You may see me with special sunglasses on meandering my way through the halls and down the street. You may notice that, although I am smart and outgoing, there is something not quite right about me. Few seem interested in the cause of my ailments, they just assume that I am another person who may be “special”. I have a dog. She goes with me everywhere. Many know that she is a service dog, but they do not understand why I need her. The truth is that I served in the United States military, and I received a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, while defending my country. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the conditions that I have experienced as a result of the TBI and highlight some of my research on those conditions.
First I would like to discuss the source of my TBI and what has happened since as a result of it. One day I was assigned to an Airborne combat mission that went terribly wrong. Things like this are quite common when you do the job I do and serve in a war-zone. When I first sustained my injuries, I was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center, BAMC, until I was stabilized and could be moved to a hospital that did not require for me to be watched around the clock. I returned to BAMC to relearn how to walk. After that, I went to another hospital so that medical professionals could begin to address the PTSD and other physical ailments I incurred as a result of my TBI.
One of the conditions that I have developed as a result of my traumatic brain injury is post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. It is a popular belief that PTSD is strictly a psychological disorder. This, in fact, is not true. In Robert Worth’s article, What if PTSD is More Than Psychological?, the author notes that PTSD is just as much physical as it is mental (Worth). The article taught me that close proximity to explosions causes physical damage to the brain. This gives proof that PTSD and TBIs are directly linked as is the case in my circumstances directly. I also learned that PTSD has been an issue with combat-injured veterans in the past, as well as currently. This is good news to me because there is already plenty of research on my condition and treatments that have been developed for it.
Another issue that I have been faced with concerning my disability is difficulty securing employment. The job market is tough right now, but it’s even more difficult to secure employment when you have disabilities such as mine. I chose to look into this topic while performing my research and was pleased to find research available on it. In Diane Smith’s article, The Relationship of Disability and Employment for Veterans from the 2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), she illustrates these difficulties. The article examines a study on unemployment rates for disabled veterans versus those without disabilities (Smith). She notes that the disabilities of disabled veterans versus disabled civilians in regards to PTSD and TBs are quite different as well.
I have experienced first-hand many of the situations the author has examined. It seems to me as though many employers are ill-equipped to handle employees who suffer from conditions such as mine. They do not have the time, resources, or dedication to implement individual accommodations for those suffering from disabilities. This is especially hard for veterans on a psychological level because we are already dealing with stress, anxiety, and difficulties with day to day living. There are those of who, however, turned to school as a means of entering professions that we may be better suited for, and vice versa, given our situations and cumbersome medical conditions.
I am one of those who have chosen to go back to school. It is not always easy, but I make it work. I attended a workshop where we were asked questions in regards to career plans after the military. I am very proud to say that I have decided to pursue social work as a career choice. I want to be a warrior, champion, and cheerleader for people like me and continue my mission. I started this journey by taking online college courses. I am able to pay for my education using money that I have earned through the military. I have also received scholarships, grants, and other funds through foundations that have heard my story, know about my injuries, and plans for what I have in regards to using my education in the future.
Disabled veterans are often one of the most overlooked groups in society. The injuries I sustained while serving my country are virtually invisible. No one can really see PTSD, debilitating anxiety, and TBIs at first glance. Many just do not even care. It is my hope that I can continue on with treatments and be the best possible example of drive, determination, and recovery that I can be. I hope one day I will be able to touch lives in ways that so many have already done for me. It is difficult to live with disabilities like mine, especially when searching for employment.
An education based on social work may give me the chance to help other disabled veterans out there like me. Hopefully, by obtaining my degree, I will be able to overcome some of my anxiety and stress as well. While it is intimidating to think of myself as an Intern, kind of like starting over as a Private in the Army, I will do whatever is necessary to move forward with my life and be the best I can possibly be. If I can help just one person like me, then maybe I will no longer feel like the injuries I sustained were in vain.
Smith, Diane L. "The Relationship of Disability and Employment for Veterans from the 2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)." Work, 51 (2), pp. 349-363, 2015. CINAHL Plus with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed September 6, 2016).
Worth, Robert F. “What if PTSD is More Than Psychological?” 10 June 2016, <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/magazine/what-if-ptsd-is more-physical-than-psychological.html?_r=0>.