"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

February 01, 2008

The Waiting Room

Today, I was attending my regular, every 3 month psychiatric appointment. In the waiting room at the Veteran's Administration Clinic was a young man, age 25 - 30. He had an ashen, pale look on his face and was sitting with both his parents. I couldn't help but make eye contact with this young, troubled Veteran. Somehow, his soul seemed fragile, fractured if you will, by the horrors he'd seen. He glanced at me, I looked at him... I could see fear, mistrust, doubt, apprehension, and the dread in his eyes. He looked away and down, as if mortified. Tears were welling up in his eyes. By this time, I was starting to get a big lump in my throat. Remembering the confusion I first felt when I was going through the "VA mental healthcare system". Finally, he glanced back up... I nodded to him... gave him a clenched fist... a subtle, positive sign, as if to say... please, stay strong, hang in there... your not alone. By this time I had tears welling in my eyes. He leaned back and looked up toward the ceiling wiping a tear away.

Introspectively, I was yearning to reach out to him. I wanted to tell him he's in the right place... doing the right thing... well on his way to some sort of recovery. I wish I could have communicated that seeking help is the first, huge, step in getting better. Let him know that his mind will never be 100% or be the person he once was, but it's his heart that matters. Explain to him, he's lucky he has two wonderful parents who love and care for him... something I never appreciated.

My wish was to give him a big bear hug. God, the stories I could tell this young man of my personal battles with the VA. Of course, he certainly didn't need some 50 year old disabled Veteran confessing his plight of chronic back and shoulder pain. In addition to his own light case of PTSD. Actually, I was thinking more of providing my experience to help guide him through the red tape of the VA. And be there for him if he ever needed someone to talk to.
Unfortunately, I was summoned suddenly for my appointment... I bounced up with intensity and a slight smile on my face for being called.

When I left my appointment... driving home... I started to reflect on my start with the "VA mental health system"... my anger grew. I had shed tears exactly like this young man. I remembered the shame I felt... of feeling ashamed. Why the fuck should I be embarrassed about anything... I didn't ask for these emotions! The Army tried its best to desensitized my feelings, dehumanize me. A pure and simple mind fuck. The Army wanted me to feel disgraced... let me carry around the stigma of not being able to handle the sights and sounds of war. I found out, most people can't. I'm not their little automaton, emotionally or physically. I'm on the road to recovering my passion for life... my life. No doubt, it's still a struggle. But I will cherish it with all the gusto I can muster. That's a good thing.

Damn, can I go back and talk to this young, mentally ill Veteran and tell him everything? Perhaps... he saw it in my eyes.

1 comment:

ckennedy said...

You transmitted your empathy and solidarity to this young man, and that may have been all you could have done at that moment. You never know. Reaching out can backfire, can help, and sometimes even what seems like a small gesture can be a turning point for the person reached for. Dear GOD we all need help from time to time, but for returning veterans, it is absolutely a case of "It takes a village" for years and years to come.