Well, I figured I couldn’t just leave my last post where it was as I frimly believe that Silence in the PTSD journey is a huge red flag and deserves more attention.
Many first responders go through training being told that their jobs and what happens when working is “secret” and you don’t talk about what happens to your family or friends. Unfortunately, this message is skewed and the source of great difficulties for first responders and our families, even before PTSD sets in. In this day and age, much of what first reponders do is known by the general public mere moments after it happens but what I’m talking about is the dirty little secrets, the details in which the devil thrives.
I truly believe that we, as first reponders, don’t purposely withhold information from our families. I believe that we all have drank that age old koolaide and beleive it is in the best interest of a happy home life that we don’t share what has happened to us during our shift, the things we have seen, what we had to do and even how we are feeling after the fact. In fact, we begin to beleive that we will hurt our loved ones if we actually told them just exactly what we do day in and day out. We try to protect them from the evil we face and simply keep it in and put on a mask to hid behind.
Well, the only thing that comes out of that is silence, and as I wrote about yesterday, silence is bad. In attempting to “protect” family and friends from our reality, we end up causing damage to ourselves. Over time, this damage builds up and reaches a point that it can no longer fit into that nice little box we tried to contain it in (for me, it took 12 years for the incident to come out). But, I’m not just going to beat first responders up about trying to protect our loved ones. I’m going to offer a solution.
Here it is, are you ready? Talk. Tell your loved ones about your day, the good, the bad and the ugly. Tell them what you did and how things felt, how you responded to them and for fuck sakes, cry if you have to. But talk. You are in control on how much detail you provide (omit names, addresses, anything that could identify those involved) but share what went on. Many of our loved ones already know we deal with crapy situations day in and day out, they see the rips in our uniforms from fights, the scrapes and bruises, the blood. Tell them how those things happen to let them know what you are going through and make sure you talk about the emotions involved.
In other words, make sure you bring your family and friends into your life. And the good news is that it is never too late to do this. Whether you are new to the job or coing to the end, healthy emotionally or into the PTSD journey, it doesn’t matter. You can start talking and let them know what is going on. Spare them the ugly details if you think you have to but share. For me, I shared that I was involved in a baby death investigation with my wife but I didn’t share the uglies. Now, after 12 years of holding it in and keeping it to myself, I have opened up and provided some of the ugly details that I purposes left out before. Why, becasue I needed to as it helps explain why it has hit me so hard. And you know what, I didn’t cause any trauma to anyone by doing it.
As much as we think we are good at hiding how we are doing, in reality, we suck at. Everyone around us knows that something is up so maybe its time to just talk.