Jeremy

Age at interview: 26
Outline:

Jeremy suffered a concussion when involved in a car accident while on leave from the nearby military base. He began having trouble with his balance soon after. Throughout his struggles with his injury and reintegration Jeremy has maintained a positive attitude, turning to creative outlets like writing and playing guitar as coping mechanisms.

Background:

Military branch: Marine Corps

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Jeremy served in the Marine Corps for three years, including a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan in 2011. One Halloween evening while on leave from the nearby military base, Jeremy was involved in an accident when he veered off the road to avoid hitting a pedestrian who had stepped off the curb and rammed into a steel mailbox that came through the windshield. Although he cannot recall the accident, Jeremy says that the “concrete thing that was attached to the bottom of the [mailbox] pole ended up in my backseat. So, it like bounced off my head or something.”

Jeremy first noticed symptoms when he had trouble with his balance. “It wasn’t until daily life when I started kind of losing balance and stuff. I have amazing balance. I’m an athlete. So right away, just, just the slightest little bit of like, whoa. I can’t stand on one shoe when I get dressed, or one foot. I’m like, “That’s not normal. I can do that drunk.”

While struggling with symptoms he believed stemmed from the accident, Jeremy also struggled to get a diagnosis and service connection from the VA. After being discharged in 2013 as diagnosed as bipolar, he lived with a relative but did not always have a place to go and spent some time homeless while trying to get connected with services that would get him back on his feet and in school. Throughout his struggles with injury and reintegration Jeremy has maintained a positive attitude, turning to creative outlets like writing and playing guitar as coping mechanisms.

To others still on active duty, Jeremy suggests that you get your benefits and services set up before your discharge date. “Get as much done, so you have it where it’s already done, where you just have to walk home and it’s there. Because the Marine Corps or the military will make it happen within weeks, whereas civilian will take years to do. There’s a long difference. It’s a speedy process when you’re active duty still. So, take that opportunity even if you’re kicked out, they give you a well enough warning. Use that time for those free services that they have.”

 

 

Jeremy went to jail after his accident and didn’t get medical attention right away, but starting noticing issues when he was released.

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Jeremy went to jail after his accident and didn’t get medical attention right away, but starting noticing issues when he was released.

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Well, something was off, I didn’t, I mean, well, first of all, the whole thing – I mean, right away I knew something was off because when I tried to think about it, there was a thirty-minute time lapse in, from when that happened to like when I went to jail. But because I went to jail, there wasn’t no kind of paying attention to that. I was so focused on other things and all of a sudden I’m thrown in a cell with no clothes on. It wasn’t until – daily life when I started kind of losing balance and stuff. I have amazing balance, I’m an athlete. So right away, just, just the slightest little bit of like, whoa. I can’t stand on one shoe when I get dressed, or one foot. I’m like, “That’s not normal. I can do that drunk.” Like, and just like the other night, I just walked out of bed and ran right into the wall, stumbled into the wall because I completely lost my balance. It was dark. I was like, “Wow, that was, that was a major one.” That was random. Like, so – I mean, I don’t know if it’s getting worse or not.

 

Jeremy wasn’t screened for TBI when he was discharged and is still in the process of getting a formal diagnosis.

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Jeremy wasn’t screened for TBI when he was discharged and is still in the process of getting a formal diagnosis.

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I’m in the process of getting diagnosed. I didn’t even really, even think it was it because I, I went to jail so no one ever like, checked up on me. So, I never – I didn’t know I had a concussion or I didn’t know I blacked out for a half an hour. I don’t even know how I drove home.  So, all of a sudden all of those questions started popping up. And that’s kind of why I wanted to do this, because I’m kind of curious as much as the next person. But also because of not knowing I ended up getting into this system, the legal system of not being able to, to, like – say anything about it. Not being able to protect myself in a way. And because I was I was a “homeless Veteran” at the time – I mean, I still am, but I wasn’t even talking to the VA. I didn’t have any way to get myself out to find legal help.

[Now] it is my counselor that is going to – is pulling what needs to be pulled for that to happen. She thinks that my bipolar disorder is misdiagnosed with PTSD and a culmination of my TBI. And so, she thinks that’s also why the medications had absolutely no effect and everything. Not negative effects. And so, she is the one that is contacting who needs to be contacted to set that up since I, she’s like, “That’s really weird that you’ve never even had a screening for PTSD or anything.” I’m like, “Hmm, is it?” She’s like, ”yeah.” And, so she’s actually, she’s actually active duty, her service. So, she is more familiar with the military aspect of it as well and so she was very familiar with stuff that I missed out on during the process of when I was getting out. And so, I can’t give you any clear specifics, because she knows more than I do about it. But she, she’s – that’s why I said it’s in-process right now because I just seen her two, two to three weeks ago and that was our conversation.

 

Jeremy still struggles with nausea and balance, especially when he moves his head quickly.

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Jeremy still struggles with nausea and balance, especially when he moves his head quickly.

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When I get, yeah, nausea. And it goes along with the balance and stuff because how I explain it, or how you would – how I would share it would be, just like when you get the spins if you drink too much. It just all of a sudden, “Whoa.” And especially when, you know, if you ever get spins from when you get nauseated you usually fall into stuff. And that’s what I ended up doing. Like, that’s – those are the major side effects. It’s the random like, BAM. And like, “Whoa.” Or I’ll misjudge the side of a door or something and I’ll totally just hit the edge. Or, you know, I’ll just misjudge stuff that’s a very – it’s just a slight, minute difference that I would’ve never done it before. I mean I’m an expert rifleman. I mean, I have, I have over 20/20 eyesight still. But when it comes to movement, I lose all – I mean my eyesight, my test score drops way down. I almost – way, way down to the point where I couldn’t even pass the test and it showed up on the scores. But I have over 20/20 if my head doesn’t move. So it’s – my equilibrium is more damaged than initially thought because just from my perspective, that’s a big difference. And I was like, if, I mean, because I wasn’t like that. Because I can hit moving targets, I was in the Marine Corps. And now I wouldn’t be able to.

 

Jeremy describes having a grand mal seizure after going off one of his medications; now the only medication he uses is marijuana.

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Jeremy describes having a grand mal seizure after going off one of his medications; now the only medication he uses is marijuana.

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No, I’m not taking any medications at all. I mean, I recreationally use marijuana. I mean, and it helps way more because the medications they were giving me kept giving me seizures. Remember the seizure I was talking about? It was the medications I started, they didn’t know. They diagnosed me being bipolar. They kept giving me all these medications. Well, it wasn’t till I stopped taking them I stopped having seizures. Well one day, it was like, “Come again because I want to advise you that you should be taking them.” And I had a grand mal seizure, like big one, big one. And my girlfriend at that time had to put a pencil in my mouth so I would stop chewing my tongue and stuff so I could breathe. And I was chewing my tongue pretty good, it was gnawed off. So, I took myself up to the hospital and stuff and in the end the only thing they told me was, “Well whatever you do, just don’t stop taking your medication.”

So, the first second I just throw those things out the window. You know, smoke some weed. It has never happened again. I never had any of the side effects and anything that would – I mean, as you can see, I’m a fully functional person. So, I mean, I definitely know that maybe marijuana use substitutes for any kind of medical use. And so, I don’t need any of that. I mean, it’s there for me if I need it. Like, I’ve broken a few fingers and the emergency room’s been there. And that’s amazing. But I, I just stay away from artificial drugs ever since then because it almost killed me. I was smart enough to know that it almost killed me. Smart enough to know what I didn’t take before and I didn’t grow up having seizures. You know? I don’t need anti-seizure medication. I’m having seizures because the medication.

 

Jeremy advises others to set up as many services before being discharged from the military.

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Jeremy advises others to set up as many services before being discharged from the military.

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Seek – get as much done while you’re – before your discharge date as possible. Get as much done. So, you have it so where it’s already done where you just have to walk home and it’s there. Because the Marine Corps or the system or the Veteran or the military will make it happen within weeks, whereas civilian will take years to do. There’s a long difference. It’s a speedy process when you’re active duty still. So, take that opportunity even if you’re kicked out, they give you a well enough warning. Use that time for those free services that they have and that will make it to where – all you have to do is take that bus home and you will never experience what I’ve experienced.

When I did it in the military, I had a little folder with like three pieces of paper. I don’t even know what they are still. But they did this whole entire system for me. And I just sat and did one meeting. I talked to a few people. It was nothing compared to what I’ve had to do now. I’m bugging seven different entities sometimes and I never did that in the Marine Corps. Somebody handled it all for me. All you have to do is ask and it – there’s somebody dedicated to ask to do that when you ask. And it takes, literally, it takes a week or two and you got the stuff approved for. Once you’re out, you’re not “one of us” anymore, in a way. Like that’s how I felt. When I was out of the Marine Corps, you’re not a Marine anymore. You’re – “We have Marines to take care of.” So, while you’re in the military, take advantage of that to – because you’re not going to be that, you know, once you’re out. You’re second, in a way. In a way, priority-wise. And there’s a big difference.