Month: December 2017

A Holiday Thank You!

A Holiday Thank You!

The holidays are here, and it always seems to sneak up before we know it.

So…I thought it fitting to say thank you.

Actually, a two-sided thank you.

But first, I want to get this out of the way…

Firefighters, thank you! I hated running into burning houses and directing traffic during accidents…thanks for doing that for me!

EMTs and Paramedics, thank you! You EMS folks have stitched me together, taken me to the hospital, and cleaned me up way too many times…all with smiles and hugs…thank you!

Dispatchers rock! Thank you! Psst…these guys and gals have literally saved my bacon (Um, no pun intended) several times. Thank you!

Military, yes, all branches…thank you!

You all work the holidays at the expense of family get-togethers, great food, football games, board games, and a whole slew of other sacrifices that no one understands except you…Thank You!

But, the focus of this two-sided Thank You is for Law Enforcement, and I make no apologies.

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My very first shift with the Sheriff’s Office was on a New Years Eve, many moons ago. I had the glorious privilege of that, being the night, I would work my first suicide.

Since then, I worked every Thanksgiving. I think I had a New Year’s Day off once, but I don’t remember. I also worked all but three Christmases.

Why do I say this? Not to brag, but to shed some light on unknown—or at least, little thought given—to what goes on with cops during the holidays.

The agency I retired from, to this day, affectionately calls a certain homicide that occurred on Thanksgiving Day as, The Thanksgiving Day Massacre. Yes, I was the first of two cops that busted down the door to find…well, the cute name that is forever embedded in that agency speaks of what it was.

I was still chewing on turkey when that call came out.

Some of the worst calls ever, and I mean ever, came on, or around, Thanksgiving Day for some reason. Then there’s Christmas.

One Christmas night, I worked a hideous traffic accident just outside our jurisdiction’s border. The other jurisdiction didn’t have a deputy in the area, so guess who they called?

I got on scene to find a woman partially ejected from the driver’s seat. Oh, the van she was driving was upside down. A firefighter and I performed CPR on what was left of her until the paramedics arrived.

A few hours later, dispatch called me to do a death notification.

Okay, I did those all the time too. Except…

I was to tell the adult son, on Christmas Night, that his mother died in a car crash. Yes, the same crash I worked earlier.

Suicides? Yeah, all the time. Belligerent drunks? Yes, all the time.

I think I’ve been called everything in the book on Christmas except Merry.

And. That’s. O…kay.

It’s what we do. It’s how we roll.

We take great pride that we keep all the things that go bump in the night at bay, so others can enjoy the holidays with their families and not think about whether they’re safe or not.

Yet, please know, there is a huge price being paid by every Police Officer, Sheriff Deputy, and State Trooper during the Holidays.

The price is great, and it’s heavier than anyone realizes, including themselves.

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Dr. Beverly Anderson, a well-known psychologist for Washington D.C. Metro, has said that cops experience traumatic stress differently from all the other vocations of public service.

To paraphrase Dr. Anderson…first of all, it’s the public view toward police. Not everyone likes us. Especially these days. I won’t bore you with what you already know.

Then there’s the constant hypervigilance. Always aware. Always judging who’s who. Always needing to be on high alert. This is not easily explained.

Think of a time when you walked down a dark street and you were on pins and needles, just waiting for the boogieman to jump out. This is what a cop deals with…every second…of every shift.

That cop has to be on hi-alert. And, I will testify, it deteriorates the insides like nothing else on this planet.

Dr. Anderson also went so far as to say, without diminishing the trauma of combat, that the cop deals with trauma in a more unique way than a combat veteran.

In combat, soldiers are assigned to a hostile zone for six months to a year, maybe longer depending on what’s going on, and then they’re out of there.

The cop? He or she will experience twenty years of peacetime combat. In their own country. And…not know who the enemy is. The enemy? Could be anyone at any age.

The bottom line is this…

If you happen to see a cop this holiday season, stop to tell them Thank You.

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Now…for a quick shout out—the two-sided part of this Thank You—goes to those who have thanked a cop during the holidays.

You awesome folks that made goodies and brought them into the office. You brought them to dispatch. To the jail. To the patrol unit.

Wow.

You took time out of your precious day to acknowledge the work that goes on during the holidays.

I can’t tell you what it’s like after some serious mind-bending situations to return to the office, and there on my desk is a dark chocolate bar.

Or a plate full of cookies, or cake, or something like that.

Wow!

Angels do exist! And they were you!

Thank you!

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A cop may be sitting in a Starbucks sipping coffee. Heck, I hope they ARE eating a donut.

I have gone without a holiday meal many times because it was too busy to stop to eat anything.

Oh, and the cop sitting on the side of the road without the headlights on?

Yeah…before you judge them for not doing their job and chasing down crime…please consider this…

They probably already did and they’re trying to get their head together before the next call.

Sipping coffee and eating a donut because they couldn’t have turkey, ham, and all the fix-in’s…because someone had to be on duty to give mouth-to-mouth to the baby that just died…on Christmas.

Well, enough of the crazy stories, which are only the simple ones to convey.

So…THANK YOU for your sacrifices this Holiday Season! To all of you, who wear a badge, armor, and all that you deal with…that will change your life forever.

Thank you!

Posted by Christian Martin Jr.
Demons that Lurk Beneath…Part II

Demons that Lurk Beneath…Part II

(Part I can be found here)

The nightmares just. would. not. stop!

For years.

Even after I retired, eight months later, still the nightmares…every. damn. night.

Vicious, hideous, savagely ending nightmares. I would wake up with sweat down my back, muscles quivering, and fear. Sleep was done after that point.

As a cop, I put in about 15 years total on nights. I hated sleep. Just one more layer of living through some serious shit experienced dealing with human nature gone bad.

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Before I go any further, I need to say this; I am NOT a counselor. If you think you wrestle with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), find someone to talk to and get help.

Right? That’s what everyone is supposed to say. But…

When you’ve seen the darkest of human nature as a cop, combat vet, any flavor of EMS personnel, or you’re the victim of a heinous crime, talking to someone requires trust. That’s hard to come by.

We don’t wake up and say to ourselves, “Hey, I think I might have PTSD.” Nope, not one bit. We actually deny the hell out of it. We won’t believe it and even argue with anyone who says we might be struggling with such a demon.

What we do see is nightmares that we dare not tell anyone.

What we do is bury and repress our experiences that no one else has gone through—that’s just what we think, that we’re the only ones that have had a buddy die next to us in combat, or watch someone die in our arms that was a direct result of some savage attack or car crash.

Why do we bury these things? Usually, because we don’t have the luxury to decompress right away.

One afternoon, I covered a shift, alone. Just how it is for a rural county sheriff’s deputy. I had three big calls during that shift. Two involved family members beating on each other. The third was a riot of about a dozen people with weapons. In between these three calls I handled everything from barking dog complaints to helping motorists broke down on the side of the road.

I didn’t have time process life-threatening situations; I had to put my game face on for the next call. I had to go from someone who needed to end violent situations with violence, to being a sweet charming deputy helping an elderly couple get a tow truck.

It’s wearing. It confuses the internal system.

Then, no support…

An administration that is concerned with numbers and statistics isn’t concerned that you may have just held a child in your arms for its last breath.

And, possibly little support from a home life that did not educate themselves about the emotional and physiological effects of this lifestyle.

So, you bury the experiences just to survive, do your duty, and become a machine.

And that…is where the problem lies.

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I had a friend who noticed some things. Like, I almost always talked about death. Even bragged about being dubbed by the county coroner as Deputy Death—seemed like I was the cop on duty for most of the deaths in the county, and I was the cop that handled every suicide that came in for many years.

My friend suggested that I might be in need of counseling. I scoffed. Yet, when my friend mentioned a list of behaviors I exhibited (shared in Part I), it gave me pause.

Like the frog slowly boiling, I had no idea what was happening except that I thought I was losing my flippin’ mind and figured that if things didn’t get better soon…well, shooting myself sounded like a good idea.

That one conversation started something that led to big changes later. Now, I’m in a much better place mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually because of my friend’s suggestion.

My friend told me I should try Journaling.

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I start with Journaling, because Journaling started big changes for me. It helped me to start to crawl out of the dungeon in my mind.

In an article posted by BJPsych Advances, it cites a study whereby those who journaled about traumatic and emotional experiences for as little as 3 times a week saw great improvement in emotional and physical health.

At the time, I didn’t care what research findings from whatever institute had to say about journaling.

So, I immediately thought it was girlie. Being a S.W.A.T. dude, girlie and a cute pink latched diary book didn’t fit into my macho-scheme of things.

“What the hell do I write about?” I asked my friend.

“Whatever the hell you want, let it rip,” my friend answered graciously, and then reassured me that it wasn’t girlie, and it was for me and me alone, no one else.

So, I began to journal on my computer in Word.

I noticed something interesting, journaling didn’t fix anything at all, but it did bring up a lot of emotion that I had buried.

Dark, curse-filled, bitter entries in the beginning.

I found myself crying at times. Then furious at other times.

In the midst of it all, for some reason, I felt a bit better.

Then, after a few weeks of journaling, I found myself thinking a bit clearer.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, says this, “Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”

Journaling is like turning on a spotlight on the dark things that swirl around inside.

Once exposed, they don’t have the same power over us.

I’ve lived it first hand. I encourage you to do the same.

You don’t have to write long. Don’t spend a lot of time on it, unless you want to. Spend five minutes a day writing your thoughts and emotions down that no one else will read.

It’s a great actionable step to processing and healing. This one thing will astound you.

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You have to start somewhere, and you don’t have to be a combat vet, or any EMS person; anyone can and should do this.

Why?

It’s a simple call to action and if you have a hard time trusting others to speak with, this will help purge some of those misgivings which will lead to the next step: talking to someone.

Journaling is actionable because we take control. Another step in which we live intentionally.

To journal is like opening up the lid on the crawlspace below and letting in the Light and fresh air.

And that is exactly what chases the demons away and will allow you to breathe finally.

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Next week, we’ll cover the rest of the steps that will expose dark areas so that we can Flourish and Thrive.

If you made it to this point, I appreciate you.

You are not alone!

 


Photo by Anna Wangler on Unsplash

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in PTSD, Reinvention, Self-Improvement