Could you “Walk a Mile in My Shoes?”

This post is my way of getting out some frustrations I have been dealing with over the last year-plus. Please try to bear with me as I attempt to bring to light the ignorance of administrations. The process which I have gone through is not uncommon for people who have been living with PTSD.

We chose to serve our communities by protecting them from unforeseen events. We spend sleepless nights protecting those we serve. We have taken time away from our family to protect yours. We are the faces you see when you are having some of the worst days of your life.

Many of us have spent years working in public safety as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, doctors, and nurses. We have seen things that you never expected when we began a career that we love. We find ways to make the tough sacrifices just to make your day a little less painless.

Millions of first responders around the world have some hidden secrets. These secrets take over their lives, controlling everything from the way they perform their jobs to the way they spend their family time. They spend many nights and days away from the job drinking, thinking, and asking themselves, “What has happened? What will happen? What is happening?”

We also spend time questioning, “What else could I have done to change the outcome? Did I do everything I could have done? Where did I go wrong?”

When all these questions finally consume our lives, who is there to help us? Many of us live with the impression that we can handle it or “suck it up.” Until that one incident, that one day, that one individual or that one child finally hits home. It consumes the way we perform our duties. No one sees the physiological changes, not even us. We could go days, weeks, months, or even years before finally that consumption takes over.

Hopefully, before it is too late, we or someone around us realizes something is wrong. This is when our lives take a drastic turn. some are fortunate enough to get the help and support they need. But what about those who the administration feels are no longer needed. That first responder who has had an unremarkable long career, only to have a brief moment of disassociation with reality. Do you look at the big picture that there was a reason for this event? Or do you look at that one event as a way to ignore the truth?

Too many questions that administrations, politicians, and retirement boards fail to address. Because PTSD is not a visible injury, it is ignored as a true result of these professions. What is truly disgusting, these administrators, politicians, and board members are either elected by the public we serve or appointed by others who have never seen the truth.

If we decide to “suck it up” and finish our careers. What will result from the years of “sucking it up” bring us? We will get our full retirement, all the recognition of a long career, and all the benefits that come along with many years of psychological trauma. This includes sleepless nights, drinking, poor relationships, etc.

But, if you decide to get the help you need, what will you get? Reduced, if any, retirement, no recognition of what you have done, and a bunch of red tape. Let’s not mention the debts that have piled up along with added stress and anxiety. Then there is that sense that the career you fell in love with has left you out in the cold.

It goes back to the cliche of “Walk a mile in my shoes.”

My point is that many first responders ignore their mental health because they don’t want to feel weak or they know the administration will not support them. The administrations and politicians need to realize that what we do is not for the rewards. It’s for the public we serve. The only way we can protect the public we serve is by getting help from the administrators and politicians the public appointed.

PTSD is overlooked too much by administrators and politicians just because it is not a visible injury. We spend time and millions of dollars looking for ways to prevent physical injuries. But what about the mental health of the first responders that put their lives on the line every day?

It’s time to wake up and realize that we are not just some name on a piece of paper.