Sunday, 12 May 2013

Nothing Showing...

It came to me last week when I woke up. It felt right. It was exactly what I was - Showing Nothing for the most part. 

For those not familiar with the term: When the first unit arrives on scene of a fire or fire alarm call and the officer takes command he gives an arrival report for all other responding rigs and dispatch. If there doesn't appear to be any smoke or fire, they'll say "Nothing Showing at this time". That said I've been to a number of fire calls where that's the case and you make entry and its a rockin' fire. We've learned quite well in the fire service to not take things for what they are at all times and be ready for anything. 

I've been in some super dark spots over the last few years up until even as recent as three months ago where I came very close to not shutting the car off after dropping the kids off at school and daycare. I pulled in, pressed the button and it got dark. I sat there, leaned the seat back and started weighing the pros and cons of not shutting the car off. I'd been to these calls, some with good and some with bad outcomes. Among many more important things, I just couldn't be that asshole to my family. I hadn't slept more than an hour a day in nearly five. I was getting flashbacks and recurring "movies" of being back at the scene of my "bad 3". If I did finally fall asleep I would awake wincing with my hands over my ears and head to the loudest sounds I've ever experienced (that weren't there in reality). I had some busy night shifts followed by the normal day to day get up and go with the kids that week that every parent has. It wasn't that I wanted to die. I didn't at all really. I had so much to live for. I had two great kids. My separation and divorce was pretty smooth all things considered and we were finally getting a good routine two years later. Money was tight having only one income. All in all life was good. I just wanted the pain of reliving and seeing the calls to stop and above all I wanted to sleep and stay asleep, FOREVER. I was so so tired. I had broken. It was weird. I'd been getting help for almost a year and a half and I was healing. So why a huge breakdown and bottoming out now? I don't know, not sure if that can be answered. That's the beauty and terror of the human mind and soul, it's unpredictable, to others and frustratingly to ourselves. 

Or have we? Maybe strategically we have. When we're out on the scene of a call whether it be a fire, a medical, a collision or a rescue. We have been taught to always be on the look out for that rogue car at a crash scene, a sketchy person that may want to harm us at a medical or the fingers of fire in the smoke above that signify a flashover is building. We're taught to look at all the little cues and clues for impending doom. If we see something, we speak up no matter the rank or experience, we protect each other at all costs. There's been three or four cases off the top of my head in my department where a proby had just started and saved his brothers. A good friend of mine saved his entire crew by recognizing the signs of a flashover and told his Captain. Their gear was burnt off their backs as they rapidly bailed out. They were all uninjured, physically anyway. They lost the little girl that was screaming for their help. Among other calls, my friend's ptsd was contributed to by this call. 

It's so ingrained in us to watch out for one another. Yet when we begin to have struggles we revert into ourselves. On a job where our sisters and brothers rely on one another to keep alive at times, we turn our back and think we can do it on our own. I was so embarrassed that I'd be seen as an attention grabber, a pussy, a whiner and above all it had caused me so much pain I didn't want anyone else to hurt like I had. I didn't want to bother others with my burden. This was perceived as me being a cocky introverted prick that didn't trust anyone.  Years and months later I'm still repairing those bridges.

It hasn't been that hard. The more I peel back the layers and let people in, the easier my life has become, on the job and at home both in relationships and as a father. Perception is everything. For all the preconceived notions I had about what the guys would think, they couldn't have been more opposite. Everyone I tell is genuinely in my corner. They have my back.  In some cases I've had a few brothers tell me that my opening up made them realize they needed some help too. It's been very humbling to truly feel the fraternity that is the Fire Service. We all joined this job to help others. When your brother or sister tells you you've helped them, it takes you aback. 

That's what spurred me to start talking and start this blog. Some who didn't appear to have any issues, who I thought were flawless and had balls of steel were struggling. I now know they are stronger than I once thought because they weren't going to lose to their inner struggles any longer. 

They had nothing showing but there was a lot going on inside. There was a raging fire inside readying to flash over. 

We just don't know or recognize the signs, unfortunately too often, until its too late and someone has lost their marriage, sobriety or tragically their life. We as humans and fire fighters need to get on this. We need to be open about occupational stress and life stress and not fight on our own.  The easiest way to get others to open up is to trust them with your wounds. We don't just sit there and watch buildings burn from the inside out. Don't let yourself or your brothers and sisters burn to death either. My third paragraph about my rock bottom in the garage likely made you squeamish and uncomfortable. Don't be uncomfortable to vent your struggles out. Definitely don't be afraid to help those that are struggling to find the tools to ventilate theirs.  

Stay safe and stay well through others. 

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