My name is Sue. I am a veteran of the United States Army and am currently serving as a police officer with more than a decade of service. Much like my start in the military, I felt invincible when I put my duty belt on and hit the road for the first time.
Over the years, I have gathered a catalog of memories and experiences, many good, but many more not so good. I have seen some of the best in people, and some of the worst. Although I was able to power through most of the negative, over the years, I have learned that I was just packing it away and carrying it with me. Some memories heavier than others, but they always stayed with me, weighing me down and readily available to come back into my focus at any time.
Approximately a year and a half ago, several heavy incidents occurred in a very short period of time. I realized my previous experiences added to my strength and resilience as I had time to process it in between. Without that time, our minds and emotions don’t have the time to exercise their abilities It reminded me of weight training.
It’s like going to the gym for the first time. You are not going to be able to pick up the same weight as the guy who had been there all along. Instead, you focus and access the tools needed to push through something new. If you don’t respect that, you will be crushed, or injured.
When I experienced what was to be the first of many traumatic experiences, I did what I always do at the gym after being off for a while. I picked up where I left off and made it work. So first thing in the morning when I received a call about an unresponsive 3 year old girl, it put a plate on the weight bar. What I saw when I got there…another plate.
Talking to the parents…another plate. Going home to my 3 year old little girl…another plate. By the time that day ended I was standing over the bar trying desperately to lift it, but finding it near impossible to get it off the ground. I told myself that I may not be strong enough today, but I would keep working and move on.
That week was tough and the plates just kept piling on top of each other. The world’s strongest person could not lift the weight on my bar that week, but I kept telling myself I just needed to get through it. I knew my wife and I were going to enjoy a family trip on my days off so I had a whole week for me to heal. I just needed to get through this week. However, even leaving town provided a challenge.
We were on our way, the whole family packed in the car ready to roll, as we pulled up to the scene of a fatal collision.
There is nothing weirder for a police officer to be standing in the ditch over a dead body and looking up to see your toddler smiling and waving at you from the front seat.
Suddenly, I felt the full weight of the bar that had accumulated.
It was refreshing to be away with the family and not have such darkness around. I returned to work and started going through the motions, but soon enough that heavy weight returned. I had just completed an interview with a child who had been abused. When she left my office she smiled and I knew I had done my job limiting the amount of trauma the best I could for her.
But as I returned to my desk, there was a confusing message on my phone asking if I had heard. Had I heard what? Someone from in my last posting was asking, about a woman who had become a close friend of mine.
Her and her daughter meant the world to me and my family. I coached her teenage daughter in basketball and was proud of her involvement in the junior police program. She was also my daughter’s favorite babysitter.
Shortly after that message, the phone rang. I was expecting good news; maybe some amazing accomplishment that my friend had made because she was just that…amazing!
That was far from reality though, as I learned very quickly that my friend had been murdered and they couldn’t find her daughter. My entire world froze.
I was staring at the wall, seeing the snow outside through a crack at the bottom of the blinds. The sun was bright and lit up the corner of my office. It was St Patrick’s day, so I was wearing a black dress shirt with a green knit vest and grey dress pants. A call came in on the other line. I saw who it was and instinctively knew what was coming. I hung up the call and held my breath as I answered the other.
It was victim services from my old office – my friend, someone I knew well. “I don’t want to know” were the words out of my mouth. “I’m so sorry Sue.” My legs gave way, and the phone dropped out of my hand as my knees struck the ground. I couldn’t breathe as the emotions swept in and began to suffocate me.
To be continued. Check back tomorrow on WomanScape.com to READ part 2 and learn what happened to Sue. You’ll also see more about Project Trauma Support and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.