Sunday, April 6, 2014

All Over the Map

...not literally, although I have done that too. This past week I've been pretty stressed out, and as such my mind is all over the place. Call it ADD if you must, but writing usually helps me tease things out. So. Where to begin? A few of my ramblings tie together, so let's just go down the rabbit hole and see what we can find.

Ah. I've been oscillating much this year on whether or not to reenlist when my contract is up--March of next year. But as another PFA cycle draws nigh--super nigh--that choice may be out of my hands. I've struggled with my weight for years, not that strangers looking at me would always be able to tell. It's very difficult to practice good body-love when you've got superiors and regulations and organizations breathing down your neck essentially calling you fat... especially when there is zero regard to the diversity of the human form. Look, I never have "looked" my weight, except to the most practiced eye. I carry it well. But when the US government determines that no matter what, any female with a height of 5'3" should weigh less than 152... well, it really beats up on you. I haven't weighed 152 since I was probably 14 or 15 years old. Yes, it's true that they can measure us based on our body composition, but again, that's using a pretty outdated system that favors people with big necks. Sadly, I have a lovely neck and a huge pile of junk in the trunk. While some important people in my life certainly appreciate this, they are not the ones determining whether I pass or fail this weigh-in. I've been extreme dieting and running and hot yoga almost every day, and haven't lost a damn thing. I need to shave off about two inches [in less than a week!] to make this. Everyone keeps telling me it's possible, but so far I have seen zero progress. What I really need to hear right now is something along the lines of, "Do your best, and whatever happens, you'll figure it out. Pass or fail, you'll be okay." After doing some research on regulations regarding 3x failures, I have discovered:

  1. They have 30 days from the end of the command's cycle to notify me in writing
  2. The AdSep [administrative seperation] process is supposed to take less than 15 days, BUT
  3. Part of discharge involves an exit physical--more on why that is important later.
  4. AdSep for PFA failures is generally still an Honorable discharge
  5. Worst case scenario, General Under Honorable Conditions discharge does not disqualify you from receiving GI Bill benefits, provided you meet other criteria. IE, since I have crossed my three year line, I would receive 100% of my GI Bill benefits.
Now, the reason why that exit physical is important. I've also been battling pain off and on for a couple years now. I didn't have much trouble with it until I was in the military. My back maybe ached a little more than 'normal', but as a whole all my aches and pains were within reason. My right hand was the first to go in a serious, noticeable manner. I've been in and out of medical since October of 2013, including referrals to an orthopedist and a neurologist--with all tests and x-rays coming back mostly unremarkable. I say mostly, because the symptoms do slightly point towards carpal/ulnar tunnel issues. After that, I don't even know where to begin. I've had such a plethora of overlapping, off and on symptoms that it's really hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on at what time. But the guarantee is, most of it was after I joined the military. That's when everything started to snowball. Medical blew me off to the point where I went to the ER and walked out with muscle relaxers to unlock my back. I've had x-rays on my feet to no avail, despite the fact that you can obviously see the bunions and toe deformations that are starting. I've been actively monitoring mental health since last year, including in-patient and out-patient treatments, medications, and again, tests out the wazoo. Thyroid, Metabolic, liver panels; Auto-immune screening; all normal. The only thing that ever showed up was a Vitamin D deficiency... and come on, this is WA and I generally work inside. No big surprise there. After getting denied for a sleep study--which my supervisor requested, since I was consistently late to work--I demanded more tests. More tests.

I am a doctor's worst nightmare--a well educated patient. I know how to do research, and I am not afraid to correct them. I started tracking my pain. A 'normal' person shouldn't have multiple pain entries on every single day for months at a time. So, finally, it took me almost breaking down in front of my regular Doc to get a referral to a Rheumatologist. My appointment was this past week. My intake started with an intern, who echoed my main Doc--"Well, I don't really think these issues are all connected," but then again, he's not the specialist. After the Major came in and asked me a few more questions and poked and prodded various parts of my body, he says, "That's good enough for me. You have Fibromyalgia." To be fair, this was an idea my main Doc had been tossing around for a while, much to my resistance, but for some reason all of the doctors on our ship are very conservative when it comes to diagnoses and treatments. Very annoying for us patients.

Now, this diagnosis is frustrating and ironic for me for reasons that I will not get into. However, I do think it fits. And although I'm not 100% sold on this, the more research I do, the more I consider it to be legitimate and valid. When I met someone with a very extreme case last year, it was difficult for me to take her seriously. Now, I don't doubt that she legitimately had a problem, and a large part of that problem was FM... But I guess my beef was with how she handled it. She was a martyr and a crusader. She was the kind of person who wore her issues on her sleeve and made a big deal about them. And I try very hard not to be that way. Yes, I am in nearly daily pain. The thing is, I've lived this way for so long that my perception of pain is skewed. I was raised to always be strong and push through, be determined, and never let anything get in the way of your expectations--and others' expectations of you. So I've taught myself how to ignore things like minor pain, discomfort, and emotions, for the most part. And perhaps since I am taking care of other issues--mostly mental health and relationship wise--other things are starting to become much more clear. The more the emotional pain heals, the more the physical pain manifests. There does seem to be a link between FM and PTSD, which I'm still reading up on and developing my own theories--not on a widespread or general basis of course, but directly relating to myself.

So, really, why is this important? Well. If I don't end up passing my weigh in, which seems likely, I have an official diagnosis on my record that is highly recommended for VA/DoD disability screening. I'm not exactly clear on which of the two would take precedence here, but even if they AdSep me immediately without a medical hold to sort out those issues, I can at least know that my health problems are documented and I can fight--and it might be a very long fight--for disability benefits. I hate to say that because it makes me feel like a leech. But before the military, I at least thought I was a healthy, well-adjusted individual. I guess Ms. S was right when she warned me long ago, "The military will change you, and you don't even know how until you're looking back." 

I guess this is what's weighing most heavily on my mind this week. I'm having issues with motivation and clear thinking [see: FibroFog, perhaps]. The running I've been doing has prompted me to irrationally sign up for The Oatmeal's "Beat the Blerch" 10k... and I haven't even run a 5k yet. I figured that would be some good motivation to keep running. And hopefully I can make it to a 5k before then--it's in September so I have some time. I still don't really know what I was thinking on that one, but I'm kind of glad I did.

In other--cute--news, we have taught the kitten, Mr. Bill Apollo, to FETCH. That's damn right. My cat fetches mousies. I'll wrap this up with a picture of him being adorable with his favorite mouse.

PS. I have been commissioned by a good friend for a specific blogging. I have not forgotten, but like we discussed, that one will take more research and preparation that just my stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Expect some nerdy stuff sometime this month. Shout out to Mr. Brown for egging me on, and always being a thinker at heart. 


  1. I LOL'd at the last bit of this bit-
    "I've taught myself how to ignore things like minor pain, discomfort, and emotions [...]"