One of the synonyms of flowers is blossom. I think its an appropriate representation of who I am. Out of life's pitfalls, I earned my petals, and I was able to blossom into the woman I am today. I perfume the air with my essence and add color and beauty wherever I go. However, similar to a flower, I have gone through a lot to stand tall and proud today. I started small, have gone through some dark times and push through some of life's painful moments. Once I began to grow, I realized how important it is to listen to my spirit and develop the habits to nourish my life.
I spent a successful 20 years in the Army and achieved a lot professionally. However, I was medically discharged from the Army because my health had deteriorated. At first, when I transitioned out the Army, I did all the things you dream about once you leave service. I traveled, I went out with friends, I stayed in all day, and I enjoyed life with family. The most exciting way I enjoyed life outside the army was by finally expressing myself through my physical appearance. One of the first things I did after being discharged was I allowed my femininity to shine through. I changed my hairstyle, my clothing and wore my favorite Mac Ruby Roo red lipstick and got red nail polish to match. Finally, I was not just a number, not only a soldier, I was Shauna Flowers.
At first, I thought that was all I needed to be me, that all I needed to do was fix my outside and everything would be great. However, I soon realized that was not the case. Although I was free from service I was not free from myself, my past, my present. I came home to the same ghost I thought I left behind at the age of 19. The pain of these ghosts affected my daily life with family and friends. My mental breakdown happened in front of my children. One day after yelling at them all day, I wanted to scream, “AT EASE.” I was trained that this would bring instant silence after that command. However, these were not my soldiers; these were my children.
I cried uncontrollably. I confided in my husband and my mother, but I felt as if they did not understand what I was feeling. I was too ashamed to tell my best friends because I was a seen as the strong one and I did not want them to look at me differently. I was losing myself. Finally, I accepted that something had to change. In the beginning, I fought this internal war by myself. I was overwhelmed by the enemies of self-medicating, heavy drinking, smoking cigarettes, overeating, depression, and isolation. Although, I thought about it on many occasions one enemy that I did conquer was suicide.
Determined not to be defeated, I started reading and listened to self-help books. Through this process, I learned that I must be spiritually connected to deal with all that I had to bear. Thus I restructured my life and placed greater emphasis on mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing. These lifestyle changes had nothing to do with the outside. The goals were instead being well inside my soul.
In this journey, the internal war that lasted for little over a year. I realized it did not have much to do with transitioning out of the military. This journey was more about making peace with my past that I ran from when I enlisted in the Army. Although I had not been home consistently for 20 years, the years did not remove life challenges that I had to face. I had to sit face to face with all that I ran from. The thing that made me run in the past was the only way for me to win the war. My true freedom was on the other side of that journey. True freedom for me did just happen the day I was officially discharged. It also happened the day I realized only I had the power to free myself from my life's pain. Only when I choose to accept my past would I then have the ability to win the war.