Stigma and the Elephant in the Room, to the Point of No Return and Back

by Rob Leathen

I went public not for any sympathy and not for any pity but because I firmly believe that silence does nothing but strengthen stigma.

Rob Leathen

Early in February 2019, I knew something wasn’t quite right with me. The continual arguments with my wife, the emotional outbursts, unexpected crying and anger. Anger with everybody and everything led me to the conclusion that I needed help. I started weekly therapy for what was likely PTSD

Stigma? “Screw the stigma,!” I thought. I went public with my PTSD battles. If just one person asked me one question about PTSD or one person reflected on the state of their own mental health or one person already suffering no longer felt alone than my going public was worthwhile. Little did I know my PTSD journey would turn in an unexpected direction. Continue reading “Stigma and the Elephant in the Room, to the Point of No Return and Back”

Slow Death of a Firefighter

by Timothy O. Casey
Firefighter/Paramedic (deceased)

As a firefighter/paramedic for more than 30 years, I can safely say I have pretty much seen it all. I have seen death in every incarnation, and life as well. We on the front lines are not invited politely to join in the fray of life; no, we are thrust into chaos on a daily basis, it’s our job.

It is, to say the least, an unusual profession. No two days are alike, and no two emergencies are alike. The environment is rarely predictable and the events and people even more unpredictable. Yet we go.

Who takes care of us? Our families? They try, I know mine did. But the average or normal person cannot share our experience, they can’t imagine what we do or see.

I know that many days I felt like a human garbage collector, picking up the waste of society. People, although fascinated with the gruesome, macabre, or terrifying, only see it from a distance. We hold it in our hands and get it on the soles of our boots. Continue reading “Slow Death of a Firefighter”

Moral Injury

by Rob Leathen

“Moral Injury”: A moral injury can occur when an individual has experienced a potentially injurious event by “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” and the moral/ethical violation resulted in “lasting psychological, biological, spiritual, behavioral, and social impact”

While not part of the PTSD diagnosis, PTSD, and Moral Injury quite often occur together with moral injuries significantly impacting the success of PTSD therapy.

About the Author: Rob is a 27 year veteran of the fire service holding the rank of Acting Platoon Chief for a mid-sized Fire Department in Ontario, Canada. He has held a variety of roles and ranks throughout his career including volunteer firefighter, fire dispatcher, career firefighter, Acting Captain, Captain, and Acting Platoon Chief. Rob has also been heavily involved in his local firefighter association holding positions on the Health and Safety Committee and Association President on two separate occasions. Rob is also a vocal advocate for 1st responder mental health using his lived experience with PTSD and depression to help educate others through talks, presentations, and published writings.

 

SUICIDE: The Mental Cost of Being a Firefighter

by Peggy Sweeney

“Training them to deal with trauma, stress, and grief is no less important than training them to be safe on the fire ground.”

Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2010 it was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 38,364 deaths.  One of the major risk factors for suicide is depression, or a substance-abuse disorder — often in combination with other mental disorders. More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors. (Moscicki, 2001) Continue reading “SUICIDE: The Mental Cost of Being a Firefighter”

I Lost a Patient Today

Shared by Code 9 – Heroes and Families United

This is written by a nurse who bravely went to New York to help. The following is heartbreaking and may be triggering for some. The reason I am posting this is that some of these healthcare workers will develop PTSD and we need to be there for them. We will help any way we can.

I lost a patient today. He was not the first, and unfortunately, he’s definitely not the last. But he was different. I’ve been an ER nurse my entire career, but in New York, I find myself in the ICU. At this point, there’s not really anywhere in the hospital that isn’t ICU, all COVID 19 positive. They are desperate for nurses who can titrate critical medication drips and troubleshoot NBC [Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical – types of mass-casualty weapons].

I’ve taken care of this man the last three nights, a first for me. In the ER, I rarely keep patients for even one 12 hour shift. His entire two-week stay had been rough for him, but last night was the worst. I spent the first six hours of my shift not really leaving his room. By the end, with so many medications infusing at their maximum, I was begging the doctor to call his family and let them know. “He’s not going to make it,” I said. The poor doctors are so busy running from code to code, being pulled by emergent patients every minute. All I could think of was the voice of my mom in my head, crying as I got on the plane to leave for this place: “Those people are alone, you take good care of them”. I was the only person in that room for three nights in a row, fighting as hard as I could to keep this man alive. The doctor was able to reach the family, update them. It was decided that when his heart inevitably stopped we wouldn’t try to restart it. There just wasn’t anything else left to do. Continue reading “I Lost a Patient Today”

Human Kindness

by Peggy Sweeney

I have been very blessed in my life to be able to be a small part of several human kindness professions. Everyday people who dedicate and risk their lives to protect, serve and care for others:

      • law enforcement and correctional officers
      • 911 emergency dispatchers
      • firefighters (as of 2018, 67% were volunteer)
      • pre-hospital caregivers – paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), and first responders
      • medical staff, the list is too numerous to mention

Continue reading “Human Kindness”

Friend

 

Don’t tell me that you understand, don’t tell me that you know,

Don’t tell me that I will survive or how I will surely grow.

Don’t tell me that this is just a test, that I am truly blessed.

That I am chosen for this task, apart from all the rest.

Don’t come at me with answers, that can only come from me,

Don’t tell me how my grief will pass, that I will soon be free.

Don’t stand in pious judgment of the bounds I must untie,

Don’t tell me how to suffer, and don’t tell me how to cry!

My life is filled with selfishness, my pain is all I see,

But, I need you now, I need your love, unconditionally.

Accept me in my ups and downs, I need someone to share.

Just hold my hand and let me cry, and say, “My friend, I care.”

Author, Joanetta Hendel 

I Have Learned

Source Unknown

I’ve learned – that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is
be someone who can be loved.
The rest is up to them.

I’ve learned – that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.

I’ve learned – that it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.

I’ve learned – that it’s not what you have in your life

I’ve learned – that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes.
After that, you’d better know something. Continue reading “I Have Learned”

Retirement is a Mixed Bag

I retired from the funeral profession in December of 2011, about the same time my grandson, Jake, was born. Although I received much reward from my job, I felt it was time to devote my days to what I enjoyed doing. Crocheting and reading and lunch with friends was fun. I became a Hospice volunteer and was able to devote more time to my non-profit which provided educational programs and support groups for bereaved families and much needed help for our emergency first responders and military personnel. Unfortunately, two years ago I had to dissolve my non-profit company for lack of funding. I’ll be honest, it was one of the hardest choices I have ever made. With the folding of the company, I deleted my three websites and basically withdrew from life for a while.

Since then, I have relocated from Texas to Ohio to be closer to Jake, his family and my daughter in Nashville. After much soul searching, I have decided I NEED to continue my work to offer help to others but on a limited scale. This website will feature many of the articles that I and others have written in the past with the hope that their words will help you in whatever your struggles may be. Grief is not just about the feelings we have after a loved one dies but many, many other events that happen in our lives.

We are coming into the holiday season when many people struggle with grief, I will start to add some articles you may find helpful. If you would like to write for this blog, I am happy to review your article(s) and edit it if necessary. Please include a brief bio and a photo. I do not accept articles from paid professional writers who charge a fee or are promoting their company. I want this site to host true stories written by people who have experienced grief, divorce, post traumatic stress, addiction and other distressing events. As time allows, I will be adding links to books and other helpful sites.

Thank you in advance for your support in this endeavor. I hope to reconnect with former friends and law enforcement, 911 Dispatchers, firefighters and EMS professionals I have met in the past.

HUGS

Peggy Sweeney

Missing You

by Peggy Sweeney

Author’s Note: This is a story about my child who is estranged from his family. 

In August of 1977, a baby was placed in my arms at Chicago’s O’Hara Airport. Just four and half months old, he arrived from Seoul, Korea. He was the second of two babies my husband and I adopted from Korea. His older sister, Jenny, along with friends and other family members greeted him with so much love and joy. 

He and Jenny and later another daughter, Bethany, brought so much happiness into our lives. But for Tim, life was not easy. He struggled with his studies due to attention deficit disorder. But his smile would light up a room and he had many friends.  Continue reading “Missing You”