Doing Life Backwards Worked for Me with Val Foglesong

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Val shares her story of sexual abuse in the military, and the years of psychosomatic pain she dealt with before accepting the truth of her past. She has always done things backward in the past and has learned how to find and be her true self. She now empowers others to find their healing.

Highlights:

{02:02} Who is Val

{04:22} What makes Val a Titan?

{22:28} Stop being afraid to be great.

{32:00} Facing sexual trauma from your past.

{49:54} Psychosomatic pain

{51:51} Finding healing.

{59:50} Advice for people who need to face their past

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Val Foglesong Bio

Val is a proud US Army Veteran (Combat Medic), and Registered Nurse. She currently holds a volunteer position as Director of Peer Support for The Pink Berets and is also a current active member of the Pink Beret Archery team.

Her passion is to inspire and help others to live and love to their full potential scars and all. It’s her absolute joy and pleasure to cheer someone on, and then watch them succeed in overcoming their challenges. Val currently works as a Registered Nurse, and has a love for all things Pink Beret Archery, fitness, and tacos! Laughing is my absolute favorite, I even laugh at my own jokes! 

Connect with Val:

LinkedIn Valerie Foglesong

Hey, welcome to the show. I’m Travis Johnson. That’s Carol Carpenter. And our guest today is Val. Val Foglesong.

Val is an Army veteran and registered nurse. She’s got a passion for inspiring others by sharing her trials, epic failures, victories, and adventures. She believes vulnerability is the path to healing.

How are you doing today?

I’m doing fantastic. What about you?

I mean, if I were any better, I’d be twins.

Oh my God.

I don’t know why that comment is bad, ladies. You both had the same reaction. Why is that bad?

Because it’s a dad joke, it’s like A dad joke.

Yeah, that’s the only reason I became a dad. So, I could legally tell Dad jokes.

And more people are senseless than them.

It works out because my wife is very punny, and she giggles all the time. No, no, just like little hearts shooting out of the camera.

My God, it’s too… That’s the cutest.

Yes, we all know that I’m very cute and very serious. Why did we want to have you? You’re on today, Val. And talk about all the magic that you brought backward and forward and how you got there. Tell us a little bit about yourself that you didn’t cover in the intro.

OK, so I mean. I have had lots of adventures in my life, so it just depends. What do you want? To hear first, we can go backward. If you want.

So, I usually like to do it backward.

Oh my God.

This is going to be great. Great time, so. I’ll have a story for you guys later if I feel like you can handle it. I’ll tell you.

Talking to you, Carol.

So, I’m going to go backward. So, I currently find myself in a situation where I am a registered nurse and I work as a clinical coordinator in the operating room. Have lots of experience. Different things I. Just recently, hospice went back to the OR. Taking a little break from it. I’ve done ER. You know, I was a medic in the Army. I’ve done nothing but healthcare. So, I don’t know anything else. But that doesn’t mean I have it, Except for how to.

Take care of that amazing curly hair.

I know. Oh my God. Stunning

Yes. So, you don’t know. Anything else? That’s a ridiculous comment.

No, I’m saying I don’t know anything else about doing things the way they’re supposed to be done with it. What I was trying to get out, So I’ve done all the things backward, including nursing school, including how I got in the military, all the things

So, my biggest Things like that are just making sure that I want to make sure that people that I encounter know that if I can do something, then I can do it. It’s because there’s nothing magical about me, per se. It’s just my response. With the things I’ve been given and the things that I mean, I can control what I can control. What I can’t do is make a decision, so I’ve made a lot of bad decisions, and I’ve made some good ones. So, the combo of those landed me here. 

Well, you just said you didn’t have any magic in you, which kind of takes away the question that I ask, what makes you a Titan? Do you know those qualities of Val? Everything you’ve done is the fruit of something. So, what is it? What is? What makes you tight?

I love this question, and my answer has changed probably 15 times over the last month. I’m just thinking about it; I’ve been pondering this. 

So, I think what makes me a Titan is that I’m Still standing first. I’m still standing after all the things that I’ve done that have knocked me down. I’m standing, and I’m not afraid to believe that I’m still standing because Of the intestinal fortitude that I have to never, ever give up. 

Even when my back is against the wall or everything says you’re not going to survive, I’m still Freaking standing here. I’m still here. And I’m resourceful; I think that even in situations where I didn’t have the best resources, I found out how to get it done, even if it meant going back to the drawing board and recreating the wheel. Because, as I said, I do things backward.

So, when I was told I couldn’t do something, and you’re not allowed to, Do this because you’re a girl. Or, oh, you shouldn’t do that. Because of XYZ or Oh, you can’t join. The military. Oh, you. Can’t do these things. Tell me I can’t.

Oh, that’s the fire. That’s the fire right there.

I’m not going to allow myself to be pigeonholed. I’m still standing. There’ve been some touch-and-go moments, I think, with anybody. Through who’s been through some ****. Like I said, I know I’ve listened to both of your stories, and I know that you can probably relate to a lot of the stuff that I went through… as far as the recovery of it, like Actually having Trauma happen to you, even if it wasn’t a big trauma. What is trauma like? You can’t be defined by that.

And it’s so cliche, I hear it all the time, and I admit I’ve rolled my eyes many times when people say it. Said that. And I’m like, okay, yeah, but it’s just something we had to do. We had. To put our pants on. And go out the door and make a choice because nobody’s going to come. And save me. Nobody’s going to do this for me. I’ve got to do this myself, and I can take God with us, and I can take my family. With me at the end of the day. I have to choose. Am I going to face this, or am I going to lay down? So, I’m still standing?

Yeah, I love that. Right. You’ve got that fortitude and that resilience, and you say you don’t have any choice but to do it. Well, let’s be honest here. People choose the other choice. That they’re going to be victims. It’s now some kind of badge of honor to share your victimhood with everyone, and someone has accused me of that. I will share my story. And they’re like….

Yeah, there’s a difference, though.

Does it sound like I’m looking for your sympathy and want you to coddle me? And, you know, being enraged on my behalf. If they say “No” then it’s not what you think it is. It’s a story of victory, not victimhood, which is a big difference. Only a couple of letters differ, if we’ll start with Vic, right?

Yep, and I have, you know, two teenage daughters. And that’s what I’m trying to teach. Is that the stuff that happened? To me, it’s just stuff, and we’re going to move through it. I’m going to push forward, and when you make mistakes, I’m going to let you make those mistakes. Hopefully, with the safety net, you’re not Traumatized, but it’s going to happen, and you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it. 

And to go forward and take criticism. And just little things that you know, I didn’t have the best education. I wasn’t very well-spoken. I had to come from behind to tell you that I’m not the same person I was, obviously, 25 years ago. But to be sitting here where I am now and be able to have a conversation and feel like I have something to say that maybe somebody needs to hear because I needed to hear those things when I was younger, And I got some bad advice and some good advice. I didn’t listen to some advice. I wish I could listen to some advice.

I just think when you’re young, it’s hard to discern whose advice is good, right? And based on what you know, you make a choice.

One of the doctors with whom I worked when I was in The Army was like A surgical clinic, and we had multi-specialty doctors in there. So, I was kind of the girl in the clinic. You know, only female. All the surgery, scheduling, and all that stuff, and this doctor was cold as hell. He had to. He’s like 80, but he’s just a civilian, and he was contracted, and he hated everyone. He hated them, but he liked me because I would talk crap to him.

I wasn’t afraid of him. And after a couple of years of working with him, I was moving to another state and getting out of the military and all that, and I asked him for a reference. And he said no. And I’m like, why wouldn’t you give me a reference? I was shocked by this because we got along and he said, I’m going to tell you something and you’re not going to want to. Hear this and keep it in mind. I was like 20, maybe 22. And he said, you’re a smart girl, but you act like an idiot. I’m like What do you mean? You know? And he’s like, And I’m like, are you kidding Me right now?

Like, but he wasn’t wrong. He likes your language. The way you carry yourself, He’s like, You’re better than that and smarter than that, he’s like, why? “Are you torturing yourself? I was really ****** at the time, but I still hear that advice to this day. I said I wasn’t giving you a reference. You’re embarrassing yourself, and I’m just Like, oh my God, what are you talking about, but he wasn’t wrong. He was not wrong.

Sometimes it takes somebody like that to be very straightforward with you for you to get shocked. It’s almost like you, you know, need the shock to realize. Wait a second. I didn’t like what I heard. But ****He’s right.  I’ve got to make some changes.

Yeah, and he said Until you go to nursing school, I’m not writing anything for you because I’ve given up. Nursing school causes … Well, I’m just stupid. I did the math. Class to me and

Oh, but that’s the language.

Language with yourself is super important. I mean, if you talk to yourself, do you believe it?

Yeah, yeah, that, thankfully, is something I learned A long time ago. But I just remember thinking. How could he say that? To someone who says That and Years later, I’m Like, oh my God, that one conversation changed the trajectory, and he wasn’t even nice about it. He wasn’t like, hey, I care about you. I want to tell You some things about him. Look, you’re *******. Stop behaving that way. Quit.

Because I Had told him. You know, I wanted to. Go to nursing school, but You know, that was what I was giving. I mean, who gives up on that? A dream at 21/22 years old, as you think. I Want it to It’s all over, yeah. Yeah, I mean. I did too, and I’m like, this is over for me. I’m sorry, I didn’t. Do well in high school. You know I’m all This stuff, and then, of course. You know what you want. To blame? Well, I had. I have this trauma to overcome, and I didn’t think it was trauma, so I’m just Going to drink? I’m silly like All these things. Thinking like, OK, School’s out of the picture. For me, well. I was wrong, thankfully. Yeah. 

That’s just not true. Isn’t that us? We lie to ourselves all the time. I know I lie to myself regularly. As you know, guys like to walk by the mirror, and they suck in their gut. Like, yeah, I still got it. Well, girls like to find the tiniest. They’re like, Oh, my God, everyone’s. Like both of them are lies, right? I’ve had dozens of people tell me to fix my **** over the years. You just don’t see it when you’re in the box; you don’t see that stuff. It takes an outside perspective. 

But what’s interesting about yours with the grumpy doctor is that he was the only one who said anything. That means everyone else in your life was OK with letting you live your lie and not giving a **** about you.

And I didn’t realize that for a long time, but that’s something that I started to look at. I mean, I didn’t take his advice for a little while. I mean. I had to like No, he’s wrong. He’s not. I’m not being that way, but Then I started looking at…. I sent him an email. something, and he wrote back and said, this is what I’m talking about. I read your email, and I reread it, and I’m like, yeah, I do kind of sound like an educated *** like I need to learn how to communicate.

So, for a lack of better choices, I just was like, OK, I’m either going to keep going down this road, or I can. Be a full botanist forever. Is there anything wrong with that? But that was what I launched out of the Army to do because They lied. I didn’t get to do all the things that they said I Would get to do, but

So bottom line, they do look like blood screening tests, don’t they?

And I was like, He’s Not wrong. I am smarter than this. And I think I’m watching these nurses; I worked at a doctor’s office, and I’m watching them, and they’re just amazing people. And I thought I could do that. I want to do that. I’ve wanted to do it since I was five; why would you give up on that just because I made a couple of mistakes.

He used reverse psychology.

You, which makes me mad that I fell for you. It’s, But I’m happy.

I know, I know.

I know because he did it. I’m going to challenge you, and I’m going. To tell you the…

And I think He knew that. About me, for sure, yeah. Like I said, you don’t tell me. I can’t do it because then I’m going to do it. But I went to the college, and I took the placement test, and I did not place well, and I knew I probably wouldn’t because it’s been a while since I’ve been in school, and you know, I hadn’t been doing anything that whole time in the army to educate myself. I felt like I was just Surviving, to be honest. The guy laughed at me. At the desk, he Laughed at me and said, Boy, you didn’t like math, did You? 

So, I had a choice. Again, either let that discourage me or just be like, Screw you, dude. I whatever. So, I ran into this lady at the school. Who Said, you know the time was going to pass anyway because I was crying. I was upset. I was mad that I was going to have to take remedial courses, and this is going. It will take me forever to get my nursing degree and all these things. And she said the time is going to pass anyway, so just Take a class or two at a time. It’s going to pass regardless, and that’s also good advice.

So, I did. I printed it out, made a list, and followed that to the tee, it took me almost six freaking years to get my degree, but I did get it. I highlighted every single class that I took, but I did it backward because nobody educated me, and I didn’t have any knowledge to ask the right questions. 

So, I didn’t know to go to the counselor and say, hey, what do I need to do first? I just got the list, and I started going to classes. So, I took stuff backward. I took pathophysiology, which is the study of, like, the bad things that can happen in your body, but I never took anatomy, so I’m learning things backward. The things that go wrong in your body, and I don’t even know the way that it’s supposed to go. 

And I somehow managed—like, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I took remedial math. I had to learn fractions, so if someone like me can do that, you know it’s never too late. And I graduated with honors and awards in Nursing school. I just found out that I am not as dumb as I thought. I was, and if I Gave myself

You never wanted to start.

Yeah, it’s that story we tell ourselves, right? I’m still largely a *******. I love telling jokes. I love killing him with the punchline. I love being funny. A guy and someone asked me in the last, like, 2 weeks. To like what would happen to You and your world if you were serious all the time, and I don’t know exactly how he meant that.

So, I was like, what do you mean, like, I’m not funny? He’s like, “No.” He’s like, what damage would you do to yourself if you took yourself seriously like you were? Engaged in it and didn’t cut up and laugh. And I think his point for me was that I was using the jokes as a smokescreen or a mask. And it’s not wrong. But also, I love getting laughs, right? There are so many terrible things that happen in life, and you know we’re going to get into your story to hear a little bit more. And it’s going to be hard; it’s going to, you know, break your heart as you’re listening to it. 

People cry when they hear these kinds of stories, and I know that so much of that pain just exists. And man, if I don’t have to be serious, Why the hell do I walk around and see these people that have had a stick surgically inserted up their backside? Right. And they’re walking around like rope it, it is. And you kind of joking, like, Oh, you’re not professional. Whatever you’re like, you don’t know a single thing about me, but I do…

Oh, Travis. 

But I know something about you.

Travis, isn’t it? The beauty is what we’ve designed. Our lives, so we don’t have to stick up. There are our *****, right? We get to be who we authentically are. People, quite honestly, are jealous because, you know, I get it. I get to decide what I’m going to do and what I’m going to accept. In my life. And when I’m going to get up, I’m going to do something during the day. I get to do all that these people do on a clock. And it’s usually a company clock, right?

So, you know, they make comments like that, and I get it. I mean, yeah, it’s great to, you know, have humor in your life because our lives are short. You might as well. Well, laugh. I mean, one of the things they say about men is that women love men. They love a guy who can make them laugh.

Oh, for sure. For sure, you hit something cool because I wish I would have. Learn that. Sooner, like if you, you know, asked the question, what do you wish you would learn sooner? I mean, we could go on and on, but really, you nailed it. I wish I would have learned sooner that I can say what I’m going to do, and I can say no, and I don’t owe you an explanation.

I can say no, and here’s why. I’m not telling you why, because it doesn’t matter to me. Said no, or, you know, like. but I don’t know if it just comes with age or maturity. I’m not sure if there are fewer shifts about what people think about me, but I feel like I’m constantly making decisions. And then rolling with it, and I’m like, Yeah, OK, cool, and I don’t know if it’s age or…

It works well, doesn’t it?

What? But yeah, I mean. There will be no drama if there is one. I don’t create any drama.

Have either of you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****? I think. Is it like Mark Manson or something?

No, it’s actually on my list. Do not read a list.

It is *******. And do you? So, it starts by telling you, like, not to give a **** because we give entirely too many *****. We give a **** about the guy walking a dog in our neighborhood. We give a **** about whether the neighbor park we give a **** about, like someone that you know, encroached on the stop light. When they stopped a little bit late. They’re like us giving entirely too many *****. 

And so, the book runs you through all this, right? That it beats down your ******* meter, or whatever that is. Is it just me? It’s up right now, and it says this isn’t designed to say you shouldn’t give a ****, but only give a **** about the stuff that matters.

The ones that matter, yeah.

As you know, I don’t always do the same thing every day. I’m like Carol; you do what you want and what you need to. And I’ll walk around. And she was like, that must be nice. You’re saying it must be nice. Like they don’t have the same opportunity to build the life that I’ve built for themselves, right?

Right. And by the way?

Yeah, but it must be nice. Is also a difficult road. I mean, when you make the choice, you know, to become an entrepreneur, you also run the risk that you may not be bringing Something, right? So it is. It is. It is very risky as well, so there’s a part of them that I would presume is jealous that you were willing to take the risk.

Well, people are afraid to take risks because I mean, let’s just face it, nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to fail, but we’re inevitably going to fail on whatever scale that looks like for you as a parent. You know, your sobriety journey, just your physical fitness regimen, whatever. As humans, we’re going to fail, but are we going to fail forward and make mistakes? Are decisions based on our failures, or are we going to keep failing the same way? So, I failed a lot, but they were all different failures.

And that’s OK.

So, my boyfriend said it was best if he went. You know you’re Going to fail. Right, no matter what. But he goes. What’s the one thing you can learn? And I? Go **** I don’t know if you’ll survive.

There’s a quote by Marianne Williamson that a lot of people have heard. I think it usually gets contributed to by Nelson Mandela, but she says our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure, and it is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You’re playing small. Doesn’t deserve the world. And although failure is a thing, a lot of people bounce off of it. We are scared to be Titans and whatever aspect works for you. Your life to really crush life to understand what your zone of genius is or what is it that makes you a Titan, and how do you do it?

Yeah, yeah. And once you decide to do it, It’s easier. It’s easier to keep doing it because you’re like, OK, I didn’t die; nobody else died. I’m still here, and that felt awesome. Yeah, it’s kind of funny. When I run across somebody. In times past, I would have probably judged them or said, oh man, they’ve got some stuff going on, and now I have a lot more empathy for when I see people who are experiencing things that maybe they’re projecting out something that’s maybe not so pleasant. 

I’m not saying that they’re off the hook for it, but I kind of get it, and I’m like, oh, and you’ve seen… I don’t remember what. The movie is, but there’s an Adam Sandler movie. And he’s like, You’re not mad at Me. You’re mad. You’re bad. 

That’s kind of like, Yeah, yeah. Remember, he’s like a rollerblade, and he’s like, Like, but I think about that like that’s a real thing, like people. All have a story, and there are lots of layers to those stories. You’re not just the one thing you know—that you had a childhood. You are an adult. You have your parent’s journey; you have your career journey. And all of those little pieces and stories, together, make you who you are. And it’s OK to have different phases and chapters in that story. And that’s kind of where I’m at right now.

Learning who I am after the story is all said and done. Who am I when I lay down at night and close my eyes? Say my prayers and get ready to go to bed. Did I present myself today as the person I am? Am I Inauthentic, like, was every encounter today the best? I hope to say yes, every night, but that’s not always true.

We’re a work in progress. Yeah, constantly. You know, and you are always improving. Going back to the whole thing of what we’re afraid of, And the wonderful quote that Travis just said, Are we more afraid of success than failure? Because when we get to success, Right or what? We view it as a success. Will it be everything we anticipated it would be?

Yeah, it’s pretty. It’s pretty difficult to say when I reached XYZ that made me successful because I’ve reached lots of them.

Milestones, yeah. 

And then I’m like, OK, that didn’t make me successful. Maybe I need to try something else. And it’s like, Well, no, yeah.  

is achieving the thing is, is that success? 

Right. 

Kind of the finish line does not succeed. It’s a piece of it, you talked about being your authentic self. The problem with the question Is there is not one answer.

 Because there are so many different aspects of who we are, right? The people who like Travis and show up on camera having fun and cutting jokes aren’t the same. Travis, when I’m sitting with my daughter and she’s hurting, it’s a different Travis. Neither one is inauthentic. But we all have these different slices of ourselves that come out at different times, the question I was challenged with was, I know that one of the parts of my personality is the Titan that’s meant to be big and create things, and I’m saying this on camera, realizing that I’m sharing it with people. Right. 

And part of me is the trickster puck. Loki Kokopelli’s character makes these false promises of fulfillment for a little bit. It’s fun, right? And that guy. It would be great if he came out now and again. That guy is not great if he’s in the driver’s seat of my life. Right. 

And being vulnerable and willing to just be authentic is something I’ve noticed in having kids and teenagers. Is like they’re good ******** leaders. They especially like my teenage girls, as they have called me. On so many things, and probably not even realize it. And I’m thinking. Oh my God, I’m either doing a great job parenting them or I’m doing a bad job hiding my ****, but really. It’s not even that they just want something authentic.

So, if I tell them something like, hey, this is what I’m going through; this is what I’m going through; working on this is why I reacted like that? They’re like, Oh, OK, mom. I see you, and I hear you. Yeah, but for them to be old enough now to articulate and say, why wouldn’t you just tell me that in the first place?

It’s like Holy crap, this is huge. Having that willingness to be vulnerable is kind of a joke in my house, like, oh, mom doesn’t. Cry, you know. And now that that wall is coming down, the more healing I do, the more I’m willing to say. Yep, vulnerability has gotten me further in my healing journey than any self-help book or any other thing that I’ve tried, and that’s just how it is. I had to quit trying. I was trying so hard. Knuckling through everything that I realized was not helpful I’m just…. 

The valve goes backward. Go backward. Everything else wasn’t working, so do it backward again, right?

Yeah, I mean. Yeah, that seems to be a theme. 

Well, I think our kids are good at that. I mean, these days, I think society, especially in school and what they’re exposed to, is all about being real. And so, when you say, like when I grew up, we’d ask why. Well, because I said so. OK, but you weren’t allowed to go further. Right, I think these days, children can see the ******** is coming,

And they’re like Hardcore too. 

I know just, you know what freaking? Tell me. Just tell me. And I think they feel like we’re doing them such a huge disservice. By the UN quote, I mean protecting them by not telling them everything. And you know, maybe it’s that time when you just have to go. OK, fine. You know what I’m saying? You like it, whether you like it or not. But this is it.

Yeah, and sometimes. If I do that with them, they’re Like mom… TMI. Like, I’m like, Oh, too far, they’re like. Yeah, it’s too far. You asked me. I’m going to tell you. And especially when it comes to, you know, teenage girls, 13 and 18; my oldest just graduated high school.

And is that the one who wants to ride a motorcycle?

Yeah. Yeah. So, I’m like,

Oh, my God. Yeah. 

I had to laugh because I remember telling my mom when I was. When I’m 16 or 17, I’m going to be a bull rider. She’s like… My God, what? 

And I’m like, yeah. And you were not going to convince me otherwise, I was like, I’m going to the Youth arena, and I’m going to get on this bull, I’m going. To ride. I remember my mom’s face just being like, where is this kid coming from? But tell me I can’t do it, and I’m going to do it. I Learned very quickly.

Maybe I’m not comfortable riding, but I had to try it, OK?

That’s a whole other story, but I love that she is like, Yeah, I’m. I’m going to take this motorcycle course, and I’m going. Buy a motorcycle, and I’m Just like Yeah, well, yeah. But then there is the mom part of Me and the nurse Part of me is like, Oh, God, but really ultimately, I want her to try things. I want them to try things, do things, and fill things, and I hope she loves it. That she has a long, Happy life on that bike! Because obviously, I wouldn’t want anything other than her to be happy. But you have to just be smart about it. Also, taking a safety course is smart. I’ve done something right because she’s not just hopping on. I am trying to figure it out.

It’s great.

With bull riding, it’s terrible.

Economics and its great savings in cars and it’s better for the environment than having more miles per gallon and more smiles per gallon if you’re having a good time doing it right.

Oh yeah. 

You can’t see the smile behind the helmet. But there’s a whole lot of that going on, yeah. 

How do you tell a happy biker? He’s got bugs in his teeth.

Oh, Jesus, that No, no. We wear full-face helmets because, honestly, you…

Bike riders are bikers. They’re not. 

OK, so my…

No, no, no. Like Harley riders do not, we call those skids.

Lids because. 

It’s only on. The top of your head. But here’s the reality: I think we had Lucy on the Show when we talked about this. You are not going to fall directly. On the top of Your head. 

You thank you, right? That’s what I say. So, my husband calls it a brain bucket. He’s like, you’re just going to have to get it.” Over it, I’m going to wear this brain bucket, but, like, oh. OK. He’s taught me a little bit about letting go, too. I can’t control everything.

No, no. And if it brings them joy, you can’t squash their joy.

Absolutely no.

So, I got to ask, Val, let’s get into a little bit of your history and some of the times that you’ve been through. People who are willing to share that stuff, as Carol and I have done on the show, really get permission to start sharing their own stories in their journey. And the more different stories that we hear, the better our chances. We’re going to find someone like that who went through something that we did.

Yeah, that’s probably the most eye-opening part of finally coming out with my story—realizing that. Holy ****My story is not that uncommon, and it’s heartbreaking because I don’t want somebody else to go through what I’ve gone through. And you know, you think for a time, I was like, oh well, people have been through so much worse, which is also something that I did to myself, which was comparing and kind of gaslighting myself.

Drama shaming. 

Oh well, their trauma was so much worse than mine. I couldn’t possibly You know, complain, which is also just another form of shame. You know that. I had to peel back, but thankfully, I’m past that. But I mean, I don’t know how far you want me to go back into the story. I’ll kind of put it in a nutshell because What happened to me was horrific and tragic, but everything after was much worse than the actual trauma.

So I was, you know. It’s true, and When I go back and look at this through that lens of, OK, I was 20 Actually, I was 19. Was in my first duty station. In the army. I met a guy and am sort of dating him. I guess you could. I found out he was married. And I was like, What the heck is this? Nope, this isn’t our role, so I’m going to end this. I had no reason to be afraid of him.

So, I went to kind of break things off … leave a note. And he was on leave and came back. A day early. So, when I was leaving the house, he caught me in the doorway, and I could tell. He knew that I knew, and it was not going to be good.

So, we exchanged words. But he locked the door and said, you’re not going anywhere. And I’m like, OK, what does that mean? In hindsight, even since I originally shared my story, back in the fall. For the first time, I’ve even found more insight since then, just memories coming up and things that Oh yeah, I forgot about that. This happened too. But I stayed in that house, I think it was about 48 hours. I think it was two nights. Honestly, when you go through Something like that, it’s funny because haters will say, well, what do you mean you can’t remember exactly? Well, why don’t you get raped and sodomized, and then you have to tell your story?

Yeah, time changes the way we experience it.

You don’t have to believe me if You don’t want to, and I don’t give a rat’s about that.

Such language on the show.

But in that experience, there was a moment.

What’s the experience?

So, the experience that yeah, so I.

Can we ask directly?

Was raped and sodomized multiple times in this housing. It was in military housing, so the story was that he had a house because he had a child. So, when he said, I have a child, but you know, I’m divorced, that’s why I Have this house. And I was 19, and I was like, why do you have housing if you’re single? He had the house because he Had a child. So, they gave him the allowance. What happened was that his wife moved to another state. He was supposed to be going.

To change Duty stations long story short, he was moving away, and his wife was already gone because she went ahead of him. So it wasn’t that they were divorced or anything. He was out to have a second child with her and was calling me from Florida, saying, hey, when I get back, we’re going to do this and that, and he’s calling me from A payphone in the hospital where she’s having a baby. No, I just didn’t know.

Oh my God.

I didn’t know. And I had a lot of guilt about that for a long time.

Tell us he’s a dirtbag without telling us he is a dirtbag calling from the payphone at the hospital. Oh, my goodness.

Yeah, I mean, this is like 1998. You know, nobody had a cell phone. So, he was calling me from the hospital’s ping phone, and I didn’t put it all together till later, but when he came back and I found everything out, I finally realized, oh, I’ve been duped. I was like, Yeah, I’m out of here. About this, and I fully intended to tell his wife. I didn’t think it was fair that he was doing that to her, and that’s what set him off, and so he spent that whole time in his house; you know, he was drinking, and I was trying to drink with him.

Not really. I was trying to get him drunk enough for that. Yeah, OK, if he passes out, I can. Get out of here every time. I would try to get up and leave. You know, he’d hold me down, and I thought I had to. Get out of here, and the only way I’m getting out of here Is if I Go flat on my back. upright and running out. The door.  

So, I did that. I lay there. And thought, OK, you have a choice. My mom came from a very abusive background. And I remember the stories. Of her. Telling me how she got away and the steps that she took. And I thought I’m not going to repeat this, like, I’m not going to put up with this, and I’m not going to repeat this.  

So, I did; I bolted, and I was wearing a t-shirt and pants only just running down the road in Housing at, I don’t know. It had to be 4 or something in the morning. It was dusky enough that you really couldn’t see, but The Sun was starting to peak up. Anyway, I ran out of the house, and he Chased me, and I got to the end of the road, and there was an MP vehicle pulling up, so the military police pulled up, and of course, I’m just like, this must be God rescuing me. I turned around, and he just made a turn off into Housing and turned the other way, and nobody had ever seen him. And they didn’t ask me any questions, like?

I mean, I got in the car, and they’re like, Are you OK? And I’m like, you’ve got to take me to my barracks. Well, I was a medic there. And I shared a barracks with the MP. So, I said, take me back to the medic, Barrick, so they knew exactly where to take me. But they never prodded. Or, I mean, I’m in the car with no pants on. And I guess in their minds, it was. I mean, I don’t want to say what someone was thinking, but I’m not. Sure, it looked odd, these young soldiers are running out. Of the housing area with no pants on. From the outside looking in, maybe I got Caught by the wife or something. I don’t know; I’ve speculated. Speculate all you want, but they didn’t do anything. Didn’t encourage me to report; it didn’t even really show.

What do you mean? Didn’t encourage you to report?

They didn’t. It was like nothing happened. They just gave me a taxi ride back to the barracks.

So, I don’t think she’s familiar with how things like sexual assault and stuff are documented in the military.

And how so?

I think that’s why she’s asking.

Gotcha. Yeah. 

I knew I couldn’t report it because, you know, obviously they were going to blame me. Let me back up a little bit. Before all this happened, I had been working; you know, I’m a female medic, so anytime they had Any kind of CID, which is the military police’s kind of investigation, they did all the sexual assaults and that kind of stuff. Anytime they had any of that, they had to have a female chaperone for the interview. So, I have been in several interviews. I saw people reporting these things, and I saw what happened to them and how they were treated. I saw that they weren’t believed, and I was not about to go there. And show my face. Especially with people saying, Well, we tried to tell you.” You know it, just I was 19 for God’s sake like? 

So, in hindsight, sure. Could I change that? No, but had I reported that I wouldn’t. Know what that would be? Have looked like or what that would have done, but I knew if I kept my head down and stayed away from him I could make it go the way. And that’s what.

And could you stay away from them, OK?

Well, yes and no. So, it gets a little more complicated because after me, there was a girl there who was, I guess, interested in him, and he kind of very quickly moved on to her. And I thought, OK, this is weird, and I tried to warn her; I all but said That he raped me. I pretty much told her. He was married. I told her all that stuff.

Here’s the thing: You cannot tell another woman what happens to you because you know what they’ll say.

You can’t. 

You’re just jealous.

So, she was like, Yeah, whatever. 

And then, in the meantime, I met my husband. Now I met him, and we were stationed there together. So we were still on the same page with him. I never told him, so he didn’t know any of this. Whenever this other girl and he kind of got into it, she ended up getting pregnant by him.

And we moved on, but she did come to me later. And say, how did you get rid of him, and the only thing I could say to her was “you”. Like he moved on to you. As a woman, it is heartbreaking that I couldn’t do anything, and had I reported, I could have prevented other things because he ended up going to prison for something unrelated. You know. 

It’s tough. It’s tough. I’ve seen, so I retired last year in 2022, and seeing how things have changed and, you know, morphed and grew over time is a lot different. I joined back in 2000, and the stories that Val is telling are exactly how they go. And they’re not that different 20 years later, there aren’t. 

You have a couple of different reporting requirements. You can report I don’t remember the term; it’s only been a year. I can’t remember the specific military terminology. You can report without telling anyone anything, and there’s an open report that they’ll open an investigation, go through, try to prosecute, and all these things. And it’s insanely hard to prosecute, insanely hard to keep quiet, and as much as they say things like that won’t affect your career, based on what we know about the military, they don’t know how to handle you if you’re not fully mission capable. If you’re not fully Mission Cable, they really don’t know what to do with you, and you’re getting poor reviews and poor evaluations, and then you get the rumor mill, and it’s just awful.

And that’s unfortunate because of some of the work I’ve been able to do just recently. The Pink Berets is a nonprofit organization for female veterans, because, you know, not all of our scars are on the outside. They’re not all visible, so we try to meet with These women who are where they are, and a lot of them have PTSD not from MSC, but the ones that do, their stories are just like mine. And the ones that reported have something to say. It didn’t go well for them. 

I met an active-duty soldier about a month ago. You know, she reached out to us and said she was worried about one of her soldiers who was assaulted by three service members. This just happened last year. sold by three service members, and she reported it. They are still waiting to figure out what they’re going to do with them. 

Meanwhile, she’s being med-boarded because she’s not fit for duty, because she has PTSD, and the uniform is triggering her. She’s still on active duty. And then they put her in a group of other veterans and other men that assaulted women.  What are we doing? What are we doing? And this is now mine. Stuff happened in 1998, so what are we doing? I don’t know all the answers, but I know that this is not right.

It’s not working; whatever they’ve tried with or whatever they’ve tried to do, it’s just not working. I had a gal that was working for me. This is probably the late 2000s, like ‘05–‘10 midway through 2005 or 2006. For me, it was very obvious that she had been suffering physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and she had walked into a closet, walked into an open cupboard door, and fallen on the stairs. stuff, and I’m like, you need to report this. And she’s like, she looked at me. She’s like, I’m not going to report it. And you’re not going to do it either. And if someone comes and asks me questions, I’m going to deny everything. I’m going to accuse you of something, and it’s heartbreaking.

Even… It’s not a gender thing; but for people that are close to people that go through something horrendous like this, there’s nothing we can do but try to be there for the person. And that’s not anything, but it’s not like if someone misses my daughter, I can drive over and punch the guy in the face. It can’t do this. Anymore, right? You just can’t.

So, like as a parent, as a friend, or as whatever we want to put on, there’s almost no recourse and nothing that makes this thing better. And it’s just disgusting that it’s that way.

Well, I don’t think it’s going to change until society changes because, well, it is like in Asian culture, right? You can’t do anything. I mean, if you, you know, reported it to say your parents were right, they’d be just like, go home, go home to your husband, you know. And so, you reach a point where you’ve gone so far that it’s not even worth it anymore, and you just take it. And it stinks. I mean, you’d think in this day and age we’d have some way of resolving these types of issues because they do leave scars. A lot of them. Yeah. And you also, for Travis’s sake, want to report it. Do you want to? If they’re not willing. I mean, you can’t. It puts them in more danger.

Yeah, that’s unfortunate. I mean, I’ve even been told, well, that’s what you get. For being a female and joining the army. What did you expect, like people say, horrible things?

Have people with that mindset.

And yeah, and it’s like, well, what were you doing to get into that situation? You know, knowing that all those Things are going to be said It’s like, why would it? I reported that. And so, all I did was just bury. It and just shove it down, you know. I met my husband. And within six months or so, we got married. And the poor man. He’s still married to me now. And God but he didn’t know what he was getting into. Because he didn’t know I did everything backward.

The curls weren’t a clear signal to him that Everything was OK.

No, that was the day when I straightened my hair all the time.

Oh yeah, you had to be in the military. So just a quick side note: only within the last 2 years have women been allowed to wear ponytails in the military?

Yeah, you had to keep It pretty much slicked back and forth. There was an old trick where we put A sock in the back.

Ah, sock buns, yeah.

So, you have the perfect bun in the back … Yes, you have the perfect amount of fun in the back. So, my hair was always just taken from wet to straight back in a ponytail, so I didn’t get to Embrace the curls until Later.

But the aftereffects of that are because you know you. I just want to erase it. And say, well, I didn’t. I thought if I didn’t talk about it, then it didn’t happen, and I’m never going to trust anybody again. And I don’t have to. You know, I’m never going to tell anyone.

And so, enters the husband. And he’s amazing. Still is, but he didn’t know what he was getting because, you know, I really could only drink. To push this down. And it was so fun. I mean, that’s what I did. So, I became, you know, Party Val. And that was the only way in my mind, at that time, I could escape what I know now is the pain of trauma.

But I just buried it so far down that if you asked me, have you ever experienced sexual abuse or trauma? Straight up, I would tell you “No”, and not because I’m lying. But it was because That didn’t happen to me, and if I didn’t experience it myself, I would not believe you. That it was gone.

I walked it out and went on about my business. I went on about my business.

And kind of partied… drinking did all the things Military life had to offer. At that time, we Were overseas a lot. We got deployed together. It was kind of interesting. That’s a whole other adventure, but When I got back to New York from New York, I was like, OK, I’m spinning my wheels. I don’t want to live like this forever.

Going back to Church and kind of revitalizing my faith, I’m still not realizing that. This was all pushed down.  Again, I’ve been to counsel a few times because I had a lot of anxiety and depression. I don’t know what’s going on.

And they would ask me that. And every time, I would always say No, and it wasn’t because I was lying. I literally just didn’t see it that way, or it Was completely gone, and so I started having a lot of physical problems, you know. Ranger problems. What we call it in the army.

So I was a medic who was running sick calls, but I was always sick. And you couldn’t. It wasn’t something I was making up. I did have stomach pains. Did you have migraines? I had all these psychosomatic things. That I know. Now that’s what it is. But they can never find anything, and I thought I was not crazy. I know that I’m having this debilitating, nine-day-long migraine. I asked my husband if he was seeing this, but they could never find any reason for it.

But for the people who don’t know, can you share what psychosomatic is?

So psychosomatic is when something especially happens In trauma, but you have an event or something that you internalize. So those symptoms come out in a somatic way, which means physically. So, headaches, stomach pains, nausea, or vomiting Those kinds of things—joint pains—a lot of people have chronic pain diagnoses, as I’m finding out, have some kind of Background history of trauma or something. So, your body inevitably keeps that score, which is a fantastic book, by the way. I highly recommend it.

Came up in our very last interview. My wife, my wife, and I have been through it, you know.

It is a hard book. I’m still trying to finish it. But it does kind of open the Door to how we Internalize these things. So, when you start having all these psychosomatic complaints, if you looked at me at that time, you would say, OK. You’re 22. You’re getting out of the military. You have migraines, back pain, stomach pains, ovary pains, uterus pains—all the things that are going on here. But I had pain. There was no doubt about it. 

I got out of the military. I started working and started doing the whole school thing part-time. The times were going to pass anyway. So, I’m taking one class at a time. Meanwhile, my mental health was not good, but I just kept going. White knuckle. OK, next class. OK, next thing. 

Oh, maybe we should have a Kid; that sounds fun in the middle, so, we ended up having our oldest child born in 2005, so about that time I found out that I did get accepted to the program for nursing school when she was probably like a year and a half old. So, in the meantime, everything was essentially fine as far as my definition of life at the time was concerned.

When did you get to the point where you started healing and addressing some of this stuff?

That’s about the time that I was in nursing school, and We are having a lot of intimacy issues and things like that. And it was just like, Oh, it’s stressful. Oh, it’s because we have this. But this is sorry, Travis, probably TMI, but it’s just part of the story. I got to the point where sex was almost impossible because, Again, it was a psychosomatic thing. I would say, I don’t know why my vagina is closing. Well, it doesn’t work, and I went to doctor after doctor. And they would always say, well, do you want to take these antidepressants, or did you have trauma? And I would again. Be like, no, what are you guys talking about? Like you’re insane. There’s nothing wrong, you know. And they knew, but nobody cared enough to say. Look, this can be a trauma response That doesn’t unlock anything. They never said anything. It was just Like, Well, we can. Help you go to another doctor.

Most of them don’t know.

Yeah, they can’t help you until you admit it.

Yeah, yeah, they 100% know that now for sure. So, they’ve been let off the hook.

They can’t. 

If anyone’s listening to this that has heard like our other interviews, we get into this stuff where physicians are not willing to say that it’s outside their area of expertise and just send you on to someone that can maybe help you. We’ve talked about this ad nauseam as one of the things between my wife and her 42 surgeries and procedures, and like, it’s just…

Well, that’s the thing. Like I kept having Injuries can’t figure out what’s going on. You need to have this diagnosis. Let’s do this, let’s do that, and all this. You know you have endometriosis; you have all this pain. 

Well, there’s something called vaginismus, which is an anxiety disorder. So that means that There is nothing physically wrong with Your vagina. But it’s anxiety. So, it clamps down and shuts off; there’s nothing you can do about that. You need to have therapy, kind of thing, so I’m like, OK, but why? I still wasn’t putting it down.

So, I’m in school, and I’m learning. About all this stuff. I’m in my third semester of nursing school, and my nursing instructor was like, Look, we’re about. To get into some psych stuff. If anyone’s triggered, and I even know the word. Triggered meant at that time I was like, what is He even talking about so if you get triggered, Come see me after class who can help you know it happens every semester. There’s always somebody who has some kind of thing. And I’m kind of rolling my eyes, like, all right, whatever.  

And so, we started talking about conversion disorders and PTSD, and there was a whole section on MST. And I had never heard it called that before. And I didn’t. I just didn’t know, so he said. And we did clinicals at the VA’s mental health hospital, which is where we’re doing clinicals. 

So, we went there, and we’re doing these clinicals, and I’m like, OK, this is cool. And then, all of a sudden, I just started having dreams and flashbacks and remembering all of the stuff that happened to me at 4 WACA.

And I was a problem, so I did. I reached out to my instructor, and I was a mess because I heard him in nursing school. I’m trying to finish school and all. This is happening, and I can’t stop it. I have sex with my husband. I can’t. I don’t like it. I want to, but I can’t… 

This is a problem, and the only thing they’re offering me is possibly having You know about these dilation therapies and all this biofeedback stuff, which requires you to be in a very vulnerable state. To do, and I was not. About to do that. Do you know what I’m saying? Especially realizing that sexual trauma was the trigger.

So, then I started remembering, like, oh, My God, I was molested when I was a kid. Oh, my God, I had like everything, just kind of a floodgate it opened, and I was like, I’m going to crumble. I’m going to kill myself, like I can’t live with this. How do I reconcile this? But I have a kid now, and I Have a husband for all these things. I started going to therapy, and She was great and kind of explained to me what the psychosomatic stuff was once I started, I learned quickly. Why are these things happening? In my body, but I still didn’t know. How to connect the emotional. It’s like I could tell you the story. And just be like, Yep, these are the facts. That I remember.

Yeah, but Western medicine, right?

Right. So it’s like

Eastern Medicine does the other.

We did some therapy, and she was like, well, you know. You’ve reached like. This point where you can’t do anymore, and I drove home that day. Because she’s like, I don’t know what else to do. Tell you like we have to. Get you, and This was before EMDR Therapy and stuff like that. That is something that I know of, but I was never aware of it at the time.

So, she’s like, you’re so disconnected emotionally. And I couldn’t figure out how to connect to it. So anyway, I went for a walk with my family, and We turned the corner, and there it was. My ****** coming out of the blockbuster, who, as far as I know, is supposed to be in prison, like all these things and it was like instant flooding.

Yeah. For those that don’t know, blockbusters were sold at video stores back in the 1990s and late 1900s.

Oh my. 

God, I cannot believe that we’re talking about That right now.

The late 1900s? Yeah. 

It’s still the late 1900s. Yeah. So, we were on a family walk, and I had just that day left therapy. And I was like, OK, God, what? Do I do it? Because I don’t want to be this numb. But I am like, what do I do? As a result, we went for a walk. We ran into him, and My body froze before I even got up. I knew what was happening.

So, when he came out of the room, he patted my daughter on the back. Head and opened the Door for my husband, who didn’t know him or recognize him? And he got in his car with Somebody else and some children. I drove away, and I was on the sidewalk. I was panicking and p***** my pants. Took off running to go home. And my husband’s like, What the hell is happening? 

And when I told him that that was him, that was him. I don’t know. I realized after that moment that that connected me to all of it. Like all of the stuff that I couldn’t reconcile and get through. You know, I don’t have many opportunities. That turns into a good thing for running into him. But I went back and saw my therapist.

And we did. Kind of a… I don’t know… We snooped on him and found out. OK, we stopped him on Facebook and looked up his prison records. And sure enough, he’d been in town for several months, I had been thinking I was seeing him, but I thought it was like hallucinating. I didn’t know he was there. So, of all the places, he could end up in the same town as me.

I mean it. I can’t make that up; I don’t know how to even reconcile that. But from there, it took a lot of deeper work, and it’s kind of a roller coaster up and down still, but I don’t know. If I would have. I ran into him and wondered how I would have ever connected to it emotionally in the way that I needed it to start to heal.

Our bodies, our minds, and our personas do a great job of protecting us at the moment. It does. 

One of the reasons we can’t have a full memory of some of these experiences is because our body wants to keep us safe. The hardest part is that you’ve been disconnected. I’ve been dissociated from myself, my past, and my trauma, and getting that reconnected and up and rolling like it’s a whole thing, and we appreciate you coming on and sharing this stuff with us. If you would take a minute or two, and if someone’s sitting there, sitting on a big Secure like that, in denial or protection, what would you say to those people? 

Oh, man. 

Could be men, could be women, could be children.

Honestly, I would say you don’t have to continue to live like that.

It feels like that.

It felt like that for me. I thought, how am I ever going to overcome this shame or be able to talk about my story? Once, I heard someone else talking. About theirs, I realized. I’m not alone. If I can do it, you can do it 100%, and whatever that journey looks like, for that person or you, I know for myself. It would have been more beneficial to hear this from someone else who has been there. You are loved. You are valuable. You do have worth, regardless of what you think you know.

I felt ashamed of myself for a long time, but I didn’t. Feel worthy of the Affection that my family was trying to give me. Because I was carrying so much shame, but I didn’t know how to put it into words. That at the time. And so, I would just say, allow yourself to have that healing time, and to put some language, figure out what that is. It looks like you should put language around how you’re feeling. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me because my body was betraying me in my mind, but it protected me. It did what it had to do so that I could be sitting here today.

So, I don’t want to kill myself today. I don’t want to let a moment go by while somebody else. You know, there are so many. Many people can’t handle these kinds of situations. Of things and they kill themselves. Let’s just say they committed suicide. And they are too. Much, and I don’t ever want anyone to feel? Like they have to be in that position. I’ve been there, and it’s not pretty. But you can sit on the other side.

You have to reach out to your people; you have to be vulnerable. Those are all hard things. I’m not saying broadcast it out in Walmart but find your people, and that’s important.

It’s very important.

It is. I remember when we met in Houston, and I brought my daughter along. And she’s got a big old belly right now. She is a tiny, petite girl who is very pregnant, and her belly is enormous, and it’s so wonderful. But you know, we get the chance to talk with you and meet with you down in Houston. I appreciate the care and compassion that all the ladies down there and you show… You all showed it to me and my daughter, and we, really, really appreciate it.

Now she’s sweet.

Yeah, she’s hilarious. They were like popping around the whole place together. But thank you so much for sharing. We know. We know just how.

Well, thanks for having me.

How hard those stories are to share. Really. I wish this was in person so I could Just step up from this. And give you a Big old hug, but

Oh, thank you.

As it is, we’re a few miles apart and…

I feel it.

There are a couple of time zones away. But hey, if you listen to this, you may find Val’s story compelling or want to reach out to her and maybe show her a little love. You can connect with her on Instagram at SNARFYRN. You can connect with Val, maybe, and she’ll even give you a second to share the story of how she got That name and that Instagram handle.

Well, thank you both so much for listening to me today and giving me the opportunity. I hope that it will help somebody, even if it’s just one person.

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