle growing of the seeds, the watering, the giving of nutrients, weeding, the support you give them as needed. This reminds me of my life struggles and is very therapeutic. It you like gardening start small – one plant. Don’t try anything overwhelming. Just be in the moment and enjoy.
If gardening doesn’t seem your thing, FIND out what is. Start small and enjoy the process.

I’ve learned, it’s O.K. to be where you are. It’s about being comfortable in your shoes. It’s about doing what is right for you to do. It’s about going on your path – knowing what your path is. It’s about loving yourself. It’s about forgiving yourself. It’s about taking small steps each day on your path to go in your direction to be the best you can be. When my mom gave me the advice, “It’s your life, do with it what you want.” I think I finally understand.


~J.Bell, NH


7 Responses to “It’s your life, do with it what you want.”
  1. Emily Pike says:

    Thank you so much for sharing that..I can really relate. I specifically want to address this comment: “When my PTSD rears its ugly head, I am so pissed that it has to remind me at the most inopportune moments that my brain and body are permanently scarred from these illnesses.” I need to realize that while this is true for me, that I have a disease, I am not the disease, and can rise above it…and for reminding me that yes, we are indeed social creatures and it’s time for me to grow beyond my comfort zone.

  2. Sandi G. says:

    I want to add a comment. I keep deleting what I write. I guess I’m still pissed.

  3. Terry Morehouse says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I sat here crying, knowing that I am not unique and I DO need to reach out to others too. I was especially struck with:

    ” I learned there are people that you can’t depend on. I also learned that harder-to-learn lesson, that there are people out there that will help you. If you don’t reach out, you will stay where you are in that lonely, painful hollow life that you created. When you reach out, it is scary. When you reach out, you are taking a huge risk. Try just a small step and see where it takes you.”

    I am at a pivotal point in my life; my husband of 38 years (he was my AIT instructor BTW) passed away several months ago. I just signed up on a dating site but I have been having huge worries. So it’s interesting that I should just happen upon this site and your story today. It is a comforting and supportive sign. Thank you for paving the way.

  4. Carol S. says:

    Congratulations on your success so far with dealing with the demons. As you go along your path, may it be lined with beautiful things that you have planted with your own two hands! When the demons come and they piss you off, stop and look at the beauty, inhale the aroma and reach out to those who make you feel safe.
    I say that in support, yet I too have to pull myself up short and ask why I don’t follow the same advise? Those demons can come so unexpectedly and the scars from the demons aren’t seen by anyone else. Thank you for sharing that the trip down the healing path is in fact a safe one!

  5. Andrea Granger says:

    I was BU3 Day in my old life. Builder First Class Petty Officer. Seabees.
    “We build, we fight” ..I wasn’t blown up, we just build stuff that would probably be blown up later. I have been suffering silently for 7 years…since I got out. I was doing great and made soooo many changes in my life. I got married .. went through miscarriages.. Now I think infertility is a gift because I am just happy to have a really amazing man. After being around a lot of d-bags, its easy to recognize the one for you. I love my life. I absolutely love my life now. I just am stuck with all these secrets. I stay positive and try to forget them and have had a lot of inner healing from just getting down on my knees before my God thanking Him for all the good things. I really have everything I need to be successful moving forward in the next stage of life but ..its time. I’ve hidden behind a cloud of smoke for too long now. I just get too choked up when I deal with real stuff. I ignore everything that hurts and move on. I realize I’m not doing myself or anyone else any favors anymore. I just felt so alone with my experiences for soo long. I have not hung around another service women since I left.. I have no idea how to relate to women in my new small town. I know too many would cringe and judge me hard core had they known me before or things I did. Its really alienating. I feel like a freakin alien. Anyway, I choked up reading these things. I know I’ll be alright. I just started journeying this stuff and whooooaaa I got stories!!! I had soo many brothers I loved like a real sister would, you know? I forgive every last dbag I still have stuck in my memories somewhere. I just wish them well. The desert sucks. War sucks. People are people. I just gotta move on finally. Thank you for this site!!! Thank you for the other women.. women who were in waaay worse situations than me. I love you. You are hardcore and I need you to relate to. I keep it light. I try to keep it funny. Life is waay to serious and it doesn’t need to be when we got the green grass to step on bare foot safely around people who really love us. I have to keep the jokes with the tears. Too much drama and blaming doesn’t help anyone move on.

  6. Andrea Granger says:

    I meant Builder-Third Class Petty Officer-E-4.

  7. Wow, Andrea and Carol. I just found this website today, wanting to escape my loneliness. You know, help someone else, you’ll feel better. It is natural for me to check on others first. My usual call to my only child results in, I’m busy mom, call you later. Carol’s response of ” Following my own advice” resonates. Andrea, You put my feelings into words. I am retired US Air Force. Active duty Dental Tech. Reserves Medivac tech. MST, PTS & other disabling medical conditions.1979-2003.
    Once again, I am pushing people away. My friends are not military, so I don’t burden them with issues they can’t understand. I have God on speed dial, it’s going to voicemail. But I know he will get back to me with an answere (sooner than my adult child). It’s just I’ve run out of fluffy stuff to pass out, no more plesant smiles to give,I’m stuck faced with my miserable self. I cannot move on from what’s hurting me or pretend another moment.
    I did something REALLY STUPID! At a recent medical/ Psych appt it was again noted I stopped taking my meds. I thought it was ok and we agreed to cancel the RX. Today, it is obvious to ME I need to be what I called emotionally numbed to think my way out of this mess. If nothing else, maybe someone, like myself, will stumble on this and at the least, know they are not alone. We Are Here searching for one another to safely move forward..

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!