I recently had to do some research on the effect of Agent Orange on a child of a veteran who served in Vietnam back in the 60’s. I was absolutely astounded at the list of health problems being attributed to Agent Orange. While I am horrified at how many veterans were exposed to these chemicals when the manufacturers knew how dangerous they were, I am beginning to see how horrific the problem is becoming both health-wise for veterans and financially for the government. If the VA has to pay for all the health issues being attributed to Agent Orange, I don’t know how they could possibly afford it. On the other hand, knowing that the chemicals were so dangerous and still using them leads me to believe that the manufacturing companies should be held accountable for covering a good portion of that cost.
Most recently, diabetes has been added to the list of presumptive diseases. It will cost the VA millions of dollars in benefits to provide health care for those they are identifying as being affected by Agent Orange. The list is as follows:
Acute and Sub-acute Peripheral Neuropathy
Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma
Clear Cell Sarcoma of Aponeuroses
Clear Cell Sarcoma of Tendons and Aponeuroses
Epithelioid Malignant Leiomyosarcoma
Epithelioid and Grandular Malignant Schwannomas
Extraskeletal Ewing’s Sarcoma
Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD)
Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma
Malignant Giant Cell Tumor of the Tendon Sheath
Malignant Glandular Schwannoma
Malignant Granular Cell Tumor
Malignant Schwannoma with Rhabdomyoblastic Differentiation
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
Proliferating (systemic) Angiendotheliomatosis
Type II Diabetes
I won’t go into the definition for each of these diagnoses, but if you served in Vietnam and any of them are part of your diagnoses, it would certainly be wise to get to the VA Medical Center and register for benefits! I believe as we go along, we’re going to find more and more health problems of our veterans are related to chemical exposure.
We’ve talked before about the importance of reclaiming your life as you begin to heal from PTSD, and it may be helpful to spend a bit more time on how to accomplish that. When you challenge your tendency to isolate and force yourself to do the things that move you out of your comfort zone, you are actually expanding your comfort zone and growing. While it may not seem like it at the time, if you are successful in completing whatever activity you’ve chosen to do, and if you’ve managed to reach even a small level of comfort as you did it, then your comfort zone has been stretched. Each subsequent time you indulge in a similar activity, you should grow a bit more comfortable with it until eventually, you are comfortable doing things you never thought you’d willingly do again.
Of course, this isn’t a straight line of healing. There are times you’ll be quite content doing the chosen activity, and then the next time, you’ll find it’s anxiety-provoking again. That’s okay. It’s likely to be easier the next time you try it.
Healing doesn’t happen overnight. The same as it takes months or years for broken bones or torn muscles to heal, it will take that long for your psyche to heal too. If you find it difficult to let yourself get involved in groups of people, then you may want to start with small steps – first spending more time with individuals, then adding more people into your life, one at a time. As time goes on, you’ll learn to tolerate having more people around you without feeling so anxious and uncomfortable. In effect, you’re setting your emotional meter back to normal.
While you don’t have to tolerate large groups of people all the time, or for long, extended periods of time, it’s fairly common in life to encounter groups of people, such as when you are going to the movies or attending holiday gatherings with family. Stretching your tolerance levels should make these events easier to get through and not the anxiety provoking situations they might be now.
If, during this process, you find you can’t move forward then, perhaps, it’s time to ask for help. There are wonderful programs available for coping with PTSD, some of them you can utilize right in your own home. Keep trying; life may never be the same as it was before PTSD, but you can heal, and you can live in peace again.
Recently, the VA has determined a new category of presumptive benefit coverage related to eight diseases associated with exposure of contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Veterans are covered if they served at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and who were diagnosed with any of the following conditions:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
In the early 1980’s, trichloroethylene, a metal degreaser, and perchlorpethylene, a dry cleaning agent, along with benzene and vinyl chloride, were found in two of the wells supplying water to the area. Although the wells were closed in February, 1985, all of Camp Lejeune and the MCAS New River area, including satellite camps and housing areas were exposed to the contaminants.
Veterans who believe their health problems may be related to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune are encouraged to contact their primary care providers and to file a claim. The VA will review the claim and determine if disability compensation should be awarded.
I had a boss once whose mantra was, “Change is our friend; change is good!” She would toss it out to us like it was a prize we should grab, take to heart, and live by on a daily basis. Those of us who worked with her responded with groans, eye rolls, and sighs of resignation.
Yes, change is inevitable. I understand that much. But is it my friend? Not always. Change isn’t always for the better, but even when it’s not, we do always seem to adapt to whatever situation we’re in eventually. The other side of it is that there are times when change does benefit us. When we are living under a black cloud of depression, we often forget that the current storm won’t last forever. Change will come.
Sometimes it may feel like PTSD has been in control of your life forever and things will never improve. But change will happen at some point. Be open to it. Expect it. Embrace change in your life. Change can be good. There are times when we may feel things are moving from bad to worse, but at least they are moving. Then we know the possibility exists that things will get better.
Realize that you won’t be controlled by PTSD to this extent forever. Things will get better. Either your circumstances will improve, or you’ll adapt so you can function better where you are. Change really is good.