I never thought I would end up with a PTSD diagnosis but I did. As I explained to my treating psychiatrist and psychologist I knew some of the things I would see in my role as a first responder would be fairly ordinary but I never envisaged losing 5 colleagues to suicide in an 18 month period.
This was the first time death made no sense to me. It is not your fault but it is your responsibility to do something about your mental health. PTSD is not a life sentence.
Whilst it has been a painful journey it has been a worthwhile journey as I am a far better person now who appreciated how to take care of yourself following critical incidents.
I’ve just spent the best part of 2 years in the workers compensation system and have just received my final medical certificate clearing me for return to normal duties. I am also medication free.
I’ve learnt that recovery is possible.
I’ve learnt all about Amygdala Hijack, that it is real and not just “all in your head”, that there are actual physical changes in the brain. Learn to keep your frontal lobe engaged and should you suffer a hijack use your mindfulness techniques straight away to stop or limit the hijack.
I’ve learnt that with proper support, guidance and counselling from a team of medical specialists, supportive family and friends who you allow yourself to be vulnerable with, that you can recover.
I’ve learnt that it is up to you to recover, no pill will fix your condition.
I’ve learnt that to recover you need to stop blaming everyone else for where you are at, accept it and CHOOSE to get well.
You need to take responsibility by forgiving what circumstances have changed you, name them out to someone.
For me this was several of my colleagues killing themselves and I chose to forgive them, I named them out individually and told them I forgave them for what they had done to themselves and me mentally. I chose to do this with a friend who sat there quietly and listened.
Choose to stop thinking and start thanking. When negative (stinking thinking) comes into my head I stop those thoughts immediately by verbalising things I’m thankful for.
Choose to create so many good habits you don’t have time for bad habits.
Choose physical exercise that is vigorous often.
Choose the pain to change or the pain to never change (Joyce Meyer)
Choose to practice pillars of good health daily, practice mindfulness daily.
Choose your attitude, your time in the wilderness in dependant on your attitude.
Choose to be kind to yourself, challenge perception vs reality when needed.
Choose to push yourself to get better. Remember that recovery is not linear, there will be setbacks but challenge perception vs reality and that your current situation too will pass.
Choose your coping strategies, set boundaries, recognise triggers and manage stress by taking time out when needed.
Choose to acknowledge, accept and understand where you’re at but focus on where you are going.
Our experiences shape us but don’t need to define us.
Take responsibility because there is no health without mental health.