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26 April 2017

No help from the VA, so I'm out.

So the appointment with a psychologist at trauma recovery was last week (see https://stillinthedesert.blogspot.com/2017/04/one-last-try.html). I managed to get there about 10 minutes early, which I'm slightly proud of considering that I have both no sense of time and I'd never been to this clinic before. My iPhone's calendar and its travel time function and Google Maps deserve all of the credit for me getting anywhere on time. It's, as expected, a pretty nondescript office building. The most I have to say about it is that it's the kind of office building you'd see near a mall.

At the front desk there's a check in kiosk, but the front desk person just asks for my name and last four and checks me in. There is a customer satisfaction survey included in the check in kiosk's screens that asks if you're satisfied with the time you had to wait for your appointment. I'd imagine that if you wanted to keep veterans from filling that part out you'd be proactive in manually checking people in, but hey, whatever, right?

Front desk does not give me a clipboard or a pen, which I find unusual. Generally, mental health clinics have at least one standard questionnaire for me to fill out-- depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.

Ten minutes after my appointment time, psychologist appears with a pen and a clipboard and about ten pages of questionnaires for my to fill out. These are the standard questions I expected, plus a few extra. It takes me about fifteen minutes to fill them out, perhaps a little longer because I have to insert ear plugs to block out the ever-present TV that's on and turned up too loud for no reason. I'm a fast reader, and I've seen all of these questions before, and I've been thinking about my mental health a lot, so I don't have to dwell on answers. If this was my first time ever in a mental health clinic, I'm betting it would have taken me a half hour or more to fill all of them out.

So now it's about half an hour after my appointment time, and I take the clipboard and pen to the front desk. No, front desk says, the psychologist will come back out for that. So I wait another several minutes in the waiting room until psychologist shows up.

This psychologist has an office with a window, but it's the same as any other office otherwise. Desk, chair, computer, bookshelf with appropriate titles. Ever been to a TGI Friday's or a Cracker Barrel or an Applebee's and seen the standard yet unique yet familiar stuff in every one of them? Same concept in decoration. I get that it's a federal agency and everyone has to order from the same GSA catalogs, but seriously.

As with the social worker before him, psychologist sits at the computer and asks me questions, then types my answers (I'm assuming that's what he types, but I can't see the screen). He doesn't score any of the questionnaires, just sort of looks through them and identifies things to be concerned about. Many of the questions he asks are straight from the standard forms, he asks for clarifications on some things.

He's not just strictly doing data entry, he's at least asking questions that are a little deeper and require that I give more detailed answers. It's at least a little apparent that he's an actual psychologist and might even give a shit about this stuff. It's not therapy, but it is at least a conversation, even if I've already given these same answers to these same questions to several different people already.

Or maybe I'm doing just enough Tactical Breathing that I'm not completely pissed off yet.

Towards the end of the meeting (it's not really a session), he produces two handouts. One talks about solitary confinement being a punishment. The other talks about accepting that other people aren't perfect. That there are bundles of these stapled together suggests to me that these are handed out to everyone. I'll get to those in a minute, because there's a lot to say about these things.

The meeting is over, and I don't have an appointment or a plan for therapy. What's going to happen is that he's going to take my information to a meeting on (last) Friday with the staff from the clinic and they're going to review it and decide what, if anything, the trauma recovery clinic can offer me.

So I was right. It was just an(other) intake appointment, and there's no therapy or help coming. Remember, this appointment was ultimately the result of a trip I made to the emergency room at the Atlanta VAMC on February 27.

I'm trying really, really hard to be patient at this point. It takes literally everything I have not to just flip over every table I see on the way out.

Fast forward to Monday of this week; psychologist calls shortly after 0800 (I give up on this), leaves a voice mail, I call back, leave a voice mail. He calls back today, again shortly after 0800. I'd again been up for over 24 hours, otherwise I'd have never been awake that early. It took an extra day to call back, he says, because of zibba zabba fibbety foo. (Whatever. I don't care, it's another excuse. Just say you were fucking busy or you forgot or whatever the real reason is.)

The people (the staff, whoever they are) reviewed me on Friday and decided they're going to refer me to some other people who are going to look at all of my records back to the beginning of time and then make a determination on what to do with me, if there's anything at all they can offer me. After that, which might take a week or longer, they'll call me to set up some sort of interview.

It's the last week of April. So this puts the next thing happening into May. Once the powers that be review whatever it is they're going to review about me, and decide what they're going to decide (if anything), then someone will call me and we'll play telephone tag for several days to set up yet another meeting to discuss... what exactly? I don't know. If things proceed as they have been, that meeting will happen sometime around the second week of May (or later), and then there will probably be even more meetings after that, so now we're into late May, and

You know what? FUCK IT AND FUCK YOU.

I'm sorry. I really am. I don't want to give up. I don't want to do this on my own. I need help, there's a lot about my life that's really very fucked up and with anxiety and depression and PTSD I need someone outside my head to help straighten it all out.

I have asked for help. I have begged for help. I have been to a Vet Center, I have been to primary care, I have been to trauma recovery, I have been to the emergency room. There is nothing short of showing up with a loaded gun (I don't even own a gun, btw) for me to try to get someone's attention that I really do need to get back into therapy. I've needed to get back into therapy for more than two years now. It took me that long, and being several states away from home, for me to engage with the VA again.

I'm really at a loss. I've tried to stay positive, tried to tell myself that this is worth it in the end, that once I get back into therapy and do the work and make changes-- eventually, it'll all pay off and my life will be better and I'll be happier and there will be unicorns shitting sprinkles and rainbows outside my door. Well, maybe not the last part, but I'd like things to end up better than they are now. I'm enough of an optimist to believe that my life can be better, but this is just fucking ridiculous. I don't need to solve every single problem right now, I just need to talk to someone and start sorting things out. I probably can't just solve everything right away. I recognize that, but I have to start somewhere. The problem is that there's just nowhere to start.

-----


About the two handouts.

First, that solitary confinement is a punishment-- I get it. People need other people, and being in a house out in the middle of nowhere without much contact with other humans is ultimately a bad thing. I didn't mind, and actually enjoyed, having other people around when I was at Wisconsin and sitting in some hallway hacking or studying. I enjoyed working at the help desk because I enjoyed answering questions and collaborating on finding solutions for people, and especially being able to train other people. That I asked for disability accommodations that kept me isolated from everyone else was so I could concentrate and actually build the things I was trying to build. That I need a low level of noise and distractions doesn't mean I want to live on a fucking desert island.

Given a choice, yes, I would like to have a small circle of friends. I would like to actually go and do things and experience life more than I have been. Right now it's difficult because of logistics-- I'm out in the middle of nowhere-- and because I'm just not feeling well. I don't have a lot of money to spend on going out and doing things. These are excuses, I know. The main issue is that I don't trust people. I've been burned too much, too often. This is one of the things I want to deal with in therapy. This is why I've tried engaging with the Vet Center and mental health.

The second, that people aren't perfect-- no, they're not. I get that too. It's easy to say that you should just accept people as they are because nobody's perfect, except when you've done that and people have turned out to be wolves disguised as sheep. I've been abused, taken advantage of, shot at, left on the street to fend for myself, and ignored (childhood, ex-wife, Desert Storm, VA transitional housing, my last employer). Who's left in life for me to actually trust? You, just because you say so?

I recognize that none of these have easy fixes, which is why I'm trying to get into some kind of therapy in the first place. I know that cognitive processing therapy helps, so that's the kind of work I want to do in therapy now. I'm willing to accept imperfection in this process, but there has to even be a process first. I just get shuffled from one place to another-- for weeks and months on end! I'm happy you have a handout or two for me, but handouts don't make problems go away. Therapy does. If after all of this time, and all the trips I've made back and forth between BFE and Lawrenceville, and BFE and Atlanta, all I get is a couple of fucking handouts, I'm better off doing this on my own.

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