Know your enemy
Have you ever heard the term “hiding in plain sight”? PTSD hands-down wins at this little game. PTSD is one of the best-hidden opponents I have ever squared off against. You see, PTSD is not necessarily something that affects you all the time, perhaps with a broken leg. PTSD will rear its nasty little ass up when you’re at your lowest and most tired; when you are vulnerable and unsuspecting.
PTSD’s greatest weapon EXPOSED
You see, this disorder is not stupid. PTSD is complex and clever. It knows first-hand the kind of willpower you possess, so it would never think of messing with you when everything is going well, and you’re strong. Nope, I found that as soon as PTSD got the memo that I was running on fumes, that’s when it would round up the troops and have another go at me. Kind of like an inner ambush.
Knowing is half the battle
So let’s talk about some of the ‘red flags’ or warning signs. You must first understand that everyone has shitty days when you feel like doing nothing. Everyone has those days that they just don’t want to do anything but catch up on a little internet porn and be left alone. Curl up in a blanket, grab some snacks, put on a killer pair of knee socks, and just chill the– fuck out. But there is a big difference between having a few ‘off’ days; vs. losing interest in the things you love doing. No shit, this is HUGE RED FLAG.
Consider this example
Many, many moons ago I was a Golf Pro. Like a legit, formally educated Golf Pro. I even went to an out-of- country College on a golf scholarship. I loved to golf. Ever since I was a tiny child with a plastic club in my hand, I simply loved to golf. Golf was my life and up to this point was going to be my career. The problem with that, however, was that I was honest-to- God the worst Golf Pro that ever existed on the face of the planet. But I didn’t care; I loved it! I got free rounds of golf, and it was a pretty cool way to spend my early 20’s.
A look back at true passion
Now all joking aside, as shitty as I was there was just something about hitting a golf ball. I mean, when you clip that ball perfect off the short stuff and stick it inside the grip from a buck 80 out? Man, I would play a hundred rounds for just the chance to make that one shot, just to clean the club face off on the heel of my Foot-Joys and simply slide the club in the bag and never say a word. Trust me, it didn’t happen that often, but the love for it was always there. Maybe a few of you out there are picking up what I’m laying down.
The true casualty of PTSD
Now as you all know, I became a firefighter. As the years went on, I very quickly lost my love for golf. My dad would often call to see if I could spare 4 hours of my day to play a quick nine, and the answer was always no. My Father was the same man who brought me along to the courses back in the 70’s and 80’s, equipped with my little plastic club, long before kids were ever even seen on a course. Even at the time, I thought it was a bit odd how I could walk away from golf as easily as I did. You have to believe me when I say; I walked away from it like I never heard of the fucking game. No interest, no desire; just gone. And the sad part was that this was only the beginning. My mind, through PTSD, convinced me to lose interest in many of the things I loved. Now don’t confuse this with the process of growing up, getting older, or just a part of life. If I may put a ‘common sense’ clause in here, this is not to be confused with simply changing interests. For example, I don’t feel the same way about acid washed jeans or the band Platinum Blond as I did in the 90’s (well ok, maybe a little), but I think you all know what I’m getting at. When you find you are turning your back on the people and hobbies that make you, you! That is one of the biggest warning signs of all.
Be careful with your new power of ‘numbness.’
Sure, working in emergency services requires you to ‘park’ your emotions on occasion. It’s a necessary part of the job. Losing the ability to feel emotions may be your best friend when you’re working on a dash roll with a mother trapped and two screaming kids in the back. And more-so when all of a sudden one kid stops screaming, and now the other one is asking questions, what a shit-show that can be. Being a robot at that extrication may be one of the reasons that the mother and her two kids survived. But it does not help you much when you turn those emotions back on. And they come flooding in, and you end up losing your shit and ruining a 20- year friendship with a co-worker you graduated recruit class with, just because they sat in your chair. No shit, it can happen that fast.
Too good to be true?
PTSD is a big problem in the day-to- day life of emergency responders. I used to think to be able to turn your feeling off and on was like having a cool super-hero power. Can you imagine, never having to feel anything again? After the past couple of years I just had, that sound pretty sweet to me.
All that sounds great in theory, but here lies the real problem: You are a real human. If you were ‘just a firefighter’ with no family, no kids, no friends, no pets, and after work you were placed in a glass container that read ‘break in case of emergency’ written on the outside, that would all work out perfect. But odds are you have people that care about you and love you. Even if you think you don’t, there are people whose day gets brighter when they see you. Fuck off and stop smirking, you know it’s true; you have people in your life like that. Even if it’s just the lady down the street whose kids think you are cool as– shit because you are a firefighter! People see you that way, Trust me on that one.
Be honest with yourself
If you’re not careful, this stuff will creep up on you. Turning off your feelings, losing interest in the people you love and the things you enjoy, it will catch up with you and drag you down. And if you’re not careful you can lose everything; family, friends, your job, your livelihood, and maybe even your life.
Know the red flags, watch for warning signs.
If you love something, you really shouldn’t let it go.