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Overwhelmed

Hi everyone. Happy new year. 2014 is here, and I know a lot of people who were happy to see 2013 go, myself included.

Firstly, I want to thank-you, from the bottom of my heart. I honestly did not expect the reaction I received. I guess I expected to hear words of encouragement from friends and co-workers. But even those words have blown me away. For 24 hours after I posted my blog, I literally did not put down either my iPad or iPhone. For the the 24 hours after that, I could actually put them down, but when I picked them up again, it took me a while to catch up. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of comments, Facebook messages, Facebook chats, tweets, private messages, emails, and texts. I NEVER expected my little blog to get so much attention. I have done my best to try to respond to people who have left me such heartfelt words of encouragement. I know I have not responded to everyone, but I am trying my best. But, I can tell you, I have read everything that you have sent. In the next few days, I will try to respond to all of you.

I did not think I would be writing again so soon. That last entry took me about 3 hours to get out. It was mentally exhausting. I think mostly because I was obsessing over HOW I wrote it. I was never very good at writing. I HATED it. But maybe it’s because the subject matter meant nothing.

Anyway, I have been through a whirlwind of emotion. The first comment on my blog was left by a good friend, and Charge nurse (well most of the time) at one of the local hospitals. Her comment made me get a little misty eyed, but I was also emotionally drained. I was OK with that. The first comment made on my FB page made me cry. And it only got worse from there. I kept hiding in different parts of the house, to read the next message that came in, so my family didn’t see me. I was hiding mostly from my girls, as I did not want to explain why I was being emotional.

And it didn’t stop. They just coming and coming. I stopped responding to every single one that come in. I couldn’t keep up. But what I can guarantee you, is that if you mentioned me in a tweet, sent me a message, made a comment, or sent me a text, I read it. And I cannot express my gratitude enough. I plan on responding to all of them. Just give me a bit of time. This has been a roller coaster of emotion over the last 2 days.

I have been contacted by people with as little as 5 years on the road, to well over 30. And not just paramedics. Police and Fire as well. I had just begun to realize how important this issue was, but it appears it is more important to more people then I thought.

I am humbled by you, the people who took a few minutes of their day, to read my rambling thoughts. I have been called a “Hero”, told my blog was a “game changer”, told I am the “new face of Paramedic Mental Health.” And all by people I greatly respect. I don’t know if any of those things are true. I’m just a guy, who wants to get better. A guy who wants to go back to his job. I don’t see myself as any different then any of my colleagues, from any allied service, anywhere in the world. As part of my healing, I wrote a few words, and posted them on the internet. That’s all. But it seems people DO care. And not just those of us who wear a uniform. From the public as well.

A few years ago, I had started a blog, I guess a way of getting things off my chest. I wrote about people with colds calling 911, so they would be seen faster in the ER. I wrote about the Line of Duty Deaths of Ryan Russell, and Garrett Styles. I posted my blog on Facebook, and between the 3 or 4 posts I made, I think all combined they had a few hundreds views. I did it through a site called Posterous. Don’t bother searching for it. It’s gone. Posterous was acquired by Twitter I believe, and emails went out to us to email them to get PDF’s of our postings. I never bothered. No one really read them, so I just let it go. This was earlier this year.

I started journaling maybe about a month ago. For my current counsellor, until I start my treatment with a Psychologist. I was writing about calls that haunt me, calls I have never let go, and the ones I drowned in whiskey. But this was for me, and me only. To help me properly process these events, and start my healing. I’m never going to share what is in my book with anyone other then my counsellor or Psychologist. But I wanted a way to share what I was going through, with my friends and family mostly, so they knew what I was going through. And only have to tell the story once. And my blog was born. In 48 hours, my blog had been viewed 9,467 times, and has been viewed by people in 43 countries. In case you are wondering, WordPress keeps stats, and those are the ones I’m quoting.

So thank-you for reading. Thank-you for caring. This is something we can no longer take lightly. It must be taken seriously. We have to make sure these people are cared for, so we may continue to care for you, when you need us most.

I will continue to blog. It seems there are a few of you who are interested. 🙂 I will blog when it feels right to me. As much as I want to help, I also need to make sure that I’m healing. I did not expect to be thrust into the spotlight like I have. I will take on this role to the best of my ability, but not to the detriment of my healing. All I ask is that you keep the conversation going. Together, we WILL enable change.

Sincerely,

HM

  • Ian Carter

    It takes a strong person to recognize they have a problem, it takes an even stronger person to face the demons that are the problem.

    Thankfully, because of people like you, quickly dying are the days of ‘putting on a good face’ or ‘having a stiff upper lip’.

    Like you, and many other first responders, I’ve had calls as a Paramedic that I will never forget down to the tiniest details (run #, address, call times, pt name). Your efforts are making it ok to say that out loud and ask for help when you need it.

    Like AA the first step is admitting there is an issue – you seem to be well past that hurdle – so from one Paramedic to another I am glad you are going to get the help you need, your patients and your community owe you a debt of gratitude for the things you have seen and done.

    • K M

      I am in awe of your courage and determination to encourage change. I am not a paramedic but have family in the industry. I am a certified Medical First Responder and am trained in group crisis intervention.
      I wish you the best of luck in your healing journey
      take care!

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  • susan clark

    Hi, HM don’t think you really realize the impact on ppl. You have made. I’m so greatful for your story,so others will also get the help that most of us are ashamed to do. My life has ups and downs,but in all I’m a positve person in any situation.i take care of medically fragile foster babies and some days I don’t know if I can go on. Then I look at them,smiling as if nothing is wrong with them,and I realize God has given me this honour to take care if these little ones,if they were left in hospital under care they wouldn’t make it. You have inspired me to understand it’s ok to ask for help as I never do. It’s not an easy life ,stressful,appointments on going,meds,all that a nurse does I do, as the GI at McMaster have trained me to be able to do most care on my own. It’s a 24/7 job. Where they go,I go,no matter where. My friend Brad Robinson is a police officer and a great mentor. Well I lost my father unexpected in October and it was funny when he walked in the funeral home,with full uniform. My foster son 4 at the time said papa can’t go with him ,lol just trying to explain I guess life gives you a lot of BS and sometimes you can’t figure out how to deal with it. But when I saw my friend come for visitation,I realized I always have a mentor to believe in!loft you up,and let you know,it’s ok to ask for help.You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Thank you Sue

    Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2014 23:47:30 +0000 To: sue_clark_1959@outlook.com

  • One day

    I know only too well how you fell. I started out with horrible stomach pain that wouldn’t let up. I went to doctor after doctor only to be told nothing is wrong. I was see my family doctor as well and told him I was having trouble sleeping so he gave me tamazepam to help me sleep. It never worked well and one day after being told nothing was wrong I thought I would take the bottle of sleeping pills so someone would believe there was something wrong. I didn’t take them I instead called mental health and begged for help. I did this when I saw my daughters picture and realized she needs her mom. I went to a psychiatric nurse first. He diagnosed me with major depression and PTSD. I should also say I have been a volunteer firefighter since 1998 and working EMS since 2006. At this time I was working full time on practicum for my paramedics and sup where I work. I kind of had the same experience as you did with the psychiatrist. He told me the symptoms I had I must of had my whole life and it has nothing to do with my job. I was stunned by what he said. I too have a family history of mental illness that I have never been apart of until this. I am finally getting the right help but it has been a long road and I was forced to leave EMS. I wish you all the best and I will keep following you and give you words of encouragement when I can. I am so happy you wrote this blog you really will make a difference and it is nice to feel like I’m not alone.

    Former EMT

  • As a union Steward, and city employee, I have experienced some situations that would blow the average person’s mind, and have listened to the stories of many fellow city staffers, including paramedics, and been with them as they sought help for all the things that we see and the public just does not know we experience, much less understand how it affects us.

    Blogs like this help people to understand the human cost of serving the public!

    Namaskar,
    Yoga Rani

  • paraken

    You’re doing great. Yes you need boundaries. So don’t let ‘us’ put you in a position you don’t want to be. As you said, this is part of your healing process; not a cause celeb. Good enough for now.

  • Elaine

    Dear Colleague,
    many many thoughts and heart felt responses.
    Firstly I am the mother of a Paramedic and the Mother in law to a dispatcher. Secondly I am a Social Worker and Psychotherapist.
    I knew when I put the story together that something was seriously missing
    from the support and care that EMS
    deserve. How can it be as a Psychotherapist that I am not allowed to practice without Clinical Supervision. I work with those who have experienced trauma. I can only hold the stories of the trauma if I share how it impacts me.
    I am sorry that there is such neglect and oversight of your fundamental needs and rights to be cared for as a first responder.
    thank you for being brave and courageous … note I did not say you
    felt brave but please know that your work has not gone unnoticed.
    I had the opportunity to be driven home by a policeman a few weeks ago when my car was stolen … As a therapist I am interested in what kind if training he received re vicarious trauma…. he said “NONE” all we keSrn us about the law ..
    lets stand together as mental health practitioners and demand a new law to include education and understanding about PTSD and all the effects if anxiety in all it’s forms …
    bless you in your recovery if you need any more info re. psychotherapy and the difference between psychiatry and psychology I would be delighted to go for a coffee ..
    Elaine

    • paraken

      Hurrah Elaine! I’m a paramedic almost 19 years and have my own crises which I have learned from. I’ve been on a CISM Team providing peer and community support for 13 years. I’ve fought to have a peer support team at my workplace but have been stymied for 8 years. So now I’m moving to higher level education then hopefully move to clinical practice.
      We really need people who are aware of the issues and understand ‘the beast’ to be front line providers of care. You don’t need a degree to care for people. You need to care, have an open mind, and have associative experience.
      Bravo Elaine! You have those qualities. God speed in your journey.

  • Michelle Welsford

    Hammer Medic,

    You are strong. What you are doing shows great strength.

    You need support. Wrap yourself in the strength of your family and colleagues.

    You need to feel your vulnerabilities to have confidence in your strength.

  • Genea Hysen

    As a member of the public we can only imagine what you go through on a daily basis in your kind of job. As someone who has seeked out the help of a psychiatrist I can understand your frustration in that area. I also suffer from PTSD, depression and anxiety. The first dr I saw told me that I would grow out of it, I was only 18 at the time. I walked out of the office called my family dr like you and said get me someone else this guy is an idiot. I got someone else and got the help I needed all while hiding it from my friends as it was taboo at that time over 20 years ago to seek out mental help.

    On a secondary note I also lost my brother to suicide. He took his life almost 4 years ago by jumping in front of a GO train and to this day I still think about the paramedics, officers, firemen, public and even the train operator and what they must have gone through and still go through. I wish there was a way for me to personally say I’m sorry for what you went through to them all the time. I read the coroner report to keep my parents from reading it so that I could limit their exposure so I can picture the scene quite clearly that day they were called. So for all the first responders out there I appreciate what you do for us everyday and support you in seeking the help you need in order to keep helping us.

    • paraken

      Thank you. Bless you and those you love.

  • Joanne

    Wow Dan- what you are doing is so great- not only for people like us who work directly in the field, but also for our loved ones who are affected by it as well. How can we care for others when we are not healthy ourselves?? It takes immense courage to admit we need help and I really admire you for that. For not becoming a victim. For standing up and asking for help. You are a strong strong person. Your blog was so well written and had a huge impact on Rhys and I. We are definitely going to be following your journey. Thank you for being so raw and honest! Jo (Hendy)

  • Queue

    It never ceases to amaze me at how far behind society and organizations are in understanding proper psychological hygiene and health. It’s not something most of us are brought up with or taught by our parents or in school, such as brushing our teeth, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, stress management techniques, and building healthy relationships and diverse social circles. Everything, every part of our body, including the brain, requires regular maintenance and the occasional repair. The higher the degree of performance, and the more extreme the conditions, the more maintenance is required. We seem to understand this about high performance machinery, but not our own body. If we treated our vehicles or homes as badly as we do our own health and well being… oh wait… never mind. I am happy to see that you are taking some time to maintain and heal, and understand P.T.S.D. from a first person perspective. I have no doubt that this journey and your insight will make you an even better person and an invaluable member of your team and profession.

  • michelle rogers

    Thank you for sharing. I reposted this blog in a Animal Control Officers group I belong to. We also can easily become victims of accumulative PTSD and the manifestations that occur can be paralyzing. It is more commonly called Compassion Fatigue in our line of work.
    I am learning to drive again. Not there yet, but looking forward to the day where a freeway does not make me want to vomit. Strange ways our brains fight back after years of horror and drama.
    I wish you the very best.

    • paraken

      That’s awesome! Yes. Compassion Fatigue. Critical Incident Stress and Compassion Fatigue education should be mandatory training for every first responder who is exposed to taumatic events. You guys are doing great!

  • Who rescues the rescuer when they need rescuing?

    Sending much love to paramedics, police, fire and armed forces– we walk into someone else’s chaos in hopes of making things better.

  • paraken

    Wow HM! You have really stirred thiings up! Awesome dialogue popping up from everywhere! Bravo and thanks!

    • Astounded. That’s all I can say. Thank-you to everyone who has commented, and shared. This has been a very hectic week for me. Needless to say, I was not mentally prepared for this kind of attention. I am going to step away from this for the weekend. I’m going to take some time and be with my family, who has been incredible, yet again, while I have been dealing with the attention my blog has received. I need to get things back into perspective. I am just starting my journey of healing. I need to maintain focus on that. This week coming up, I have my assessment, and I want to be ready for that, and not preoccupied with this.

      I will read every comment and message that is posted here, or sent to me. And I cannot reply to everyone. I’m sorry. Please know that I do appreciate every one who is sharing. Next week, when I’m a little less overwhelmed, I will catch up on the messages, and most likely have another blog post or 2.

      Again, thanks for the support and well wishes. Please #KeepTheConversationGoing. I think there is an opportunity here to make some change.

      Sincerely,

      HM

  • tonya ds

    Thanks for blogging this. May your healing be what you need.

    I’ve been blessed with finding a good counselor since I moved. I’m working to get the money to move my EMT certifications to the state I live in now. The time off the ambo is giving me time to deal with what I’ve seen in 8 years plus an abusive marriage that I’m out of now and the deaths of both of my parents (one an AMI and the other killed in a self-caused DUI MVC that I almost ran on).
    Ive found that there is something that has
    begun to grow stronger in me since getting into EMS that gave me the strength to leave an abusive situation and, more recently, to fight to find a counselor to help me heal. It’s not all ups, I’ve been blessed with someone who will call me out when I’m going back to the old patterns and remind me when I feel weak for falling apart that I was strong enough to seey own need and fight for help.

    Keep fighting. You have a strength that keeps you aware of what you need to be healthy for yourself, your family, and for the profession you love. Blessings!

  • Dan Houck

    Thank you for writing these posts. I strongly believe that this is an issue that we all will have to face at some point in time. Your courage to post these thoughts can and will serve as an inspiration to many people who are going through similar situations. So again I say thank you.

  • paramedic-

    Hey, its good to know that you’re not alone. My work partner and I both went off on WSIB for PTSD after a messy call and the first thing our supervisor asked was “is the vehicle ready to go?” Sad part is that he’s our CISM trainer. Things need to change!
    I’ve been off for nearly two years seeing my psychologist weekly and getting the support i need. I’m getting better but still a long road ahead. I’ve been challenged by co-workers in public to see if my “vacation” is legit. I assure them it is no vacation and i would much rather be the person i used to be rather than the monster PTSD has made me become.
    Hang in there……and remember the right way is usually the hard way!

  • Mike

    I mirror the thoughts of others who post here. For me until I read this blog, PTSD was always something that effected others..I could certainly extend acceptance to those who spent their days dodging bullets in the sandbox of Afghanistan…or even those EMTs who walked between the dozen plus bodies of the victims of a mass shooting in an elementary school….but could the same be said of the medic who simply goes about their business of helping others? That always eluded me and Ill admit to thinking those who disappeared from work due to “stress” I considered as weak or milking the system. To me I often asked myself…what did they expect to see when they signed up to crew an Ambulance?
    Much like you I carry with me the faces of many who did not make it to hospital, or in spite of every effort died on the table…
    I always thought it was simply the price of doing the job, much like when a lawyer recalls an interesting case…Im not sure Im completely there yet, however your comments have caused me to reconsider and give this a lot more thought. After 34 years of EMS I guess an old dog can learn some new tricks.

  • MH – Thank you for taking the time to begin to share…

    As you have learned already, you have more brothers and sisters that love, support and care about you and for you then you will ever realize. Like so many, I too struggle everyday to put one foot in front of the other. After many years of being “the go-to guy”, with a heart of stone and unwavering ability to “blow it off”; I have allowed the very thing that I loved more than most – my job – to control and destroy my spirit and soul. I hate me for allowing myself to let my job get to me!

    I have so much more to say, but I am pretty sure WordPress would shut me off after about page 10 or 11…lol!

    I want to let you know, you are not walking this life alone! I have been searching for something from someone who understands and who was willing to share it openly. I can’t wait to hear more from you and those like us.

    I’m not sure my counselor knows what he’s in for…

    -S

  • 4drunkcats

    I wanted to pass along that you have gone mainstream. I’m pretty sure that you are not prepared for the limelight (And pretty sure you’d prefer not to stand in that light) but please understand that what you are doing is a good, no Great, thing!

    http://www.ems1.com/emt/articles/1643029-EMT-launches-blog-to-document-on-the-job-stress/

  • Marina Graham

    You have done a great thing by sharing your experiences with the world. Be very proud of your courage and ability to touch so many. YOU are what leadership look like to me. Bless you, know that you are never alone and that we stand beside you you proudly.

  • Bbb

    Stay strong brother and keep up the great work. Focus on who matters most- YOU. Your children (and wife) will thank you in the years to come. It will change everything. As a daughter of a police officer and recovering alcoholic (and PTSD survivor) who is also in the field I know- I am grateful that my dad got help and could become my best friend. Cheerleader and sounding board! I also encourage your family to talk to someone- often they too are effected by seeing family hurt!
    Keep working it!

  • Niks

    A South African colleague posted a link to your blog, you may be in Canada but your PTSD journey is global now. I have walked this path and recovered, but I hit my first burnout within my first year of qualifying as ALS, had to pull myself together and “get over it”. And so began a very destructive cycle. After 15 yrs in road ops in Johannesburg (which unexplicably has a huge amount of interpersonal violence and trauma) I have moved into training and aviation, found a psychologist who has taught me coping techniques and opened my mouth to my students.

    Please continue to share your journey, your path to healing will help me teach my colleagues and students about the reality of PTSD and how relevant early support, recognition and understanding can make a difference.

    Respect HM, be brave and take it a minute at a time if that is all you can manage. Celebrate the smallest victory as enthusiastically as the big deal things, that is one of the best lessons I learnt. And if you ever get tovisit South Africa, please make some time to pop in for a cup of coffe, our kettle is always ready.

  • My life is pretty messed up right now because of PTSD. I have hope that in some way it will get better, it has to right? You think that it’s one day but until they open the pandora’s box, you never realized how many other ghosts are in there – every street corner there they are waiting to greet you, every odd smell in the air, every siren your ears detect. So many ghosts wanting another piece of you.

    Don’t let them take your power like they did mine – WSIB & your employer, that is. They will do their best to make you feel like they’re taking care of you when all they’re doing is siphoning off what little hope you have left to hold onto. I’m resigned to never seeing the career I so loved ever again but don’t listen to the message that they will send telling you there is no future for you in this life. Find your passion and follow it.

    They tell you in recovery to celebrate the smallest accomplishments, don’t let anyone take those from you, these are your lifelines, the pride is yours. They tell you to reclaim your power because PTSD will make you feel powerless, and so will everyone else – you have worth in this life. And for me, this was the most powerful lesson:

    Stimulate the parasympathetic.

    PTSD is almost wholly sympathetically driven, if you can harness your parasympathetic system through calming methods (yoga, meditation, art) then do so everyday, it really helps to diffuse the excess energy coursing through you. It won’t erase the memories but it will help soothe your body’s reaction to them.

    Don’t let the grand “insurance company” take you down, they will not help you find a new life, or new vocation for all of your years of dedicated public service, don’t expect them (or anyone) to understand why you just can’t “snap out of it”.

    You have the power inherent within you to live a life again.
    Best of luck to you, ‘brother’.

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