Critical Incident

A Critical Incident, yours?

Anyone can face a critical incident or more, not just emergency service workers.

You know what just occurred to me? Men hide from every ounce of mental pain they endure. Ok, 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 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.

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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 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 and 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, you own crisis is the next critical incident that needs your needs you to respond.

Checkout 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 service’s, perhaps this book can help you combat the feelings of isolation and fear that frequently comes 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, best of all, it attempts to give all you served their countries and communities a voice… Which is amazing!

Pre order today

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


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Who’s taking care of you?

Who’s taking care of you?

I learned very early on that I wanted to spend my life helping others. I can’t describe why or where it came from, All I knew is that it burned deep within. Later on, I began to wonder who’s taking care of me.

So, joining the fire service seemed like a perfectly good place to fulfill my desire to help. In the first years of my service, it was wonderful. I caught they bug, big time and never looked back. At least and until my desire to help others was manhandled by mental illness.

I recall being so happy to be part of this organization. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to contribute to your community than signing up to be a volunteer firefighter. Although I battle with PTSD everyday, I will never regret my years jumping on the rig and running in to help extinguish chaos.

The other bug in the room, the one that was rarely discussed or even seen as a priority, was PTSD. People in the emergency services aren’t good at looking after themselves. I’m living proof of this.

“I can’t help but think that the number people with PTSD is higher when you factor in the undiagnosed. “

There is a silver lining in the dark storm clouds of nightmares and hypervingilance, PTSD is becoming more acceptable. Great news for all of us, especially for those places that have peer support programs and easier access to professional help. But, what if your emergency service doesn’t have such things in place? What is one to do?

Symptoms of PTSD

Well, I can only offer up lessons of my own inner battle, a battle I now know, I should have waged years before I did. Although grateful to still be here, its a struggle everyday. I share my experience through this blog, here’s a post you might enjoy: The Power of PTSD – Overtaken

First of all, no matter what your buddies say, post traumatic stress is not something that can be buried. It’s buried alive and will eventual claw its way the surface. For many, it will exact it will exact its revenge.

CBC’s The Nature of Things explain some facts about PTSD in their article; PTSD: Canada Has the Highest rate, plus eight more surprising facts; In this article they indicate that 9.2% of Canadians will experience PTSD at some juncture in their lives. This number is the hightest in the world!

So, What dose this tell us? Well it demonstrates, at least to me that PTSD is real and can happen to you. I can’t help but think that the number people with PTSD are higher when you factor in the undiagnosed.

Now that we know post traumatic stress is a thing; the question becomes who’s taking care of you? Since we know that stigma looms large within the fire service, it is our responsibility. In my own case I knew something wasn’t right for a very long time. In simple terms, if you feel any form of mental discomfort for a pronged period, don’t ignore it.

Different treatment options for PTSD

This was a revelation for me because I came to understand that I am not the only one living my life.

We are now living in an age where there is more help than ever for this debilitating mental health condition, ranging from peer support to government programs. With that said, prevention is still the area where we need to work harder on. In Nova Scotia we have a crisis response team to help debrief emergency service workers following a critical incident. A prevention option that was severally under utilized in my department.

Although it should be the fire service leaders who put preventive measures in place, it is incumbent on us to ensure our own wellbeing. I came to this conclusion when I realized that my family, my support system have an emotional investment in my health. This was a revelation for me because I came to understand that I am not the only one living my life.

Who’s taking care of you?

Whatever encourges you to get help, if you know you need it, do it. Find your reason to get better. You got this! Your pride and fear could quite possible have dire concequences…. Trust me.

If you are a firefighter in Nova Scotia and are in need a debrief, visit the Critical Incident Stress Management for the fire service in Nova Scotia. Or for individual treatment go here: Dr. Jeffery Holsick, trauma Specialist

Mental Illness and Exhaustion

Personally, I find very little difference between overextending one’s self physically and when one exceeds their tolerances mentally. The end result is the same, exhaustion. when one has a mental illness, at least my experience with it, it’s rather like setting cardboard on fire with gasoline, the energy it initially produces is very intense, large flames and a lot of heat but is quickly reduced to a pile of ash because all of its energy has been depleted.

Anyone, mental illness or not, who has worked in both physical work environments and ones that require mostly mental processing can tell you that mental exhaustion is more tiring than being physically tired. I have done them both, personally, I’d rather be body tired any day of the week. I believe that being mentally spent is what oftentimes leads to physical injury and impacts how productive one can be.
Those with a mental health condition often tell me how quickly they burn up their mental energy stores; the more symptomatic they are, the faster they seem to arrive at the point where they are running on fumes. We, those with mental illness need help before we reduced to a pile of ash.

Reasons why people with mental illness are easily exhausted

This is vindication for me in a sense because what they describe is very similar to my own experiences with mental illness. An unexpected consequence of this revelation is that it helps me not feel like I’m trying to sleigh this dragon all by myself.

Recommended reading

I tire easily, PTSD can feel like you are running through a battlefield, so much sudden noise and constant stimulations that the heightened startle response is always in the on position. Not only do I have to contend with this, but I am also always on guard for some sort of emergency, part firefighter conditioning, mostly designed so that I can avoid potential death destruction. I don’t think I manage another critical incident.

This tendency to be easily exhausted has been known to exacerbate my depression. I was once so full of energy and could take on the world, I loved being busy. Now with fatigue setting in so much sooner, I feel like a burden and rather useless. I do my best to shake these thoughts from my head and remind myself that I am no different than someone else who is sick. Sick people tend to tire easily.

As I continue down my road to mental wellness I remind myself to cut myself some slack. My life might not be what it used to be but nonetheless, I am still alive and because of this fact, I will get to where I need to be.

So, If this sounds like you, keeping going but rest when you need to, you may not be able to do what you once were able to do, but you can still do great things.

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

Want help fund my book? donate: GOFundMe – The Road To Mental Wellness – The book

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

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