Mental Health

Love and loathing

The fire service and I suspect it's true of all emergency services, it's both really easy to both love and loath, all at the same time.

The emergency services; it really is something to both love and loathe.

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I would be lying if I said that waking up every day with PTSD wasn’t a monumental challenge. It also would be accurate to say that, at some moments, I loathe the choices I’ve made. Sometimes, I feel like I walked down the wrong road when I signed the dotted line and joined the fire service.

While it’s true, there are times when my blood boils with regret for doing so, I know deep down in my heart of hearts that I was part of something great. I don’t hate that bit. But still, it’s slowly morphed itself over the years into the very definition of a love-hate scenario.

With that said, my thoughts branch off to other sub-categories. For instance, I often think about the old saying: “one person can’t make a difference.” I disagree. For it depends on the scale in which you are talking.

For example, if you are a firefighter in any small community, one’s efforts can and often do have a monumental impact. All it takes is the will, the determination and the love to want to help. I have met countless people in the service who have all of these qualities.

How to make a difference in your community

I had recently met a fire chief who ran a station in a small community and does so on a very small budget. Yet, despite this, he is pouring his heart and soul into the building, into the equipment and its members. He was and is working his guts out to better his community.

Sadly however, the wider community, regardless of its location, cannot fully grasp the enormous sacrifices that are made by both paid and volunteer personnel on their behalf. It is for this reason, I think anyone in the emergency services are nothing short of amazing….. I thank you so much.

This is the element of the service that I was and am still proud of. Those individuals who sacrifice their family time, their work time, hobbies and in tons of cases, their own health. Whether you were paid or not, there are real risks associated with running into an inferno or extricating someone from a vehicle on a dark, rain-soaked highway. While we are lucky that there are people who give their all, those working themselves to exhaustion on countless occasions…? It does real damage.

Read: Carbon Monoxide And PTSD.

Specifically, I feel like exhaustion plays a significant role in first responders’ mental health. And as if that weren’t enough, the constant barrage of unspeakable and unique tragedies accumulate, making the two combined a recipe for disaster.

How to remain healthy while being a first responder

So, it’s not too hard to fathom why I both love and loathe the service. I know first-hand how truly amazing the contribution of a few people is. A few in a community of many. They really do make a difference. But like in all things, there is a price to pay for some. The cost? PTSD. I wish with every fibre of my being that the images burned into my soul could be obliterated, but they can’t. However, setting my heart and mind free will always be the goal I put in front of me.

I don’t have to like my symptoms and the unique scenarios they present. In fact, I can even hate them. What I can’t do is reject my efforts, my passion and love for the fire service. I did my part, and I am proud of my sacrifice and contribution.

Thankfully, despite this constant tug-of-war going on inside me, the love, the gratitude, and the honour to have served my communit, always outweigh the darker aspects of the service.

Love and loath
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com – Love and loath

Finally, I see PTSD as a devastating force in my life – but thankfully, I also see it as something I’ve earned with distinction. I may have forever altered my health but when I look back, I know it made a difference.

Truly, someone has to do it. And those of us who suffer a mental health injury and succumb to it as a result, deserve so much more than fading into casual conversation around the station and never to be engaged with again.

Listen to others talk about their mental health journey at A New Dawn.

I know for many of my colleagues this can be difficult, but all I will say is this: being forgotten by those you risked your life with, spent countless hours training beside and helping both in and out of the station…when they stop talking to you, their wounded colleague, it only serves to further devour who you define yourself as. For us, it feels like a building fully-engulfed in flames; it’s not only isolating but it’s an utter and total loss.

Please hang in there! We, the mentally injured, have our own community. If you’re in Nova Scotia, or planning to come here – and have PTSD from being in any branch of service, please check out these amazing peer-support facilities below.

Please know that there is an entire community of those with mental health injuries from all branches of services who are here and will be here for you to help re-define your purpose, try to minimize your isolation and do what they can, so that you feel supported and part of something bigger than yourself. Please…. Reach out.

Check out the book I helped to write:

Lemonade Stand: Vol. III 

20 authors from the military and emergency services tell their story of PTSD.

Order today

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

OR

Checkout our Mental Health Resources Page

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

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