Mental Health Care – Who Needs It? – Part 2 of 3
The Fourth House
By – Sheri de Grom
Tom had thrown me a curve ball by telling me I needed therapy before he came home from the hospital. You may read that blog here.
What the hell, I thought, I’m not the broken one. More importantly, my schedule didn’t allow for one more commitment. And then there was my work.
How could Tom have forgotten that I could lose my top-level security clearance if the wrong information was relayed to authorities and they misinterpreted what they read or heard? I had to keep my job. We needed my salary to live on, plus our heath insurance was through the federal government.
Nor was I open to the idea of talking to a stranger about personal issues. I’d heard friends talk about going to therapy but had never considered it to be something for me. Was Tom suggesting I had a major ‘character flaw?’
Sure I had my quirks. Like my reluctance to strap a seat belt across my body. And there was my inability to enter small narrow places (many such shops in Carmel, California), where I couldn’t see a second way out. But did Tom really see these as problems? I didn’t.
I’d given Tom the right to believe I should be able to swim but for me, water was good for two things: drinking and showering.
The stigma of seeking mental health treatment on a military installation covered a broad path. One thing was constant; you were a marked person and something was wrong with you. How could you be trusted under stressful conditions? Would you still respond in crisis as quickly? Would you know when to shoot and when not to shoot?
Item twenty-one on the security clearance questionnaire caused me many nights of lost sleep. I knew I’d have to update my records but what would I say? Did I actually have to tell the truth?
In the 80’s, security clearances were not rubber stamped as they are today. It was a rigorous process. Today’s government has contractors obtaining security clearances processed by an outside source. Today’s evening news reports the ramifications. We’ve all been exposed to the daily reporting surrounding Edward Snowden and Army PFC Bradley Manning.
The beginning questions for top-level security clearance within question twenty-one were unchanged since the last time I’d updated my record. These were:  Do you have grief, marital or family concerns,  Adjustments from service in a combat zone, and  Have been a victim of a sexual assault.
I could ‘almost’ say no to all three questions. However, if I had to answer yes when updating my security clearance record—for any other counseling or psychological health concern taking place in the past seven years—along with additional information related to care or treatment received, I had to give a detailed descriptive.
The rules have changed a great deal since I encountered the hard and fast rules of the 1980’s. Within today’s security clearance world, it’s considered a weakness if an individual doesn’t seek help and resolve whatever their situation might be. This is the theory handed from the top down through the command. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth and the ultimate price paid is an increase in the number of suicides in the active duty ranks.
The standard joke in 1980 went something like this: “How do you make a soldier run away screaming?”
The answer: “Suggest therapy.”
I wasn’t a soldier but I was a Department of Defense civilian and we were held to the same standards as service members we equaled in rank.
I’d never thought therapy might actually improve the quality of my life or that it was a problem-solving exercise.
Because I’ve always carried private health-care insurance, I was not dependent upon the counseling services provided by the military. Neither would I seek help through Tricare—another benefit I was entitled to utilize. I knew I would be looking for someone outside of the military environment if I sought therapy per Tom’s request.
I knew of other agents that were also paying for therapists out-of-pocket to avoid reports being passed around on the military base and farther. Counseling or therapy appointments were privileged information, but that didn’t keep the information safe from prying eyes.
My journey into therapy would be on a cash and carry basis. I demanded a signed affidavit that nothing would be recorded and no notes taken. I made it clear that I wouldn’t hesitate to sue for breach of contract if information of any type left my sessions.
Please join me next week as I take you along my initial journey into therapy and why I now believe that at sometime in everyone’s life, they too need to see a therapist.
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