Everyone one has a story to tell about their lives. The ups and the downs, our successes and failures, our loves and our loses. So why is it that so few people actually document their lives in a memoir. I suppose that most people don’t think they have much to tell; that their lives weren't significant enough for other people to be interested. Or that they weren’t famous enough or smart enough or accomplished enough for the world to care about their life story.
I hope you don’t think me as a narcissist, but I knew when I retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2002 with 28 years of committed service that I would write my memoir. Documenting my journey as one of the first 32 women to be accepted into the RCMP on September 16, 1974. I had no idea where the writing journey would take me but I knew I wanted to add my personal perspective to that historic change, with a bit of humour and a sense of gratitude. After all, it was the seventies, and women were burning their bras and demanding gender equality in all segments of society. Helen Reddy was singing “I am Women” and Billie Jean King won the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match against Bobby Riggs.
My memoir is one of surviving in an organization that is synonymous with Canada’s identity. An organization puzzled about how to deal with women in it’s ranks and what it meant to encourage me and the women like me to succeed.
It is a tale of fun and joy, of struggle and disappointment. Of overcoming obstacles inside and outside the RCMP and gaining the strength to do so. A tale of fear and of finding my passion in life. A 28-year career built on friendships in the face of naysayers and at times discrimination. But through it all, I never once thought of quitting, even when it didn’t make sense to continue. I was determined to go on, convinced that I was born to achieve great things and no one was going to belittle me or undo my destiny. My anecdotes are about suffering in silence with post traumatic stress disorder that stole my life and had a very negative impact on the lives of my daughters.
The incident that left me with PTSD was being raped by a fellow RCMP officer, in the first weeks at my first posting in 1975. I kept the assaults secret for years, ashamed and fearful. Believing that if I reported these criminal acts that it would end my policing career.
My PTSD manifested itself in a fear of the world, as I knew it. A sense of helplessness and an inability to trust anyone around me except my daughters. It led to years of failed relationships, including a marriage and an engagement. Food, not alcohol or drugs, became my coping mechanism and my nemesis. Putting on then losing hundreds of pounds over the years to deal with my emotional shutdown and anguish. I developed serious health issues related to PSTD that have acute consequences in my life today.
My mental illness kept me disconnection from friendships and isolated me more and more over time. Like a combat soldier, always feeling hyper vigilant and on guard, except within the perimeters of my own space, the only space I could control.
What I’m the most proud of is that my story is that of being a trailblazer and a pioneer, paving the way for generations of women coming behind me and for that I am very proud.