I Knew It Wouldn’t Last

by the wife of a fire chief

I met my husband in 1997 in a bar. That should have been my first clue.  I was out having a couple of drinks with friends.  He was out alone.  Things started going downhill almost immediately after we were married.  When I was pregnant with our daughter, we went to a Christmas party for my employer and my husband got embarrassingly intoxicated.  On the way home, I had to pull over to the side of the road so he could vomit. Once home, he spent the night on the bathroom floor to be near the toilet.

A day after our first wedding anniversary, I gave birth to our daughter.  By the time she was six months old, my husband was up to a 12-pack of beer a night.  I can vividly remember a night when I came home from work and he had eight or nine empty beer cans on the coffee table in front of him with our daughter cradled in his arms.  I was livid.  I thought the least he could do was put down the beer and spend time with his baby girl…sober. Continue reading I Knew It Wouldn’t Last

Reliving the Moment

by Robert Cubby

Trauma has a funny way about it. It sometimes buries itself deep in our subconscious, long forgotten. Then someone does something or says something, and the whole scene unfolds once again, intruding into your peace, causing long forgotten emotions to surface.

As I watched and listened to the Darren Wilson investigation, I felt sorry for him and prayed for a just finding by the grand jury. I felt sorry, empathized and sympathized but somehow something was missing in my reaction. It was bothersome how distant I felt from the incident, and how little what he had to do struck any kind of emotion in me. Somehow, I felt like I was “purposely” distancing myself and that’s not like me. Continue reading Reliving the Moment

One Day of Addiction

by Jason Willard

Waking up as an addict is much like waking up as a “normal” person, but only for a brief second. I see my beautiful wife next to me. With a good morning kiss on her cheek, I immediately start thinking of getting high. I feel a rush of anxiety. Do I have a wake up hit? Where did I hide it?

A number of thoughts run through my head. I start to sweat. I feel sick. As I run through my options of how to get money to get high, I start to panic. The torture begins. All the guilt that I carry every day is on my mind, in my body, causing me pain. I need money!

I will target friends and family first. If that doesn’t work, I will resort to other things, more dangerous. I know I will have to face the consequences later. I’ll have to face my family and apologize, like I have a million times before. But I am sick. I have to get the money. I need it! Continue reading One Day of Addiction

In the Line of Duty

by Maryanne Pope

The above photo was taken in Edmonton, Alberta on Sunday September 29th, 2013, at the annual Alberta Peace and Police Officer’s Memorial Service. Since the service that year fell on the actual 13th anniversary of John’s death, he was the officer highlighted. From left to right are: Cliff O’Brien (Calgary Police Service), me, Joel Matthews (Calgary Police Service) and Glenn Laird (Calgary Police Service).

It was a powerful service. As such, I look like I’d just been through the wringer – because I had.

This is the seventh in a series of ten articles.
Visit Maryanne’s page on this blog for additional articles

Moments before this photo was taken, I had spoken to the media about why public memorials such as this are so important – both for the family & friends of the fallen officer, as well as for the thousands of living officers who put their lives on the line on a daily basis…and their loved ones who hope to God they never get the call I did. Continue reading In the Line of Duty

Haunting the Holidays

by Kelly Clark-Bentley

What do family gatherings, turkey and ham, pies and cookies, shopping, endless commercials of holiday events and cheer and the ever so popular Hallmark Channel specials all have in common? If you said “the holidays” you would be right. But what happens when your view of the hustle and bustle is not that of a Hallmark movie, but instead a horror film that you play over and over in your mind. What happens when you are faced with the overwhelming feeling of having to put the mask on, smile for the family, spend an overabundance of money and eat an abundance of pumpkin pie, when all you really want to do is lock yourself in your room and try to stop the slide show full of holiday tragedies that is playing in that ever dreaded auto repeat mode.

As first responders, we often have worked holidays either because we were the least senior team member and it was our “rite of passage” to give up the “day off” until we gained some seniority. To others we, at times, chose as senior ranking team members of our departments to allow someone else the day off to be with their families. At any rate, I would venture to say that at some point in your career, you have responded to a call or been involved in something that would be classified as a critical incident. Continue reading Haunting the Holidays

The Ripple Effect of First Responder Stress – Anger in Relationships

by Veronique Moseley

Please read the whole post. Often relationship issues are discussed by one partner only, this is from BOTH Ross Beckley and I reflecting on the tough times. We suggest you watch the two-minute film clip we created a few years ago, then read the story.

Keep in mind that when we made the clip it was a pivotal time in Ross’s recovery. He was somewhere between denial, and acceptance of his post traumatic stress disorder. He had some incredibly insightful moments during this period.

Before we begin, we just need to say one more thing. To create the film clip is one thing. To share the story behind it is another. Here we are, almost 3 years later and life is very different. Why bring up the past? Especially when talking about it risks judgement?

Some will judge me as being too weak and putting up with crap for too long. Some will judge Ross for being cruel or selfish. But as a couple, we decided today that we are willing to take that risk because that FEAR of judgement is exactly the reason a lot of those suffering do not speak out.

Behind The Seen is about breaking down barriers and opening the door to honest conversations amongst first responders and their families. We’re breaking the silence with our own story in the hope that others going through tough times may also be inspired to put their hand up and get help. Whether you are a first responder who feels angry a lot of the time, or a partner walking on eggshells – please speak out. Continue reading The Ripple Effect of First Responder Stress – Anger in Relationships

You Don’t Know Me

by Ross Beckley

TRIGGER WARNING – some readers may find this disturbing

You don’t know me. Yet I stood by you through one of the most horrific times of your life. I stood in the freezing cold all night surrounded by a public screen to ensure no-one else had to see the carnage. I heard the screams of a mother as she arrived and was told she would never see her child alive again. Screams of unimaginable grief and disbelief that continue to echo in my dreams. I spent 8 hours making small talk while my crew and I patiently waited for investigations to take place. I kept everyone calm, organized crews, shared information with other first responders, helped the guy who came to pick up the bodies and the towie who removed the cars.

You don’t know me. You are my friend, my cousin, my aunt.

You know I was an emergency service worker for 20 years, responding to incidents involving strangers in their time of need. You know I was on call in excess of 100 hours a week as a retained firefighter, always on alert in case the call for help came through. You know I placed my job before my family, before my social times and before my business. As the years went on, I became more and more concerned about being the reliable one, the one to put his hand up to help. After all, crews were always short. Someone had to put their hand up. But you don’t know what toll this commitment was taking on my relationship, my business and my sanity.

You don’t know me.  Continue reading You Don’t Know Me

Secondary PTSD

by Bob Rabe
April 2014

Every critical incident has similarities, and everyone is different.  Every law enforcement officer’s reaction is individual to them as well.  Some officers go through the process of integrating the experience into their psyche without difficulty.  Usually this is with the help of others (peer group counseling, debriefings).  It is difficult to do it alone.

But what can the family possibly do to help the officer?  The family can make sure that nothing is missed, especially if medication is needed.  But sometimes medication or even intervention isn’t good enough.  Needless to say, if the officer has become sullen and melancholy, they are a different person than before the critical incident and onset of PTSD.  At this point, the family becomes the secondary victim, and loyalty is tested.  The spouse and the children can suffer from secondary PTSD, which is not widely discussed in the mainstream media. Continue reading Secondary PTSD

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