A message for all my fire service colleagues and you too. IF you’ve ignored the signs of mental illness., it could spell trouble down the road.
In my last post, I came alive at thirty-five, I wrote about my life-long struggles. To be more specific, for most of my life I ignored the signs of mental illness.
A real hero is one who is brave enough to also save themselves.Jonathan Arenburg.
What I learned from this was that the ancient practice of “manning up” is a mythical concept. While it may not actually be a thing, I can’t help but wonder just how much damage it has done.
Unfortunately for me, I would learn this lesson in a retrospective way. In other words, it wasn’t until the mental dam holding it back burst, sending me off work. This began my journey down the road to mental wellness.
At the time, I thought it would all work out in the end.
On the plus side, I would not stay home and waste away because I still had the fire department. As it would turn out, the department would be a double-edged sword. Why? Well, that’s a great question; the simple answer is that it sealed my traumatic fate.
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Don’t get me wrong, for those times I was off work it helped immensely. It did so by providing me with structure and fuelling my sense of purpose. A wonderful thing as it kept me from going deeper within the recesses of my mind. This, I will always be grateful for.
Emergency service trauma slowly builds up, until BAM!
While this may be true, what’s equally true, sadly, is this: during my years in the fire service, I began to feel the slow yet steady poison of post-traumatic stress disorder, making a case that it developed because I ignored the signs of mental illness. Right from the start, I ignored the signs of mental illness.
This increasingly numbing feeling accompanied me on every call, making me a bit more ill every time. It was bad and I foolishly believed that denial was or would eventually be the cure – although I know now that manning up is equivalent to trying to cure heart disease with bacon. However, at the time, I thought it would all work out in the end. If I had to be honest, the thought of showing “weakness” around the guys was my real motivator to keep pushing through.
Yup, thinking back on it, it seems kinda stupid to have subjected myself to situations that were causing me mental injuries. Equally dumb was holding it down even though I knew it was bad for me. I think so; too bad I came to this conclusion afterwards.
“I’ll be okay” may be true or it may be precursors to mental injury.
Perhaps the best analogy I have come up with is this; PTSD is like carbon monoxide; it’s odorless, tasteless and cannot otherwise be detected. It does its damage by slowly building up in the body. Similarly, the symptoms of emergency-service trauma slowly build up until BAM!Tweet
Picture this: one day you find yourself inexplicably yelling at your boss and co-workers or you end up on a scene feeling so numb and disconnected it feels like you’re walking through molasses.
Sound familiar? If so, maybe it’s time that you take a look at your situation. Man up and look after you? Take it from me, you do NOT want this getting out of hand. The key is early intervention, my friends. Because I ignored the signs of mental illness, I was slowly poisoned with my fear of being less than a man and as a consequence, I fell victim to the power of PTSD.
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So, please, if you feel this maybe get help. Pride and denial will never act as cures. Nor will the statement “I’ll be ok.ay” While for some this may be true, for others it may be precursors to a mental crisis.
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