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

Shell Shock to PTSD

metnal health war injury, from Shell shock to PTSD

Today, we honour all the men and women who have served their country in battle, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice. While I always take the time to honour them all, I want to pay homage to those who weren’t only physically injured and or killed trying rid the world of human suffering at the hands of those who seek to destroy life.

but I also want to pause for a moment to think about those who have mental war injuries that are, not only painful beyond comprehension, but for some, last a lifetime. For these brave women and men, their battles are never over, their war within is never won. And, depending on the period, the mental injury has been called everthing from shell shock to ptsd.

 
 

Nowadays, this mental heath war injury is known as Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. It is well understood compared to when the symptoms of this mental health condition were first observed by medical professionals during the first world war ; (The Canadian Encyclopedia) when thousands of soldiers were stricken with depression, insomnia and nightmares. By 1917 these symptoms would be given a name; Shell Shock. For a full list of symptoms go here

 

Charles Myers, a British medical officer was the first to use this term for the symptoms he was witnessing on and off the battlefield. These clusters of symptoms were also known as war neurosis, (Encyclopedia.com). I

 

Despite the fact that doctors of the day had ruled Shell shock out as some sort of physical medical ailment and came to believe that it was psychiatric in nature, stigma still prevailed. As a result, the men who exhibited the signs of this condition were considered to be cowards, even being charged in a fake trial, found guilty of deserting the military and shot by their colleges. After the war, many more were committed to mental institutions and subjected to ETC, electroshock therapy, whilst many more were placed in solitary confinement as a treatment option.

By today’s standards, this approach to treatment is considered Berberich. I would go so far as to say that it is these very sorts of atrocities people go to war to try and prevent. That being said, we have come along way since the days of WWI, so far in fact, sigma seems like a minor itch today in comparison, there’s no doubt that things are so much better now.

But we must always remember that the internal torment of PTSD can not be minimized. Understand that our brave men and women who are wounded in this way live in a form of psychological solitary confinement and many are only receiving minimal treatment. Yet, many more veterans live life on the streets, a tragedy that’s made worse by government cutbacks to veteran’s support systems.

However, you brave warriors are not forgotten and I think about the sacrifices you have made and the suffering you continue to endure often. Thankfully, PTSD is more accepted today than it ever has been and with that comes more empathy and support. Despite cutbacks, there are programs out there to try and help heal your injuries or at least make them more tolerable. There are support groups springing up full of people who understand your pain.

Again, thank you so much for your service, I am free because of you and I am grateful. Let me leave you with this short poem by Siegfried Sassoon, a world war one soldier and poet who suffered from the horrors of shell shock, this poem was inspired by his injury.

“Lest We Forget”

Survivor

 
No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

 

 
 
–Siegfried Sassoon, Craiglockhart. October 1917.
 
Source: BBC Home, Inside Out Extra: Wednesday, March 3, 2004, http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/extra/series-1/shell_shocked.shtml
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A side effect

A Side Effect

A few months ago I met with a chap who opened up to me and told me he had suffered from anxiety for a very long time. I sat and listened to his life’s story and the roadblocks that cropped up from being struck with this almost always on, mental health condition. His story is not uncommon although the circumstances that impacted his life’s journey are unique to his experience, there are so many others out there who can relate to the common symptoms it produces. As far as I’m concerned, this commonality is a strength. I feel this way because it means that this chap and others, like you, aren’t alone.

Prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders  (Canada; Stats Canada, 2014).

For one reason or another, I started to think about anxiety and it’s origins. Maybe there was something within the content of his story that ignited my thinking on the matter. Regardless of the source, I can’t help but wonder how many people are suffering from an anxiety disorder as a secondary function of another mental illness, a side effect if you will.
Many of us can identify when we are anxious because we all experience it from time to time. It is a natural reaction to danger and or potential danger. Without anxiety and fear, we would end up being dinner to the nearest predator. In other words, our anxiety is triggered when we feel threatened; this preditor being the reason our anxiety was activated.
So, what are the causal factors that produce constant angst within those with anxiety disorders? Well, Using me as an example, Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause me to be in a near-constant state of hypervigilance. Because of my fire service background, I am always thinking of potential emergencies that may arise and thus thrusting me into helper mode.
As one might well imagine, this causes lots of anxiety when I step out into the world. My fire service years lead me down the road to PTSD and the fear of more potential death and destruction causes the fight, flight or freeze reaction, then BOOM! the anxiety builds. Therefore, it makes sense that my angst is produced by the PTSD
It’s worth exploring the source of your own anxiety, sometimes there is an underlying cause that is producing feelings of fear for you. Once you know what your triggers are, you can work to minimize its effects on your life. For more on what causes anxiety go here




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.
 
Trauma Specialist, Dr. Jeffery Hosick: jeffreyhosick.com
 

You may also enjoy: Getting Through Tough Times

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