As of yesterday, the mark of the calendar and coincidentally a Veteran Affairs (VA) appointment, I am at 23-months post military; in other words, being a veteran.
I would say that my appointment experience was consistent to other VA appointments, they ALL raise my anxiety levels to 10! But for whatever reason this appointment took me to another level fueled with emotions, and fears, and other feelings. My emotions were elevated from the parking lot just by the mere task of looking for a parking space to park my car. There are 1000 cars for patients and employees but only 800 spaces available. Find one the best way you can!
PS. “New parking garage coming soon”, they say. Yet my friends in other states have the same issues with parking.
My fears were also in the overwhelming category as I walked into the doors of the hospital and observed 15-veterans in wheelchairs, 10 OTHERS smoking, and 3-OTHERS just laying on the ground or flower bed, centered-around those in the wheelchair people or smoking people or spectators that appear to walk around as if nothing else is going on around them. Apparently this all is normal; another day at the VA.
Are these things normal? Is this the inevitable for most if not all veterans? If not us exactly, but will we all someday walk upon one of our battle buddies that we knew, while we served, sitting in a wheelchair chatting, smoking cigarettes waiting, or lying around in the rose bed as if its another day lounging?
I see myself as a newer generational veteran. I am part of the OEF/OIF/OND generation. When I visit the VA I see very little peers during my passing through. I see the prior generation veterans. Usually I see the ones from Vietnam, WWII, and the Gulf War.
Through all of this my anxiety raises. I know it raises as I look for a parking space. I’m just a goldfish in a bigger ocean. Equal playing field. Then I see the veterans in abundance, just there. What stops me from being one of them someday? Where’s their families? Or did they do as I did and depart the military at their “last duty station” which is not where extended family resided. No-one around to check on them or me.
Then in compilation of my anxiety and my fear, I then feel pre-judged and categorized. Upon entry, being pre-judged is part of my life. I am a minority woman, flashy, highly educated yet walk the walk of a Detroiter, even after several decades removed.
My doctor has met me on one other visit. Although I was there for another small issue, while there I decided to seek attention to another situation. My visit slowly turned into me repeatedly telling the doc ‘I don’t need depression medications, I don’t need to talk to anyone, just because I feel this or that doesn’t mean Im in need of PTSD or depression meds nor do I need to call a hotline. “Damn doc you don’t have issues from time to time and just talk it over with a friend or feel a little hyped about it”
I get it, the doc is a trained professional. Maybe my doctor notice something I don’t. I feel as though Im just being me.
However, regardless of what I do or did for a living, it doesn’t make me immoral or immune to life. My doc has never served; how are vets viewed by those that never served?
Is this why our vets feel as if they have no where to go? They feel safe and secure just sitting around smoking, chatting and gathering around with other veterans. Where else are they in abundance but the VA hospital?
How long do we struggle to fit in? How long does it take for us to share, chat and bond with others thats not like us? We aren’t like them? How long does it take us to achieve “learning to live structured in an unstructured world.”
Could it be the way we are made to feel? Irrelevant?
They say, “If you hear something more then enough you start to believe it.”
Veterans have more resources, programs and help-centers available then any other category of people. But yet veterans have a high population amongst the homeless or those that suffer from various addictions.
From the gate; get in where you fit in; in the middle “lets gather at a sacred place because we only understand and blend with one another”-(well thats how we are made to feel); in the end, “you made an appointment HERE, that means you have a mental disorder defined in DSM-V.” Finally, “in order to get that medication and other simple ones like Nexium, you need to get a special approval letter from the Chief of Pharmacy…..but….In the meantime”…….Wait, but I can get Sertraline, Buspirone, or Fluoxetine with no issues and no red-tape?”
Mr. Secretary, why is this system designed to make me feel this way?
How do I start “learning to live structured in an unstructured world”