by Nathan Nixon
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.
I hope you can understand why I wear a smile when I am around other people or out in public. But around those I love, I am a wreck. I cry, yell and scream. They don’t understand sometimes. It is hard to deal with this hell that plays games with your mind and takes control of you and turns your mind and body into someone you never wanted to be.
I hope you can understand that I did not ask for this, it happened. It happened because I chose a profession where I serve the community, state, and the entire nation. I saw things no one else should ever have to see. I chose this profession because it was something I was passionate about and hoped, in some small way, I could change someone’s life.
I hope you can understand that I deal with this hell every day so you can continue to live your life with your family, while I go through hell with this demon. I feel forgotten and alone. I didn’t want this, but it happened because those who I worked for couldn’t recognize that the sights and sounds we deal with every day can truly affect the way you live. They failed to provide help to us.
I hope you can understand what it is like to look at your family, your spouse, your significant other, your kids and in spite of seeing all these great things, you still consider ending your own life because that would be so much better than living this hell.
I hope you can understand what it is like to live a life of secrecy, because if you speak out about this hell we live in, we will be ridiculed, looked down upon, laughed at, called weak and worst of all run the risk of termination, because our leaders are afraid to confront this issue for the true epidemic it is and the truly negative effects it has on us.
I hope you can understand what it is like to get out of bed in the morning, put on a smile and go through your day, smiling and interacting with others when all you want to do is cry and be mad.
I hope you can understand what it is like to go see a doctor to cope with this hell, and all you get is medication and no answers. The medications are often worse than this hell we lived with before them.
I hope you can understand what it is like to look at others and wonder what it would be like to be “normal” again. What it would be like to live every day without fear. Without the thought of why this happened to me. Without the pain this hell causes. What it would be like to have normal issues that you are able to work out, and not a demon hell that wreaks havoc on you, your family and even your job.
I hope you can understand what it is like to live with a hell that no one has any definite answers for, other than it is an epidemic that is affecting our public safety personnel and military badly right now.
I hope someday you understand what it is like to live with POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, or as you may know it, PTSD. You may not understand, but I do understand, and I wish I didn’t. I never wanted this “disease,” but I have it and it is a hell I don’t wish on my enemies.
PTSD affects all aspects of my life, from my family and children to my job. I can’t talk about it, because if I do, I get snide looks, I get snickers, I get ridicule and I get fear of retaliation all for doing what is right and serving others. This is the invisible badge I wear. One that I will carry for the rest of my life, so that you do not have to see the things I have seen.
My bad days are not bad, they are hell! Some days, I consider drinking or even suicide. I don’t want to drink or consider suicide, but this hell that has a hold of me, is telling my mind that drinking will numb the pain and suicide will end the pain, and that would be better than living everyday through this hell.
The loneliness is so bad that you don’t know whether to cry or be mad. You want so bad to talk to someone about it, and wish you knew someone else who had this and could relate to you. You wish your family could understand. You wish you could tell your kids what is wrong when they ask you.
You wish you could just get over this and move on.
The harsh reality of this “disease” is that you have it for life; the smells, sounds, sights of those traumatic incidents you saw, which are burned into your mind will always be there. You will always have this “disease” and although you can work through your triggers and episodes, it will never go away. It is a cancer with no cure that is plaguing us right now. We can take medicine and we can act normal, but it will always be there, it will always be the elephant in the room.
The worst part, for anyone who has this hell of a disease, is the fact we got this from helping others. Helping you when you needed someone to be there. Now, when we need help, you turn your back on us, you tell us that nothing is wrong and to get over it.
I hope that you understand what it is that I go through every day, and the true hell I live in from this “disease”. I do not want your pity. I do not want you to feel sorry for me. I want you to understand what I am dealing with, and to be there and support me in my bad days, so that I am not alone in this fight.
Anyone dealing with PTSD will tell you that if you have it, it is the worst fight of your life. It is always there, and you never know when it will “pop up” and kick you square in the ass. But when it does, it is worse than any criminal, terrorist, fire or war that we have ever fought before.
To our families, we want you to support us, help us, recognize that this is nothing we did, it happened because we chose certain careers to help others. We want your love, we want your support, and we want your help to fight this demon. What we don’t need is for you to ridicule us, and walk away from us during our darkest days.
We want our supervisors to know, that while they were sitting behind their desks judging the decisions we made out there in the heat, snow, rain and dust that caused this hell we deal with, that it is not a small problem that you can keep quiet or sweep under the rug. It is an epidemic and it will affect you and your organization in some way. We want you realize that you have two choices: either embrace the fact it exists and support those who work for you who have it, or keep turning a blind eye to it and deal with the consequences when it comes back and bites you square in the ass.
Although we feel like we are alone in this fight, we are not. The numbers are growing every day, and eventually, we will come together and speak out about this! Because as a group, as one common voice, we can make a difference and make all of you realize this is real and is never going away! We can also make you realize the effects of this “disease” are worse than some drugs, and if you do not help, it will plague your organization and, in the long run, will ruin it until it is dealt with.
For those of us who deal with PTSD, these are harsh realities and realities we face every day. We do not, nor did we, ask for this, but we have it and we have two choices: we deal with it or we let it control us.
Friends, during the dark times you are not alone! You have brothers and sisters who are living with this and living in the secrecy. Find them. Reach out to them and support each other, because this is the only way we will kick this disease’s ass.
You are not alone. You will never be alone. We are here with you, and we will be your support when others turn on you.
Watch your six and stay safe.
About the Author: Nathan Nixon is the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a position which involves training and planning facilitation services for 21 Native American Tribes in Arizona. He is a thirteen year police veteran in Arizona.
He started his career in 2002 with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office where he served in the Patrol Division as a Patrol Deputy. In 2004, Nathan transferred to the Casa Grande Police Department. He became a Field Training Officer where he specialized in training newly hired officers in police department practices and served as the department representative for the state auto theft task force. During his career in Casa Grande, Nathan received two Critical Response awards for his response to calls with armed suspects, where he was able to diffuse the situations calmly and quickly.
In 2010, Nathan transferred to the Hualapai Police Department, where he served as the Administrative Officer, overseeing many duties to include re-writing of Departmental Policies and Procedures, and coordinating officers’ schedules. During his career with the Hualapai Police Department, he became the departments first Commercial Vehicle Inspector. He conducted a traffic study for the department, that is currently used to obtain grant funding for issues related to traffic enforcement and investigation.
Nathan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Emergency Management from Grand Canyon University, as well as a Master’s degree in Disaster Preparedness also from Grand Canyon University. He has been an Associate Faculty Member at Mohave Community College in the Administration of Justice Section, where he instructs students in the field of Criminal Justice and Policing.
Nathan volunteers his free time with the Local Amateur Radio Clubs. He currently holds a Technician Class License and is actively involved with local emergency response/preparedness activities of some of the amateur radio clubs.
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