I have done a few media interviews to raise awareness of both female veteran’s issues as well as try to relieve some of the stigma attached to PTSD. Initially I would read the comments section. I don’t know why. I think I was searching for someone to say something that would magically make my guilt fade away but usually, mixed in there with all the supportive comments would be the comments that were just plain ignorant and hurtful. I remember the first time I read comments that were like that and how they sent me spiraling downward. I would spend a few days feeling so unworthy of anything and the words that they carelessly wrote would resonate through my head… taking my therapy a step or two back. I felt on one hand that I had no business getting involved with interviews and media, but the part of me that is willing to sacrifice for everyone else would always come through. I knew I had to do these for the other veterans who were sitting at home dealing with the same guilt, frustration, isolation and loneliness that I was dealing with. Had I known there were others like me 5 years ago, I would have possibly accepted my diagnosis sooner and sought help.
So in every crowd there is the question about how a female Air Force Airman could possibly get PTSD. I wonder if these people have ever heard of para-rescuemen? Do they think that these special forces men are helicopter mechanics as well? How do they think the aircraft (C130s and HH60s) maintain airworthiness? Do they think that the PJ’s are the only Air Force people on base? Perhaps they feel that Air Force people value themselves over Army, Navy or Marines and that they don’t send their people in? Maybe they think that helicopters have amazing fuel efficiency and that all the Air Force people are on a beach in Spain eating steak every night? Perhaps they think that the Iraqi people have a very special place in their heart for Air Force so they make sure to not morter our little section of the base? This all sounds silly when you see it laid out right? When people make those comments I can’t help but think they must believe one of these points.
So while in D.C. I had the honor of meeting a few other female veterans. One was an Army jump master (oh, but that can’t be!) who was with the 82nd Airborne (gasp! not females!). Another female was an Air Force Capt. who helped set up Balad as an Air Force combat base. I also met a woman who has a Purple Heart who was a Platoon leader for the military police. We were sitting around, a few of these ladies and I, talking about different media things we had done for IAVA. I was shocked that they too got comments such as mine. I realized in that moment, that it wouldn’t matter if I singlehandedly took out the entire Iraqi resistance by myself while perched on a rooftop… The fact remained that as long as I am female, or Air Force, or the combination of the two, I automatically am deemed “unworthy” by people. For some reason, this realization made me feel better. I can’t take it too personal that people believe in the Easter bunny, Santa, or that the PJ’s were also trained as helicopter maintainers…
I no longer read comments to articles. I have come too far with my life since getting medically separated to let people get me down or set me back. I have seen more than a handful of people who hold a Doctorates degree who agree that I have PTSD; so why let some yahoo who has nothing better to do with his time than post hateful things get me down or make me doubt myself?