After everything I tried, I failed to sleep with her.
She looked over my medical records collecting her hand written notes from our weekly meetings. Wiping her dark brunette cut shoulder length hair aside, she adjusted her glasses, and crossed her arms covered with tattoos hidden under her blouse. The beautiful artwork spread all over her shoulders down her back wrapped around her thin frame.
She was strong-willed with a mind like a steel trap. She craved my details and paid attention to everything. She would become distracted by the severe back problems from childhood. Regardless, she pushed through her hidden pain. Monthly injections reduced her pain, only once a month would she be forced to rely on a cane. She was younger than myself and I never understood how something so irritating could happen so soon to a woman.
Posted on the walls behind her were diplomas for a Bachelors and Masters degree in social work and medical policy, a Molly Pitcher award for leading military wives at Ft. Bliss, Texas. It wasn’t only how cute she was; some of it was her intelligence, most of it was how she rebelled against the mainstream. She was a pistol, and no one fucked with her. Being the lowest pay grade on the scale, she didn’t have high-profile responsibilities.
Inside the VA (Veterans Affairs) medical system stood a very large community of doctors, psychiatrists and army of psychologists and social workers. She was one of them, yet she wasn’t. You see; inside this world, to get your promotion, you kissed the ass of those appointed above you and used internal politics to beat your competition. Despite what their marketing campaigns claim, the veterans are not what matters. The priority becomes, when are you going to get your own office with a view or when will the government holiday arrive? Besides the nurses on late shift, these “professionals” only worked from 8-4:30 pm everyday. Truly? In reality, everyone who worked at this hospital evacuated the grounds by 3:45 yet still collected their full pay. Claiming to have to take their kids to soccer practice, or they have a dinner on the other side of town, on purpose, some maintain a low profile to avoid creating waves. All, so they can leave work when they want to leave. Only a rare few were the exception. In the VA, to me, it’s not the veterans that matter.
Refusing to share anything personal with the VA, I trusted no one. Because I was mandated by local courts and sympathetic judges to be treated by the VA, it didn’t matter if it were the VA in Ann Arbor, Charlotte, or Dayton VA, I trusted no of them. Not her, nor any other doctor. Who the fuck were these people anyway? Who did they think they were? For fuck sake, the first VA doctor appointed to me was from Pakistan. How in the fuck do you expect me to share anything about my experiences overseas remotely relevant if you have me locked behind reinforced steel doors guarded by security guards of a mental hospital trapped with Hadji from Karachi? None of these doctors, nurses and psychologists have ever been overseas. Who were they to judge me?
Yeah, I went to war, so what? So did a million other people. I fucking volunteered to go. What happens after war is consequence, and I accepted all that from day one Volunteering and raising my hand several times to go to war was my choice, I knew what I volunteered for. Doing so because our country needed men and women like us. Mostly, volunteering to find those people I had searched for all my life. Warriors.
What the fuck did the VA know about warriors? No where on this entire mental health campus were there other warriors. And the VA claims to understand us? I’m the only warrior from my community in a fucking mental hospital. How do you explain that? All you want me to talk about is the most severe secret I’ve buried deep within my mind. You want to know what used to fuck with me? I’ll tell you. How about how my first sexual experience confused the hell out of me and still haunts me. Is that the drama you want? Or, how Sarah Klump left me hanging in 9th grade. Will that bring tears to your eyes? Or, let’s go here.
How about how we all fucked up and Muhammad slammed an RPG down our throats when we should have known better to hold up in that valley? Fuck off You don’t understand a damned thing about the world we come from.
However, for her, the veterans were important. With her head down and elbow on the desk leading to her hand wrapped around a government pen, her notes went into detail about my mental and physical state. Attempting to translate my language, or lack of discussion, she analyzed every detail from which directions my eyes looked, to how I shifted in my seat following her questions. It took us nine months of talk after boring discussion to reach this point. Every delay I caused, excuse or story, I shared that ran on and on without a point, she hung in there. No matter how long I dragged my feet sitting in silence refusing to look her in the eye, not once did she quit.
It was different with this woman. Week after week, as if this was all a game or some sort of challenge to her, she was on a mission to break through to me; she hung in there. For all I knew, I was in a mental hospital destined to go no where. What the hell did I care? There was no way in fuck I would open up or share what bothered me. No one would understand. Hell, I didn’t even understand. For all I saw in the medical community, whether in the military or the VA, up to this point claimed I was inappropriate. I didn’t care what people told me or what pills they tried to shove down my throat. There were things I tried to accomplish after returning home from war. Every effort to change what I believed or needed to be fixed failed. Because I sabotaged every treatment plan, those choices led me straight in that mental health hospital. For me, inside those hospitals, the enemy surrounded me. No one cared what I thought and wanted to do. For fuck sake, I started to doubt myself. Not once in my life had I ever questioned myself.
Inappropriate? Fuck off. You tell me your definition of stress? Stress isn’t real, genuine fear is. When I say fear, I’m not referring to some dramatic twist of fate where your life is threatened. How about telling someone you’ve never met, to drop 500 lb iron GPS guided bombs from six miles above the earth. Specifically, telling them to drop bombs the size of my Harley within a few hundred feet of innocence. Knowing you are going to kill real-live people who had nothing to do with this fucking war. You come to learn fast how with the most primal needs in one’s life, it is what it is.
Stress is someone’s interpretation of what hurts or is slightly uncomfortable. That’s not stress. The condition experts and society is looking for are the memories and new-found feelings never felt before. The emotions that appear unexpectedly ultimately distract you. Hyper awareness is what you need to think about, how it stays with you for the rest of your life. Things you were never taught or introduced to in training. Not only basic military training where you had to have your beds made, and lockers kept in order. Instead, I’m referring to the Masters level, even Doctorates in military thought and practice. Not once was it ever mentioned. Instead, reality had the very people who trained you, were never experienced in real war.
Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan did a study on this thing called Post Traumatic Stress or PTS. They examined past generations and how every military campaign generated real cases of PTS. In their comparisons, Grand Valley found this thing known as the “Silent Agreement.” Where warriors returned home never revealing what they experienced. The study went on to prove how this lack or failure to find the right people to communicate with and treat these mental wounds led to serious problems complicating the condition called PTS. It wasn’t only mental health problems. This failure to communicate and share realities of warfare led to beating wives and children into submission and silence, hidden alcoholism and drug abuse, sexual trauma, even becoming introverted hiding their problems.
What was common with World War II all the way through the first Gulf War, is how this failure to communicate snowballed problems costing our country far greater than had we not gone to war. Here is where the VA’s mission is supposed to take over. With my experience with the VA, after six years trapped in their system, not once was the “silent agreement” mentioned.
After learning this on my own, not from a medical professional or military expert, I’ve chosen to make an agreement with myself. An agreement that I would communicate, but, at no time, will I communicate with the VA. What I will do is write about these things under no name, not my name. I will manage these conditions on my own. Why? Because I experienced the worst case of abuse and neglect in a medical system ever imagined. Not physical, instead, seriously twisted mental neglect. Try being degraded and disrespected while the whole time you can’t explain why things happened to the Doctors. What is really bothering you relates to military operations you can’t talk about and now you find yourself in some dumbass office with a cocky doctor who refuses to take suggestions on why you are struggling to find him prescribing a cocktail of powerful anti-psychotic drugs certain to distort your thinking even further. He doesn’t give a fuck your career is on the line. You are merely a number mixed among hundreds of other patients. He could give a fuck.
At no time did any professional mental health doctor from the VA take me seriously. When I did choose to slightly share and reveal sources of my problems…once again….I was inappropriate. These people had no experience with the military special operations community. Their standards of behavior were shaped by their experiences treating drug abusers, unemployed strung out veterans who barely served in the military. They maybe served two years and were forced out of the military. I served fifteen years and deployed overseas to three different wars and four combat deployments. The people the VA was familiar with tended not to be cut out for basic military standards and were now trapped in a nightmare system strung out on prescription drugs dependent on government hand outs and unemployment.
Not only did I NOT meet those standards of typical civilian culture, I was more independent, resourceful and could think for myself. My only problem was by treating myself, I fucked up and the drug I chose created a drug induced psychosis making me irritable and paranoid. Now, I was labeled by VA doctors in ways I can no longer purchase a weapon or work again as a warrior. The rights I fought for and defended are no longer mine. At no time time was I violent or a threat to others. The moment you enter the mental health system, you are branded for life. Not to forget how no time did any VA medical professional have the appropriate skills or experience to address the realities of true warare. They were totally caught off guard by me. Not only would I disrespect them and disregard their therapies, I would stand up for myself. Precisely what doctors do not like.
What I’ve come to learn is how the military trained us well at fighting wars. However, they forgot to explain how after war, you are left to fend for yourself and somehow have to relearn how to manage your senses to return and reassimilate with society. At no time did they mention how your experiences, choices and battlefield decisions would alter your thinking and feelings having serious impact on your life and your family. What they forgot to mention were the recollections of decisions and choices leading to silence that becomes deafening. How all of those changes redefine your life forever.
Keep in mind that I’ve since recovered. After almost six years of bouncing in and out of jail and mental health hospitals, I rarely if ever heard from the military. When I did make contact, it was as if I was a distraction for failing to blend back into society. Not to mention my family and I were left to fend for ourselves after returning from war forced to leave the military to save our family. Now, after I experienced problems, I was the problem. You have no idea how much anger and resentment that caused towards the very people I loved and respected.
Examples of how life changed after returning home from war is how you question yourself. Now, when something is a threat, no matter what form it takes, you can sense a genuine threat. Life after experiencing real-world conflict on battlefields abroad is how unrecognizable emotions become warrior’s most frustrating distractions. What’s different in something known as war, conflict between good and evil, life throws unexpected curve balls so fast, confusing and unexpected, you are no longer proactive and confident anymore. Make matters worse by treating your own wounds with a cheap over the counter cough syrup and you get nothing but chaos confusing everyone involved. Drink bottles of cough syrup for weeks at a time to the point you black out while standing up. Then, you wake covered in feces surrounded by vomit.
The experiences I describe are the mixed and overwhelming emotions never witnessed before. Any amount of drug or alcohol you reach for cannot squelch their impact. Months and years after war, new-found emotions creep up behind and blindside you and your family catching everyone by surprise. Before, you never got angry or lost your temper. Now, not only are you unemployed, you are sick and no one understands why. Make matters worse, you are making yourself even more sick by treating your own wounds. It’s a backwards cycle you’ve now become trapped in and all you appear like is an idiot to the world you once defended. That’s when life changes for real, and every new emotion returns in different forms. These feelings become distracting, distorting your view of the world you loved.
That’s now all in my past. The madness has since stopped and in terms of my health, I stopped abusing cough syrup, since recovered and moved on with my life. My success isn’t because of medical professionals. Instead, I became sick of being trapped in a deep hole trapped within elements of society I never want to see again. The feeling of being lost and alone away from my only son staring at concrete walls while behind bars of some county jail in places I didn’t recognize. All of it cost me years of my life I can not recover. Those are the reasons I stopped the madness and quit treating myself and finally regained clarity. It all could have been avoided had I not treated myself. Had we had professional medical doctors aligned with our teams, I would have been successful in overcoming the realities of warfare immediately after returning home from war.
With all that said, everything was different with this…woman. Without a word, she agreed and understood me.
It took us nine months of talk after boring discussion to reach this point. Trust and loyalty, the two very important values I hold close; she breached through my resistance to earn…my respect. Next to the Psychiatrist assigned to my case, who not only proved gay and distracting to my treatment, he failed to comprehend what she understood. How she was the only person I told about my love for Jojo.
She also knew how not having Little Man tore at me. To the point, I wanted to return overseas and take life to the limit never returning home again. Selfish yes, however, you try experiencing losing it all to find yourself trapped in this fucking place. Life takes on a whole new meaning.
Paramore’s song “the only exception” reminds me of her. After a year and half of working with each other, we both worked hard together. All the afternoon meetings at the picnic table, going against the culture of the VA, she smoked cigarettes, and I chewed Copenhagen. It was her behavior and language enabling us to know each other well. She claims to have shared personal things with me, I’m certain were true.
Regardless, no matter what she told me, or I shared with her; I tried everything I could to break the ethical standards of medicine to sleep with her. These feelings for her were overwhelming at times. It reached points I looked forward to our meetings. In fact, I found reasons to meet with her. They weren’t only selfish feelings for sex or to quietly fuck behind the doors of her office. Her own style and rare beauty pulled at me. To simply be close once again to a woman is all I wanted. A rarity, she passed through the mental gateways of standards, personal values and desires I carried. It could have been simply because she listened. On the other hand, it was the “fuck off” attitude she had with the ass kissers within the VA political system. She was the one who stayed until 7-8 pm every night returning first thing the next morning. She was that dedicated to veterans and their cause. The only exception.