Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MST PTSD - My Story

I am diagnosed with MST PTSD with Major Depressive Disorder.

For those not familiar with the acronyms it is this:

Military Sexual Trauma Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It's the diagnosis given by the VA (Veterans Administration) to consider me permanently 100% disabled and unemployable.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines MST as:

Military sexual trauma, or MST, is the term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a Veteran experienced during his or her military service
The definition used by the VA comes from Federal law (Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D) and is "psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training."
Sexual harassment is further defined as "repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character."
Am I talking about the good natured volley of remarks tossed back and forth between women and men Marines? No, definitely not. I knew joining a male-oriented branch of the service I would definitely be in the minority. I didn't mind that.

What crossed the line was unacceptable sexual advances, unacceptable touching, sexual advances without consent, and the occurrence that haunts me every single day and night of my life since it occurred:

Being drugged and repeatedly raped by a number of Marines in their barracks. I have no recollection of the time I left the base with friends in their car, stopping and picking up some male Marines, who offered me a beer and that's it. I regained consciousness - naked, in a bunk with a naked male Marine in the act of sex, with other male Marines looking on. Fear for my life raced through my mind. I vomited, then vomited more. Naked, in need of the facilities, they made me walk naked through the barracks hall to the community bathroom facilities. I raced back, begged for my clothes and left as quickly as I could without inciting more violence.

Because, that's exactly what it was. A violent act of betrayal and abuse and violation of me and my body.

  • Where was I?

  • Was I even on my base?

  • In what direction was the Women's BEQ?

  • What time was it?

  • What day was it?

  • Who were those Marines?

  • What did they look like?

  • How am I supposed to report this?

  • Where were my keys?

  • Where was my ID?

  • What if I got pregnant?

Eventually, I found a guard on duty, asked in what direction were the Women's BEQ's, was able to get in my room by knocking and crossing my fingers my roommates were there, and then taking a shower. A LONG SHOWER!!

I tried to not think about what happened. I forced it to the back of my mind, stomped it down, and covered it up.

I didn't report the incident. How could I? Who were the Marines? What barracks was it? I couldn't even re-trace my steps. I had no recollection! No memory. Whatever drugged they used took care of that.

Instead, as with all the other sexually traumatic events in my life, I pushed it to the back of my mind where I force things I don't want to think about or re-live and went on with my life.

I did have a pregnancy test - Negative, Thank God!!

As for me, I continued with my jobs on base, continued to date, continued to enjoy the e-Club, but with a lot more caution, never accepting a drink from anyone unless it was unopened or I saw it being mixed.

However, the traumatic event ate through my restraints, surfaced at inopportune times, and began to manifest in more physical issues:

  • Migraines
  • GI Issues
  • Sleep Issues
  • Eating Disorder
  • Weight Problems
  • Memory Issues


  • Relationship Issues
  • Psychiatric Issues


When did this violent violation of my body occur? 1980
When did I report it to the military? 2012

32 Years Later

My lawyers (several law firms) worked for nearly 5 years to get a positive response from the VA. 

2017, I finally received the 100% Permanently Disabled and Unemployable rating.

That's 37 years later, nearly 40 years. 

Treatments I Endured During that Time:

CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy)
EMDR - 3 TIMES! Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing
Talk Therapy - Group Therapy
Relaxation Therapy
Written Narrative Exposure
Narrative Exposure Therapy
Personal 1 on 1 Therapy

I have not tried TMS - Trans Magnetic Stimulation; as it's still considered experimental by my insurance company.
Does that change how I feel? No

Does that make the pain go away? No

Did it automatically stop all of the physical issues I had? No

I still have:
  • Migraines
  • GI Issues
  • Sleep Issues
  • Eating Disorder
  • Weight Problems
  • Memory Issues
  • Relationship Issues
  • Psychiatric Issues
But, with the help of a new psychiatrist, we have discovered the missing pieces that make up my complicated puzzle.... I must explain the MST PTSD to my other Physician Specialists, so that they aren't chasing ghosts to explain my issues. 

There is hope. There is positive momentum forward.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, I believe I can find peace. I'll keep you posted.

If you are a victim or know someone who is a victim of MST - please follow the instructions below:

How can Veterans get help?

For more information, Veterans can:
  • Speak with their existing VA health care provider.
  • Contact the MST Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center.
  • Call Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 to get confidential one-on-one help. Safe Helpline provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week sexual assault support for the Department of Defense community.
  • Contact their local Vet Center.
  • Veterans should feel free to ask to meet with a provider of a particular gender if it would make them feel more comfortable.
  • Veterans can also learn more about VA's MST-related services.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest Post: Traveling as a Coping Strategy for Addiction Recovery

When a person suffering from addiction decides to enter recovery, they are said to be beginning a journey - one that lasts a lifetime. This journey is a long one, filled with triumphs and potentially some setbacks. The path to recovery never really ends for those with addiction issues - it’s one they must stay on their whole life. But while they are making this metaphorical journey, they can take some time to make some other, more tangible journeys as well. Travel has an immense healing effect and is a wonderful tool for those in recovery. Here’s why.

Travel as healthy escapism

When you have an addiction, you are practicing unhealthy escapism. You drink or do drugs in order to escape from your daily life - your pain, depression, anxiety, work stresses, or family problems. The fact that we all need to find ways to take breaks from the daily stresses of life isn’t unhealthy in and of itself - it’s the method that’s unhealthy.

Travel can be that bridge toward a healthier form of escape. Day-to-day life is hard for anyone - but especially for those on a recovery path. We all need a break, and travel can provide this “escape” in a healthy, productive way. You’re not running from your problems, you’re simply taking a break to gain some perspective.

Get some perspective

Addiction is suffocating. When battling dependency on a substance, it can seem like all that you know is your addiction - everything else in the world is blurry or faded. Part of recovery is understanding that there is so much more to the world than you, your addiction, and your problems. One of the best ways to gain some perspective on your own life is to travel. When you visit other places, it’s nearly impossible not to see yourself as a small part in a large human play. With addiction, the world is small. With travel, the world is large and full of possibilities. Expanding one’s worldview is a crucial element of recovery.

Mental rejuvenation

If you’re in recovery, the chances are you’ve seen some very hard times in recent memory. Addiction takes the fun out of life. Recovery is discovering that there is fun and beauty in a sober lifestyle. Travel gives us the perfect opportunity for this mental rejuvenation.

When you travel, it’s a constant source of inspiration. You meet new people, see amazing sights, try delicious food, and learn about culture and history. You have experiences that you didn’t even know existed. At its core, travel is simply a lot of fun. Having sober fun is vital when it comes to lifting your spirits and giving you an emotional boost to continue down your recovery path. Feelings of depression are one of the most common issues people have in recovery (as addiction and depression are a vicious cycle), and travel may not “cure” this but it certainly helps you to understand that there are things in this world to be excited about. In this, way, travel has quite the healing power.

In the end, traveling not only expands your horizons, lets you discover new, exciting things, and gives you some time to mentally rejuvenate - it also grounds you. Spending time away from your friends, family, and job often illuminates why these things are so important to you. Sober travel is tough, as we associate traveling with wild times (and a lot of drinking). It may be smart to make sure you’re firmly on your recovery path before you venture out on an adventure, but once you are there’s no reason you shouldn’t experience new things. You can get away for some perspective but still stay connected to home (literally).

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. Mr. Moore starts every day by looking at photographs of past travel, making plans for future travel, and committing to one new healthy goal. He enjoys travel, running, swimming and baking. His favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy. The next place on his list to visit is: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil.

Photo Credit

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Guest Post - Positive Changes Help Cope With a Major Life Event

Going through major life changes can impact us in so many ways; some are positive, some are negative. In many cases, it’s difficult to know the right path to choose after such a big change, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. However, it’s possible to take these occurrences and use them to your advantage.

Some of the biggest life changes we experience include having a baby, losing a loved one, going through a divorce, getting married, and buying a new home. These events all run the risk of becoming very stressful times in our lives, but they also have the potential to change us for the better. Taking a period of transition and turning it into a reason to make positive changes in our behavior or way of thinking is a wonderful way to start down a new path in life. Not to mention that these changes can be highly beneficial for our mental and physical health.

Here are some of the best ways to get started.

Get healthy

Having a child or losing a loved one to illness are two of the greatest motivators in the world for getting healthy. Often, new parents or people who are dealing with grief feel they can’t take the time to focus on themselves, but it’s important to pay attention to your body and mental state. Lack of sleep is one of the biggest complaints of individuals who are going through a major life event, so work out a way to get adequate rest. Take naps often, and stay hydrated. Eat well-balanced meals, and include lots of fruits, veggies, and proteins to keep up your energy.
A healthy diet can equate to a healthy mind.

It’s also important to get a little exercise every day, even when you’re feeling low or tired. Exercise can help boost your mood and give you a burst of energy, and it can actually help boost your mental health as it releases hormones in the brain that are associated with being happy.

Clean up

Being in a clean environment can help you feel more in control--which is important after a major change, when everything can seem to be in chaos--so get organized and start de-cluttering. Go through closets and cabinets and donate or toss anything you haven’t used in a while. Give each room a good cleaning and air out your home. Not only will it be a better environment for your family, it will help you feel better, too. Having a clean, well-organized living situation can be beneficial for your mental health; after all, coming home after a long day to a cluttered home where chores await can amp up your stress levels and interfere with your sleep cycle. Read on here to find out more about how cleaning up and de-cluttering can improve your mental well-being.

Chuck those bad habits

Going through a major life change can be a great motivator for other areas of your life, such as smoking, using substances, or allowing toxic people to stay around. Take stock of what’s really important to you and think about the best ways to make some changes for the better. If you feel you need help getting past those habits, reach out and garner support from your friends and family.

Working on yourself and focusing on what makes you happy can allow you to enjoy life more. Finding a hobby or taking an interest in something new--such as learning a new language or traveling--will give you a new view on life and can help you be your best self inside and out.

It’s not always easy to make changes in your life, even when you know they’re best for you and your family in the long run. Take things one day at a time and don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t reach your goal right away. Making changes for the better takes time.

Guest Blogger Bio: Jennifer Scott has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. She shares stories about the ups and downs of her anxiety and depression at SpiritFinder. With SpiritFinder.org, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.

Photo via Pixabay by Jill111

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Guest Post -Taking Back Their Lives: Dual Diagnosis Recovery Survivors Share Their Stories

Taking Back Their Lives: Dual Diagnosis Recovery Survivors Share Their Stories
by Constance Ray

I am a strong woman and I can do whatever I put my mind to. ... I'm caring, honest, and most importantly ... I love who I am today.” - Elizabeth, Proud Recovery Graduate

The connection between substance abuse and mental disorder is a strong and complex diagnosis. Left unchecked, the combination of the two can have devastating consequences. But how on earth is someone in pain supposed to claw their way free? It feels like a Sisyphean ordeal with no way out, and so the vicious cycle continues.

Treatment is, without question, the best way to battle the dual diagnosis of addiction and mental illness. To the uninitiated, it’s a terrifying and suspect gamble, but with therapy and group counseling, recovery victims can arm themselves with the tools and skills necessary to face down their personal demons and whatever life throws their way.

Survivors are proof that there is life after addiction, and hearing their realizations and discoveries can be the motivation others need to take the plunge themselves. Consider the stories of these brave women.

Katherine’s Story
Alcohol had consumed Katherine’s life.

“I drank pretty hardcore and it got to the point where I was drinking in the morning, at my lunch, drinking before I went to work, all night long. I was constantly buzzed or intoxicated. I went to my doctor. She let me know that she thought that maybe I was bipolar, and I asked her, ‘Why?’”

Her doctor pointed out that Katherine was making a lot of bad decisions and insisted that she take medication. Resistant to try anything, Katherine went home to reflect, and then a light went off.

“... I realized that I probably wouldn’t make any of these decisions if I was sober. I knew that I needed more help than doing it on my own.”

Katherine reached out to an alcohol treatment center, and from there, her life changed forever.

“Once I started learning more about my underlying causes and why I did the things I did, getting all the stuff out — all the guilty feelings, all the stuff from childhood, things I didn’t deal with — life just started to get a lot better. I started to understand my addiction. And I’m extremely excited to get out of here and experience a sober life for the first time.”

Audra’s Story
On the surface, Audra had the perfect life: a great job, great kids, a nice house. But it was all
a facade. Inside, she suffered from deep depression and despair that stemmed from an adolescent trauma. Audra started drinking when she was 12, and at 42, she finally realized her world was spinning out of control.

“I knew I was going to die if I didn't stop, and I didn't see any way that I could. I took a video of myself in a really drunken state, and the next day I had my aunt call me and ask me, 'Honey you need some help — what can we do to help you?'” Audra said.

The next day, Audra packed herself off to a treatment facility.

“I knew that I needed help, and I had faith that God was going to put me in the right place.
Within about a day or two of being [in treatment], I truly believed that this is exactly where I needed to be.”

Sober and prepared to move on with her life, Audra is grateful for what she has learned about herself, and she is grateful for the new opportunity.

“Without the counseling, I don't think I really could have gotten to the root cause of why I was drinking. I have learned so much. With those counseling sessions, we were able to open up all those wounds and just put them on the table and just let them heal naturally and on their own,” she said. 

Katherine and Audra are living proof that there is hope for those who suffer a dual diagnosis. There is a way to take back life and move forward. The process can be arduous, and it lasts a lifetime, but in the end it’s the survivors who win — not their disease.

-- Constance Ray started Recoverywell.org with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it.

Photo by Pixabay