Where to start in this vicious brain of mine? 17 years of Fire/EMS have taken a toll on my mental capabilities to function at a normal level. The stressors of “the job” have caused me to question everything in life, day to day dealings as well as my own life purpose. Having been told to “deal with it, suck it up and you knew what you were getting into when you applied”, have left me with an empty worthless feeling of an ultimate failure. I feel those actions lead me to feel like I should be able to deal with the emotional rollercoaster we as providers ride on continually. However that has not been the case. The nightmares that woke me nearly 16 years ago still occur and bring back horrific dreams. The images still burned into my head, the sounds, the smells, the feeling of other’s blood on my skin, they all keep me from going back to sleep. Then the anxiety associated with packing up my gear and driving in for another shift. I don’t and have never hated my job and I feel like I still function well enough to provide proper patient care but my brain is continually telling me that every call I go on is going to be my last, that this will be the one that makes me completely fall apart and lose it. These feelings have always been there. The nightmares and the images came and went away like yesterdays news but for the last year they have stuck to me with a vengeance. I think I have neglected my psychological well being while trying to save and protect everyone else.
I have since been diagnosed PTSD and have been taught some coping skills. They really have yet to help but I am giving it a definite shot. I’ve been told by numerous people to just quit and move on. Sounds easy, right? This is all I know and even if I do move on I don’t think my brain will know nor care that I no longer am riding on an ambulance. It will still cause me to wake up with the nightmares, feel excruciating anxiety in crowds, feel that impending doom when watching people cross the road or kids playing in the yard. I don’t know that those feelings will ever cease but therapy is helping somewhat and my family for the most part has been super supportive and I love them for it. Thank you to The Code Green Campaign for bringing about the mental awareness we as first responders need to have access to. Never give up hope.
– Story written by an anonymous paramedic, 17 years in EMS.