Take One Day at a Time: Surviving Post-Traumatic Stress

Take One Day at a Time: Surviving Post-Traumatic Stress

by Mickey Dennis


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781412085748
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 08/16/2006
Pages: 146
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Mickey Dennis is a Vietnam veteran, PTSD suffer for over 32 years, married with 3 children, born and raised in Macon, Georgia, lived in South Dakota over 37 years, active member of PVBA, BVA, American Legion, VFW, YMCA, DAV and available for speaking engagements.

Read an Excerpt


Surviving Post-Traumatic Stress

Mickey Inc

Copyright © 2006 Mickey Dennis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4120-8574-8

Chapter One

I left Rapid City, South Dakota in December of 1968. Navy boot camp was in San Diego, California. The first two weeks were a struggle, and I had to pray every night and day for strength.

It was hard for me to keep up with the rest of my company. Most of my company came from well-to-do families, and they had a good education. It was difficult to be accepted by these men. I was black with only a fifth grade education. I was also physically small. I was 5'10" and weighed about one hundred and thirty-five pounds.

The fact that I wore thick glasses did not help my case. Everyone treated me like dirt, even though I tried to make friends. I was struggling with my academic skills, and some of the physical training was difficult for me to perform. However, I worked hard, and I was determined to make something of myself. I could feel my mother's spirit around me and I knew she was there with me. We talked all the time on the telephone, and it was as if she was present and protecting me. Without her support, I would have never survived boot camp.

After boot camp, I was ordered to report to the ship U.S.S. Tuscaloosa that was in the Philippines. I was so excited about this new stage of my life. I could not wait to get on board the ship. My first week was orientation, and I was to meet the people with whom I would be working for the next twoyears. My impression of the crew, my superiors, and my new place of residence was positive and awesome. I was now in the Navy and I was determined to be the best cook the Navy had ever seen.

If only my mother could have seen me in my new uniform on the ship. She had been unable to come see me at graduation, but I sent a lot of pictures, and I called as often as possible. During my orientation I made a request to be a cook and I was promised by the Lt. Commander that they would work me in as soon as the opportunity presented itself, but that deckhands were needed now.

I spent two years on that ship. I never had a chance to cook, even though I pressed my request up the chain of command. I later learned that there was only one black cook on the entire ship. Apparently, cooking was not menial enough for a black man at the time.

But I did my best to be a good sailor. That was the most important thing to me and my mother. I never forgot the lessons my mother taught me. I was to love and respect everyone regardless of race or status. I was taught to treat others as I would like to be treated. She had a positive outlook and always told me that everything would work out.

* * *

In spite of my efforts, my last year of service became hell. I learned the hard way that hell can be on this earth in the here and now. I learned that you do not need to kill someone to steal their life. I should know, because I have spent many days and years going to and from VA hospitals and mental wards. What happened to me in my last military year is the most destructive thing that can happen to a human being.

I was sexually abused by men who hated me because of the color of my skin. I was raped, beaten with beer bottles, and left for dead. For the first time, I truly understood the evil that men can do to each other.

For the first time, I looked into the chasm of hate and I realized that the depth of hate was bottomless. I was betrayed by men I thought were my friends. I was emotionally and mentally destroyed.

I cannot find the words to describe how I felt after the rape. I was in shock. My body was covered with my blood and their semen was smeared all over my body.

I was off ship when this attack occurred. It took three days to clear my mind, and I was now AWOL from the ship. I needed transportation back to my ship, and I needed medical help badly. I was weak and I could not stop crying. My very soul was in extreme pain. Yet in my mind, I heard my mother's assurance that everything would be alright. Everything was so confusing. I was only an empty shell of a human being trying to stumble back to safety.

Finally I got back to my ship, and found the courage to talk to someone about what had happen to me. I requested to see the Captain, and was granted a Captain's Mast. The night before the meeting I was filled with anxiety. I asked God to help me through this situation, and I wondered how this would affect my mother. The next day I was called to the Captains Office. The Captain, the Lt. Commander, and two Chief Petty Officers were present. The Captain asked me to tell him what happened. When he spoke those words, I began to cry. It was a good hour before I was able to tell my story.

Finally I was able to give the names of my attackers. The Captain told the two Petty Officers to leave the room, I never knew why. I continued to tell what happened, and it was difficult and painful to speak. The Captain asked what evidence I had against the men I named. I kept saying that a crime had been committed. I began to cry again, and I began showing them - pulling off my clothes to reveal the wounds.

When the Officers saw the bruises and the continued blood flowing from my torn rectum they called for the Ships Doctor right away. I was placed in sickbay immediately.

Charges were filed, but everything was done quietly. There was concern that some of the black sailors would retaliate if the news of the rape got out. I was released from sickbay in two days. The physical pain was better, but the emotional pain was severe. I was starting to realize that hell was about to begin. A hell I would have to endure for the remainder of my life.

The worst thing the rape victim must endure is not the rape itself. It is the vicious memory of the act, playing over and over continually every day of your life. Nor did I know how difficult my life aboard the ship was to become. I wondered what would happen when the news of my rape got out. What would the reaction of my ship mates be? How could I live and work on the same ship with the three men who raped me?

I was concerned that my attackers would harm me again. Perhaps they would try to murder me by throwing me overboard. I am sure that other people knew of the rape, but no one was talking openly about it at the time. Emotionally I was consumed by guilt, shame, and sadness. When your body has been raped and beaten, you become a different person. The changes that occurred to me were bewildering and frightening. There was no escape from the daily depression that ensued.

As I mentioned, the investigation was done on the quiet. A month passed and then came the day that I expected to see justice done. I hoped I could receive some peace at last. When I reported to the Captain's office, the three men who had raped me were present.

The hate I could feel from them was so intense I felt ill. The Captain, the Lt. Commander, two Chief Petty Officers, my attackers, and I were all present. All the proceedings were recorded and I felt safe. I felt the outcome would be true justice. My attackers confessed that they had beaten me and sexually molested me, but they claimed they had my consent for these actions. At the end of the hearing, the decision was recorded, and the verdict was despicable to me.

My attackers claimed that I wanted to receive the beating, and wanted to have my rectum ripped apart.

Of course, that was not true.

My attackers were found guilty of simple assault. I felt so helpless, so unimportant, that I must have been a pitiful sight. From the day of that verdict, I would never be the same mentally or emotionally.

There were numerous attempts to have the case overturned, but to no avail. My dreams of service to my country went up in smoke. I could not stay in a system that had betrayed me and justice itself. Finally I accepted that nothing more could be done to seek justice although I tried every avenue. I could not imagine what I had done to receive this unjust verdict. After the verdict, everyone knew of the rape. Everyone wanted to know what happened, and how it happened. The questions were unbearable. Not a day went by without someone asking about the rape. My peace was gone and the daily situation was extremely difficult to endure.

Finally, we pulled into port. I was able to call my mother, and tell her the details of my rape and the aftermath. She told me she loved me and that I was her pride and joy. She said that something good was about to happen to me, even though I would not expect it. She felt I had arrived at the point where the Lord could come into my life and do some powerful things through me. She explained that I had done nothing wrong and that she knew I was not a homosexual. She again expressed her love and told me how proud she was of me. She encouraged me to trust in God. After the conversation, I prayed that God would guide me through the hard time that my mom and I were going through. I asked for God to make me strong.

After I was discharged from the Navy, I went home to Mom. I was near dead. I was buried under a burden of despair and sorrow. I was physically wounded and my mental pain was far beyond any physical pain I had ever known. With my mother's love, time, and patience, things became somewhat better. I could always feel her unconditional love and support. I hoped that someday I would feel some happiness again. Mom and I discussed the rape and its aftermath many times.

I will never forget the talks we had during that terrible first year after the rape. I was unable to work. I was emotionally dead and shamed. I began to feel a lot of guilt over time although I had done nothing wrong.

But my mother was a very strong woman and she loved the Lord. She always had something to tell me about God. She felt that failure was an event that had nothing to do with the person himself. She believed life is an adventure, and you must learn to forgive others. Above all, she felt one had to acknowledge God and follow the path He has laid before us.

Yet this is not easy. When a great tragedy happens: when a job is lost, a devastating illness occurs, or a loved one dies, it is not easy at all. It is not easy to absorb these blows lightly and to remain positive. I still find her instructions difficult, as I did then.

Chapter Two

I was born in 1950 to the most wonderful and courageous woman that God put on this earth. Her name was Cora May Dennis. My mother was always there for me. Not one day passed when she did not tell me that she loved me. She promised me she would always be with me, even beyond the gates of death, and I am sure she'll keep her promise.

I lived most of my childhood in the strongly segregated city of Macon, Georgia. Although those were terrible years, I can remember having fun times and experiences. Most of our friends and neighbors were very poor and uneducated, yet there was a great sense of community and commitment.

I never saw my father until I was twenty five years of age. He was a destroyed man and there was no bond between us. I often wonder if having a father to help raise me would have made a difference in my life. Perhaps many of the tragedies and despicable things I had to endure in my life might have been avoided. By the time I was twelve, most of my brothers and one sister had left home. Only I and a baby brother remained. I did have a step-father, but the only time I was allowed in his presence was when he felt I needed to be punished. It was not until I was much older that I understood the many hardships my mother endured to support us. She supported us hand to mouth by menial labor as a domestic servant. Because her jobs were so lowly, she had no kind of financial security.

My mother was often in poor health, and we had no transportation, so my brother and I would accompany Mother to her jobs, and we loved being with her. My mother was everything to me. Words fall short of showing the love that I held for her. She was one of the nameless and faceless army of people who struggled to survive in the richest nation on earth. She never complained, even when we were picking cotton or when she was forced to take the lowest of jobs.

For example, due to segregation, Mother had to take us through the back door of the theater, in order for us to clean it. Of course, we had to be done, and gone before the white folks entered to watch the movie.

Mother also endured harsh treatment from my step-father, but she shielded my brother and me; both from him and from the terrible reality of segregation.

By the age of fourteen I had very little education. My mother did the best she could, but we had little money. We moved often, and had no social stability. Education for poor black people in the segregation days was hard to come by. I regret my inability to get a better education. However, my mother taught me many practical things like domestic work, and especially cooking. Most of all, she taught me to love and respect all humans.

The day I turned eighteen, my mother sent me to the Job Corp in Nemo, South Dakota to learn a trade or a skill. It was one of the best things she ever did for me. The day I entered the Job Corp I had to become a man overnight. I did not have Mother looking out for me. I had to make the best of my situation. I was frightened for the first week. However, after a few weeks, I began to settle into my new home. The Job Corp was a wonderful experience. Finally I had been given the opportunity to learn a skill, and to work on my education. I was even getting paid for it! I felt I was in heaven.

My expectations were high, and I continued to keep Mother informed as to my progress. I wanted to make her proud of me, and to show her that I had not forgotten her lessons. The Job Corp was the right place for me, and the two years I spent there were good years. Cooking became my trade and I became very good at it.

Then I decided to join the Navy. I went home to see Mother before I went to boot-camp, and I will never forget the joy on her face when she saw me. She was so happy to see her boy grown into a responsible man. My enlistment in the Navy was something I had wanted to do for a long time. For me, the chance to serve was a dream come true. I wanted to be a cook in the military and to retire from military service. After the service, I hoped to become a chef.

I learned to cook from Mother starting in my earliest childhood. She was a wonderful cook. She enjoyed cooking for people because it brought her satisfaction to see other people enjoy her food. It was her way of expressing love for mankind. I returned to South Dakota to enter the military. Everything my mother and I had prayed for was coming true. Little did I know what the future would have in store.

Chapter Three

After leaving the military, I didn't know exactly where to go. My older brother was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota. I lived with him until I got my first job outside the service.

I never got along well with any of my brothers because I was different in their eyes. My Mom had eight children, seven boys and one girl. Six boys and my sister all had the same father. After that father died, Mom met my father, whom I never got to meet until I was 22. I was the outcast. My brothers never had much time for me.

I got my first job working with the Mayflower Moving Company in Rapid City. Jobs were hard to find if you were young, black and uneducated. The work was okay but the pay was bad, so I decided to move on. I had a chance to work for the Box Elder Job Corp in Nemo, South Dakota. This was the place where I had also been a Job Corpman for two years when I was younger.

The Job Corp was, and still is, a great place for young people to get a good start in life. A person can learn a trade, get a GED, or even get into college with hard work. I was hoping that the job would work out for me. I enjoyed the other kids and the kids enjoyed me.

Unfortunately, this time, my emotional pain was driving me to liquor. I drank to cope with my anxiety. I lost the new job in a short time.

But, I had a stroke of luck before leaving the Job Corp. I met a man named Father Murry. He was the founder of the Father Murry Sky Ranch for boys in Camp Cook, South Dakota. The day I was to leave the Job Corp I received a call from Father Murry asking me if I would come to work for him.

I didn't think twice. I was broke and had no where to go. I was dealing with alcohol misuse, anxiety, physical, and mental trauma. I was an emotional wreck and my life was going nowhere. I went to work for Father Murry and in a short time I greatly admired and deeply respected him. He had so much love for people within him.

Skin color or race meant nothing to him. To him each person was a child of God and that was all that mattered. The eight months I was there, I learned a lot from him and he opened my heart and eyes to see many things. He knew I was dealing with some serious wounds, and he made every effort to help me. He knew I was not equipped to deal with some of my past experiences alone. He knew I needed professional help.


Excerpted from TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME by MICKEY L. DENNIS Copyright © 2006 by Mickey Dennis . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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