I have cried a lot in my career. For patients, their family, and fellow teammates who have lost a family member. I have mourned the death of countless coworkers. Whether it be natural or suicide. This time, it’s different.
I cry for me. I am 47 years old. I have been a paramedic for 23 years and an EMT for over 26 years. I have dedicated my life to prehospital medicine. I have taken extra classes, taken time from my family to learn, and to make a living. I’ve been divorced twice and have attempted suicide twice. I am always depressed and always fear the next tone drop.
I know I’m not alone. But, it feels that way. When you express how you feel, after the death of a child, and the response is, “Get over it. Your team needs you.” I feel two things. One, your team counts on you. They look to you for guidance and strength. Second, you don’t understand. I am broke. I have reached my limit. I CANNOT handle another child. I know it’s not my fault he died, but I will see his face and especially his eyes, the rest of my life.
I have been a suicide attempt twice in my life. Both within the last three years. Both, right after a pediatric death. However, I have “dealt” with these types of calls my whole career. Why is now different? Have I changed? Have I gotten weaker? Am I weak?
I don’t know. The response, however, has never changed. “Get over it.” “It will pass.” It’s just part of the job.” Well, I’m human. Death of a patient has a cumulative effect. More so with children. Yet, it’s always the, “Put your big boy panties on. Run your next call. It’s what we do,” mentality.
I’ll admit, I’ve said the same things in the past. I didn’t know any better. But, we have learned the disastrous consequences of this thinking. We have lost too many of our brothers and sisters when it comes to this type of thinking. We do not take care of our own. We think we are immune from these tragedies. I am here to tell you we are not.
We are human. Whether we want to admit it or not. Death does take a toll on us. It builds up. Unfortunately, it’s not usually until one of us tries to take our own life until we recognize it. Then, it may be too late. We self medicate with alcohol and dark humor. We make jokes. We put “that call” in the back of our heads. We do not talk about it, we ignore it, we dissociate from it completely. But, it’s still there, hiding in your head.
I do not know where to go from here. I am alone, confused, hurt, and angry. I get physically I’ll when I put the uniform on. Tones dropping makes me want to vomit. On the way to calls, I feel anxious, my whole body shakes, and I get sweaty. The only thing I want to do is jump out of the truck and run. I can’t do this anymore.
Is suicide an option? No. But, I’d be kidding myself if I say it’s not in the back of my head. I feel abandoned by my family, friends, and coworkers. I’m lost in the dark and cannot see the light. My heart is dark and heavy. I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, and I don’t care.
When I step away or more likely told to step away, I will be replaced. I am nothing but a place holder. Meat in the seat. I have nothing special to offer. I am just a paramedic. Nothing more. I won’t be missed. Hell, probably not even thought of once I’m gone.
I have no direction. I have no desire. I have no will. I have no passion. I have nothing and I am nothing.
– Story written by a 47 year old male paramedic. 24 years in EMS.