A few words
I come from a long line of first responders and medical personnel. It never occurred to me to do anything else with my life other than become a fireman. I have always wanted to help people and knew after my first fire that I had made the right decision. The adrenaline and sense of accomplishment were exhilarating. I joined the Kansas City Fire Department in January of 1987 and made captain in September of 1993. At the time and for the next several years, I was the youngest captain on the fire department.
After traumatic calls, we would all sit around the table and talk it through with the “old guys,” Although it was somewhat therapeutic and offered a sense of camaraderie, it never allowed me to learn to process the trauma. I found myself not wanting to talk to my wife or pastor about the pain because I didn’t want to burden them with the images. Soon there were four distinct nightmares that played over and over when I would try to sleep. Eventually, I was afraid to go to sleep, which led to severe depression and sleep deprivation. I knew I was in trouble when I could no longer talk about what I saw.
The day my wife told me to leave I knew I had to find a way to deal with the trauma. I could no longer stuff the emotions, try to “will” them away or ignore them. I entered a 28-day inpatient treatment facility specializing in PTSD. I knew I felt alone and lost and even though I was a peer counselor in the fire department, I never thought that I had PTSD. After my first session with a psychiatrist, he confirmed that I, indeed, was suffering from PTSD. During my stay, the most important thing I learned was how to deal with the memories.
It’s time that we put a voice to the silent demons that so many first responders fight. I am not ashamed of my journey and can only hope that it helps someone else seek help before it is too late.
What I do
It’s time that we put a voice to the silent demons that so many first responders fight.