PTSD & First Responders
“You have what’s being referred to as Cumulative PTSD. Meaning there is no single event that caused you to have PTSD, but rather a list of traumatic events, none of which were correctly dealt with, but it most likely started with you not getting the proper help following the Trolley Square Shooting,” said a very patient counselor.
“No, I don’t have PTSD” I retort. “I have never seen combat, I didn’t serve in the military, I do not deserve… I cannot blame my problems on the thing that is killing our country’s heroes.”
Yes, I said it. Yes, I meant it, and I have talked to enough first responders to know that it is true for many more than just me.
At first I was elated that I had a name for the problems I was facing, a name for my catastrophic inability to communicate effectively with my wife and kids, a name for the constant feeling of impending doom and for a future that wasn’t worth working for, and many more…
Then… I wasn’t elated at all.
Let me step back; what finally got me in to see someone, was my desperate desire to save my marriage. Which was never really at risk because I have an amazing wife that through all the crap she put up with for more than a decade, she refused to give up on us because we were best friends. I know… she’s awesome. But in MY head, I was one argument away from an empty apartment, cold pizza and child support. So, we went to marriage counseling.
After about 15 minutes at our first appointment, I realized that I was getting all the questions. “Um, isn’t this MARRIAGE counseling and not a 1 on 1”, I, not so cleverly, quipped. “I need you to see someone else”, he stated flatly. This isn’t an area I’m comfortable with and I have the perfect person for you.”
Fast forward to today, and I don’t remember when my life and my life’s goals were so clear. I have an incredible sense of purpose, and when I meet new people, they don’t know unless I tell on myself.
So why am I putting this out publicly? Because our public safety professionals need to know about this! Too many of us are dying by our own hand. There IS a better tomorrow! You can get better! And NO… It is NOT your fault!
BUT… it IS in your hands to make it better. No one can do that for you.
Do you, or someone you know experience any, or all of the following: flashbacks, nightmares, frightening thoughts, feeling emotionally numb, feeling strong guilt, depression or worry, losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past, being easily startled, feeling tense or “on edge”, have difficulty sleeping, have angry outbursts, twitches, feeling like no matter how much you give, it will never be enough, feel helpless or hopeless toward the future, Increased levels of anger, irritability, resentment, cynicism, suspicion and paranoia?
Whether you are police, firefighter, EMS, dispatch, doctor, nurse, or anyone else for that matter, If any of the above symptoms feel personal, please contact a counselor, a doctor, me, someone…
Let me be clear… I am NOT a doctor, a clinician, a counselor, or anything medically related. I am not diagnosing you… But I am a husband, a father, an assistant chief, a lawyer, and a person who has experienced PTSD. Today I am successful, happy, optimistic about tomorrow, and you can be too.