day 4So, I am feeling somewhat apologetic as I have not been maintaining my 7 day rule of trying to keep up with posting new content.  But I can assure you, it has been for a darn good reason.  And, yep, you got it, that reason is LIVING.

A funny thing has happened to me in my journey through PTSD.  I have begun to live life again as if PTSD wasn’t part of my life.  Or maybe a better way to put it is that my PTSD no longer has absolute control over how I live my life.  It really is strange how I got to this point of pushing through to PTSD Growth verse wallowing in the darkness.  As much as I would love to tall how I did it, I can’t tell you the specifics.  But I can tell you a bit of the journey to get here and it is fair to say that Bob was right once again.  Freeing yourself from mental slavery is the biggest part of it.

Although this is going to sound simply, anyone dealing with PTSD will understand just how monumental of a task it is not only to simply live with PTSD but also to do the work required to simply keep living.  For me, this journey has been one year of regular therapy with an awesome psychologist who wasn’t afraid to tell me just how fucked up some of the situations I got into as a police officer were.  She took the oddity of PTSD and normalized it for me making me realize that those things would mess anyone up.  She helped laid the foundation for me to work through my PTSD and helped position me for success as I continued on.

The next step was talking everything I learned about myself and my PTSD and ripping it wide open for others to see.  Now, I am not referring to some public display or uncontrolled outburst.  I am talking about sitting in a group of my peers, all who are also dealing with PTSD, and baring my inner most darkest moments.  And, in the process, I sat and listened to their stories as they related their darkest moments too.  Some amazing things happen when you lean in and allow your mind to begin breaking away from that mental slavery that PTSD commands.  Sometimes, those amazing things are so unexplainable as well that you just have to sit back and go for the ride, taking in everything that happens.

And that is exactly what I did.  I leaned in and accepted what was happening.  But I never would have expected what happened.  Anger that I thought I dealt with came out.  Pain I never realized I had surfaced and then it happened.  I hit the bottom, looked over at the wonderful person that runs Project Trauma Support, had tears streaming down my face and said “I just realized how fucked up I am.”  I couldn’t hide it, I couldn’t suppress it any longer.  It was all there and I was miles below it looking up trying to figure out what as going to happen next.  I then remember looking at her, seeing unconditional love and acceptance while I was dealing with my lowest of low and heard the words “Now we need to figure out where to go from here.”  But here is the funny part.  I’m not sure who said that to me but it in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Seeing how Avengers was just released, I think it is a perfect depiction of what happened.  In that instance, it was as if Thanos snapped his fingers and things started to disappear.  Everything came to a head and I knew where I needed to go – Upwards out of the darkness.

In that moment, I made the decision that I had to accept that PTSD is part of my life but in no way shape or form is it my LIFE.  I other words, I know that I was the only one that could free my mind and that is exactly what I did.

Has it been easy since that moment.  No fucking way!  It has been a challenge everyday to stay focussed on moving forward and not allowing myself be sucked downward.  And, there have been a few times that the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee took over and started leading me downward but luckily, I have been able to stop the decline.  In those down moments, I make myself rise to the challenge to go through the issue.  I process it, ask what is happening, why is it happening, is this real or something that my PTSD is making me think is real and what do I need to do to get past this?

Usually, this means journaling what is happening, stepping back for a moment and checking in with others to help change the focus.  Most times, it turns around pretty quick but I have had a few moments that lasted.  One of the biggest ones was a trip to the ER with my wife.  It poked the sleeping PTSD dragon in an ugly way and it was few days of processing to work through but I did.  And what was the straw that helped me break free from it?  It was me remembering the expressions on the doctor and nurse’s face when I thanked them that helped break me free from the downward swing.  That simple gesture of giving unconditional love brought back so much in return and it is truly the secret weapon against PTSD (hint: this is definitely be an upcoming post).

Now, I am not suggesting that you have to hit bottom before you can start living again but for me, that was exactly what needed to happen.  I was stuck holding on to anger and I was pretending that my PTSD wasn’t so bad, that it could be handled and controlled.  What I will suggest is that anyone dealing with PTSD needs to 1) find the right people to help them through their journey and 2) at some point, you need to make a mental choice or decision to lean in and move forward from the place you are at, even in a micro way.

And that movement forward doesn’t have to be a monumental step like being the first to step on the moon or to plant the flag on the top of the world.  It can simply be getting out of bed, having something to eat, sitting on the front step on a warm day, calling a friend up out of he blue or smiling and saying thank you to the barista at the local coffee shop.  I doesn’t have to be huge but the results will be.  Eventually, you will notice that for the first time in a long time, you live a little without PTSD being in the forefront.


When your Childhood Dream becomes your Adult Nightmare


So, lets go back in time and revisit history a bit why don’t we.

Being a police officer, or to be specific, a RCMP member, was a truly a childhood dream and I can tell you the exact moment that this become my lifelong dream.  I was a young whipper snipper of a 6 year old, playing outside of my house with my neighbour when a police car pulled up infront of his house.  The car was different then the normal city police cruisers.  This one had a huge buffalo crest on the side and the police officer that got out had a yellow stripe down his pant leg, not like the city police.  In fact, to my 6 year old mind, this police officer was completely different than any other police officer I had ever seen.

I told my firend that I had to go home for a second and raced into the house.  I ran into my room and puled out my suit from the closet.  I quickly got changed and headed back outside, I was on a mission.  I don’t even think I had the time to tell my parents what I was doing.  I marched over to my neighbours house and knocked on the door.  When I was let in, I went right to the police officer to introduce myself.  He stopped what he wasdoing (taking a statement from my neighbour for a vehicle accident) and spent the next 20 plus minutes talking to me.  His actions that day set in motion my childhood dream.

When I was 12 years old, my parens and I took a tour of Depot in Regina, Saskatchewan.  At one point in the tour, you end up at the Chapel, here you sit for a Q&A session.  During a lull in the activities, I leaned towards my mom and told her that one day, I will be here as a Mountie.  Fast forward 16 years and the next time that my mom and I were in the Chapel was on my Graduation weekend for the church service on the Sunday morning.

Well, childhood dream completed.  I was in my dream career, fulfilling my promise I made back when I was 12.  The rest was suppose to be gravy.  But, apparently, there was another plan in story.

I quickly became aware of he realities that my dream career brought with it.  There were the assualts, the injuries, the dead bodies, the pain caused by senseless violence, stopping cars in the middle of nowhere, knocking on door at 3 a.m. to make a Next of Kin notification and the countless other things I was part of.  It didn’t take long for the affects to being having an impact.  And, it also didn’t take long for the dark and sick humour to come out to protect myself and others.  Not to mention the “choir practices” with other members where we would sound off about all the shitty stuff that happened and start “one upping” each other to tell the shittier story.

I remember the terror I felt when I was hit by a chunk of ice and knocked under as I was trying to save a man’s life.  Much the same with the sound of a shotgun being fired at me or the high powered rifle bullet that I clearly heard wiz past my vehicle.  I remember the times I fought for my survival against guys that were bigger and strong and somehow I got the better of.  I remember the death threat made against my wife and I as well as when I was notified that a street gang had taken a $25 000 hit out on me.  I still shake my head when I think about the pipe bomb and dynamite I held in my hands at a search site, which caused he evacuation of homes and business within a kiometer of the site.  And most importantly, I remember that little innocent baby as she died.

But the problem with me remembering all these things, many in very vivid detail, is that they have turned that childhood dream of becoming a police officer into a nightmare that I am now living.  Today, for the first time since May 2018, I went to my office to pick up some paperwork.  I was a mess.  I had a full blown anxiety attack on my way there, with tears in my eyes just thinking of going.  Once I was there, i wanted to leave ASAP.  I got my stuff together and left, not wanting to spend another second there.  At home, the exhaustion kicked in and I am drained.

So, I now fear what I once dreamt of and it is now my challenge to get a control over the nightmare.  Do I regret being a police officer knowing that the dream turned into a nightmare?  Nope, no regrets at all.  It is simply part of the dream, whether I like it or not, that I have to go through.  It’s my new normal and I have decided to use it as catelyst to bring on the changes I need to make for myself, as well as changing the current views of PTSD and first responders.

My Kryptonite or What Can Make a Grown Man Cry………

Well, I have been struggling with writing this post for a bit (it’s now been almost 2 weeks).  Partly because it is a very raw subject for me as it speaks to the main cause of my current PTSD journey.  It is not easy for me to write about, nor will it be easy for you to read.  It might have triggers for some and could be just plain upsetting for others.  But, it is my reality and why I started this blog.  It needs to be written about so that you can understand my Journey.

One of the things that I need to make clear right from the start is that I am trying not to identify the people involved, whether they be members of the Emergency Service community or the family involved.  That being said, time to get it out I guess.

Back in the day, when I would go to work sporting the snazzy working uniform of a Mountie, I was posted in a prairie town, which is the bread and butter of RCMP policing.  I was working an evening shift on a cold winter day.  Like normal, I was out and about in my car driving around when a call for assistance came over the radio.  It was the ambulance at a residence requesting police assistance for a potential situation.  So, I chimed in that I would attend.

I pulled up to the sight of the back of the ambulance doors wide open and the paramedic making their way from the house with a female on the stretcher.  Okay, so far, nothing crazy as I start making my way to the house.  As I walk by, one of the paramedics said “upstairs”.  Okay, upstairs I go.  Into the house I go, seeing the stairs on my left, I hit the first landing after a handful of steps, turn to look up and see another paramedic standing at the top with something in her arms.  Shit is getting real……

I bound up the rest of the stairs to the waiting paramedic who informed me the baby was delivered upstairs.  My co-worker was already starting the scene so I went to the hospital and this is where things really go sideways.  For whatever reason (something that I am struggling with in order to make some sense of this), I soon find myself up in the Neo Natal ICU conducting a Coroner’s Investigation into the at home death of a baby.  But, it is no where as straight forward as to how I just wrote it, in fact, it is far from it.

The reason is that the baby wasn’t technically dead yet.  What, how is that possible you ask?  Well,  what happened is that a Doctor, based on prescribed guidelines, declared the baby as “non viable”.  This basically means that the Doctor decided that the baby didn’t meet the necessary weight and time since conception to have a perceived chance of survival.  So, he removed any further chance.  Yep, you read that right.  The doctor, based on his assessment, decided that the baby didn’t have a good enough chance to survive.

So what did that mean????  Well, it meant that the hospital did not have to provide any life-sustaining measures and the baby was left to die.  Which, after a period of time, did happen.  But not before the baby impacted a number of lives.  Unfortunately or  fortunately (I am still trying to figure that out), I was one of the people impacted as I sat there, waiting for the baby to die so that I could finish the Preliminary Report of Death and carry on with the rest of the investigation and my remaining shift.

Because of the 40 minute death vigil that I took part in, I now deal with the lasting impacts.  Something that provides so much joy and happiness to people is my pain, guilt, suffering and root cause of my PTSD.  For me, babies are a trigger that takes me right back to that pain I witnessed back in 2006.  They are my kryptonite.  It was the nursery scenes in American Sniper that cracked me at the cruising altitude of a plane.  Those scenes took me right back to 2006 and I didn’t even realize it.

A baby has made me cry, not tears of happiness but tears of pain, guilt and sadness.


When flying doesn’t include friendly skies.

Lets kick this story off.

It is the end of April 2018 and I am 30 000 ish feet in the air flying on a commercial flight to a meeting.  I’ve settled in with my free coffee, head phones in and I decided to watch “American Sniper” by Clint Eastwood. seems like a good way to pass the flight away, or is it…..

As I would soon find out, Clint Eastwood can mess you up if you’re not expecting it.  There I was, sitting in row 8, trying to cover up the fact that I am crying my eyes out and I have no idea why.  After a few minutes I’m able to compose myself only to be plunged back into tears streaming down my face.  I am panicked.  Have people seen me crying?  Why the hell am I crying?  Screw you Clint Eastwood…..  What he hell is going on?

Not sure what as happening, I composed myself and tried to figure out what was going on.  Luckily, the flight was coming to an end and I was able to find an episode of Big Bang Theory to change things up.  I was travelling with a co-worker and needed to get it together before landing as we still had a 2 hour drive to the meeting location.

The next day and a bit I kept it together, not letting on that something was wrong.  Hell, I still didn’t know what was wrong so I just pretended like everything as okay.  I guess it worked because nobody was the wiser.  But, that’s actually something important to mention which I have come to learn.  People dealing with PTSD are masters at hiding the fact that we are dealing with PTSD, or so we think.  We tend to be able to throw on a masks and make everyone think all is good in the hood, so to speak.  But those masks can only cover up for so long and only so much.

The morning before I flew back home I had a few moments of clarity partly brought on by a few glasses of beer, wine and the associated morning fuzzy head as a result.  It hit me, February 2006.  That’s what this is all about.

I then made the second hardest call of my life.  I called the (Occupational Stress Injury) OSI Clinic to get help.  I had cracked and I needed to get fixed, ASAP, before things got really out of hand.  Luckily, I was guided by a few very awesome people who led me to make a call to Breakwater Institute (see my resource page) and it turned out to be the best call I could have made.  So, you are thinking to yourself, if reaching out for help was only the second hardest call you made, what is the hardest?

Let me tell you what the hardest call to make was.  It was the call I made from the airport to my wife to tell her I cracked and needed help.  It was hard because I had to admit that I wasn’t strong enough to do this anymore.  I had to tell one of the most important people in my life that I needed help.  It was also in that moment that I made a decision to bring my family into this Journey.  As it turns out, it was probably the best decision I would make.