Thursday, June 19, 2014

First Public Steps

Greetings Readers,

So, last night was the event that I mentioned in the previous blog. I dug out my Invisible War dog tag, and my MST teal ribbon from the Vet Center's showing of the Invisible War. Girded for battle so to speak.  My dear friends and 'service' people J and D accompanied me.  J drove, which I greatly appreciate as I knew the evening would be emotional for me and I had had a cookie before we left.  

I was fine until walking into the venue, and then a sudden anxiety attack took hold. The reason I used the medication I do, and the reasons I even need it came up and were almost overwelming.  I used the restroom and then came out into the hallway trying to calm myself.  As I looked at faces I mostly didn't know who had come to this place to be part of a panel, I came across this one of Nelson Mandela.  My heart skipped a beat when I realized I stood in a place this Great Peacemaker had stood.  I closed my eyes and asked his spirit to be with me, and help calm me. At the same time, I had sent a txt message to K, telling him I was having a bit of a anxiety attack and he was sending me Reiki.   I managed to get my breath and calm down enough to sit.

And then we sat down and the panel arrived and seated themselves.

It was very emotional for me, and I found myself weeping though much of the discussion.

The participants were, from left to right- 
Brian D. Sweany, a senior executive editor at Texas Monthly.  Next to him is William Martin, Director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University's Baker Institute, and the kind man who interviewed me and wrote the piece.  On his right is Texas State Senator Joan Huffman, R-Houston District 17, On her right is Dr. Neeraj Shah, Physician at a medical center in Hays County.  He worked for the VA for a long while and got a lot of experience with veterans with PTSD. On his left is Maj.(Ret) David Bass, Director of Veterans Outreach, Texas Normal and the person who asked if I would be willing to do the interview with Dr. Martin as he felt that PTSD from MST needed to be included.  I was and am very very grateful to him for his kindness and friendship.  It means a lot.

It was an excellent and informative panel.  Unfortunately, the turnout was pretty small. Maybe 30 people.  The most vocal were behind us, Republicans against Marijuana Prohibition.  While I have been a non-partisan voter since 1986, I am all in favor of changing the laws and it was encouraging to see their passion for their stance.  

One of the hardest parts was then Dr. Shah did a short slide show presentation of PTSD and its effects and I know I wept harder and squeezed D's hand tightly, feeling all of those symptoms rising over my head and choking me.  But... I had had my little cookie before I went (and K suggested I have another to keep me calmer, but I passed on that) so I was feeling at least present.  Which when you tend to dis-associate during stressful times is a good thing.  Early on in the panel, Dr. Martin's eyes found me, and he could see my distress, and his sympathetic smile meant a lot to me.  Major Dave's testimony was also very powerful, and I agreed so much with him in that we just want the medicine that helps us live.  It IS an exit drug from alcohol, opiates for pain and psychological drugs that are more dangerous then helpful.  We don't want to be be criminals, we want to be able to have access to the best cannabis strains for our conditions. We want to do what must be done to accomplish it.  The Senator seemed to be pretty much against the idea of most medical cannabis.  She used my home state of California as an example of the system gone wrong.  But in CA, it is a county by county and city by city issue.  So in some areas, there are zero dispensaries.  In others, they are like Starbucks, or bars.  Even wrong, its better then dealers on the street and the cartels running it all.  She said several times that she didn't see medical cannabis happening anytime soon in Texas.  Which makes me just want to fire her ass.  But.. on the other hand... perhaps I can reach her.  She did allow as that she did think that veterans should be able to have access to medicine that really helps them, and that if legislation was drafted that was very narrowly defined just for veterans with PTSD, then perhaps she might even consider supporting that.  She said there was not enough research, but both Dr. Martin and Dr. Shah were able to dispute that listing many research reports from different places in the US and the world. They both spoke about Israel in particular and how it was already using cannabis to treat their soldiers with  cannabis.

The question and answer part came up at the end, and I really, really wanted to stand and say something... but instead, I sat clutching my Invisible War dog tag that I had worn.  I decided then, that I would simply talk to the people on the panel I wanted to thank, and introduce myself too.   One of the most poignant moments came when an elderly lady stood up and asked the panel if they knew WHY cannabis was made illegal.  She really did cry as she spoke about Harry Anslinger and his corrupt and racist testimony in 90 min session after which it was made illegal, most of the Senators having no idea what they were voting on other then 'some evil drug'. The AMA had a witness there to plead with them not to take cannabis from their medical tool kit.  
The Senator was peppered with questions about her stance, and I respected her as she kept her cool, even as I vehemently disagreed with her stance.  She did seem well acquainted with the folks behind us from where the questioner had come from.  There was also a question from a dispensary operator from New Mexico who rebutted the Senators statement that Texas wouldn't want to be growing and selling cannabis, and that Texas didn't want it like California. The dispensary owner countered with "Texas always leads the way, I find it interesting that in this case, Texas is willing to be New Mexico's little sister in this. I'd think Texas would want to lead the way, bigger and better."  I think the Senator was beside herself with this but held her tongue, but not her face.  She should not play poker. It was obvious she was quite against it.  I found this article about her online.  Things that make you go ohhhhnooooMr.Bill...........

After the panel ended, I was able to meet, hug and thank Dr. Martin.  I also thanked Mr. Sweany for doing the article and he thanked me for my bravery in doing the article myself.  He also apologized for not being able to include all of my story in the article, and I did understand that.  He did say that they were still discussing a article on MST in the future. I'll send him a thank you card and suggest they do that.

The hardest part, was stopping the Senator.. she wanted to hurry off.  She'd taken quite a bit of flack in the Q&A parts of folks upset at her anti-cannabis stand.  I asked if she had read the magazine article, and she allowed as she had, and I said "I am Myst."  She stopped then, took my hand in hers, looked sincere and thanked me for my service and said how sorry she was for what I had gone though.  I cried as I told her that the VA had sent me here for treatment for my sexual assault, and yet, my VA and Vet Center docs had been concerned about my not having safe, legal access to cannabis as they both felt it was the best medication for my PTSD.  I begged her to keep an open mind about it, and she seemed to think she might.  Whew... that was.. so huge for me.  I actually did it though.. I talked to my first anti-cannabis politician face to face and held it enough together to get my message across.  

Next, with dear D and J standing a few comforting feet behind me I finally got to meet Dave.  I simply said "I'm Myst' and he opened his arms and hugged me tight.  I wept more.  He said how wonderful it was to meet me, and how many folks had written and told him how powerful my part of the story was.  He thanked me for coming.  I pointed to D behind me and told Dave that she had already agreed to go to Austin with me next year.  Dave made it all real for me by saying that we would be testifying in front of Senator Huffman next year.  Well.. so I have met her already and she knows who I am.  Dave spoke again about our testimony next year at the state capitol, and I felt shivers as I realized that this is all real, and next year, I will be stepping forward and putting a name to my face and meeting the people that change the laws.  I will need to find a place to stay in Austin that has a good deal and that I am comfortable with.  I plan to be there a lot next year.  

But first... this year is also the fulfilling of goals, in particular my travels to Europe for 10 whole weeks!  From Amsterdam, to Germany, to Scotland  to England, back to Germany, to Spain, and then to Austria to visit my beloved Hillu before returning to Amsterdam for our flights home. My dear friend C is going with me, and my dear friends from Germany are meeting us in  Amsterdam and driving us up to Scotland and back.  It will be quite the adventure I am sure!  

So.. this event was a biggie, and now, its past and I firmly face the future, knowing that next year will be fascinating in quite a different way.

Oh... and... just to throw something fun into the mix... two weeks ago my beloved K formally asked me to marry him... and I accepted.  Weeee!  I don't expect the wedding for at least a year or more, so it won't be for a bit still, but there it is.  

Happy trails,

Over and Out,

Edited and added... the ring!