She always knows what to say and how to say it. She told me of the troubles I’d face before I actually did. She warned me about “triggers”. Something that will “trigger” a memory and bring all my emotion back to the surface.
I’m still not sure if it’s PTSD or simply depression that I’ve been fighting but I can tell you this …. it’s a hell of a battle.
I’ve talked about it here on Ironfiremen.com before and it’s worth re-mentioning. Depression and PTSD are REAL. They’re an illness / disease that are both bigger than I ever imagined.
I bring this up again for a couple reasons. First, I had a rough weekend and kind of made mention of it in a status update on Face Book. As always, it resulted in an overwhelming show of support. THANKS to each and everyone of you.
The 2nd reason I’m revisiting this topic is because June is PTSD Awareness Month!
I’ll add here to keep in mind that it’s not just our soldiers who suffer from PTSD. I’d bet you’d be shocked to know how many of our Brothers and Sisters (Firefighters, EMS providers and Police Officers) suffer from and battle PTSD on a daily basis.
Special Thanks to a good friend and Brother Firefighter, Gary Allen Ridenour for sharing the links with me.
“Take the Step” and help raise PTSD awareness.
The first link below is from the Department of Veterans Affairs but they have a “public” section for you to visit.
And for the record, I’m feeling better today. I’m hoping for a long run of “good days”. Don’t let my postings or status updates worry ya. I’ve been sharing my story (and emotions) with you in hopes that someone out will realize (like I did) that they are not alone. Maybe someone out there will see my battles and realize that they too can fight. Several folks have told me that my postings on these topics have actually helped them in one way or another. For me, that makes it all worth it so I’ll keep writing about it when I can.
Hopefully I’ll kick this “writer’s block” in the butt as well. I’ve been wanting to get something up for ya but I just haven’t been able to focus here lately.
Of course my busy schedule doesn’t help matters much either. Hay season is here and that always occupies a lot of my time and adds to my stress level but I’ll figure all that out too (I’m tougher than I look …LOL). We had a very productive day in the fields on Saturday due to some GREAT help from family and friends. I just hope I didn’t over work em on the opening day of our season … we’ve got a lot more left to get up
So, until I get back to ya …. stay SAFE and in House!
For the followers of mine (yea…both of you) who aren’t “on the job”, the term positional awareness is one we use in reference to knowing “where” you are. We often refer to it as inside a structure or building …or at least on the fire ground. Another term that goes along with it is situational awareness … or knowing not only where you are but what is / can happen around you.
So where am I?? I wish I knew.
It’s an uncomfortable position for me. In the past, even when I’ve been somewhere I shouldn’t be; I at least knew I was there. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m lost.
If any of ya find me, please let me know or just take me home (of course I don’t even know where “home” is anymore).
Obviously, I’m not here (where I have been or where I’m used to being). I haven’t been for 3 months now and I can’t seem to figure it out.
I’ll assume that you guys have … figured it out that is. Obviously, by my lack of postings / presence something is still not right. I also know that you’re most likely tired of hearing me whine and cry … tired of my “softer” side. Many of you have sent e-mails, comments etc excited to see bits and pieces of the “old Willie” and that style of posting back. The honest answer is that I’m just not there yet. I tried to get there but couldn’t…. not yet. At least you haven’t forgotten about me.
There is a TON of material out there and things I want to say / comment on but I just can’t find the energy to sit down and write it out. I can’t find the words. It’s not “flowing” in my mind ….. I guess it’s what they mean by writers block (if you can call me a writer…LMAO).
I’ve been in a fog. Wondering …. aimlessly. Still searching for my answers. Answers I may never find.
Maybe this direction, these type of postings is where I need to be. Maybe I can be of more help to the Brotherhood by sharing these stories than I can of my everyday firehouse life / opinion etc.
I can’t imagine keeping a very big audience along this path but if I can make a difference in just one Brother or Sister’s life, I think it would be worth it.
I don’t know where I’m going yet … hell, I’m not 100% sure of where I’ve been now that I try to put it all into perspective. I think we’ve all been here … it’s just my first trip.
For me, the hits just keep coming. I feel like I can’t keep my head above water. I’m dry but drowning!
Jack’s suicide, my moms cardiac procedure (which turned out way better than expected) and, Boot’s cancer surgery. Everything seemed to hit at once. I’ve tried to be strong … to set an example…strong yet open. It hasn’t been easy. Everyone wants me back but I’m not sure I can get there. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on to the little sanity I have but I’m trying.
Alison Krauss has several lines in her song “Paper Airplane” that hits home with me … one says …. “And love is hard to measure hidden in the rain. That’s why you’ll find me…Here all alone and still wondering why. Waiting inside for the cold to get colder…”
Another from the same song is ….“How many days should I smile with a frown?‘Cause you’re not around with the sun on your shoulders…”
Here’s a video of her singing the song if you’re not familiar with it or her music … I’m a HUGE fan.
Smile with a frown … sound familiar to any of ya?
Now, for me at least; it keeps piling on and I’m faced with even more challenges … more questions, more demons and battles to fight.
Today, I moved Jackson’s things out of dad’s house (that’s where he had been staying since his wife put him out and also where he decided to end his life). I smelt him as I moved every box. I smell him now. It’s was like an avalanche of emotion overtaking me once again.
It still seems like only yesterday to me but I know it’s not. I know this because yesterday, I found myself waiting once again for the phone to ring. I waited but he didn’t make that Easter morning call. I wanted to dial his number but couldn’t. Nothing is as it should be.
I don’t know how dad has done it. How he’s stayed there in the house. Past the birthdays and holidays. He’s got to be hurting as much as me and it’s killing me knowing it.
It’s even difficult for me to be around dad now. Him and Marci both look like and remind me so much of Jackson that it hurts. Worse than that … it suffocates me. I can’t explain it. Is this the life I’m left to live? Alienated from my own family? When will it end? Will it ever? Apparently not…
Thursday, Donna (my wife); will have a lump removed from behind her breast (under her arm). We wont know what it is until they get it out and see.
The procedure is weighing heavy on my mind. She’s staying strong for me and the girls while I’m quietly bleeding out. I’m not sure how much more I can take.
I feel like an old dilapidated barn. Old and worn yet just strong enough to leave you wondering how it’s still standing. I wish I knew. I wish I had it’s strength.
I want to leave this place … to go somewhere … anywhere but here yet I know I can’t. I know all roads will lead me back …. back to my struggles, my challenges, back to the things you cant run from. I’ll stay and fight.
I know there are many of you out there fighting the same battles. Several of you have reached out and spoken with me personally. I’ll remind you once again of the many resources available to us. Resources unique to “public safety”…. resources who understand who we are, where we came from and the challenges we face.
Behavioral Health issues … Grief, Stress, PTSD … issues unique and as personalized as those suffering through them. Issues all of us on the job have faced (most of us anyway). Here are some links for help. Links that will help you begin your journey … friends to guide you down the path… your start to the healing process.
“At an international conference on Friday, March 1, the NFFF (National Fallen Firefighters Foundation) introduced a new Behavioral Health Model that changes the way the fire service assists firefighters and others on the path to healing. It is based on the concept that no two firefighters will necessarily have the same reaction — not even to the same call”.
As for me, I’ve talked about not being able to eat or sleep. About not being able to keep anything down (on my stomach) and having an irritable bowel. I’ve shared being unfocused and distracted from rational thought, purpose or direction. What we don’t hear a lot about is where these things can lead when left untreated. Anger, the many forms of abuse … domestic, spousal and/or substance and even suicide .
There are many Brothers and Sisters out there battling Grief, Depression and/or PTSD that can’t see their way through or past their suffering. For many, suicide seems their only way “out”. Don’t stand idle and watch these Brothers and Sisters fall. Like many of you have done for me, YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE in their lives as well, in their healing process. Start talking about Behavioral Health in your Department (paid or volunteer, large or small). Use the links I’ve provided and look for more.
The recent events of my recovery are merely an expected bump in the road. I’ve known that a holiday, a random picture, odor, memory etc would bring back a flood of emotion. I’m still searching for my “new normal” and fighting my way back to where I want and need to be. I’ll get there. Thanks again for all the continued understanding and support. I’m still here. I know this is not the post you were hoping / looking for but it’s all I have right now.
For those of us “on the job”, it’s a fairly common term.
We use it when talking about forcing entry into a structure or cutting a ventilation hole in the roof. Sometimes it’s even used for vehicle extrication (using the “jaws of life” to cut open a car).
More often than not, it’s a “Truckie” term ( a firefighter assigned to a Ladder truck) although sometimes, due to today’s staffing issues; an Engine Company can be assigned these tasks.
I’ve been thinking about “opening up” and the various meanings of the term a lot here lately …. as related to the job and emotionally.
Today, I’m working an extra shift. I’m paying back a Brother (Tim Cady) who worked a day for me last week.
I’m pulling the tour at Station #1 (aka “The Big Show”) on A-shift. I’m riding the seat of the Ladder.
It’s a brand new Pierce, 100′ tiller and with a price tag of 1.2 million, she’s a sweet ride.
I spent my younger years in the Department assigned to a Ladder ….. it was good, honest work. I’ve learned a lot since then. Truck work made me a good fireman. I’d like to think I’m older and wiser now but some will argue that.
I’ve been assigned to an Engine Company since I made Captain back in 2000. On the Engine, I’m thinking about size ups, water supply and getting to the fire.
Riding the Ladder, my thought process has to change just a bit. Today, I’m thinking about placement, forcible entry, search, rescue, ventilation, salvage, overhaul and even extrication.
“Opening up” is a priority for me and the A-Shift crew today. Opening up so so the Engine guys can get on the fire. Opening up to ventilate. Opening up to make our searches or opening up vehicles for extrication purposes.
The rig I’m riding is perfect for the job. It’s a 1.2 million dollar tool box. Everything we need to do our job … to “open up” is stored away nice and neat inside her.
It sounds difficult but it’s not. It’s all we know … it’s what we do. The other type of opening up however … the emotional opening up … that’s not so easy.
My absence from postings and social media has been pretty obvious lately. In a recent post, “Climbing Out”; I shared with you that I am just reaching the “depression” stage of my grief (or PTSD) and it’s been a difficult journey.
The honest answer is that I just haven’t felt like writing. I still can’t seem to focus or get motivated.
I had the chance to travel up to Long Island New York last week for their Fire, Rescue and EMS Mega Show.
I got to spend the weekend with my MN8 FoxFire family. I call them “family” because they are … it was an easy decision to go.
In some ways, it was. I was hoping it would open some doors for me and it did …. it also slammed a few in my face.
Most of you know that Rhett (The Fire Critic) and I very seldom travel without the other but he was unable to make this trip.
Not wanting to drive alone, I figured I’d ask my sister, Marci; to tag along.
If nothing else, we’d get to spend the weekend together and that’s never a bad thing (or it shouldn’t be anyway). She was excited! We both were.
What I didn’t figure on was how emotionally difficult it would be for me (and maybe her too).
She reminds me so much of Jackson. I’ve never looked at or thought of her that way.
She looks like him. She acts like him. Her mannerisms. How she uses her hands when she talks, how she crosses her legs. How she talks. Little things but everywhere I looked, every time I turned around, she reminded me of Jackson and it breaks my heart. My stomach stayed in knots … that “sick” feeling all over again … the hurt.
I may have the same affect on her. Everyone always said that we all looked exactly alike (dad, me, Jack and Marci). I’m sure Dad sees Jack in us and I know it hurts. So here’s another door I’ll (we’ll) have to figure out how to “open up”. I’ve got to learn to be around things (including people / family) that remind me of Jack. I need to figure out how to make these “reminders” trigger the good memories and not rekindle my pain and sorrow.
I’m not sure how to do it. How to open this door.
I don’t think it’s one that can be “forced”. I think I’ve been doing too much of that lately … “forcing” the issues.
Today is two months since Jack took his life. Everyone is still asking “how” I am … how I’m “doing”.
My reply has become standard … what everyone wants to hear. I’m “ok”. I’m “hanging in”. Making it “day by day” or “one step at a time”.
I’m not so sure that’s 100% true. Click that photo to the left. Do you ever hide your true emotions with replies like that? Are you telling those around you what they “want to hear” or how you’re truly feeling?
I have to admit again that “opening up” here on the blog (as difficult as it has been to do) has been therapeutic. I think it’s been my best therapy so far. I wasn’t so sure in the beginning.
“Opening up” for all my readers to see was a huge decision for me. I wasn’t sure I even could (or should for that matter). I’m glad I have.
While in Long Island (and many times before, via e-mails etc) several Brothers and Sisters approached me with not only sympathy and condolences, but with THANKS as well. They actually thanked me for sharing my story. I don’t think I was expecting that.
Some say it’s uplifting, a source of inspiration and that it’s even helped them through their own struggles with grief. Others say they miss the “old Willie” and that they are patiently awaiting the return of my “regular” postings while they understand and support my latest directions.
I met several GREAT Brothers and Sisters while in Long Island but one in particular will always stand out in my mind.
A true BROTHER and Captain Daniel Purcell of the Scarsdale Fire Department paid me a VERY special visit. He said he has been following my site (and Rhett’s) for a while now. When he seen I would be in Long Island, he had to come meet me.
We had a GREAT conversation. I wont share the details but it was very humbling. He brought gifts and even asked about the Buckaroo. I don’t think he was even interested in the show …. just delivering his message to me. THANKS AGAIN CAPT ! I hope you know how much that visit meant to me.
If it helps you to know, I’m not the only one talking about stress and “Behavioral Health” these days. “At an international conference on Friday, March 1, the NFFF introduced a new Behavioral Health Model that changes the way the fire service assists firefighters and others on the path to healing. It is based on the concept that no two firefighters will necessarily have the same reaction — not even to the same call”.
Learn more about what they’re doing / saying in the links below ….
In another previous post (“Melt Down”) , I told ya about the “stages of grief” and how grief is as individual as the person suffering through it. We don’t necessarily go through the stages in order and by no means in the same way.
I’m currently working through the “depression” stage (and, I believe; suffering through PTSD).
I was expecting it but have never fully understood exactly what “depression” was. I’m learning the hard way.
My thoughts continue to wonder with every waking moment and it’s difficult for me to focus.
I still can’t eat. I just don’t have an appetite … I’m not hungry. When I try to force myself to eat, I throw it back up so I figure why bother.
I’m sleeping some at night now but I’m not REALLY “sleeping”. I’m tired all the time and can’t motivate myself to get out and do anything. I try to make myself go “somewhere” or do “something” but I don’t. I know I need to.
I haven’t even been able to write (evident in my recent lack of postings and absence from Face Book).
I’m not getting along well with others … I just want to be alone.
All these things seem so petty and easy to fix but they’re not.
That’s the hardest part for me. I know what’s happening and what I need to do ….. I just can’t muster the energy or motivation to get it done.
I have to start climbing my way out of this hole … I thought I have been but it doesn’t feel like I’m making much progress. I can’t stay here (like this) forever.
One of the folks I’ve been seeing offered a prescription for anti-depressants. It’s not for me. There’s a small part of me that almost took her up on it just so I could learn for myself (and share with you folks) if they (the pills) “really” work or not. Unfortunately, I’m not the “pill” taking kind ( I hardly even even take an aspirin) so I won’t be able to tell you “first hand” about anti-depressants. I can tell you that depression is REAL . It’s an illness that can be crippling.
I see a lot of it in the firehouse for one reason or another. Not just in situations like mine (the loss of a loved one) but also over financial issues, marital problems etc. If you want to learn more about depression and take your “Depression IQ quiz”, take a minute and CLICK HERE .
The best thing for me has been talking about it. Getting “it” out of my head and off my chest. I’ve wrote about them a lot here lately but once again, I want to share with you some folks who you CAN TALK TO. People who understand and that do MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
These folks are not just for you or me either. They are there for our Brothers and Sisters as well and it’s up to us to let them know that help is available. PAY ATTENTION … look around you. If someone in your company, your Battalion, Department or whatever is needing help, point them in this direction. You know … firefighter “so and so” whos wife just left him. Ol “what’s his name” from Engine whatever who just took a 3rd mortgage out because he lost his 2nd job. That S.O.B on the Ladder who we all know has been drinking too much …. all these Brothers have someone to turn to. Let them know before it’s too late. Here are the links ….
I had a bad day yesterday. Like most everyday, there’s always something that will remind me of Jackson.
I pulled a tour Saturday (we work 24hr shifts) and when I got home yesterday morning, the Buckaroo was waiting for me. It was 8am , he missed his “Paw-Paw” and wanted to play.
He got his motorcycle toy out. It’s like the old Evil Knievel wind up toy. If you’re a boy and anywhere near my age (44), I’d bet you had one.
I showed him how to use some books / magazines to make a ramp so we could make some jumps down the hallway. It was just how me and Jack did it when we were kids.
I could see us like it was just yesterday. Then the thought hit me (as it always does in situations like this) …. I wanted to call Jackson and tell him what we were doing. He would LOVE it! Knowing that me and the Buckaroo were doing exactly what he and I did as kids. I know he’d remember our ramps … our jumps…. fighting over who went next…. he’d understand and know EXACTLY what we were feeling / doing. He’d have that unforgettable smile on his face just thinking about it.
I’ll never get to make “those” calls again … not to Jackson and it’s killing me. This grief … the depression…. it keeps knocking me down but I won’t let it keep me here.
Like I said in the beginning of this post, I have to start climbing my way out of this hole.
“CLIMBING”…… Seems I wrote about that one time …. back in July of 2011 actually in a post titled “We are all Climbing” (Take the time to hit the link and read that post … I think you’ll find it worthwhile). Stairs, ladders or whatever obstacle, it seems we all are indeed “climbing”.
Me? I’m gonna find my way out …. I’m gonna find that “new normal” because I’m going to keep climbing …. it’s all I know to do.
I’m gonna start by getting out of town again. I’m going to head up north and spend a little time in NYC and out on Long Island.
I’m going to attend the Long Island Fire, Rescue and EMS Mega Show on Feb. 23rd / 24th. I’ll be working the booth with my MN8 FoxFire family but I’ll also be doing what I love best … meeting, spending time with and talking to all the Brothers and Sisters in attendance. I think it will be just what I need to get “moving” again …. to “re-engage” and get “back in the game”.
I’ll get ya more details in the next day or so …. until then, thanks again for all the support. Thanks too for allowing me to share all of this with you …. I LOVE YA ALL!
I’d like to make this a “regular” Ironfiremen.com post. I’d like to bring ya some controversy, some training thoughts or at least a picture of some half nudity ( I was called the “titty blog” earlier this season you know?). I can’t do that …. not yet …. I’m not “normal” at this point and I’m not sure I’ll ever be.
I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. I also know that you, my readers and followers; will only follow so much of my “preaching”. I have got to get back to somewhere close to what made you follow the site. It’s difficult to do. I WANT you to continue following because now I know that I have something very important to tell ya …. I wasn’t always sure of that…. I am now.
We’ve hit most every subject here on Ironfiremen.com over the years. It’s most often a topic around firefighter safety and/or saving our own…. that’s where my heart lies. To me, there’s not a more important issue to speak about. I’ve spoken of the “typical” MAYDAY on multiple occasions. As in when a firefighter finds him or herself in danger. Knowing where, when and how to call for help and to not be ashamed of it. We’re getting better at it.
I’ve added to the topic and written about a “personal” mayday in that we also need to call for emotional support. We need somewhere or someplace to “vent”. Someone to tell what’s on our minds. A place to share our emotions and feelings. The good and the bad. I’m not sure you understood what I was saying at the time but … PLEASE … read em again by hitting the links below….
My support following Jack’s suicide has been phenomenal. I’M LUCKY ! I know that. Not all of you have the “reach” or support group that I’m subjected to. I wish you did …. we ALL deserve it.
Jack’s death has not been easy on me …. it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever encountered. I LOST MY BROTHER! Dad lost a son!
He killed himself in my dad’s home …. I was there. I seen it. I worry about what dad seen and had to do before I got there. I worry about the brothers and sisters who responded to our home for this type of incident. What they had to see and their knowing that it was “our” house and family member (Dad and myself).
I knew how to respond … as a first-responder but never thought I’d be there as a brother. Never thought about having to care for dad being there. My wife, my sister, my cousin …. friends and family. This was personal …. it was FAMILY.
I assisted in the arrangements. We took visitors, smiled, hugged and shook hands …. I didn’t want to. It’s what I was taught to do and what needed to be done. I had to “hold it together”. I slept in the basement, just feet from where Jackson slept every night. Feet from where he eventually took his own life. I say I slept but the honest answer is that I laid awake there every night … unable to sleep. Pondering, waiting for him to walk into that room.
Today / tonight is NOT all that different. I re-live those moments (many of which I can not share yet) with every breath. I think of it as “ground hog day” …. it will never end and forever haunt me.
I didn’t think I could but last week, I took a step forward. I returned to duty and I’ve never been so scared in my life!
Within 10 minutes of entering the station, we received a call (run). We were tones for a possible house fire. My mind was racing (for reasons yet divulged) . What would I do? How could I focus on the task at hand when my mind was somewhere so far away? Was I placing my members in danger? Could I make the right decisions? Would I do the right thing?
Luckily, the house was not on fire. The basement had flooded due to the rain and snow, The occupant had several cans of gasoline (and other flammable liquids) stored down there which had overturned due to the high water. The home had gas hot water and heat but luckily, the water level had snuffed out the pilot lights. We secured the utilities, pumped the water and vented the home/ It was an otherwise “routine” run but my mind was in a million places. It could have gone so bad so quickly.
We continued to run that day. One call after another. We caught a 5 vehicle accident involving an ambulance (with a patient on board) form a neighboring agency and ended the night with a 2nd alarm at a 1st due 9 story apartment complex. My nerves were shaken to say the least. It wasn’t an easy tour.
How do I talk about it? Who do I tell?
Can I talk to dad about it? About my fears? He retired with 30 years of service and the title of one of the best firefighters on the job. How about my Chief? Which one? Which has REALLY been there? Which would understand? Maybe they’d seize this opportunity to find the reason to get rid of me once and for all? No ….. I couldn’t share any of this with them.
E.A.P (Employee Assistance Program) …. what do “they” know about what I’ve seen? What I think and / or fear? They aren’t firemen …. they don’t know what we’ve seen …. what we’ve done. I had nowhere to turn. OR SO I THOUGHT.
Brothers and Sisters I’m telling you NOW ….. we DO have somewhere to go … somewhere to turn to … someone who’ll listen. I’m going to start talking about it a lot. I’m going to because I want YOU to know that they are there. THEY …. someone who UNDERSTANDS, and they are there for US!
I’m in a deep, DARK place in my life but I also know that I will pull through. I KNOW I WILL because of the support I have received … the support WE have.
There’s NO SHAME in it. TALK ….. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS. Your pain, sorrow, hurt and even joy. SHARE IT. …. LET IT OUT, it’s therapeutic. TRUST ME.
It doesn’t make us “less” of a fireman … it makes us STRONGER. It makes us BETTER!
I’m getting there … little by little. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about or miss Jack. He was my little brother … I’m supposed to think about him. I was here to take care of him. I may have failed.
I watched the Super Bowl last night … I don’t watch football …. Jackson did. I pulled for the Ravens. They were the “home” team and from what I can tell, the “underdogs” as well. That sums us up ….(me…you… Jackson) the home team AND the underdogs.
Well, we won. We won yet I’m still here. I’m still lost.
I’ll keep searching till I find what it is I’m looking for. Maybe one day, I’ll share it with you … I’m not ready yet. I’ll keep looking. Digging, scratching. I may never find it but I’ll look. My dad and mom found it …. it came to them … I should be so lucky.
Until then, I’ve realized that I have chosen to live. I had to. There’s no life without it and unlike Jackson, I realize how many people love, think about and depend on me. I’m in it for the long haul. The Paul Harvey commercial reminded me of that …. we ( I ) have a purpose….
The support I’ve received through this trying time has been overwhelming. The phone calls, e-mails, messages etc. The comments and concern about me and my entire family. What really got me was when they asked about the Buckaroo. How he was doing. Well, the honest answer is that I haven’t been here for him. We haven’t explained whats going on to him. All he knows is that his uncle Jackson is gone to be with Jesus and that his Paw-Paw isn’t around much anymore. It has to be confusing.
That’s another reason to get back into shape. So that my family can get back to “normal” as well. Of course, when I say “my family” I mean you as well. I sold most of my cattle. When I say most, I mean that I still own those that nobody else would buy … my long horns.
That means that the Buckaroo and I still have some obligations to fulfill. Our animals come first. So for all of you asking ….. THANKS. It hasn’t been the best of circumstances for him but he’s doing OK. I haven’t been “there” for him but I will be. Here’s a short video of us heading out to feed / water yesterday. I hope you enjoy it.
My other family …. I’ll be reaching back to them as well. Closer to my firehouse family … to the Brotherhood and to my wife and children. It’s ok to need and want to lean on each other in times like these. I know none of you will let me slip … much less fall.
Also please don’t forget to reach out if and when you need someone to talk to, WE ALL DO. Once again I’ll add some links that have been helpful for me … USE THEM.
Writing those posts proved to be very therapeutic for me. The support I received following the “Boot” post was nothing short of amazing. Thanks to a simple idea and photo from a good friend and fellow Firefighter, Nate Camfiord; pictures of firefighter’s boots from all over the world began to fill my mail boxes. It was very humbling and I can’t say THANK YOU enough.
I had decided to return to duty on the following Sunday (Jan. 20th) but, due to Departmental policy; wasn’t able to. It’s a good thing though because I wasn’t ready … I’m not 100% sure that I am now but I’m trying.
I got released for duty last week but decided to go ahead and take some previously scheduled vacation time.
I had scheduled these dates back at vacation sign-ups to travel to Florida with Zach Green and my MN8 FoxFire family but, after Jack’s death; I told Zach that I would not be able to make the trip.
He understood, said it wasn’t a problem and for me not to worry. In a later conversation, he made me a great offer. He said “come to Florida anyway” … not to work but to “get away” for a bit. A change of scenery. Some time to “clear my mind” and rest. It was something I felt I needed but didn’t want to leave my dad. Well guess what …. dad went too.
We left the cold and snow behind to find sunny skies and 80 degree temperatures in Daytona. That’s the 1st “melt down” I’ve encountered lately.
I ended up putting my boots and Bunker Kilt on to help Zach and the team at Fire-Rescue East 2013. I just couldn’t lay by the beach / pool all day knowing they were working their butts off due to being short staffed.
I was glad I did. I met some great folks down there. He had some fantastic conversations. There were plenty of hand shakes, hugs, kisses. Some of us even cried together. It was very emotional for me but again … something I needed.
I got home and decided to attend another function I had cancelled following Jack’s death. The Lexington Fire Department (Va) is where dad began his service in the Fire Department and I had been invited to speak at their annual awards banquet and dinner (a huge honor for me).
Like Zach, Chief Ty Dickerson understood back when I told him I didn’t think I could make it. The worst part about it was that he didn’t have time to get a replacement. He too told me ”don’t worry about it”.
Well, I made the dinner and I spoke. I’m not even sure what I said but I got up there. There were so many things I wanted to say. So many topics. So much that needed (and needs) to be said and I missed em all. Everyone came up afterwards to shake my hand and thank me for the speech. Some called it motivational and empowering. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
My mind has been going in a hundred different directions, at a hundred miles an hour and, most of the time these past 30 days; I’m not even sure I knew where I was.
I can’t think straight. I still feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut. My stomach is in a knot and I can hardly eat.
All the talks, my writing, putting my boots on and getting back “out there” wasn’t the cure….
THERE IS NO CURE.
Don’t get me wrong when I say it’s not the cure because IT IS HELPING. Opening up, talking and sharing my grief is what has been the most therapeutic. It’s also the part I feared the most.
I’ve never been good at it and it’s always been “taboo” in the Fire Service anyway. It’s time for all of that to CHANGE. We (firefighters) are HUMAN. We have feelings and we can “hurt”. That’s the part we need to learn … that it’s “ok” . It’s “ok” to have and show emotion. We need to learn how to deal with emotion and stress in a more healthy manner. After (or while) I learn, I’ll share it with you.
Last night, I had a melt down … a big one.
My mom and sister were staying with me here at the house. We, along with my daughter and wife; were having a discussion. We were talking about Jack’s death and many of the surrounding issues. I became very emotional and they (my emotions) began to pour out of me. I say “they” because there are several …. one of them being anger.
Yes, feeling ANGER is one of the “stages” of the grieving process and I have plenty of it.
Regretfully, I let it out last night… I couldn’t stop it … I wish I had.
I’ve been talking to folks about some of my fears and other feelings but I haven’t shared my anger with anyone yet. I’ve been hiding it and that was a mistake. It should have come out in a different setting. In a different manner.
I’m sure they felt my anger was directed toward them … IT WASN’T.
It’s Jack I’m mad at … at Jack and myself and for many reasons.
Feeling anger is just one of the steps (stages or phases) of the grieving process. Depending on who you talk to, there are 5 to 7. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we all grieve differently and there is no prescribed order to the process. “Our grief is as individual as our lives”.
From what I’ve learned, the stages are as follows …
Pain and Guilt
You can learn more about the “Stages of Grief ” at the following web sites ….
Everything I’ve done to this point are just small steps on my way to recovery … to my “new normal”. I will NEVER be “the same” again but I will learn to be happy. I’ll learn to survive and function without my little brother but it’s gonna take some time. I know that.
Tomorrow morning, I will report for full duty. It’s going to be a difficult tour for me but, my brothers and sisters will be there to help me along and they wont let me fall. In return, I’ll be there for them. They’re grieving too and together, we’re gonna get through this.
THANKS AGAIN for all the support (calls, comments, e-mails etc)!