First responders: two in, two out.
Being a first responder is a noble thing. To run towards what the rest of us run away from is truly brave. But unfortunately bravery won’t protect you from the silent epidemic that’s amongst and killing you: PTSD.
Bravery and courage have nothing to do with PTSD. The most important thing to understand is that trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event. Trauma has nothing to do with will power or toughness. Trauma is cumulative. Trauma not only breaks our connection with life but also with ourselves. Trauma limits our choices and gives us a narrow range of motion, it holds our vitality hostage and it cuts us off from those we love.
PTSD is an equal opportunity visitor; it doesn’t care who you are. If you are around trauma often enough, it will pay you a visit. Trauma is a funny thing, you may be able to be around it for a really long time and be just fine. Then you might develop a myth that says I can’t be traumatized. Ah the things we tell ourselves. Until something goes wrong… maybe it’s something small or maybe it’s that one call… you know the one… the one you can’t get out of your head... that plays like a bad movie over and over again. Suddenly you can’t function… your sleep is totally disturbed, you’re having nightmares, you’re drinking, drugging, eating, sleeping around on someone you love… and your life becomes a wreck. You might even go so far down the hole that you think that others would be better off without you and that just isn’t true. If this is you, stop reading this and get help now.
Speaking as someone whose Dad was killed trying to rescue two other people, depriving children of their dad is a cruel thing. If you’re a Dad and you’re so traumatized that you’re thinking of killing yourself, call a mental health professional or go to the hospital right now. If you’re anybody and you’re thinking of killing yourself, get help now.
When someone is considering suicide, the mind becomes warped and they might actually think that everyone is better off without them. Nothing could be further from the truth. And know that statistically speaking, children whose parents who die by suicide have a greater risk of dying by suicide themselves.
We live in a culture where men have decided that the way to be a man is not to feel. Where men are allowed to operate within a very narrow range of masculinity that other men police: one that focuses on power over, not power with. One that is devoid of compassion or humanity. This behaviour is incredibly harmful to men and to anyone that’s around it. Women are all too familiar with it. It leads to bullying in the workplace, to harassment and can also drive a person to suicide. This kind of behaviour causes Complex PTSD.
This is not what it means to be a man. Being a whole man, a man who feels, who supports others in their lives and their roles, who shows up and takes charge when needs be, who takes care of those in his work family and his own family, who acts as a force for good in the world, now that’s a man.
Being a First Responder is brave. Braver still is sitting with a buddy who’s feeling broken and hopeless and you let them know they’re not alone.
Two in, two out.