Why Can’t You Cure Me?

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 this epidemic that is flooding our country. But what do we call it? How do we identify these symptoms and sum them up to one complete diagnosis? Let’s call it PTSD.

Throughout my time in the military, my struggles have been labeled as acute anxiety disorder to major depression disorder. The first evaluation I had done by the VA was in 2007. I spoke to 2 psychologists that specialized in PTSD and was told my “event” did was not considered PTSD due to not being in direct combat. Their definition of PTSD was being “blown up” or “shot at”. Fast forward 7 years later where Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is added to the DSM-5 and is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “PTSD is a trauma-and-stressor related disorder, or exposure to a traumatic or stressful event.”

So instead of labeling my symptoms for what they were, they decided to jumble them all in one and call it PTSD. Doesn’t that seem like a quick fix to a gigantic problem? Why not treat individuals for what their symptoms actually are. I understand that the amount of patients being treated in the VA has skyrocketed since 2001. So many of these veterans that have served have spent more than half their careers in a foreign place, away from their families, away from normalcy. The new normalcy is war, and no longer the life they lived prior to joining the service.

When I returned from both of my deployments I felt this sense of living in a dream. The normal lives of everyday Americans was strange to me. I’m not sure how to describe this feeling, but everything felt “fake” I guess you could say that began my journey of resenting the average American for living their normal lives. How dare they right? But for our reality of returning home we do grow angry at how comfortable life is, and how abused it may seem when we return.

That is just one example of the many feelings we experience upon returning home. When I returned home I saw a shrink for maybe 10 minutes. He told me I may have feelings of anger or resentment. I may feel impulsive and disconnected. He told me once I get passed the “90 day mark” things will start to feel normal again. As I sit here writing this out, its become apparent to me, that what he said was a bunch of shit to pacify the hundreds of soldiers he had to see in the short amount of time that he was allotted. How can a doctor force feed me all these feelings and leave me for the birds in less than ten minutes. The sad part is, this was just a box that needed to be checked. Our mental health really didn’t matter at that time, our unit’s check list took priority.

As we all know, or should definitely know,  our country is still at a time of war. All branches of the military are being deployed as we speak, and these individuals will be returning home, and a lot of them will be flushed right back into the fighting pipeline only a few short months after their return.

I have seen such a flux in “treatment” programs and medications to “ease” the symptoms, which ultimately could end your career, but has anyone really looked into prevention? I’m not talking about force feeding soldiers power point slides about checking on your buddy, or the signs and symptoms of suicide. I think more people take it seriously because we have felt the effects of suicide and know someone who has taken their life or we may have thought of taking ours at one time or another. But have we ever looked into taking care of our minds as we take care of our bodies? The military stresses its standards of fitness, but what are the standards for mental fitness?

Seven years ago, I was sitting in the recruiting office in Elko, Nevada. My boss was a civilian and had just retired after 30 years of service. We were talking about mental health and it’s affects on the readiness of our soldiers. I remember our conversation being mostly about how people didn’t talk about it, and it really wasn’t on the agenda of taking care of soldiers. No one talked about mental illness. It was asking for trouble, or worse a discharge.

I remember talking to him about how the stressors of war could be minimalized if we were to have a system in place where soldiers were checked on. He laughed and said, “What like a mom?”. I guess you could say that. I know that our first line leaders have the additional responsibility to keep check on their soldiers, but also worry about who’s breathing down their neck. And most of the time we forget that they their own personal issues too. Wouldn’t it be effective to have individuals specialized in treatments solely focused on what soldiers may experience during their time at war? And not a shrink on base that the soldier can reluctantly be forced to go to because he may be acting weird. I’m talking about a social worker or counselor that is available to units and has one on one time with individuals and talks them through their emotions of war during their time at war. That offers on site help, not 90 days upon returning help. That can identify individuals that may be at risk and help them sort through their issues so that they are mission ready, and not an unheard liability.

I remember him looking at me kind of clueless. He really didn’t know what to say. yardım destek  ilgi

But as I revisit that conversation, I wonder if it would work. I wonder if having a professional contracted on site with our service men and women would help them before, during, and after their deployments. I wonder if the hardship of coming home would be easier and more manageable. I wonder if our friends that may seem normal but are high risk for suicide would be identified, and a life would be spared.

There is a ton of education and knowledge from our ranks that have retired or left the military, and most of the individuals I met, like me, have this desire to help. Why not train and educate these individuals. We may leave the ranks, but our experiences and our love for our country and our brother and sisters in arms will never leave. We may not be able to go back into the fight, but we would be ready and willing to take some weight off those who may be carrying a heavier load than others.

 

 

A Glimpse of Self-Induced Chaos

My life is a beautiful disaster. If you are on the outside looking in, you’d see three beautiful girls, a hardworking father, and a mother that is slowly dying on the inside trying to hold it all together. No one said being an adult, being a mother, being a spouse, a friend, or a colleague was going to be easy. It’s just something you turn into. These relationships form, and as much as human connection is vital for our very existence, it is sucking the life right out of me.

These hats we wear on a daily basis are our own creation. We choose the life we live. Most of us wear these hats with pride. I’m not saying I don’t love my mother hat, my spouse hat, or my friend hat; I just know my self hat is crumpled up collecting dust in the corner. I tend to lose the self hat, and find it again, but whenever I place it on top of my other hats a sense of shame and guilt erupt, and I throw that hat back in the corner so it can be lost in the shadows.

I envy the people in my life that have fooled me into believing they have it all together. I mean, let’s be honest, we all know social media is a lying bastard and that majority of the posts are of only the occasional good time someone we know has had in the last week or so. But truly, when you think of the number of “friends” you have and multiply that by 2 or 3 glorified moments, to the depressed person, myself included, that 1000+ “happy” moments are creating this image of a worthless piece of shit that I look at in the mirror everyday.

Now, Christ, Kat! If you know that then why don’t you get off of social media and move back to the stone age where we weren’t so involved in each others made up lives. Isn’t it crazy? To think someone’s self worth, in a negative way, can be defined by positive posts from people we grew up with, served with, or possibly, just some random person, who we know nothing about, but we met them at the bar and now their recent hiking trip with their beautiful fucking family makes me sick because I haven’t left the house with my kids in two days.

Fuck, I sound like a crazy person. More than my diagnosis describes me to be.

Anyways, I know I am not the only crazy person who looks past the reality of social media. It is meant to highlight the positive moments in our lives. No one wants to share their dirty laundry for all the world to see. Hell, I’m too anxious to post anything, so I just go to the safe zone and post shit that people can’t argue with, or feel bad about because in return they look like the asshole, and I don’t want that. A stupid ass opinionated post would keep me up all night until I got up, hastily read through people’s opinions, who clearly have no reflection on my life, and delete that said post so I could breath again. Because how dare I give myself the oppurtunity to have an opinion on current affairs, or how stupid people look when they post a selfie in the same position every God damn day in their mother’s bathroom. You’re going to be 30, get your shit together! But I, being a selfish ass hole, will not comment but fuel the bitterness of the stupidity of this world for fear of someone looking in on my life.

But for those of you screaming at your screen yelling “Who gives a flying fuck?!” I know, I know, I have beaten you to the punch and have decided to publish my second post of 2017, because I am not giving in to that flying fuck you so rudely yelled at me about.

Jokes, I’m doing it for me, and the little guy.

A Rant That is Not Meant to be a Rant but is a Rant…

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 averterans_in_crisis_900x675_1424446030195_13526659_ver1-0_640_480nd 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.

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

New Year, New Blog

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.