Update 2021 - Although things are marginally better for me & my family over the last couple years, I feel it is necessary to share this blog again in 2021 so close to Veteran's Day.
I have been waiting (4) years since I filed a claim at the VA, this time with the help of a lawyer. The previous two times, the paperwork seemed to have been arbitrarily denied, not to mention these were with the help of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) to which I am a Life Member. The only takeaway I had was the that the Department of Veterans Affairs do not take our Veterans & their illness serious until they ask for legal advice. So, three years after filing that third claim, I met virtually (COVID shutdown) with a VA Judge to hear the case. Since then, a full year passed before anyone looked at the recording, just to 'Remand' every single issue on the docket (a.k.a kicking the can down the road...for how long this time?). I don't doubt that every single person reading this blog supports our troops and veterans, but I am starting to get the feeling the Country/Government (regardless of political affiliation) do not really feel the same way. When I filed that most recent claim, I was put into a virtual cue of 167,000 others. There is a startling stat that as many as (22) Veterans take their own life every day. Extremely sad, and not to belittle any other reason for deaths or suicide, I feel a large number of these can be prevented if they could just receive the care needed. Did those twenty-two today have the same experience as me with the VA so far? I am very fortunate to have an amazing family, job, and community around me, so no need to worry about me!
Please, go out of your way to thank a Veteran this week - you may not know what is happening behind their strong facade...
Original Blog/Backstory 2019 - This is by far the hardest blog I have written, but feel it is time to share for those that have not heard over a pint in the last 10 or 15 years. As you may likely have read, I have had quite the journey through HVAC - including some time in the Marines and two tours in Iraq. I suffer from some chronic conditions like tinnitus, nystagmus, and compartment syndrome in my lower legs. These, believe it or not, are not the toughest handicap for me to overcome.
It may be hard to believe, but I have some pretty severe anxiety. Some call it PTSD, some social anxiety, either way it causes some real stress mostly in my home life. There is something about when I go to work - I am able to press play, most days I pretend like nothing is wrong. I wear a different set of clothes at work, almost like a uniform while in the Military. If I was up late, or early, from one of the many recurring nightmares over the last 15 years or so, I tend to have a large coffee (with a Turbo Shot from Dunkin') and it helps me get through the morning. Most recently, I have used the catchy phrase "Best Day of My Life!" when asked how my day is going. For those that know me well, may understand that I really do appreciate everything we have as I have seen the worst in the world - but there is always some sarcasm.
At home, I sometimes get to a point when my voice or reaction does not necessarily match the situation. Whisper? Ya right - I have loudly talked to my Wife and Daughter at events like off-broadway shows and most of our neighbors heard more than they could care for. When frequenting a trusted restaurant, one that meets my diet and the short list of what my 9 year old daughter will eat, I try to sit facing the exit and quickly identify anything that can be considered a 'threat' to my family. Sometimes, I would rather stay in the car when my wife runs into the store, I think sometimes because I can clearly see anyone going into the place - but others because of my lack of patience for everyone around me.
I don't want sympathy, or anyone to feel bad for us. I want to explain why I sometimes cannot remember your name. Why I exclusively plan things on weekends with my Family, or would rather stay home with them where I know we are safe. If I go on a vacation to a place like Disney - a place my Family LOVES, it takes months for me to prepare mentally and is a huge success to us. When I fly, even short flights for work, it is best for me to sit in the first row where I am unable to see everyone else on the plane but watch them all walk on. That some war veterans suffer from injuries you cannot see and can function well enough in society to be considered 'successful'. Just because you cannot see an injury, does not make it less painful or easier for their family.
I am happy to say I have come a long way over the last few years. Some of this I think is just the passing of time, some is understanding my situation and doing what I can to minimize my reactions. I feel acupuncture has helped the most, but this treatment is every couple of weeks at times like over the Winter.
When you see a Veteran, you may not know their injuries - and the worst of them most don't like to talk about. It takes a lot of trust for us to discuss details, and even this blog I am unsure of publishing. I think it goes a long way to understand who and why I am.
"The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up." - Timothy Mouse (Dumbo)