IS THIS THINKING NORMAL

Is This Thinking Normal

Thinking back, I can’t remember a time when I felt what “normal” is supposed to feel like. But then again, What is normal? This tends to be a frequently asked question. Maybe its an individual’s experience that is their own sense of normality.

If this is the case, then how I feel inside, the heavy dread of anxiety lying to me with such frequency that I am forced to be on high alert for the next critical incident to manifest itself right in front of me – a disaster that in all probability will never materialize.
Even at its weakest, the angst of nothing still shouts at me in the distance, planting false statements in my head and convincing me that what I am hearing is the truth.

So, is this normal? What I have been going through all these years feels inescapable so it must be. Whatever it is, normal abnormal or otherwise, I long and I strive for at least entended periods of peace.

I used to mistake my anxiety and say I am a “worst-case scenario thinker.” I also held the belief that this made me a better firefighter, boy, was I taken for a ride. See, it can be difficult to differentiate the chatter that is mental illness from your authentic self; as a result, we end up assimilating the anxious talk into who we are. In other words, we believe it to be normal.

There’s no doubt that my years as a firefighter had benefited from my generalized anxiety disorder‘s thought patterns. The fire service has a way of creating a different mindset that is conditioned to see the potential for disaster and take steps to minimize that potential.

My worst-case scenario thought process coupled with this harm reduction approach that is ingrained in the minds of every firefighter, made my focus on the girls and guys of the department. I helped develop better accountability programs for equipment care. All in the name of safety.

Unfortunately, my inability to understand that my mental health condition was doing the majority of the talking, I ended up being completely lead by the powers of this anxiety, so much, so that I’m sure it guided me down the road of PTSD. It was at this juncture that I was so overwhelmed, so consumed with fear that I couldn’t even walk through the doors of the station. shortly thereafter, I walked away from one of my few true loves in life.

Are you in a similar boat? If so, ask yourself is this normal? Does it produce feelings of stress and angst on a near-constant basis, is it impacting my everyday living? Like me, maybe you’re being ruled by mental illness.



if you are suffering from PTSD or another mental illness, please reach out. I thank you for your service and you are still worthy and mean something. I believe in you!

If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada


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Emergency Service PTSD

It takes a different breed of person to be a volunteer firefighter. The time commitment in non-emergency operations alone is tremendous. in fact, Responding to calls makes up a very small percentage of one’s volunteer time.

Sadly, It is this small window of the hours logged that can have the most detrimental impact on a firefighter’s wellbeing. Of course, there are the obvious physical dangers in firefighting; running into a burning building is a serious business that’s for sure. Eventhough I was well aware of the potential physical danger, I was oblivious to the silent injury rarely discussed; the mental injuries I can emergency service PTSD.
This not so well known injury that some firefighters are impacted by is a debilitating injury known as  Post Traumatic-Stress disorder (PTSD) A tragic consequence of helping one’s community; unfortunately for some, It can end up being their ultimate sacrifice.
It’s quite understandable, we see things that no human should ever have to see. However, someone has to step forward and do it. All these brave souls can hope for is that they get to the end of their service relatively unscathed. for those not so lucky, It can be heartbreaking, mind-numbing and something that keeps one up at night.

I am by no means an expert on trauma and PTSD but I live it every day and my path to it was more than incident-specific. I believe that there may be room to include emergency service PTSD in a category that reflects the damage inflicted by or being witness to multiple critical incidents. Exposure over an extended period of time doesn’t seem to fit the criteria the DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistics Manual is looking for.


The American Psychiatric Association defines posttraumatic stress disorder(PTSD) as a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist attack, war/combat, rape or other personal violent assaults.


Because EMS workers tend to have prolonged and repetitive exposure, the notion that “a” single traumatic event is a must when diagnosing PTSD, may not do these brave souls justice. In fact, it may leave a portion of the traumatized undiagnosed because it may be hard to discern that one particular incident.

From my own experience, those accumulated scenes can play out in nightmares that are not incident-specific and are not recalled with any real regularity. Sometimes I awake feeling like I just relived a fire service memory in real life. I can’t recall the dream but I know the numbing angst of PTSD well.

Recently, I have learned that I am not the only firefighter who is haunted by their traumatic experiences in this way. Other firefighters have told me that they have similar experiences. Many describe their symptoms as accumulative and can not nail it down to just one event.

They also report creating emergencies in their heads as they navigate throughout their day. For example, speeders on the highway tend to piss us off. Many EMS workers hate to see people speed because they are well aware of the consequences of this behaviour. All they can think about is the potential situation the speeder is putting them in. “Jerk is going to kill someone and I’m going to be forced to help.”

I truly believe that emergency service PTSD could well be a subcategory of the original definition. We relive our most horrific incidents directly or indirectly ( the speeder scenario). We don’t suffer from “a” specific trauma, we dream and replay many incidents we tried to fix. These incidents impact us sometimes moment by moment as we pretend they don’t exist.

I want to take the time to thank everyone in the emergency service community who risk their mental health with every call to action. From firefighters, paramedics, police to dispatches, nurses and doctors….. Thank you!

if you are suffering from PTSD or another mental illness, please reach out. I thank you for your service and you are still worthy and mean something. I believe in you!

If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada
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After A Good Run

Today, I find myself sitting in the ER waiting room. Surprisingly, I’m the only one sitting here. It’s nice and quiet which comes as a relief to my nervous system but as you know, there are so many things that can be triggering for PTSD, the location being one of them.

I am waiting for a loved one to see a medical professional for an ailment. As I wait, I find myself wrestling with my mental health medical condition, PTSD. This hospital setting reminds me of my own work environment as they have many similarities, I work in long term care, helping those with mental illness and aggressive tendencies. My workplace has been a significant contributor to the erosion of my mental health. It’s loud, fast-paced and very overstimulating. Practically every aspect of my occupation is toxic to the post-traumatic brain. How PTSD and Trauma Affect Your Brain Functioning – Psychology Today
I slugged along in this mentally taxing environment for as long as I could but found that it wasn’t powerful enough to sustain the mental shield, the one I took to work every day. Essentially, I was being mentally assaulted every time I stepped foot in the building.
Eventually, the strength and endurance I once prided myself on had taken such a psychological beating that I had to surrender to survive. I am off work, employing everything I can think of to regroup, rebuild and regain my life back.
Sitting here in this ER, my mind is in overdrive, its side effects, are a numbing feeling that is fighting to disassociate, so I can cope with my surroundings. Moments come flooding back to mind that my workplace had imprinted on my memory; tragic moments of death and violence.
Ironically, as I sit there, writing this blog post, the speaker above my head erupts with a call for a code for a violent individual on the psych unit. This unit is very similar to the one  I work on. As you may have guessed, it’s exacerbating the PTSD symptom; now I am triggered, gone completely numb and have disassociated even more. Sorry, I no longer have the capacity to continue.

…….. Several days later..  Initially, when I found I was no longer able to continue writing this I thought I would conclude it right where I had left it but then I thought; “I need to add how I got through the mental health, almost crisis moment.” Perhaps my efforts to forgo a crisis may be of use to you.

I first off recognized that I was starting to get numb like local aesthetic that slowly starts to dull your physical pain. I was numbing to my surrounds in order to try to stay in the waiting room, this dissociation never works. At that moment, I had to ask myself “What Do I have to do in this very moment to help me get through it?” Recognizing and coping with PTSD (Verywell minded).

The following things helped me to get through it. I went outside to get some fresh air. – Doing this allowed me to, not only get fresh air but because I was outside I was able to take slow, deep breaths. As I did this I could feel my symptoms subside before I knew it I was able to return inside. This proved very helpful but because of the long wait, I found that it only acted as a temporary fix.

In the Valley where I live, I have mapped out many of the quiet cafes, libraries and other low stimulus atmospheres in the event I need to seek refuges from my anxiety and PTSD, or, more specifically, the causal factors that amplify my symptoms. Luckily, one of these low stimulus cafes was close by; good thing too as I needed to seek its shelter. I jumped in my car and headed there. After taking the time I needed, I found that I was able to get through it the day and avoided a crisis.

 So when you find yourself in the mental thick of it, perhaps the things I employ in those moments can help you too. Map out the low stimulus places, cafes, libraries and natural settings In your area so when you are faced with a triggering scenario you have options, thus a feeling of some control. I tend to think of them as mental illness shelters. Sometimes, the best thing you can have when you have a mental health condition is a plan.

If you are suffering from PTSD or another mental illness, please reach out. I thank you for your service and you are still worthy and mean something. I believe in you!


If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada
Contact me on my Facebook page: facebook.com/TRTMW