A Critical Incident: Yours?

Anyone – just emergency-service workers – can face a critical incident or more.

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You know what just occurred to me? Men hide from every ounce of mental pain they endure. Okay, that’s not really all that surprising. After all, this is a fact that many of us, including myself, are well aware of.

While this may be true, I’d like to delve into this notion a little more. For one reason or another, our society has associated emotional suppression in men as a sign of strength. During my morning coffee, I came to the conclusion that pushing things out of the way can be both right and wrong. Essentially, I think there’s a “yes” and “no” answer.

When I was a firefighter, it was essential to push your emotional response to a critical incident out of the way. If not, how would we make order out of chaos? Being locked into a tragic scene, is no time to explore how you are feeling about what lies before you.

With that said, some of us are overcome by the carnage and the incredible amount of stress placed on our fight, flight, or fight mode. This is a natural biological phenomenon; for those impacted, they go into the ultimate survival mode. Nothing to be ashamed of, we are after all only human. The reality is, some of us can give no more and it becomes about self-preservation.

Critical Incident.
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Like what you are reading? Try, Carbon Monoxide And PTSD.

Therefore, emotional avoidance is a necessary, but should only be seen as a temporary, coping tool. Thank the gods for the adrenaline rush. This hormone overrides our emotions by putting us in autopilot mode. Very, very useful.

Beyond the incident, what happens? Do we need to keep pushing it down like we are smashing leaves with our foot into a garbage bag, packing it in tighter and tighter? From my experience, the answer to this question is no. We are a vessel and as such, we can only hold so much. Remember, mental illnesses are nervous system disorders. This means our psychological well-being has its roots in our biology.

The dangers of suppressing your emotions.

Looking at avoidance post-incident, though – how helpful is this? Moreover, if we ignore the accumulative pain that is fighting for supremacy within us, will we win? Maybe. Truthfully, many lose.

The Road To Mental Wellness is made possible in part by readers like you… thank you for your support.

Perhaps the most important question here is: why do we men move mental mountains to avoid the pain boiling below the surface? I believe the answer is fear, right? Well, if that’s the case, we don’t normally associate running from things as strong; rather, I feel like being strong means we have the strength to deal with whatever lies in front of us. This includes confronting our inner demons.

I’m by no means suggesting that people who avoid their feelings are cowards, far from it; been in their shoes, my friends. But pretending I was invincible was exhausting and may have almost got me in the end. If I didn’t man up and face reality, I was going to be my own critical incident. I am calling my fight to save myself, firefighter self-rescue.

Saving yourself from your own critical incident.

What I am saying is this: it takes a strong person to overcome their fear and admit “I have had enough” or to reach out and say, I need help.” For me personally, it took an incredible amount of psychological effort to admit that I needed help, evermore difficult to reach out. I fail to see the weakness.

Sadly, I was being “brave” for far too long. It wasn’t until the thoughts of ending my life were so dominating that I admitted I was running, that I was scared.

You’ve spent your whole life holding it in, letting it fester. It’s time, my friends. For my colleagues in the emergency services – men, women, and other identities – it’s time for you to save yourself; you’ve earned it. After risking your own health, mental health included, to save others, your own crisis is the next critical incident that needs you to respond.

Check out the book I helped to write:

Lemonade Stand: Vol. III 

Created by Josh Rivedal and Kathleen Myre, Lemonade Stand: Vol. III is a compilation of 20 stories from those who have served in the emergency services and the military.  In it, the authors talk about their battles with PTSD, a debilitating and for many, a life-long mental illness.  So, if you are from the military or emergency services, perhaps this book can help you combat the feelings of isolation and fear that frequently come with post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes, just knowing that there are others out there, just like you, can provide you with the strength and courage to speak up and/or get the help you need. The intention of this book is to help with that…. You’re not alone.

Also, Lemonade Stand: Vol III was written to help combat the stigma that often accompanies mental illness – and best of all, it attempts to give all who served their countries and communities a voice… Which is amazing!

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If you are struggling, please go here for help: Crisis Services Canada


Checkout our Mental Health Resources Page

Contact me on my Facebook page: The Road To Mental Wellness

Categories: Fire Service, Firefighter, Mental Health, PTSD

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