It’s been awhile since I have really harped on anything, but last week I found myself getting revved up for good reasons. Since I am a so-called journalist, I spend a lot of time reading political sections of the newspaper as well as spending endless hours watching news. In doing that, I occasionally find direction for my column. Since my reason for writing is to responsibly share the story of the soldiers, as well as my own, I diligently pick and choose the subjects that I want to attack or, shall I say, investigate. The reason for that is because every time I get talking about hot topics there is always someone who just wants to shut me up and encourage me to stay in my lane. I have good news. I am in my lane, and anyone is welcome to join me — that is, if you can take the heat. In the last few months support for my writing has increased — as evidenced by the positive e-mails I receive and people coming up to me when I am out. The level of attack has almost ceased, causing me to worry that I’m not doing my job of bringing truth to the table about life in uniform. My goal is to write responsibly. The topic I am discussing this week will definitely encompass this word.
I opened the paper the other day and read that the government has started to implement a one-stop shop to possibly cure or at least help those of us who have PTSD. When I first read this it was almost like a joke. I commented to my wife, “Hey, from what I am reading, they’re going to treat us all the same, sit us in a circle like we are in AA, and we will just talk it all out.” My wife looked at me and laughed, “You in a circle talking it out; that would be entertaining.” In an effort to write responsibly, I have to admit that for some talking it out will suffice, and for others, listening to a recording of ocean waves crashing down will do the trick. But on a serious note, let’s be real about it. Some of us are far beyond that.
The Army Times has reported:
“Almost 59,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Army post-deployment health assessments have found that 20 percent of active-duty and 40 percent of reserve-component troops had symptoms of PTSD, and some experts say the real numbers could be much higher.”
Since I am included in these numbers, I have a front seat to what is really going on, and let me tell you, what I am seeing and experiencing is angering me and slowly discouraging me. I do my best to see both sides of the picture, because I am truly seeking treatment for my issues, but there are days when I just wonder: “Are men not seeking treatment because they know it is a joke or because they are afraid that they won’t be taken seriously?” I am very careful about asking people what they feel about programs they are in. Because each person’s road to healing is different, I don’t want to have a negative impact on someone’s progress. The people I have talked to are ones who have fallen through the cracks due to lack of attention. So whose fault is it? Should blame fall on the service member for not pushing to get help, or do we look at the heath care professionals who daily are packed with service members shuffling through the program and possibly lose track of those who are priority issues.
If you get anything from reading this article, my desire is for you to realize that if you are a service member who is seeking help you are the architect of your progression.
I met a man the other day who had just gotten out of treatment downtown; he was full of excitement that he had made the decision to reach out and seek help. As I stood across from him, I found him saying the same things that go through my head daily. For once in a long time, I connected to someone who was dealing with the same thing I was dealing with. I was moved to tears because his voice was full of conviction that what he was doing was the right thing regardless of what his peers were saying. This young man is making his way to the Warrior Transition Battalion. I hope to talk to him again someday. He mentioned that it was hard at first; he felt like he spent most of his time trying to convince people that he had an issue. People around him continuously thought he was faking it or that he was trying to get out of the Army. But it just so happened he really had issues. He made it clear to me that I am solely responsible for getting everything done; no one does anything unless you request it.
That was a couple of months ago. From that experience I learned a great deal about what he was talking about. I made a promise to friends and family that I was going to push the envelope in this healing process. I want treatment, but at the same time, I want those who are working with us to know we are not just a file number or a scheduled event on the calendar. Never in a million years did I think I would be a voice for those who shuffle through the halls of mental health, but if this is God’s big plan for me, then I am open and ready to do what I can do to help others to not sit silently in a corner and be forgotten but rather speak up and get what they deserve, and that is complete health care rendered with compassion and a sincere desire to help.