Sunday, 6 September 2015

The day we put our big boy bunker pants on

The other day, a fellow fireman wrote an open letter to a lot of our membership through a private social media platform. It really affected me. He wrote of the tough year we've had as a Fire Department with the number of deaths we've endured. He spoke of the calls he's attended over the past decade and how they affect us all at times. We lost Brother Brad Symes to suicide last July and too many others to Cancer this past year. I knew them all, one was my Captain for two years. It HAS indeed been a very sad year.

I haven't always received the best support from even the closest of my co-workers since going public in 2013. Some have been too busy telling me I should “find a new career” or move to a non-frontline job within the department. Others feel they need to “one-up” with their own tragedy or hardship. While even others make underhanded comments about how everyone just claims post traumatic stress nowadays to get time off or gain sympathy. 

Except for two days to be assessed by a third party compensation board psychologist and two weeks of “vacation” after nearly killing myself, I haven't taken a day the entire six years I've dealt with all this. If someone finds the courage and time to tell you their story of hardship, DO NOT take it as an opportunity to show them it could “be worse” or to “one-up” them with your experiences. It's not the time. It's the quickest way to show them you're not really listening and that you're in fact not the person they should trust with their wounds. They've come to you out of trust; don’t break that. Maybe you're not doing it for those reasons, maybe you're actually realizing you're having trouble too and that you simply want to share as well. Maybe that will come later in the conversation, or another day. Listen and learn.

I’ve never looked for sympathy. I HAVE, however, looked for understanding. Not for me and my journey, but from others who are travelling the hard road and have yet to put their hands up for help. It is okay and right to not be able to deal with everything on your own. I know its in our blood to solve problems and always “figure it out no matter what happens”. It's our job, I get it. I also know that it does not work. I’ve been there, I tried, for years. Get over yourself. I did. I finally leaned on others and admitted I could not fix me alone. It still took a huge amount of self-will and effort to get where I am today. I still work at self-care daily and always will. Some days it’s as simple as hitting the gym hard to get out of a funk. Other days it's making a quarterly visit to my Psychologist for a “mental health check up”. I don't believe there’s a cure so to speak for mental health, especially as a first responder. It’s something we must work at daily to maintain, just like physical health.

I am forever grateful to this fireman who spoke out the way he did. I’ve always viewed him as one of “the cool kids”. To have someone like him speak up is groundbreaking. Seeing the support he has received is amazing. I’m proud to call him and all those supporting him my Brothers and Sisters. We are finally “getting it” and “getting over ourselves”. I’ve spoken many times how humility is the best trait and value a human can possess. It will get you so far in the world, especially in the fire service. We are finally putting our big boy bunker pants on.

We are all on the job for others, remember that when the trucks are in quarters and the doors are shut too.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Mental Health: My 5¢

Mental Health was the phrase of the day on social media in Canada today. The #BellLetsTalk campaign has definitely picked up steam in the last couple years. 

I obviously focus on the mental health issues facing First Responders. Its all I can speak to, as I have my own experiences and have a vested interest in improving how we tackle the big animal that is Mental Health in the Fire Service and all Emergency Services.

The level of awareness has definitely increased this past year. It has unfortunately had a great deal to do with a tragic number of First Responder suicides. We lost one of the best Firemen, Brad Symes, on our job this past summer. It hit our entire department hard. It hit me hard. NO ONE knows what Brad was dealing with when he felt there was no other option, only he does. I do know that had he made one text, call, anything to anyone that has ever met him, they would've dropped everything to help him. Why? Because I can guarenGODDAMNtee he would do the same for anyone else. Countless times that man helped me. He was a Gladiator, inside and out. 

So why does this keep happening? We lost Edmonton Paramedic Greg Turner the night before we all marched to pay tribute to St. Albert RCMP Constable David Wynn shot in the line of duty. Needless to say it has been a difficult week, month and year in this area for First Responders. It's hard to decipher as most departments keep it under wraps but we are losing another it seems almost daily or weekly.

Yet some feel there is no other option than to end it all. I have been at that point personally two years ago almost to the day. I was already diagnosed with Anxiety, Depression and Post Traumatic Stress due to some very graphic calls two years before that. I was in treatment. Things were going well, or so I believed. That week I only got about 10-12 hours of sleep, no more than 2-3 at a time. I was busy with work, kids and just couldn't “shut off” to be able to sleep properly. I came home after dropping the kids off at school. Pulled in the garage. Pressed the remote. The door slid down. It got dark except for the drywall lit up by my headlights in front of me. I rolled down the windows. I turned my car off and restarted it so it was pitch black in the garage. The dim of the dash was all the light there was. I reclined my seat a bit. I only remember one song, Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley. I cant remember when it played during the twenty or so minutes I sat there. I cried. I pounded the steering wheel. I started taking inventory of all the shit that had piled on. The, at times, never-ending replay of the three calls that had slowly over four years unravelled my life and those around me. If I ever did drink enough or just get lucky to be tired enough to fall asleep, I’d dream of them all over again. I’d wake with the bodies or parts of bodies laying on top of me or even worse, beside me looking at me. There would be flashbacks during the dayI was completely losing control.

So as I sat there taking score of my life, wanting to stop all the painful thoughts and mind numbing insomnia, I thought of my kids. “FUCK!!” I yelled at myself as I turned the car off. “I don’t even have time to be dead!” I couldn't do that to my kids. Or anyone else that cared about me. I didn’t do what I did because I wanted to die, I just wanted to sleep and for the visions and pain to stop. I didn't want to hurt anyone. I was just absolutely, completely done with it all. I had no energy left to even think. I remember stumbling through the dark, to the door. I went inside and called my Psychologist. Last year I spoke of it for the first time , no one knew, other than my Doctor and a couple people I’d told.

Why is it that we get to that point as First Responders? I feel its the “helper” mentality. We feel we have to protect those around us from the inner destruction and pain that is occurring. We isolate. We become distant and cold. We shut down on those around us, which isolates us even further. We build the walls around us brick by brick until we can’t breathe, think, feel or see those around us. Those very people that if we gave the slightest inkling of the inner battle we were fighting, they'd be there. But we can’t we must protect them. Its perceived as the exact opposite by those we push away, adding to the vicious vortex that occurs with those that struggle with mental health. We're too damn proud to admit we have an issue let alone seek help for it. We think we can hold it all together and if we just keep plugging away, it will work itself out. Good luck with that!

People care. There have been some who have been critical of me speaking out. I care less and less about that criticism as time goes on. Not because of time passed, but because of understanding. Understanding that many simply cannot comprehend what I’ve endured and ultimately overcome. People fear what they do not understand. However, I ultimately believe, that if those that are critical listened they would be drastically more aware of your struggles and criticism would be replaced with humility. 

So who's responsibility is this? Me. You. Everyone. We must take ownership. If you're struggling, get help. Speak up and talk. Keeping it to yourself will end no where good, that I know. Talk to your buddy, Bartender, Barista, Brother, Barber or your Booky. I don't care. Talk to someone, anyone. The first step is the hardest, the rest aren't easy by any means but at least you won’t battle alone any longer.

Take care of others by helping yourself first.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Risk vs. Reward: Are you willing to gamble with your mental health?

We're taught “Risk vs. Reward” from the first day of recruit training. If there’s a chance we can save someone, we'll risk up to and including our lives to complete that mission. We all take plenty of calculated risks every shift. 

It’s been year since I went very public last year through the media about my struggles with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and suicide. I was interviewed by Shawna Randolph on CTV Two’s Alberta PrimeTime in January 2014 in conjunction with Bell’s #LetsTalk Campaign to bring awareness to Mental Health and to reduce stigma. 

There’s been a number of reactions. Some expected, some not. I knew there would be naysayers. I fully understood the risk I was taking. I was well aware that as a Fireman there would be kickback from within.

When I was approached to do the interview, I was very apprehensive. I discussed with my Psychologist, Friends and fellow Fire Fighters the pros and cons. All the discussions all came to the same point: “What do you think?” & “Why are you doing it?” I knew these answers without much forethought. I felt the word needed to get out especially in the first responder world. My motivation was to show others that were struggling with some of the same issues I was that it was OK to speak out and get help. 

We eat our young quite readily in the Fire Service. I believe this attitude derives from the team culture and Brotherhood that we entrust our lives with. So when someone goes “rogue” even under the most altruistic of intentions, they can be seen as a freelancer. Freelancer is a four-letter word on the job. You just don’t and if you do: except to be humbled rapidlyby your peers and officers.

I’m no expert. However, I know very well the hard road I've personally taken after attending some very horrid calls and not dealing with them properly. I let myself build walls that estranged me from who I really was. I alienated my Wife to the point of divorce. My children suffered as I had no patience or energy to be a good Father. I was seen as an “Asshole” or “Prick” at work. These were all defense mechanisms. If I pretended that the visions, insomnia, flashbacks, dreams along with other symptoms  didn't exist and the rest of reality wasn't around me, then: "Everything is Awesome (You now have the LEGO movie song in your head!)

So after a lot of self talk, I took the huge risk. I spoke out. I now understand why they call it the green room! I Put a lot of effort in not losing my lunch before and after the interview. I did the interview to bring attention to the daunting issue facing all first responders(and ALL humans too). It’s okay to have struggles with mental health and most importantly it's OK and should be expected to seek help. As a Brother recently said after losing one of his Brother Fireman to suicide: “We’re aren't Superman, this job breeds demons. Talk to someone, anyone. Get help for christ’s sake, we're in this together.” 

Although few, there have been some who have been critical of my going public. So what causes this critical attitude? I believe there are many issues feeding this “suck it up” culture. I feel lack of knowledge and education around mental health and that many feel they're superior and too strong to struggle with mental health are the biggest culprits. I used to feel this way too, until I was humbled more than i thought was possible. I regard humility as the most important character trait in a Fireman. The tough thing about humility is it's learnt, not taught. So there will always be naysayers and differing opinions. However, they should always be expressed in a respectful way, which some forget. Especially when they feel threatened by the fact that they too could one day deal with mental health struggles.

I received a huge amount of support from Family, Friends, Fire Fighters near and far as well as many people I’d never met. It helped relieve the anxiety of doing the interview and going public. I don't regret it one bit. It’s enabled plenty of first responders to reach out to me with their own stories. Truly a sign of the Brotherhood.

Most of us in the “helper” professions seem to find it taboo to show vulnerability. We perceive it will be seen as weakness, that we'll let the team down. I choose to take the first step, to be the one to show my wounds and weaknesses, to reveal that most really DO care and want to help. However, our Brothers and Sisters or whoever you trust must know you need help, so its up to us all to make that first difficult step. The gamble with your own mental health isn't worth it. 

Please trust me when I tell you the reward for your risk has a huge payoff! 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Morgan's Salute

It began as a calm, crisp, cool morning. The sun in the perfect blue sky was warming. There was still nearly three hours to go before Boston Fire Department Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. would be eulogized. I stood there with my fellow Honour Guard member. We both quietly absorbed the magnitude of why we had travelled here. We shook hands with Brothers from literally all corners of this continent. Some couldn't believe we'd trekked this far; we were just as bewildered at their disbelief. Among a very many things on this job, it's just what we do. We shared stories of our cities and departments but mostly we all just just scanned the thousands around us with introspection. 

I don't think about what this job could possibly bring very often at all, not until moments like these. We attend many funerals with the Honour Guard however thankfully most are our Retirees who have enjoyed a long retirement into old age. Death is a part of life, there's no escaping its inevitability. We witness a greater share than most. It's hard enough losing someone we've taken great lengths to help, save or rescue; when it's our Brethren its pain is obtuse, it's not supposed to happen. We are the "thin red line" shoulder to shoulder, nothing is supposed to penetrate us. Yet here we stand, shoulder to shoulder, on the brown grass approach of Saint Patrick Church in Watertown, Mass. 

The order to attention is bellowed. Some estimate nearly 20,000 of us are poised here. The helicopters overhead and the flags rubbing and whipping in the wind are all that break the silence. It's overcast now. The distant cadence of the bass drums and the pipes that usher them begin to close in. The order to present arms. Ladder 15 and Engine 33 idle by, both covered in black and purple bunting. The snares tap the band in as they fill every spot possible on the grassy knoll in front of us. Thousands of white gloves held up with every ounce of care and love that could be mustered, begin to shake ever so slightly. I stare across the spotless axe I hold, finding a spot on the roof of the house being renovated next to the parish. Lieutenant Walsh's Brother, holding his helmet, escorts his casket, held by Brothers in arms but Brothers nonetheless. 

Then it happened. I lost my stare. I noticed as Lieutenant Walsh's Sister caught my eye, and watched as she purposely met each each of our eyes as she slowly followed her Brother to the stairs in to the church. Something pink in the sea of blue and black caught my eye at the same time. It was Lietenant Walsh's Daughter, Morgan. It all happened so fast but I argued with myself not to move my eyes down. The family paused as the procession made its way up the path. I was drawn down. She cracked an inquiring smile as she looked at me, squinting up at the bright grey sky, saluting us all. It took all the strength I had not to drop my axe, let alone remain standing. Every ounce of breath was sucked from me. "I hate this fucking job" I thought through my clenched teeth as my face became wet. I immediately saw my daughter Molli a year older and my Son Jayke a year younger, in Morgan. I'm not sure I've ever been so humbled and heart broken in my life. Through all my challenges at work and the help I've received over the past few years, I've finally learned to let my self feel: good or bad. I've never been filled with so much despise and pride for this job all at the same time. It just plain hurts. To see a family that has lost their patriarch much too early in a tragic way is heart wrenching. 

We were all there to grieve as a brotherhood, as a team, as always. It's just what we do. Most importantly: We all gathered from across the world to show the Walsh family how much Ed meant to us and that he will not ever be forgotten. We want them to be taken aback by our attendance and show that thousands of shoulders carry the burden and loss with them. 

Children are resilient and can teach us plenty. Morgan has shown us that through pain there can be resolve.

I have been witness to many things on this job. Some bring visions when I least want or expect, most I'd like to erase. That little girl in pink, squinting up at me with her hand raised, saluting her Father, is one I will never forget nor ever want to.

Who knew thousands upon thousands would travel from near and far to salute such a great Fireman and Father when in the end, one little person's salute was all that mattered. 

Your family's strength left a mark on us all Morgan. Neither your Father's sacrifice nor that of your family, which will be forever felt, will ever be forgotten by your much larger extended Family. 

We forever salute you Morgan, and your family. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


  1. stig·ma
    noun noun: stigma; plural noun: stigmata; plural noun: stigmas
    1. 1.
      a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.
      "the stigma of mental disorder"
      synonyms:shamedisgracedishonorignominyopprobriumhumiliation, (bad)reputation


stigma. There's nothing good about the word. Disgrace, shame, bad reputation, dishonour, discredit and humiliation. These are all too familiar to me. I've felt them in the past and at times still do to this day in regards to my anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress. It's almost a self fulfilling prophecy. Did I feel these feelings of guilt and shame because I had nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of suicide? Or am I conditioned by society? I believe the latter.

Everyone is judgmental, some more than others; it's human nature. Before I experienced the calls that spurred my struggles or rather before I realized I had a problem and couldn't continue any longer, I was quite judgmental. Then life hit the tilt button on me. A total reset. New game. New ball. I'm still judgmental, but usually not without hearing the full story and to a much lesser degree. I've been to the bottom of my minds ocean, almost took a few deep breaths while down there too. Instead I looked up, saw a dark that was a little less dark, decided to keep holding my breath and swam for my life. I'm at the surface now. Some days I'm barely treading water, some days I'm floating in a chair with a margarita. I take them as they come now, knowing that a wave that ebbs must rise. I finally found the strength to ride them instead of be drowned by them. 

I've been to hundreds if not thousands of calls with junkies, bums, addicts. The so called "low life's". I always respected them, had fun with them when they were able to communicate and helped and helped the best I could. I've witnessed plenty of them die, helped save some too. I recognized fairly early that I wasn't much different, only a couple pay cheques away from joining them on the streets. I now further grasp that in fact they are likely stronger than me, they just hadn't or don't realize it yet. For some their ocean is too deep and they couldn't find the help they needed to gain the strength to fight enough to reach the surface. Even more make it to the surface and fall again, over and over, maybe endlessly. Some will survive, some will fade into the abyss. I can't rightly judge them or their circumstances, I don't know their ocean or it's depths. Those days where I'm sputtering at the surface, I've felt the urge to just relax, let go and sink. I don't though. Mostly because I have people floating around me. Most of them were always there, waiting, I just choose to see them and let them in now. 

As someone who has suffered with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress and plenty of suicidal ideation I know that most who struggle don't necessarily need a rescuer or saviour, just be there. Make it known you're there, really there, waiting. Maybe I won't talk, maybe I will. Mostly I just need to NOT be judged, discriminated, pitied or stigmatized. Even if you've struggled similarly you don't know my depths, my struggles, my weaknesses or my strengths. So simply shut your mouth, discard your preconceptions, smile and say:

"I'm here, however YOU need or want me to be, ALWAYS."

The next time you see a bum, someone like me or you find yourself struggling: don't discriminate them or yourself by allowing the stigma of mental health issues paralyze you. If you're too mentally weak and immature to offer help and support, you're better to do nothing. I don't necessarily need you to understand, I don't expect it actually, just be accepting. 

You never know when you might be the one looking up from the depths of your own abyss. 

I'll be there. Will YOU?

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

It's all up to you, yeah YOU! No excuses!

For me its all in the eyes. They can tell you so much without making a sound. Some will be with me forever. Sitting at a red light, daydreaming at home, zoning off at work but most often as I, often  futilely, try to get to sleep. I see many eyes, just counting off hand I've been witness to dozens in their last moments.  Some come to mind uninvited much too often and cause me a great deal of strife and struggle. Often I wish they would just leave me alone and not intrude my daily life and sleep. Most of them don't bother me too much or often. I'll never forget any of them though. I don't believe you belong in this career if you can just forget.

That being said there is a time and place for reflection or thought. The scene is not that time or place. I'm often amazed at times when after a call when everything and everyone is taken care of, I realize what we just saw, did or experienced and that we were able to perform and function and do it so well. As I gain more experience the "pucker factor" lessens when we hear what we're responding to or when we get there. I'm too focused on visualizing the location and how to get there, what we need to do, listening to the officer and forming a plan as a crew with the info we have. 

I think we are all addicted to that adrenaline high. We all love when that call comes in. Lights come on. Tones go off. Gear on. Trucks out. Every little kids dream- to me any way. I can attribute functioning under that high better and better as I was trained extremely well and most importantly mentored well and continue to be every shift. I also firmly believe that that adrenaline high protects us as well. (something for a really smart person to study and look in to) 

In my experience, it's when you come down off that high that you'll know if a call bothered you more than normal. The calls that I've struggled with left me feeling very NOT normal. Nauseous to the point of vomiting but worse because I couldn't. Shaking uncontrollably. Shivering as I was cold. Sweating because I was hot. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. As I write this I realize these are all symptoms of Shock and a Panic or Anxiety Attack all combined into one. I've been to hundreds if not thousands where almost every patient has these symptoms. What do we do for them? We coach their breathing and give them oxygen, get them warm, treat their other injuries. In some cases we transport them to the hospital if needed. 

What do we do for US? Squeeze our hands together into a fist to stop the trembling and shake it off. Drink a water and get back on the rig. Next call. Have a few too many drinks after shift to quell the memories for that short time. I've done it. You've done it. We've all done it.  Wow are WE stupid! Mostly because we don't know any better. We're starting to though and YOU need to speak up because WE are not ALL there yet. Especially you officers. It all begins and ends with you. If you say "Hey guys that was a tough call, let's go grab a coffee and chat". You may LITERALLY save the life of one or all of your crew and in the least you will show them the proper way to deal with troubling calls. Maybe the call didn't bother you that much but maybe it was the call that popped the proverbial water balloon of life of one of your guys. So even if it didn't bother YOU personally, it's YOUR crew and YOUR Sister/Brother Fire Fighter. So whether you're a Chief with thirty-seven years on the job or a rookie on his first day-it's YOUR problem and YOUR responsibility to say something. No excuses. No "buts". 

We all want to help. Worry about your's and your Sister and Brother's well-being first. That way we can all be healthy enough to help others when called upon to help. You cannot win these "personal" battles alone. It's SO hard, I know, but you must speak up and get help and confide in your brothers. You will not regret it, I can assure you. 

We are absolute perfectionists when it comes to helping others in need but we do a piss poor job of helping ourselves and our brothers. We all know we depend on each other for survival on the fireground same goes for eachother's emotional and mental survival. 

YOU choose. Speak up so you can be on the front page with your crew after a big save or keep quiet and one of you may end up on the back pages in the obituaries. 


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.