Checking In: Prepping for A 3rd Round with the VA

Facebook keeps criticizing me for not writing all the time for my ‘She Wears Dog Tags’ page and while I try not to let it bother me, sometimes it gets under my skin.  I am not a full-time writer.  I do enjoy writing and it is a form of therapy for me when the rest of the world seems to exacerbate my anxiety but I now see the downside to having a business Facebook page.  Ugh.

It is always my goal to write on this blog at least once a month but the constant notifications that “people haven’t heard from me”….that crap gets old.

I don’t write to share superficial sentiments.

I was feeling a little hesitant to share how I’ve been feeling yesterday and today but with the honesty I’ve shared with other trials, I want to reaffirm my stance you will only find vulnerability and camaraderie here.  It’s taken a lot to be open about coping with anxiety and I am not going to skirt around that issue as I’ve done in my earlier writing.

I am stepping out on a limb to have the VA revisit my disability claim for anxiety and the anxiety-induced chest pains.  The approach I am taking is unconventional but I don’t have much of anything valuable, in the VA’s eyes, in my medical record.  I cannot undo the fact I refused medical care in the Marine Corps because I did not trust the people I visited to take me seriously.  Unfortunately, I find myself in the same situation with the VA.

The breadcrumbs they have from my medical records are insufficient for them to make the connections that my chest pains stem from the continued trauma associated with my deployment.  I cannot fully blame them as I recognize fraudulent claims are a real concern and the VA pays out heavily for that type of mistake.

I find myself in a position to educate the VA on an issue they do not see well (and quite potentially, they may not have seen at all.).  I don’t know how likely they’ve seen situations like mine where I was exposed to trauma in the form of constant information regarding the dead and wounded.  The VA, I don’t think, can understand that pain like they might the mortar fire that also provided constant danger where we served at Camp Blue Diamond.

I’ve known for sometime I need to revisit the dead via my work for my applied project and the information I found about my fallen peers from the Military Times Honor the Fallen.  The official records from the Military Times, bolstered by the journal entries I wrote during my deployment, provide what is probably my last chance to explain to the VA a type of deployment experience that I think is still quite foreign to them.

I am quite stressed knowing I have to revisit the deceased again.  This process was difficult and heartbreaking during my Master’s program but I knew it was important to encourage non-veterans to see war in a way that is not discussed in the academic classroom.  I didn’t think I would need to open my trauma this way to discuss my past with the VA.  I thought I could discuss my deployment in a way that’s less painful to talk about but I don’t think I’m getting heard.  Instead I was greeted with a slew of questions poking and prodding about my family life, education, and interactions with friends, looking for other potential sources of trauma.  I don’t think I’d mind that too much if I was equally given the chance to be heard about what my deployment looked like, how I went about my work, and asked why I am adamant about being one of the best at my work.

I had a lot of trouble falling asleep last night.  I know I need to break up the records into more manageable chunks of time but even with that decision made, I know my heart will take it personally to see these stories again.  It’s likely my anxiety will increase again as I sort through this information, something I’ve wanted to avoid, but I don’t know how to separate my feelings from the process.  There are a lot of people who were lost and it’s hard as a Marine to feel like we didn’t do enough to prevent some of these casualties.

As I continue this work for my VA claim, I may not write as much but I will still be in touch.  It’s a huge emotional journey to revisit my past this way and I want you all to be prepared, and hopefully understanding, of why I’m distant with my writing from time to time.  I know that sometimes I cannot continue to pile things on my plate when I feel overburdened because it exacerbates my anxiety and increases the frequency/intensity of my chest pains and having to go back to the VA, for a third time, regarding chest pains since 2005 is the biggest burden on me right now.

Thanks again for the patience and space you afford me in this leg of my journey.

(If I get too far behind in writing and you are bored, just come find me on Instagram. I enjoy ‘talking’ about food a lot.)