Jennifer, United States Air Force
I did the same thing Mikayla Bragg did in an effort to appear fine when in reality I was falling apart inside. I didn’t want my Chain of Command to know how and why I felt the way I did because I was judged, threatened, expected to “suck it up”, and my treatment and medications were used against me. I, too, was scheduled to go to Iraq in 2008 and had weaned off my medications so that I could do so. The VA was not willing to sign off on allowing me to deploy because they were afraid that I would have no support if something was to happen to me (they knew that I was trying to be strong but was ready to fall apart). I tried to fight them but in the end could not continue to hide the information from the military because of Q21 on my security clearance. Had I been supported from the get go (1999) and allowed to get the help I needed without worrying about how it would affect my career, I could have got healthy a lot sooner. But, I was not supported at all. I felt I had to hide the information from my Chain of Command because it was used against me. I was judged as being “crazy”, “on happy pills”, “a national security risk,” and “weak”. This type of treatment only compounded the PTSD. I had no confidentiality if I did get help because everyone in the Chain of Command was informed. This also ties into why PTSD for MST survivors is so traumatic. The assaults themselves are very traumatic, personal, and shameful. We wouldn’t see nearly as many PTSD claims as we do if it wasn’t for the continued abuse, judgement, and mistreatment by those in our Chain of Command. Instead, I would have still been serving my country while getting the help I needed to be the best soldier I could be.