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Am I to blame?

The years in the fire service have bounded away at my mental health, leaving me with PTSD - Am I to blame? or was I simply susceptible?

The years in the fire service have pounded away at my mental health, leaving me with PTSD. Am I to blame?

In those times when light never seems to emerge over the horizon, I feel trapped by the darkness. Sometimes, depression seems blacker than black. I might as well be standing in the abyss is a not-uncommon thought for me. Additionally, having PTSD as my only companion in life is the equivalent to a toxic relationship. You, my friend, have destroyed so much.

You’re like that narcissistic friend who gets a thrill out of causing misery.

Only difference is, I wasn’t fooled by the typical narcissistic charm, Rather, you manhandled your way into my mind, my heart, and my soul. With every death and violent experience, you intruded on my dreams, future plans and my very being. Damn you!

However, I’m still to blame. You see, I never dealt with any of the copious amounts of critical incidents – only one or two, and they were Band-Aids at best. All they did was come off during the sweating produced by the nightmares that plagued me. They still do. I know, I know, I signed up for it, to be a firefighter. In reality, I signed up to make a difference. My susceptibility to PTSD wasn’t my fault.

But I ask myself “Am I really to blame?” Or is there a long-standing pain that weakened my mental health’s immunity and allowed this injury (PTSD) to infect every aspect of my life?

new book cover -A reason to get out of

Man, I’m tired. If you’re one of those who’ve read my new book, The Road To Mental Wellness, then you know how long and exhausting the battle with mental illness can be. Furthermore, you can see how arduous work can pull you towards the light of the living; doing what one must do to get to a better place is definitely worth every second of the challenge.

Looking for help? Try our MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES PAGE

But…. It’s not a cure, as I once thought it was. This amounted to a near-fatal flaw. And when trauma finally broke free from its cage, it knocked me on my ass. As I would learn, a mentally-robust mind needs constant upkeep.

As a result, I can’t help but feel like hindsight would be a better tool if it weren’t geared to reflection. That said, it is what it is and all I can do now is get back to “the plan.” What is this plan? Well, it comprises the essentials:

  • Therapy
  • Clean diet
  • Exercise
  • Social connection
  • Gratitude

So, you may have guessed by now that I have been slipping as of late. Wrapped in isolation and fuelled by recent events, I can barely write, sell books, or even go to the grocery store. Thankfully, I’m no stranger to depressive episodes and post-traumatic pain. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

I now know that the darkness they produce never lasts forever – I’m thankful!

Photo by Brett Sayles on – but am to blame?

So, what else have I learned? Well, maybe just as importantly as the learning of the health benefits as they relate to mental health, I realize that gratitude is still possible. In otherwards, a moment of irritation with a loved one, for example, is not necessarily an indicator that one is ungrateful. More likely they are struggling to navigate through the world.

I have sooo much support and love that I am grateful. I am, however, I do apologize for the moments that have caused you pain.

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My best advice, Regardless of how much mental pain you endure? There will always be a lull in the storms. And you know something? It’s in these moments of reprieve that we can maximize our joy, soak in time with those we love, and going down the road to mental wellness, we can use them to weather the biggest interior struggles. I will be wishing you better times ahead….

Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental-health blogger, writer, Wellness coach and published author – appearing in the i’Mpossible’s Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental Health Talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental-health advocacy organization Sick Not Weak.

Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental-wellness journey while helping others along the way.

Educated as an addictions counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years to working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.

He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.

His book The Road To Mental Wellness goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one’s life – right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.
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