The last time I hurt myself

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Randall Moose
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Aguilar, 17th Training Wing Equal Opportunity NCO in charge, has been in the Air Force over 17 years but, like some, she experienced emotional, physical and mental abuse before raising her right hand to enlist.

 “Before I joined the Air Force I didn’t have a very good upbringing,” said Aguilar. “I come from what society likes to call a broken home.”

At young age, she would experience physical abuse at home.

“It was abuse, being hit,” said Aguilar. “I would watch my mom being hit to the point of having police show up at our house. At the time I wasn’t able to speak up. Even with the police at the house, my brothers, sisters and I didn’t have a voice. My mom wouldn’t want to file a complaint, so the cops couldn’t do anything.”

She experienced sexual abuse as well.

“I even had continued abuse from my grandparents, being molested by my grandfather and being told by my grandmother that it was my fault,” said Aguilar. “I remember hiding from my grandfather, every time I saw him coming or calling my name. To this day, Old Spice aftershave triggers those bad memories of him.”

"If I think about who I was growing up, it’s like two different people..."

Aguilar believes that her lack of control over the abuse at home evolved into a sense of helplessness, emptiness and a desire to control something.

 “So I started to hurt myself,” said Aguilar. “It started as simple as using a rubber band, popping it to the point of cutting into my skin, to the point of cutting with a knife. One day I ended up in a hospital.”

In the hospital, she was unresponsive, seeming as though she had given up.

 “I don’t remember in detail how I ended up in the hospital, but I do remember that I felt empty inside. I felt like even though there were so many people around me, whether they were hurting me or not, I wasn’t present. So I just thought it would be easier for me not to be there.

“The best way that I can describe feeling empty or feeling alone in a crowd and what ended up with me cutting, was that I couldn’t control what was going on around me. I needed an outlet to let that anger, sadness, mostly sadness, out. I wanted to actually feel something. The only way I could feel something was to cut. It was something I could control.”

Then, as Aguilar believes, God sent her an angel.

“The day I ended up in the hospital, an angel was placed in my life to give me what I needed the most at that time,” said Aguilar. “That was my mom, not my biological one, but who I consider my mom. Marie was a friend of my mom at that time. She and her husband, John, sort of adopted me at that point, and took me into their home. They became my second parents, and to them I will be forever grateful.

“She was at the hospital at that time as someone to hold onto. I don’t know how to explain in words what I experienced that night in the hospital, but I can say that it was the last time that I tried to hurt myself.”

With her faith to support her, Aguilar decided how she would live her life.

“Now I can say that I’m grounded in faith, but at that time I couldn’t say that,” said Aguilar. “I made the choice that my life circumstances, what happened to me growing up, wasn’t going to dictate what I choose to do in the future. I was either going to be sad and angry or I was going to do something with my life. Because I knew then that I had a purpose, and that has been my motivation throughout my life, my career, to pay it forward, always.”

With this decision in mind, she decided to join the U.S. Air Force.

“I got my citizenship in November of ‘99, and shortly after that I wanted a way to give back,” said Aguilar. “I thought that the best way to give back to the U.S. was to join the military.  John is the reason I joined the Air Force and not the Army. He was in the Army. I hope I have made him proud by wearing the uniform. For five years, I was in supply logistics.”

While working a special duty on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aguilar discovered Equal Opportunity.

“In conversation with them, and with my own personal experiences in the military, it became something I was driven to. So I put in my package, retrained and I’ve been an EO specialist ever since,” said Aguilar.

She believes that EO gives her the chance to help others with their own struggles in work, at home and with their personal experiences.

“I love doing my job,” said Aguilar. “I find ways to address concerns, talk about uncomfortable conversations that sometimes lead to my own personal experiences. If I can make somebody feel comfortable having those conversations and help them with discrimination, sexual harassment, conflict, personality or communication issues, then I’m all for it.”

Now, Aguilar focuses on improving herself and helping others.

“I love life,” said Aguilar. “I love nature. I love being in the moment. Running is my refuge. If I think about who I was growing up, it’s like two different people. I don’t recognize that former person’s train of thought. I plan to continue what I’m doing. I pay it forward by volunteering my time.

“Our life circumstance does not dictate our future. What seems like the end of your life is a seasonal moment that you can heal from in time.”

If you or someone you know has experienced or is experiencing domestic abuse, sexual assault or thoughts of harming yourself, please contact
Family Advocacy at 325-654-1600,
Sexual Assault Prevention at 325-654-1572, or
Mental Health at 325-654-3122.
For confidential counseling, call a chaplain at 325-654-3424.