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”→
Over the next few days, most, if not all of us, will start reflecting on the last year, which turns into years.For me, this year means seeing a list of failures and loss in some areas, and gains in others.
The negative for the year is, of course, easy to see. First, I didn’t get my medical retirement status finalized. I can’t get my disability status made permanent because they are busy fighting with Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), my former agency is contesting everything to be just more of themselves.Recently, my service dog had to be put down and the process of finding a new one is less than easy or quick. Continue reading “Reflections on Times Past with PTSD”→
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”→
In slightly more than an hour eleven years ago, nearly three thousand lives were tragically cut far too short. More than three thousand families were instantly re-directed; mourning the loss of their loved ones while wondering how they would navigate their futures without them.
The reaches of September 11th went well past the East and Hudson Rivers. The same terribly historic hour also propelled our nation’s armed forces into battle in two separate countries, causing the loss of hundreds more of this country’s youth and future leaders. Today’s eighteen-year-old servicemen were merely seven-years-old when the fate of their service was determined.
During that same summer hour, thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, correction officers and emergency personnel converged onto the World Trade Center site in order to save their fellow Americans, hoping their skills and training could save the life of even one person. Soon after, the Twin Towers collapsed. First Responders realized that they would not save their peers, but that their skills would be needed in an entirely different mission, recovery. They would be joined in this mission during the hours, days, weeks and months following the attacks by tens-of-thousands of their brothers and sisters in the construction trades, communication industry and volunteers. The goal of recovery was not limited to the recovery of the personal effects of those lost, but the recovery of this country from one of its darkest moments. Over the next year, the combined efforts of First Responders enabled families to find closure in the burials of their loved ones. They removed the debris from the World Trade Center Site and provided these services with an unmatched dignity, professionalism and heroism. Continue reading “The Fealgood Foundation”→
Diagnosed almost two and a half years ago, I am finally at a place that I feel good again. I feel like I can now deal with my issues on my own and have been for a while. I am not sure what worked to get me here, but I do have some ideas.
By far one of my biggest concerns has been the stigma of having PTSD. It took me some time to figure out that I just had to tell people about it and if they have a problem with it that it is their problem and not my problem. If you have been following me in Firefighter PTSD – a closed group on Facebook – you know my story and you know I felt a need to talk about my experiences in hopes of helping someone else.
At first, I hid behind the title of the page and was simply “firefighter PTSD” to the world. I confided in my closest friends and they listened to me when I needed to talk and they supported me when I needed it. Some stayed strong and true to me and a few drifted. That’s ok, I still appreciate them all. Continue reading “Finding a Positive: Pushing The Stigma Down”→
My story, as my old chief used to say, is “the same, but different”. Many female firefighters experience harassment of one kind or another while on the job. Although what I went through is my unique experience, it may seem familiar to others who have tread these same paths. The names have been changed to protect privacy.
I joined the fire service as a volunteer in 1999. I was bored and was looking for some way to do something “great”. My volunteer department was very accepting and through that acceptance I was encouraged to abandon what I went to college for (education) and pursue a career in the fire service full time. It was a dream I’d had since I was a toddler, and I was going to make it come true.
The first department I worked for was a run of the mill combination department here in the South. My very existence upset some because they’d never had a woman fight fire before, and others were intrigued by the “school teacher” turned firefighter. I took a lot of flack from the other paid staff and the chief. When the freezer broke down one weekend in the summer and 25 lbs of “mountain oysters” ruined, I was forced to clean it up with no help from the guys. The chief thought it was pretty funny that I had to clean up 25 lbs of rotten goat testicles out of his personal freezer in the station. I took it in stride. Continue reading “Harassment in the Fire Service”→
This is a ride that no police department nationwide will do to honor active police officers who died by suicide. This is the first ride of its kind to ever be done. Please join us in this special ride for honor. Peggy Sweeney and The Sweeney Alliance support the efforts of Vince Gibson and Wendy Mcllwraith.
As I talk to more and more first responders throughout the country, it is apparent that we aren’t doing enough to help our brothers and sisters deal with the stresses that we face both from critical incident responses and the PTSD that can result from them as well as dealing with everyday life which can add a ton of extra pressure on our lives.
We all deal with these issues differently, and not always in the most healthy ways. And it’s not just about the drinking or using other substances to alleviate the stress. It’s also about how we might start to isolate from our families and friends, lose interest in things that used to give us pleasure and purpose, like the firehouse or fishing or going to the beach. The list is endless. The point is, there are solutions, discrete solutions, to what messes with our heads and it’s OK to ask for help. It only gets worse with time. The most popular emails or messages I get from men and women from every corner of the county is, I thought it was just me and that I was alone, but now I see I am not the only one feeling this way. You are not alone. I wanted to share this story that was sent to me from a friend who reached out and asked for help and has changed his life. Continue reading “Discrete Solutions”→
Recently, I saw an article about taking the uniforms of the military and turning them into Teddy Bears for the children of deceased military personnel. Something tangible to hug and hold that belonged to their Dad or Mom. I thought what a great idea. It reminded me of the program that the military is presently using called Combat Paper. The uniform is converted to paper with the same camo pattern the veterans wore. They were instructed to take that paper and convert it to a piece of art, cutting into it. The rational is to take something that may have painful memories due to PTSD and turn it into something of beauty. Along the same lines of reasoning, these Teddy Bears will turn a painful memory into something positive. This appealed to me since I suffer from PTSD from my police service.Continue reading “A Piece of Cloth”→