Don’t forget the former officers

iphone pics downloaded june 26th 2014 052

So today I had the pleasure of running into a mate of mine whom is also a former Paramedic, – (and I think he was a bloody awesome one at that!).

However, unlike him – I have never been diagnosed with PTSD, nor have I suffered like he has…but I can understand & relate to some of his feelings; and have total empathy for his situation.

I can honestly say that if I could wave a magic wand and take away the pain that I feel that he constantly goes through….I wouldn’t hesitate, and I’d do it in a heartbeat.

ptsd pic www.guardianlv.com

(pic source: google)

One topic of conversation came up – that I feel needs to be shared, as it is not spoken about enough, and could possibly provide one of the keys to decreasing the suicide rate.

Many former Emergency Service officers – struggle to see their current self-worth.

I know there will be a lot of heads nodding in agreeance at that statement.

Whether you’re an officer who’s served in the service for 5yrs or 30yrs….when you’re no longer on that imaginary pedestal that society (and yourself) has put you on; you can start this destructive soul destroying conversation in your head of something along the lines of:

“What good am I now? What use am I? I used to save friggen lives (or) / keep society safe for a living – I used to be important…..and now what am I doing?!! I feel useless / less than / not worthy of much.”

You can feel a real emptiness because the thing that once filled your life with so much importance….is no longer in your reality.

And it can be this ongoing battle in a person’s head, and drives the need to even seclude themselves from ‘the world’ – until they feel like they can prove that they have achieved something that makes them feel of equal or greater significance; so that they don’t feel like they will be judged by others for no longer being in that Emergency Service’s role that they proudly once held.

This withdrawal or seclusion – can exacerbate the low self-worth / self-esteem.

When you are unable to put on that uniform anymore, whether it be by choice, reasons beyond your control (medically retired – physical or mental injury), or you have reached that retirement age; then there will be a type of grieving process that will naturally occur.

After all….most officers may have viewed their career as a part of their identity for the majority of it.

Because it’s a job like no other….it’s like it’s just in your blood – and like I’ve said before: “Unless you’ve been there – you wouldn’t understand.”

So when you don’t or can’t do it anymore – it’s like a part of you dies. You go through GRIEF.

5 stages of grief pic

(pic source – google)

To be able to transition healthily from a job that you once loved to ‘civilian’ life….the grieving process needs to occur, and sometimes people can get ‘stuck’ in certain stages.

So let’s relate the stages of grief – to a ‘former Emergency Services officer’:

Denial:

When you’ve done something for so long – (even if it’s an unpredictable job like these)….it can be a bit of a shock to the system to suddenly no longer be doing what felt like such a ‘routine’ for you to do.

Anger:

Particularly if it’s been a forced retirement from the service (ie: physical or mental injury), it can be a natural response to want to ‘lay blame’.

“If only that hadn’t had happened”

“If it wasn’t for ____________, mucking up – I would still be doing the job”

“If only I hadn’t of done that shift swap – I wouldn’t have gone to that job”

Etc, etc.

The thing with blame, is that it can keep us stuck – and not allow us to healthily transition through the other stages of grief. Blame – is like handing over control to the person/situation that you’re blaming.

“We might not be able to control what happens…..but we can control how we react to it.”

Depression:

You know what? – It’s OK to be sad, & it’s OK to cry about losing this identity that you felt once defined you.

……but just don’t stay there.

Really notice what it is that you are focusing on – is it positive or negative? Is it about what you no longer have, or about what you have gained? (More about this further along….).

Bargaining:

Sometimes prior to leaving the job – you may try to do alternative duties. Something where you can still be in the job – but you’re just not doing the same front line role anymore. Or if you’re out of the service…you may try to still be connected to the ‘Emergency Services family’ in some way, only to feel different from the way you once were, and therefore – may have this constant cycle between bargaining & depression; as it can highlight  your feeling of ‘worthlessness’.

Acceptance:

It’s when you reach this stage that you can begin to healthily move on and view your past career as a significant & valuable chapter in your life. Being proud of your time of service, and knowing that all of that experience, knowledge, and dedication – has helped shape you into the person that you are today.

One important part that I believe is crucial to getting to the stage of acceptance and increasing & maintaining a person’s self-worth; is ACKNOWLEDGING & CELEBRATING YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS.

celebrating your own achievements pic

(pic source – google)

I’m not just talking about ‘the bravery awards’ & the few and far between acknowledgements from the ‘powers at be’…I’m talking about hitting the pause button in your life and really thinking about all of the big & small things that you have ever done – that you can feel proud of.

–          The time you went that extra mile for a patient / member of the community / fellow colleague / boss / family member; where you didn’t have to – but you did it because that’s who you are….a ‘nice person’.

–          When you made a difference in someone’s day or even life.

–          When you saved a life.

–          When you prevented someone from suffering further pain.

Whatever it was…..we need to learn to give OURSELVES a pat on the back.

Because sadly – if we’re always waiting for acknowledgement to come from external sources….it may never happen, or you may constantly be let down, because you expect it.

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT!

You don’t need to blurt it out to the world on Facebook how amazing you think you are – but you can have this little place in your heart where you stack the pride on top of one another, so that you’re creating internal pride & self-worth.

WE ARE MORE THAN THE JOB WE DO

And one more thing…..

Coppa’s, firies, ambo’s…..all ‘get’ each other (usually!) Sure – there are some that make you turn your head to the side and the thought – WTF?!! comes to mind….but the majority of the time – yeah, we ‘get’ each other!

So just because someone may no longer do the job – it doesn’t mean that the ones still in the service need to treat them differently. And I’m not saying that everyone does….I’m just saying to be mindful of not forgetting about them. Make that extra effort to keep in touch, – catch up for coffee, have a chat when you bump into them on the street, or even let them know how much you respect them as a person.

Bumping into my mate today – gave me an excuse to sit down, grab a coffee with him, have a chat….but more importantly – it made him feel worthy of still being important in a former colleagues eyes. As he spoke the words…..”You’ve made my day,” I knew that a simple gesture of taking 20mins out of my day….may be all it takes to add a little bit of self-worth in that little place in their heart.

Looking out for your mates – means both ‘current’ and ‘past’.

Something to think about.

 coffee with a friend pic quote.jpg

(pic source: google)

#22pushups #ptsd #police #fire #ambulance #military

 

Platinum Potential 10

Di McMath is a former Paramedic, now Resilience Coach & NLP Practitioner, & best selling author. She is the director of ‘Platinum Potential – Resilience Programs, & created the Triple Zero Resilience Program – a 2day program designed to help decrease PTSD & suicide amongst Emergency Services personnel, through building stronger mindsets.

 

 

I see you. A poem for Paramedics

I wrote a poem for all my Paramedic mates. Obviously it won’t resonate with all of you…but just a reminder that you need to care for yourself before you can care for others….so stick your hand up if you need. xx.

– I see you –

‘When I see you through my eyes,
I see a strong and confident Paramedic who’s capable of saving the world.
When I see you through my heart, I see that you doubt your capabilities at times.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see a bright and bubbly personality that’s full of life.
When I see you through my heart, I see that you wish you could feel the fullness of life.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see that you are everyone’s saviour.
When I see you through my heart, I see that you wish someone was yours.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see that you care about your patients and their loved ones.
When I see you through my heart, I see that some patient’s leave big emotional wounds inside you that often split open without warning.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see you as the ‘popular’ one!
When I see you through my heart, I see that you feel alone a lot of the time.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see you wear that uniform with pride!
When I see you through my heart, I see that it can make you anxious sometimes.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see that you can handle any job that comes your way.
When I see you through my heart, you’re screaming out inside for fate to let you avoid them.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see that you were made for this job.
When I see you through my heart, I see that you can often feel trapped into thinking “This is all I know, this is who I am”.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see that you like how others view you – it can give you a sense of worthiness.
But when I see you through my heart, I see that sometimes you don’t feel worthy inside.

When I see you through my eyes,
I see that you always treat others from your heart.
When I see you through my heart, I know that yours is breaking.

So please my friend,
Just take a look – through the vision that I’m seeing…
And when you see that you’re not alone
That in itself – can be freeing.

Remove your mask,
remove your veil,
and let out your inner feelings.

You are never alone throughout this journey,
called ‘The road to inner healing.’

xxx

Di McMath –
Platinum Potential http://www.platinumpotential.com.au Facebook: Platinum Potential Facebook: Icebreakers book

 

 

 

Unless you’ve been there, you wouldn’t understand: A Paramedics farewell to the job.

 

“I just don’t want to do it anymore…..I can’t do it anymore” I said as I stood across the kitchen bench from my father as he sat there confused with a look on his face like many that I have seen before, when I explain that I simply cannot be a Paramedic anymore.

“Why?” he asks. – “Unless you’ve been there, you just wouldn’t understand.” I say. That’s about as far as the conversation goes. I know the look. It’s the look that a lot have given. The look that says something in their heads like “But it’s a good paying Government job! It’s secure, you studied for years to get the qualifications, and you play an important role in society! Why the hell would you just throw it all in?!!!”

Well for over 14yrs now, I have proudly donned the uniform, but I have to say that in the last few years it’s been a bit of a battle with my mind to do it.

“You’ll be ok.” I’d say to myself. “Life won’t throw you anything that you’re not capable of handling.” “You know your stuff……what are you worried about? Suck it up, and stop being such a wimp.”

That’s just it…..I think deep down what has kept me going for the last few years has been the fact that I still had a little bit of belief that I if it came to the crunch – my inbuilt training and paramedic instinct would kick in, and I would do absolutely everything in my power to try and save the life that fate has plonked me in front of. Because that’s just what we do. It’s in our blood.

But that belief was slowly dwindling, and being swallowed up by an overwhelming feeling of ‘needing to protect myself’ from playing out anymore of this real life script – called “You must see some terrible things”.

Because unless you’ve been there….you just wouldn’t know.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still vividly remember the jobs you’ve gone to.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still see the look of helplessness upon a husbands face watching you do CPR on his wife who has just suicided by drowning. Who you just know that he’s going to blame himself for ‘ducking down the road to get milk’ and not being there in time to get her out quick enough.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hear the chilling screams of the woman who was entrapped in her car after a speeding drunk motorbike rider hit her car, killing himself and his passenger….and knowing that she will never walk the same again, let alone her life being the same again.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it feels like having an 18yr old ‘birthday girl’ mutter her last words and die in your arms as you try to free her from a car wreckage on the night that she’s supposed to be ‘just going out to celebrate her birthday’.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to watch someone burning in a car – and not being able to do a thing to help her.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to have to tell a patient’s loved ones “I’m so sorry, we tried everything that would could – but we were unable to save him. He’s passed away. Now that’s something that you never get taught, nor do you get used to it.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to see a young man hanging from your local playground, and remember the ringtone coming from the phone in his pocket… which happens to be his worried girlfriend because they’ve just had a fight. – Then to have no explanation to your daughter as to why you won’t let her play at that playground anymore because you know you will just continue to see the image of his face as his body hangs lifelessly.

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hold that limp premature baby in your hands, and then have to resuscitate it – and having it spontaneously breathe by itself. Bringing ‘life’ back into the baby….but what sort of ‘life’ will it be, growing up in a household of poverty and neglect?

Unless you’ve been there.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to still drive around your local area even 14yrs after being in the job, and know that you’re mind will ‘vividly’ remind you about THOSE jobs- as you drive past where they occurred…(good, or bad outcome). Or that you would have an overwhelming sense of having to quickly change the channel when you see some sort of ‘trauma’ related drama series on tv, because it just all seems to lifelike.

Unless you’ve been there.

The highs are highs, and the lows are lows. So, yes – I may appear to be ‘overcautious’ or ‘over the top’ with safety, with my own loved ones or even yours.

Yes – I’m the mother who puts strict rules on riding on the pushbikes / motorbikes / climbing trees / being in a car-seat / the age kids have to be to travel in the front seat / being around bonfires, and many other activities, and gets annoyed with comments like “Oh don’t be so over the top – she’ll be right!”. Because you wouldn’t know what it’s like to see how it doesn’t take much for a child to die or their life (and their family’s lives) to be dramatically changed forever.

Unless you’ve been there.

Yes, I may appear a little over the top when it comes to drink drivers or text driving, but believe me…if you’ve seen the devastation that it causes….you’d be hard pressed to even hold back YOUR own disgust at the lack of disregard for how precious ‘life’ is.

You wouldn’t know what it’s like to hear a teenage driver boast about how he’s been “Slamming Bourbons all afternoon for his best mates 18th birthday”….and hasn’t yet been told that his drink driving has just killed his best mate who is laying in the passenger’s seat of the car that is still wrapped around a power pole.

Unless you’ve been there.

You’d never know what it’s like to witness many lives sadly taken from this world too soon, at the hand of their own decision – and the overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness that they felt like they had no other choice to heal their pain.

Unless you’ve been there.

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back is when tragedy happens to people you care about.

Like the suicides of people you know, the deaths of people that have just left this world too soon, cancer, car accidents, the realisation that has been building over the years because you’ve seen it time and time again; that ‘Life can be too short – and it can all be gone or dramatically changed in an instant.’

This realisation left me thinking that “I don’t want to turn up to a job, and it be someone that I know.” It’s bad enough with all the dreams of turning up to people I know.

Then my best friend – my mother, was diagnosed with a Grade 4 GBM – the most rapid and aggressive type of brain cancer there is. Watching her pass away 16days after her diagnosis, confirmed to me that she was to be the last person that I would witness leave this world. It’s the hardest thing to say goodbye to someone that you’ve looked up to your whole life. Although it’s been close to 2yrs since her passing, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her – I think I have dodged a bullet by having still done the odd shift (not many…but enough to pay the bills), and not been to any deaths since, and for that – I thank the universe!

I’ve had this conflict in my head with one part saying “You’ve got a good paying job…stick at it, to pay your bills” and another part saying “What is this really costing you?” The later part has now won, but it has taken some self-evaluation to come to that decision.

So my years of personal development has paid off to help me make these decisions in my life, and now I’m just trusting that everything will work out the way it’s meant to!

I look at it as if I’ve just written an awesome chapter in my book of life, and now I’ve turned the page and bring on the next!

Look, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom, and I have actually loved my career!

The feeling of gratitude and accomplishment when you save a life – is one that you just can’t describe.

Or being the first person to catch a baby as it comes into the world is amazing.

Or seeing the relief and joy on a family member’s face – when you get their loved ones heart beating again, or when they hear the cry of their child that was once not breathing, and lifeless….is something that no other job could begin to match up to.

That’s the positive side of the statement unless you’ve been there – you just wouldn’t understand’.

The long-term friendships that are more like being ‘my other family’ would have to be one of the best things that I’ve gotten from choosing to become an ambo though.

There’s a real understanding between ambos about what each other may be going through; knowing what jobs would give you the ‘highs’…and what jobs would give you the ‘lows’ ….. because they’ve been there.

So I have no regrets about being an ambo or anything in my life for that matter! Everything that I’ve done, and everything that happens – has happened for a reason and a purpose, I truly believe that. There’s a quote that I love that says

‘You can’t change what happened, but you can change how you react to it.’

-Unknown –

So, would I choose it as a career again if I was to live my life over? Absolutely! However, if I can pass on any advice to the up and coming ambos of the future – it would be to:

  1. Take care of yourself – Mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Being ‘brave’ is talking to people who are there to support you. It’s not a sign of weakness. You can’t look after others (patients, your family/loved ones) if you don’t look after yourself first.
  2. Treat every patient as if you were in their situation, with their problems, with their backgrounds, with their lack of understanding and support in some cases. It’s called empathy. Never lose it. Feel it, show it – and BE that rainbow in their clouds, and you will not only fulfil their needs, but keep your own heart filled. Don’t ever lose heart. We are all important as each other.
  3. Never stop having fun, enjoying and loving what you do. If you do…..it’s time to close that chapter, and find that inner spark again – in something else.
  4. Always be kind. To ALL those around you. Even if they aren’t showing kindness – keep your standards high. You are worth it.

Xox. Di.

Various pics off Camera downloaded 2013 009

Di McMath is now a Resilience Coach & NLP Coach Practitioner, Author, and owner of Platinum Potential.  

*FOLLOW UP BLOG (POSTED 6TH MARCH 2015) = https://dimcmath.wordpress.com/caring-for-the-invisible-wounds-a-former-paramedics-mission-to-help-build-resilience-in-the-lives-of-emergency-workers/

* The response to this blog – highlighted the NEED for MORE help for our Emergency Service workers, and so…..after just over 12mths of creating….A program specifically designed for those in the industry – has been created.

(video credit: Gerald Pauschmann – The Point TV)

Please watch this short (2minute) & powerful video – for an overall summary of the problem, and a solution to helping officers. (Whilst it’s based on Australian statistics….I’m very aware of the global issue – and the program is also available to countries outside of Australia).

The ‘RESILIENCE’ program for EMERGENCY SERVICE WORKERS is NOW AVAILABLE

‘Triple Zero Resilience Program’ (Triple One / Triple Nine / Nine One One – depending on your country)

Sponsoring of an officer to do the program – is very welcomed!