Love and Loath

Love and loath

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

Before you reading, Love and loath, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has supported The Road To Mental Wellness, your contributions keep me going….. Thank you! Any donations are greatly appreciated. To donate, please click the donate button below

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 even still, its 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; that 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 in the 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 scant 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, they’re 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 opccasionsin does something to does real damage.

Read: Carbon Monoxide And PTSD.

Specifically, I feel like exhaustion plays a significant role in first responders’ mental health. And 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 loath the service. I know first hand how truly amazing the contributions 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, 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 though, despite this constant tug of war going on inside me, the love, the gratitude, and the honour to have served my community, 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 for 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 in Nova Scotia and have PTSD from being in any branch of service, or planning to come to Novas Scotia, 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 redefine 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.

Checkout 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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Unsurmountable odds.

Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of going head to head with the heat of the fire ground. And looking back on those days, I count my blessings that I came home alive. Furthermore, I am proud of my contribution to the department and to my community. It has provided me so many valuable learning experiences that no amount of money could buy.

With all that aside, there are those out there who think that putting yourself in harm’s way is heroic; truthfully, most firefighters will tell you that they don’t see themselves as Heroes. I myself happen to be one of those. To me and many others in the service, we are simply doing what we signed up to do. Even though this is what we truly believe, it’s hard to argue that it takes a certain amount of courage to perform the duties asked of you in the emergency services.

Read: When Stigma Arises.

I don’t think there’s any question, even to the layperson that emergency service workers see things no one should really see. Indeed, the tragic side of humanity can be level 10 in intensity; many in the services try, to suppress this intensity. oftentimes winding up with the mental health injury, PTSD in the process.

I often refer to post-traumatic stress disorder as the disorder that keeps on giving because it’s never-ending; it’s torturous effects are hard on, not only the mind and body but everyone that surrounds you whom you love and care for.

Help for loved ones of people with PTSD.

If that weren’t enough, those who succumb to their injuries end up being the forgotten, the discarded and the misunderstood . This can be especially tough because from the time you enter the service, you’re often reminded of just how much of a brother and sisterhood it is. Sadly, like so many other organizations, the love can be conditional. Oftentimes, with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress occur, they can see you exiled from the family.

Like some sickly newborn animal, discarded by its family at birth, we are may get left in the wilderness to fend off what is essentially unsurmountable odds; all on our own.

So, in an attempt to overcome these unsurmountable odds, I have endeavored to bring awareness to, not only the services but also to the wider world and loved ones; who can have a hard time grasping our reality.

Looking For Help? Here’s our mental health resources page.

With that said, it is unrealistic for people in our position to assume that the world around us, including our one-time colleagues to totally understand what they are witnessing or experiencing from a person with PTSD.

In my opinion, at the end of the day all you can do is seek out like-minded folk who have a better grasp on what goes on inside the mind of the traumatic brain. furthermore, the reality is, that too large degree and probably for most of our lives, we will indeed be left in the wild to fend for our very survival.

I feel this way simply because no matter how supportive people are, it’s still a lonely and dreadful road to mental wellness. However, like back in the days where we worked ourselves to exhaustion to minimize the damage of chaos, and loss odlf life, we must work to absolute exhaustion to minimize the odds of a personal tragic outcome. Where at one time, getting to the belly of the beast meant extinguishing flames, for us, it now stands for extinguishing our own fires. PTSD is the fuel rhat keeps the seemingly eternal flame burning within our minds.

We may not all have the support we were expecting, nonetheless, we have each other.

Yes, our scenarios may be fraught with unsurmountable odds, but that does not mean we should give up; nor should we not dream of better days to come. Success should be measured in inches not miles, small achievements some days are the largest accomplishments. Please know, we are now the new brother and sisterhood, that of the PTSD clan. while it’s true that you may feel alone, you are not. Together we can beat these unsurmountable odds.

Order Lemonade Stand Vol 3 today!

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!

Click on the following link to order.

Lemonade Stand Vol 3

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

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

Emergency service PTSD

Emergency Service PTSD

Not All wounds bleed.

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 well being. Of course, there are the obvious physical dangers in firefighting; running into a burning building is serious business that’s for sure. 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.

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.

the notion that “a” single traumatic event is a must when diagnosing PTSD.

It’s quite understandable, we, those in the emergency services, see things that no human should ever have to see. However, someone has to step forward and do it. While this may be true, all these brave souls can hope for is that they get to the end of their service relatively unscathed. But for those not so lucky, It can be heartbreaking, mind-numbing and something that keeps them up at night.

Great Podcast recommendation: Bunker Gear For The Brain

I am by no means an expert on trauma and PTSD, however, I live it every day and as a result, my path to my mental health injury was likely not incident-specific.

20 former military and emergency services tell their story, that of their struggle with PTSD. Pick up your copy below.

Therefore, I tend to believe that there may be room to include emergency service PTSD in a category that reflects the damage inflicted; damage that comes as a result of 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.

Think you might have PTSD? GO HERE.

EMERGENCY SERVICE PTSD

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 diagnosed because it may be hard to discern that one particular incident.

Like what you are reading? Try PTSD and It’s Startle Response

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 re-lived a fire service memory in real life. I can’t recall the dream but I know the numbing angst of PTSD well.

I truly believe that emergency service PTSD could well be a subcategory of the original definition.

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.”

EMERGENCY SERVICE PTSD

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.

“Not All wounds bleed”

I want to take the time to thank everyone in the emergency service community who risks 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 more people than you know.

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: The Mental Health Work Injury Called PTSD

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