Posts Tagged ‘VA Hospitals’

Small Steps

May 9, 2013

Hello, Friends.

I had the opportunity to do something last night that I have often wanted to do…but I could never bring myself to do it. I bought a complete stranger in a Marine Corp Dress Blues his dinner.

I know this sounds a little weird on the surface, why on earth would anyone consider THAT a personal triumph? However, I think my fellow survivors would understand my issue. Every time I see someone in a “uniform” my first thought is…Is he one of THEM? Is he a rapist?

As you all know, I work in a VA Hospital, and I know deep down that some of the people I take care of are perpetrators. There is no way they can’t be! If there were 26,000 rapes in the military last year…someone had to do the raping. I’m not talking about their behavior – because I have only had one or two issues in 6 1/2 years. The majority of my patients are some of the best people in the world. However, statistically speaking, some of these people are victims and some of them are perpetrators.

I have a special place in my heart for Marines. My daddy is a Marine and one of the few men I actually trust is also a Marine. That isn’t to shine a positive light on all Marines – because we know that isn’t true – but I was Army…so I guess that is where my head goes. He was just a young thing, couldn’t have been more than 12 years old…wearing SGT Stripes. The recruiting office was two doors down so I assume he was grabbing a quick bite to eat. I’m sure he was older than 12 – but I really wanted to ask him if his Mother knew where he was 🙂 Call it a mother’s heart – because I have two boys old enough to wear a uniform (and I hope they never will!)

I debated all through my dinner – then I finally just decided…I will buy his dinner…anonymously! I will believe he is a good kid and I will just think about my daddy! I left a note for him, when the server returned his money that said, “Semper Fi Marine! Thank you! Dinner tonight is on the US Army.” I did see him receive his money back and I saw him read the note and smile. It felt good.

We tried to make it out the door and we didn’t. He caught us. He thanked my husband…who didn’t know anything about it…then apologized profusely when I told him I had done it…that I am a Veteran. He was a nice kid.

Later in the evening I called my daddy and told him what I had done – that I had bought a Marine his dinner. My daddy laughed and said, “That is funny, a couple of weeks ago I had a table of Reservists buy my dinner. They saw my Marine Corp jacket and paid my bill.”

I guess what comes around goes around. I would love to thank those men who bought my daddy his dinner! He is so proud of being a Veteran – so proud of his little girl being a Veteran.

I guess that the morale of this story is that I am learning to tell myself that not everyone in uniform is a rapist. I should already know that – because I served with thousands of men that never did anything to hurt me. Over 16 years – I think that is a pretty safe number – but only a handful were violent.

So I am trying to reestablish faith in the “male uniformed species”

Peace,

Joan

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The Interview

May 6, 2013

Hello, Friends,

I am stopping in to ask a huge favor! I am in need of your prayers, positive thoughts and happy energy! After years of being “stuck” in my current job…I have an opportunity for a big interview…BIG – I mean really B…I…G!

For the last year I have been exploring the Peer Support certification and receiving formal training for a lot of the work I already do with my VSO and here at EitW. Many of you know that this blog began as a way to digest my own therapy…make sense of my own trauma and as a place to spew into the WWW everything I am feeling or thinking.

As time has gone on…and as more people have taken to reading this blog – we have reached out to others as a kind of a “support group.” We are not alone. Our experiences are different – but we have a choice…we can live or we can die. I don’t necessarily mean a physical form of death…but that happens, too….but a psychological death where the bastards win. I have chosen to live.

In just a few days I will be interviewing for a job, at my same employer, that will allow me to continue doing what I love doing…helping others to find their way out of the darkness. I would be doing Peer Support on a full-time paid basis! My tail is wagging! My tongue is hanging out drooling!!!! There are no words to describe how bad I want this job! I want this job so bad I am prepared to fall down on my knees and beg!

I am good at helping people – that is what I have been told. I love to encourage people and to lift them up. I was a “bullied child.” Constantly, every day – someone would bully me. I was pushed, punched, slapped – I was sexually violated. That hurt – but what really hurt were the words. “You are stupid, worthless, a nerd, a dog a squirrel. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t smart enough. You are a failure. You bring it on yourself – ya know…you squirrel. You’re fugly, ugly, four-eyed freak.” Even writing them sends a chill down my back…I can hear them – those taunts still ring in my ears. Sometimes…it still affects me. When I feel isolated from a group, or different – I can feel the little girl in me curl up and try to hide in the corner.

I had a few close friends. Not many. I had a couple of great teachers I really liked – they liked me too! We spent time together. One of them got me through Chemistry class with a C…since I can’t do math that was a huge accomplishment!

I like to make people feel good with words. All of the people that I have met through this blog have been such an inspiration to me! They push the envelope, they reach out, they open their hearts. They have encouraged me to do the same. I was at a VSO event this weekend and this woman walked up to me and said, “you are Joan…right? I hear you help veterans – can you help me?” Of course – of course I can help. I will do anything to help.

This feels like my shot, my chance – the one thing that will make everything okay. I recently turned down a “dream job” with my church. The money was good enough…but I called my priest and said…”Father, I’m sorry. The job is perfect for me…but something is wrong! I don’t think I am supposed to leave the VA.” He laughed…and then he agreed with me. He thinks I would be perfect for the job – but he is concerned that it would require me leaving the VA – he thinks God has a purpose for me right where I am.

We both had the same concerns. We both had the same worries. You know I always say…there is no such thing as a coincidence!

Three weeks later I get an interview for a job that would allow me to do nothing but encourage and lift up my brothers and sisters who are living with mental illness. A chance to offer support to their families..I know what it is like to be a mother of a mentally ill son who has a drug problem. I know what it is like to be a homeless Veteran with three young children. To live in a domestic violence shelter. To fight with the system for benefits, for help, for support. I know what it means for just one person to believe in you. Just one.

It isn’t about money, or paychecks or benefits. That isn’t why I work at the VA. I’m not saying the VA is perfect – I can tell you a long list of bad experiences, horrible flaws, ugly days. It doesn’t even have to be the VA – I can tell you about horrible people and experiences in private medicine! Expensive medicine with bitchy, mouthy, hateful people working there.

I’m far from perfect – but I try to give every patient one thing…a smile and a kind word. That may be the only thing I have to offer in a day. Maybe something to laugh about. A moment of respect, a moment of understanding or just a squeeze to their hand to let them know that I care. Every place that serves customers is built on one thing and one thing only – the people that work there. You can have the most beautiful facilities, the best equipment and state of the art systems – but if the people spend their days sucking on sour pickles…it doesn’t mean anything. People will forget what you did and what you say – but they will never, ever forget how you make them feel.

I have had some really terrific success stories drawing blood. I know, clerking and drawing blood doesn’t sound like much – but it is where the rubber meets the road. A link in the chain for how people “feel” about the time they spend here. I told one gentleman, who served in Vietnam, that I felt that he was a “hero.” Three months later he came back with a beautiful letter for me. It said that no one had ever called him that, no one had ever thanked him for his service like that. He was driving one day and it just hit him and he bawled so hard he had to pull off the road. We stood in the clinic hall crying our eyes out. I have that letter and I will never, ever part with it.

Let’s face it – the one thing that all of us have in common, as MST Survivors, is the way the perpetrators made us feel. The way the military made us feel – like we are worthless, nothing, that we are the crazy ones! They all made us feel like we were dirt…rags…something to be used and kicked aside. Then – they told us we were crazy, we were nuts! I was diagnosed by a civilian shrink as a “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits.” Talk about nuts. Cluster B traits essentially mean that you are a “drama queen” and that everything revolves around you. Like I was paranoid and accusing others of things that didn’t happen.

You know what is funny – “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits” has many of the EXACT SAME SYMPTOMS of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Paranoia…check, worried that people are going to hurt you…check. It is partially defined as: extreme “black and white” thinking, instability in relationships, self-image, identity and behavior often leading to self-harm and impulsivity.

In other words – he was saying…”you know, you are bringing a lot of this on yourself.”

What did the VA therapist, psychiatrist and comp and pen people say about it…because I asked my therapist outright!!! She said – no, Joan…you are not borderline personality disorder with cluster B…you are a classic PTSD. Although it took me a really long time to describe myself as having PTSD.

That was quite the moment – I must say. The moment when I realized that it isn’t my fault. That I didn’t “ask for it” or “bring it on myself.” The moment that I realized that I was “normal” – as normal as anyone else that survived this shit. They were the screwed up ones. I’m okay – they are pieces of shit!

Wow – I hope the staff interviewing me doesn’t see this 🙂 Might be the end of the job interview :-)!!

Actually – I’m not afraid of them seeing any of what I have ever written. I care. I care about the Vets I serve. I care about making things in the world right. I may not be able to do much…but I can make it right for the few people I see in a day. Please keep me in your warm thoughts!

Peace,
Joan

Assumptions

November 5, 2012

Hi All,

I wanted to share what happened last Friday. I called the main VA in Iowa City, to set up my follow-up appointment. The woman who answered the phone had absolutely no personality, and acted like she was very irritated she had to answer her phone. Tip one for this lady, if you don’t like answering the phone to schedule appointments, get another job. Duh!

Anyway, she proceeded in the gruff tone, this is the conversation we had:

VA: NAME?

Me: B****

VA: What’s his last 4?

Me: 1234

VA: Oh this isn’t working, was that V as in Vern, or D as in Dog?

Me: B as in BOY

VA: What’s his first name?

Me: (I gave my first name, which could be considered androgynous)

VA: His middle name?

Me: CATHERINE

VA: Oh

Might I state there is no way anyone could ever guess I was a man on the phone, I most definately have a high-pitched, woman’s voice. She never went on to say she was sorry or anything, just seemed even more irritated that I was a woman. I did make the appointment, but did this whole thing just piss me off. I texted Joan and told her, she wasn’t too happy either. I didn’t read in the rule book, or the guides I got from the VA that ALL VETS ARE MEN. I swear, I put up with enough of that crap while I was in, I sure don’t need it now. And I am not all that thrilled to be going to the VA to begin with. I told my co-workers about her, and they were kind of pissed off too. I said with her personality, she was more like a grouchy old nun teaching school 30+ years ago.

Never assume anything. I am going to lodge a complaint when I have my next appt, maybe get her some sensitivity training or another job. I have figured out there are only a few times EVER that anyone is safe to assume the sex of the person the appointment is for. Setting up an OBGYN appointment, or a prostrate exam. Other than that, and you are at risk for making an ass out of yourself, which is what happens when we assume.

Change can’t come fast enough,

Brigid

Really Inconvenient Truths!

September 25, 2012

Hello Friends,

I am so glad to see that Jay’s blog is up and running!   His words are so wise and so true and I wanted to expound on comments that I made there. 

In his latest post Jay talked about this difficulty that we Survivors encounter in the VA and the VBA.  How hard it is to open up to a service officer about what we have endured – how, too many times, we are treated like we did something wrong.

I believe that we make them uncomfortable…very uncomfortable.  You see, we are an in their face reality check!  In their heads they can make up any little fantasy world they desire.  They can say things like, he/she probably asked for it or it was just a false accusation.  Then they have to look at the evidence – the destroyed lives, the damaged bodies, the ruined careers (ours…of course…not the perpetrators!)  Now their little world is shattered – and they have to look at the facts.  The facts are, some soldiers rape…they harrass…they abuse their power and they get away with it.  When they get away with it – they WILL do it again.

We are the really inconvenient truth!  (A thousand pardons to Michael Moore for stealing his movie title)

People want to have these ideas about good soldiers who serve with honor and with courage.  They want these pictures in their heads about band of brothers and idealistic bull shit like that.  Yes – there are soldiers like that!  There are people in the military who will always try to make the right choice no matter what it costs them.  They are good people.  Unfortunately, there are really ugly people out there!

Ugly people, horrible people.   They rape for the power and for control.  If they were civilians they would still be rapists.  They would still be the power and control freak boss that you can’t stand to be around.  The military culture just allows them to go as far as they would like to go.

This weekend I had an opportunity to do some special  duty with some guys in my VSO.  We enjoy one another’s company and we enjoy flipping one another shit.  In fact – it is one of the things that we do best!!

I left that day laughing so hard I nearly wet myself.  I serve with some really terrific guys!  I’m that “annoying little sister” they all have to put up with…so to speak.  It creates that warm, fun and enjoyable feeling of brothers  and that was why I loved the Army.  I was still laughing when I drove home.

Then I started to cry.  I cried for everything that I had lost.  For everything that was taken from me.  There was a time when sitting around with my Army buddies flipping one another shit was the best part of any day.  I felt warm, I felt protected, I felt like I was part of a family.  Then I was “shunned” and everything was gone.  The “family” turned their backs on me.

People will ask, “how long does it take to get over this?”  This isn’t something that goes away.  You don’t expect an amputees arm or leg to grow back, do you?  No!  It is an injury, it is chronic and they learn to live with it…but they won’t wake up one morning and discover it is “All Better” and they have two good legs.  PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injuries) are the exact same way.  You don’t wake up one morning and all of the problems are gone.

In physical therapy an amputee can learn to live with his/her leg.  They can learn to live without an arm – how to tie shoelaces with one hand.  In Mental Health Therapy we can learn to live with PTSI – we can learn to get up in the morning, brush our little teeth and move out the door.  We can learn to deal with the nightmares, the flashbacks, the fear, the paranoia and the pain – but we can only tie that “shoelace” with half of ourselves – because the rest of ourselves was damaged or destroyed in that Invisible War we are Veterans of.  No one questions that in Combat PTSI – but they sure want us to get over the sexual assaults and harassment!  I don’t get that!

That is why we are a really inconvenient truth – we have been changed for life – we have been wounded for life.  We aren’t going to “get over it” and “move on.”  Sure – just like an amputee we can lead regular lives – but we will never just “get over it.”  That is what makes them uncomfortable.  You see – if we just “get over it” they can just forget about it.  That is what they want to do.  If we are in their faces – they can’t forget about us – and then they have to deal with us! 

And that – my friends – is a really inconvenient truth!

Peace

Joan

Playing the Claim Game

November 18, 2010

I know that my posts have been sporadic and far apart lately. I have to say, that filing my Comp & Pen claim took just about everything out of me. With all of the real life, day-to-day drama that is this fiasco I like to call my life, I just had nothing to give. So many emotions and turmoil, that I just didn’t know how to put it into words.

I have been in a serious depression/funk for weeks. Of course that is to be expected, but it is hard to deal with. My daughter officially moved out about a month ago, and I have been going through the Empty Nest Syndrome on top of everything else. I still haven’t been able to pack up her stuff, I just look at it and want to cry. My baby girl is all grown up, and making so many mistakes, and I can’t save her. I just have to let her make them, and be there when she needs me.

In the midst of all of this, I got a letter from the VA during the last week of October. They stated that they had received all of my detailed statements, evidence and medical records (256 pages worth), but they needed more information. Let me state again, they said they had received my statements, medical records, buddy statement, and medical records. And I do have killer evidence, if Joan does say so herself.

So, what was it they needed further from me? They wanted a detailed statement, giving all of the details of the MST, and how it caused the PTSD, anxiety and so forth. Did I mention they said they already had this? They wanted any evidence I could give in regards to the rape in Ft Gordon, but she told me on the phone she already had all of that. Then they wanted my medical records, that they stated they already had. They wanted detailed accounts of how all of the episodes of MST had affected me, and it would be beneficial if I had ever been reported for child abuse/neglect or been committed for substance abuse or anything of that nature. That was honestly in the letter. Luckily for me, my dad and sister DID try to have me committed for substance abuse long before I had my daughter, but they were unsuccessful in that mission.

Joan told me to calm down, and just write another statement, answering the 3 page letter point by point, and warned me not to take a tone. Oh she knows me too well. So, on Halloween, I set aside the entire day, and responded, point by point. It took me 6 hours, and it was about 6 pages when I was done. The life was just sucked right out of me after that. I am sure there will be more letters, and more repeating myself in return statements, but that is the price I have to pay.

But the thing that really got me, and it got Joan too, was when a harsh guy from the American Legion in Des Moines called, and left a horrible message on my answering machine. I need to explain that Joan is my 1st power of attorney in dealing with the VA, the Legion is secondary, but they bypassed her. The message was asking for Mr Brigid (you would understand if you knew my real name, but that is my secret). Then the message went on to state that they were calling, because the VA wanted to know why it was I was filing a claim. I listened to the message 4 times, and each time I got more angrier. I called Joan, played the message for her, and she got even more mad than I was. She called him the next day, faxed him her copy of my POA, and explained that in the future, he needed to be sure of the sex of the individual. And also, due to the ‘extreme sensitive nature of the claim’ that his message was very disturbing to me. He immediately caught that I was an MST survivor, and felt like a cad. Joan was very kind to him, and educated him to make sure he also checked what the claim was about before attacking the next poor soul. THANK YOU JOAN.

My therapist is gathering all of my 10+ years of treatment records to send to the VA, and I have now requested all of my oncology records and hospital records. We decided to add the cancer to the claim, as the stress factor contributed greatly to my cancer, and reduced my chances of survival, so I need all of those records as well. The nice part about that is in those records, it references my suicide attempt while I was in chemotherapy (which is also in my military medical records).

My therapist decided that it was time to send me to a hypnotherapist, because I have had severe intestinal issues since February, and all tests have been done that can be. It is stress, but is debilitating at times. As luck would have it, the hypnotherapist is just like me, it is like talking to myself. Just imagine, 2 of me in the world? SCARY! This woman does what is called medical hypnosis, which is used as pain management. I will reiterate that I am not on any medications for anything, those pesky little paradoxal side effects do kind of scare me too much to try anything.

Would you like to know what my hypnotherapist does as a side job? You won’t believe it, because I couldn’t. She does Comp and Pen analysis here for the VA. Of course, she can’t do mine, because it is a conflict of interest, but the VA has already contacted her about a female MST victim in the community who recently filed a claim, and wanted to set up an appointment with her. We are fairly certain that would be me. Much to both of our chagrin, she can’t do it, but she said if she could, I would get full benefits if it were up to here. That is somewhat comforting and promising.

That is about all I have to say right now, I was just feeling a little guilty for not posting lately, but it was just too painful. I promise to post more regularly, and try to go into greater detail of this Comp and Pen process. But I ask for your patience if I slack off again.

Brigid

Holding Pattern

November 16, 2010

Hello, Friends.

I survived the Veteran’s Day mess, as a VSO Commander I spent two very busy days preparing for it.  We had multiple ceremonies and a dinner – complete with the typical kitchen problems that all seem to occur.  When my husband kissed me goodbye that morning he wished me, “good luck.”  My response to him was that this is “cake baby…I’m just dancing backwards in high heels.”

That is one of my favorite sayings; “Ginger Rodgers did everything that Fred Astaire did – only she did it backwards and in high heels.”  It is my constant reminder that I am competant and capable as a Veteran, as a Commander, even if I am a woman.

I took a couple of extra days off work to recover.  I was really looking forward to Friday with no responsibilities and no plans.  I crawled into the bathroom at 11:00 am with the plans of a quiet afternoon.  I decided to do my monthly self-breast exam…and the quiet day came to a crashing halt.  I discovered a highly abnormal discharge from my right breast.  A quick trip to the doctor’s office for slides and cultures.  Plans for a mammogram and ultrasound on Monday.

I’m in a holding pattern.  The good news is that the mammogram and the ultrasound came out unremarkable.  The bad news is that even the radiologist was talking about diagnostic surgery – even made a recommendation of a surgeon. 

I am in a holding pattern – waiting on tests.  Thank God for Brigid.  She is watching over me…she knows how I am.  I have just enough medical knowledge to be really scared!  Google and my Merck Manual provides the rest of the reasons to work on moving “scared” to “terror.”

I will let everyone know – for those who are the praying type – dropping in a good word for me is always appreciated.

On the up side the VA is all over this for me.  We are waiting for results from my local MD (who is excellent!) and then they will make all of the necessary referrals so that I don’t have a bill.  Our local University Hospital is NOT a place I like or that I am comfortable with.  As a result, the VA is going to send me to a local Hospital that I do like, it happens to be a Catholic Hospital with a very good track record and great surgeons.  They are also more willing to deal with the PTSD in me.  I had a colonoscopy there that was made so easy by the MD it was almost “cake..baby.”  I didn’t even have to explain my history – he was more than willing to do whatever I needed so that I would be comfortable.  No questions – just action.

So, here I am, hanging loose.  It will be a couple more days before I hear anything.  Until then…I will just keep dancing backwards.

Blessings and Peace.

Joan

You Gotta Be Kidding ME!

November 8, 2010

Dear Joan:

I have talked to several people in the Department of Defense and the Veterans Affairs regarding your case. I was assured by DOD several months ago that a new person was on board who would assist me; however, after an initial conversation with that individual and despite her promise to get back to me, I was unable to make contact with her again.

Meagan is Congressman X’s VA legislative aid in Washington, D.C. Meagan has previously talked to the House of Representatives VA Subcommittee staff about this issue. Although there was interest in cases like yours, subcommittee staff did not add this to their agenda. In fact, Meagan just last week checked with Staff again but this topic still has not been added to the work calendar.

Since the Congress is drawing to a close, it is not likely this issue will come before the House until the next congress has been established. Although this is not what we had hoped for, our office will try again to have this reiewed again.

 Again, Congressman X and his staff are very sorry and disappointed with the outcome of our efforts. We will continue to be listening and watching for any opportunity to use as a vehicle to have this issue reviewed.

Staff/Constituent Services Representative

I received a box at my house on Friday.  In it was my complete file that I had given to Congressman X at his request and this letter that was signed by his Representative.  It is just me – or is this a crock of crap!

Mind you, the only reason this individual had my documentation was because he had asked for copies.  My VA Claim had been sitting in a back log for well over 6 months.  I had spoken with him at a town hall meeting over the Obamacare bill.  I had asked him to “keep the promise” and to fully fund the VA first! 

This woman got my records and the first thing she did was call my former boss in the military and ask him what he thought.  Now, SFC J, is a good guy and he made sure I had a lot of documents – but he certainly didn’t know the whole damn story and I really didn’t want him to.  I had signed a limited release of information, but I had no idea how far she would take that release.

Apparently, my records have spent the last year bouncing around Washington DC.  My VA Claim was adjudicated back in May – it is over.  I wonder if she knows that?

I really feel as though I have been abused all over again by these people.  Then they send me a letter that says – “Sorry, nobody gives a damn.”  Really, you actually expect DOD to give a damn?  Cause if they cared at all – they would have put a stop to this years ago.  They know what is happening, they have known, they just have no desire to stop it.

So she talked to “several people” about my case.  I wonder how many of them have my name?  I wonder how many of them were the actual abusers?  That scares me!  It scares me big!  Luckily, SFC J, is a good guy…but what if he had been my abuser?  What if he was the SGT Jerk or what if he were the Clarence that I talk about?  Can you imagine that!  Who knows, maybe she talked to one of those people.

I really, really want to throw up.  Is a little discretion too much to ask?

Joan

The Fine Line

October 26, 2010

Hello, Friends.

Well, today has essentially been a miserable day.  I am suffering from guilt.  On Sunday I got a call from someone I know that wanted me to give her a ride to the VA…she’s sick.  Well, I was in a distant city picking my kids up, so I told her I wasn’t home and woundn’t be home until later.  I guess she called me a couple of times and I never heard my phone ring…swear I didn’t.

Last night on my way home from the VA – her mom called me – no one would seem to give her daughter a ride to the VA.  I had meetings I had to attend and then I essentially hid for 3 hours.  I never committed to being able to be her taxi service.

I would like to point out that it is a 70 mile round trip to the VA and back.  I also know that someone had offered to give her a ride, if she could give them a little for the gas money.  I have also seen this person turn a paper cut into a four inch long gash that goes clear to the bone – at least when she retells the story.

However, I feel like crap for not just going and getting her.  What if she really was as sick as she claimed to be.  I do need to say that this person is not my friend.  She used to be my friend.  Actually, I am older than her and when we were in the  military together, her and some other young girls used to call me MaMa.  Need something?  Got a problem?  Go ask MaMa.

I spent quite a bit of time going toe to toe with male NCO’s that gave female soldiers trouble.  This girl was one of their targets and so a lot of issues for me came because I was protecting her.  When I filed charges within the unit, she had a private meeting with the Sergeant Major, all she had to do was say, “Yes, this is the truth.”  All she had to do was say, Yes.  Not only did she lie and say that none of it ever happened and that I was lying, but then she took her precious time to go out into the community and tell people that I was doing this because I was afraid to deploy.  Excuse me?  Several mutual “friends” came to me and said, “you gotta be careful!”

She acted like nothing had ever happened and for some time after I was discharged she would come to me to complain about SGT Jerk.  Oh, yes, SGT Jerk…the same one that likes to beat females with sticks in front of platoons.  I finally told her as nicely as possible that I never want to hear another word about him again and that if she had simply taken the courage to stand up for one moment…it would have been over. 

I try to live my life as a good Christian.  Not a “religious” person, but as a person who tries very hard to put Christ’s love into action.  Believe me, I know all of the Bible verses about loving your neighbor, forgiving 70×7, turning the other cheek.  But is there a fine line between being a door mat and a forgiving person?!  What if your cheek has turned so much that it just “burns” all the time?  What about protecting myself from being tortured?  To spend two hours with her in the car listening to her talk about the trauma she has suffered.  Wow…really…must be bad!  Or worse, that she has no real friends…no one does anything for her after all she does for others.

I hear from this person once every 6 months – and that is normally when we run into one another accidentally.  It is no surprise that everyone she called for a ride had other responsibilities or they were sick.  She takes and takes and gives nothing in return.  Not even the common human courtesy of friendship.  Real friendship. 

So why do I feel so like HELL today.  Like I have sinned.  Like I have failed.  Still, I know that if it had been anyone but “her” I would have been there in a heartbeat.  Really, I would have.  Even people that I wouldn’t necessarily call a friend.  Every month I shuttle my kids 160 miles to see their dad and then I go back again and get them.  I don’t complain.  They love their dad.  I can’t stand him – but when he had his heart attacks I came to the hospital. 

So why can’t I let go of this?  Maybe it is because there is a fine line – and maybe protecting myself this time was okay.  I forgive her – I truly hardly even think of her – and I know why she did what she did.  That doesn’t mean that I should have to be re-victimized just because SHE needed someone.   After all, that is a small part of what got me into the mess in the first place, when she needed someone I was there.  When I needed her – all I got was stabbed in the back.

Joan

Waiting for the World to Change

August 10, 2010

That song is running through my head today.  Mostly because that is what I feel like I am doing.

I lack patience…always have.  When I want something to happen I want it to happen right now.  Of course, as a mostly rational adult, I know that it is not possible. 

Change is a marathon…not a sprint.  When we sprint we worry about winning the race, being the first to the finish line.  We are going for distance here and it isn’t about losing…it is about finishing. 

I try to think about this from the standpoint of physical training – remember running in formation?  Everyone stuck together.  The fastest slowed down their pace and the slowest tried to kick it up a notch.  Tall people  moderated their steps and those of us who were short stretched it out a little bit.  Everyone sacrificed.  We worked as a team to finish together.  To win as a team.  We called together in one voice – motivated one another – high-fived those who completed the run.  We were one in purpose – one in family – one in victory.

There are those of us out there advocating the best we know how.  Sometimes we stumble.  Sometimes we fly.  We are also one in purpose – brothers and sisters – leading the entire team across that finish line.  Sometimes carrying our weak – sometimes being carried by those stronger than ourselves.  We are not alone.  You are not alone.

  Today I guess I just need to know that I am not the only one.  Today I am just thanking God for those that I know are standing with me.

Still – waiting for the world to change.

Joan

Stuck in the Slow Lane

August 5, 2010

One of the more frustrating aspects of my job is that I often feel as though I am not being a force for change that I would like to be.  More accurately, that I am not seeing “change” happen as fast as I would like to see it happen, and that bugs the hell out of me.  I see articles in VA publications or Government publications that either talk about what the VA is doing or should be doing for survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.  I never, ever see any conversations about making the military and the perpetrators responsible.  Once again, it seems to me like a conversation akin to “who is responsible for shutting the barn door AFTER the horse get out.”  Nobody wants to talk about whose job it is to make sure the horses NEVER get out.

I admit it takes a toll on me, advocating for the change that needs to happen.  It seems that nobody with any power really wants to listen to the low-grade technician.  I know that is not really true and I know that there are people listening and helping me to spread the message. Without those people I would feel truly useless.  Occasionally, I feel completely exposed and vulnerable; I just really want someone to make this easy. 

Part of the problem is that I have an “overdeveloped sense of justice.”  I believe that there is a clear right and a clear wrong.  I also have serious trust issues and a heightened sense of “betrayal.” Things that other people brush off seem to really get under my skin.  Things I am working on.

I applied for a much higher level job but I already know that I won’t even get an interview.  I would be great at the job, it is a patient advocacy position, and I know that I would love doing it.  I don’t have a chance and I can’t help but think that they are going to give that job to some civilian who has no more knowledge of the military than a flea.  Part of why we are the way that we are is because the military re-educated us on the way life is.  Some for the better – some for the worse.  I just don’t believe that you can effectively connect and advocate for a veteran unless you have walked a mile in our shoes.  I hate to be an elitist…but you just can’t get it. 

That is a big part of the problem; people just don’t get it!  I had that stupid cystoscopy last week and although everyone was very, very sensitive and very supportive there was one bad apple.  She was in the operating room and pretty much spoiled the whole thing.  Here I am, lying on a table in nothing but a short gown.  There is a male at the end of the table getting a clear view of areas not covered by the gown.  No sheet, no towel, no modesty offered to me at all.  This nurse/tech/whatever is strapping my legs to the stirrups in an elevated sit-up position and once that is done she walks away to look at the paperwork again.  NO..I don’t feel at all uncomfortable…really?  What is she thinking?  Thankfully, the nurse with the drugs saw that the heart monitor went from a nice even…beep…beep…beep to a nasty little beepbeepbeepbeepbeep.  Time to take the edge off.  Which was very nice of her.  Then Nurse Cratchet comes back over, shoves my legs apart and starts “prepping” me.  It is a week later and I am still having bad dreams and I can close my eyes and see her shoving and pushing.

That is part of what they just don’t get.  Everyone else was very nice and the doctor made sure I was comfortable.  I really, really appreciate them…but what about the rest of them.  Don’t people know that it is the “one” that can really mess up a situation?

I did make an offer to a person in a position of authority that I would be willing to speak with people in positions of patient care to help them better understand the needs of a survivor of military sexual trauma.  I don’t know if they will take me up on it.  I don’t even know if I am strong enough to do it.  I just know that if God brought me here it must be for a reason.  I just wish things would move a little faster.

Stuck in the slow lane.

Joan