These past few months have been interesting and though I still don't have any major prospects for opportunities I'm still working on other things and the realization that where I've come from and living now as a veteran in the civilian world is not a bad thing. The one bit of honest criticism I've gotten about these personal blogs is that they seem to be jumbled, but in all honesty, I'm just writing about things that are coming up in chronological order and with things that have happened these past two months, it should be easy to follow along with the things I have going on now.
So wouldn't you believe it, after I posted the last blog, I went to the kitchen to get something to eat and one of the guys had cooked bbq chicken. It tasted great, at least I thought it did, but it was a little undercooked and by that night I wasn't feeling too good. For the next week, I suffered from food poisoning and can say with all honesty that I had no interest in anything but my bed and my toilet. That took me right into New Year's eve when I thought I was feeling pretty good until I caught the other thing that was going around the house. The flu. I read the news reports about the flu being worse for everyone in the country this winter and was not exempt from it. The first three weeks of January I was sick and my flu was upgraded to a sinus infection, I had never been sicker in my entire life all at one time in one place. By the third week of January, I was starting to feel better until I finally got word from Gear Inc. about the position in Vietnam.
They had decided that I didn't possess enough experience to work for the firm, but I think they couldn't stand me asking for an answer so often. I just wanted to know where I stood and when the position was available to me. I wasn't getting an answer and my anxiety was in full swing from them to the point that it was driving me nuts. Not once did anyone, within those interviews mentioned that I lacked the necessary experience to work for them, but thankfully I didn't put all my eggs in that one basket. Sure, it would have been great to finally continue my career in an area I could have deeply prospered, but I had to accept the idea that I may not find a position in my career field before my time in this place was up, so I had to come up with a new plan.
This veterans center places every veteran client under a phase number to regulate where that veteran is in their recuperation or their path to finding a place to live. When a veteran first arrives and for the first month, they are considered phase 1. Under phase 1, a veteran has a curfew of 10pm on Sundays through Thursdays, no overnight passes, day passes allowed after the first seven days and must attend all group sessions. Under phase 2, a veteran has the same curfew, access to three overnight passes and must attend all groups if they are in the building, allowing them to take care of appointments when they have them. I was at phase 2 at the time and didn't mind, I had no reason to have overnight passes, I didn't take advantage of the passes I was getting, I was only focused on applying for game development positions and saving some money while I did it. At the time that I was receiving the response from Gear Inc. I decided that I had better take more advantage of my veterans benefits. I had the time and the support to do so, so I began to go up the phases in order to have the freedom to get what I needed to be done.
It started at the LA Kings game we all attended at the end of January. Every month, the house is given an opportunity for fun and excitement, the house actually has a budget for recreational activity. It's up to a veteran resident to plan the event, engage the other veterans interest and speak on behalf of them to the program director. One veteran was already in charge of this but he was on his way out of the facility and I expressed an interest in taking his place. He explained what I needed to do to get up to phase 3 and then the holy grail, phase 4. I spoke to my case manager Megan and after approving a schedule that I designed where I could write almost every day, search for work, attend appointments and attend the necessary groups required. I was approved for phase 3, which sets a curfew at 12am for Sundays through Thursday and 1am for Friday and Saturday, four overnight passes and only 3 groups required. Once I got to phase 3, I had the freedom and drive to further my VA support.
My first stop was Vocational Rehab. The VA offers the means to help veterans obtain the training and education to better their lives in the civilian world. In my case, my education seems to be a bit lacking in its credibility. I went to a for-profit college for my degree in game development. It's the only school that was available to me and now that school doesn't exist anymore. So my main concern is will that money be returned so that I can go back to school for a better degree in my career field or can I earn a certification in something else, like writing for example. The point is to find out my options. I'm currently still waiting for that information to get back to me. My second stop was to contact the DAV, or Disabled American Veterans, a special interest group that I'm already a member of to talk with someone directly as to what I need to provide to increase my disability rating. He gave me a point by point step on everything he needs in order to increase my claim and that includes meeting with the necessary physicians and admitting to myself that I have additional problems that I never considered at first.
Since I've been living here in this house, I've realized that I actually suffer from PTSD. The condition is covered by my disability claim but there's no specific diagnosis so I receive nothing for it. This place and living in so close proximity to other veterans have awoken parts of me that I previously didn't see, at least not since I was serving in the Army. I suffer from anxiety, hypertension, sleep deprivation, and anger issues all as a result of my military service. I've never been officially diagnosed with any of those conditions because every time since I got out, the doctor would ask me if I wanted to see a mental health therapist and I said no. But now things are different and I'm seeing the professionals I need to. I'm not at the same levels of violent or suicidal tendencies that I know other veterans suffer from, but I still don't like the things that I do and wish to change for the better. It helps with my claim and helps me for future friendships and relationships that I will desire one day.
Since I'm taking on so much and had a desire to take the place of the last veteran in charge of event coordinator, I filled out the phase 4 application. It was pretty easy, the program manager primarily wanted to know how I improved since I've been here, what my plans are while I'm still here, what I want to do to give back to the house and what are my exit plans after I leave here. Very simplistic essay questions which I fleshed out nicely with my exceptional skills in writing. I turned in the application but before I could get confirmation of my advancement, I had an event to go to for the weekend; The Horse and Healing Therapy. A weekend trip around Santa Barbara where you learn to pair up with a horse so that they can trust you and you can ride them or work alongside them. From the trainers perspective, it was to allow veterans that suffer from PTSD to better trust in themselves and be calm in situations that they may not be able to control. But the way they presented the material and training was jarring and boring. The main rancher was arrogant which made the experience even more exhausting and their desire to film everything made the whole weekend annoying. The weekend could have been better had we had more time with actual horses and less time sitting in a circle inside listening to someone drone on forever. On the Sunday of that weekend, one of our veterans had gotten pretty sick and we were forced to get him to the hospital, as unfortunate as it was for him, we were pleased to get out of there as quickly as possible, especially a day earlier and on Super Bowl.
Returning from that weekend, this is in February by the way, I was approved for phase 4 which meant I had unlimited overnight passes, a curfew all week at 2 am and required to go to 0 groups. It's a milestone that few ever get while living here and I achieved it in five months. That week, my friends from life in general finally invited me out, I was celebrating what I accomplished, but they had a different reason to invite me out. Of course, they took me to a bar, living in a sober living home doesn't matter to them and while laughing and enjoying my soda, they point out a woman drinking at the bar by herself and encourage me to approach her. Not one to be discouraged by a challenge from my friends I accepted and struck up a conversation that we both enjoyed, her name is Jennifer and she and I are getting closer every day. Every time we talk and every time I spend a night at her place I fall deeper and deeper for her. It may be the thing that I've been looking for my entire adult life and I couldn't be happier. We give each other strength when we need it and we comfort each other when it matters most. Turns out, it wasn't a random occurrence, my friends knew her and thought we might like each other, they could have just said something.
Around the same time as I was getting further acquainted with Jennifer, I met up with my new primary care physician who dropped a bombshell on me I was not expecting. I'm officially overweight. I noticed myself getting heavier but I never paid too much attention to it nor cared to change too much. I like eating food, especially food I can taste, but I'll admit that the food they serve us here, though free, isn't on the healthiest of standards. Mostly a load of meat slathered in grease. I am exercising, what with my cardiovascular mornings and my time with MVP on Thursday's. The problem is my diet and the portions I'm taking, so with that in mind, I've officially gone on a diet. For three weeks now I've been counting my calorie intake, eating five small meals a day and being pretty religious about it. It's frustrating at times around veterans, they get wind that you're doing something for yourself and they'll jump at the chance to mess with you about it. I must have had over a dozen instances of people placing food I can't eat in front of my face. As I write this on a Sunday I've also just had my first cheat day. Not proud of it, but it was nice to eat something else other than protein shakes, protein bars, and chicken salads. Since I started three weeks ago, I've lost ten pounds. Sixteen to go.
When I got out of the Army, I despised what the Army did to me, the eight years of my life gone. The pointlessness of the war in Iraq that I was sent to. I just wanted the financial assistance that was promised to me so I could get on with my life. I tried to stay in touch with those I considered to be my friends in the military but it's so rare that we say more than one word to each other for years. I never let it out too frequently that I was a veteran, not that it's something to fear or despise or be ashamed of. But in the end, I wasn't pleased with how my career ended, especially since all I wanted was to serve in the Army for as long as I could. These past few months, being here, being a part of MVP, has helped me accept that I'm different from those who didn't serve and I should be proud. Yes, I have issues and I need to work on them, but who I was before joining the Army and who I am now are not completely different, I've just changed, some for good, some for bad. But that should never be something that holds me back from obtaining what I deserve in this life both professionally and personally.
Thanks for reading, the fight for a professional position shall continue, thanks for your support.