Other than being the most famous song from the musical “Cats” memories have been on my mind lately.

Mainly because I’ve been losing them. A day here, a trip there, a conversation with a friend.

Last year I went to a cardiologist, got all hooked up to a machine and did the “Bruce protocol” stress test because I experience chest tightness and discomfort. My heart came back quite healthy and my METS were considered “athletic” by the doc. Not “Olympic” grade athlete, but someone in good shape.

I have a follow up with my primary care provider later this month to continue to eliminate the cause of chest pressure. Once the heart is eliminated that really leaves the lungs, a muscular skeletal issue, or a mental health issue.

What do you think a healthy 36 year old man with three deployments is going to be most likely diagnosed with? I’m positive my lungs will be clear, and I’m also positive that the muscles and bones will be fine. What it means is that eventually, some point in the future the doctors who work on the body will have eliminated the obvious physical areas and I will be referred to someone for a possible mental issue.

There is a stigma about PTSD. Hollywood has used the “disturbed violent veteran” trope every chance it could. The most honest look at PTSD I’ve ever seen in film is the beginning of “Pearl Harbor” where the abusive father stops in his tracks about memories of World War One, and just sort of wanders off in sadness.

PTSD is much like “Gulf War Syndrome” in that it is a cluster of symptoms that aren’t normal in a healthy population of that age. Non smokers shouldn’t wake up every morning and blow phlegm from their lungs like a chronic smoker with bronchitis. But it happened for some of the veterans of Desert Storm. Men my age don’t normally have memory loss issues affect their quality of life, but that is what is happening to me.

I found some photos on my phone and couldn’t remember when or where they were taken. I finally found a clue in one of the pictures to let me know it was a Christmas Market.

But what are you going to do? Keep driving on, best you can. I will say that I’d rather deal with a bit of memory loss than deal with the side effects of anti-depressants which are the common PTSD course of treatment.

No matter how much people whine about veteran suicide in one hand and lament that people aren’t making use of the resources available, it seems hypocritical that the same people would then seek to violate patient confidentiality and deprive them of rights without due process by feeding that information into a database to keep them from purchasing a firearm. The military had to fight both long and hard to get the mental health questions removed from the Standard Form 86, the security application form. Now only mandated therapy is required to be disclosed.

But the stigma of losing your security clearance because you saw a doctor was enough to keep people from seeing a doctor. And it took years to get changed. And it worked, after the change I did see a doc, and it helped. Now the stigma is once again being emphasized, that if you seek mental health assistance you should be denied your 2nd amendment rights. And if you are denying someone second amendment rights, putting them in a Federal database to deny them their right to purchase a firearm, why would you trust them to hold a security clearance?

This is why I don’t want to get a PTSD diagnosis in my medical records. Once it is there, you can’t get out from under the stigma. For the rest of your life you are damaged goods, people just waiting for you to snap like John Rambo or Travis Bickle when pushed too far.

Why does that stereotype exist? Generally stereotypes have a high degree of accuracy, with the exception of deliberate propaganda. Is it because such a convenient villain is too good to go to waste? Or is it because with the vast majority of Americans unconnected to military service that it is easy to believe that once violent always violent? That somehow there is no difference between violent protectors and violent predators? I don’t know.

But I do know that I’ll avoid a PTSD diagnosis if I possibly can. Whether it would be accurate or not, I don’t want the stigma.

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2 Responses to Memories

  1. B says:

    A wound, physical or mental, is the scar of experience. I limp due to injury, am I more violent because of that? Maybe I do get a edgy before the rain but far from violent.

    You know, before long believing in God will be a mental health issue 😛


  2. DW says:

    I had a great uncle that I knew from family conversations was involved in some pretty heavy combat action during WW2. In all the time I spent with him, he never talked about it and even though I was very young I understood that it was not something he wanted to discuss.

    However while I don’t remember the circumstance or the conversation that caused it, one day out of the blue while we were hanging out he looked at me with the saddest darkest empty eyes I have ever seen and told me he had fought in the war to keep our family free and he said to win in combat you have to become a total savage and do stuff that will haunt you for the rest of your life. I remember being very scared and although he was not an emotional man, he gave me a hug and said “I pray every day that you never have to go thru war as I did”.

    That was a very long time ago and I have never forgotten that moment. I have often reflected on that conversation, my uncle clearly did not regret what he did in the war, but certainly it changed him, as it would anyone. Best wishes & thoughts, I know you’ll persevere.


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