Saturday, September 27, 2008

FirefightersStory-Why Am I Doing This?

I feel compelled to write this short message, and my goal here is to elaborate on a few points due to circumstances that have taken place quietly behind the scenes shall we say.I have been working very hard quietly on this forum by trying to shed light for others with regards to showing,and reinforcing the message that there is HOPE in others future who might be suffering as I did with mental illness.. I do this by writing my story and trying to shed some light on what I went through so that others will see that they are 'normal' in experiencing their feelings through their turbulent times they are facing. These messages of HOPE, are meant to inspire, and comfort others. With regards to what I am also trying to accomplish, I am also very committed in my resolve, and my intention has always been, and will never waiver in my quest to help my fellow firefighters, which has, and continues to be a very daunting task, due to many complicated reasons and issues I am faced with. I MUST say a few things, to try and reiterate and explain why I am so strongly committed to writing, and answering peoples comments,which is my contribution to hopefully helping others. As I said, it is a very complicated and "restrictive" situation that I am faced with, but that does not mean that my resolve to help others is in ANYWAY doubtful in my mind. I BELIEVE in what I am trying to do for others, and am truly grateful for the opportunity I have been given, not only by being alive after my ongoing struggles, but also by being accepted and by being priviledged to have access to this truly wonderful site.
I have been doing alot of soul searching, so to speak. I now know that I am faced with a monumental task in order to try and erase not only the many stigmas, but also the denials by some that we need a proper program in place that is run by qualified professionals, with care that is all encompassing such as was afforded to me. The "denial" I am speaking about and relating to MUST NEVER be confused with the denial by those that are trying to come to grips with their problems, as that is a completely separate situation altogether and again MUST NOT AND NEVER BE confused with the following statements, or observations that follow.
Those that should and must know better, whom we rely on to put those of us who suffer, or who have suffered, FIRST, need to be educated in as timely a manner as possible to be open to proper care and programs as they are suppose to be the people who look out for us, whom we rely on for our "protection" and help in our time of need. To deny, or to not provide a "voice" for us, is beyond comprehension, and in fact makes me quite disillusioned to say the least.
Some who read this might understand what I am saying, but I would also like to relate another personal story with reference to a hero of mine, General Romeo Dallaire, which follows.

Where am I going with this? First, a brief recollection. Not too long after I entered therapy, going through hell, I decided I wanted to try and read about a geuine hero, who suffered from something that I had, PTSD. I looked to this man, and up to this man.I knew nobody else who had this, and I was searching for some understanding, and some answers. I needed to know everything. What he went through, how he got it, to see if his story and its effects on him would relate in anyway to what I was going through. I felt so alone, as well as numerous other terrible fears and emotions as I have touched on before.
I was looking for answers to my fears, and answers to what lay ahead for me. I was also looking for a conclusion, to see how I would turn out. I looked to this man for HOPE! We know he suffered from PTSD, but also, there was so much more.

To me, and many others, General Dallaire was a pioneer, a soldiers soldier. He did get help for his illness, PTSD. He believed in his soldiers. He protected his soldiers.His soldiers came FIRST! He helped his soldiers by putting them before the disbelievers, the uneducated with regards to mental illness, and the proper care and help they deserved. He led by example, in that he was not afraid to acknowledge that, yes, he had PTSD. He started something that helped his men and women. There might have been those that were denying there was a problem, specifically, acknowledgement of those with PTSD, but he also strongly believed in the need for getting help for his men and women, and battling on to adopt a proper program for the needs of his soldiers. They were his concern, not the disbelievers who would look the other way, or forget where they came from. He never gave up, no matter what the consequences!

Nor will I.

My psychologist and I talk constantly, still.(always will too!) She reminded and relayed to me the unfortunate episode with regards to the General, a possible parallel. I have a PARK BENCH waiting for me with my name on it, as General Dallaire did. Many will understand what I am saying, and for those that do not, you will have to wait, as will I, to explain.

I told her that yes, I also have "my bench" with my name on it, and that I understood this. I hope to avoid it, BUT, that I knew she would find me, or I would call her as I was sitting, and would wait for her, and we would talk quietly. I look forward to that chat, and we can start the fight again.

I can sum this all up by saying that, "When you hear the call, you can't ignore it, no matter what the cost."

I will conclude with that message, and will try to write for others again today, but forgive me please if I do not write more today,as I have said before, I know my limitations, and I might be done for today.

Thanks, Larry

Sunday, September 21, 2008

FirefightersStory-Why I HAD to Enter Therapy

I remember all too well just how low I was, and had slid away from everyone around me. There was a state of total confusion in our household. My family, who loved me the most, and I them, were the people furthest from me. My wife was screaming inside, desperate for me to get help, in order that somehow it would save our family, and me. My kids had no understanding of what was going on. How could anyone expect my three young girls to understand something that my wife and myself as adults couldn't understand. Everyone was reeling with anger, and we were self destructing. My family , and myself included, all found a way to avoid each other, in order to survive from me and all the 'problems' , symptoms that I was exhibiting, and had, and thus caused. A tremendous feeling of guilt had overcome me by this time.

We all enter therapy for our own reasons. My reasons, I'm sure were similar to others, a combination of many things all culminating in my decision to start and embrace my therapy.

My whole world had hit rock bottom. I was scared with the choice that had been forced upon me. I say forced, because I had played all the cards I had in my hand, so to speak. I was lost, and would, and was, losing my family. My "avoidance" wasn't working. My family had collapsed as a "family unit" and was non existant. My wife and kids were going to leave me, their decision was already made, though at the time, I didn't realize that if I didn't change somehow, this is what was about to happen. My family was still holding onto THEIR HOPE that I would realize, by myself, that all of our existance together was so desperate and bleak that I would make that "lifesaving decision" and take the next step for ALL of us! Intensive, specialized treatment.

I had sought treatment though after I was trapped in the fire that I came so close to dying in. I had done everything that I knew to survive, cope, and yes, to avoid. I was running on empty. I had nothing left inside me that would allow me to change anything. I thought that because I had already sought help, that this was as good as it was going to get. Absolutely, perfectly, miserable! This was a nightmare, for everyone involved, literally and figuratively.

There were many symptoms I was experiencing now, and all were raging full force. My whole body was on a heightened state of "alertness". The nightmares that had plagued me for years had increased tenfold by now. This was when I got any sleep at all, which was extremely rare, and even while on medication to knock me out, to give me a brief respite from the nightmare that I was living. Ya, and that really worked well!! NOT!
I don't know how I didn't overdose on the sleeping pills , nerve pills, and combination of both that I was taking just to get maybe an hours sleep, as I had been doing for years, and getting more desperate to try and get rid of my nightmares. I was terrified of sleeping though, because I knew what I had to look forward to. Sheer terror, vivid real life and in color movies of those two prominent traumatic incidents/fires that were the focus of my being now. Not a minute went by that somehow, I didn't find myself replaying, and reliving those two incidents. Awake, asleep, didn't matter, images, sights and sounds of a movie playing over and over in my brain. When I did manage to fall asleep, my wife would often be awakened to me screaming at the top of my lungs. It sounds like a cliche, but this is true, awakened to blood curdling screams. I would bolt upright, screaming, sweating, hyperventilating, and very confused and extremely scared because I wouldn't know where the hell I was, or what had just happened. That was it for the rest of the night as I would have to stay awake for the rest of the night and stay busy in order to not fall asleep, as if that was going to happen, but I would end up sitting up in a chair in the livingroom, and crying uncontrollably. Other times, when I did manage to fall asleep, I would end up disturbing her sleep by twitching, shaking, or as she says, flip flop and rock and rolling. There were times that I would be asleep, dreaming, and breathing at a very rapid rate and twitching. Other times, you did everything you could to wake up and stop the nightmares, as you would be saying to yourself that this is horrific, wake up , stop it, all subconsciously of course, but to no avail.
This is just some of what was going on, and why I had to enter therapy. I will continue next sunday, as I must end it here and quit, as I have said before, I know my limitations, and again this has been very difficult to write about as it is still extremely raw and emotional, as well as draining for me. Maybe you will be able to relate to some of what I have written here, and if you do, then please remember one thing, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!
Thanks, Larry