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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
When my husband, Constable John Petropoulos, died in the line of duty on September 29th, 2000 it felt as if my life had ended, too. And in a way, it did. Because the moment John’s heart was removed for organ transplant, our life together as a couple was over. I could kick and scream and cry all I wanted (and I did) but at the end of the day, I had two choices: 1) I could spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself or; 2) I could learn how to transform loss into positive change.
I chose the latter. And although the path has not been easy, I wouldn’t change a thing – because of all the powerful life lessons I’ve learned. Perhaps my Dad said it best when he told me, about a month after John died: “How you choose to proceed is what will determine whether John’s death was a tragedy or not.
I hope you can understand someday, this hell I live every day; the fear, the pain, the hate, the wondering, the loneliness. I live every day scared and anxious wondering when this hell I live with is going to visit me, and make my day worse than it is already. Most days I feel alone in this fight. If I speak out about it, I am ridiculed or told to grow up or to get over it.
I hope you can understand what it is like to lay awake at night wondering why I am like this, wondering what I did so wrong in this world, wondering why others can’t understand what it is like to live this hell.
I hope you can understand what it is like to have the awkward looks, the fits of crying, the fits of rage, the fits of extreme fear, the flashbacks, the sounds that take you back to that moment in time, and the fits of extreme depression. I hope you can understand that I did not ask for this, I LIVE THIS! I live this hell every day; some days are better than others, and some days are downright hell for me. Continue reading →
I trust in you, O' Lord, my Savior, the One who died and rose again…. the One who brought me in and will carry me out, the Almighty waters and tides that bring us life. I come to You when there is no where else to turn, I come to You when there is. I look to You as my guiding Light, my Savior…. the One who created all I see- created my life and dreams before I knew myself~ created my talents and style before I knew the value~ I praise You and adore Your mystery. I will be strong and conquer as You would want for me. I beg of your blessings and miracles even though I am unworthy of Your power…. Yet, I trust in You~ and know You have already begun Your work. I love You. I don't know if that is a good enough word, "love"~ But I know You on a level---beyond words. Save me Lord. I will not let go of You. Hear me O' Lord. In Christ's Powerful Name Amen ~ By Brandon Heath