16 July 2008

Post-Iraq Psych Screening Account

Moooonnn Riivvveerrr! (Well, It Wasn't That Bad)

Since the way military medicine and the VA handle PTSD after Iraq/Afghanistan deployments has become a political football, I thought I'd provide a frank account of the required post-deployment psych screening I had to get today at medical.
  • Weight/Temp/Blood Pressure? For some reason, whenever you walk into a Navy medical center (even if to just use the head) they feel the need to weigh you, jam a thermometer down your throat, and take your blood pressure. What this is supposed to determine about my psychology, I'm not sure.
  • Doctor Also a LT: There's a certain casual atmosphere whenever you talk to someone of the same rank in the Navy. The Doctor was also an O-3, so the jokes were free flowing and your experience may differ depending on your rank...
  • Dead Bodies? The headshrinkers are very interested if you've been around dead bodies or seen people killed. This would obviously contribute to PTSD-like symptoms.
  • Nightmares: I would be lying if I said I had no nightmares, often where I'm running away from explosions, but I can only run really slow. The Doc was interested in these nightmares, and I told him they were becoming less frequent. We then moved onto the next subject.
  • Explosions: An inherent survival tactic in the Sandbox is being able to judge the distance and severity of an explosion or a "thud". This instinct doesn't just turn off when you're back in the real world. Often a slam of the door makes my heart knot up and raises my heartbeat for a couple of seconds. The Doc was pretty interested in this, but I told him it was going away...so we were onto the next subject.
  • Depression: The Doc asked me straight up if I was a sad sack. I guess that's one way of diagnosing PTSD.
The screening was adequate, and not just filling out a bunch of silly forms. It was also mandatory, and the only way to avoid being diagnosed if you had PTSD would be to actively hide it. Of course I have the luxury of being Active Duty, and waiting on the phone for 3 hours with the VA when you need help might be a less pleasant experience.