"Healthy and normal"

Before going off to join the war, we spent about three months on Fort Sill, OK, learning all of the things we would need to know to be successful in the modern war zone. Actually, truth be told, we spent about two weeks learning those things and the rest of the time waiting in line for stuff. And most of what we learned was for Iraq and not Afghanistan anyway.

Still, part of the process was making sure we were medically fit, had updated shots, current wills, etc.--an annoying but necessary process.

When you come home, of course, you need to demobilize. Briefings, briefings, briefings. Medical questionnaires. The Active Army is supposed to fix whatever they broke while they borrowed you from your state before sending you home. Additionally, they want to make sure you don't kill your families and friends when you get there, so they have some screenings and briefings. Personally, I have a theory that PowerPoint briefings cause domestic violence--it would explain a hell of a lot.

I walk into a room empty except for a Specialist behind a desk and a whole bunch of my co-victims of this process waiting in line. "Do you have any dental work that needs to be done here?"

I ponder. If I say yes, I could get stuck here longer than absolutely necessary. But the stuff isn't going to take care of itself, and according to the dude that did my work before I left, they put a note in my file to make sure it was done when I returned. If I don't speak up now, it could come down on me later. "The doc told me I needed to get a crown when I got--"

"Alright, take this form, sign here, and when you get back to your home station you have a one-time dental benefit that you can use within 90 days yada yada yada." Further investigation revealed that no matter what you answer, the Specialist behind the desk will tell you to go home and get it done with your one-time benefit. The form we had to sign stated that our dental problems had been taken care of during our demob.

I'm sitting in line for my one-on-one with a medical screener. I sit down next to his desk when it's my turn. He looks over my post-deployment questionnaire thing. I have the sick call slip from when I landed on my shoulder last November (making it virtually useless--not to mention black and blue--for two weeks) and the full printout from the nerve damage to my elbow during training last March. He scans through. "Nothing serious here." He laughs a little under his breath. "Humvee door, huh?" Yeah, man. Hilarious, not being able to carry anything heavier than a bottle of water in my left hand for two months without pain. Conventional painkillers aren't much good for nerve damage, I was told. He looks up. "How are you, mentally?"

"How would I know?" If I'm crazy, would I know it? He just stares at me.

"Are you, um, angry? Anything like that."

"I am very angry pretty much all of the time." I wouldn't have mentioned it--I have my own theories on the source and cure for my anger--but my first sergeant said he was planning on discussing his--and mine was way way way beyond his.

"Were you angry before the deployment?" What kind of dumbass question is that?

"I was mildly annoyed before the deployment." Three months in Purgatory will do that.

"Now you're very annoyed?" He seems confused.

"I left 'annoyed' back a long long time ago." I think I know the difference between 'annoyed' and 'angry,' thank you very much. He ponders this a moment.

"Would you like to have a screening?"

"What would that entail?"

"Just sitting down for a few minutes to talk to someone. There's a lady over in the corner behind that wall that will sit down with you for a few and get some idea of how you are doing." Once I ascertain that it will not take very long and is not binding in any sense, I agree to this.

Behind the screen is the clueless civilian lady who gave us our "Combat Stress" brief two days prior. Note to demob stations: do not have civilian females give combat stress briefings. She did everything short of saying "I know what you're going through," which she clearly did not. Also, she had made the same mistake everyone does--assuming that we just came back from Iraq. When we corrected her, she phrased her briefing in terms like this: "Well, if you had gone to Iraq, you might have dealt with issues like such and such." Apparently, Afghanistan is a theme park akin to Magic Mountain, and not a war zone after all. My wife will be relieved.

In any case, I knew that the 'screening' was a waste of time as soon as I saw her. I sat down and she made nice and asked me a few questions. Having ascertained that I was not currently planning on harming myself or anyone else, I received what was essentially a repeat of the worthless combat stress briefing and more copies of the same phone numbers to call if I found myself waterboarding my cat or something when I got home. I admitted to not having slept well when I first returned to base back in December, so she fixated on that rather than on the very current anger I was experiencing right then. I'm supposed to cut back on caffeine. My anger--the causes for which she pretended unconvincingly to understand--is "healthy and normal" but I should definitely call one of those numbers if it becomes a problem.

I'm sure she was trying.

Five minutes later, I'm out the door, certified healthy. I hope that's true. I can't help but wonder about how useful any of that would be if I were someone not "healthy and normal," with real emotional or physical issues to work out. The whole thing was very cursory and stupid, and I doubt anyone with real trauma was going to really open up to Miss Vague Empathy, which could be a real problem if I were coming from the streets of Baghdad.

Fortunately, I was in Afghanistan. I rode the roller coasters all day or something.

Sig

PS- If I were actually planning on hurting myself or someone else, I would not tell the counselor lady. They call that 'premeditation' in most jurisdictions.

Comments

angry

Gosh, that was useless. Pretty funny though. Maybe you are angry cause the roller coaster ride was too fast? lol What is "normal"? I haven't been to A-stan or Iraq and I don't think I'm quite normal :-)

Not sure

I'm not sure what constitutes normal any longer, if I ever was. I have elected to address the many sources of my anger in a separate post. It could take a while.

Sig

Take your time...Somebody

Take your time...Somebody just told me today that shooting target with a pistol is the most relaxing thing to do. And I thought that it was Pilates :-) Maybe you and your wife need to come to CO for some froze-butt skiing lol I don't remember having such a cold winter in the last 10 years.

Shooting in CO

That sounds like an excellent idea for "chillin' out".

I worry more..

About those who have NO CLUE they're "angry."

You're fine....a little dental work and a week on a good beach with the Mrs...

It's been my observation that brilliant people are usually angry, because the rest of us can't keep up....

Considered OCS? Gen Patraeus needs you.

Blonde

Bite thy tongue

We have way too much leadership as it is--you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a looie in our battalion.

Today was more briefings and paperwork. Gah. Among other things, I was encouraged to talk with some of the nice counselor people. Again.

Sig

Too many Looies, but ...

How many are brilliant and funny like you? I still say Patraeus needs you.

Yet another career suggestion

Semi-serious here, but have you considered looking into law enforcement? I hear they're big on recruiting military.

The downside is you would get to deal with a lot of idiots you have to call sir. Kind of like Tech Support, but they would at least arm you...

anger and stress relief

As long as you remember that on this side of the pond, you're not supposed to shoot "people" (it's in quotes for a reason, I'm sure you'll figure it out), I would say that some level of anger is normal. Hell, I haven't ever been to a warzone (well, does Rhodesia count? - It was still Rhodesia at the time, but I was too young to remember), and I'm certainly angry most of the time.