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Navigating Rough Waters- Part One

By Liz Brown

Our story about the VA is probably not unique. Not to start, anyway.

My husband called to make an appointment at the local veteran medical center. He was told appointments aren't made at the mental health clinic and he'd have to visit the walk-in. Such a process sounded strange, but that was all the information we got and we were game to try anything.

'Check. Let's do this.'

Rob and I woke up early the next morning to make the hour-long drive and arrive at the hospital just after it opened. He gave his name to the front desk and we sat down with our coffee to wait.

And wait. And wait.

After two hours of sitting around and zero contact with a psychologist, Rob's patience was shot. He was fed up; we walked out.

The phone rang half an hour later. It was the doctor: "Nobody told me you were there. Sorry about that."

No sorrier than I, Doc.

We lost more than a couple of hours that day — Rob lost his willingness to seek help. "Forget it," he growled during the drive home. "I'll buy a book."

It was a quiet ride, otherwise.

I couldn't blame him for being frustrated; we'd been disappointed by the VA before. Rob's earlier TBI evaluation was laughable. He was given the same audiogram he'd gotten in the Navy 100 times before. He was given the same vision test he'd gotten in the Navy 100 times before. But the real puzzler was the Cognitive Skills exam. The therapist talked with Rob for all of five minutes. He then gave my husband a workbook and sent him home.

So yeah, Rob was discouraged. Between the TBI "evaluation" and our walk-out at the walk-in, he felt like his 12-year investment of service in the SEAL Teams was returning only disrespect. He was done.

A scary proposition from my point of view.

Rob is an alpha male; he is not one to admit he needs help with anything, let alone ask for it. When I saw a glimmer of willingness to talk with doctors and psychologists about things like TBI and post-separation depression, I pounced with full support. I was proud. I had thought getting him to the VA would be the hardest part.

I was wrong. The hardest part was figuring out what came next.