Life after PTSD
Hey folks, i'm looking for some insight and more so for other people who may have been in my shoes before(I suspect many have).
I began in the fire service at age 20 as a volunteer and got hired full time when I was 21 a few thousand miles away from home at a decently sized busy career dept. I passed probation and have really enjoyed my job. Fast forward a bit -a few months ago I began to become a little down/depressed (seasonal depression?) and it seemed about every day I was going to work I was working a code. I began to have night terrors and anxiety during the day. Never affected my job directly as I was so good at internalizing everything, atleast nobody ever said anything.
I never really talked about some of the **** we see at work with anyone so I've been keeping them locked up for the past year and nobody really seemed bothered at work by any of the stuff so I didn't bring it up.
Fast forward to about a month ago I went on a call that broke me. I mean I have never felt so torn up on the inside. The call replays in my head a lot, a week went by and I was so ****ed up inside I tried to quit at 4am.
My crew went and had a CISD and it was downright horrible. The debriefer told a bunch of horror stories about a baby getting hit by a shot gun and other horrible ****. I kid you not he told us a story about that call that he went on and many other ones. I started crying during the CISD and he said this job will leave psychological scars on you or cause you to have a mental illness. Long story short it made things worse. I guess he was just trying to show that he made it out alright so I should too. I don't know. I finally saw a counselor who persuaded me that i'm not in fact going crazy..
I have since moved home as I was allowed a leave of absence from work (i'm using my vacation and all my sick time) for about a month. I've since started an outpatient program that deals with anxiety/depression/ptsd and have been diagnosed with PTSD. It is slowly getting better.
The question i'm getting at is - is it possible to ever return to work? Right now a lot of things trigger the PTSD, but I wonder if my career as a firefighter is over? I just turned 23 and I had so many hopes and dreams everything just seems lost right now. I worked so hard to get hired, volunteered, got my degree moved 2200 miles away to get a full time gig. I'm thinking about trying wildland fire for a bit, wondering if others have been in my shoes.
Sorry to hear about what's been going on, brother.
After internalizing things for nearly a year, it sounds like you've done the right thing by reaching out to the counselors. It's a shame that the CISD counselor used the session as an opportunity to tell war stories rather than using it as a time for you all to open up and share your own feelings.
Since getting involved in this business at 22 years ago as a 15-year-old police explorer, I've gone through a number of very beneficial CISD sessions, including the extrication of the body of a good friend killed while pursuing a felon fleeing from a crime scene. I've found that openess is a key, with no fear of being judged.
You aren't going crazy - you're experiencing very normal emotions that have been triggered by some of the calls you've been on. We're all programmed in our own way, and your mind has simply processed some of the emotions differently than perhaps some of your co-workers. My suggestion is to stick with the counselor and/or specialists you're seeing, even when you feel like you might not have the motivation to go.
Unfortuantely, none of us have the answer about your own recovery, but we can provide advise or "listen" if that helps. I can tell you that you will experience some very tough, "stick with you" calls in this business, so you'll need to find your own way the handle to associated strees and feelings as you go through them.
Hi BoxAlarm thanks for the response,
I guess what i'm asking is - has anyone been diagnosed with PTSD and then returned to work later on (whether months or years). I love the job and would hate to discontinue it but if living a fulfilling normal life is not possible while on the job then its something i'm going to have to let go. Been talking to a psychologist weekly and an event from when I was a kid has made me more predisposed to having difficulties dealing with people dying in front of me and seeing dead people which is more or less a big part of the job.
So as of right now i'm doing a little better but looking into other careers such as wildland/forestry or a veterinarian.