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They’re continuing the migraine appeal (to take me from 30 to 50%), and contradicted their reasons for not approving me the higher amount. Seriously. In one paragraph, the examiner noted 3-4 migraines within a 2-3 week period, then lapse of 2-3 weeks before the onset of another migraine or cluster of migraines. “Severe nausea, vomiting, photophobia, left side parathesis” follows that, as well as how I treat the migraine (medication, very dark room, lying very still, alternating heat and ice), and then go on to say that…its not debilitating enough to prevent me from working. How many of you bosses out there are willing to hire someone who can’t move for 2-3 days at least once a month? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

The breast cancer is again denied because while they have documented evidence of three complaints and a diagnosis of fibrocystic breast disease while in service, the examiner noted a strong family history of fibrocystic breast disease (the examiner last month). I had Justin come in the exam room with me, and he said that NEVER was said by the dr or claimed by me.

The mental disorder is “clearly evidenced to exist prior to military service” (no records anywhere or statements to indicate that), and that the normal progression of the disease was not complicated by my service, as this disease usually has onset in adolescence or “early adulthood.” I joined the army at age 19. I discharged from the Guard at age 28. Wouldn’t that cover “early adulthood?” Wouldn’t documented traumatic events during service have at least a 51% chance of “complicating or aggravating” the normal progression of the disease?

They didn’t address at all my PTSD. Maybe on a later appeal. Two of their examiners said I have it. One did not. So…PTSD denied. WTF. The law says at least a 51% chance…last time I checked, 2/3 was more than 51%.

I told Justin they’ve won, he said no. The truth is, I’m tired. I’m worn out and depressed. They said if I appeal this decision, I must do so formally, and include specifics of why they’re wrong, i.e., after reading their stipulations, I basically have to be a legal and medical professional in order to send in my appeal. I’m going to forward all this to my attorney, but its still so frustrating.

They also said they can’t give me an earlier effective date on the migraines, claimed when I reopened my case in November 2008, because I didn’t claim fibromyalgia until June 2010, and the migraines were granted as a secondary to fibromyalgia. Here’s the catch. In 2008, I claimed all the symptoms for fibro (I didn’t know about fibro by that name). I WAS APPROVED, at 10%, for an “unspecified illness” that went on to list the symptoms I’d claimed. In 2010 my family dr referred me to a specialist and I got the diagnosis of fibro. The specialist at one time did a stint at the VA, and wrote out a letter for me to present to them. In the letter, he stated upon reviewing my records I’d had the symptoms at least since 1992, and that his professional opinion is that is when the fibromyalgia began to cause difficulty for me. I gave the letter to the VA and added the claim for fibro that same month. They approved it quickly…but only gave me effective date to the fibro diagnosis (by an outside specialist). They had their doctor examine me in 2009 and gave me the 10% rating for “unspecified illness with symptoms blah blah blah” and then after my specialist diagnosed me and sent the letter (i.e. new evidence), instead of putting it in support of my claim for “unspecified illness with symptoms blah blah blah), they only did it back to June 2010. Does this make sense to you? Same exact freaking symptoms. I just got an actual NAME for it, and added new evidence, so it screwed me out of 18 months comp?

What it boils down to is that I’m being punished for not going to the doctor very often after I got out of the Army, because Hello, I didn’t have insurance for most of that time. I’m being punished because I don’t go to the ER or the doctor every time I get a migraine. My last ER visit for migraine was 2007. Let’s see…sit around an ER for several hours, bright lights, lots of noise, while puking in a bag, or lie in a dark room and take same meds they’d give me via IV in the ER? Sounds reasonable to me. I’m being punished because I’m easily confused after all these freaking surgeries and my memory has suffered (which is why Justin goes into the exams with me now, to tell me if I or they said something I can’t remember). I’m being punished because while my issues technically are not 100% disabling because I have good days as well as bad days, they don’t take into consideration that no one will hire someone who has to call out sick every couple weeks. I don’t live in a metro area, there aren’t a lot of jobs available to begin with here.

I never had a migraine before I came back from Saudi. I never had breast lumps and/or pain until after I was on active duty. I never had any mental issues diagnosed (or even seen about) until I was active duty. I don’t even care about the mental right now, I knew that would be a losing battle because I destroyed evidence when I was going for my flight physicals. I took the records out of my medical record because the recruiter and I were left alone with them and she told me to do it, and I was stupid enough (and wanted to fly badly enough) that I did it. I should have kept them but she took the pages from me. Dumb dumb dumb. I do care about the liver cancer. I do care about the fibromyalgia, which is considered presumptive (automatically related to my Gulf War service), but because I wasn’t diagnosed within one year of discharge, they don’t have to give me the full benefit (that’s what they said anyway). I don’t care about the breast cancer…I’m 15 years post-diagnosis and God willing it doesn’t come back. I don’t care about the knees. None of that is going to kill me. I care about the liver cancer because barring an accident, the liver cancer will most likely be my cause of death when I go. I care about the PTSD because my life has radically changed due to it, but even that I’d let slide if they’d just give me the connection for liver cancer.

They even said I said I’d slept walked as a child when I got treatment for sleepwalking in Saudi. DO WHAT? When asked if I or any family members had every slept walked, I said that my uncle had a few times when he was a kid (either Uncle Carvis or Uncle Kernis, I forget which one now). Somehow that became ME sleepwalking in elementary school. That conversation happened in very late 1990 or very early 1991 (in Saudi), and I honestly can’t remember everything that was said. But I didn’t sleepwalk as a kid.  That much I know for certain.

OH get this. They said the Social Security records validated my complaints BUT they couldn’t consider those because they were “too old.” My last review for continuing Social Security eligibility was…last fall. Less than a year ago. But those records are “too old.” Unless my lawyer wants to do anything, they’ve won. I fought from 1994-1996, and reopened it and have fought, continuously and hard, since 2008. I don’t have it in me anymore. This is the government and this is what they do.

They want me to remember, in detail, everything that happened to me or that I said or did 20+ years ago. I can’t remember my own name some days. They also said the medical form I filled out in 1991 when I discharged…that I said I had no problems with migraines or sleeping or nightmares or…etc etc. First, I remember no such form (not that I didn’t fill it out, I just don’t remember it). Second, I’ve asked repeatedly for them to produce said form, and they won’t. What I recall of discharging was “name, rank, social, payroll signature” and they were pushing stuff at me so fast the only thing I actually remember signing was my DD-214. Third, a lot of my symptoms didn’t show up right away…I returned in April 1991 and I discharged in June 1991. Not a lot of time for stuff to start showing up.

Politicians won’t help either. They want me to bring new evidence to them before they’ll get involved. There isn’t really any new evidence. This is all stuff that is documented, but the VA doctors deny, the civilian specialists (many, many of them, across three states and multiple facilities) all feel its connected. I’m screwed, mostly because I didn’t keep records and didn’t go to the doctor for a decade after I discharged unless I was deathly ill because I couldn’t afford to. Its pretty hard getting medical records that are 20+ years old these days, especially with so many clinics and hospitals merging, closing, being bought out, etc over the years. Bottom line, keep everything. If you have a house fire or two, well, you’re outta luck. Everything I had from my army time was lost in my house fire in 1999. The only reason my DD-214 was saved was because for some reason I had it at my mom’s instead of in my house.  I’d really love to have all my old journals back.

Whining over. Stick a fork in me.

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Insomnia

I’m not perfect, and I struggle. In my past, I made some truly horrible decisions, and sometimes today still deal with the consequences of them. I try not to judge, yet find myself doing so, especially when people make the same mistakes over and over, or the same decisions with the same consequences over and over…mainly because I try not to make the same mistakes more than once, and expect others to as well. I’ve grown more bitter in recent years, especially about things that seem so crystal clear to me but apparently are not to those around me. Even knowing in my mind that my perceptions are colored by my experiences, thus those around me are as well, I still am easily irritated. I seem to have conflicting values at times…I want equality for all, but I also want protections for those speaking their beliefs, because when we attempt to regulate individual thought, we walk a dangerous path. I find myself full of rage more than at any time I can remember in my life, and I’m not sure how to correct that. I do a lot of screaming into the wind on my bike to alleviate that rage and other emotions, but even that isn’t enough lately. I know I should probably be medicated (was taken off the meds in the hospital because I was vomiting so much, and when they forgot to start me back on them when I got better, I neglected to mention it because I was losing weight and was feeling better physically than I had in years), but I don’t want to gain those 60+ pounds back (yes, it really was all from the medication), and I don’t want the other side effects. I’m not a bad person, but I come across that way more and more often lately, especially in dealing with my parents, and my lack of patience with them. I have a lot of guilt because I can’t deal with their drama and “fix” them as they seem to want me to do, so I turn away and slam virtual doors in order to get them to leave me alone…not something the daughter of parents who are in their golden years with some fairly serious health problems should do. My brother is unable and unwilling to care for our parents, and it therefor falls to me…and more often lately, I shoot myself in the foot with my reactions to them. I know this is a big part of my frustration and resentment with them. I would kill for more than 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I would kill to be the happy person I can vaguely remember being, instead of just pretending or seeming happy during manic episodes (which are coming more frequently now). I would kill not to have the rapid mood swings. I would kill to feel like I actually still have a family, rather than these distant memories of years gone by. And I would kill to be able to enjoy my life without constant pain… and/or guilt trips from my…parent. I honestly don’t like this person I’ve become the past eight or so years, but I’m not sure how to change. Change takes desire and energy, and the reality is that I’m too exhausted most of the time to have desire for much of anything. I put on a good show, a good act, but those living in my house are seeing the real me more and more lately. One day I will wake up to realize I’ve reaped what I sowed, and that while I tend to shun my parents, my own little family will decide I too am not worth the frustration and shun me. Its a sobering thought. Its getting harder to deal with the real world and the very real people in it. There are many days I think of how I would end it all if I were only brave enough. And I think the reason I’m most frustrated with my parents is because I see myself turning into them a little more each day. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, after all. As my health has deteriorated over the past decade, so has my mental attitude. I hate most people, something that I wouldn’t have thought possible ten years ago. I went from a bubbly, outgoing person to one who struggles to get even minor tasks accomplished if it involves seeing actual people, or even talking to them on the phone. There are very few I truly open up to. If I’ve given you my personal number or chat with you a lot via email or private messages on facebook or AOL Instant Messenger, count yourself lucky. At some point you’ve made enough impact on me that I trust you enough to talk to you. Some of you I even confide in, as much as I’m able to. I keep my innermost thoughts to myself now, the darkest ones, the ones that would be really embarrassing and would horrify most who know me because there isn’t enough time in the universe for me to adequately explain the context or why I feel the way I do. Deep down, I feel like a horrible person, like a monster, and I don’t know how to fix that. I’ve always been a fixer…and lately I can’t fix anything. In order to make myself better, I need treatment. Counseling. Medication. Possibly hospitalization in a mental institution. But would I really be able to get help? Because I can’t confide in anyone anymore. When I went to a C&P hearing at the VA last week, I hurt myself. I knew I was doing it yet couldn’t shut up. All I could do was talk about my feelings of anger and betrayal over Dr. M (my VA shrink) and Dr. H back in 2011 or 2012. I haven’t seen either of them since I found out how Dr. M completely misinterpreted what my husband and I told him in a session, and then shared it with Dr. H, my primary care doctor, without my permission, but more importantly completely inaccurately, causing her to put “Munchausen’s” in her notes, despite my thousands of pages of medical records from other hospitals and doctors, my numerous post-operative reports and imaging reports, my actual, physical scars on my body. Both of them even questioned whether I’d ever even had cancer at all. So I came off to the C&P shrink last week as obsessed over Dr. M and something he wrote about me over two years ago. It *literally* was all I could talk about. Then I attempted to explain my paranoia and trepidation over opening up or even being there at all because I tended to think my words would be taken out of context, twisted, used against me. I was trying to explain, and only succeeded in making her defensive. Yeah, that was smart. I talk way too much. I can’t answer questions with a yes or no. I feel like I MUST explain myself all the time…that everything must be validated in some way. If I do manage to simply say yes or no, inside I’m raging because I’m convinced that my intent is being completely misinterpreted and my yes or no has in fact made my case worse. I know that I do this because of the accusations cast against me most of my life. Some have been earned, because I was just an idiot and said or did something that really made no sense at all. But most, most have come from my parents, more from one parent than the other, but people who should have been nurturing me, not hurting me. My childhood actually was a pretty happy time…then my brother was almost killed in a devastating car accident when he was 16, and my life as I knew it at 11 was forever changed. My older brother became my immature, younger brother in an instant. My parents were overwhelmed, and I was passed around to various family members for months because I was inconvenient, in the way. From that moment on, I think, I never felt good enough, never felt as if I mattered. I started acting out for the first time in my young life…doing things I KNEW better than to do, such as climbing up on the roof of our house via the patio trellises and jumping off because it was an adrenaline rush…sneaking liquor out of my daddy’s hiding spot that I wasn’t supposed to know about…and when I ran out of the fantastic ideas, I started embellishing my actions. By the time I graduated high school, I had two worlds…the one that I actually lived in, and the one I wished I lived in. A lot happened in between my brother’s accident and that time, a lot that I don’t have time or the energy to go into right now, but it all further reinforced my belief that my brother was the important child in the family, and that I was only there because it was too late to do away with me. If I made some accomplishment, my parents would briefly acknowledge me, so I began to embellish even boring, routine parts of my day..just stupid stuff. For a while, in the army, that stopped. Maybe because I was happy for the first time I could remember in a very long time. But even in the army, whenever one or both of my parents were around, the embellishments and outrageousness would resume. None were outright lies…there was always a kernel of truth at the center…but it always came out around them. Then in the past decade my life really did take on a surreal quality with all the things that just started happening to me…mostly the health issues. For the first time in years, I would tell the strict truth, and it seemed to backfire, make people think I was lying, or pathologically delusional. The irony was that I was relating things that were backed up with hard medical facts from my records or from witnesses to events…but most people didn’t have access to my medical records or doctors, so couldn’t believe all this shit happened to just one person. Looking at it from their perspective, I get it…but it really doesn’t make me feel better at all about it. So now…I sit in this cage of my own making. Regardless of why I felt I had to have attention from my parents in order to have any self-worth, regardless of why I felt unimportant and insignificant unless I was entertaining those around me or helping them in some way that really wasn’t my duty to do so, I’d become a person that I didn’t recognize…someone I wasn’t, but yet someone that was still better than the real me, the actual Kandy deep inside. Now that I’ve been struggling with health and not being able to work for the first time in my life, all I can really do on my physically bad days is think, and ponder on who I am. The problem is that I don’t know who I truly am. I spent the better part of thirty years pretending to be someone worthwhile, someone valuable in some way. In the process, I lost any sense of my own personality, my own reality. I make excuses. For everything. Even when I’m “owning up” I’m still, even if only inside, making excuses. Now, while I still don’t really know who I am, I really kinda hate the person I seem to be. I know there’s still hope for me, because I have helped some folks, my animals love me (and they’re pretty solid judges of human character), and I do really enjoy helping people. But my patience is gone. My empathy with those I’ve seen repeat negative actions and behavior time and time again, as well as for strangers, is gone. Rarely I can find some empathy, but its erratic at best. I have trouble letting go of the pasts and the hurts that have been done to me, and its not hurting those who hurt me so long ago, or even as recently as yesterday, its hurting ME. But, I don’t know how to fix it. I can’t say all these things and the thousands more that NEED to be said to a doctor or professional who might be able to help me, because the trust is quite simply just gone. No matter what I say, or how I try to say it, people misunderstand me. So the problem can’t be with all of them, it MUST be with me. Case in point. In 2011 I cut my arms up. It happens to be the last time I cut myself (the urge is there constantly though). While in the hospital, a doctor noticed my new scars (scabs were gone but the lines were still pink and obviously new), and after I told her that they were self-inflicted, she asked me if I’d ever thought of killing myself. At the time, I’d just learned my cancer was back for a third time, my parents were giving me literal FITS over various issues, money was really really tight, and I was in so much physical pain that I felt like I was going crazy. So I looked her directly in the eyes and said “Yes, of course I do, every day.” Did I mean I actually wanted to die? No. Did I mean I was suicidal? No. Next thing I know, I’m under suicide watch, not allowed to even go pee without a staffer going with me, and found myself moved to the psych ward. I probably could have benefitted from the experience, but instead the next day I went before their review panel and talked my way into getting to go home, less than 24 hours from the time I was admitted to the unit, which rarely happens. I laughed my way through the review, was funny and amusing, and lied my ass off about what I was really feeling because I felt betrayed about how I ended up there. I knew I could use some help, but I was pissed about being misunderstood and so was determined to say a big “Fuck you” and go home…and that’s what happened. In a way, that was the beginning of this long downward spiral that followed. Oh yes, I needed the help, and was in a position to get it…but too angry to take advantage of it, though I fully understood that regardless of HOW I got there, I was exactly where I needed to be. Yeah, I showed THEM alright. I guess I’m tired of pretending things are better than they are. I’m tired of pretending that *I* am better than I am. I’m tired of pretending, period. The problem is that I don’t know anymore how to just be me. When I was embellishing to make people like me, I was miserable. When I was brutally honest, I was misunderstood and was miserable. I really don’t know how to be anything more than miserable anymore. I wish I could still fix stuff. I wish I could stop myself from making mistakes, from saying truly horrible things that I know in my heart of hearts are outrageous (my attitude towards Muslims, for instance). I hate that there are days I can’t get out of bed, and I hate that more and more often my depression is so strong its almost like being physically debilitated. I wish that I could explain that to my husband in a way he can understand…that I am literally incapacitated by grief and depression. I wish I could be normal.

Yes, I know my punctuation and grammar sucks in this post. Yes, I know I should edit it into some paragraphs instead of one giant one. I’m leaving it as is because these were my pure thoughts coming out as I typed, not pre-thought or embellished, just my raw, hard thoughts. If I go editing it, I’ll start over-thinking things, changing stuff because it makes me seem horrible, adding justifications for my thoughts or actions that I don’t need, or deserve. I can’t edit it or even proof-read it because I’ll lose my nerve and not be able to publish how I really feel. Whether I’m right, wrong, justified doesn’t matter at all…only the truth does, and this is the truth the best I can tell it.

My position on religion and homosexuality.  My God doesn’t make mistakes.  Therefor, either there’s nothing wrong with homosexuals, or they’re making a (sinful) choice.  One or the other, no in between.  However, how do I, or any “straight” person, know whether its truly a choice or not?  We can’t.  So I rely on my friends and loved ones who are gay or transgendered.  Watching the journeys they’ve taken, the hateful things they’ve endured, the feelings of self-loathing and insecurity before they accepted how they felt…yeah, I can’t see how ANYONE would CHOOSE to go through that.  Talking in depth with them, I’ve come to realize that it is truly not a choice for them.  So how can I, in good conscience, having no idea of the struggles they may have endured or are still enduring, judge them and say they’re sinning?  I know what the Bible says.  I also know that homosexuality wasn’t the only thing going on in Sodom and Gomorrah, the typical example used.  I’ve always taken that chapter to be about sins of excess, gluttony, greed, sadistic natures, murder, theft, etc.  The fact is that there are things in our Bible that were advocated back when it was written, that are glossed over or completely ignored today because they simply aren’t acceptable to most folks…slavery, multiple wives, a man taking his brother’s widow to wife, animal sacrifice…the books of our Bible were chosen by human men…men on a mission.  Men who wanted to share the Word with the common man, not just the rich and/or educated ones.  They picked and chose from the writings.  Back then, it WOULD have been considered an abomination for a man to be with another man…just as women had very few rights, slaves had none, and heaven forbid a woman wanted to dress like a man or cut her hair!

Judge not, lest ye be judged.  That’s basically what it all boils down to for me.  Am I right?  Am I wrong?  Dunno.  Do I love?  I try to.

All I know is that based on a few medical studies, which have found a genetic link to homosexuality, and talking to my loved ones, I just don’t believe its a choice any more than you choose what features you’re born with, what color your eyes and hair are naturally, whether you have freckles or not.

I don’t know a single gay person that believes they’ve made a “choice.”  I’ve met many “reformed gays” that are following a more “Biblical” lifestyle now…and every one of those I’ve met have said its a struggle every day.  Think about that.  Its a struggle maybe because they’re trying to deny who they are in order to conform to what they’ve been told they MUST conform to in order to be accepted, to go to Heaven, to be “normal.”  I don’t know, it just seems kind of “unnatural” to me to deny who you’ve been from the moment you had conscious memories…but hey, what do I know?  I’m just a straight chick.

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When I have your wounded

Having a hard time tonight.  I can smell the dust, hear the rotors.  You can smell blood too when there’s a lot of it.  I’ve been digging through all kinds of shit trying to find connections to my illnesses and I came upon some pictures of my old unit that I wasn’t expecting…including a group shot.  It suddenly all came back.  My heart has been racing out of my chest for a couple hours and I feel like I’m going to vomit.  Roaring in my ears.  I’ve described all this to the VA…2 doctors said I have PTSD, one said I did not, so the VA denied my PTSD claim.  I’m still fighting that one.  I can not STAND for anyone to be behind me without me realizing it.  I jump out of my skin sometimes over the silliest things.  I’m afraid of the dark…I seriously can not sleep without at least a little light.  It was so dark over there…some nights you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face without a flashlight.  I woke up in the desert one night, had slept walked out of my tent.  I sat down on the ground and cried until it occurred to me that when I was that close to the ground, I could see my footprints.  I was barefoot and had pretty bad cuts to my feet that took weeks to heal.  I went to medical about the sleep walking (had NEVER done that in my life) and they didn’t do anything.  They ridiculed me when I said I’d cried.  A couple weeks later, I fell down the steps in the shower tent while sleepwalking and dislocated my hip, my wrist, and my shoulder.  Its all in my records.  Only then did they put me on valium, but I couldn’t fly if I took it, so I only took it the 3 days a week I wasn’t on flight duty.  It wasn’t even really the stress of picking up horribly wounded and dead soldiers…we were stressed all the time because all they did was talk about chemical weapons.  SCUDs blowing up almost every night, sometimes almost over our heads, being intercepted by the Patriots outside KKMC.  Sleeping in full MOPP gear and wearing gas masks so that when the alarms went off, we could just roll over and go back to sleep.  I found my unit coin…and it reminded me of our unit motto, “When I have your wounded.”  My unit was THE original DUSTOFF (air ambulance) back in Vietnam.  We had a rich history that was drilled into each of us when we transferred into the unit.  Jumping out of my window when we landed in a recently secured airfield, only to be screamed at by my pilots because just as the medic jumped out his window and I jumped out mine, the flight control informed the pilots that we’d landed in a grouping of Bouncing Betties.  Not sure how to get back in the helicopter without blowing our legs off (ended up being nothing, the BBs were actually a couple dozen yards away, but we didn’t KNOW that).  Medic and I staring at each other through the open doors, trying to figure out what to do.  He had to take two steps, I had to take one.  It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do up to that point…take that step and put my weight on my foot.  It was my left foot by the way.  Funny what you remember and what you forget.  We weren’t actually in danger…but for a few minutes, we thought we were.  I still have nightmares where if I move, I will die.  My best friend from AIT and Ft. Bragg (part of 82nd Airborne) dying in my arms.  Picking up the bodies of another crew that had laid out in the desert for two days because Command wouldn’t let us go do search and rescue when they never arrived (typical clusterf*ck…no one in command could get their stories straight), so every single helicopter that could fly in our battalion went on “training flights” one day and my bird was right behind the one that spotted the crash site.  I still have nightmares about that one.  All of us on board those two birds never said a word while we were doing what we had to do…maybe something here or there like “get that door…here’s a bag” but nothing else.  We all knew that it could have been us.  Resenting the two dead Arabs that our crew was forced out in bad weather to take to a hospital.  Resenting having to recover their carcasses.  Relieving our frustrations.   Feeling so much hatred and anger towards Muslims to this day.  Memorial services and playing Taps because before the fighting started, I was fooling around and playing on the grave diggers’ (I forget the actual unit designation, but that was their job) bugle on a dare, so when someone in our battalion actually died, I got called in to play a couple of times.  I can still play it to this day, I found out a couple years ago.  Answering present when my name was called during a Memorial service because one of the people who died was alphabetically after me (you vets will understand that one).  Being fondled every time I walked into a store, restaurant, whatever where Saudi men were gathered.  Punching one after the cease fire because I couldn’t take it anymore, and being handcuffed and dragged out of the restaurant by US MPs so the Saudi SPs didn’t get me instead, thrown into a hummer and driven away to “protect” me.  Thinking I was a badass and could handle a public punishment when I first arrived in country…only to find out it was nothing like what I was expecting or prepared for.   Having every freaking Arab over there think I was a slut because I wore pants and no veil and took my blouse off when it was hot (the outer BDU blouse worn over our brown t-shirts) and drove and laughed and joked with the men.  I don’t talk about it much…I did when I first came home and my Dad said I was exaggerating or lying, so I just shut up.  I thought he would understand since he was in the Army, but no.

And its not over.  The nightmares come.  I never know when.  Something will trigger me and I’m overwhelmed by sounds and smells and even tastes.  The constant fear I experience.  Trepidation and uneasiness that never goes away.  Irrational bursts of anger.  Cutting.  Crying.  Having to keep alcohol out of the house, not because I’m a responsible parent of teenagers, but because on nights like this, I would so easily drink myself into oblivion.  Alcohol was my outlet when I came back, to the point that I ended up in the ER with alcohol poisoning.

The bitch is that I loved the Army.  I didn’t know I was bipolar until after I’d been in for a while and they diagnosed me, but once they got me sorted out mentally, I thrived.  I loved the strict regimen…the schedule…knowing that almost every minute of my day was planned, never having to wonder what to wear the next day lol.  I was happier than I have EVER been in my adult life.  I thought I was invincible and so smart…I got busted down a couple notches when I found out I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was and had in fact been played for a fool, but used it as a learning experience.  I never made the same mistake twice when I was in the army.  I fought for respect every step of the way…even in the early 1990s, it was hard to be a woman in an aviation unit, but I loved every minute of it.  I miss flying.  I used to ride motorcycles too fast because it was as close as I could get to that rush.  I should have died back then, all the crazy ass shit I did, to keep up with the boys, or just to feel free and uninhibited for a few glorious moments (think getting totally hammered and jumping off the top of a rapelling tower with no one on belay and flying towards the ground full-speed, laughing insanely all the while).  Overcoming the resentment and harassment suffered because I turned in the NCO that sexually assaulted me (beating the crap out of me in the process because I fought back).  Walking across the flightline as Retreat sounded, stopping to salute the Flag, and tearing up because the wind every.single.time would catch the Flag and cause it to flutter during Retreat.  Going in “hot” to pick up patients because its what we did.  Outlasting all but one pilot on a particularly nasty mission, puking only after the end of the mission and getting off the bird the final time…having that pilot tell me he was so grateful I’d finally puked so that he could without losing face.  The smells from that day are forever with me.  Getting hit in the face with engine wash because I wasn’t paying attention.  Being crammed into the tail cone on top of the fuel cells by the guys because a)I fit and b)they thought it was funny.  Practical jokes every day, sometimes every hour, over there.  Watching the sun rise while I sat cold and alone on guard duty.  The sun rises were my favorite because the horrible inky blackness faded away.  The stench of camels.  The STUBBORNESS of camels.  having my wrists zip-tied to the main rotor.  Falling off my helicopter while attempting to descend to get water because I realized I was dehydrated, and landing on top of my open toolbox, breaking a rib.  Learning passable Arabic in three weeks, enabling me to get to drive Col. F around so I could translate here and there.  Remembering only enough Arabic now to get myself killed lol.  Being thrown into a hummer with strange officer and NCOs when our vehicle broke down on Tapline one day, to “go get help”…arriving at what turned out to be Schwartzkoff’s compound (I saw the man from a distance…and he was a lot bigger than I thought he’d be).  Having to stay there for two days with no personal effects because the ground war broke out and everyone kept forgetting about me…sleeping on a cot outside a tent because there was no room for me inside the female tent, and the men were afraid something would be said if I slept in one of theirs (they didn’t realize I was the only female in my tent in my unit)…I’d seen and heard it all by that point.  Getting reprimanded for leaving my vehicle when I finally got back to my unit (I was the driver that day), even though an E-8 ordered me to do so.  Finding out I was allergic to bees when I got popped on top of my bird at Bragg one hot summer day.  My last memory was walking towards the medic shack for some Sting-Away.  I woke up on my own helicopter, strapped to a litter, intubated and panicking because of it.  The smell of the pine needles in the hot sun as we ran the broken road that was the perimeter of Simmons Army Air Field every afternoon, to “condition” ourselves for the heat of Saudi Arabia before we deployed.  Standing for inspection.  Feeling pride when a child would come up and ask me what it felt like to be a soldier.  Being held by my commander as I sobbed hours after my best friend died in my arms.   Having the battalion commander (a full bird) give me a bottle of contraband scotch on my 21st birthday…drinking it with some buddies out in one of the helicopters, losing track of time, and deciding that since the gates were shut, we would “crawl carefully” through the concertina wire.  The laughter of the guards that night as they took pictures of us all caught up in the wire, drunk and bleeding, because some critter crawled up the leg of one of my compatriots who was directly in front of me.  I so wish I still had my copies of those pictures…even with the cuts and the blood and the pain, that was a damned good night…the most relaxed I ever was over there.  Breaking my thumb when I took my driving test on the Deuce and hiding it from the tester so I wouldn’t fail (seriously, who breaks their damned thumb on a DRIVING TEST??).

I would do it all over again.  Even knowing what I know now about depleted uranium, the nerve agent pills, the vaccines, the weapons depot demolition, the oil fires, the chemical alarms.  I would do it again because never in my adult life did I ever feel such a sense of accomplishment…because I KNEW my job, and I was damned good at it.  I was good at it because I loved it.  I lacked the people skills I needed to stay completely out of trouble, but I loved it nonetheless.  I would do it over again for the lives I helped save.  I would do it over again for the sense of pride and joy I felt at being in uniform…serving my country.  I dreamed of joining the military as far back as I can remember.  I had every rank of every branch of service memorized before I was out of elementary school.  I was HAPPY.

I haven’t been happy since.  I’ve had happy moments, but I’ve not been happy.  I’ve not been at peace.  I’ve lost a child to a horrible birth defect that I’m unofficially told is related to Gulf War by people at the VA, but they won’t say it on paper.  I’ve had another child with health issues similar to those of children of other vets.  I have a child on the autism spectrum.  My health has been destroyed over the past several years, through countless bouts with cancer and countless radical surgeries.  I look in the mirror and hate what I see.  I can’t stand showering or getting dressed every day because I have to look at what has happened to my body.  I despise myself…I despise my body, and I despise my weakness.

I live in the past.  I recount the “glory days” of successes in band, successes in the army, joys during both.  I can’t look to my future, because I can’t see a future for me.  I can’t imagine watching my children grow up, have families.  I can’t picture my daughters getting married.  I can’t picture a golden anniversary with the love of my life, Justin.  I dream of my own funeral so often I have it memorized.  I have the exact same nightmares several times a month…several times a week, sometimes nightly, when I’m having a really bad week.  I’ve woken my husband up, screaming and flailing in my sleep.  I’ve tried to punch him in my sleep when he tried to wake me.  He’s learned to grab me suddenly in a bear hug, restraining my arms and legs at the same time.

I’ve thought of suicide so often its scary.  I’ve planned it.  I know how I will do it if I go that route.  I fear Hell, so I’ve not done it, but how long will that fear continue to outweigh my personal torment, weakness, and pain?

I don’t sleep.  I haven’t slept more than a couple hours at a time since the 1990s, unless I drink myself to oblivion or take sleeping pills…and Justin won’t let me have the pills anymore because I wake up only a little while after passing out, and do things like…DRIVE.  And have no memory of it.  I would literally kill just to have one undrugged, unboozed night of peaceful, restful sleep.

Pain never leaves me.  Physical.  Mental.  Emotional.  I have a horrible flaw in that I can’t let the past go.  I dwell on the bad things, in addition to remembering the good ones…and the bad seems to outweigh the good as more and more time, more and more illnesses, and more and more pain creep up on me.  I remember the people I hurt…the bad choices I made.  I want to apologize, to make up for it, but I burned those bridges so thoroughly that no contact is accepted.  I don’t remember the faces of the people I helped save, but I sure as hell remember the faces of the ones I didn’t, and the faces of the ones I hurt.  I fought so hard to not become my father or my mother, that I went down my own road at a reckless pace and ended up in a ditch just as deep as theirs.  I’ve climbed out of the ditch (most days) but other days I’m still wallowing down in the filth.

Oblivion.  It would be lovely.  I wish I could have gone out like Major Kelly…”When I have your wounded.”  When I’m gone, no one will remember me for anything good I accomplished…only for what I didn’t…the mistakes I made…the wasted potential.  I was smart…the sky was my limit…and I threw it away.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

So tomorrow is the day.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping the past couple nights, so I doubt I’ll even bother trying tonight.  We have to get up about 2:00 or 2:30 in order to get everyone out the door and to Ochsner by my 5:00 a.m. arrival time.  Maybe I’ll sleep on the way down there…maybe I won’t.  Regardless, I’ll get all caught up on my sleep in the next few days LOL.

I’m not really nervous, not yet.  I’m dreading it though.  I know its going to hurt like the dickens and that the recovery is really gonna stink.  Previous surgeries, I’ve had my big blue recliner to recuperate in…and sleep in for the first couple weeks back home.  But, it finally bit the dust, and the recliner I have now, when new, was comfortable, but it was extremely cheap too and now ITS getting broken down.  Ahh well, I’ll figure something out.  I may just have to get someone to drag me out of the bed every morning 😉

My cats won’t leave me alone.  Gilda is shy and somewhat anti-social…I have to pick her up to get her to sit in my lap at all.  Even she is hovering around me.  I can reach out right now and touch any three of them at a moment’s notice.  I’m sure if Perry were inside he’d be hovering too.  They know something is up.  Maybe I’m more stressed and nervous than I realize.  I’m going to miss them while I’m in the hospital.

I’m choosing to look at this as just another surgery, and I’ll come out on the other side just fine.  The alternative still worries me a little, but I’m doing all I can to pray and get back to where I need to be…I can’t do much else about that because what will be, will be.  I do feel good about the surgery…just not the recovery.  In one sense, knowing pretty much what to expect as far as the pain goes kinda sucks.

So anyway, I’m just trying to get things ready to go, but I know I’m forgetting at least a dozen things in the process.  I was lying in bed at 2:00 a.m. last night, making a list on my iPhone of what I need to take.  I’d be lying if I said I wanted to do this, but at the same time, I do want to get it over with so I can get busy with recuperation.  I just want it all over with so I can come home and enjoy what’s left of the Christmas season.  Its my favorite time of the year.  And yes, if I end up with a protracted hospital stay, I WILL have a Christmas tree in my room.  Lights too.  I’ll make it happen…Amazon is an amazing, wonderful invention 😉

If you died tomorrow…

All of you who are Christians know the old saying…”If you died tomorrow, would you go to heaven?”

Since getting the first news of my cancer returning, I haven’t cried.  I haven’t stressed.  I’ve felt like its all going to be ok.  The stress I’ve had and the few tears I’ve shed so far have been for my kids, mainly, but overall, I feel like everything is going to be ok.  I’ve talked to my girls, who are taking this diagnosis really hard, and reassured them that no matter what happens Monday, I’m going to be ok.  I told them even if I don’t come out of that operating room, I’m going to be just fine.

The truth is, I don’t know what to believe anymore.  I lost my faith for a time after my stepdad Jay died.  I was so angry at God that at times I even questioned His existence.  Deep down though, I always *knew* I was just acting like a pouting child, trying to get my Father’s attention by denying Him.  The anger really didn’t last long, but it was still there, and something I still feel guilty about.

When I carried Ruby, I never got mad at God.  I prayed like I have never been able to pray before or since.  I had a lot of trouble praying for her at first, because I felt like it was a selfish prayer, but I got over that and prayed and prayed, cried, begged, pleaded with Him for my baby.  After she was born, and I could see evidence around me of how she’d touched people in her very short life, I was sad, even depressed a little, but I was ok.  However, along about what would have been her first birthday, I wouldn’t say I got mad exactly, but I was extremely bitter.  My health was continuing to decline, I couldn’t do any of the things I used to be able to, I could see the babies born around her birthday crawling, walking, cooing, looking oh, so adorable, and I wanted my baby.  I started realizing that when I went to church, I couldn’t focus on the message, all I could do was think about how much pain I was in sitting there, wondering what was for lunch, just weird stuff that would pop into my head.  I kept having to force my attention back to the pastor (who is a very good pastor by the way), and I was getting frustrated.  I couldn’t pray anymore.  I didn’t feel like I could ask for anything for me because again, it was selfish.  When I’d try to pray, my mind would wander.  I realized it was Satan trying to keep me away from God, but I couldn’t seem to do much about it.

I began to slip…I started letting swear words drop more and more often.  I got mad easier, at little things.  I deliberately got into arguments with my mother when she tried to preach to me.  For the most part, I quit “praying” altogether, although looking back, I realize that I never failed to thank Him every day…when I was able to climb out of bed, I’d say a quick “Thank you, Lord,” or something similar.  Whenever anything good happened, I would do the same thing.  So I always felt like He was still in my life, if not directly in front of me.

Since the cancer returned, I haven’t really been able to pray much.  I’ve said a few, “Thy will, not my will” type prayers, and a couple times I actually prayed that He would deliver me from the surgery and everything would be fine.  But I felt guilty…not worthy.  I don’t feel like I’m where I need to be.  People have assured me that it doesn’t matter, that He understands because of what I’ve been going through, that I was truly saved, therefor I’m going to Heaven if anything goes wrong…but honestly, its not the way I was raised.  I believe people can and do backslide.  I’ve been told that if you backslide, you were never truly saved to begin with.  I beg to differ.  I KNOW I have been saved in the past, and I KNOW that I have backslid, more than once.  I believe in God wholeheartedly…I try to do what’s right with my life, and I try to be a positive influence to my kids.  But I make mistakes…sometimes big ones.  This whole past year and a half haven’t been pretty.  I can’t seem to figure out what I really need to do to get back to where I need to be.  Justin thinks I’m holding myself to an impossible standard, but I’m not…I know I’m going to make mistakes.  I can’t explain it, but I almost feel as if God has turned away from me with my inability to pray and focus on that prayer, to the exclusion of all else around me.

Its something I’ve struggled with for months, but I pushed it aside because I was still firmly believing in God and his ability to answer prayer and provide miracles.   This morning however, I got scared.  I had one of the worst nightmares I’ve ever had, but recounting it, its so rediculous.  I believe it was a message from God, although not as powerful a message as I received in 2006.  Perhaps it was more of a warning, a reminder, I don’t know.  All I know is that at the worst part of the dream, I told myself, “This is a dream, wake up now,” and I woke up.  The first thing I did was thank Him that I’d woken up.  The next thing I did was wake Justin up and ask him to pray with me.  As he was hugging me and waking up enough to pray, I managed to mumble, “I’m afraid for my soul.”  That man, I do not deserve him.  He prayed for me for over 30 minutes.  I was mad, because while I was praying along with him, my mind kept wandering.  I looked at the clock several times.  I cried a couple times.  I again had trouble focusing on the prayer, the nightmare, whatever message God may have been sending me…my brain started to rationalize the whole thing.  I started coming up with excuses, and that made me madder, and being mad made me have even more trouble praying.  I know I’m ADHD but dang, I’ve always been able to pray until about 3 years ago.

Basically, I’m not sure where to go from here.  I’ve been staying out of crowds because I can’t risk getting sick, and flu and everything else is ripe this time of year.  I’ve been hesitant to go to church, because I think that people will say “She’s only coming because she has cancer again.”  My brain will NOT let me stop thinking all these things.  I just want peace.  I think part of my problem may be that there’s a part of me that hopes I WON’T come out of that operation, because I’m so tired of constant pain, constant disability, constant nausea, constant weight fluctuations.  Its all just getting to be so much.  Everyone thinks I’m so strong…after every surgery, I don’t cry, I don’t even complain much.  I grit my teeth, get back on my feet ASAP, and do everything they tell me to do.  Admittedly, I do ask for the strong drugs after surgery.  I’m afraid to take too much pain medication here at home because of the history of addiction on both sides of my family, but in the hospital, I give in to the relief because its controlled.  I’m sure it doesn’t make sense, but it does to me.  Anyway, I’m not strong.  I’m very weak.  I don’t like this…I don’t like not being able to enjoy my kids and my life.  But…I deal.  Still, it makes ending it all a very attractive prospect.  I would never commit suicide (there’s the whole “hell” thing), but drifting away on anesthesia, well, it doesn’t sound all that bad.

So, I’m all over the place.  I need prayers, lots of them.  I want to be able to find peace with God, with myself, with my health.  I want to be able to “pray without ceasing.”

I know we can’t always get what we want, but I feel like that’s something I need.

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