Here’s a nightmare scenario for anyone that truly understands how much a person with severe PTSD despises being out among people. Imagine the combination of living in the darkness of PTSD and having to go to the wrong side of the door (the one that leads outside), take along the sweetest human being alive, my son (who gets to live with severe ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome and psychotic hallucinations) and go to the local community college and try to weave my way through another needlessly complicated system all the while my son is sweetly asking, “What’s next, dad?”
How the hell should I know? Everyone you talk to says you have to talk to someone else first and there are meetings you have to schedule first with people who aren’t in their office today and paperwork that neither of us can fill out because we need some form or other from SSI or the VA or his high school and everyone smiles but no one can say exactly what steps you need to take except “It’s all on our website” which, of course, means we have to drive all the way home to get online to find out what would have taken them 30 seconds to explain. Then you look at their web site and it’s 100 pages of tiny print that still doesn’t explain where we need to go or what we need to do.
All this time there are all these PEOPLE everywhere, looking at me as I try to not be 6’6″ tall with a son my height or greater. All these people I have to talk to and try to make sense with and try to understand what they are telling me while they look down and point out directions with a nod of their head.
I finally find one person that actually looks me in the eye for two seconds and I tell her, “I have severe PTSD and my son has learning disabilities. Isn’t there anyone that can just take us where we need to go and help us with what we have to do?” She smiles and says, “No” and then turns to look at the next person in line and we have disappeared. I back away, seeing that goofy grin on my boy’s face and wishing I could find a closet somewhere that I could go into and lock the door and get my “sane” face back on but, of course, there isn’t. And I can’t. I’m Dad. I’m the guy that takes care of everything and makes the arrangements and organizes everything and never screws anything up cause I’m Dad.
We finally figure out one of the places he needs to go to get tested for math and English skills (high 80’s for English skills, sucks at math and algebra – what the HELL does algebra have to do with anything in real life?). We wander around until we find the financial aid office where the line is long and the folks behind the tables overworked and very stingy with information. Yes, he can get an enrollment waiver because he is on SSI, no they don’t know how to prove that he is on it, just go to the local Social Security office and they’ll tell us. So, okay, where do we go next then? “I don’t know. Next?”
My boy finally, with his huge smile, stops someone who says that we have to go to a 2 hour orientation class over in another building in 30 minutes and he is off and away with me limping along behind. We get there, happy to finally get someplace where we might gain a little info only to have one of the folks from inside come out, look at my boy and I standing there smiling, waiting for the next class to start.
“Did you reserve for the next class” she asks?
“Well, no.” I say. “We were just told to come over for the class”.
“Oh, sorry, no one in the next class that hasn’t reserved a place”.
“Oh”, I say, “Then when can we get into an orientation class?”
“You just come in at 8:30 or 10:30 tomorrow morning for open classes.”
“And we don’t need a reservation,” I ask?
“I don’t think so” she replies and off she goes to whatever important place she has to be now.
So, we went to the Social Security office and the nice lady gave us a letter that states that, yes, Zack is an SSI recipient and, thus, eligible for free tuition fees. I call the local county office of the CalVet office because I know he is eligible for benefits because of my VA disability and the lady listed about ten things we would have to do and information we would have to gather before even coming there. When I asked if the letter granting me 70% disability from the VA and the letter from the SSI would be enough she basically said “just gather the info I just told you and make an appointment and we’ll decide what benefits to provide.” Now I have to look at the web site and try to figure out what she wanted from there because her list was long and her voice very clipped and short.
So, here’s what I’ve learned today. I hate people. I hate people that make you feel like you’re an idiot if you don’t completely understand the damn system that was put together to make it work for the company or the school or the government department and screw the people who have to beg and plead for information as to what the hell even the next step is supposed to be. I hate the disinterest that people show with a smile and then look away. I hate that nobody cares when they’re faced with people that are lost even before they start the process and just get more confused when no one will stop for two minutes and explain the process and what is needed.
I just fucking hate people. How the hell do people without PTSD get through this crap? Why don’t people who treat others this way ever remember all the times they were treated like idiots and invisible little irritants? If I’m treated like this so often, I know they are too. Why can’t they try, just a little, to alter that mean, ignorant interaction?
People ask me why I think so often about just giving up. The longer I live, the harder that question is to answer.