My first post. I’ve been having a bit of a hard time finding the motivation to start writing again. My playlist is motivating me at the moment though, so I’m forcing myself. Bear with me. I guess I’ll start with introducing myself and telling you a bit of my story.
My name is Angie. I currently live in the small Nebraska town I grew up in with my husband and two daughters. I’ve lived here almost all of my life, though my time away from here is what really changed my life, so I’ll start there. In 2002 as a senior in high school I joined the US Army. I left the following July for basic training in South Carolina. I turned 18 at basic training. That Fall I left South Carolina for the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. I absolutely loved it there, and I genuinely loved the Army. I was looking forward to a career in military intelligence.
In the summer of 2004 I started experiencing pain in the right side of my lower back, hip, and right leg. I saw an Army doctor and was sent to physical therapy, which did not help the pain. An x-ray of my hip was taken, and later a lumbar spine MRI. Both were normal. From there I was sent to a “pain management” clinic where I was given injections and various medications, nothing to actually fix the problem, no further investigation into where the pain was coming from, just managing my symptoms. And even that wasn’t going well, I was in pain. Now it was January 2005 and the pain had spread into my lower leg and foot, as well as my upper back and neck, and I was getting migraines nearly daily. In June I graduated from my language course and was supposed to move on to another duty station. I couldn’t do any of the physical requirements of my job. Without doing any more tests to try to find the source of my pain, my doctor recommended me to the Medical Evaluation Board. Their conclusion was that I was “fit for duty.” Again, I couldn’t do any sort of physical activity, and was experiencing pain in the entire right side of my body. I appealed the findings of the board. I had no diagnosis for the cause of my pain so, of course, everyone but the people who actually knew me thought I was faking it. This is a literal quote from my commander on paperwork in my appeal:
I don’t understand how her condition suddenly worsened upon completion of highly lucrative skill training which the Army spent lots of $ on.
Except it didn’t. My condition had been the same for nearly a year at this point, but nobody would listen to me about it. Then finally, when I finished my training and it was time for me to move on somewhere else, they were forced to look into it. And because my doctor didn’t do her job and never found out what the fuck wrong with me, I was being accused of faking an injury to get out of the Army and go work for a government contractor.
I met my husband in Monterey. We got engaged just before he moved on to another station. He and almost all of my friends had left while I was still there fighting to prove that I was actually in pain. In the end, I’d say I lost that battle. In February 2006, I was given a medical discharge with a 0% disability rating and haven’t received shit from the military since. 0% disability means they don’t have to pay me disability. I’ve lived in nearly constant pain for the past 10 years. I’ve seen various civilian doctors as well as a chiropractor since being discharged but medical care gets expensive. When I got out of the military pre-existing conditions were still a thing, so even when I had insurance, up until recently anything involving my chronic pain I had to pay for myself. The only higher education my husband and I have is what we got in the military and we chose not to go the way of government contracting, so we’re not exactly well off. In fact, we’re quite the opposite. I haven’t even been able to work since getting discharged from the military due to the amount of pain I’m in.
Earlier this year while listening to Bernie Sanders talking about VA on the Thom Hartmann Program, I learned we were eligible to receive VA care because we are low income veterans. I was completely unaware I could be seen by the VA at that point, they had never reached out to either my husband or I. He’s been out for a few years as well and struggles with PTSD. After getting in contact with them, we also found out my husband had also been eligible for 5 years of free care after his deployment. That would have been nice to know.
I’ve been going to the VA clinic (which is 50 miles away) for about 3 months now. Another hip x-ray was taken. They looked at my old MRI. I was sent back to physical therapy and if anything that seemed to make the pain worse. I’ve been trying to get an MRI of my hip (because no one has ever done one) for over a month but communicating with a doctor 50 miles away isn’t easy. I made the drive and went to see her last week, even though I could barely afford it. I am going to get the MRI but the closest VA that can do an MRI is 200 miles away and the soonest they could get me in is next week. So, my husband has to take a day off work to take me there, and I get to sit in the car for a nearly 6 hour round trip. Sitting in the car for more than about 10 minutes is extremely painful for me. Yay… But at the very least, hopefully I will have some answers as to why I’m in pain and hopefully treatment options from there.
I’ve also accepted that I need to go back on some sort of medication. Ten years of constant pain is getting to me. I just started a medication to help both my depression and pain. Of course, the VA mails medication from one facility so it took over a week after my appointment to get to me. I’ve started it now, though and I’m hoping it will help… it says it will probably take a few weeks. It’s actually something I’ve taken before and worked quite well, but my insurance company at the time stopped covering it and I couldn’t afford it. Fuck the American medical system. At least I feel like the people I’m working with at the VA actually care and are doing the best within their power to help me.
So that’s where I’m at right now and it brings me back to why I’m writing. I’ve allowed my pain and depression to take over my life and I’m trying to push myself to do things that I used to enjoy and would like to continue but have let the pain keep me from doing.
If you would like to learn more about my family and I, please visit my About Me page.