Meeting Melissa today, you might never imagine the challenges she’s faced- two deployments to Iraq, traumatic brain injury, sexual trauma, self-doubt and plans of suicide. This vibrant, upbeat mother of three made it through some very dark times. She’ll be the first to say, that the things that happen to you do not define you. How you get through them makes the difference.
Her hardest lesson came from learning that healing is a journey that requires the strength of vulnerability and honesty, accepting support rather than bare-knuckled courage alone. During her time in Iraq, her Army unit was hit in a mortar attack and she and others were injured. The blast threw Melissa into the air, landing her on her head. She was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury disorder that required months of speech/language therapy to regain her full range of communication skills. It was during that period that Melissa suffered sexual trauma. “Life in Iraq has its own everyday stressors. Adding trauma on top of that makes it very difficult.”
As a young, single-mother, Melissa left her toddler in the care of her own mom, so Melissa could fulfill her military obligation in Iraq. Melissa stayed in close contact with both her mother and thanks to technology, a dear friend stateside. All of them, sharing stories of Melissa’s daughter’s growth, swapping photos and simply staying in touch, kept the connection strong. Melissa and her friend Skyped regularly, at the same time of each day, until the day Melissa refused to answer. Feeling hopeless and overwhelmed, Melissa made up her mind that this would be the day she would end her life. The Skype ringtone sounded and Melissa let it ring. “I remember, my friend continued to call me back. She just kept calling…Finally, I felt so annoyed by that Skype ringtone that I answered. She talked me through it – that day, and the many days that followed.”
Melissa is an Army vet, with 10 years of active duty and today holds a position as a dedicated public servant in our community. She is alive and well, available for her family because her friend wouldn’t stop calling, and never stopped listening.
Our crisis counselors are here providing help and hope 24/7 for 63,000 callers like Melissa each year. Your generous donation today supports our entire community all year long.
We answer every call and we never stop listening.
Rhonda James, MA, LMFT