After twenty-something years of b.s. with the Veteran’s Administration to get my medical benefits and counseling, I think I finally have it all straightened out. Two years ago I attempted to get counseling, because I had been through a divorce and numerous things that I could no longer deal with on my own, and then a close friend died suddenly. I knew that it was time to talk to a professional.
The VA finally scheduled me for my first counseling appointment, but I wasn’t aware it was at a different location than the normal one, so I was running a little late. I was there a good hour talking to an older woman that reeked of cigarette smoke, and the thing she seemed to only focus on was asking about my cats. I wasn’t there to talk about my freaking cats; I was there for real issues.
Anyway, the VA later canceled my future appointment, because the counselor would be out that day. Then suddenly, they canceled EVERY future appointment and had no record of me visiting the first time. NONE. Seriously. I was super pissed and explained who I saw and what happened with me being a few minutes late. They finally figured it out, but then they contacted me by letter to tell me I didn’t qualify for VA benefits (I did; they were wrong again). This happened to me twice in two years. Now, when someone needs counseling and isn’t getting it AND is told incorrect information AND someone is fucking around with medical benefits, it can make a person really lose it. I told them no wonder veterans are committing suicide every day, because this is the type of shit the VA puts them through. I probably cussed out the wrong people, but guess what? They fixed it. Finally.
So this year – two years later – I’m finally getting counseling. Except that they set me up with a male counselor that I could not open up to, because I have female issues that only a female can relate to. I had three appointments with a male counselor that I felt was focusing on things that I didn’t care to talk about. I had other things I needed to address. He also “related” to me by telling me things about himself, but he did this on all three occasions (repeated himself), and I was bored and shut down. I wasn’t there to listen to him talk about himself. I just sat there in his hot, stuffy office staring at his funny curly hair and thinking about how much I wanted to cut it. On the last session with him, he suggested I see a female counselor, so I put in my request.
In the meantime, I realized that my medical records – including the counselor’s notes – were available for me to read. Male counselor diagnosed me with chronic PTSD, anxiety, and depression. I knew about the last two, but I never thought of myself as having PTSD at this point in life. Another note he had written in my notes:
Living situation: Lives with cat
Seriously. I literally laughed out loud, thinking, really? Am I that woman? Crazy cat lady that lives with cat? I was still laughing at the irony of it, but I was also thinking how fucking sad is my future?
(**NOTE: First visit with the female counselor, I felt she was easy to talk to; it was easy for me to open up. AND she actually listened to me, didn’t relate to herself, asked the appropriate questions… AND we started talking about the things I went there for in the first place. AND here was no mention of cats.)