The truth can hurt.
The truth can be scary.
No worse, it can be terrifying.
But the truth needs to be heard.
Because the truth is powerful.
And the truth can break boundaries, stigma, and connect people.
The truth can heal.
The truth is, I have PTSD.
I had trouble writing in this blog ever since I started getting PTSD symptoms. My posts dwindled because PTSD sucked all my passion out of paramedicine. Without my passion, I found it impossible to write, because often times I need to feel in order to write. With PTSD, sometimes it’s hard to feel, a lot of the times I’m just numb. Like someone who has been hollowed out, left with nothing but a shell. A shell I hold up against the world, a shield, a mask, a facade, to hide all the pain and sadness inside.
When I first wanted to become a paramedic, I wanted to learn all I could about paramedicine. I remember asking myself all sorts of questions: Am I right for this job? Can I handle the stress? What about the long work hours and shift work? Will I make it to full time on pager pay financially, etc, etc? I now have the answers to those questions: Yes I can handle this job and the work hours. Yes, I chose the right path. Yes, I still love my job. Yes, financially I made it to full time from pager pay. And yes, sometimes the stress can be too much and I need to take a knee. I also learned that taking a knee doesn’t mean you’re weak, taking a knee doesn’t mean you can’t handle the stress or the job, taking a knee means you recognize you have an injury and you have the courage to look out for your own well being.
It’s time to end the stigma of PTSD. PTSD does not happen to you because you’re weak. PTSD does not mean you’re a failure. PTSD happens because you are human and you care about your patients and their families and because you have a heart.
I responded to several traumatic calls back in 2012. It took me four months before the symptoms started kicking in, and I began realizing something was terribly wrong. That what I was feeling and experiencing was not normal. I tried to seek help, it was scary. Seeking help meant acknowledging that something is wrong, it made me feel broken and weak. Seeking help meant making myself vulnerable. Yet I knew I had to try something. Unfortunately, I fell through the gaps. My family doctor misdiagnosed me, thinking it was normal grievance and depression. The counselor I saw was extremely unprofessional, told me I had PTSD symptoms and to just go get hugs and find a safe place to cry (I’m not saying counseling is a bad idea, in fact quite the opposite. This just happened to be my experience with my first counselor. I now have an amazing counselor who is helping me to truly heal). I made myself vulnerable and no one took me seriously. So I gave up looking for help, I tried to deal with my mental health crisis on my own. Because of this, I never got proper professional help until almost 6yrs down the road, when another traumatic call re-triggered everything from the past. Not only that, I now have accumulated 6yrs of other bad calls in my head on top of everything else.
You don’t need to walk the journey I have walked. There is no need to carry that huge burden on your shoulders for years, having flashbacks and triggers. There is help out there, and you are not alone. For so long I had felt so isolated. That no one gets it. The truth was, I was isolating myself. There are people who get it, who are walking the same path as you, right now.
After months of counseling, I am finally on my way to healing. It is not an easy journey, but it has been an incredibly profound experience. I believe I am coming out of this experience, stronger and more resilient.
There is hope.
I believe it is time for me to start writing in this blog again. It is time for me to speak up about PTSD in first responders. This blog isn’t meant for me to speak for everybody’s personal experiences, as PTSD is unique to each individual. However, I hope by sharing my personal experiences and what I have learned in the process, it can break the stigma that has long shrouded this mental health injury. That it can reach the ears of many first responders, so they know, that they are not alone and for them to reach out for help and to finally heal. For those who are entering the first responder world, I hope what I write here will empower you to end the stigma of PTSD and change the attitudes of those around you as you enter into this exciting world of emergency services. For everyone else reading this blog, I hope you can find the information here useful and perhaps gain a better understanding of first responders and the nature of their work. Lastly for those who have spouses going through PTSD, please stand by them and be strong, even if it feels like nothing you are doing is helping, trust that just your mere non-judgemental presence is enough.
I wouldn’t be here writing again if it wasn’t for my amazing counselor, truly there are no words to describe how much you have helped me. Thank you for bringing the passion, motivation and drive back into my work and in many ways for saving my job, relationship, and life. Likewise, I couldn’t have gone this far without the patience of my fiance and the support of my good friends and coworkers. It is because of all of you, I am able to heal and to grow into a stronger person. You know who you are, and I am forever grateful. XX
And so, starts a new chapter…
…are you ready for it? Because I am.