Just recently mental illness has been brought to light and has become easier to talk about. The amount of service members coming back from war with mental illnesses has brought a lot of attention to… More
I finally started this blog after much debate with myself. I’ve gone back and forth wondering if it would do me or anyone any good to share the inner thoughts and conversations I have in my own mind. Originally, I wanted to title this “My Dialogues With PTSD”, but I didn’t want to limit the conversations. The world is ever changing and our thoughts and behaviors tend to follow suit. At least mine tend to.
Just to be blunt…This is a raw, rude, and sometime offensive blog of conversations I have with myself or the way I perceive the world. Sometimes I like to tell myself that things are going to go back to the way they were, but it’s time to be honest and accept the shitty truth. I have come to learn, even though circumstances may come out to be the worst, there is always a lesson to learn.
I’m hoping once the word gets out, it will help others to let out the conversations they have with themselves; the self-doubt, arguments, constant havoc, confusion, and sometimes twisted humor that goes on inside of our minds. We mask these conversations daily. We hide our most inner thoughts that are destroying us little by little every day. As I carry a heavy burden of internal conflict, I’m hoping confronting these conversations and letting them out in the open will encourage others to do the same, and let go of the war within.
You’re welcome to share your conversations, and hopefully find some twisted way of accepting the way things are now.
Time to bring out the demons.
I’ve dealt with depression for probably the last ten years of my life. At first I just dealt with it, knowing that I had gone through a traumatic experience that would leave an impression on the rest of my life. I grew accustomed to being down. But just dealing with my symptoms ultimately led me to a worse state. Exhaustion set in, withdrawal from friends and family, anger and frustration at the drop of a dime, impatience etc…I lived in a whirlwind of hate and bitterness. What drew the line for me becoming pregnant with my oldest daughter. I finally had an excuse to be happy. I was happy because I had to be happy for someone else. Which is definitely not the right answer, but possibly a step into the right direction.
Fast forward through a divorce, another deployment, a loss of a beautiful friend and teammate, leaving the military, moving 2000 miles across the country with a toddler, another marriage (my final marriage I must add) and add two more beauties to the crazy mess. I am no longer allowed to live in hate, because if I do I will create three images of myself that will in turn go out into the world full of hate and guilt and recreate the demons I accepted and tried to suppress the last ten years.
My goal after my youngest was born was to fix me. I needed to fix these feelings that were not right and not fair. I learned that living like this was a waste of life. And over the past few years I have witnessed life wasted and I could no longer waste the life I was spared.
So I reached out. I had all the opportunity to start the journey to not ultimately fix but deal and accept the issues that were wrong with me. I did what most veterans do, I walked into the local VA hospital and asked what do I need to do to feel better. That was the first step. and in hindsight a disaster in the making.
After I returned from Afghanistan I have seen 4 separate psychiatrists, not having changed by fault of my own, but the Dr. leaving the VA to work some place else. I have had 5 separate primary care givers, 3 through the VA and 2 from the Hospital on Fort Benning.
Throughout this time I have been prescribed over 7 prescriptions ranging from anti-depressants, sleep aids, hormonal therapy, and other anti-psychotics to boost the ones I was already taking. I had blood work done to check thyroid and any vitamin deviancies and/or any hormonal levels that may be out of whack. All came back normal but my symptoms remained the same. My case kept getting passed to a new Dr, who I would ultimately have to retell everything in my chart, because I know they scan it over 5 minutes prior to my visit. That moment you are sitting in the chair with just the Doc and you and they are silent for what feels like hours, and its totally awkward, yeah they are scanning your chart because they don’t know fuck about you.
I saw a psychologist for over a year who offered exposure therapy to ease my symptoms but ultimately made them far worse to the point I became suicidal. I felt confident enough to tell him that it wasn’t working and was responded with “You know I am doing you a favor by seeing you.” Now, I’m in a position of trying to get to know my emotions again, I know a lot of us may go above and beyond what the “normal” person may express in times of stress, but my response, at that time was sufficient for me, and I kindly told that Dr. to fuck off, and I never went back.
So I’ve let some time go by. I got to the point that I believed my state of mind was just something I had to live with and my lack of emotion or over emotional state was just the person I had to be. There was no help for me. I was left to live with my diagnosis and not be the person I wanted to be. I believed that. I settled for that. I’m ashamed of myself for becoming that.
I fell into another depression these past few months which led to a more severe suicidal stage in my life. I had always thought I would never care if I lived or died, but I would never do it at my own hand. By this time it was different. I was creating “the plan” everyone warns you about, and I was becoming more and more comfortable with that plan regardless of the absence I was going to leave in my family. It’s so cliché, the commercials for anti-psychotics and the famous quote “If you have thoughts about killing yourself contact your Dr. immediately” I’ve never met anyone who got on the horn and just casually called the Dr. and told them they were about to off themselves. Besides getting in touch with your Dr. through the VA is like killing yourself so it’s a lose-lose situation.
After months of not giving a fuck I finally broke down and called the notorious suicide hotline. With the support of my husband and the friendly voice on the other side I was able to come back to center and realize I needed to get some serious help.
At first I did my own research. I’m not sure about self diagnosis, but I do know that I want to know the options I have and the medications, or holistic therapies that are out there before I head into the doctors office. I did my research wrote a list of questions and medications I thought would benefit my symptoms and called the VA.
“We can get you in January 10 2017” my jaw dropped. It was the beginning of December and I had to wait an entire month and 10 days before I could get any help. I asked to be referred and they transferred me to a number that was disconnected. For many of us hoplessness starts to set in and feeling like the world is crashing down is heavy. I decided to call the hospital on Fort Benning, unfortunately my primary Dr. was unable to seem me for another month, but another physician would be able to see me the next day. Great, some hope. All I needed was a referral and I could talk to someone outside the VA about the whirlwind I have been caught up in.
Now, like most, I get super anxious going to the Dr. I hate reliving the same conversation over and over with a new Dr. All I needed was a referral to psychiatry and I would go into depth with them, because ultimately they were the ones that could actually educate me on what I was feeling and how to move on.
I arrived early, which is unusual for me, and I was checked in, in less than 10 minutes. The nurse got my vitals as usual, and the “Doc” came in shortly after. A captain walked in looking as he just graduated medical school, sat down and looked over my file.
“PTSD? are you in the service?” Now this is when my frustrations start to set in. I got it, I’m a female with PTSD but you couldn’t tell because I’m in civilian clothes and not in army fatigues. “Oh nevermind, it said its not combat related, sorry your husband is in the service, hence the Tricare.”
I stared at him… “No, Sir, I was in the service and I do have PTSD from a non combat related incident.” He raised his eyebrow confused and went back to the chart.
Jesus Christ. “I was raped….Sir” You don’t have to be “combat” to go through something traumatic. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sir.”
Then everything went to shit from there. He scooted his chair closer to me, wrong, fucking wrong thing to do, and kept telling me how sorry he was and it’s so sad that things like that happen, and if I need to just walk in and talk, he would see me as a walk in. Talk about a fucking trigger. He then went on to if he made me uncomfortable for being a male.
“No Sir, you see my last deployment I was attached to Special Operations and worked with primarily all males. I’m sure you are familiar with Ranger Regiment, and probably see a bunch of those guys for how fucked up their bodies are, but no, males do not make me uncomfortable, in fact I got a lot of closure from working with those guys because they are really honorable and amazing at what they do. I owe part of my sanity to that deployment.”
He then went on to tell me how he wanted to go to Ranger School and what I thought about women in combat. I just told him I don’t care and I just needed a referral to see a psych.
And this is where it gets good! He told me he couldn’t give me referral but if my anxiety eases up I should join a gym where they offer yoga and learn how to breathe because that would fix most if not all my problems.
I thought I had my anger under control but my steering wheel felt otherwise.
But you see, I’m a trooper, no dumb ass Captain is going to get the best of me, I’m going to get help, you’ll see.
My appointment with the VA finally came up. I got my mom to watch my girls. I was seeing, yet again another new psychiatrist and was hoping, if not praying today I would get some clarity. It takes me around an hour to get to the Tuskeegee VA Medical Center. I arrived to the Mental Health Department checked in and sat amongst maybe ten separate Veterans waiting to be seen by a psych or shrink. Mostly everyone, myself included have our heads down, most not on their phones but just checked out. It’s like we all know where we are, but not the extent of everyone’s emotional stress. It put a pit in my stomach seeing so many people down and out, I felt ashamed that there were so many “me’s” in the room. The Doc finally came in and took me back to his office.
Now I don’t know what my luck is, but for some reason I always get the Dr. I can’t understand a damn thing they are saying. This time was no different. I sat in the chair closest to the desk. I cant hear worth a shit anyways and stared at him. He stared back. It was like the longest staring contest that maybe lasted 30 seconds until he stopped and started reading the screen and typing with one finger. Any typing in my file makes me sick, but one finger slow typing makes me want to shoot myself in the foot and head to the ER. But not in Tuskeegee because they don’t have an ER, and plus guns aren’t allowed. So there’s that.
He went over my novel of medications and asked how they worked out. He then went to tell me the medication I was taking, that was prescribed by every other VA Dr. I was taking it wrong and had been taking it wrong for the last 5 years. Awesome, now we are off to a great start. I went on about my symptoms he said “uh huh” as he one finger typed and finally stopped and stared at me again. He said okay here’s what we are going to do, and rambled on about mood stabilizers and anti anxieties and anti depressants, and told me to try this for two weeks and call in to let him know how it went. From my research, I know I didn’t need any of that shit, and from what he was describing it would just make my symptoms worse. I inquired about pot and he laughed at me and said he didn’t know anything about it and Alabama doesn’t allow it. It was just a question, but it must be pretty funny how I don’t want to be doped up on a million drugs that need another million drugs to counteract the side effects of the million drugs he prescribed me.
He finished the conversation with okay here’s what you need to pick up from the pharmacy. He listed 4 separate anti psychotic medications, none I have ever taken, none that fit the symptoms of my diagnosis. I stared at him. I finally got ballsy enough and told him I didn’t want to be a zombie and live on pills for the rest of my life.
He shrugged his fucking shoulders.
So the VA has created this Choice Program, where if you cant get into an appointment in 30 days or if you live 30 miles or farther from the VA you are seeing you can be referred to a civilian Dr. in your area. Perfect. I am fed up with the VA and want stability and understanding, I want a second opinion and a plan that works. So today I got on the phone and called the VA eligibility number and sat on hold for over a fucking hour. Twice. I even went to route of trying to go back to the Military Hospital to get a referral but they cant see me for another two months for an appointment but I can come in and see Dr. Captain Dip Shit again. NO. NO. NO. Just NO.
I chose to write all this down because this is out of control. This is unacceptable for any Veteran not just me. This is unacceptable for health care in general. Why is it so hard to put in an inquiry for a referral to a doctor of my choosing that will accept my insurance or if its my choice to pay out of pocket. Why the fuck is that so hard? If you are so backed up, refer your patients out. Stop the selfish bullshit. I thought seeing a doctor, not my primary doctor the next day would be a great thing. Wrong. Why do specialty doctors have different ways of prescribing medications and therapies, I know a one size does not fit all, but for fucks sake I had 3 doctors tell me for 5 years to take a medication at this time at this dose, and another tell me he was sent in to clean the mess up from what these other doctors had created. They have been telling patients wrong for years? There is something wrong with that. There is something wrong with doping Veterans up on medications they don’t need to just get through an appointment. Don’t Doctors take an oath before they practice medicine? We are not whiny ass people, we are actively trying to get back into society but may need a little push. This is why the stereotype of Veterans is so horrible. I have read the rants from Veterans about their experiences within the VA, a lot of the time people say “Well get up and do something!” We have! We’ve tried we offer suggestions, we come in prepared to our appointments and lay out who we were and who we are now and what has and has not worked and what we would like to try. But it does not work that way. If you say one work like mood or sleepless nights the first thing shoved in your face is a prescription for medication that will fuck up your brain on an entirely new level. Ask a Veteran if they just go home and pop these pills the Dr. prescribes them. I guarantee they research the hell out of them and may have feelings of uneasiness about what they are going to endure the next couple months. It’s heartbreaking. I know I am not the only one that has gone through the ringer. And I want people to know, we as Vets are doing something about our health, we want to get better, we want to be present in the life we live, but we are being failed by a healthcare system that is fueled by misdiagnosis and doping up veterans.
Out of this entire experience I can say one thing. The lady on the suicide hotline was amazing, and if you, like me feel ashamed, or if its hard to talk to anyone including fellow veterans, call them. They are amazing. And sometimes that’s all you may need as a reassuring voice to tell you it’s ok.
So, today is my birthday. Exciting, I know. As you can tell by my lack of explanation points I am thrilled to be turning 29 today. And just to add to my ongoing celebratory posts, I now keep making that dumb joke about being 29 forever, which is super old lady status, which is exactly what I’ve become. I have the long sweaters with cat hair all over them laid all over my house to prove it. And I don’t even own a cat, yet…
In all honesty, I was happy about it being my birthday. It gave me an excuse not to over analyze my thoughts, and turn “negative talk” into “blame it on my birthday talk”. Which, I can say, has given me a sense of peace in some sorts.
See, 2016 was a real eye opener for me. I had the opportunity to dive into some real deep- rooted shit, and the lovely part about the entire experience, was I didn’t even know I was doing it until I was dialing the suicide hotline asking “What the fuck is wrong with me?”. From previous posts you can see I have cowardly, tried starting a blog wanting people to open up and share experiences similar to mine. But as you can see my last post was nine months ago, and over that time I was trying to be something I really wasn’t. I was trying to hide from myself, who was really the person I needed to start saving.
So here I am, slowly but surely working on my writing, which I have actively avoided for the last ten years. I’ve kept a journal, and burned that journal. I’ve posted blogs, comments, or some sort of online rhetoric and ended up feeling ashamed or discouraged immediately following my pressing of the submit button. To some it may sound silly, but the pit in my stomach wanting to crawl its way up my throat said otherwise. For the longest time I felt, what I now recognize as anxiety, was just a normal reaction of me putting myself out there. And that wasn’t just giving strangers the power to critique my thoughts, but it crept into the way I lived my life.
I live with depression. I don’t suffer from it, I live with it. I have gone through the ringer of trying to call it something else. I am that person that likes to self diagnosis and not take the Dr.’s word for what it really is. “It can’t be depression, I’m too good for depression!” Jesus, Kat, it’s depression. You have it, now own it. Who cares when it manifested itself. For the longest time I blamed this little monster of mine on life experiences and other people’s actions. I never owned it for what it was. I never gave myself the opportunity to adapt to this new brand on my life. I ran from it, blaming it on things I couldn’t control, things that were not my fault, and things that ultimately would have happened if not to me someone else. Now, I am not saying it does not manifest itself from life experiences. I have researched most, if not all, mental disorders dealing with depression. Adjustment disorder, PTSD, manic depression, bipolar, OCD, etc, etc…. And I am just writing from my own personal experiences. Everyone is different and our mental state can be adjusted by the blink of an eye. This is just Kat’s tale…get it, cat’s tail? (You can tell I’ve been saving up for that one)
Anyway, so 2016. Screw that year, right? Nah, that’s too much effort. I would become exhausted in a day trying to stick it to the man we call 2016. Besides so many other people on social media are doing it for me, so my depressed ass can just sit behind a computer or phone screen and slightly smile at their small effort of sharing something so fucking pointless. Man, I wish I had the energy and stamina to be so brave and post something so foolish. My fear of life, saved me from the humility. But yes, I agree with your “2016 Hate” memes, it wasn’t the best year for me either.
So flash forward to 4 days after the New Year. I am now a completely new person because I have added a 7 to the calendar year. C’mon, it’s bullshit. But to some a 7 over a 6 is all the bullshit they need to give them a kick in the pants to get things rolling. As you can see, I have gotten that kick. But as I sit here now, typing this lengthy blog, I question my endurance on keeping up with this. Can I do it? Is it worth enough? I mean, I have bought the “Dream Big” 2017 journal/calendar on expensive cardstock paper, that cost me a whopping $45.00. Are you kidding me?! That is more than a tank of gas, but it’s going to change me, I know it. Wrong, I know what’s going to work, me. Me, myself, and I. I have to want it. I have to desire it. I have to hold myself accountable and not be afraid of mistakes or humiliation. I think anyone that is in my shoes, deep down really knows that. But I can’t help but feel terrified of who I am, and that person taking over who I want to be.
Which leads me to my next point, burn out. I know everyone can get burnt out from things in their lives. Jobs, hobbies, likes, or whatever. I used to love Christmas, everything about it. Decorating, the smells, the feeling of Christmas morning, family, friends, just pure happiness. Ugh, wrong. I think my blood pressure went up as I wrote that. But it is a feeling millions of us share. I, on the other hand, look at it as a ginormous hill to climb with no end in sight. The holidays don’t end after the first of the year. For me, they keep going and going until its Valentine’s Day and every other holiday back to Christmas and fuck, it’s December 13th and I still haven’t hung Christmas lights or gone Christmas Shopping. I become burnt out even before it begins. I don’t give anything a chance for fear of feeling burnt out. I was so ashamed to start anything for fear of not finishing, and I am the queen of getting excited about something, go all out with preparation, and getting half way through it feeling broken and worthless. It was the cycle of my life and everything I did in it. As today, on my birthday, I took down a strand of lights from our front porch, and gave in to the excuse of it being the day I came into this life to indulge my feeling of exhaustion and humiliation, and put off the rest of the task till some time next week to finish taking the rest down. The fuel will actually start when I start feeling that my neighbors must think I’m so lazy. I’m not I promise. I’m working on it. And I’m sure they don’t think that, and if they do, is it really my business, what they think of me? No.
Living with Depression, and chronic burn out is no fun. I really feel that a lot of my self diagnosis has got me to the place I am currently, and the pharmaceutical companies and over prescribing Dr.’s who almost had me off myself, well they can keep their over prescribed Ritalin, Adderall, Zoloft, Xanax, mood suppressing, stabilizing, toxic waste of mind altering medication. I am self aware. I have gone through the hoops of mental struggles and exhaustion and, you know what, I’m better for it. I no longer want to look at my life through dense fog, I want to see it clearly, sadness and all. So if you don’t hear from me for another 4 months, that’s a congratulatory moment for me, because it beats nine.
There are days where I feel I can share anything and everything, but there are days I am so tight lipped and out of it I feel like a mute. A heaviness surrounds my senses and I can’t convey the way I feel to those that are closest to me.
It’s complicated. I hate it. One day I feel like I can take on the world. I’m criticized for not slowing down, but I can’t. I have so much time to make up. I have wasted so much time struggling to get a grip and get going. I have to keep moving or I will fall back into the heaviness that is my brain.
And the judgement will begin. I am no longer battling within myself but those who are supposed to be my people. The looks and the comments. The silent gestures and tones change from an instant. Of course it’s my fault and I’ll ask what is wrong.
And it’s the same thing.
“You’re being weird.”
“You act like you don’t want me to even be around you.”
“I make you miserable, and it shows by your sudden change of mood.”
I hear these weekly. I try to explain it’s not them, it’s me. But that is so cliche. No one believes that line. But I have nothing else to say. It truly is me and not them. I can’t help when I fall back into myself and my behaviour becomes cold. I’m aware of it. I’m working on fixing it. But they will never understand, they may passify me for that moment. But the cycle will begin again. And again. And…again.
I’ve gone back and forth debating whether or not I wanted to make my previous posts public. I recently learned that when it comes to recovery you are either all in or not. I can’t half ass this process and I am tired of the constant back and forth. Or what educated people would like to call relapse. My rehab is my own. I am owning what happened to me and moving on in a direction I know that will make me happier in the long run.
So when I say the walls are crumbling down again, it’s not to sound negative, even though throughout this process I may be a bit negative. But that’s a phase I know I will surpass. I feel being vulnerable is part of the process as well as making myself available to those who are struggling with the same situations.
I know I will never go back to who I was, and I don’t want to. I’m taking this “new” me and all the twists and turns, and I’m going to use it to my advantage. That’s really the only way I can keeping moving forward. Just taking it one emotion at a time, one day at a time.
Sometimes I think it would be easier to have multiple personalities. Ever since my military service and my “traumatic event”, as the VA would call it, I have been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder. When I actually say these things out loud, and only to myself, I sound like a fucking mental patient.
“Hello, my name is Kat, and I have the following medically assigned disorders, wah feel bad for me”.
I think it would be so much easier to live the life of Sybil. I would take all those disorders and assign them to different personalities. So “Kat” could only deal with one and Mary, Samantha, Chloe, etc…could deal with all the other garbage.When I start to get out of control I can just hide inside my head and allow one of my alters to take the reigns for a bit.
And so it begins again.
200 mg of Zoloft tends to keep me in a constant state of blah. I don’t tend to get irritated as much, but I don’t get excited as much either. I actually feel like I’m floating through life avoiding my emotions. Which in some cases saves my ass from constant bickering with my family, and actually pulling my car over to bash the women holding up traffic because she’s texting while the light turns green. I hate that. One thing it doesn’t do is keep the hope of wanting a normal life from creeping into my brain and wanting to do extraordinary things with my life other than bitching about my disorder through a blog.
I have this habit of doing the worst thing in the world, getting on google. I go rounds with myself from researching awesome career fields that I’d love to try a hand at. I even go to great lengths of signing up for courses online buying hundreds of dollars worth of shit I don’t know anything about, but I know I need it. And taking the first steps of starting my new life. Everything is going to be grand. I just need to sit here and wait for a “light” conversation with (I know she’s probably nice) lady and talk about the process of getting to where I “think” I want to be.
And then my reality, my mushed up fucked up brain takes control. Let’s call my PTSD Fred. Fred likes to barge in at the most inappropriate times. For some reason Fred thinks it’s okay to turn up the temperature 50 degrees to make me start sweating in this lady’s air conditioned office. He also enjoys putting me on a jack hammer so my voice shakes every time I want to say something. It’s annoying having to wipe my brow and take deep breaths any time I want to contribute to this conversation I’m not concentrating on at all. Fred, in my opinion is a fucking bastard. He ruins my life when things “seem” normal. I hate Fred.
So I thank the lady, give her a hand shake and tell her I’m super excited about starting my new career and walk out of her office with a handful of paperwork. It ends up in the garbage can out back. I slip into my car and drive a few hours so my nerves calm down and Fred goes back to whatever part of my brain he resides in.
I wish I had a recorder inside of my brain so I could play back all the absurd nonsense that flows through my ears. Some people would think it’s the creative mind at work, but my mind goes straight to instant paranoia or what normal people would say is irrational and absurd thinking. And by normal I mean my therapist.
I hate to categorize or label, but the truth of the matter is I am definitely not the same person I was 10 years ago. Okay, I get that everyone can say that, and people evolve…blah blah blah, but from the experiences of war, death, violations, and internal struggles of my actual reality; my brain has completely reinvented itself into a ball of absurd mush that I battle to control in my everyday life.
Now, completely doped up on anti depressants, pain medication, and anti-anxieties, the monsters are tamed, or for better words numbed. I can live my life on a day to day basis throwing up a fake “hello, neighbor” to keep the questions at bay, or the “hi, how are you?” slowly make eye contact, now get the fuck out of this aisle before my shaking voice evolves into my shaking body. Without even moving my heart rate can sky rocket to unbearable bpm’s, I’d say it’s pretty impressive. Because lately it’s hard to find anything to be proud of anymore.
Now that I’ve completely lost track, which happens to me in every day conversations, where my words lose meaning and my thoughts change to a subtle shade of gray and I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about until I’m reminded for the 5th time where our conversation went. Ah, yes…my therapist.
I find it comical walking into an office, sitting in front of a PTSD professional, who clearly hates where he works because he doesn’t bother to hang pictures which would lead to “settling”. But they are laying on the floor against the walls. Baby steps, right? Come on now, hang the pictures and fake the smile like I do everyday just to appease the masses.
The heavy sigh makes me feel like I’m bothering him, which infuriates me even more because I’m just trying to get “fixed” like society wants. I just want my brain to stop having sword fights with itself and calm the fuck down and not dream about being buried alive. But it’s just another day at the office. Except I get paid way less.
We sit and chat like we are total strangers, when in reality he really just wants me to get down to the raw and dirty details of why I’m so “traumatized”. He understands my brain more than I do, but for some reason there is still no insta-cure to why I am the way I am now. The hour passes, hopefully something is retained from the charts and exercises I’m urged to use to get through with my daily conflicts. Those papers are flooding the back seat of my car. I’m still trying to accept this forced change of life style. Time to switch hats. Thanks doc, see you in a month.