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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You may also enjoy: Slowly Walking My Way To Mental Wellness.

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Emergency service PTSD

Emergency Service PTSD

Emergency service PTSD isn’t always incident specific.

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. Even though I was well aware of the potential physical danger; I was oblivious to the silent injury rarely discussed; the mental injuries I call emergency service PTSD.

So, what is this not so well known injury? Well, whether acknowledged or not, some firefighters are impacted by 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. After all, we see things that no human should ever have to see. With that said, someone has to step forward, right?. All these brave souls can hope for is that they get to the end of their years of service relatively unscathed. for those who are not so lucky, It can be heartbreaking, mind-numbing and something that keeps one up at night.

Great podcast recommendation: Bunker Gear For The Brain

NEED HELP? DON’T KNOW WHERE TO TURN? CHECK OUT OUR MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES PAGE

I am by no means an expert on trauma and PTSD, but I live it every day. What I can tell is, 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 post-traumatic 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.

Read PTSD AND ITS STARTLED RESPONSE

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 be a subcategory of the original definition. We relive our most horrific incidents, whether directly or indirectly (the speeder scenario). In other words, we don’t suffer from “a” specific trauma. In fact, we dream and replay many incidents we tried to mitigate. These incidents can impact us, sometimes moment by moment. My way of coping? Run like hell. I mean, if the mental health profession struggles with its diagnostic criteria, how can we be helped?

Finally, 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, to paramedics, to police and 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

Contact me on my Facebook page: facebook.com/TRTMW

Emergency service PTSD
Photo by Tobias Rehbein on Pexels.com – Emergency service PTSD

Lt. John

The Mental Health Work Injury

As I rise this morning and prep my morning coffee, I began to hear sirens off in the distance; lots of them. They are fire trucks. After fifteen years in the fire service, they are unmistakable to these veterans’ ears. It rattles me, after all, it is where the mental health work injury, PTSD came from.

At one time, hearing them responding to chaos would produce a flow of adrenaline and kick my passion for helping others into high gear. Now, they are replaced with fear, angst and a numbing dread. All produced by PTSD. Often times, it sends me into a mental health crisis and holds me captive for the remainder of the day. For coping strategies for PTSD go here:

PTSD ASSOCIATION OF CANADA 

The sounds of sirens cutting through the silence of the early morning air, evoke in me such a range of emotions. Not only does it produce feelings of body numbing, anxiety, racing thoughts and fear, it also, makes me very angry, sad and lost. Perhaps the hardest feeling of all is the feeling of abandoned by those whom I believed to be my brothers and sisters of the service. The sound of sirens is an instant reminder of the sacrifices I made, the time lost with family, and the mental work-related injury.

” We must fight for our wellness.”

Moreover, they are an instant, PTSD triggering reminder that I have essentially been left behind. So, I am angry on two fronts. Firstly, this intense feeling of being forgotten, and I am pissed because I love the fire service; it’s in my blood and shall always be woven into the fabric of my being. Having this anger in my heart kills me because I knew that when those bay doors closed behind me for the last time; I knew that it was indeed the end. I am now a mere shadow of my former self and a distant memory by those I battled the beast with.

The mental health work injury called PTSD has destroyed millions and disrupted the lives of those who have been touched by its symptoms. Yet, like all forms of mental illness, it goes unrecognized as a legitimate work-related injury.

Check out our MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES PAGE

I ask you, how is it different from any other injury? Its constant pain, its, in my case, injured me to the degree that I am not able to work and is managed by health care professionals. IN addition, it also requires accommodation, symptom management.

Furthermore, it requires one to learn how to adapt their life to move on a passion they once were able to do with ease. Now replace mental illness with any physical injury; broken back, head injury etc. Now apply the requirements above to these physical injuries; symptom management, constant pain…. Again, I ask you, How are they different from any other injury? THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. Wondering if you

Might have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD?) check here, Signs and symptoms of PTSD.


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“I feel like a discarded garden, left to wither and die”.

You may also enjoy: PTSD: The Impact Of Stigma On Firefighters

Please note that if you think you may have PTSD, please contact your health care provider and talk to them. I highly recommend you request a referral to your mental health services.

There are also resources out there to help, organizations like Sick Not Weak, a non-profit dedicated to supporting persons with mental illness.

You may also enjoy: Spontaneous Mental Combustion


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