I grew up in New Mexico and Arizona off and on the Navajo reservation with my large extended family and our herd of sheep and goats. Summers were spent farming and taking care of our herd. I joined the Army right after high school, thinking it was the only way I could afford a college education.
I served 5 years as a medic and deployed once to Kosovo and Iraq. When I left the Army and returned home I didn’t know what PTSD was until after a few reckless lost years spent moving from town to town, job to job, and in and out of relationships. I knew something had to change. I finally decided to seek help.
I spent countless hours in therapy sessions, hiking, dancing, hot yoga, running, making art, writing, rock climbing, sweat lodging, meditating, working with horses – desperate to make it better, to heal and grow and finally be ok with the woman that war made me. I’ve learned to let go of who I was before the Army and embrace who I am now. It has been a painful but much needed process.
I did attend college. I graduated in 2012 with my BFA in Studio Arts and am grateful for all the studio time I was allowed to explore printmaking, photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. I love the creative process and it’s truly been my saving grace.
These days I feel the closest to calm that I’ve ever been. I’ve learned to maintain a healthy balance of exercise and alone time to manage my depression, rage, anxiety, guilt, and nightmares. I am a constant work in progress, with some days being easier than others. As one Vietnam Veteran said to me once “It (PTSD) never goes away. It will always be there. But you can get better.” For the first time in my life I believe it.