The Great Maternity Leave Essays: PTSD

I’m blogging on a more serious topic tonight.  For the most part my page is about inspiration, happiness and positive stuff.  But today I’m going to broach a tough subject. The beauty is that I write it from the perspective of someone who came out the other side happy, healthy and vibrant.  I am a fire fighters’ wife so the subject of PTSD comes up a ton – in the early days when you are attending critical incident stress management workshops, and in the later days when you hear about someone on the job who’s “off work for a while.”

I read a story tonight in the news about first responder deaths to suicide in Canada.  About how, in the first month of 2016 the numbers are in double digits already.  So sad.  Suicide is such a complex topic, with complex processes, but what is important to note is PTSD is is cited in so many of these stories of “invisible suffering.”

PTSD is no joke. I’m not a soldier, or a first responder. I’m just a firefighters’ wife who happened to go through it.  You hear about it alot in the emergency services world – because the risk of exposure to PTSD triggers is exponentially higher.  But damn, we are exposed to some crazy shit too.  You just never know what causes it.

As you read the sections below, remember that I speak coming out of the other side happy, healthy and fine. Some are not so lucky.

I’m summoning the courage to publish this because of the brilliant Bell #letstalk campaign, and because goodness knows, being a new mother, there’s going to be some stunning moments of mortality in our own lives.  We bear witness not only to our own lives, but to multiple others’ lives.

I get the difficulty of PTSD.

You can’t “logically work your way out” of intense, nightmarish images that feel like they have been permanently etched deep in the brain. The noises, the smells, the sounds. It’s a full sensory assault. Everything coming at you and a full psychic, physiological & emotional response.

I speak from experience of the awful sweats, the worst nightmares that leave you shaking and jolting awake, and the unwelcome, VIVID movies on repeat in your mind, playing in an endless loop of every detail.

Not to mention the good days, when in the back of your mind the fear is there…that they will come back. Or even worse, if you know your triggers, knowing that in an average day you may face them several times. It can be real eggshells.

What can suck the big one too, is the totally unexpected times it hits. And it’s usually so random. I can tell you lots of stories about walking out of my chiropractor’s office trying to hum a tune to trip the movie loop… Or just about having a panic attack seeing oxygen tanks. Or being in the bathroom at superstore trying to do breathing exercises while my trolley sat abandoned outside the washroom.

One of the best things we can do is embrace the bell ‪#‎letstalk‬ campaign, put on our big boy & girl panties, and start talking about this stuff, and being open about it.

It’s crazy. I was nervous to write this. Because there’s a little part of you that thinks “I don’t want people to think I’m fucked up”. And a part of you knows some people will read and go “whoa.”

When can we progress so this thought doesn’t happen? When can we see the day where people just think “I want to share this! People will think I’m human!”

Some of us are going to go through horrifying moments in life that are just too much to comprehend in the moment. First responders exponentially more so.

A society where this stuff can be processed, dealt with, and talked about without stigma will go a long way to circumvent some of the desperate decisions we read about in this article.

We will have Moments so intense. Where you just jump into action and deal with it because there is no option to shutdown.

Then there’s the days, weeks, months after where your brain, body and emotions begin to process what the f*** just happened.

PTSD is like you, a mouse, standing in front of a wild tiger.

PTSD is a particularly tough one because the LAST thing you want to do is talk about it, when most moments of your day you are trying to avoid it. It’s constantly jumping out of the bushes and you just want some peace most of the time.

That’s why I think it is such a silent disease.

Anyways, just my two cents and me putting myself out there. Super hard to write about so please be gentle 😬l

I’m really happy (and relieved) to say I don’t go through most of the crap anymore. I’ve been a year and a bit without nightmares and panicky moments that struck in the middle of the grocery store, or often halfway into a workout. I caught the sounds coming back the other day and it was a reminder that you must stay ever vigilant & dedicated. Not just to PTSD but to managing a happy, healthy and balanced life, a key defence in the battle.

I’ve been a lucky one with a solid psychologist, with whom I have an insane, amazing connection & working relationship, and the willingness to really dive right into the fire and go for it. I say I am lucky also because I have a work plan that can afford the $200+ an hour appointments, and after 3 different people, I found an amazing person to work with. I didn’t give up after the 2nd consult with 2nd person, diving in to the conversation a second time.

I was determined to kick it.

Even if you are up to getting the help, it can be a big financial outlay *and* if you are going to go into the fire with someone, you need to feel right about the connection you have with them. Just like a firefighter needs to know the person they go into the fire with has their back. Has their life.

That’s hard to find. So even if you get the guts to fight the beast, there’s way more hurdles to jump before you get there. There’s attrition in each stage, I’m sure.

The financials. The need for a good provider connection. A busy life bursting down the door saying “you don’t have time to do this!”

Thinking of those families tonight.

You have time to do this.  Stop stressing about the cost.  This is a great deal compared to the cost of not working on it. 

Here’s a formula I thought of:

We throw off our own ego’s shackles of “what will they think of me” and T-A-L-K

+

They L-I-S-T-E-N and suspend judgement.

=

Things will get better, slowly.

Things will get better for those incredible, gracious, courageous human beings who signed up to deal with the things nobody would ever want to have to see, or hear, or experience on any given day. Those courageous human beings, who after executing the most difficult task of all, are left to wonder, what the f*ck did I just experience?  Many of them left to wonder that on their own, inside their minds.  

First responders, my thoughts are with you.  If you know exactly what I am talking about in this post…  I hope this hit home in some way.  It was tough for me to hit “post” and go public but I hope a few of you will follow suit 🙂

‪#‎bellletstalk‬. Please feel free to share this.

Author: Carina Huggins

I am a certified, trained life coach, psychometrics practitioner (personality assessments and career inventories), academic specialist and lover of life. I am carving my own multi-passionate trajectory in a world of specialization and niches. Join me! I offer personality and career inventories and assessments through my professional coaching business, trajectorycoaching.org

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