Battling a mental-health condition is hell, there’s no denying that, but at least my PTSD is earned with distinction


The wider world around us is rich with the potential for danger and destruction. Therefore, like an animal in the wild, I am on constant high-alert. Although my fire-service years are far behind me now, they are far from a distant memory. On the contary, my emergency-service mindset is as sharp as it was the day, I turned in my bunker gear. Now, I have PTSD, but at least my PTSD earned with distinction
Our mentally-ill minds, like firefighters, are wired to think of every possible disaster and how to mitigate them. My anxiety disorder was a bonus skill in the fire service because, by its very nature, it created a worst-case scenario thinker out of me. I thought of every angle, all the things that could go wrong, and ways to minimize them. 
However, when my generalized anxiety disorder collided with post-traumatic stress, its superpowers became toxic. It slowly turning the fire service against my mental health. More than that, chipping away at my compassion and my desire to help and make a real difference. 
Because my anxiety never shuts off, and PTSD is oftentimes the driver of the rig, I can see now why I was destined to become a casualty of the EMS war – one too many battles both on the interior and on the fire ground/accident scene.

The Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Now, years later, I am petrified that I will be sucked into someone else’s emergency. I am scared because I know in my heart that I would not be able to cope with it. This fact saddens me because at my core I am a firefighter; I guess being disabled is something I have yet to grow accustomed to. I am learning that there is no shame in what I cannot control. What I need to learn next is to somehow dull the fight, flight, freeze and emergency mindset.
With all that said, I gave the service my all and was determined to do everything I could to do my part to ease the pain and suffering from all those in need of help. I am also a believer in leaving something better than when you found it. It was this mantra that drove me, when I wanted to make positive changes around the station. One thing I was big on was safety, and I worked hard to build accountability systems that would keep my brothers and sisters safer.
So, do I regret my years in the fire service? I would have to say that, even though I am on this hellish roller-coaster ride, I am proud of my years of service – of my service to both my community and my department. For they too have been well-earned.
As far as I am concerned, my PTSD was earned with distinction. In other words, I sacrificed my own well-being to help others. I mean, at the end of the day, that has to mean something, right?

Great books on PTSD


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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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