Page 12 - Transormations Magazine 11-12

Transformations
10
Being a Vet is a
title you carry out
of humility, and Iím
not saying I was
owed anything...
[
but] this is the only
place where I feel
I was treated like it
really mattered.”
I was getting ready to swallow
[
a bottle of ] these pills and I
was like
Why am I doing this?
I’ve got a good life, everything is
fine... so why do I feel this way?
After reminding himself of his
good life – a young wife with a
baby on the way and a job he
enjoyed so much that he planned
to make a career of it – he still
swallowed that bottle of pills.
While Neely thought he’d been
receiving appropriate care for
PTSD, he didn’t know he had
other medical problems that so
far had gone undiagnosed and
were reacting poorly with his
treatment. A year after the birth
of his daughter – nearly two
years after his suicide attempt,
Neely was stationed in Rhode
Island and still working through
his trauma-related injuries.
After Neely had a conversation
with a friend who suffered from
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI),
he returned to his doctor to ask
if some of his symptoms might
stem from a misdiagnosis. While
PTSD and TBI share many
symptoms – and it’s possible to
have both at the same time –
they are not the same problem,
and so need to be treated
differently.
Sean Masterson, Doctor of
Neuroscience and a Postdoctoral
Fellow with IU Southeast’s
chemistry department explains
it this way: “The medication
that he was given to help with
PTSD was an antidepressant.
In general, an antidepressant
is a compound that enhances
excitation by either activating
neurons directly or by inhibiting
inhibitory neurons. Because his
ailment was due to TBI and
not depression, the medication
exacerbated his problems
by enhancing the activity of
unstable networks.”
As Neely stood alone in that
Indiana bathroom and wondered
why he wanted to end his own
life, he hadn’t known – no
one had known – that the
medication he’d been given to
treat PTSD was causing havoc
with his physically traumatized
brain. Neely’s doctor sent him to
Bethesda, where he was screened
for head injuries. “They couldn’t
see it on an MRI, but they got it
on an EEG. I was lucky.”
For Neely, who was now
medically retired from the
military, “It was a difficult time.
All of a sudden, I didn’t feel
comfortable going to the VA for
benefits; I didn’t understand the
education benefits.”
Neely had to work with seven
different bureaucratic systems,
from his VA medical benefits
and the Department of Defense
to the Unemployment Office,
creating the kinds of frustrations
that are known to compound
the problems that come with
both PTSD and TBI. Dr.
Michael Day, Director of the IU
Southeast Personal Counseling
Services, said “[TBI] can result
in symptoms such as confusion,
disorientation, slowed thinking,
and language problems.
Individuals with whom the
veteran has to interact in order to
access benefits may, if unfamiliar
with TBI, misinterpret these
symptoms as related to drug use,
a lack of motivation, disrespect,
or incompetence... which [can]
cause the veteran to become
frustrated and to stop attempting
to access benefits.” Day added,
One of the most important
and helpful things that can be
done to support our veterans is
to assist them in accessing their
benefits through understanding
the potential obstacles,
advocating for their