When I started 12 years ago, I always knew I needed to take care of my mental wellbeing. As a professional, I knew it was important to cover all aspects of training, physically and mentally. Luckily for me, my wife wanted to hear about everything at work, and I talked about it over the years a lot. Nothing really seemed to bother me. I couldn't handle the hurting dogs very well. It blew my mind how many stray and starving animals there were. I could handle dead bodies and shooting just fine.
It was not until I had kids that I started to have issues. Really it was after I had both kids. I stopped trying to help the stray dogs and would drive the other way when I saw one. I started to have intrusive thoughts. I would hear a news story, or I would have a scene myself, and I would literally try and put myself in that
scenario to try and understand how someone could do the stuff they did. Inevitably, those mental images always turned into me and my family. I would ask myself, "What kind of psycho thinks about his family being hurt or killed like that?" The thoughts always made me feel like I was fucked up. I shook them off, but other scenes or horror stories from coworkers would trigger them. They started to come all the time, whenever. I would be sitting in church having fucked up thoughts about shit. Hearing your story on the podcast a few weeks back about the girl brought me into that mode again. I was picturing what you were describing as if I was there.
Luckily for me through my medical issues, I was in the right places at the right times and was on our wellness team working on trying to form a wellness unit. I had been to several courses for debriefing training and resiliency training. It was not unit I went to the first FOP Wellness summit a few years back, and I heard Travis Howze speak, that I decided to seek help. I even knew that the average amount of time it took someone to seek help was 9 years, and I had not until 10 years.
I went back home and decided to use our newly created wellness app and find a therapist that specialized in emdr. The first therapist I got on the phone was upset that I called her. She wanted to know how I came across her number. I told her it was listed in our app, and that those were providers that chose to participate in that program for us. She explained that I should have gone down the list alphabetically, and that she was unable to help me. I told her I chose her based on her specific detail of practicing emdr and helping with first responders with trauma, but she was not on board. The next seven numbers I called were all wrong, and I had to Google the offices and called the right numbers. Every one of them went to voicemail, and all the messages said they were not taking new patients. One called me back, and he explained that he did not accept insurance, but was also not accepting new patients. Well, fuck, right?
A lady that we worked with in our city wellness stuff hooked me up with my current therapist. I was looking for emdr treatment because I heard about it at the wellness summit. I ended up not needing it for my issues, so I still have no experience with it, but I have heard great things. I did not have a major critical
incident that was causing my issues, and she did not think emdr would benefit what I was experiencing.
My first visit with my therapist was life changing for me though. I explained to her the intrusive thoughts, and she asked me how they made me feel. I told her I felt horrible about them, and that it was fucked up
for anyone to think about their kids like that. She told me that was a natural healthy reaction to those thoughts, and that I was not a (my term "psycho") for having that reaction to those negative thoughts. If I had been excited or aroused by the thoughts, then we'd have a larger problem. Knowing I was normal for
having that reaction to those thoughts, they stopped happening almost immediately. I have been seeing her now ever since off and on. The time between visits has gotten longer because I am able to notice when I am having an issue with something, and I can mentally adjust fire so to speak. I have been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and adhd. I have learned so much about how I process things and it has explained so much about how I deal with certain people and family. It has helped a ton. Just knowing that is was my adhd keeping me awake at night has helped me sleep too. I talked with a fireman here and we share some of the same lived experiences with the adhd and anxiety. We interrupt people while talking, and we realized that it was a result of a fear of forgetting the idea or comment, cause by our adhd. That has helped me just in everyday communicating a ton. Being aware of it, I am more in control of it.
Having the aneurysm rupture caused some different mental issues. I had some survivors guilt a little because I heard of someone having the same issue not long after me, and he dropped dead at 18.
Devine intervention was the only thing I could make sense of it with. I figured God had more work for me to do. When I found out I could not afford to go out for our TACT team again due to the stroke risk getting dehydrated, I was depressed as hell. That was all I ever wanted to do on the department. I keep in contact with Travis Howze occasionally. I learned a lot of helpful techniques in all those presentations and classes, like the tetris thing I mentioned to you previously. Another one is not looking at your watch or alarm clock if you wake up at night. No matter what the time is, it is going to be a negative reaction to your brain. It's either too early, and you realize you're waking up too soon, or its almost time to
get up, and you realize that you only have a few more hours or minutes to sleep. Regardless of the time, you will have a negative reaction to it that your brain will start to associate with waking up and, in my case, my mind started racing about other negative thoughts. That would keep me up for hours. Now, when I wake up in the night, I acknowledge that I am awake, don't look at shit, and go back to sleep much better. I will go through my notes, and maybe we can put together useful tips like that from responders all over, and see if we can help each other.
I love what you'e doing, and this is a great idea of building a community helping itself.
Always down for whatever.
Hope this helps someone.