December 2, 2004
Contrary to the stereotype, most mentally ill vets are gentle people. Fragile, even. During the years I’ve attended the Day Treatment Center, I have not seen a violent outburst once. Sure, sometimes people raise their voices, but the occupational therapists, Cathy and Susan, know how to defuse the situation.
So this is where I spend my Thursday mornings lately. You see, when I was in officer training in the Air Force, preparing to become a pilot, I suffered a severe episode of bipolar illness. I’ve been functional nearly all my adult life, though I return to the Day Treatment Center when I am out of work, like now. The center used to be open five mornings a week, instead of one, and once occupied a whole building, but now it is downsized to a relatively small room, just large enough to hold a pool table, a card table, two couches, and a desk. We’ve written to Senator Nelson, who contacted the VA administrator for us about a year ago. The administrator fed the senator a line about expanding programs and hiring new staff, but the staff at the Orlando VA hasn’t heard anything about these improvements, and as far as they’re concerned, nothing is going to change.