Joseph

Age at interview: 31
Outline:

Joseph started noticing issues with memory loss while he was in Iraq on a 16-month deployment working as a combat medic. To help handle his symptoms which include trouble focusing, an inability to remember new things like names, frequent headaches, and anxiety stemming from PTSD, Joseph goes to therapy and uses resources from local Veteran organizations.

 

Background:

Military branch: Army

See full story

Joseph started noticing issues with memory loss while he was in Iraq on a 16-month deployment working as a combat medic. Others in his unit would talk about things that had happened on missions, just weeks before, and he would not be able to remember the instances they were talking about, even though he was there and “it’s the type of thing that I know I should remember.”

After struggling with brain issues like memory loss and headaches, a shoulder injury, and depression, Joseph left the Army when his four-year contract was up in 2009. He has since left the medical field noting that he “can’t really take the sight of blood anymore” and enrolled in college where he is finishing a degree in business. To help handle his symptoms which include trouble focusing, an inability to remember new things like names, frequent headaches, and anxiety stemming from PTSD, Joseph goes to therapy and uses resources from local Veteran organizations.

To other people struggling with similar issues he recommends investing in a smartphone and having it properly set up so it is useful and helpful. He also notes that although his condition can feel isolating at times there is help out there.  “One of the biggest things is the understanding of not being alone in it.”

 

Joseph feels like he is “damaged goods” and has had a hard time dating.

Joseph feels like he is “damaged goods” and has had a hard time dating.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I hate to, I hate to say, but basically dating. I am damaged goods, and not in the way that people want. If I was an asshole about all these things, it would be really easy for people. I could be pretty fun. And I got a quick out because of these problems. The fact that I’m a decent human being, you know, it’s. Yeah, I’m, I have given up on dating till I’ve got my next degree. That should increase – I know people aren’t logical, it isn’t how it’s going to work. But, you know, focus on getting my degree and then if there’s a, any girl, you know? Both sides of the brain working. Logic. I’ll have the degree, I’ll have the – at the same time, I don’t want someone who just wants for that, but that accomplishments that should counteract some of the bad.

I: Yeah. What is the “bad” that you feel like makes it hard to date?

I’m late a lot. I’m, I’ve gotten, I’m feeling a lot better about showing up for things for friends and stuff, but it’s still. I’m going to be remembering things till the last minute, then get to my car and I’ve forgotten stuff and have to go back inside once or twice.

 

Joseph suspects that he would have had an easier time with relationships if he didn’t have a TBI.

Joseph suspects that he would have had an easier time with relationships if he didn’t have a TBI.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I think it would be a lot better. I mean it’s…

I: What would be different?

I suspect I would actually have healthy relationships. Well I beat myself on the ground, telling myself that I’m ugly rather than other things. I’m aware that I’m a good-looking guy. I’m aware I’ve got a lot going for me. I’m aware that I’m like a great catch, and yet even getting a second date is a rarity. I – oh, my gosh. I guess I derive a lot of happiness from that aspect of my life more, a lot of happiness in the opposite thereof. But it’s one thing. I think – 31, I probably would have started a family by now. It’s, it’s not the end of the world that I don’t have these things. I’m, I, I accept that I won’t have these things. I’ve – [accepted that] part of life, not everyone is a beautiful, unique snowflake and that’s, and that’s why not everyone gets – what we almost assume is expected from life.

 

Because of the classes he has taken, Joseph feels like he is better about handling his anxiety.

Because of the classes he has taken, Joseph feels like he is better about handling his anxiety.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Not the like the problems, but just like – okay, I’ve got PTSD. But thanks to those classes and the stuff I’ve taken, I’m better at handling most anxiety than other people. I can hit the overload thing. I had an anxiety attack the other day, but it’s - day-to-day I’m a more laid-back person because I have to be. It’s accept the blows and roll with them, or scream at the sky pointlessly and pull my hair out. It’s not – I like my hair, I’ve grown, I’ve put some effort into growing it out.

 

Joseph talks about how his memory issues make it difficult to manage his medications.

Joseph talks about how his memory issues make it difficult to manage his medications.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Medications are a bit of a problem when you’ve got memory disorders. Not just on taking them daily - that, you get in the habit. But then getting the refills before you run out, and then making it to the primary care in the middle of nowhere West, West Lynn. To get the refill put into the system, it’s – and PTSD meds, depression meds, it’s – the, the withdrawal symptoms are bad. It got to the point where I basically had to simply quit because I couldn’t take going through another bit of withdrawal from them. It wasn’t like the addictive stuff, but it was like - it was basically the variable range of how bad everything was. I would rather be like, you know, like this, you know, up and down. You know, imagine you’re like this when they’re in your system reliably, you know? Without, without them completely clean of your system, you’re, you’re varied in this area. The withdrawals, like you’re out to here, up and down, start, get them fresh in your system again, it’s…

 

Joseph advises other Veterans to use their phone to help with memory and to remember that there are other Veterans out there.

Joseph advises other Veterans to use their phone to help with memory and to remember that there are other Veterans out there.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

A lot of advice about their phone. You know, how to set it up properly. If, if you haven’t already invested in a damn smartphone, you can get a plan for thirty-five a month, you know? But one of the big things is the understanding of not being alone in it. There are other Veterans out there. I mean even volunteering for a group like Team Rubicon, you know? Just seeing other people who have been through some of this stuff and can, even though they don’t have the same experience, they can relate to some of it.

 

To cope with his disability, Joseph tries to make everything possible into a routine.

To cope with his disability, Joseph tries to make everything possible into a routine.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I’ve had to try to just make everything possible into a complete routine. If I don’t turn it into a proper routine, it – I will forget to do it.

I: Yeah. So what kind of routines do you have?

Well, put something in my mouth for breakfast, because for a while there I, you know. You know, I had – sometimes I ate breakfast and it’s like, “OK, it’s dinnertime. Have I eaten yet today?” And that ends up, that ended up equaling binge eating. It wasn’t, it’s not good to play with your diet. Just making sure you start the day with something going into your stomach, rather than, well. It’s one of them – with my friends I’m hanging out with I try to keep a fairly consistent schedule for what days I’m going to see them. I oddly – to help cope with my depression, I’ve oddly used kind of a, a routine and anti-routine. When the depression does get bad, as it occasionally does, I basically try to pick a day in the future that I’ll give into it. Not saying that everything is going to be better by then, but hopefully I’ll kind of forget that day or just not feel it so much.