In Your Own Words — May 2019

Virginia Bryant (Credit: Giles Clasen)

Virginia Bryant (Credit: Giles Clasen)

Mayday! Mayday!

By Virginia Bryant, VOICE vendor

Maydays braying at the helm! Woman thrown overboard. Lifeboat deflated. Drowning in scum. Spitting, sinking, and rising to surface. Chopped head reattaching. Yeah, well, somewhat.

Ring around the posse and the possessed of evil by ego. Here I am, part of your drool running down your chin as your lip smacking sacrifice. Gang raped Veteran. Rancidities, the smell of sewers, running through the streets. Rat excrements clumping in varying shapes and sizes but none as retching as the prickling protrusions of some of the VA psychiatrists of the Jekyll and Hyde’s of a Jungian jungle. A masturbation of exacerbation. And now? An old woman finally up at bat.

 One scene of many, and more to this tale. Community room of phones burning hot red, receivers flaming with desperation’s pouring from the mouths of the jailed veterans, pleading, managing their lives from within the locked ward of a Denver VA hospital. Competition was often fierce. Dangling cords, receivers alive with hope. The combat of survival within closing walls. A gathering room for the disenfranchised, beleaguered, and otherwise deprived. 

We, the degenerates. We, the humiliated. We, the veterans. So many of us not escaping the scorching, steel tips of savagery. Destination: Hell

It’s been over two years now since a VA psychiatrist swaggered, swayed, and pounced upon me. Dragging me to his cave, where other monsters of M.D.’s awaited to feast upon my tender soul, slinging their stones at me, their humanity abbreviated in favor of diseased arrogance. 

This is Hurt. This is Pain. This is Suffering. This is Rage. This is Defiance. This is Hope. That, I, now a woman of 70, may begin to share more light than darkness and may find those who believe in a higher road to medical care than as part of their paycheck.

Still, I feel it…the shock as I was thrown into their cage, to break me further into bits and pieces, my life and any ounce of freedom or trust was stripped from me as my clothes were ordered off, eyes, raping my body, destroying any since of humanity I had. For their added insult and … and indecency to woman, a camera in the top corner of the room … on? off?

Pain erupting. The shame of my body exposed, taking from me any protection clothes offered me. She, they? look at me …m e, my body, my fat I can’t cover up, can’t hide, can’t protect with my clothes. These days does it matter who, what, or why the intrusion. The VA CYA stance and I couldn’t cover my ass!

I am the American veteran, the political football, tossed away into the stands, where justice is sidelined, and bureaucrats squat upon my life while using my tax money to deny my chance at life, at healing.

I am the American female veteran, sexually violated, my spirit gagged and bound, dragged through the dirt, forever cursed as a psycho because now, NOW, my baggage includes being dragged into a VA psych ward on as a Gravely Disabled mentally illness charge.

I, the prisoner. I, the woman. I, the veteran. I, the elder. I, the abandoned. I, the betrayed. The MST of PTSD victim, once again fucked. Blackened, Bruised, with advanced degrees in fragility. 

It was a chilly, early December day that I decided to visit this doctor to get a prescription for a mild anxiety drug. 

It was a frozen, stunned woman finally released a day before a 68th birthday to find the VA’s safety plan was another chapter of hell.

Sleep, sleep, take me away, make me not wake this next day. ■

Raelene Johnson (Credit: Jesse Borrell)

Raelene Johnson (Credit: Jesse Borrell)

Grateful to be Alive

By Raelene Johnson, VOICE vendor

When you come close to death, it can make you rethink a lot of things. First, you spend days in a hospital, then you get home and find out your dog has brain damage from her long seizure. Then, six days later, she dies. I know she is not suffering anymore, but it sure hurt! Coming so close to death really hit me hard! 

In the past, when I almost died, I would come to and say “damn, I’m still here!” Then I was left to wonder why I was still here. This time, I couldn’t believe I almost died. 

On March 1, in the hospital, I celebrated 10 years being clean of crack cocaine. It took me weeks to come to terms with knowing I’d almost died. It made me open my eyes to what is real in life. Self first, family next, and make a life with what makes you happy. Be kind to everyone, do kind things to help others, share yourself with people who have your back, and totally let go of your past. Being stuck in the past will only hold you hostage. You have to get it in your head that you can’t go forward if you are always looking back. You can’t change the past, and regrets get you nowhere. You have to learn from your mistakes. 

Everything in your past should only make you stronger. You survived, you can now help someone else who needs you. You can impact someone’s life just by sharing your story, and that will help you get stronger than you could know. 

After coming close to death in February, it made me realize life is to short to hold onto anything from the past. You can’t change anything that happened to you, so let go and take charge of yourself! Life is whatever you make for yourself! No one can do it for you like you. All I can tell you today is to take care of yourself and love yourself. If you do, you will find peace you never knew before. I Hope you find your happiness today! ■

Brian Augustine (Credit: Giles Clasen)

Brian Augustine (Credit: Giles Clasen)

The Biggest Lie I Was Told Growing Up

By Brian Augustine, VOICE vendor

As a child, I was told lots of lies. Some to make me feel better, and some to try and hurt me. These lies hurt my growing into a man. 

Everyone has heard the saying “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” This lie only serves to block your feelings. Name-calling hurts your self-esteem, especially when you’re young and unsure of yourself in the world. 

When I started first grade, my brother was in the sixth grade and going through puberty, and his sweat glands went full bore. He got the name “Augustink,” and it was passed down to me. It was bad enough the kids called me that, but my gym teacher started calling me that. It brought big laughs from the other kids and he was so happy with the result that he picked on me daily. For three years, he didn’t ever give up. 

I met him again. I was 22 in a bar, and when he heard my name, he called me “Augustink.” I recognized him. I didn’t say a word, I just broke his jaw. His wound healed in six weeks, but mine stays with me all my life. They call it verbal abuse now. 

If someone insults me now, I have my armor up. If someone insults me, I take it and I look at it to see if it’s true. If not, I throw it away. If it’s true, I see if it’s something I like about myself. If I don’t, I can change it. This is my armor. We all have different types. ■