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→
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.
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→
Over the last few years, after I retired from the Jersey City Police Department, I decided that I needed a change of lifestyle, or daily habits, or routines. I’m retired, why should I adhere to the same rigid schedule I suffered through in law enforcement? No more shoe shines or pressed uniforms. No, that wasn’t enough. Then it came to me, no more haircuts. Or shaves. My guess is that I wanted to distance myself somehow from what brought me painful memories and triggered to my PTSD. If I could change something, anything that brought back those memories, I was willing to try.
One thing was certain about my decision. As much as I always looked like a cop, even off duty when I was active duty, there was no way anyone would ask me “are you a cop?” I hated that. I couldn’t be off or relaxed even off duty or on my days off. I could never get away from it. Even my appearance screamed law enforcement. So we’ll start there. Continue reading November Is Movember For PTSD→
None of us ever wants to admit defeat. It is not in our nature. What makes it even more difficult for people like us is what we do. We are the ones going in, giving aid, support, sacrifices and sometimes even our lives in order to save others. We are supposed to be the invincible ones and for the most part we are. But ultimately we are all human; we act and react differently to situations both in and out of the “job”.
Pressure, stress and pain are pretty much unavoidable in all forms: both physical and mental or a combination of any of them. How each one of us deals with these stresses; such as self-medicating and isolating, is what separates us from our families, loved ones and careers. Continue reading Fighting the Devil Within→
I watch now, helplessly, as my friend, Officer Jason Zangara, formerly of the West Palm Beach Police Department systematically loses everything near and dear to him. After he was terminated for failing to resume full duties as a police officer as the result of PTSD, he thought he was going to at least be awarded a disability pension. He was denied.
After the reports were reviewed from six separate doctors stating that Jason had chronic PTSD and was unable to continue as a police officer on full duty, the board decided, based on no discernible evidence medical or otherwise, that PTSD was “subjective and not creditable.” They denied benefits. Continue reading Where Does He Go Now?→
Editor’s Note: It has been stated many times that first responders have a kinship with Vietnam Veterans. Why? Because, like these Vets, they are asking – no, demanding! – help in coping with the horrific images, nightmares, and the other mental and emotional casualties of their professions. Lewis Epright, Sr., a Vietnam Veteran and firefighter, has asked me to share these twelve steps that he and others have found invaluable in coping with their traumas. Thank you, Lewis, for your service and your friendship.
Step One (Power)
Our first step is to accept the fact that we have become powerless to live meaningful lives. Even though we had the power to survive against the worst combat conditions, we must admit we have become powerless to win the battle against a new enemy—our memories, flashbacks, and combat instincts. Some of us have become powerless over the continuing wish to gain revenge over those sudden impulses to hurt those who cross us or unsuspectingly annoy us. We even hurt those who try to love us, making it impossible to love and care for our friends and family. So we isolate ourselves and cause others to avoid, dislike, or even hate us. Our attempts to live meaningful lives and fight this psychological and emotional hell which imprisons us seems to be in vain. We now find ourselves powerless to change it. Continue reading The Twelve-Step Approach to PTSD→
by Lieutenant David Bass
Polk County (FL) Fire Rescue
To those of you that know me, and those of you who don’t.
Those of you that know me, and read this document, will know how hard this is for me to talk about. A firefighter through and through.
To those of you who don’t know me, I hope you understand.
To talk about my illness is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. To admit to a flaw is hard for me to comprehend. To admit I have an illness is not an easy task.
For that, I sometimes feel like a failure. For that, I sometimes feel weak. However, I ask that you not think of it as a failure or a weakness. I ask that you think of it as strength. A strength that took all I had in me to write this, and share it with you. Continue reading Firefighter Through and Through→
"Improving the lives of emergency response professionals"