The Spanish American War lasted almost 4 months. That is the same amount of time I have had Mikey. But I have been in a war for much longer. This little pup came to me at the beginning of May, during COVID quarantine. It took me about a year and a half to decide that I would be able to benefit from a service dog.
See, I don't want to admit that I am struggling, I want to be the strong person in the situation, I don't want to be broken.
But, here I am to admit I am cracked, I am bendable, and I am unbreakable. I thought that having mental health issues made me less than a person, less than everyone else, just all together 'less than'. Most of you have read the first part of my story where my room mate took her own life to end her anguish. What you may not know, is that she took her life because of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). When I utter those words, or speak the acronym, I cringe. My heart drops to the floor and I crumble inside. My breath catches in my chest and my thought get fuzzy. Back in 1993, why didn't anyone in the military talk about MST? Why don't they talk about it today?
Shortly after Jenn took her life, I experienced MST. I was dating a Navy Chief, someone four ranks above me. There was an eight year age difference, but the rank difference weighed greater. He convinced me there was nothing wrong with starting a relationship with a senior petty officer, we were in different military branches, which most certainly ensured we were in different commands. He preyed on my vulnerability, and my wanting to be accepted.
The emotional abuse started early in the relationship and then sexual abuse crept in. I am thankful after the one night of physical abuse, I walked away from the relationship. I should have walked away sooner. As I was beaten and raped that night, my perpetrator uttered in my ear, "if I was your room mate, I would have killed myself too". There were other words, but those are the ones I hear over and over again. It was his power over me. He needed to have power, control, and I was the easy prey. I walked away from that relationship, but was discouraged from reporting the events of that night because I would have been the one to get in trouble, it was explained that a situation like that would be a career-ender for me.
So, where does that bring me to today? Here I am putting my most vulnerable moment in my life out there to help others. No women in the military deserves to be treated any less. I went through boot camp alongside men, I qualified at the range alongside men, I worked alongside men. I wear the same uniform, and do not need to prove that I am just as good as those men. And now I have Mikey in my life to help me through.
I don't have to prove anything to Mikey, he loves me just because I talk silly to him and care for him. Even if I'm having a bad day, and he frustrates me with constant potty breaks, he loves me through my frustration. I can be frustrated and not be less. My bathrooms can be dirty, and I am not less. The laundry isn't done, and I am not less. I don't have a full time job, and I am not less. To Mikey, I am all. I haven't allowed myself to feel that in very many years, the feeling is abstract; foreign.
As I mentioned earlier, it took me about a year and a half to decide to get a service dog. I had too many 'what if' scenarios running through my mind. I was thinking about a service dog before I ever mentioned it to my husband. Maybe I should have clued him in sooner, but I felt once I started the conversation, then it was a real possibility. I completed Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and thought more about a service dog. Then COVID-19 happened and I could feel myself needing something to distract me before I crawled into bed and not want to get out and function in life. Mikey saved me from the dark recesses of my innermost thoughts that were trying to drag my into a murky abyss. Sure I had two other dogs int he house, but they relied on my husband to meet their every need, and I couldn't take them with me if I went places. I was so fearful to go out in public.
Mikey and I have a long way to go to finish training, but we are getting there. So, feel free to raise a glass and toast Mikey and me. Our journey has just begun.