‘Facing Stigma’ with Audrey C.
“We didn’t grow up with much; my dad was a single father after my mom left us when I was 9 years old. He was in the military and I would go on to join as well because I wanted a more structured and positive environment than what I grew up in. I followed in his footsteps and joined the Army and got a job in finance. I only did one enlistment and probably would have stayed in if not for having a baby. After becoming a mother, I received orders to deploy to Kosovo and Macedonia. I didn’t have much family support so I had to leave my newborn baby with my friends in the barracks. I was distraught and actually had people try to take my place; however, I was a dispersing agent so I was one of only a few people authorized to do that job. I was deployed for nine months and a majority of my job was to go around the country with security and make sure the contractors were getting paid. While we were there, our humvee got in a wreck and it tore my shoulder out of the socket. I had my arm strapped to my chest for a year while it healed. It wasn’t just the physical toll that the deployment took on me. I endured a certain level of mental distress every day due to the separation anxiety of leaving my little girl behind. I decided to separate a year later rather than having to cycle on and off deployments while trying to raise my child. Coincidentally, my brother got out of prison around the same time so I moved to Baltimore to be more supportive of him and start my life post military.
I started working in finance at JPMorgan Chase, but after having my second child I decided to transition into law enforcement. I worked with Homeland Security under the federal protective service and did federal security for them in the counter terrorism sector. I worked with them for 12 years until I blew out my knee in 2019. The injury was really a blessing in disguise and forced me to stop and confront some uncomfortable truths. As a mixed woman I’ve endured racism on both sides of my family growing up, both black and white. That experience made me more aware of the issues going on in our country, but never more so than while I was in law enforcement. There were many times when I had to speak up and confront people I felt were abusing the power that comes with wearing a uniform. I was so dissatisfied with my job and some of the things that were going on that I believe my injury allowed me to start a new chapter. I started my own company and made money on my own terms without a cap or ceiling. I wanted to create something that was my own and that’s how I started my clothing company, Tutu Royalty. They are extravagant tutus for children and can be worn for birthday parties, weddings, etc. I have people from South Africa, Yemen, and all over the world buying these tutus that retail for $160 each. With the time off after I hurt my knee, I also decided to finally address some of my own issues and reached out to Wounded Warrior Project. After going through their list of partners, I found Headstrong as a resource. I matched with my current therapist, MaryAlyce, and she has been a godsend. She’s a great listener and I appreciate that she’s a veteran and woman. She has really empowered me and given me tools to start a different level of the healing process. I want to be better for my children so that they’re able to break this generational curse and not be held back in their lives. If you want your children to do better, you have to give them a higher level of opportunity.”