Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: VA

Day of Idleness

At least yesterday I was productive in some way—or would have been if I’d had all the tools I wanted/needed for that productiveness. Today, aside from doing one thing outside the house, I’ve been idle. All I did was go out with a friend to pick up a package an out of state VA sent to me. Meds.

Besides that, I’ve idled, though I tried writing—oh! I did type up one session of adventure notes from Daz’s group. Other than that and picking up the meds, though, nothing.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Here’s Weds and Thurs

Rolegaming Dice!

Chessex Sea Dice from Oasis Games.

I completely zoned writing Wednesday’s post before going to bed, and Thursday I was just too tired to care.

Not sure what time I got up on Wednesday, though I had plenty of time to prepare for my Wednesday afternoon and evening gaming sessions. Did I do this? Noooot completely. I was all prepared for MTG, so there’s that. JJ, Cayden, Greg, and Daz came to play as well, though JJ only observed, I think because they had something they wanted to go to at the pride center before our gaming session ended, because he left early. The rest of us finished the session, then Greg departed and Daz, Cayden, and I started setting up for Pathfinder with Phil, who’d arrived before we quite finished our last MTG game.

We set up to play Pathfinder, and I realized I’d forgotten my dice for role gaming. I mean all my sets of dice, so I had to go get another set from the store. Just as we got settled in the room, one of the store’s managers came to chat with us. Apparently, Wednesday night is their Adventurers League. Also, the other room had been rented already, and the store was hosting I think a Pokémon event in the tourney area. The store was also otherwise busy, but the manager said he’d do whatever he could to ensure we could game that night. Nicholas went out of his way to get us tables and chairs and a power strip for us to plug our electronics in—because Daz uses his computer for the books—and arranged them near the cafe. This took all of about 10 minutes, and we settled in to game. Afterward, Daz and I found Nicholas and thanked him again for going out of his way to ensure we could play our game. He told us that he was brought to Oasis Games specifically to ensure their customers were treated well, and that he was happy he was able to find a solution that allowed us to game and have a good time.

Back at home, Daz and I hung out for a few hours before he went home to bed.

On Thursday, I got up with just enough time to feed and water Hendrix and scoop out his litter; and to take my prebreakfast meds. I even left half an hour later than I usually do because I just couldn’t pull myself out of bed on time. Even with that, I got to the VA with time to spare and had an hour wait for my appointment, which I didn’t mind much (the sitcom they had playing on their TV now, is another matter – LOL). Saw the podiatrist, though, and she gave me some advice on diabetic foot care, prescribed some special creams/lotions for my feet, and ensured I had plenty of their special between-toe pads to carry me through the next I don’t know how long. The doc said I could get rid of the crutches the last week of this month, but that I’ll probably need to keep buddy taping my toes for up to a year to prevent swelling.

Came home and laid down for a while, but didn’t actually nap. Got up to putter around the apartment doing idling nonsense. Stuff that I’d have done anyway at some point, but which wasn’t imperative I do right then when I had other things that needed doing and wanted to get done but had no interest in doing.

Oddly, at around 18:00, I started to feel a bit more energetic. Wanted to make dice pouches for two sets of my dice, so I excavated my fabric bits and ribbons . . . then realized Daz still had my sewing kit. So, instead, I made a search for my crochet threads. Four times at least. Could not find them and considered what I may have done with them to remember that I put them all downstairs. I know better than to do stuff like that! LOL As a result, I idled for the next few hours doing nothing in particular.

Daz came over after his Thursday night game and brought my sewing kit back. He’d also picked up a couple packets of penny sleeves for me. While chatting, we sleeved my cards with my graphic sleeves in the penny sleeves, and played Uno. He introduced me to a couple acts that appeared on America’s Got Talent, and we munched Doritos. A good night overall. Finally called it quits a little after 04:00.

Pathfinder and Schedule Changes

My Character is the white figure.

The False Crypt.

I made a conscious decision not to post yesterday. Last night, I was mentally weary from the day I’d had and couldn’t really organize my thoughts very well outside of random conversation. Writing a blog post that was supposed to make sense and not randomly hop form topic to topic was out of the question.

So, for Wednesday.

Around 09:00, I got up. In part because I simply couldn’t sleep any more, but mostly because I’d seen a call from Steve, who owned the mattress and box springs, come in. I had my phone off, so it didn’t ring, but I happened to glance at it when his call came in, and after that, I was anxious enough that I couldn’t sleep any longer.

I got up, called Steve and left a message when he didn’t answer, and called to tell Mom that he’d called. While she and I were on the phone, he called back, and Mom hung up. Long story short, Steve was happy not only to sell me his bed, but also to bring it over for me. He even took my old mattress. He was asking $25.00. Mom suggested I talk him down to $20.00. After all that help, I didn’t have the heart to talk him down and gave him the $30.00 I had on me for his trouble. He was very glad to get the money, as he’s moving to be near his kids in another state.

Then I had breakfast and headed up to the VA for my psych therapy appt. It was good, and didn’t jar me too much, so I went right to Oasis Games after that for my early evening of Magic: The Gathering with JJ and Cayden. Greg texted me that he wouldn’t be able to make it ’cause his contacts were causing him issues and he was having difficulty seeing as a result. Cayden and JJ arrived, and we played MTG, including our young friend in it until his mom came to drag him away to some church event. We realized he’d left a box with one of his desks behind, and I took the box up to the store’s primary sale point and texted Carma that I’d done so she texted back that she’d pick it up.

At one point over the course of the 2 hours we played MTG, I went to purchase a new cardboard card box and some perfect fit sleeves for my Feline Ferocity Commander deck and ran into a friend from Lynn’s D&D group, Daz. He’s been running a Pathfinder game with Phil, Dan, Dave, and Kit for a few weeks, and he invited me to join. I said I’d have to see about rearranging my schedule and went to talk to Cayden and JJ about gaming earlier. I didn’t get a chance to suggest the change to our Wednesday MTG games to Greg until later.

I arrived late to the Pathfinder game, and Daz interrupted it to create my character. He asked a bunch of questions about how I saw the character and made suggestions. I told him I wanted to challenge myself with playing a support character who doesn’t always get into the fray. He asked me, “If there was one thing your character could have, even from our modern world, what would it be?” And I said something like, “Well, something she could do research on” and that got us on a discussion about her Googling stuff. LOL That’s how I ended up with a Tengu Oracle.

After the Pathfinder game, I helped Daz clean up. He lives in my building, and we walked home together. On the way, we chatted about our lives and such, and he told me he lives in the same apartment I lived in the first time I moved into this building. When he heard I lived just around the corner one floor up, he asked if he could use my wifi and offered to pay. I waived his offer of payment and told him I’d get him my wifi’s name and password when we got home. When I did that, we ended up commencing an exchange of emails about Pathfinder, the adventure he’s leading us on, and my character.

I didn’t get to bed until after midnight, and I was very glad I’d made my bed after getting the new setup that morning.

So, for Thursday.

This is much simpler and shorter.

I got up after noon, contacted Kevin to pick me up, and hung out with him from the beginning of his shift until group started. I learned some nice things in group and made a big decision I’ve been stalling on for a while. More on that as I get to executing it. Kevin kindly drove me home. I had supper and just finished emailing Daz my character’s entire backstory after giving her a new first name (I didn’t like the placeholder name he gave her).

Not only that, over the course of the day, I finished rearrangement of our Wednesday gaming schedule, rescheduled 2 appointments for next month, and finished moving Saturday sessions with MLTGF and Greg to Tuesday afternoons.

And that’s it for the past two days!

CPAP Appointment

Scrub-a-dub-dub.

Cleaning MTG card sleeves!

Monday, I had my CPAP appointment. This is a machine that helps me sleep well at night, as I have sleep apnea. I forget what the breathing interruption rate was the night they did my initial test, but I do recall them coming in about halfway through and putting a mask on me and letting me go back to sleep. The remainder of the night, I had fewer interruptions, and I woke up feeling more refreshed and better rested than I had in I think years. Since then, I’ve had a CPAP machine.

Today was an interim appointment. It’s necessary that I go in to review my stats and everything once a year, or I may lose the machine. These appointments were hard to get a few years ago, and this past year they got even harder to make. My usual visit month was late March in previous years. This time, I had to wait until this month, July, before an appointment I could make it to opened up—and I made this appointment back in January, I think.

I went in, as always, really early. Well, even earlier for an appointment than usual. My appointment was for 15:00, but I didn’t actually get in to see the guy until almost half past. I was, to say the least, disgruntled about the tardiness of my appointment. However, things quickly turned around. The Physicians Assistant I spoke with told me I’m doing well with my machine and put me in a program where I won’t have to go in every year. Instead, each year, sometime around my birthday, they’ll call me and we’ll do this appointment over the phone. He also, at my request, put in an order for a new mask specifically for women, which I’ve needed for years but nobody else seemed to know what the bloody crap they were doing. I’m really looking forward to getting that mask, because the straps are supposed to be smaller, so it should fit better for a longer period than the standard men’s headstraps have been. Seriously—I get those things usually and I immediately have to adjust it to a size that makes further adjustment almost impossible because the straps for men’s heads are so big. My mask’s leak rate wasn’t what I thought it should be, because it doesn’t fit well with the larger strap. I asked the guy to make sure it’ll be delivered to the local UPS store as they don’t usually deliver to my building, and explained the whole situation with the broken intercom.

So I left his office a happy patient.

Getting home took pretty much forever, because the afternoon’s driver of the U Campus VA Shuttle drove it at a snail’s pace and went pretty much everywhere else on the VA campus before finally picking up those of us waiting at the front entrance. Most other drivers do the speed limit and go to the main entrance first. But he finally showed up, and I climbed the stairs with my crutches while he lifted two men with walkers into the vehicle. One more passenger caught us and we were off . . . at a crawl. The driver was kind enough to lift me out of the shuttle bus because I seriously doubted my ability of descending those stairs with crutches. We caught the train that was already at the station.

Back home, I had a stress headache from the emotional ups and downs of the day, so I idled in WG and MeWe chat with friends. Josh was in WG, and Kit came into MeWe after he got off wok. I wanted to work on GIMP, but didn’t have the mentality for it. The chats were good, though, and I eventually cleaned 20 of my Feline Ferocity deck’s sleeves while chatting with Josh and Jam in WG. I think Kit went to bed a while ago, which I understand completely. He spent something like 3 or so hours out in the incredible heat fetching carts.

So I’m up past midnight and not at all tired yet. We’ll see what time I get to bed tonight. Will definitely be sleeping in, though. Oh, and I still have to set my CPAP up again—it’s still in its carry case in my backpack. LOL

Long Day Out

I left home by 10:00 this morning and was out all day. Went up to the VA for blood draw and a psych therapy appointment. Then to the Pride Center for my shift until 21:00. Worked on character sheets for D&D NPCs while I was there. Didn’t make much progress, but I did mostly finish one off. Now I have to type up spell cards. If I’m lucky, I’ll be getting some fresh black ink on Thurs and will be able to print ’em out. whee

Depression and Writer’s Block

In a way, I don’t know where the past few weeks have gone, though I can tell you what I was doing for most of them since my last post here. The essential thing is that I’ve been in a depressive funk and struggling to do pretty much everything from rising every day to writing on anything to indulging in hobby activities like crocheting. I’m not out of the pit yet either.

What I’ve been doing is getting out of the house a lot. Between Christmas and the beginning of last week (the 7th). Most of the time, I’ve either been going to the offices where the Utah Pride Center moved their therapy services, or, even more often, to Oasis Games, which bought the pride center’s old building and fixed up the first floor. I’ve been going there mainly to read Dungeons and Dragons books; I finished reading the Player’s Handbook and have been making slow progress on reading the Dungeon Masters Guide since about the first week of January.

I’ve also been continuing crocheting. My primary project is now complete, and I’ll be giving it to my friend who I decided to give it to soon if I get an opportunity. To be honest, I’ve done most of the work on it at the pride center’s therapy offices.

But even with those things, I’ve been in a depressive funk. The main reason is because I received a decision from the VA on my Compensation claim. I’m not sure if I mentioned it last year, but I started the claim in order to try and connect my bipolar disorder to my Naval service. Well, they didn’t even bother opening a case; they simply denied it without investigating. I’m fairly certain that is what threw me into this depressive funk.

It’s still with me. And, unfortunately, it’s not a state of mind I’ve been able to simply write through. I’ve tried. The first 4 days of this month, I wrote at least 500 words a day. Managed to complete, I think, 2 scenes on Unwritten Letters. But I didn’t feel like writing. Even with plot cards, I had trouble grasping the ideas. I felt no joy in getting the words down. Even though the quality was up to my standards, I hated what I’d written because I’d written the words when I felt bad. Gah, talking about it is dragging me down again. Enough.

Anyway, I haven’t touched my writing to do more than read stuff since then. Most days, I haven’t even been able to read my writing. I will not go into detail about how that makes me feel—it’s even more depressing than my description of writing, and I really don’t want to get as bad as I was last weekend over it all.

So, I foolishly thought writer’s block was a myth. That people who had it were undisciplined and lacked initiative in their writing. Well, since September or October, I’ve seen what it’s like to be undisciplined and lack initiative. And now I’ve been treated to my own grand case of writer’s block thanks to this depression.

Let me go over this again, to make it clear. Reading my writing depresses me, primarily because I see all its potential and am not actively capitalizing on it. Writing on anything depresses me any more because it’s not THERE—the ideas are vague, no matter how well-prepared I am for writing, and I hate the act of writing, and having done so makes me feel horrible because I didn’t enjoy doing so and I think I should. So it’s easier to just not write. I’ve gotten to the point where I dread writing, and I figure when it’s that bad, there’s no point in torturing myself.

Oh, I won’t be this way forever. I have faith in that. Maybe I’ll tuck myself into the inpatient mental ward at the VA, maybe I won’t. Either way, I’ll get by and this depression will pass. It’s already started to lift—a little—the past few days. I have a good long-distance friend I can chat about this with, and if that doesn’t help, I can always call the Veterans Crisis Line, and I’ve already notified my mental health care team about where I stand emotionally. All I need to do is stick it out long enough for the clouds to pass, and I’ve done that before and know I can do it again. In the meantime, I’m getting out, cuddling with my cat, and doing what I can to distract myself from my depression so I don’t do something stupid.

Dear VHA, An Open Letter

Dear Veterans’ Health Administration,

You know me as one of your patients. I won’t provide my real name, but I will say that I am a Transgender patient, and I have a bone to pick with you.

The VHA's boast

The VHA’s boast.

The picture above is something I’ve seen posted at my local VA Hospital’s outpatient mental health building. They move the sign about; sometimes it’s in the entryway, other times it’s positioned somewhere inside, where we can see it as we enter. I didn’t take a picture of the entire poster, because the only part that concerns me is the portion which I included. Allow me to write it here, just to be clear. Clarity is important here, at least for me.

“Excellent care has no boundaries. VHA is committed to serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veterans.”

Now, I know this sign was approved somewhere in the hierarchy of the Veterans’ Administration, so that’s not at issue. What is a problem is the fact that, as of the date of this post, Transgender Veterans, whom you claim to serve without boundaries, do, in fact, have a major boundary in their health care through the VA system.

This boundary?

We have no access to surgical options for our health care. Specifically, Male-to-Female Transgender Veterans cannot have sex reassignment surgery to correct their condition, and Female-to-Male Veterans cannot receive mastectomies and whatever other surgery is available for correcting our condition.

As I said, a big boundary.

Now, I know, I know, this was posted in the outpatient mental health building. That, to me, means nothing, for two reasons. First, because of the claim of “no boundaries.” What about denying surgical options to Transgender Veterans translates to “no boundaries”? That’s like saying, “We care about you, but don’t really accept these specific needs you have.” Why can’t Transgender Veterans have sex reassignment surgery and mastectomies? You gave that option to Active Transgender members of the military a few months ago. When will we Transgender Veterans have this option? Why couldn’t you approve this option for us at the same time you gave the actively-serving members of the military this option?

This is hypocritical of you.

Second, the claim, in the statement, comes from the “VHA.” The Veterans’ Health Administration, not “Veteran’s Mental Health Administration”. That means it comes from the overall service, not just whatever branch there may be which oversees our mental health care, if things are so divided. So that means the VHA is actively denying what can be life-saving health care to Transgender Veterans. I’m pretty easy-going, but not all Transgender individuals can make themselves be as “comfortable” in their birth-bodies as I can make myself be. Add gender dysphoria on top of some other mental dysfunctions, and that’s a recipe for suicide for a Transgender Veteran.

This is hardly “Excellent” care. Truly excellent care would offer us the surgical option many of us require.

In short, I find your commitment to serving we Transgender Veterans to be deeply lacking. I also find it extremely hypocritical for the VHA to brag about the “Excellent care” and its “commitment to serving” us when we do not in fact receive that excellent care or have that commitment.

Signed,

An Unhappy Transgender Veteran

Veritigo

About three weeks ago, I awoke with the condition of vertigo. I was largely unconcerned with it at first because it was most prominent when I was rising from bed and laying down at night; it never lasted long, and the room usually righted itself within about 15-30 seconds after I settled on my feet or in my bed. Occasionally, I’d have a moment where the room tilted if I moved too suddenly, or if I held my head in a position looking down with my head tilted a bit to the side (I was unaware of just how often I did this until the vertigo came). It came upon me on Sunday or Monday, and when it didn’t clear up by the end of the week, I decided to go in to the VA’s ER on Saturday morning, as I’d risen earlier than usual and knew that getting in before 8:30AM was advisable, especially on a weekend.

So I checked in, they did the blood pressure/temperature/pulse/oxygenation readings, and left me in a familiar room near the entrance from the waiting room, around the corner from the doors. When the doc came to me, I explained my condition, and she performed a test to diagnose the condition. This test involved me laying down on my back with my head off the foot of the bed in another little exam room. Once on my back, she had me turn my head to the right, at which point the world spun. She then had me roll onto my left side until the vertigo went away, then helped me sit up again. She told me that if it had not passed so quickly, it would have indicated a stroke. Apparently, stroke victims suffer consistent vertigo from the time of onset. The fact that mine passed within a minute of the change of position of my head indicated it was more than likely something dislodged in my inner ear, and this was correctable.

As it was explained to me by the ER doc, there are crystals in the inner ear, and they can become misaligned, and this can cause intermittent vertigo. This was verified by the physical therapist I saw just this past Friday.

The ER doc gave me some Meclizine and sent me on my way after promising to put in a referral for me to see the physical therapist. On Wednesday, I received a letter inviting me to a walk-in clinic for the physical therapist regarding my vertigo, and I went in on, as I mentioned, Friday. Incidentally, I had an appointment for another visit regarding my arm at 1:00PM, this referred by my primary care doc after I contacted her regarding a few days of stiffness and excruciating pain to the point I couldn’t sleep; she never did send the medication she promised to put a scrip in for (LOL). Anyway, I went in early on Friday—around 11:00—and checked in to the walk in clinic for the vertigo.

I hadn’t long to wait. The physical therapist came out and I went back to a little exam room with him. I’ve forgotten his name, but he explained what caused my vertigo and did a test to verify I had vertigo. This involved laying down on my back on the exam bed with my head off the end and him observing my eyes for something he called “tapping,” if I remember right (I could be misremembering, but I’ll call it “tapping” for the time being). First he had me look to the left, and he didn’t see this indicator of vertigo. When, however, he had me turn my head to the right, everything whirled, and he saw the “tapping.” He helped me sit up, said the ER doc’s diagnosis of it being caused by issues in my right ear was correct, then had me move to a chair so he could give me instructions on how to correct the condition, demonstrating as he explained. Since we weren’t in his office, and he didn’t have access to the printouts he usually would have had—and he told me it would be clearer if he demonstrated—he told me to take a video of him, which I did.

Basically, for this exercise, I’m to sit at the middle point on the side of my bed. First, I’m to look up to the left, let the vertigo (if any) pass and wait 30 seconds, then lay down to the right, keeping my head in that position, let vertigo (if any) pass, and stay that way for 30 more seconds. Then I sit up. Next, I look up to the right, let vertigo pass, wait 30 seconds, and lay down on my left, let vertigo pass, wait 30 seconds, and sit up. That’s one time. I’m to do this 5 times twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, for two weeks. He was very clear on the fact that, like with antibiotics, I must do this for the prescribed number of days, even if I feel better, to ensure the misalignment in the inner ear is fully corrected.

I’ve already noticed a change just since my visit, as if some of what he had me do put things back into alignment. Still, I’m following his instructions and doing the exercise for the next two weeks.

School: Difficulties and Progress

I saw my therapist today, and one of the things I discussed with her was the difficulty I’ve been having with kicking things with school into gear. Part of my difficulty has to do with anxiety. Some of it is from my bipolar getting in the way. The rest is just plain not knowing what the heck to do.

The major problem has been that last one, and it’s something that fuels the anxiety. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve sat down and considered what needs to be done and tried to work on it. So far, all I’ve done is decide on my course of study and get into contact with the Social Security Administration. Thus far, I’ve had little success.

I’m trying to find out from Social Security what, if anything, will happen to my income from them if I go to school. Though I looked everywhere I could on the SSA site, and entered every variation of words requesting this information on my various searches, SSA proved not to have this information available. I contacted them via their contact form, and they sent me an email telling me to call the SSA with the best times to do so.

I explained this to my therapist today, and also my difficulties with researching what I need to do to enroll at school on Salt Lake Community College’s website. See, I’ve been using a direct link that someone sent me to the site, so I haven’t been able to find the enrollment procedure. My therapist did a different thing: she Googled the site and the enrollment procedure came up on the search.

Also while I was with my therapist, I saw the Voc Rehab specialist on my psych team at the VA. She said that since it seems like I am eligible for the GI Bill, I could apply for that, but that I’d be doing everything on my own, whereas if I use the VA’s Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, I’ll have people pointing the way and to help. I applied for that on the spot, since I like the idea of having people help me navigate the enrollment process. Lucy, the Voc Rehab specialist, told me it’s good I’ve researched the course I want to take at SLCC, and that I should make it clear to the people I’ll see with Chapter 31 that I’ve done the research so they know I’m serious about this—it’ll look good to them and indicate my determination to develop a long career with the education I’m seeking. She also suggested that if I can’t find any information regarding my Social Security income on my own, to see if the Chapter 31 people can. Lucy gave me a contact number to call if the Chapter 31 people don’t get back to me in about two weeks.

Anne, my therapist, helped me come up with a To Do list, which should help. Yes, I needed help to come up with it. Trying to on my own was driving up my anxiety. She also taught me a breathing exercise to do when I’m feeling more anxious. I’ll be going back in two weeks to give her an update on what’s going on with the school stuff.

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