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

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


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.

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

Check out my friend’s blog here: anewdawnaa.com

 

Mental Illness: Sometimes it wins

Mental

Since the beginning of September, I have been participating in a coping skills group. The whole goal of this education style process is to arm you with tools to help guide you through the things that trigger your emotions, anger, sadness etc. The main theme of the group is centred around mindfulness.

I am also learning some very useful mindfulness techniques through my one on one therapy with my psychologist. So far, I have been slowly building the mindfulness tools to help keep me in the present and thus minimizing my time emerged in my deep and detailed PTSD mind, the part of my mind that ruminates in the past and stands on guard for potential tragedies in the future.
But yesterday, yesterday I was overtaken and defeated by my demons. I was triggered and like an ocean wave, crashing on the shore, I was overwhelmed by its might. It started when it was my turn to talk about last week’s homework, we had to pick an example of an incident where our emotional overtook us and evaluate whether the feelings we were experiencing fit the facts.

having been charged with the task of mitigating the tragic consequences of high-speed accidents, I’ve grown to hate speeding, it evokes such intense anger deep within that I struggle to keep my hand off the horn. I try to let it go but all I can think of is that someone is going to put me into a situation where I am going to be forced to render assistance to an irresponsible speeder trying to shave mere seconds off their journey.

My mind in first responder mode, sends me down the rabbit hole of  PTSD’s chaos, reliving some of the most tragic accident scenes I’ve been part of.

This is the scenario I presented to the group and its facilitators. I walked through all the items that were required of the assignment then the numbness started to set in, I could feel the wave of dissociation coming for me but it was too late to inoculate myself against its effects. I remember very little of what took place next. In fact, once it was time to take a break, I was too overwhelmed to return, opting for the quiet, low lit lobby.


How to cope when triggered by PTSD

I remained in the lobby for the remainder of the time, sitting in the comfort of the quiet only getting up to pace the floor every now and again. So I guess the question is, do I feel like a failure for leaving the group?  Well, the answer is no and it’s not entirely because I measured how far I have come, I was simply in the grip of my firefighting past and was not strong enough to reclaim my brain to feel anything.

Let’s be honest, we are all going to have our moments where we can’t outrun the mental illness that lurks in the shadows of all things suppressed. So why pour salt into an already deep festering wound.

So, be good to yourself, when you are overtaken by the tide of your mental health condition, remember, your years and years of being at odds with the self have made you an expert swimmer, a mental health warrior. As a warrior, you know that the overwhelming waters will recede and all the progress you have made will help you win the day.

There’s no shame in mental pain.”

 

                -John Arenburg.

If you are suffering from PTSD, 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: But a Mere Crawl: Slowly making my way towards mental wellness.

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