Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rescue Me

There are rivers of tears in the fire world as the week goes on.  19 lives lost far too soon.  19 families that will never be whole again.  19 heroes that our world will never forget.

But, on a quite regular basis, our firefighters, as well as other emergency crews, see far more tragic events than most of us can even imagine.  Abuse, neglect, violence, tragic accidents...all of these events that are attended to on every shift, leave a little piece of that event with the firefighters.  And, although the fireworld mourns the loss of these amazing hotshots who gave all, we have to also make sure we are tending to the firefighters that need our attention just as much...including those right next to us.

Sometimes the signs are subtle, sometimes they are neon billboards that we really don't want to see.  Sometimes we just need to know what we are looking for.  

My FF will be taking a month off of his rig to help attend to and educate his department as to the signs of depression, PTSD and drug and alcohol abuse.  He will be going to every house, on every shift in an attempt to reach every firefighter.  It is an amazing opportunity for him to bring his education background into the fire world.  And it is an attempt to make a difference - even if it is only to that one.

We have suffered some tragic and heartbreaking losses in our department, and it is not really my tale to tell. BUT, it is a story that is far too common in the firefighting world.  How can you expect the men and women who bring out the charred remains of children left home alone, locked in a bedroom to not impact them?  Sometimes it is a career ending injury that leaves them feeling as though they have lost their identity and have no reason to continue on.  Perhaps it is the all to real statistic about the impact of fire service on marriages hitting far too close to home. Whatever the cause, we have seen it take a toll on our department.  And I am so very proud that they are addressing a glaring need and that my firefighter was asked to be a part of that.  Far too often it is over looked or brushed aside in the fire world, and that can indeed have deadly consequences. 
I know we have all seen this on Facebook, but sometimes the picture is worth a thousand of my silly words.
Thanks to Paul Combs for his amazing work.

The department, however, is not the only side to this story.  Our firefighters come home to US.  WE need to make sure that we are aware of mood changes or behavior changes.  We need to make sure that we are not only aware of the possibility for physical injuries on the job, but also for the psychological impact.  We see their eating and sleeping habits and know what is normal and what is not.  We see when they are not able to interact with the kids like they normally do.  We see when they are spending far too much time with video games.  We see when they are drinking far more than they usually do.  We see it.  We just have to know what to do with what we see.

I can usually see my husband's depression kicking in about a week before he does.  And I have learned what works with helping him snap out of it and what makes it worse.  

Some things to look for (in a handy dandy acronym):

Ideation/threatened or communicated
Substance abuse/excessive or communicated

Purposeless/no reason for living
Anxiety, agitation, or insomnia

Withdrawal from friends, family, society
Anger (uncontrolled)/ rage/seeking revenge
Recklessness/risky acts-unthinking
Mood changes (dramatic)

And know that you are not alone...

Hug those FFs tight - as they are leaving you and coming back to you after shift.  But also keep an eye out.  Ask how their shift was.  Don't let them shut you out.  You are a part of their lives and you need to fight to stay there - for your firefighters.  Sometimes it will be horrible and the tears will flow.  Sometimes there will be fights that come from this, but be sure you work to retaliate - with love.  Sometimes tough love, but as hard as it is never with anger.  Sometimes that venom cannot be recovered from.  

Please pass this on to the fire families in your life.  You never know when they might be struggling and this is JUST what they need to get through. 

Love and strength to all of our fire families. Especially to the Hot Shot 19...please know you are never alone in this.  Just reach out, someone will grab your hand.

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