I have no idea how long I was there, and could not tell you what happened next. I don’t remember how I got home or who I spoke to on the way out.
All I remember thinking I need to tell my wife. That thought ripped out whatever part of my heart still beat in my chest. This was more than another plate – the ceiling was caving in over top of me.
My wife and I were both numb the following two weeks. We traveled to our old post to pay our respects to a murdered friend and her daughter.
The surviving daughter asked me to act as the urn protector for her sister and deliver her eulogy. Little pieces continued to fall from the ceiling over those weeks. The drive home was very quiet as we were still trying to digest all that we had experienced
I returned to work the following week We lived in a small town and I couldn’t see a reason not to. I had just put on my uniform when the clerk walked into the change room and told me I needed to get to the hospital. There was an unresponsive girl being transported by ambulance who was only 10 years old. I rushed to finish gearing up and drove to the hospital.
I told my supervisor on my way out what was happening, and he got a call shortly after only to learn it was his friend’s daughter. He was out The other supervisor I worked with was at the hospital shortly after I arrived. It was his day off and he came with his wife to help comfort the family, as they were also close friends, which meant he was also out. As the only other supervisor available, I was up.
Sadly, the girl didn’t make it. Her death was unexplained; she wasn’t even sick and no one knew what had happened. I saw her there and was immediately brought back to a week prior when I was saying goodbye to my friend and her daughter. I was a mess but ran through the process taking statements and doing my job.
I called my psychologist at the end of the day. You know things are horribly messed up when a seasoned mental health professional who has been working with police for most of her long, prestigious career has nothing else to say but, “Holy fuck.”
Despite my attempts to keep on lifting my barbell, I was pulled off the road a week later. The weights and the roof had just fallen through a giant sinkhole.
There is so much more to this story, but I was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I struggled to get help and the resources I needed because my psychologist lived in another province, and the more involved resources such as OSI clinics were essentially ruled out for me because I went back to work. I was pregnant so I went back on desk duties which helped avoid traumatic calls.
So off I went on mat leave with an amazingly beautiful little baby but my shadows remained.
I wasn’t sleeping, and it wasn’t because of the baby. When my other child slept in, I would sit in the kitchen overwhelmed with anxiety and the possibility that she might be dead. But I was too afraid to check on her just in case it was true.
I was never an anxious person and the closer the timeline came to go back to work, the more worried I became. Calls to health services were not helpful, presumably because I was on mat leave and not sick leave. I was asking for help and information so I could move forward and get treatment. That’s when I came across Project Trauma Support. I was desperate for help and took a chance, filling out the application.
I had more support in those first 48 hours than I ever got from my organization over the past couple of years. The Legion denied my request to help with funding for my PTSD treatment. The lead doctor made sure that if I was able to get there; she would hold a spot for me. Money was tight in our single-income household with me on maternity leave and my wife and me trying to support two kids. But we made it happen.
I am a completely different person today than the one that arrived at Project Trauma Support. The memories are still there, but they are different. I cleared away the debris and realized the incredible support I had a group of people who helped lift off those plates with me. I am still healing but my friends and my wife hear the change in my voice and my new perspective.
Those who died are still with me, but I invite them to be with me because I do not want to forget them and all the progress I’ve made. They no longer haunt me but instead bring comfort. I have let go of the pain and embraced a new level of mindfulness. The adjectives that exist do not come close to describing the level of gratitude that I have for Project Trauma Support, their amazing team and their powerful program. The world of first responders and the military would be a much healthier place if there were real program support and participation.
About Project Trauma:
Sue’s story is one of the thousands of stories about our first responders – those who provide emergency services from paramedics to firefighters and police.
We show them we care by being aware of the challenges that stem from their service to others. To LEARN more about Project Trauma Support, which helps these responders and members of our military forces who suffer from PTSD, visit: http://www.projecttraumasupport.com
To DONATE now, visit: http://www.projecttraumasupport.com/make-a-donation/
Thanks to Sue for having the courage to share her story on WomanScape. We salute you and thank you for your unwavering service and dedication to peace. If Sue’s story resonates with you, share it and donate to Project Trauma Support. Check back with WomanScape and visit our new WomanScape Cares page for more great stories beginning Sunday, January 13th!