Not me. Not this time.

HappyBirthdayMy Love

I have never been the one to mess with. I have either always knew the rule or researched it enough to know whether my stance on the matter was right or wrong. Health/ dental insurance don’t mess with me.  I know my contract in and out. I know what I am “entitled to”.

“But Dacia, you’re a millennial, you’re not entitled to anything!

I am a ten year Army veteran. I have earned my health and dental plans. (But really they are my husband’s work’s so shut up. Yes I have ‘earned’ them)

So let me tell you women something. You do not have to agree with what they tell you.

You don’t have to go along because you don’t know any better

You can learn negative and detrimental things of you own past that bring to light something you held at high regard.

You can learn that ‘”protection” might not have actually saved you from the danger of your own family.

You can learn that after 32 years of existence, what you thought you had built your own foundation  on was a lie or was kept a secret from you, in hopes that it would go away.

I feel ashamed and defensive. I feel like I am owed the truth on the matter before I go chiseling at the details.

I feel that being so comfortably removed from the situation has, yes, saved me from the physical hurt that others have experienced but also left the remaining victims silent in their recovery, personal remorse, and unable to anonymously share their side of the story.

Ladies- You are not alone. Many have felt this pain. It is not my story to tell, but if you can help others by stepping up, then maybe it’s worth it.

It is time that you have felt this validation. That YOU know that you are loved despite the things that happened to you.

I grew up so far removed. My memories are locked in the photos I own. I try to apply principles to my own little family that has very different dynamics.

If you can please help me to understand why women lay so vulnerable to men;   not allowing their own voices to be heard. Why do you place your husband above the love of your children? Then I may be able to sleep tonight.

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Choose Life

This essay was shared with me in confidence, and my dear friend will remain anonymous by her request. This very subject brings out ever primal instinct in me to fight and protect and cry all at the same time.

Friend- I can find no words. You have always been a strong personality in my day to day, but I shamefully underestimated what was underneath. You are strong beyond measure. You chose to overcome rather than be defeated. You continue to look for ways to build yourself against all odds. You are beautiful and worth every ounce of respect given to you. Thank you for choosing life.

Choose Life

Note to readers: I feel like my heart is out in the open as I write this, but at the same time, I feel empowered now that I have the courage to share what was once considered shameful, something that was never to be acknowledged as events that actually happened. This. Actually. Happened.  Sadly, it’s happening to someone else as you read this. I hope sharing my story helps raise awareness and gives another survivor the courage to reach out, get help, and regain control of their life.

“Either you can tell them, or they can find out when Child Protective Services comes to your house tomorrow.” my youth pastor told me.  I felt my heart pounding in my chest and my eyes welled up as I shook my head.

“No, no, they can’t know! They can’t know, please don’t do this.” I responded fervently.  My pastor and I were talking outside of my youth group and people were around, but my surroundings quickly faded at the urgency of the dialogue.  How could I tell my mom that her father, a man loved by all, had sexually abused me from ages six to twelve?  And furthermore, how could I tell my parents on Mother’s Day? I knew my mom would believe me and that she wouldn’t be mad at me, but I didn’t want our “perfect world” to be flipped upside down.

I don’t remember much about what happened that Mother’s Day.  I told my mom that Grandpa abused me every time he saw me for the last six years, and I recall silent tears streaming down her face.  She didn’t have a chance to tell my dad, so he found out when CPS and the police officer knocked on our door.

The first time it happened, I was in the shower when my grandpa came in.  My whole family was on the other side of the bathroom door. Grandpa was bold. I remember asking my grandpa, “Is this sex?” He answered yes and told me that if I ever told anyone it would tear the family apart.

People were around a lot of the times when he abused me. He would ask me to get something from the garage, but I wouldn’t know until we got there if he wanted to touch me or if we were actually getting something.  Other times it would be just me, my brother, and cousins in the house and Grandpa would take only me into his room. Later, my brother admitted that he and my cousins often excluded me because they were jealous that Grandpa spent so much time with me.

Eventually, my own behavior starting manifesting warning signs.  I used to pretend that my dolls were having sex, and one time I put a towel over my and my younger cousin’s head and began kissing her; thinking that nobody would notice since the towel was over our heads.  The abuse was literally right under my family’s noses, and from a young age I was exhibiting “red flag” behaviors.

Strangely, my family’s perfect Pleasantville never altered after they learned the truth.  My family did not want to treat me like a victim, so they acted like nothing ever happened to me. They could not bear to hear the details, so nobody asked me what happened, and I never told.  It felt as if my family thought I should be “over it” since the abuse was over. The police never heard the full story either and my grandpa was never charged for something that would have caused him to spend many years in prison. It also didn’t help that CPS sent a man; I did not feel comfortable speaking with him.  Instead, I spoke with the female police officer, but I was never asked to share the details of what happened to me.

My parents thought they were doing everything right, protecting me from seeing my grandpa until I was ready and taking me to counseling. I attended therapy throughout high school and it helped, but it was always situational conflict resolution instead of addressing the core issue.  I remember working through my relationships with my dad as well as an abusive boyfriend. Both byproducts of the abuse—my hesitancy to get close with my dad and being overly submissive with my boyfriend.  It was as if therapy addressed the aftermath of the abuse, but not the abuse itself.  Imagine a broken glass jar.  Therapy cleaned up the tiny shards of glass on the floor, but did nothing to repair the shattered jar itself.

I was a high functioning teenager and learned to cope without ever having to verbalize the things my grandfather had done to me.  Looking back on my late teen/early adulthood years, it seems everything was normal, including my mental health. I graduated high school with good grades and studied nursing in college.  However, during college, I felt strong emotions resurface about the abuse.  Pediatric nursing taught me about play therapy, how kids reenact what they’re exposed to, and that psuedoseizures often correlate with molestation.  Suddenly, I was filled with anger toward my parents, wondering how life would have been different if they’d recognized my warning symptoms and intervened.

I managed to graduate from nursing school and marry an amazing man, but anxiety always loomed in the shadows of my mind. I remained a victim to what I now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I suffered alone, not realizing that my mind was constantly functioning in a state of high alert; seeing threats, causing panic at every turn.  I was scared to walk down sidewalks by myself, afraid to shower unless my husband was around (lest someone break into my home and abuse me).  My brain worked like this—always on guard, and if I let my guard down, then I’d be vulnerable.  I had nightmares, panicked at the sight of fathers kissing their daughters, was anxious because a male doctor cared for me as a patient, and felt dirty inserting a urinary catheter in an elderly man.  I felt alone, like nobody else was experiencing what I was going through.

When I realized that PTSD was affecting my career, I sought further counseling.  For the first time, I endured the painful memories so that I could reconcile my past.  I had to relive my childhood, as a grown woman, and think about events that hadn’t crossed my mind in over a decade.   It was as if I rewound time, passed the “recovered” stage of college and young married life, and resurrected the memories of a child trying to hold it all together.  For the first time, my story was heard.

After coping with these horrendous events, I determined that I would not be defined by the abuse.  I chose not to be a victim to PTSD; I chose LIFE! I learned coping mechanisms like: assessing risk versus fear, realizing that nobody can hurt me with their glances or their words (no matter how inappropriate), allowing myself to ask someone to accompany me to a restaurant bathroom, and remembering that what my husband and I do in our bedroom is safe and consensual.

With this change, however, comes new fears.   I need guidance with many things that people take for granted because they grew up in a home with healthy boundaries.  I reformat every thought in my head and assess if it’s PTSD or a rational thought.  It’s a constant change that needs to occur, and success is dependent on this change. For example, I had to be taught that bathing my nephew and teaching him basic grooming skills is caregiving rather than incestuous.  I wish I could say that I made that dramatic change once and it fixed my life forever, but it’s a change that I have to make every day in order to succeed. Now I choose courage over fear. Now, I’m no longer the victim—I’m the victor.

I have overcome many challenges on this journey, but I know there will be many more to face.

Like how will I manage the trials of pregnancy and child birth? Perinatal checks, strangers touching my baby bump, and everyone wanting to hold my baby? How will I feel safe as a patient if I need narcotics or anesthesia? Choosing courage requires me to lower my guard and place trust in my caregivers.

This abuse will stay with me forever, and I will constantly have to change my natural responses in order to have a life worth living.  But I can be a conqueror, overcomer, and regain control of my life.  I don’t have to be known as, “the girl who was abused.”  I am the woman who picked herself up, has a successful marriage, a thriving career, and wants to be a mother someday.  I choose to change my perception every day so I can have an enjoyable, authentic life.  I am worth it.

Six Fact Sunday

So it’s Saturday, but most will wake up to this post so here it goes.

In March I will begin a very intense writing challenge which will limit my time here with you all. So the compromise is that I will aim at doing one very structured post.

Since this is the first, this week will simply be about me. Six things you probably do not already know about me.

  1. I can say “Hello. How are you. I am good. I am tired.” in six different languages. Enough to make a person otherwise isolated smile at my attempt at relating. These six languages include English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, and Swahili (my personal favorite). The funny thing is, if you have watched the movie Lion King, you know far more Swahili than you think. Simba= Lion. Rafiki= Monkey. Hakunah Matata really means “No worries”. lol Isn’t that fun?!!? In the hospital where I work, there are many African immagrants and they typically speak French or Swahili. When you say hello in their native language their faces light up. It’s so fun.
  2. I once turned in a human jaw bone belonging to a 200 year old Native American man to the coroner’s office. This is a looong story for another time.
  3. I once physically took two children from their home and placed them into protective custody. This is a sad and frustrating story of a young woman mentally unfit to care for her own kids. I would not be in the least bit surprised if they never made back to her. Sweetest kids ever and I was 6 months pregnant and managed to hold it together. Ugh.
  4. I once served someone divorce papers. Very awkward, but he was expecting them.
  5. I have only been a writer for two years. This is how long I have been working on my current novel. I get stuck on character interactions in difficult situations.
  6. Coffee means sooooo much to me. I can go without it, but there is a sense of calm and security it brings me that If it came down to my health or coffee, I would have to make a few compromises.  Sometimes I drink decaf if I get a late night craving because it is far more about the taste and experience than the caffeine involve. I would just consider that a perk at this point.

So now you know a little about me. Want more 6 facts? What subjects would you like to see? Later posts might include:

“Six Facts About Civilian Life After the Military”

“Six Facts About Solo Parenting”

“Six Facts About Sleep Deprivation”

Lawd I think I have my month planned out. Cheers!!


There is still time to enter into the Give-Away!

How do I enter???

First- Follow my blog by clicking the “+Follow” button at the bottom right side of your screen.

Reblog your favorite Britestfyrefly post on your own page and link it back to me so I know who you are.
Share the link to one of your favorite posts on Facebook and tag me.
Email the link to your favorite post to a few people and CC me.
You may share as much as you want. Each link shared will get you an entry into the drawing which will happen Live on Facebook on February 28th and be posted and shared later that day.

Good luck everyone and Thank you all for all of your support through the last couple of years. A writer is nothing without readers 😀

TBT Fun!

Apparently (I use this word because, like I have mentioned before, my memory is shot) my cousin and I used to be pen pals. Of the many MANY cousins, there were three of us girls around the same age. One that I just found out has had a blog for a year and never told me until yesterday… The other is a very successful dance teacher and Silk instructor (not her in the video obviously but an example of what she does).

Anywho- Dancer cousin and I used to be pen pals. (Blog cousin and I used to live together which will probably fill many many future posts).

I am a year older and I think around the time we were 11 and 12 or 12 and 13, we wrote back and forth a few times. WELL… I uncovered this treasure in my pile of junk.

sam

A few things stand out to me about this.

  1. She wanted to know about my life. I wanted everything she had. Her house that never changed. Her friends that she could keep as long as she wanted. Her room that was HUGE. Even the easy bake oven that Grandma got her for Christmas, instead of my Barbie Car. But here it is. SHE wanted to know about ME.
  2. My handwriting is not much different 20ish years later.
  3. Our dreams and wants were the same at that age. I wanted to be a Biochemist and work for NASA growing crops on Mars. And who doesn’t want to look thin. I didn’t get either of those things. Boo.

My cousin and I lost touch for a long time. I remember one year at Thanksgiving, she brought her then fiance. I was so jealous that she was getting married before me. A couple years later I reached out to her on my way to desert training for the military. It was a long bus ride so I had plenty of time. She told me about her horrifying emergency delivery. I listened and burned the story into my mind. Even through the birth of my son and daughter being unplanned C-sections, I remember her story and would never wish it on anyone.

My cousin was a key player in the healing of my miscarriages before Little Miss came along. Well placed inappropriate jokes helped me get through the utter loss that consumed me. She made me more comfortable to discuss them, and to write about them. I hoped to one day be that support for someone else.

When our grandmother passed away, my sister and I stayed with my cousin. I feel like there was not nearly enough time spent together, I realized how these women in my life (Dancer and Blogger) are my sisters. I feel so much warmth and love for these two along with my own sister that I truly cannot articulate.

Though I moved around so many times as a kid, and only have exactly one friend that I am in constant contact with, I know that these women will always be my best friends and be there for me without question or judgement.

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There is still time to enter into the Give-Away!

How do I enter??? 

First- Follow my blog by clicking the “+Follow” button at the bottom right side of your screen.

  1. Reblog your favorite Britestfyrefly post on your own page and link it back to me so I know who you are.
  2. Share the link to one of your favorite posts on Facebook and tag me.
  3. Email the link to your favorite post to a few people and CC me.

 

You may share as much as you want. Each link shared will get you an entry into the drawing which will happen Live on Facebook on February 28th and be posted and shared later that day.

Thank you all for all of your support through the last couple of years. A writer is nothing without readers 😀

 

Oh Father, Where Art Thou?

Then there was the time I joined the Army. Throughout my 10 years, I was often asked “Why did you join?”

The easy answer was that I ran out of things to do. In retrospect, at the ripe old age of 19 I find it extremely hard to believe. But looking back at my options at the time, if I did not get out of that tiny town, I would have never left. I miss that place, but it was too small for me.

The real answer and my driving force to join the Army was a Hail Mary attempt at connecting with my father. Growing up, I remember him always coming or going. We would record our voices on cassette tapes and send them to whatever country he was in that year. He would send some back with souvenirs, some I still have to this day.

I remember the way my dad smelled when he would come back from the field. All of his gear would smell like camouflage and sweat. My brother and I would try to hold his feet while he did sit ups and then he would leave the house and run for miles before coming back drenched and out of breathe.

I remember Christmases were the most magical time. Mom and Dad would go all out, rearranging the house and adding decorations we have no idea existed. I never really felt the tinge of needing. I’m sure they went without before we ever did.

2002 sent my dad to Korea. I completed a year of Bible college where the focus was on finding the love of God as a Father. This bought about many glaring daddy issues I never knew existed and a driving need to rectify them.

 

I enlisted in the Army while my dad was at war. I knew he could not tell me “No” once I had done it. Looking back, being in the midst of death and violence, I am almost positive it broke his heart to imagine his daughter in such a place. He was nothing but supportive, and even was able to make Christmas special from where ever he was:

 

“Hello Everyone,

Sorry I’m not anywhere to get you a nice Christmas card. They did finally get some Thanks giving ones in.

A lot of fighting in Ramadi these days. We continue to take casualties, but I think we are doing well. Your Dad is “A Fighting First Sergeant”. I’ll be glad when this chapter in life has concluded.

I miss you and love you. Your invisible Father,

Love, Dad”

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I received a couple of letters from my dad prior to this at boot camp. The Drill Sergeants would call us out of formation to collect our mail. One  day I was questioned as to who the letter was from, seeing that it came from a military base over seas from a First Sergeant with my last name. I told them my father was at war. They let me go without consequence, and I found that quite strange. On Thanksgiving, as we all stood completely still and silent, that same Drill Sergeant called upon me as we waited to enter the dining facility for our holiday meal.

“Private Gilliam! Who is your father?”

“First Sergeant Gilliam, Drill Sergeant.”

“Now listen up, pit stains! While you go inside and file thru getting your fatty-cakes and licky-chewies, remember that there are Soldiers far more discipline than you, eating MRE’s or nothing at all. Private Gilliam’s dad is at war. He isn’t eating turkey. He’ll be lucky to get  peanut butter on a stale piece of bread.”

As “tough” as I wanted to be, I cried. He was right and I felt so ashamed for never realizing that he was not away from home because he wanted to be. That day I realized where he had been throughout my life.

When I went home for Christmas break, I was able to check my email and found that he had sent a mass email to the family.

 

“Hello everyone, It has been a while and communications will continue to be sporadic like this for a while. There has been a great deal of fighting and it is not over by a long shot in this country… Please pray for them [his Soldiers]. I am fine. I am currently on my third hummvw. The first one was blown up an 2 Sep. The second took 2 rpg rounds in the left rear door and out the back of the vehicle in Oct. Now I’m down to a haji armored cargo. It has already been hit by a proximity mortar round which shredded my cooler in the back. Up until that point I hadn’t gotten angry. However, I had hopes of cleaning that cooler up and setting it next to my recliner full of light beer from Miller after I retire. It was more important to me than the big screen TV I am going to buy. Oh yeah and a few new bullet holes in the front windshield, but it is bullet proof so long as we don’t take too many more. We are back to living without electricity, water, the usual. My company has commandeered a large castle (Keep) looking building. The rest of the battalion is holding up in a small post a mile or so down the road. I tell ya, it has been fifteen years since I had to burn human excrement. But it was a most humbling and almost spiritual ritual… Anyway, I am good and all is well today. Never take your life for granted. Love, Jim”

letter2

Not many people know that my dad is a funny guy. In the thick of all that had and was happening, he did not want us to worry but he did want us to know what it was like. I also want to add that he lost his first hummvw the day before his birthday and the second when I left for boot camp. None of us (family) had any idea.

When I returned after Christmas, I found out that both of my feet had stress fractures and my hips were not much better off. I was 5’2″ and 120 pounds tops carrying the same load as the 6’2″ guy next to me. Okay, maybe his boots weighed more than mine but  you get the idea. I had never been athletic in my life. I was struggling to even walk some days but trying to make it through with my peers. Dad sent me this:

 

“Dear Dacia, It was great to get your letter. I mean REALLY GREAT. Glad to hear basic is going well for you. It is a steady paycheck. Do the best that you can and even if you do recycle, it’s that much more money in the bank.

I love you and miss you. I am very, very proud of you. With the way things are  you could probably transfer to Active Duty if you like it. I go along your thoughts and try the part time thing first.

Here in Ramadi we are preparing for the upcoming elections…  We will never make the news though because Ramadi is the political capital of the Anbur Province. So there is too much of our own politics at stake here… Never forget what your job means  in the Army. You take care and do your best. I love you sooooo much. Love, Dad”

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I carried this letter into my own war. In 2007, I deployed to work in Baghdad ER as a medic. For 15 months I witnessed the atrocities of war. I would look into young Soldier’s eyes, talking to them, trying to calm them as we tended to their fatal wounds before they slipped off to sleep and up to the operating room for a last chance at some sort of life beyond their wounds. I never followed up to know if they made it home. We would already be onto another set of young men and women mangled from a fight. Children would come in the same way.

I pushed through that time in my life because I never forgot what my job meant. I had also not only witnessed but experience a small fraction of what my dad went through while his little girl prepared for the same.

The day my father announced his retirement, I cried. Could my father truly be a mortal being? Would he still wear his uniform as a Sergeant Major as he walked me down the isle and give me away to my husband?

Yes, yes, and yes. Over twenty years of an infantry career, took its toll on my father’s body, but he would still dawn the uniform with his rows and rows of ribbons perfectly straight and right shoulder insignia proudly displayed. As we stood at the closed door that represented the rest of my life, the other side a gentleman sang “Lady” by Styx, my dad looked at my and said “Are they going to change the music or are we walking out to this?”

“No, Dad. We are walking out to this.” He smiled and the door opened.

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In his loud, clear, and stern Sergeant Major voice, he announced “Her mother and I” were giving me away.

Later that evening, the moment came to dance with my dad. I do not recall this ever happening before in my life. “We Belong” by Pat Benetar played and I cried.

“How did we get here, MeMe?” His little girl who had shitty handwriting in third grade and who hated to do homework had been to war twice and was now married.

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Even in his retirement, my father has been the one I have turned to for life advice. He would offer it knowing I was going to do what I wanted anyway. He was supportive and always proud even if the road I took to success was not the easiest. I made it work, I made a family, and I grew into a happy successful adult.

I attribute my resilience to having to do things for myself. Needing to find my own way to get there. My dad really is a funny guy. No one else would no that. He has always been my hero. Love you, King Daddy.

 

Poet and Didn’t Know-et.

Aside from class assignments, I cannot currently write poetry. But there was a time when I could. When my adolescent and young adult demons where well fed and I struggled to find myself. This past weekend, my husband and I went through our basement and years of boxes we have packed around our adult lives from houses, cities, states, and failed relationships. I stumbled upon letters from my father (another post for another time), letters from my husband when we were deployed to two different countries, and old poems I had written many lifetimes ago that I would like to share.

I am not sure who this poem is about, but goodness I was in a horrible place.

“Showcase”

I hate the way you love me

The way you feed on my misery

Thirsting for my tears and sweat that fall to the ground, watering the garden of your ego

I am your accessory

I smile for your convenience

Standing on a pedestal you placed me on to drink freely on the attention from other men.

I cannot leave you.

You have taken all from me.

I cannot breathe without you.

Yet when you sleep, I am alone again.

You hurt me when you tore down my walls

I cry when you touch me.

I kept you at arms length, but you still broke through.

It’s not okay. I’m not okay.

What you have taken from me, I can never give again.

But still you ask for more… more…

I only have but one soul.

Now I am a ghost who sleeps in your bed

A memory of who I used to be and who you tell people I am.

Syrian Babies

I am reluctant to write such a confrontational post, but the more I hold this in, the more it eats my soul.

Lately it has been a thing to post photos of injured/ dead Syrian children on social media. For the love of everything I just can’t.

I can see why one might feel that this is justified: They are raising awareness of the atrocities that are occurring in Syria and the need for liberation, They are angry at our president for banning further refugees into America, They want to shock people into action.. However they wish to justify sharing these images, I am not in the least bit concerned.

Have you ever seen an injured or otherwise mangled child? Have you been to war and seen first hand the “collateral damage”? Have you treated a little kid whose abdominal contents sit visible while that little one is in so much shock, he does not even realize the extent of his ouchy? No? Never? Then stop fricken putting these photos on your FaceBook! You are not creating a soft spot in people’s hearts, are you making them numb to death. You are turning a subject that should outrage people into another make up tutorial.

“Dacia, how can you just stand idly by while these horrible things are happening to babies?!” I will tell you how. Because hearing the screams from these babies killed and maimed over a war that is not theirs saying “Where were you while we were being slaughtered?!” is too much for me to carry emotionally.

When I see these posts and these babies, all the memories of real children that I have touched, held,  and carried to the morgue come rushing back. AND THEN, the faces of these teeny babies are replaced with the faces of my own children and I suddenly understand that I cannot, no matter how much I love them and try, I cannot protect them. Not my kids. Not Syrian kids. Do you think that the parents of Sandy Hook thought that their kids were safe when they dropped them off at school? Of course they did. I live everyday terrified that the things I had seen and experienced at war, will one day follow me home and show up on my door step. I daily use methods to keep PTDS and obsessive actions at bay when it comes to my children.

So PLEASE, stop don’t share these photos. I have experienced war. I know what happens. It is disgusting, and horrible what is happening but FaceBook is not going to contact your city representatives and voice your opinion about your city’s stance on refugees. FaceBook is not where you go to open your home to a family or even an orphan of a war torn country. FaceBook is not going to donate money to replace what was formerly subsidized by the Federal government to house these people.