Pretty Tough Decisions

Boy, these sure are different times we’re living in aren’t they? To me, the hold world feels, I don’t know, it just feels different. Not only does it feel different, but there’s also seemingly no end in sight. What’s more, as time goes by and the realities of what this means start to kick in, we will all have to make some unprecedented sacrifice. We can only do this if we make some pretty tough decisions.

Those who know me can tell you, that my philosophical doctrine for living life is; “do whatever it takes to get what needs to be done, done”. But how does one do that when we as a society haven’t had too? Well, the answer, for me anyway is because we have to.

When you are in the emergency services, you act in the face of tragedy.

A good example of this doctrine is this; I elected to let my children stay with their mother During this outbreak as they have some people living there with medical vulnerabilities. I felt it was best if we minimized our moving the children around.

Now, a few weeks in, I am really starting to feel the sting of that decision; I miss them so much. But, a parent’s job is to do what’s best for their children, no matter how painful. In this case, doing what’s best has been my ultimate sacrifice.

Nature doesn’t care about how we feel

As it stands right now, when I will be able to hug them again is anyone’s guess; The very thought of not knowing is heartbreaking for me. If it weren’t for video chat, phone calls and text messaging, this situation would be unbearable. That said, I’m no stranger to making pretty tough decisions.

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Throughout my life, I have had little choice to build up my resilience. A skillset that I have built upon through my years-long battle with mental illness and my decade in a half’ serving as a firefighter

What has been most helpful to me in this regard is the fire service. When you are in the emergency services, you act in the face of tragedy and come to understand that tough decisions have to be made. Why? Because if you don’t, who will? And if you are unwilling, the outcome could be dire.

You got this! We will be ok.

I have made a lot of personal difficult determinations in my career and over my fifteen years, I learned that it didn’t matter how I felt. thus, over time, I became accustomed to doing what I had to for the greater good.

Want to hear stories from others battling mental illness. Go to The Depression Files.

Having PTSD as a result of my years of making unfortunate calls and seeing the chaotic side of humanity, I learned one other thing; that nature doesn’t care about how we feel, that we go through unspeakable hardships and unprecedented global health emergencies. It just doesn’t. Therefore, it’s incumbent on us to, no matter how hard it is, to make these pretty tough decisions.

tough decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re allowed to feel and you are certainly allowed to be scared and worry. However, doing the greater good means we must act in the interests of everyone else around us despite it.

We have proven to ourselves that we are mental health warriors by tackling it each and every day. Now, we must do the same in the midst of this health emergency. Like we always say to one another when depression, PTSD, Anxiety, BDP etc. consumes us, you got this! We will be ok.

I want you to live: Go to Crisis Services Canada If you need help

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Contact: The Road To Mental Wellness

rendered me useless

Rendered Me Useless

As I rose from yet another sleepless night, I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. This seemingly out the blue spike in angst shot through me and in an instant, rendering me useless. Thankfully, I was able to knock it down a peg or two before it highjacked my entire day.

Even though I was able to defeat the demon within, at least for now, I was still left with why did it happen? My therapist tells me that trying to figure out its source is irrelevant; it’s more important that I focus on the “now” and working on ways to reduce its grip. By using therapeutic techniques like mindfulness I can get through most mental health-related incidents. But not always.

Having spent years in the fire service, I am primed to act, not just sit like some sort of spectator.

Despite what the therapist tells me, I have made it my life’s work to overthink and find solutions for everything that runs through my head. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to obsess or consume my time trying to find its source. Rather, it found me. Usually uncovering the answer provides me with some relief; not so in this case.

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

So then, what set my anxiety ablaze? The answer is simple, Covid! Covid-19. Its everywhere and the fear it produces barrows it’s way into my head and becomes all-consuming. This virus is much more than a two-week fad on social media, in fact, it has been quoted as being the new normal, at least for the for seeable future.

I am anxious, not because of my anxiety disorder itself, but because, my PTSD has rendered me useless

If I were to be more specific about the source of my episode with angst, I would have to say that I’m impacted by two things. Firstly, I must confess that I am constantly being triggered by the bombardment of updates; the news constantly fuels my mental illness fire. Post-traumatic stress disorder hates this sort of stuff. Secondly, I am and always will be a helper. Thankfully, I am still able to help others in the capacity of a mental health blogger and advocate, which is I am grateful for. However, I am primmed to act in times like these. My many years as a firefighter have conditioned me to be this way. Making order out of chaos is our specialty. Sadly, in my mind, these two factors have rendered me useless.

Rendered Me Useless
rendered me useless

Want to hear people speak about their mental health journey? Go here The Depression Files With Al Levin

In addition, my years working in long term care saw there own moments of turmoil. There have been many times in my career where my colleges and I have gone toe to toe with a virus or two. Mentally taxing and physically exhausting, it was all-out war We did our best to tend to the sick and tried to isolate people the best we could.

Looking back on my life, I had made a career out of combating the worst of the worst. Sure, it pales in comparison to what the world is going through now in terms of scale, nonetheless, my years putting my own mental and physical health on the line to help others gives me a glimpse into what is happening around the world. For me, it’s not hard to see why my anxiety was so high.

Not being able to help is my new normal.

I can only conclude that today, I am anxious, not because of my anxiety disorder itself, but because, my PTSD. It has rendered me useless in our darkest time of need. That is a very hard reality to accept. When you couple that with the stress of knowing what it’s like, working in these trenches, I can’t help but worry about my former colleges, my family and my friends. Please be safe everyone.

I also can’t help but think of people who are in the same boat as me. The former firefighters, paramedics, nurses and doctors who have been injured by their jobs and now watch from afar; stricken with a life long affliction with trauma and are fighting it now more than ever. I salute you!

With that said, we can still do our part to stop the spread of covid; we can do this by following the rules of social distancing, washing our hands and isolate ourselves if need be. Literally, the less we do, the more help we will be. In these most uncertain times, this is how we minimize the chaos and serve our communities.

I want you to live: Go to Crisis Services Canada If you need help

Want to help make my book a reality? Donate here: GoFundMe

Contact: The Road To Mental Wellness

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