We’ve done our part for others. It’s time to take care of us. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need.
I am well aware of the obstacles male and female Military personnel face when attempting to get help after a deployment, retirement, or discharge. There is a lack of services for Vets, no job (or much of one), you’re broke (or in debt up to here), your current husband or wife takes your cash, your ex-husband or wife gets your retirement, your kids cost money, you can’t trust Mental Health, you’re afraid, or that last person just really pissed you off and you’ll deal tomorrow.
No one can make you do something you do not want to do. And, if you do want to get help, or are on the fence about it, you already know enough excuses and fears:
- No one can handle me if I let it all out.
- I can suck it up.
- I’ll lose my job.
- I’ll lose my clearance.
- They won’t renew my clearance
- I won’t get promoted
- It’ll go away.
- Other people have it worse than me
- I can’t afford it
The list is endless.
PTSD, stress, anxiety, depression after deployment, sexual assault (women AND men), head injury and blast related symptoms — sometimes we wait and hope for the best. After a couple of years, symptoms may fade and you start to feel better. However, more often than not, we just come to believe our own BS. More often than not, these symptoms crystallize into chronic disorders, and your life leaves a trail of relational wrecks, occupational disappointments, legal problems, but mostly just a weary numb and zombie-like existence with very little sleep, lots of headaches, with the steady drip, drip, drip of annoyance.
As a US Army Reserve Psychologist (O4) who has deployed in my MOS (73B), and as psychologist who was a contractor for the US Navy Deployment Health Department at Twenty-Nine Palms and Camp Pendleton, I am going to directly address the list above. I speak from experience.
1. When IT comes out, IT is never as bad as you think it will be. In 20 years of dealing with trauma, I have never seen one person, civilian or military, lose his or her mind as their personal horrors emerged.
2. Yes, you can suck it up. You’ve been doing it for years, so you’ve got lots of practice. Unfortunately, the family and civilian friends you have are not as experienced as you are at sucking it up, therefore their lives are likely an ongoing suck-fest as far as you’re concerned.
3-6. I have never seen anyone lose their job, their rank, their promotion or their clearance for getting help. I have been interviewed many times by middle aged guys dressed casual with a sharp nose for information when it comes to clearances. Here are my experiences with these OGA types: Not one was interested in the diagnosis of the Soldier or Marine in question. What they wanted to know was: How did they come to get help? Self-referred or “recommended”? Did they want help? Are they getting the right help now? Do they come? Not a single Soldier or Marine I have ever been interviewed about in a security clearance interview about their being seen by Mental Health lost their clearance. Not one. My experience says you will not lose your clearance because you got help. There are many explicit guidelines in this matter. We all know about Question 21 in Standard Form 86. Here are the Pentagon’s FAQs regarding concerns about Question 21. Or scroll to Section 3.1, subsection E of Executive Order 12968. If you have been sexually assaulted and you seek professional help, you can now answer “No” to Question 21. Read Question 21 interim guidance issued April 2013. Now, if your stuff gets out of hand, you might lose your clearance– but it won’t be because you chose to get help. Getting help shows judgment. Not showing judgment is a total security risk. You know that.
7. It will likely never go away. Not without healing. True, you can work hard to keep it at bay by working, drinking, sexing, and avoiding everything you can, but it will not just go away. As in gone, no triggers, aint it a great day, what a great night sleep I had type of gone.
8. True, other Military folks have it worse than you. So?
9. Neurofeedback providers, especially those using the more sophisticated versions of Neurofeedback that are QEEG driven, charge upwards of 150-250 an hour. Insurance rarely covers QEEG or Neurofeedback interventions. Tricare will not cover Neurofeedback and the VA will not pay for you to come here and see us. All that will change in time, but that does not help you now. But here is what I know: Many of us set aside a limited number of free or low cost slots for military personnel. EEGInfo sponsors a wonderful provider network ( Homecoming for Veterans ), which has an entire network of providers who offer free or very low cost Neurofeedback services for veterans. Please ask a provider before you assume cost is out of reach.
If you have served, are serving, or in the middle of ongoing deployments, I know you have seen and heard this in many PowerPoints: There is no shame in getting the help you need.
MAJ Michael Villanueva
Combat Stress Psychologist
113th Combat Stress Unit
FOB Spin B