We need to start doing better. We need to learn how to support one another instead of tearing each other down. In a world where the only way out is through, it’s important to back up our brothers and sisters instead of pushing them out of the way to reach the top.
My name is Emily Agruss. I am a former military and fire wife. On September 9, 2016, my husband, Joshua Agruss, passed away following a fatal relapse of his addiction to prescription pain medication. Josh experienced a lot of trauma in his 33 years of life – much of it related to his time serving our country in Iraq and working as a firefighter and paramedic. The cultural norms of our society are currently placing a mostly negative stigma on the heroes of our nation not to seek help when they are struggling. As a direct result of this, my husband suffered in silence with symptoms of severe post-traumatic stress for many years. He never felt safe enough to ask for help. He lived in constant fear of being determined unfit for duty, being harassed for not being able to “suck it up” and from losing his job and the ability to help others – the one thing that got him out of bed each morning. This mentality is what is destroying the lives of countless individuals. It’s what is leaving thousands of spouses and children without a husband/wife and father/mother. Continue reading “For the Sake of Our Nation’s Heroes ~ A Widow’s Story”→
A college professor once asked the class, “How heavy is a glass of water?” The professor received several answers, but the professor replied, “The weight doesn’t matter, it depends on how long you try to hold it. The longer you hold it, the heavier it becomes. That is, until you put it down and rest.”
Stress is the same way. If we carry stress, especially after a critical incident, the stress can become increasingly heavy, if not dealt with properly. The stress may lead to a crisis.
One of the darker and more difficult days I have had to endure in my career was attending “Shadowland”.
Located in the middle of an industrial area in the heart of a major city, surrounded by a high security fence, the building is an older style warehouse with no signage. It appears to be unoccupied as there are no workers’ cars or signs of life.
The building is brick façade and steel roof with brick walls about 8 foot high around the entire building. Two sets of high galvanized, colourbond doors that open from the middle are visible. There is broken asphalt leading to the doors where trucks unloading their cargo have torn up the pavement. Continue reading “Shadowland”→
The day had been a pleasant one, I had spent it with my family preparing for Christmas festivities. I was holding my youngest son when the alert went off. It said: Signal 7, PD/EMS Involvement, veh vs mc, engulfed in flames. The location was in my response area.
I found my wife, and as calmly as one can be after reading that, I said I had to go. She knows the call can come at any time. She smiled and said, “Be safe, I love you”.
I dressed in my gear as fast as I could and headed toward the scene. I wondered what this scene was going to look like when I got there. Being a Chaplain, I often get very little information before arrival at a scene. This time the information I got was rather accurate, except for PD Involvement which, thankfully, there was none. Continue reading “Living Someone Else’s Worst Day”→
Christmas 2016. This was my first Christmas without my wife who died November 1, 2016. Trying to prepare myself for that reality was difficult. I tried to juggle putting on a “happy” face for my sons and family while, at the same time, trying to remain as upbeat as I could and avoid the demons of despair, loneliness and emptiness. They are very good at what they are capable of doing, sneaky in their attacks and looming around just waiting for me to be most vulnerable. Once they attack, there is a prolonged period of recovery. Most of the time, I feel them coming and scream at them to just leave me alone.
These demons are not new to me. We’re old enemies. They tried to take over my life when I was suffering from PTSD. After 38 years of attacking me, they succeeded in breaking down my defenses. One thing I learned in “recovery” was that I’d have to reinvent myself, that the old life I lived no longer exists, and that a new me was born. During that recovery process, I had to get used to, and be re-acquainted with, the new me. Not an easy task reinventing yourself. I liked the old me and wanted to go back to him. But he died in that shoot out, died from PTSD. Continue reading “First Christmas”→
Unless you have walked in my shoes don’t say you understand
If you’ve never fought a battle in a foreign land
There are no words that can describe the hell we went through
Yet we remained on the battlefield to defend this land for you
We were taught to shoot and kill the enemy on sight
And to keep our eyes wide open especially at night
Now that we are back from war it’s hard for us to cope
So many of us just give up as we feel there is no hope
We ask you to please help us and our message heed
Please make it possible for us to get the help we need
Holiday time can be stressful for many people, and when the stress and anxiety turn to depression and suicidal thoughts, it can be difficult to reach out for help. So many of us feel low around the holidays but are afraid of being a burden to others, yet that connection is so important during this time. That’s why it is imperative to know healthy ways to battle stress and anxiety as well as the best ways to prevent those feelings and keep them from being overwhelming.
Between shopping for gifts, finding time to spend with family, cooking, cleaning, and fitting in work and/or school, the holidays are hard on anxiety sufferers. The best way to combat the negative feelings and stress is to plan well, treat yourself with kindness, and surround yourself with supportive people. Here are a few tips on how to do just that. Continue reading “How To Combat Holiday-Related Stress And Depression”→
Editor’s Comment: This is a MUST READ for every public safety and emergency service family!
Ross and I work hard on our project Behind The Seen in the area of prevention of mental health issues among emergency services workers.
We have been told many times that our sessions, our Facebookmessages, our articles and conference presentations provide HOPE. Much of our life is an open book, but until last month, the chapters were always somewhat edited to remove high emotional content. That’s been done to avoid triggering others and to provide consistency in our messages when advocating changes to mental health support for emergency services.
Last month, hundreds of followers saw the raw version of Ross during an episode. Mask off. The posting of his text and a video filled with anger and indignation, but more significantly, a deep pain he has not previously expressed publicly that caused a tidal wave of concern and support. Thank you to all those who responded with care: as you read my reflections below you will understand the significant value of genuine support. Continue reading “Emergency Services PTSD and Breach Of Trust – A Partner’s View”→