I am sure you, my fellow Veterans, are aware of this phenomenon by now. If not, forewarned is forearmed. We have all read of the large numbers of Veterans returning from the latest wars with horrible cases of depression stemming from PTSD. In addition, it has been reported that as many as 18 souls are committing suicide a day. Apparently, the VA is slowly getting the message. Slowly as in they hope to have it down to 16 by this time next year.
New programs to plaster over the problem are trotted out weekly. The VA talking heads call in the media and give long-winded explanations of how this will no longer be a problem as soon as the new alphabet-lettered program is instituted and up and running. I anticipate it will have a spiffy name like ACTION ( Agency for Controlling Tenacious Individuals Overtly Negative) or its like. There must be an office full of media flacks who do nothing but dream up these acronyms. This is all well and fine but will do nothing to alleviate war and its attendant fallout.
Governments are very adept at dreaming up catchy acronyms with repair orders and short on eliminating the reasons for them in the first instance. Being a builder for years, if I discovered a flaw in the way we were building a house, I would take great pains to avoid or reconfigure how I did it. Sometimes this costs more money up front. If the change eliminated a callback for repairs, it was a godsend and improved my bottom line. Government types are forward thinkers. They don’t look back and analyze what’s amiss. They also don’t have to operate at a profit.
So what should I encounter on my latest visit to the VAMC last week? Why, nothing less than a complete psychological mini-workup by the temperature and BP queen. When you show up for the appointment, they do the vitals and then send you back for the one hour navel contemplation period in the waiting room. A side note on the waiting room-did they take a lot of chairs out or are there more patients suddenly? It’s getting harder to find a seat now. In fact, down at the lab it’s standing room only these days.
Back to brain shrink. As I said, the Blood Pressure queen threw a new wrinkle in this time. Well, Actually I started it. I let her take my BP on my left arm. It was damaged by a PICC line install at the hospital in 2009 where I spent my one year staycation. Any pulse and BP taken on that arm are wildly inaccurate now. It’s fun if your bored. I was. People look at me and ask if I’m feeling okay. I’ll play along and ask why innocently. They’ll tell me my BP is 85/60 and they can’t get a pulse. They then ask things like if I have fallen down or been in an auto accident recently. They also ask you to roll up your sleeves and look for tracks associated with IVDU. They also like to check your pupils for excessive dilation with a flashlight.
This time, after the BP trick, the lady asked me if I had been feeling depressed lately. I thought it had something to do with the low BP so I told her yes. I was extremely depressed about the progress of my lettuce in the greenhouse and how the weather of late had been atrocious. She started scribbling on the medical record. Without looking up, she then asked “Have you had any suicidal ideations or thoughts about harming the lettuce?” I thought she was playing along with me on the joke. Wrong. The dye was cast no matter how I explained it, I was now labeled “depressed”. She wrote a lot more while I laughed and explained weather and lettuce. She stopped writing, looked into my eyes and said “Depression is no joking matter, sir.” If you go to the VA in the future, remember this. They may have a straight jacket with your name on it if you make a mistake. I was lucky. Lettuce can’t call 911 and report you for abuse.
This notation carried into the doctor’s office. If any of you haven’t noticed, this is a lot like going to see your service officer at the VSO. He started with “And you are here because…?” I truthfully answered that VA had called me and scheduled this through the new PACT dealiebob. I could see the gears meshing in his mind as he rapidly scanned the computer for some clue as to who and why I was. Finally he had the epiphany and then squinted one last time. “Well, tell me about this depression thing”. After bemoaning the recalcitrance of my bib lettuce and Romaine to propagate, I told him I was good to go on the mental thing. Wham! “Depression is no laughing matter, Mr. Nod.” I wonder how many years of penance this will cost me? Even money says there’s a notation in there that says “Mr. Nod is clinically depressed and frequently makes jokes about it in order to cope with it. He was also adjudged anti-social with passive aggressive tendencies and bears watching.”
The good news? No mental problems. The bad? Cryoglobulinemia is kicking my ass and taking names. My LFTs are way up again and I’m having thought about
harming eating my lettuce. Of course, if the VA doesn’t hurry up and grant my claim back to 94 or 89 I will be depressed. I want to get the foundation poured in the back yard for the pool house and pool. I have been putting that off for almost a year.