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/

 

Advertisements

Rest In Peace, Laptop

Well, I went a couple weeks again without posting. I’ve received a few messages asking about it, checking on me. Thank you to those that noticed and reached out. I’m doing well for the most part. Much of life is falling into place, or at least I feel good about life lately. It’s been a while since I could say that. It’s all a process, and I’m accepting that it all takes time. I have made progress in some areas and still have a ways to go in other areas. But I’m getting there.

 

I have no excuse for two weeks ago, but the reason I didn’t post last week was because my laptop died. Not just died, but DIED, all caps died. Services to be held at a later date, I’ll keep you posted. I took it to a local computer shop and the look on the guy’s face told me that my laptop had already crossed over to the hard drive in the sky and there was nothing to do to save it. He couldn’t promise that the data could be retrieved and saved, but that he would try. It took a while, but he saved most of my data. Thank you to The Tech Center on Eglin Parkway in Fort Walton Beach, you did a great job.

 

About a dozen pictures from the laptop were not salvageable, but here’s some of what I could have lost. The first five chapters of the book I’m writing. 4,000 or so pictures I took in Afghanistan. My writing, my poetry, everything I’ve ever written for my blog. Years and years worth documents I’ve been collecting from my army reserve career. All my medical stuff I had on the laptop for the VA. The only things completely irreplaceable, were the pictures. I have all the paper documents somewhere. I can rewrite the book, though I think it would be lacking since it was written with such passion when I started. I think I’ll start backing everything up on my next laptop. Currently, I have hijacked my kid’s desktop to get this done.

 

My laptop served me well. It was a gift sent to me while at Fort Hood by my parents after my laptop I had at the time died, very similar to the way the current one went, quietly, in it’s sleep. And where I was, on North Fort Hood in the summer of 2013, I was not able to just go shopping for a new one. For those of you who might have been to North Fort Hood, you know it’s a wasteland of Hell with very little in amenities. And it’s possibly home to the worst chow hall in the army.

 

My laptop was a low-end Toshiba that didn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but was perfect for taking to Afghanistan. It did everything I needed and allowed me to stay in touch with the outside world. Every time I escorted the chaplain on a multi-day mission, I took it with me. I kept a journal of our trips on that laptop. I would log were we went, with whom, what we did, where we ate, how many times we heard the thunderous booms of the incoming enemy rockets. The most booms we heard were at Bagram, but the ones that got closest to us were in Kandahar. I logged every helicopter, plane, and convoy ride. I even noted the one or two times we walked from our base to another.

 

For being a low-end laptop, I would say it held up very well considering it went to war, traveled to and was used in six different countries, was dropped more than once, and exposed to extreme weather conditions. The casing is broken, some of the plastic is cracked. The actual laptop will never be what it once was, but it didn’t lose the important information I had on it. It needed some help from a computer expert, but the data was still retrievable. I have access to it again and can continue with the things I was working on. This ordeal was actually a wake up call for me to get my butt in gear to work more on my book and other writings.

 

In the last couple months, despite some things just not going well, I think I’m doing pretty good, or at least better than I have in a long while. I came to the conclusion recently that I should not be content to be miserable in life. If given the choice between happy or not, choose happy. I choose Happy. I can see a huge difference in my relationship with my children. I can see some improvement in my attitude and reactions while driving. I have become more patient in general with most things. I still have many PTSD issues, but I’m making progress. My sleep doesn’t always go as planned, my dreams are actually getting worse and more vivid. I still have too many days where I am unmotivated and lack energy and don’t do anything. I’m still very hyper vigilant to my surroundings. But overall, I see progress.

 

I think in some ways I’m similar to my laptop. There’s nothing hugely special about me, I’m kind of low-end, but I did the job required of me and then some. I served my purpose, I served my country. I’m broken and falling apart and I will never be what I was before, but I still have most of the information in my head. I can still access so many things I have learned in my life. The data in my brain doesn’t flow like it used to and often times gets out of order. I get confused sometimes and frustrated with how my brain works. But I have my weekly visit to my psychologist at the Vet Center, I have my medications, and I have a friend that keeps me smiling everyday and helped me realize that I do not have to be miserable in life. I’ll be ok, sooner rather than later, I think.  I know.

 

I do plan on going back to posting weekly, every Saturday. But if I miss a week here or there, I’m ok, I promise. As important to me as my writing is, I think I’ve moved past it being a necessity for my own personal therapy. I think I’m working through life’s situations better than when I started writing here again back in February. I’m certainly doing better than I was a couple months ago. I will keep doing what I’m doing, keep moving towards that light at the end of the tunnel, keep hoping for the best and believing it will happen.

 

Thanks for reading. Choose Happy! Good day, God bless.

 

Dave

 

The VA is Killing Me

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here. I just haven’t felt like writing. It’s also been a while since I’ve read any of the blogs I follow. It’s been a rough few weeks. I have been busy. My busy doesn’t equate to productive by any sense of the definition. But the thoughts in my mind keep me busy, yet also inhibit motivation and desire to do the things that I need to get done or even doing the things that I enjoy doing. I’m stuck in a cycle of doing the bare minimum to survive. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I can see it. It shines bright enough to lead me to the end of all this. I just don’t know how long before I get there. But I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

There are two main issues lately that have my mind in the darkness that I fight on a daily basis. One is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA). The other isn’t worth talking about and has no bearing on my future anyway. Some fights just aren’t worth fighting. The VA, however, is a fight that I have to keep fighting. And despite being set up for failure in that corrupt system, I must win. In reality though, who am I fooling? They would rather me die and save money for bonuses and art than to help me get well again. But I will go down fighting and swinging no matter what it takes. And before anyone reads anything idiotic into that, “going down swinging” is simply a figure of speech, not a threat. That disclaimer is for the one person that doesn’t know the difference, she knows who she is.

Concerning the VA. I had some appointments recently. Four out of five of them were with a medical group contracted by the VA to determine compensation and pension. My eyes were opened to how things really work, how things should work, and how veterans are just plain screwed in the system. First, every time I’ve seen my primary care physician at the VA, he tells me my breathing is fine. However, he’s the only one. I went to sick call at Ft. Jackson a couple months ago and the doctor that listened to my lungs wanted to order x-rays immediately because of how my lungs sounded. A follow up with a civilian doctor after returning home from that trip had similar results. The doctor I saw most recently for the compensation appointment asked me why the VA hadn’t already diagnosed me. She said there was already overwhelming evidence that the VA sent to her that I should have already have been diagnosed.

va_scandal_map

The breathing test is a scam. I didn’t realize the first couple times I took it that I was taking it multiple times each visit until I passed. That’s how the VA works. Make the patient test until they can say there’s nothing wrong. But the doctor is sent only the results of the passing test. They don’t realize that it took me four times testing to get the minimum score. All total that day I took two different breathing tests seven times and passed one time on each test. Basically, I can breathe well enough 29% of the time. That’s good to know. That must mean I don’t need any breathing treatments or meds to help. They can now spend that money on other things that don’t benefit the veterans.

I saw something a while back where a person made a statement that veterans shouldn’t complain about free health care. I wanted to reach through the internet and choke that guy out. (again, just a figure of speech that isn’t possible anyway). I paid for this so called care. I paid for it with my health and my sanity. I paid a dear price for it. In addition, it’s not free anyway. Everyone in the VA gets paid. And they get paid pretty well, some more than others. It’s not a charity. It’s not a non-profit clinic that treats the poor. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has no accountability to the ones it is supposed to be serving. I don’t want free health care. I want the health care I already paid for. I want the health care that our taxes pay for with the VA.

In August of last year after my failed suicide attempt I went to the VA with the false hope of getting help. I spoke with the patient advocate at my local VA. I didn’t know where to start so I started with her. She assured me that I would get the help I needed and started making phone calls. When she finally got through to a live person the conversation switched from getting me help to her and the person on the other end of the phone bitching about not receiving their bonuses. And I quote the patient advocate, “Yeah, I haven’t got my bonus either. I’m about to drive over to Biloxi and ask her to her face where my money is.” I looked for her business card so I could call her out by name, but I don’t know where it is. Nice to see how much they really care, or what it is they really care about. She was going to drive 400 miles round trip to get in someone’s face about a bonus. Not sure why that needed to be discussed while I was sitting there.

My primary care doctor at my local VA has told me he didn’t want to diagnose me because it would have consequences on my career in the army reserves. Don’t treat me because I’m still in the reserves? In other words, “maybe you’ll die before the VA has to take full responsibility of you.” And at my most recent appointment he commented on my lungs, “We aren’t going to do anything yet. Let’s bring you back in in six months and see how they’re doing.” This is not what my body and mind paid for in Iraq and Afghanistan. I demand better service and better care. And I’m going to be as loud as I can to show everyone what veterans go through in dealing with the VA.

I know experiences vary. I know of a couple friends that got great service and care from their VA where they live. But they are few and far between. From what I can tell, most of us go through the same thing I’m going through with the VA. I can’t fix it. But I can make some noise. Maybe it won’t do any good, but I will be heard. The system will continue to remain broken. There’s nothing I can do about it. But I will keep moving towards my light at the end of the tunnel. And I will survive.

Thanks for reading this week. Sorry it was somewhat scatterbrained and all over the place. I only wrote it as it came to me. There’s no real flow in my writing lately, too much going on in my head. But I will make it to where I’m supposed to be. I am confident in that. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other posts from me related to this:

https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/breathe-in-breath-out-if-you-can/

https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/crossroads/

 

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

0001

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 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.

7389

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.

20160623_131834

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.

20160619_134939

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