And so the PTSD stories begin,
They say when the shit hits the fan you have one of two chooses. You can either duck or get hit. Pretty simple when you think about it. Cutting away all the ‘smart people’ bullshit and actually understanding what I too at first thought was nothing but a load of crap… Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Allow me to introduce myself
Yes, that’s right; get the chuckles out of your system. The name’s Carl. I’ve been a full-time firefighter for 14 years, and have the privilege of working for the fire department in the community in which I grew up. I used to think I was a coward. Afraid to talk about PTSD, afraid to even consider I might be suffering from it, and most certainly scared to do anything about it. But I did. I know, I know… some of you are out there saying shit like “No, no, no Waggs, you’ve got it all wrong, it’s a very brave move to speak out about such an awful and misunderstood disorder!” But I know how it is. I know how this all plays out; five beers into a platoon beer n’ wing night, everyone gathered around gossiping, and I become that baby that tapped out after only 14 years, that suck that couldn’t handle the job. “Fuck me, who the hell are we hiring now-a- days?!?!” You could almost hear the last of ole’ boy’s chuckle as they looked over their frosty mug, eye roll and all. After all, ‘be there or be talked about’ right? I should know!!
Guilty as charged
Now, how do I now this behind your- back ‘verbal gutting’ is going on with each get-together? Well simply put, because I used to be one of those guys. I was there too, running my mouth about everyone else. Who was doing what, who was off work and why what everyone was up to; throwing in my two cents worth. And now here I am on the other side. Poetic justice? Perhaps. But a learning experience nonetheless.
But let’s get to the point
But enough about the asshole I used to be, and more about how I got here. To this exact moment, sitting in the dark at 05:45 writing shit I would not have even dared say out loud five months ago. What are we going to talk about here? WARNING SIGNS WARNING SIGNS WARNING SIGNS!!!!!!
Think about it this way
Trust me when I say friend, I’m the furthest thing from a doctor you’re ever going to find. I don’t fix anybody on the job, nor claim to have all the answers. No joke, I mean just think about it for a second. This is no different than riding the trucks –part of our job is running medical calls. In other words, tiered responses. In these cases our job is to get the sick and injured people to the smart people; that’s it! I mean, we don’t do heart surgery on someone that has had a heart attack, but you can bet your ass we will do everything we can to the back of an ambulance to keep him or her alive till we get them to a brilliant person, in other words, a doctor.
Our game plan when it comes to PTSD
So these little talks we are going to have will never be about fixing anybody. The talks will be about knowing how to get sick people to smart people, and you already know how to do that! The difference is this injury you can not see. And the individual needing help is you (or perhaps someone close to you). But don’t fret my pet; it’s easy to see when you know what to look for.
The ugly truth of it all
As a firefighter, we do an incredible amount of training. We can review intensely on how to set up a pumper relay, protocols to follow during a medical, and even the best way to rip a roof off a car that has been flipped 20 fucking times…in February…at three in the morning… But how long do we, as a collective, spend on mental health? How much of your department’s training syllabus is dedicated to mental health? Warning signs? Early detection? How to get help? I guess not a whole lot, if any.
Time for me to look in the mirror for a bit
How much time do we spend on only recognizing when someone we work with and care about starts coming apart at the seams? Now trust me, I’m certainly not talking from my ivory tower. Even if I had received this much-needed training I speak of, I probably would have spent the entire time at the back of the class laughing my ass off and cracking epic jokes about all the people in the department that were ‘crazy.’ Then I would have finished the whole act off with a compelling speech about how maybe not everyone is cut out for this line of work; you know, maybe they should find something else to do. You have to remember that was me; I was one of those assholes. But all I can say now after going through this experience first-hand along with losing a few buddies along the way is that no one is more surprised than me.
So like I have said, WELCOME!!
So there you have it. This little community that we shall build together is not about fixing anything or anyone. Trust me, you were good enough the day you were hired, you’re certainly good enough now. This blog is nothing more than you…giving you a ‘heads ups’ if you will. It’s about warning signs, awareness, helpful hints, and tips, or even just as a forum to show you that you (or your loved one) is not alone.
All this PTSD is, are a smoke and mirrors act. And we all know how fast we can remove smoke when we need to.
Let the stories begin.