Yesterday was a goofy day.
I woke up yesterday to the news that Republicans in the Senate changed their vote for the PACT ACT, which is designed to help veterans who have been exposed to toxins while deployed to the Middle East. It makes the process of applying for VA benefits easier for veterans. Currently you have to prove service connection for most things and the VA has been very slow to add what are presumptive conditions will be automatically considered caused by military service. The PACT ACT added many more conditions and changed the process for filing for VA disability. Additionally, it’s not good enough to just have something in your medical record during your time in the military service; you personally have to “connect the lines” for the VA to actually award you compensation. So in my case, I did 20 years of service and was exposed to all the things. I have 27 conditions on my claim. It took me almost the entire year after I retired to get up the energy and mental state to actually do all the work on my claim. There are people and organizations that can help you, but it didn’t matter for me. What I needed to do was too hard. I had to relive some very painful experiences that hurt my soul and left me with fear and intense nightmares from PTSD. But I got it done in December 2021. I had one exam ordered for hearing. I went to it. I waited patiently. And then suddenly I had like 4-5 other exams, including redoing the hearing one. WTF!! It was even with the same person. But whatever. All of these exams were complete and on April 28th of this year, my claim moved to “Preparing for Decision.” It has sat here since then. Yesterday was three months. Three months it just sat there. I clicked a button that said “decide my claim now. I have no additional information to submit.” And apparently that is me acknowledging something I am required to acknowledge that no one tells you about. I’m over this bullshit waiting. I know people have waiting longer and that is not acceptable. But I will not sit around accepting that I should just shut up and wait because the VA is worthless. We all get to be mad about this mistreatment. So…the Republicans voting against this because they didn’t want this money in discretionary spending are literally screwing the people they sent away from their families. Somehow this is bad. I guess making it go through the appropriations process means they can continue to be worthless and not approve it in time for a new fiscal year and then veterans will again suffer at lower rates when appropriations is behind as it always is.
The second thing hurts me so much more. A young 16 year old boy named Felix killed himself this week. Felix was a very talented student, archer, future-engineer, and hard worker. Everyone has nothing but nice things to say about Felix. But Felix was born female. His obituary is all his birth name and it only seems like a small handful of people knew him as Felix. It’s like his family refused to acknowledge him. That makes me think that this lack of acceptance is what lead to his suicide. It hits so close to home for me. First, I really feel so sad that such a promising young life was cut short. And naturally it forces me down the road of “how did I actually make it?”
Childhood abuse and early trauma taught me early how to disassociate myself from painful things. I could just stuff everything down and pretend it wasn’t that. I never understood that my stomach pain as a child was a physical manifestation of the pain I refused to feel. I spent so much of my adult life disassociated from painful things I was enduring. I think this “skill” is what saved me. Like if I don’t realize that I was hurting and enduring many painful things, then I can’t deal with it in any way. I would not ever acknowledge that pain deep inside me that was screaming at me “You are not what everyone is telling you that you are. You know who you are. But to survive, we will forgot who we are. We will pretend to be this person and play this role you have been assigned in this performance known as life. We will do it the best we can.”
I remember the day the dam broke and all the pain spilled out of me like hot lava. It was in March 2015. It came out in waves of pain that made me cry for weeks. Every free minute I had, I was sobbing and releasing huge tears. I had memories of abuse, sexual assault, harassment, lack of validation, lack of real love, conditional love, bullying, workplace abuse, feeling like no one cared, cutting, all of it came back in this huge rush of pain. I haven’t been the same since that day over 7 years ago. I’ve been in therapy off and on in that time, mostly on. I have talked about the pain and the experiences I remember as I remember them. I am continually shredding the old messaging I received about who I was supposed to be and who I am now.
I made it. I survived. I endured to get to this point where I finally feel better.
But Felix didn’t. He didn’t get the opportunity to feel accepted and to feel loved for exactly who he was. He thought that the only way to cope was to drop out of this performance known as life. And he is gone. The world will never know the engineer he was destined to be or the beautiful love story he was supposed to have. And it is not fair.
Accept the children in your life as exactly who they show you they are. Cheer them on for the wins they are excited about. Hug them often and tell them they matter. Don’t try to change them and don’t try to make them be who you think they should be.
If you are someone who has been rejected by their family and you feel alone, you have me. I promise. I don’t care who you are, where you live, or what your identity is. I am here for you. I will connect with you and help you see that there is acceptance for you. I know a lot of loving, kind people who will be your new community. You will never have to be alone. Just please don’t go. The world needs you.