UPDATE: Welcome Michael Yon sycophants. Yet another example of a man who has lost it by creepily digging into my past writings. He’s like an obsessive stalker and just “can’t quite me.”
Anyone that has followed my blog knows that I am passionate about helping to remove the stigma of PTS and PTSD. When I was first diagnosed (after years of denial), I still didn’t really want to accept it. Honestly, I broke down into tears because now I would have to wear that label like a scarlet letter. I still had the mentality that it was a weakness.
For the benefit of those that are new to my writings, let me try and sum up for you what led to my diagnosis. I was a part of the ground assault into Iraq. From about the time I crossed the border into Iraq at 2359 on March 19, 2003, I took part in sustained and heavy combat operations. Just a few days into the war, I was injured, but ambulatory and was treated with pain medication. Part of my duties involved searching dead bodies after the battle for intelligence. I saw innocent civilians used as human shields – and killed as a result. I saw people obliterated into a cloud of red mist and chunks of meat. I saw guys that had been executed at point blank. I’ve had people die in my arms as I tried to save them, both friendly and enemy. I even saw puppies feasting upon the remains of dead Iraqis. I never took pictures of dead bodies if I could help it, but I did try to at least capture this particular scene without showing the gruesome details:
Bottom line is that I experienced sights and smells that no human being should ever have to experience. They will never leave me. I smell them when I’m awake and see them when I sleep. But, I started a blog to deal with those experiences in a positive way. I refused to let PTSD get the best of me and did the best to cope with in my own private way. Eventually, I could no longer hold it in. Many people around me, including my wife, were urging me to seek help for something I didn’t want to admit was there.
Since 2009 when I went public about my private hell, I’ve worked hard to help General Chiarelli in his effort to remove the stigma of PTSD within the force. Troy and I had him on our show to talk about these efforts and for the first time, I admitted I had a problem. I vowed to seek help and did just that.
I can honestly say that the Army, at least, has made great strides in removing this stigma. There are programs all over the place that Soldiers can use to seek help. If one doesn’t work, the Soldier has more than a few other options to choose from. If you ever hear a Soldier say that the Army doesn’t care or doesn’t do anything for PTS sufferers, he’s either lying or just ignorant. I’ve been through numerous programs, picking pieces out of each one that helps me cope with my inner demons. Perhaps one of the best I’ve used is called the Strong Star program. Nothing else was helping me deal with my feelings of survivor’s guilt and anxiety like this program did. Group therapy helped me get out the things that I couldn’t discuss with anyone else but were eating me alive from the inside out.
The problem, as I see it, is that while the Army has done a GREAT job of removing the stigma of PTS within the force, it doesn’t do much good when we are outside the sphere of influence of the Army – the civilian sector. Because of our wonderful media *snark*, there is a prevailing wisdom that PTS causes troops to go nuts, kill people, rob banks, beat their spouse, etc. That is just outright false and even if an element of truth lies in those actions, it’s such a small minority as to be inconsequential. We know what we’re doing. PTS and PTSD does NOT make me want to rob banks. Yeah, sometimes I get the urge to want to put a lethal stranglehold on some people, but no sufferer is so “out there” that they can’t process and filter those thoughts out of their minds. We are responsible for our own actions, just not necessarily our own emotions.
So, with our media doing such a great job stigmatizing PTSD troops as deranged freaks, the general populace hears “PTSD” and get scared. I experienced this first hand during my battle with the Huntsville School System in Alabama. When I got upset at how my kids’ school was dealing with the issue of mandating school uniforms, I got upset. Parents didn’t have a voice in the decision and when I tried to assert my parental and taxpayer rights to register a complaint, I was angry not because the school had completely usurped us as parents, but I was angry because I had PTSD. School officials were quick to feign “fear” and imagined “threats” in my opposition. I began getting shadowed by school security and police officers every time I visited the school. The rest is well known what happened.
It was the first time I doubted my decision to go public with my struggles with PTS. Today, I found another reason for Soldiers to hide their issues: the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.
Today, I went to the DMV (formally called the Texas Department of Public Safety) to renew my driver license. In Texas, your license is good as long as you are on active duty UNLESS you reside in the state. I learned that earlier this week trying to get on post with an “expired license.” Because my license was technically expired, I couldn’t renew it online and had to go in person to renew. Renewals typically only require a short questionnaire and a few dollars forks over to the clerk. Some of the questions are very personal and have nothing to do with one’s ability to drive.
They make you identify your race – its not optional. Even though I left that block blank, she took it upon herself to label me “white.” Then there are questions about your psychiatric history. They want to know if you are taking psychiatric medications, or have seen a psychiatrist in the last 2 years. Well, I do both. I am on an anti-depressant and I see a psychiatrist as needed, but definitely within the past 2 years. I could have lied very easily, but I look at this as an official document and I don’t want to go to jail for falsifying a legal document. Besides, it’s only PTSD right? Wrong.
Upon reviewing the sheet of paper, I was asked additional clarifying questions.
“What medications are you taking?” Celexa, Vicodin, and Ambien at night.
“What were you seeing psychiatrist for?” PTSD.
“Are you still under psychiatric care?” Yes, but not on a regular basis.
“How often would you say?” About once a quarter I’ll go in for a checkup or more often if I need to.
I’m then handed asked to sign a piece of paper that someone will use to determine if I’m fit to drive. I was given a short pink piece of paper (so that it stands out in my file, of course) that asked more detailed questions about my PTSD. When was I diagnosed? Last time I saw a doctor? blah, blah, blah. But, this wasn’t the worst part.
I then noticed that she had gotten some paperwork that indicated I would be taking the driver tests for both my car and motorcycle. The clerk confirmed my suspicions when she asked if I wanted to just take the driving test or if I wanted to take both the driving and motorcycle test (I have both endorsements on my license). I told her I didn’t think I was required to take a driving test since it was renewal and asked I had to take it because I have PTSD. She said yes and that I would also have to retake the driving test for both car and motorcycle.
I then asked if I had brought my 90-year old grandmother in to renew her license if she would be required to take the exam and driving test. She said that as long as she seemed to be able to walk and could physically drive, she would not. “But, Soldiers with PTSD do?”
“Yes, sir. We don’t like it either, but have no choice.”
Do you think that this is going to help Soldiers come forward to seek treatment? They will be faced with a choice: lie to the DMV and hide their diagnosis or be treated differently than everyone else renewing their license! It’s a utter shame and counter-productive to removing the stigma and convincing troops to seek treatment. And I’m pissed! Not because I have PTSD, but because this is a discriminatory policy.
I immediately called my state senator and made them aware of this atrocity. His aide was equally upset and would look into it immediately. I trust him because he helped me submit legislation that would exempt active duty troops from paying additional sales taxes on vehicles purchased while assigned in another state.
If you live in Texas, I urge you to contact your state representative and senator and tell them what YOU think about this policy. Not US representative or senator, but your state one.
P.S. I passed both the driving and motorcycle tests, missing only one question each: one about the fines for underage drinking (which has nothing to do with driving) and one about amphetamine use fines. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, so I don’t know and don’t care. Those fines will NEVER apply to me. Tomorrow, I get to pretend I’m a child again and drive my car and motorcycle through a little obstacle course to determine how PTSD has ruined my ability to drive!
Here’s a video made for a local band here in Killeen. The lead singer is an OIF veteran. The band is called 7 Years Today.