I survived

What a deal! The long weekend and After I get home from work, I get to have the house to myself! No wife, no kid! Just me and, well… Me!

My wife calls and asks when I’m coming home, she says she is in no rush to leave. I came home as soon as I could and couldn’t wait to spend a little time before she left for the weekend.

When I got home she told me she was ready to leave. She was just waiting on me to get home to say goodbye. Guess I didn’t realize what she meant on the phone. Well, I’ll miss you honey! Drive safe and have fun! I Fake a smile and walk her out the door. Silently disappointed I watch as she goes out of sight.

Walking back in the house I am immediately taken aback how quiet it is. There is also something else I can’t put my finger on.

Let’s see who wants to come by or hang out. No one.

Let’s see what’s on tv. Nothing.

Ok. I can handle this, just like old times! I’ve lived on my own before, I don’t need anyone else. After another hour I realized I wasn’t as alone as I thought. I had someone else there after all.

She was beautiful, she had the face of an angel…. and she would have been 13 this year. It’s been 8 years since the night our paths crossed and not a day goes by that she doesn’t run through my head. Through counseling, I have progressed enough that I can usually rationalize these thoughts, but tonight, in my loneliness, My heart was telling me that it wasn’t fair that I was allowed to sit here when I couldn’t allow her the same luxury. I survived, she didn’t…. I survived

That feeling in the pit of my stomach begins, it raises to my throat and bites like acid. my lip starts to shake, here come the tears. It was supposed to be such a great night alone, and now I’m curled up on the couch crying. I feel more alone than I ever have. My only comfort is that I’m not ruining anyone else’s life.

The downward spiral continues. Now I don’t want to talk, I don’t want to make a sound, I don’t even want to entertain the thought of human interaction. Not that it matters, even if I did, no one would understand. Beyond everything, I know I’m all alone and nothing can change what I’m left with; a slew of memories that I don’t want, and an entire night to think about them all.

Fuck all this, I’m going to go upstairs and lay in bed with an old movie. Just like the old days. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll pass out.

A few minutes into the movie, I get a warm feeling I haven’t felt in a while. It’s familiar, it’s comforting. It feels like peace, while not in sight, it may at least be within reach. I realize that I have any number of brothers and sisters in support of me that I could have called at any time. Most of all I know now that I have options and nothing is going to stop me from getting through this.

5 hours later I’m waking up. Taking account of the night, I can take away a lot of lessons. I can recognize the symptoms of panic I used to ignore, in that way I can prevent another spiral. I can take comfort in old habits, familiarity can be very calming. Most of all, I can keep surviving.

Brothers, sisters, I don’t care what uniform you wear, what causes your bad day. No one should have to suffer in silence. You always have options. I care, and the brotherhood/sisterhood cares. If you need an ear or just want to see what’s available, as always, let’s take a walk.

Adam tells us why brotherhood is so important in his life

I’ve haven’t known Adam that long (My fault really). Like most of my close brothers, we crossed paths because of the bagpipes. Adam has a way about him, a kind of immediate family effect. Talk to him and you find out quick, you need to be his friend.

Like many of us however, Adam was also suffering on the inside. His story I’m sure will strike a cord with many of you. Below are the words of my brother Adam Moore:

I come from a long family line of firefighter and paramedics. Growing up was hectic and difficult since my parents divorced when I was three and my mom kept us constantly moving around and made sure my relationship with my dad and his side of the family was very difficult and kept an alternate version of the truth from me. So growing up I slowly learned to simply rely on myself and keep things to myself. My family doesn’t express any sort of emotion or feeling so that reinforced everything. I slowly picked up the family business and progressed quickly and no matter the call, as gory or stressful it was I could ignore it bottle it up and throw it away. Through my career I always had the same mentality as everyone else and that was to suck it up and move on. I can’t say when it started or what call brought it on since I can remember so many. I entered a new relationship and my mentality changed and began to open up and try something new. In that time more stressful calls happened and other personal issues happened and I wasn’t able to keep the lid on and things got worse over time and one night everything imploded. I don’t have an addictive personality so I never turned to drugs or other substances to numb. There are better days then some but mostly they get worse. I’ve attempted  suicide a few times and each time it doesn’t work or I’ve stopped at the last minute. As a wise man once said I wish my mind could forget what my eyes have seen, the ones that haunt me like the children that will never get to see there first birthday or the screams of those I couldn’t save, I see and hear them sometimes more vivid than what I want. I have come to a crossroad of getting outside help or trying to fix it myself and have come to realize that even when I think I’m alone or nobody cares, there are those that do. While my help at home is limited I do get check ups from my brothers and sisters and it means a lot when they do more than they know. While my story is in no way a success story I can say that being surrounded by those that know how you feel and know what the power of family can do to a person can help someone and is not a sign of weakness as I always believed. 

As always brothers and sisters; Please, if you feel you don’t know where to turn, turn to a brother or sister. No one knows us like us. In the strength of sharing with someone what is making you hurt, you may just find that you’ve saved someone else. As always, if you’re willing… let’s take a walk.

Not every doctor is for you!

“I just need someone to talk to, I don’t need any of that hippie stuff.”

I must have said that dozens of times. The problem was that talking wasn’t helping. It hadn’t helped for the last few doctors, in reality, it only pushed me away. It delayed treatment. Every time a doctor tried talking to me, I would find reasons why they just didn’t get me. Part of it, was that they really didn’t get the life of a first responder. Also, no one wanted to explain to me what was really going on in my head! They would listen to me spill my guts for an hour, but offer up no advice or treatment options.

Talking didn’t get to the bottom of my depression. Talking didn’t answer why I couldn’t sleep at night. Talking didn’t help me understand why I spent every waking moment on edge.

After 3 breakdowns, 3 times making my wife cry from my outbursts, and my 4 year old son flat out asking me why I was angry all the time, I found my current doctor. This ended the cycle of get better for a few weeks, end treatment, get depressed, get angry, and anxious again, then find a new doctor.

To put it bluntly, my current doctor saw through my bull shit. She explained WHY my brain was doing what it was doing. Sure, she listened to what I had to say, but she wouldn’t let me get away with open ended statements, and called me out every time I tried to lie or take the easy way out to avoid confronting my demons.

“Have you ever heard of EMDR?” These words made me shudder. I trusted her, and here she is pulling this shit on me! The difference this time was that she answered my questions, told me she understood why I called it hippie stuff, and gave me the science behind it. During EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)therapy sessions, you relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements. EMDR is thought to be effective because recalling distressing events is often less emotionally upsetting when your attention is diverted. This allows you to be exposed to the memories or thoughts without having a strong psychological response. Over time, this technique is believed to lessen the impact that the memories or thoughts have on you. (Legg, 2017).

My sessions started much the same way every time. I would hold a vibrating paddle in each hand. I would focus on the paddle vibrating left then right, left then right. This happened for about 15 seconds, after that I was told to tell my story and relive my most horrible memory in short doses. Before each session, I was equipped with the knowledge that I had the power to end the treatment at any time. After each dose of recall, went the vibrations: left right left right. When my doctor could tell I was getting burned out, we would be done.

Funny thing about it, after only 6 weeks of sessions, I was making break throughs! I actually felt better! Maybe there was something to this after all!

Fast forward about a year. The trauma doesn’t hurt as bad as it used to. EMDR has done more in this short time than anything else possibly could. Even so, I still find myself dwelling on it. I still find myself striving for impossible perfection in order to appease the demons inside of me, and I still stay up later than I should, but the memories don’t produce as many tears.

Come to find out, healing the trauma isn’t the hard part. It’s healing the bad habits I used in order to hide from the trauma, and healing the relationships that those habits hurt. With continued effort, I know I can get through this, and it’s all because I finally found a good fit.

Maybe talking is what gets you better, maybe you need something more. The key is to never give up. Don’t delay treatment because it’s out of your comfort zone. There is treatment for you, that fits you, that will help you heal.

As always. If you need help, or a little advise… let’s take a walk

Reference

Legg,T.J. PhD (2017, Dec15) EMDR Therapy: What You Need to Know. Retrieved September 24, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy

Silence is deadly

Fear & Shame

If I was physically injured saving someone from a fire everyone would see me as a hero. What if I was mentally injured saving someone? Would everyone still see me as a hero? Would you have any hesitation reporting a mental injury over a physical injury? I think many of us would.

Why is that? It’s because of fear, shame and embarrassment. The sad part is that if some of us do report a mental injury we are blackballed, looked upon as weak and are victims of the negative stigma. This is preventing many of us from getting the help we need which makes the mental injury even worse.

The idea for this image was given to me by Matt McGregor, a firefighter from Western Canada and it’s a concept many of us can relate to. The fear, shame, embarrassment and negative stigma is this demon’s power and it’s preventing many first responders from getting the help they need. Deny this demon his power by standing up to the negative stigma.

Have a safe weekend everyone and please know you are part of a larger supportive community.

Respectfully

DanSun

http://www.dansunphotos.com

Posted with permission of DanSun photos.

Brett faces his bad times head on!

Brett is another man that I’m proud to call a brother. He had overcome so much in life and on the job. Below is a message I received from him tonight about a proud moment in his day. Remember that you are never alone, and as always, if you need anything, or just want to talk… let’s take a walk.

Today…today was rough. I found myself overwhelmed repeatedly. I found myself shutting down. Felt the anxiety taking over, and the depression setting in due to not being able to cope. It brought me back to bad times of the past when I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t find my way. But that path, has long since been travelled.

Today, I made progress. Today, I took a step forward. Not to the side, not backwards. Forward. Today, I fulfilled my commitments. I didn’t give up. I didn’t back down. In fact, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I went back down to a place I’d avoided for so long because of the memories tied to it. It hurt. It peeled back scabs I thought were scars. But, in the end…it was cathartic. I went so far as to sign up for an event I have been avoiding.

This post is not for any of you to like, or love or comment on, or share. I’m not looking for your sympathy or your vote of confidence. Instead, take a step back and realize, that there are people out there, that may look like on the surface they are ok, but inside they are coping with the biggest fecal hurricane imaginable. Cut them some slack. Understand. Show compassion. Just be kind.

And if you’re that person that’s having a hard time, it is really ok to admit it. If people cast judgement, we can stand together. I can testify to the fact there are strength in numbers.

I try not to offend people by colorful language, as there are those that don’t appreciate it.

So…today…

#suckitptsd…you lost today.

Angry Joe

 

joe

Joe Kovalski is a brother of mine. Not because we have the same parents, but because we share a common story. We are both Firefighters, we both love Pipe and Drum music, and we both could have very easily not been here to tell our stories. What follows is an article that has appeared in the NFPA magazine “perspectives”. It tells in graphic detail about his struggles, and his realization that he needed help. It is the hardest decision a public servant has to make to say the words: I can’t help myself any more. Brothers and sisters, remember that true brotherhood exists, and if you need to talk… Lets take a walk.   PTSD NFPA Article

When anxiety builds

Anxiety… we all experience some form from time to time. Sometimes it’s about a promotion, or a mortgage. This kind of anxiety is usually easy to manage. You are anxious about a promotional exam? You study harder. Anxious about your mortgage? Talk to a financial professional. These are normal situations that cause us to worry, followed up with what a rational person might do to fix the situation.

What happens, however, when you find yourself worrying about the small details of life and work? Maybe you, like me, suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. I know that it’s a struggle but there is help.

About me

I am a fireman and a paramedic. For me, I found (and sometimes still find) myself in a state of worry over the little things. For instance: If my crew went on a simple abdominal pain EMS run, my whole day would be ruined by a missed IV. I would feel down until the next time I was able to “redeem” myself. Lord help me if I missed again! If I was running a pumping exercise at the station, I would beat myself up about every little fault in my execution of a hydrant connection and getting positive water. Never mind the fact that I’m not even an engineer! Even down to a base level. If an interaction with a brother or sister ended with me being told a better way to do things or being told I didn’t do something right, I might find a situation that would allow me to do better so our last interaction would be positive in my favor. Eventually I realized that I couldn’t live like that forever.

Through counseling I discovered that I wasn’t upset about an IV or a conversation, I was struggling with my past (see my previous post Entitled my demons). I was worried about letting that little blonde haired girl and her family from my past down again. With help I am making huge strides I still make slip ups from time to time, sometimes more than I wish to admit. Every day isn’t puppies and rainbows, but by recognizing the problem, every day is a way to improve.

If this post made you say: “that sounds a lot like me!”, please understand that help is available, your brothers and sisters care, and you can get through this, and if you need a brothers advice on where to seek help, or what worked for me… let’s take a walk.

Congratulations on being human!

We are soldiers, we are medics, we are firemen, we are police officers, and guess what? YOU’RE ALSO HUMAN! I would be worried if you didn’t have an emotional response over some of the events we are called to. Like it or not, it’s part of life. The good news is you are not alone. Countless others, maybe even the people you work with every day, feel the same way.

But I’m a medic! I see this all the time!

But I’m a soldier! We don’t have feelings!

But I’m a police officer! I’m trained to handle this!

But I’m a fireman! I’ve been through this before!

The problem with these ideas? They have NEVER been true! We as public servants have spent too much time trying to be superheros, and not enough time allowing ourselves to be human beings. You have the right to care, to feel, and when it comes down to it, to cry.

For those of you suffering in silence, you are never alone. Others suffer too. I suffer! If you need help, get help. It takes a strong person to say I hurt; they are not easy words, but they are essential. I am not a professional, and I can’t give treatment. But I can lend an ear. And always ready to take a walk with you.

My demon is an angel

What follows is something I rarely talk about. But I believe it’s necessary in order to heal. I also believe that if this story helps just one person come forward and want to seek help, then it’s all worth it.

It was June 26th of 2010. I was in medic school and had been a firefighter for only 5 years with a part time department at this point. I came into work eagerly hoping a call would come in as I needed the experience to finish my medic ride time for class. I remember it very clearly because this would be the last time that I ever hoped for a call.

Nothing happened during the first part of the shift at station 2. Nothing new, especially since I needed the points. I went to my bunk somewhat disappointed. That lasted till 0200. Ambulance abc respond for the 5 year old having a seizure.

En route to the address I remember being apprehensive as I didn’t have much experience with pediatric patients. Suddenly I hear the radio come alive with the voice of a concerned dispatcher. She is telling us that she is issuing CPR instructions and the patient is turning blue. It wasn’t more than 20 seconds later that the station 1 Lt. Comes on the radio saying if we needed help we better call mutual aid. He followed up with we are busy. It was way too early for my brain at the time. All I could think was what in the F#%k was more important than a 5 year old not breathing!!

Arriving on scene, we arrived at the same time as a local police officer. I begin pushing on the chest of a little girl with gorgeous blonde curls. I switch between the gravity of the situation and asking the police officer for equipment and telling her where it can be found.

We found out from her parents that she woke up her parents saying she didn’t feel well. She had a strong fever so dad put her in a cool bath. That’s when she had the seizure. Shortly after she stopped breathing.

We did all we could in the house to stabilize her. We began moving to the ambulance. I remember every single step I took in the house. I remember the police holding onto my back as I walked down the stairs, I remember the feel of the cool morning air. I also remember the sound of her dads voice when he said “that’s just great… she’s dead!!”

We drove like hell to the hospital trying to get as much done en route as we could. Several times I would see the pt going from asystole to what looked like a sinus rhythm. Each time I allowed myself to get my hopes up only to find that its PEA. Then finally I had a weak pulse… right back to PEA. No matter what tried, she wouldn’t hold on. I could also see that she wasn’t quite ready to give up.

We arrive at the hospital, do the turn over and my partner goes to write the report. I was glued to the room. Could have been 5 minutes, could have been 5 days. I didn’t move. I was just fixed on the little girl that should be in bed getting the sleep she needed for a long day of playing with her friends.

45 minutes later, they stopped working. Said it was enough. My heart fell out of my body. I started walking. Mechanically moving to pick up supplies, then returning to the ambulance to clean. I told the guys that they called it. She didn’t make it. I could see the eyes drop to the floor but they didn’t let on that it bothered them.

Later back at the station, there was no talking, no tv, and no eye contact. I tried to bring up something and was told we weren’t talking about it. That’s how it stayed. For years… in the shadows. Something we didn’t talk about. I have done a lot and seen a lot. I have cut dead bodies from vehicles, my entire company came within a minute of falling Through a floor into a basement fire, but nothing has affected me like this beautiful little girl.

I became an insomniac, I didn’t want to lay in bed, my thoughts would get me. I was having horrible dreams when I did sleep. My wife kept telling me that I would swing my arms in my sleep and throw pillows. I also found myself excusing myself from groups as anxiety took over. For example, I once hid in a bathroom because a waitress told me they didn’t have a drink I ordered! And of course my anger… I didn’t recognize any of it.

Fast forward years later. I felt that I was in a good place with it all. Time is supposed to heal all wounds right?! What I wasn’t seeing is the way I treated people. One day everything came to a head. I had my wife ask me why I treated her like garbage over small things. I couldn’t see that I was mistreating her so badly! Not only that, but it had been going on for years! Then I had my son…my 4 year old son that I felt looked up to me like a god ask me “daddy? Why do you get so mad at people?” That was the moment I knew I had a real problem. I could now see my anger coming out, I could usually stop it, but now I was becoming withdrawn so as to avoid it.

Eventually I had a few good brothers and sisters tell me about myself and make me seek help. It took me several doctors to find someone that I liked, or connected with. I learned that not every doctor is a good fit. What works for one person may not work for the next.

Today, I feel I am somewhat better. I still don’t really sleep at night. But when I do, it’s sound and I don’t have the nightmares. I also enjoy being around people more. I’ve been told I am also more pleasant to be around. More importantly my wife and son are happier.

You don’t have to live in silence, you don’t have to get completely better in one week. It may be a long road to recovery, but every little victory is just that. A little victory! If your hurting, let’s take a walk.

Walk with me

Hello! Brothers and sisters, my name is Brian. I have been a professional firefighter since 2007. In that time I have witnessed some of the best in life, and also some of the worst. I have been in situations (much like you have I’m sure) that made me want to give up.  I was fortunate enough to have a few brothers pull me to the side and love me enough to make sure I got help before I did something I couldn’t take back.  I made this site as a testament to them. I want you to know that you are enough. It’s ok to NOT be ok, and I’m glad that you are here.

If you ever feel like life, career, family, or just your own thoughts are getting too heavy…Lets take a walk.

If you ever feel like you could have done more or just need a friendly ear…Lets take a walk.

But most importantly, if you feel as though your in too deep and you have no one to turn to… Lets take a walk.

This site is not meant to be professional help. Nothing can take the place of licensed mental health professionals (Lord knows I’ve had my share of time with them). I only want you to see my story, read something here that sounds interesting, or share a story that may help a brother or sister.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton