The Big Step


It has been about 1 1/2 years that I knew I was going to file my claim with the VA, but I kept putting it off, because I just didn’t want to dredge up all those memories again. But the last few months, I have pretty much relived every single, solitary, horrible, moment of it, trying to prepare myself for it. I went through everything in my accordion file, talked with my therapist, and decided it was finally time.

Thursday Joan made the journey up to my house, and took me to file my Comp & Pen. She had been in contact on my behalf with the woman who was going to fill out the forms and file the claim for me. In the process of all this, Joan somehow gave the impression that we were lesbian lovers, but that is another whole story. Because Joan had been through this already, we were able to bypass several steps, and all I had to do was fill out the claim, and Powers of Attorney for Joan and the American Legion. The woman was kind of surprised by how I had everything else all typed up, organized and ready to go. I had spent Wednesday at Staples, copying 256 pages of documentation for my claim.

Before we went to the VA, Joan grabbed my supporting evidence, and just happened to flip to my 1997 retention physical. In that, it states that I had been seen by a psychologist for 4 years for PTSD, anxiety and depression. We couldn’t believe it was on that form, which recommended me for retention, just a few months before I was forced out on a medical discharge. I looked, and in 1995, it also had my PTSD and depression and anxiety.  Same in 1994. I always believed in being honest, and held nothing back for those physicals, and the military doctors documented those illnesses.

Then Joan just flipped to another page in my medical file, and happened to see my suicide attempt in October, 1993. I said, “Oh, you found that, huh?” It was not one of my finer moments, having to be put in ICC for an overdose. But Joan said it was a good thing. I asked her when is a suicide attempt a good thing? She said that in this case, it was a good thing. Then she told me how she had seriously thought about it when things got bad for her years ago. I pointed out that thinking about it, and actually trying to do it are a little different. Then she jumped up and did a suicide cheer. You just would have to have been there to see how it was funny. I pointed out that my suicide attempt is also in my medical file, since I believed in full disclosure at all times, and I put it in there myself.

We were very happy to realize that one of the last things ever placed in my medical file was my retention physical, and the fact that the military doctor had documented it. With that, we thought it was time to head to the VA. I was nauseous the whole time, kept thinking I was going to puke at any moment. She kept telling me that I couldn’t, because she never lets anyone vomit alone in her presence. I was able to keep it all down, and we got to the VA and met the woman who was going to process the forms for us.

Three different times the director came to her desk, and I froze. Joan saw him coming each time, and touched my leg to warn/comfort me (this did not help dispel the misunderstanding that we were lovers). The last thing I really needed that day was to see a man in that office, but I did. I just looked at the floor, not at him. We sailed through the forms, and then it came to assigning a security Question for Joan to answer when acting on my behalf. There were about 7 of them, but when she got to father’s middle name, we started giggling. We chose my dad’s nickname as the security question. That was just another way he showed me he was there that day, and proud of me standing up and saying NO again. Then he started tickling Joan’s neck, and made her face turn red, and she was laughing. Have I mentioned he died a month before I finally got my medical discharge? But his presence is still here when I need him.

When we were done with filing the claim, we got outside, and I just wanted to breath. I smoked 2 cigarettes before I could get in the car. The hardest part was over, but I was quite shaky. I had told the woman that I wasn’t expecting anything to make me better, and that I am afraid of all male veterans now. I just want to be able to have a man come in my house, and not terrify me. I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon, but maybe someday. Maybe someday I won’t cringe every time I have to be around veterans.

While I was smoking, I told Joan that although combat related PTSD is very bad, I still think that MST PTSD is so much worse. At least with combat, you know who the enemy is, and why you are fighting. That in combat, you know the person in the foxhole with you is there to protect you. But for us, the person in the foxhole with us could very well be the one who is going to harm us. Joan said that is why our blog is enemy IN the wire. There is no escaping the enemy when it is MST. Funny thing, I grabbed a brochure on PTSD, and the middle of the brochure is all about MST. So, when you open it, it goes right to the middle, and there is MST PTSD. How great is that?

We went out to an early dinner, and wouldn’t you know who came in and sat just 2 tables away facing me? The director of the VA. Yep, how messed up is that? I was on edge, and Joan kept trying to tell me maybe he didn’t recognize me, but we both knew he did. He didn’t approach us or anything, I just found it a weird series of events, which always seem to happen to me. After that we went home. And I gotta say over and over, thank you Joan. Thank you thank you thank you. No matter the outcome of my comp & pen, I am ready to help others with their claims.

Now we wait, and pray.

Brigid

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