I’ve been there. I started volunteering at a fire department as soon as I passed EMT registry to get experience while I waited to get hired at the local ambulance service. It took over 16 months to get hired and when I got hired it wasn’t because I was “the best applicant” or because “lets give this guy a chance.” I was hired because I knew a guy that knew the operations manager and they go way back in the day and had dirt on each other. I was hired as a favor.
At this point I was ECSTATIC to get hired and could not wait to get on a truck and do good work!After my 90 days probation period I was already considering quitting. I had a partner that made me uncomfortable and acted like a one man operation who had to be the hero in the spotlight. This was not what I expected. I changed partners over the years and eventually went on to paramedic school.
I’m not sure if it was the stress from school or if it was just my time, but right at the end of paramedic school I became burned out. I never realized how the stress of the job had put me in such a depression. I had ran dozens of calls where someone decided to take their own life and I would always sympathize with them because I have been there. I had been in that moment when I didn’t see any other options. I know its selfish but I didn’t care.
I just wanted the pain to go away. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to feel fulfilled. I wanted to wake up one day and not want to die. I wanted to drive to work and not hope somebody runs a redlight and kills me. I was at the point that if something said it may cause cancer I was doing it hoping I would magically get cancer and fall over dead. Or maybe I could run a call in a bad part of town and get shot. Perhaps I decide not to stage for PD on the next dangerous call and maybe the perp will shoot me!
Luckily before any of that happened I changed fields and went to part-time status working a shift here and there with only my favorite partners. I had started to take the attitude where nothing bothered me. Guy raped his mom? No big deal. I can find something and brushoff the seriousness of the situation. Insensitive? Yeah. But it was my way of coping.
Making fun of other peoples issues seemed to help. I only did it with my partner. Don’t get excited. I never made fun of a patient to their face. I stayed professional. Eventually I hadn’t worked enough shifts and I “voluntarily resigned” from the ambulance service. Bittersweet. I haven’t touched an ambulance in almost two years now. I’ve kept my national registry up to date just in case things don’t work out at the new job.
I had several occasions at the new job where a co-worker would piss me off and I would really go off on them. They would always go to the boss and I would get my hand slapped. After a few times of my anger and aggression showing I was told that if this or any similar situation happens again, I am going to have to find another job. I didn’t realize I had gotten this bad.
I never had this problem on the ambulance. I started seeing a psychiatrist during paramedic school for Adderall and depression. I kept seeing him over the years. Recently I went to an appointment and mentioned that I violently wanted to end my life. I had a plan and all I needed was one wrong thing to happen. He mentioned I may try out group therapy. We had tried some of the “best” anti-depressants but things never seemed to get better. My doctor felt like there was an underlying issue causing the depression and the outbursts of anger.
I gave group therapy a shot. It couldn’t hurt right? This was the best decision I made. I had no Idea that I was still carrying the stresses of EMS. They gave me the tools to talk myself off of the ledge and talk my self up when I get down. I can now stay calm and remind myself that this is not the end of the world. I have seen some bad stuff and this is certainly not the worst thing that could happen.
Somebody cares. I may not know them but there is somebody who cares about me. There is somebody to listen to me. An idle mind is the worst thing for me. I’ve called in to work “sick” and stayed home in the bed cuddled up to a shotgun too many times to count. I’m glad I spoke up and talked to someone. Please please please don’t keep your feelings and emotions to yourself. Talk to someone. Your problems are not a burden on your friends or family.
– Story written by a 29 year old male EMT, 6 year in EMS.