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Unseen scars: Beyond the Blue

Staff Sgt. Danielle Powell, 22nd Medical Group flight medical technician, poses for a photo Feb. 23, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Powell shared her story about her past abusive relationship and the resources that helped her to overcome that experience as part of McConnell’s Beyond the Blue initiative. Beyond the Blue focuses on taking steps to normalize conversations about mental health and help seeking behaviors. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

Staff Sgt. Danielle Powell, 22nd Medical Group flight medical technician, poses for a photo Feb. 23, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Powell shared her story about her past abusive relationship and the resources that helped her to overcome that experience as part of McConnell’s Beyond the Blue initiative. Beyond the Blue focuses on taking steps to normalize conversations about mental health and help seeking behaviors. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Nilsa Garcia)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – The damage abuse causes won’t always embed within bruises, bumps and broken bones— it can take the form of emotional scars, invisible to the surface.

 

For two years, Staff Sgt. Danielle Powell, 22nd Medical Group flight medical technician, gathered these scars during her marriage to her then-husband. What started as a promising marriage quickly derailed into a relationship that impacted her life emotionally, physically and financially.

 

“He became a different person,” said Powell. “He took control of my life, finances and left me with nothing. Some days I had trouble getting out of bed.”

 

In a career where military members put the nation’s needs at the forefront, it can become difficult remembering to prioritize one’s own needs.

 

“I didn’t want to fit into the stigma of ‘I’m a woman, so I’m weak’,” said Powell. “But I felt like asking for help was me giving in.”

 

It wasn’t until the severity of her situation reached a point where Powell feared for her life that she gathered the courage to ask for help from her supervisor.

 

“I thought I was going to die,” said Powell. “I knew I had to do something.”

 

Together, Powell and her supervisor reported directly to her unit’s mental health clinic, where she received in-patient treatment for two months. Following her release, she was able to separate from her husband and successfully obtain a permanent change of station to McConnell.

 

“People asked, ‘why are you doing this? He’s such a great guy’,” said Powell.  “But they didn’t know him because they didn’t actually live with him. I was relieved.”

 

Looking back on the situation now, Powell wishes she had reached out to her supervision earlier. Since her arrival to McConnell in 2020, she has become an advocate for normalizing conversations surrounding mental health and abuse. She focuses on emphasizing the importance of fostering a safe environment within the work center.

 

“Always check up on your people and don’t assume they’re okay,” said Powell. “I don’t want someone to end up in the situation I did. I’m hoping sharing this will help prevent anyone else from struggling.”

 

She thanks resources such as family advocacy, military one source and mental health clinic for providing her with endless support throughout her journey.  

 

“Mental health is not an immediate fix and healing has no timeline,” said Powell. “It’ll be hard, but it’s worth it.”