My New VA Psychiatrist

For the few of you that are also on my Facebook page, you know I had an appointment with a new psychiatrist recently at my local VA. The reason anyone knows about it is because I posted my displeasure with the new psychiatrist there. At the end of the appointment, I left unsatisfied and wondering if she really cared or if she was just checking the boxes. I know for sure, she gets paid no matter how I feel when I leave her office. I think it was a waste of my time.

The main thing that upset me was the changes she made to how I get my medication. First, let me back up. A while back they gave me a prescription for a 30-day supply of my medications, but made my next psych appointment 50+ days out from that. I had to ration my medication so I wouldn’t be without them for too many days in a row before I could get them refilled. I would always get a paper prescription and take it to the base to be filled. It’s a process that has been working for a long time. It’s flawless. That process has never failed.

My new psychiatrist says I can now only get my medications through the VA. Well, one of them, which they keep in stock at my local VA, only comes in twice the dosage I take. Now I have to cut the pill down every night, whereas from the base, I can get it in my prescribed dosage. Not a huge deal, but still annoying, especially since I’m not fond of change when something has been working for as long as it has. That might be the PTSD coming out in me, I don’t know. The other medication is NOT kept onsite. They would have to mail it to me. I’m already out of it by the time of my appointment, and now I must wait up to ten days to get it in the mail. How does that help?

My new psychiatrist told me the reason she wants to change how I’ve been getting my medication for over a year is so that she can have control over it. She also mentioned that I would have to be at my house to sign for the medication when it arrived, although the postal service may allow another adult to sign for it, she didn’t know. It is a controlled substance. But that didn’t work. The postal service let my 13-year-old daughter sign for it. Tell me how much control the new psychiatrist has over that? Please explain to me how the way she wants it done is better than me taking a paper prescription straight to the base and getting my meds the same day, without a controlled substance being signed for by a 13-year old?

I plan on bringing all that up at my next appointment with her. And I may have already made a formal complaint about it before then. This is one of the reasons I find the VA so frustrating. Why fix something that isn’t broken when there are so many broken things they should fix? Why change something that has been working without fail and create a process that I am not comfortable with? She cared more about controlling my medications than she did about what was going on in my life, or at least that’s what I believe to be true. That’s how she made me feel.

That’s my frustration with the VA for the week. On a lighter note, the AMAs I’ve been hosting seem to be going well. I found out there was a glitch in the way they counted RSVP participants, so last week when I thought I was up to 500+, it ended up being a little more than 100. They fixed it and the numbers are now accurate. I’m still happy about all of it. I’m amazed by the number of people that take the time to ask me questions on there. The site I’m doing the forums on is still very new and will only continue to grow. And I’m getting paid to do it. I love that part. Go check out my next one if you want. And RSVP to it when you get there to help my numbers if you feel so inclined. And, ask a question. That’s the whole purpose of the AMA anyway. Hope to see you there.

https://militaryama.com/during-my-two-deployments-one-to-iraq-and-one-to-afghanistan-my-camera-took-158812/

That’s all I got for the week. Thanks for listening me to vent about the VA. I’ve said many times that all the good doctors leave the VA for better jobs. My new psychiatrist will probably be there forever. But anyway, Good day, God bless.

Dave

And Then There is Paul

I was sitting in the patient waiting area at the local Veterans Affairs Clinic to get refills written for my prescriptions. They were getting low and I didn’t have enough to make it to my next appointment. They have always been good about writing refills for my drugs between appointments, even when I wait until the last minute. Of course, I had to sit and wait since I didn’t have an appointment, which is fine. I have to do it this way a couple times a year. No big deal. One day, maybe I’ll get my medications and my appointments synched up and not have to get refills written between appointments. I’m sure that takes more planning than I want to do right now, though.

While waiting, I watched a number of patients get called for their appointments. The nurse that was in charge of doing their vitals, as well as height and weight, seemed to have a chip on her shoulder for some reason. Her demeanor and body language actually made her seem like she was in a pissy mood. She just didn’t look like she wanted to be there. But for those of us that deal with the VA regularly, we know all too well about those people.

From where I was sitting, I heard a Viet Nam-era veteran complaining to a clerk about that nurse. He went on about how he shouldn’t have to be treated like that. I’m not sure what she did or said to him, but he was not happy. Another patient, a man closer to my age, in his mid-40’s, was also offended by the cantankerous nurse.

I heard the ‘mid-40’s’ veteran tell the clerk as he checked in that this was his first time going to the VA and that he didn’t know what to expect. All I could think was, “Welcome to the VA, buddy. Get used to not knowing what to expect.” But I digress. Shortly after he entered the secured door where he would have his vitals checked, the door re-opened and he was coming out, seemingly trying to ask the nurse a question. Her response, which she said twice while pointing down the hall, was “Someone else.” He turned back to her as he exited the door and said, “Kick rocks.” I’m not quite familiar with that term, but I believe it’s a politically correct way to say, “Go **** yourself.”

I watched the ‘mid-40’s’ veteran go to the opposite side of the waiting area away from the door to Nurse Difficult’s chambers. I recognize the look on his face and the stare in his eyes. He was wondering if she was worth jail time and also trying to calm himself down. I know that feeling all too well. A minute or two later he came back and approached the clerk, explaining again that this was his first visit to the VA and he didn’t know what happened, that she had simply become problematic during his check in. Welcome to the VA, buddy.

Not all VA employees are like that nurse. But it only takes one or two people like her to make the whole VA experience an appalling reality. And then there is Paul. Paul is the clerk that helped me this week to get my prescriptions refilled and was also the clerk that checked in the ‘mid-40’s’ veteran for his appointment. I remember the first time I met Paul. I’m sure he doesn’t remember me since he deals with hundreds of veterans a week. But I will never forget the day I met him.

I had two main conditions when getting released from the hospital in 2015 after my failed suicide attempt. One, to go to a specified local mental health outpatient clinic to sign up for six weeks of group therapy. And, second, to go to the VA for ongoing treatment. I pulled into the parking lot of the VA at 4:28 PM. They hadn’t locked their doors yet and I was able to get inside. If you are familiar with the VA, once 4:30 hits, you can forget it. The world for them stops and you no longer matter or exist.   However, Paul apparently didn’t adhere to that train of thought.

Paul was the only clerk at a window that day. I approached him and briefly explained my situation. I’m sure I sounded like a nut-case, and maybe that helped in this instance, I don’t know. But Paul stopped what he was doing and made sure that I could get my medications and set up an appointment for me with Mental Health. First, he called the psychiatrist’s office to make sure the prescriptions could be transcribed to VA prescriptions so it could be filled on the spot. Then he made sure someone would be in the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions. After that he made a future appointment for me to see the psychiatrist. All of this was done after Paul was supposed to be able to tell me they were closed and I should come back the next day. Paul didn’t care about what time it was. Paul was helping a veteran that had just been released from a psych ward. To him, that was far more important than quitting time. Or at least, that’s how he made me feel.

In my dealings with all of them, there are only a handful of VA employees that are like Nurse Difficult. But like I said, it only takes one or two of them to ruin the whole experience and give the veteran a feeling of hopelessness when dealing with the VA. And then there’s Paul. Paul is the personification of what a VA employee should be. We need more people like Paul. I’m thankful I met him. I’m thankful he was working at the VA the day I got out of the hospital. He made a difference in how things could have gone that day, which, at the time, made a difference in my life. And he probably has no idea.

To Nurse Difficult, kick rocks, bitch. To Paul, thank you, keep doing what you’re doing. And to those of you who are going into the VA system for the first time, be patient. I know it’s hard. I really do. I almost got removed by security once a while back at the VA. It wasn’t pretty. But be calm and outlast them, like we did the enemy. And to the ‘mid-40’s’ veteran who was there for the first time, good job, bro. You handled it well.

Thanks for reading Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

related posts to this one:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/25/breathe-in-breath-out-if-you-can/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/10/08/the-va-is-killing-me/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/08/20/the-storm/

 

But Wait, There’s More

My life lately feels like one of those cheesy infomercials from the 90’s where a washed up musician would try to peddle a greatest hits compilation of various artist of his era. Or even try to sell his own music because he can’t get a gig anywhere and no one really remembers what his one hit was until they watch the commercial. I can hear the announcer in the background saying, “And the hits just keep on coming.” And at the final sales pitch he says, “But wait, there’s more.” That’s the story of my life, the hits in life just keep on coming. And you guessed it, there’s always more.

Recently my debit card was compromised on the other side of the country. My card had to be turned off and a new one came in the mail. But not soon enough. I had forgotten about that and tried to check out at the grocery store before I got the new one. Oops. Then the electricity was turned off because I didn’t pay the bill on time. It did get turned back on a few hours later as I scrambled to get the air conditioning going again for the comfort of the kids. The VA continues to be a thorn in my side. I do not understand how they can mess up so many things and not even care. They would go out of business if they were a commercial entity. And to top everything off, my wife, who moved out in March, is now moving back in because obviously I can’t take care of the kids like I thought I could. It’s my own fault.

I cannot begin to describe the lowness of this. This feeling of being an utter failure. I am not unfamiliar with failing. I’ve failed pretty good in my life before, many times. But I would get back up, dust myself off, and look for the next great challenge. I was never really afraid of failing, it’s part of life. Shake it off and move on. I do not seem to have that in me anymore. No more seeking challenges, I have an overload of them already. No more getting back up off the mat, I am beat. I feel like I am down for the count, been punched in the face too many times now. Before you read too much into this, no, I am not having ideas of suicide again. I am accepting that I have failed and there’s nothing that will make this one better in the near future.

I don’t have the money for an attorney to start the process of filing for divorce. I guess that’s a good thing since I would not ‘win’ anyway. What judge in his right mind would award me the kids with my track record? PTSD, anxiety, major depression, a failed suicide attempt last year, no job? Seriously, what was I thinking when I thought I could pull this off? I can’t. I give up. She can move back in. I’ll find a place to go somewhere eventually. Then I’ll look like the one that left and be the bad guy, that’s fine. I don’t mind. Eventually, I’ll end up being one of those deadbeat dads that I despise. You know, the jackass that can’t support his kids. I guess I’m there already. Yep, another new low in my life.

I might catch hell for this post. With the estranged wife moving back in to the spare bedroom, this post will likely only make things worse between us. No, I’m not doing this to piss her off. I’m doing this because I have not written much on this topic of my life and I need to. I write, I share it, and I feel better. It’s what I do, that’s my process. I wonder if my deeper depression the last couple months was exacerbated by not writing about being separated when I wanted to. I had chosen not to write too many details about my failing marriage because I don’t want things to become more contentious between the ex and I, because we still have to raise the kids, and it’s just easier if we aren’t arguing. But we argue anyway. So, for my own therapy, I’m going to write what I want, what’s on my mind. And I will feel better for it.

That’s the plan. We’ll see how it works out. My plans haven’t fared well for a while now. I am way overdue for something good to happen. And I know it’s not near as bad as it feels. I know it could be worse. I’m just tired of everything being all uphill. And I think for the first time in my life I’m scared of failing. Not failing like when I’ve lost multiple businesses over the years. Not like failing when I dropped out of college with only two semesters left a couple years ago. Not even the way my mind and body are failing and not being able to do all the things I used to do, military or otherwise. But I’m scared of failing when it really matters.

Thanks for reading this week. Take care, God bless.

Dave

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image from a google search

Depressed

I’ve been battling my depression the last couple weeks. That sounds funny to me, “my depression.” Like I have any control over it or can say when it comes and goes. Do I own it? If I still have the receipt, can I return it? Can I trade it in for something more fun? When I say “my truck,” “my kids,” “my house,” “my recliner,” it sounds normal. Tangible things. Things I can recognize with my senses. I can’t see my depression with my eyes. Or taste it, smell it, hear it. I can feel it, but not in the traditional sense of feel. If I could feel it, I imagine it would feel something like a sticker burr in my foot or a splinter in my hand. Or it could possibly feel like a tank tied to my waist and tossed into the ocean. Lately, it’s felt much more like being tied to a tank.

I have no motivation. No energy. No desire to do anything. I recognize this and have been doing some self-reflection to see if I can figure out why the last few weeks have been seemingly hard for me. I know life is up and down. I just don’t know why this down time is longer and harder right now. I don’t like this. I don’t like how it feels.

But here’s what I know. In the last month or so, the kids have gotten out of school for the summer, the lot behind my house is being built on, there is construction on my street, and I got a dog. Getting a dog was a good thing. More on “Gumbo” later, but he is a perfect addition here and a great dog. But the other things I mentioned, and some things I haven’t, seem to be having a negative influence on me.

I had no idea the old house behind mine was even going to be demolished until one morning my house shook from the slamming of a backhoe into the old house. That was a rude awakening. It was two days of demolition and noise. And with that house gone, I felt exposed to the world. My area safe, confined area on the back porch now felt wide open. I could see down the street that runs behind my house. That means I could be seen from down the street. Eventually, a new foundation was poured and construction on the new house began. More noise, equipment, and strange people practically in my back yard for weeks now. I guess the upside is that my property value will go up with a brand new house right next to mine.

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The kids getting out of school for the summer is a good thing, but it changed the schedule I had been on, that I had become used to. I’m staying up later now and sleeping in longer. My sleep schedule is messed up and that’s causing me to not sleep as well at night, even when I take my medications. This might be why I lack energy, have become more irritable lately, and just don’t seem to want to do anything anymore except watch Netflix and play stupid games on Facebook. I’m in a rut. A deep and wide one.

The construction on my street, actually in the whole neighborhood, is annoying. It’s loud. They’ve closed the road a few times which bothers me. What if I need to escape? I know, that’s not likely, but it did cross my mind. It’s a local government doing the work so it’s taking longer than it should and half the workers stand around and do nothing. I’m sure it’s also costing twice as much as it should as well. I haven’t done yard work in three weeks since all the noise and commotion started.

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On a more positive note, I got a dog last month. A great dog, a Golden Doodle. His name is Gumbo and the kids love him. He gets so excited in the mornings when it’s time to wake up the kids. He loves playing fetch with the Frisbee and chasing squirrels. He doesn’t like the nail gun that’s being used to roof the house behind mine. He doesn’t like thunder. One night he jumped up in bed with one of my kids during an exceptionally rough storm. He hates fireworks and jets flying overhead. But he is so gentle and friendly and smart.

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Also, I’ve started working on my novel again. It has been a work in progress for few months now. I’m almost half way through writing it, over 40,000 words so far. I’m going for somewhere between ninety and a hundred thousand words. I might take an excerpt from it for next weekend’s blog to see what everyone thinks. Maybe it will never get published, but I’m going to keep writing it anyway. But who knows, maybe it will get picked up by a publisher. And become a best-seller. And turned into a motion picture. And, and, and. Not likely, but it is a fun thought. And I’m enjoying writing it.

So for now I’m depressed. I have anxiety. I’m not dealing with my PTSD triggers very well. The VA is annoying and slow. Physically I hurt. I’m running out of shows on Netflix that I find interesting. But I know it could always be worse. I know I have been worse before but I’m not there now. I’m still moving forward and getting better, this is just part of it. Sometimes things just suck, this is one of those times.

Thanks for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Breathe in. Breathe out. If you can.

At some point before I left Afghanistan in 2014 I started feeling like I was having breathing issues. I wasn’t concerned about it at the time, but it was noticeable. My bigger concerns were of other physical problems that I developed over there. And I wasn’t even slightly concerned with my mental health because I had been deployed before. I knew what to expect. But obviously, every deployment is different. And not everything about coming home is the same each time.

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My breathing continued to get worse after returning home. Sometimes it was accompanied by chest pains and lightheadedness. It had become difficult to do even moderately physical work. I wasn’t able to do the things that I used to do with ease and it didn’t seem to be getting better. I was driving to class one day a few months after getting home and the breathing was so bad I felt like I might pass out at the wheel. And my chest hurt. Instead of going to class I went to the emergency room at the local Navy hospital.

They hooked me up to all kinds of equipment, ran tests, did x-rays, and asked me a million questions. In the end, the doctor told me it was most likely anxiety and that I should seek mental health treatment. But before I even got home from there, he had called me and ask if I could come back for more tests and x-rays. They found something on my right lung and wanted to get more images from different angles. So I went back for them to poke and prod at me some more. The doctor confirmed a nodule in my right lung. He told me to follow up with my doctor and have further tests done. He wouldn’t speculate if it was serious or not, that a specialist would have to do that.

I waited a year before having it looked at again. I was in a downward spiral in my life at that time and didn’t really care about my health, physical or mental. That part of my life is documented in other previous blog posts. After my failed suicide attempt I decided that if I was going to live, I might as well have my lungs looked at. The doctor at the VA was a complete moron and should in no way be a doctor for veterans. He finally agreed to order tests for me after he realized that I already had some findings from the Navy hospital. During the phone consultation following the first test he informed me that the nodule was small and probably nothing to worry about, that there would be a follow up test in six months. He didn’t know that I already had a copy of the report. So I asked about the second finding in the report, COPD. And he asked, “Oh, are you having breathing problems?” I went off on him, I lost my temper right there. I reminded him that was the whole reason for my appointment before the tests. I couldn’t breathe. Moron!!

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He ordered more tests. Somehow those tests didn’t show any COPD. I guess my breathing problems are all in my head. However, I have documents showing how bad the air quality was in Kabul, where I was at for the majority of my time in Afghanistan. One document from 2009 states, “Kabul air has reached toxic levels….three to 7.5 times higher than WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines for acceptable level of exposure.” In a 2012 letter from Senator Ron Wyden to the Secretary of Defense he points out that “Kabul ranks near the top of worldwide rankings of hazardous airborne contaminants.” But maybe my breathing issues are in my head since the VA can’t find what’s there.

For those of you who have ever dealt with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), you know it’s a broken system. Often times dealing with them is like getting slapped in the face, especially when the doctor I have is an ass and should not be dealing with veterans. Another slap in the face was when I recently filled out the paperwork for release of information from providers outside the VA to go along with my updated claim. I got a letter from them saying that even though I filled out the paperwork, it’s my responsibility to make sure they get the requested documents. Is that an ongoing problem? Do hospitals and doctors say no to the VA when requesting information? But I don’t have enough to worry about, so I’m glad the VA told me they aren’t responsible for receiving the documents I requested. Really, I was running out of shit to worry about. Morons.

This is a frustrating system to be drowning in. The bureaucracy involved is ludicrous. The lack of accountability is appalling. The number of veterans that die while waiting for care is growing. I vented to my psychologist about this and he asked me why I’m focused on fixing the VA instead of just getting done what I need to get done. He admits that the VA cannot be fixed. I don’t know about the other branches of the military, but in the Army we never leave a fallen comrade. I’ll get what’s due to me eventually. And I will continue to use my voice to help others lost in a broken system of ineptitude so as not leave someone else behind. But I can only make so much noise by myself.

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If you served in Kabul or Bagram and want a copy of the documents I have, let me know. If you have something helpful to share about this, let us all know.

This is frustrating to me. Why won’t they help? Why won’t they listen? Why won’t they look at the evidence that’s out there? It’s dealing with this kind of bullshit that doesn’t help my PTSD, anxiety, anger management, or hopefulness that I will get the treatment I need. This is where many veterans lose the will to fight the system. We can’t win, so what’s the use in spending time and energy on a losing cause? But I’d still go do it all again if asked. Even knowing what I know now.

Thanks for reading my rant. Good day, God bless.

Dave