Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Another day at the VA..

This morning I woke at 0500hrs. See, the walk in clinic for trauma recovery is Tuesday and Wednesday, 0830hrs. Plan for at least three hours. I learned about this program on friday from a VA social worker.(she has worked well with me thus far). I wanted to be there Tuesday but that wasn't possible. Monday was one of those all-nighters where me and my demons wrestle around all night. Around midnight I had went to the Hub desk seeking some help and found that there was no Veteran counselors on staff. (the hub desk is where a contract staff member rules over 4 cellblocks in this jail.). Yes, I am currently housed in a contract bed in the old Atlanta jail with, I'd say around 250 other Veterans and civilians. My only option was one of the dogtags I wear around my neck. "Veterans crisis hotline". They have a live chat available 24/7. To start that process was a 12 step questionnaire. About 5 minutes after submitting my answers Erin replied.. I don't know Erin. I knew nothing about Erin. After two hours of "Chatting", I still know nothing about Erin. What I do know is that she has more questions than answers.. She apologized to me for what I was going through with the VA and thanked me for my service then put me on the spot pressing me with the question, "what are you going to do, Donald?" I said goodnight. Needless to say, I was not in any shape to deal with a walk in appointment.

Image result for veterans crisis line dog tag

Luckily, the jail is only two blocks from the MARTA station (and greyhound). This morning after two trains, a bus and a mini van, I arrived at another VA satellite location for Trauma recovery evaluation. Now understand, my definition of "Trauma" includes putting a guy like me on a public train in Atlanta at 0600hrs. Before last week, my total experience with public transportation has been riding a bus in Daytona one time because I was too drunk to drive. Being the only option I had, I made it work.

I isolate. I don't go around large groups of people. When I have to,, I use crutches. Like booze. or drugs. It numbs me enough to cope. It's not that I am scared of people. I fear what I am capable of doing.. A trigger fuse with no time delay that can be activated by things most people think nothing about. Standing behind a horse is a sure way to get kicked. Getting in my personal space will get a stranger the same result. Today, a young man dressed as a thug, with his sagging pants, cocked Mercedes Benz ball cap and gold grill running to catch the train, ran into my shoulder. Luckily his response was diffusing.. As he was getting up from the ground he apologized. That situation could have gone sideways in a moment.. that is why I avoid public when I can..

There is a moment, it happens in an instant. It has the potential to change a life forever.. It happens just before the "Fight or Flight" response... It's called "Threat Assessment".

How long does it take to make that assessment.? In some situations it is quicker than the blink of an eye. A barking dog. A quick movement. Aggression. A surprise touch. Hell, my ponytail startles me at least once a day... It can be anything.. In the Army Infantry we called it "The Razors Edge".

I'd like to point something out here.. I tell people that I was in the Army Infantry.. I wasn't in the Army, I was in The Army INFANTRY. You might wonder, Whats the difference.? From where a Infantryman stands the difference is as big as night and day. I'll try to brake it down for you..
A person could serve in any of the five branches of service and be a Veteran. With an Honorable discharge, They have my appreciation and  a measure of respect. But that doesn't include them into the ranks of the Men who I call "Brother". There are many jobs in the military. From clerks to cooks. From supply and logistics to transportation. Each preforms a needed function. Their function is to support the men of  Combat Arms. I mean no disrespect to the men and women who deserve the respect of a grateful Nation.. Some of these people find themselves in harms way. There have been many who have proven themselves courageous. But the fact is, they trained for combat for 8 weeks in basic training. An Infantryman trained for combat, daily for the length of his enlistment. The culture of the Infantry is also different.. A blue cord on my class As signified that I was an Infantryman. It was earned, not given. That blue cord joined me in the ranks of every fighting man in our Countries history. A proud tradition that continues today.. The Elite of our military train for combat. Not with typewriters or spatulas but with their body, mind and weapons. We are Grunts. We do the work of combat. Some consider the term POG as a derogatory term.. meaning "Persons other than Grunts". I don't see it that way. To be a Grunt, you have more than a basic understanding of combat.

But back to this story..

so Yeah. 00800hrs I arrive at my destination... I'm asked to fill out an 8 page questionnaire. AGAIN. for the 20th time... and I'm Amped up from the morning already.. Sit and wait.. 8 others in the waiting room with me. We are escorted to another waiting room and told that we would be briefed as a group and then seen individually.. 10 minutes later and the door opens.. Mr. Wood, please follow me.. and I'm escorted back to the first waiting room. Now I'm alone. Apmed status...Higher. The door opens and a well dressed man in his early forties introduces himself as Dr. So &So , "Please follow me. Into his office and he explains what the evaluation will cover and asks if I have any questions. "Yes. Why was I singled out of the herd"?? His reply surprised me.. "Your file has been red flagged for behavior problems". OK... What else does it say... he says, "Nothing more, it was entered in Dublin".. Soooo... Thats when I had the obligation to ease his mind and explain what happened in Dublin Ga. VA.. The short of it,, because I pointed out the failings of my care, because I advocated for myself and others,,, I was a "behavior problem"..

We moved on.. over a three hour period, that Dr. asked me every imaginable question and a few I hadn't been asked before. It was an information gathering session for him.. It was the 13th time sense 21 dec. 2015 that I had been threw this process. This one being the longest and most in depth.. To the Dr's credit.. He treated me right. With respect and honor. As if he actually wanted to help.. As we finished the evaluation he stated that he wanted to work with me personally. He was interested in my story and he felt that he could help me with some if not all of my issues. We closed out the meeting with contact information and instructions for when I should call regarding a schedule. As we shook hands at the door, his grasp lingered, "Mr. Wood, after three hours in your head, I don't believe you are a behavior problem".. The right words at the right time..

Once again, I have started down this path. He will be the 7th therapist that I will have met with more than once. I'm hopeful that we can make progress. I'm open minded but still concerned about the quality of care.. BUT,  I can say that the difference between my care at Dublin Ga. VA and Atlanta Ga. Va have been vastly different...

I just thought you might want to know....

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