For the last year, PTSD has been at the forefront for CLAC. We launched our first PTSD Awareness Day campaign, but more importantly, we helped members through challenging situations related to PTSD. One of those members has shared his story below.
On a personal level, I feel so honoured to represent such strong and courageous individuals. I suspect many of you will read this and see yourself in the same situation—whether you are suffering in silence or perhaps treating a colleague differently after hearing they have PTSD.
Now is the time for change. Help is available and kind actions are just a call away.
There is still a lot of work to do to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, but we can all do our part. Educate yourself and support one another.
I am very pleased to announce that next year CLAC will recognize PTSD Awareness Day on June 27. We hope to have an even further reach and build on this year’s highly successful campaign.
One Member’s PTSD Story
I am from a small town on the east coast where I learned from a young age that helping others is a calling, not just a job.
I have always worked as a first responder, currently as a full-time police officer and volunteer firefighter. It was a match made in heaven for me—I was able to help people and live my dream.
What happens when your dream job becomes a nightmare? This is what happened to me.
I took all the courses and was aware of the symptoms of PTSD. In my case, it was a gradual descent: sleepless nights, nightmares, anxiety attacks, and flashbacks.
As I slept less, my emotions became harder to control. There was a build-up of anger and frustration, but denial and pride kept me from seeking help. I suffered in silence for years.
I lost touch with what should make me happy—such as family and my kids—and only felt happy when I was getting the adrenaline rush of attending calls. I would never turn my pager off or take days off.
It wasn’t until I got upset with my oldest son for simply requesting a drink from Tim Horton’s that I realized I was unable to control my anger. I had hit a new low when I yelled at my kids for being kids.
I was finally forced to take a hard look at myself. As I sat contemplating how to make it all stop, I found a picture of my youngest son holding my fire helmet and thought, “This is what he is going to look like at my funeral.”
This was the moment I realized that I needed help. I finally called my employee assistance program and they got me in for a session immediately. It was nice to finally be able to speak freely about my issues. I was given coping mechanisms and worked with a therapist to desensitize my triggers. My family doctor worked with me to get sleeping again and referred me to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with severe acute PTSD. However, this was only the beginning of my battle. My doctor told me to take time off work to recover.
My colleagues were great, but my employer left me hanging and offered no support. I went 16 weeks without being paid. My employer stalled my claims, which delayed my treatment and exacerbated my PTSD symptoms. I felt abandoned by the service that I had served for years with dedication. I went off work at the end of 2017 and WSIB is still deliberating my claim.
I am still waiting for my service to acknowledge my injury.
PTSD is a lonely injury—no one can see it, so they often don’t believe it. The stigma about PTSD only breeds misunderstanding and fear. We need to talk about this injury. It’s okay to be not okay. It’s okay to ask for help. As first responders, we can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves.
Take time for yourself. Rest when you can—your brain needs it. There is no shame in seeing a therapist to help you get on the right track. Don’t wait until you hit bottom. If you feel you are changing or withdrawing from things you used to love, then reach out.
We must look out for each other, talk about this injury, and help put an end to the stigma of PTSD.
No one fights alone.
(CLAC member’s name withheld upon request)