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Back to emergency services. fight or flight?

Discussion in 'Military & Emergency Services' started by EddyMF, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. EddyMF

    EddyMF New Member

    Looking for some advice/ experience with returning to work or leaving emergency services. I am 12 years+ in EMS/Fire Full-time with a ton of overtime during these years. I finally reached out to get treatment and am considering leaving the business all together. Or continue without picking up extra shifts and manage the PTSD the best I can. I am also worried about the symptoms getting worse in the long run.

    Anyone with experience either returning to work or getting out of the industry would be of huge help to me!

    Things that influence my decision:
    1) Where I live we are very well paid in EMS/Fire and anything else will reduce my income by 50% give or take. Not to mention pension etc.
    2) My wife is has a debilitating back injury which reduces her income potential so I will always have to make up the slack.
    3) I am not complete treatment yet and have not returned on car yet. (Do not know where my new "resting point" will be.
    4) Where I work I am surrounded by those who have not gotten treatment and choose negative coping mechanisms but I am able to separate my work life and home life.
    Friday, Akhos and Rosie11 like this.
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  3. Akhos

    Akhos Well-Known Member Donated

    Welcome @EddyMF

    As someone who works in the emergency services themselves and have worked next to our Fire Service on too many occassions, I find myself wondering the same sort of - do I stay or leave dilemma. I have served the public for over 10 years myself as I find myself grieving not being at work (I am currently signed off work as my PTSD has been deemed by the work psychologist as a danger to the public), as working in the public services is like having an extended family. You deal with so much crap that the general population dont see or understand, that you come to rely on your work colleagues for emotional support. In answer to your questions however:

    1 - Money isnt everything, but it damn well helps. A 50% drop is a substantial hit
    2 - I havent returned either, and also, I am going to be stationed in a new role, of which I dont know what it will be, but more than likely I will be riding a desk and forbidden from walking the streets again. For me, this is as good as leaving anyway because I didnt join to serve the public to sit behind a desk. I joined to be on the streets, helping those in need
    3 - The ability to seperate is fantastic, however, everyone has their limits. I felt the same way, until one day it caught up with me. I often dream now of dead children who died in my arms, victims who - what if, so many lives lost for no good reason. You can only see so many dead kids before you start to think of your own (if you have any of course)

    If you can financially afford to leave, then great. If not and they post you somewhere else, well thats not ideal of what you want, BUT at least then you are still providing for your family by keeping a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their stomachs. Thats how I am viewing my situation. Being able to keep work and life seperate only works for so long in our type of work.

    Being around colleagues who have not received treatment - I can understand that too. For me, it doesnt trigger me, but for others, I know it does. Only you can answer this one.

    In summary, as a fellow public emergency worker. Working in the public services is like another family, its an experience which members of the public wont ever understand fully. Its a full time job, at work and outside of it.(for me anyway). Personally, I am going to stay I think at the moment and see what happens when I get back to work.

    Concentrate on getting your help and treatment first, your head will clear up and you will be able to assess and evaluate things better. Everyone has their breaking points - I thought I was invincible. Get your help and then see how you feel emotionally and DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU because if you leave, you will somehow make the finances work anyway.
    Elmez likes this.
  4. EddyMF

    EddyMF New Member

    Thank you for your insight Akhos. I will be back on car soon and seeing how I handle it while supervised. I know I would miss this business and never really thought about having to give it up forcibly. As we say, this business is a love and hate relationship. I am lucky my wife understands as she spent a few years on car before being injured and can bring some of it home with me and we can talk about things in a manner that not everyone can. I plan on seeing on how it goes once I return and take it from there.

    In regards to your missing working the street. Are there any volunteer programs locally that would give you a dose of helping others. Search and Rescue? Or other similar entities you could still operate with?
    zebbidee and Akhos like this.
  5. Akhos

    Akhos Well-Known Member Donated

    Unfortunately, with my role, I am not able to get involved in any other agencies as such. Search and rescue is all dealt with by the fire department anyway with the exception of sea rescue. As you say, its a love or hate relationship. I still love my job, and I still cant see myself doing without.

    I went back the first time too early, and was kept with experienced colleagues. This was great as I never kept it hidden and some of them, were good at noticing when I was struggling, others not so much but I went off again. I went back too early as I missed it and hated being seen, or feeling weak, because as you know, there are massive stigmas about the type of people in our line of work. Invincible, tough, keep going at it regardless of what happens, dont lose face etc.

    The turning point for me was when I realised that, despite trying not to, some of my working decisions in the heat of the moment were not the best, and realistically, over here at least, if I made a decision and as a result, someone died, I would be held fully accountable for that. I then had to weigh up between was it worth risking someones life just to prove a point to me, or was it better to pull out now, on extended sick leave (3 months now) and try to get my head fixed and protect the people who I am wanting to protect against me.
    zebbidee likes this.
  6. EddyMF

    EddyMF New Member

    I pulled the plug initially for the same reason, It started affecting my patient care and how I dealt with my colleagues. I am still hoping I can return and lead by example. We (?) seem to be the age between the "old boys/girls" and the younger generation. Through questioning those I'm getting treatment from it seems the "new age" has a lot less stigma to fight against to get help, and do it a lot sooner in their careers.
    zebbidee and Akhos like this.
  7. Akhos

    Akhos Well-Known Member Donated

    I have to echo that - same for me, the younger in service are quite happy to just go off work, and feel less guilty for doing so. Those of us from the "older generation" seem to struggle more with this. When I was growing up, a man never showed tears, never showed weakness, never showed failure etc, and its been so heavily ingrained in me that I tell the psychologist how bad I feel for not being at work. She responds saying - dont be guilty, the organisation would throw you to the wolves if you messed up due to a mental issue which you pretended didnt exist. Well, yes, I can understand that, but it doesnt stop me from feeling guilty being off work.

    Its definitely a generation thing - mental health when I was a kid was unheard of, whereas now, there is a name for everything.
    zebbidee and EddyMF like this.
  8. brokenEMT

    brokenEMT Well-Known Member

    Hi @EddyMF, welcome to the forum

    I'm a 15 year paramedic, and I'm having a similar dilemma. Do I return to ems, or do I leave my career? I don't want to leave, I would like to return, I'm just not sure it will be possible.

    You write that you're going back to work soon, under supervision. Is this a form of exposure? will you be 3rd on car? what kind of supports will you have? what has your therapist said about returning?

    I can't give you an answer, I don't have one for myself. Sending support your way.
  9. Freida

    Freida Been There, Done That, Lived to Tell the Story Premium Member


    I did the dispatch thing for 20 years before I went out recently on med leave from PTSD I got in the military that finally caught up with me. My Ts say 911 was pretty much the worst possible job I could have picked when I got out because the need to compartmentalize fits into the job description.

    I knew at about 12 years I was done. I was tired of all of it and it was wearing me down. I wouldn't give up because, well, I wasn't gonna be the person who couldn't hack it and I was damn good at what I did. Friends tried for 8 years to get me to get out but I always used the no money excuse, I liked my job excuse (even when I was only at about 50/5), I don't need the time off I'm fine excuse - you name it I used it. I got involved in training the next generation and that made it even harder. Year 18 my health tanked and I STILL wouldn't leave. I held out for 4 more years and then, boom. End of life as I knew it.

    I've been on disability for about 6 months now and here's what I've learned:
    • If I had stayed I would have killed someone because I couldn't concentrate
    • I ruined my health for a job that went on without me.
    • I wasn't as important to the job as I thought. They really could replace me. I don't say that like waa waa - but more I didn't have to worry so much about being the only person who could do
    • I ruined relationships by putting my job ahead of what really mattered
    • I can live quite fine on 60% of my salary even though I was the main earner in our house. We are on a death march budget, but it is doable
    • Giving up "things" was worth it
    • Docs and therapists say I have a very long time to go before I get my health back.
    • I'm a cautionary tale to those coming up behind me about the importance of taking care of yourself
    • Most importantly: I should have listened to those who said to bail. If I had I wouldn't be in this place now.
    Yes, I felt like a loser for giving up. Yes, some of my co-workers look down on me for it and been pretty awful. Yes, that bothered me at the beginning

    Now? They can kiss my happy ass. I finally have time to discover what relaxation looks like. I can finally make it through the day without dealing with a dead person. No one screams hysterically at me anymore. I have time to rebuild my relationships I left behind because I thought work was more important.

    20 years kids. --- it doesn't get better. The things that are bothering you now have gotten under your skin and it's going to be a long tough road to get them out. If you can. Yes, the kids coming up have a much better chance than the suck it up generation, but you don't have to save them. There are a ton of places you can go to feed that need for adrenaline and helping. AFTER you get better. My med group says I'm looking at 18 - 24 more months, on top of the 3 years I've already put in while I was working.

    Just because I wouldn't go when I knew it was time because I didn't want to risk my pride.
    Elmez, LuckiLee, CyclePath and 3 others like this.
  10. EveHarrington

    EveHarrington _______ in progress. Premium Member

    Stress kills.

    So essentially your job is trying to kill you.

    Why bother?

    The money is not worth it, never worth it when it comes to your health.

    Yeah, PTSD goes into remission for most people, but I don’t think that applies when you go back to the same traumatizing environment.
    CyclePath, Akhos and Freida like this.
  11. EddyMF

    EddyMF New Member

    Yes @brokenEMT. The company I work for has a return to work program that will slowly expose me to the environment again and then I will ride 3rd on car. I have had support with all forms from physical exercise program to Occupational Therapist (expose me to triggers and reduce and in my case eliminate them) and also a relaxation coach who teaches me meditation and breathing techniques. Along with Physiologist support. I have said no to meds from the get go. My Dr's agree I can return to work. soon.
    zebbidee, Akhos and Freida like this.
  12. brokenEMT

    brokenEMT Well-Known Member

    that all looks good on paper, have you seen how it works in reality? have you seen anyone successfully return? are you well supported if you struggle during your return?

    My employer has great supports, on paper. The reality is very different, however. Being aware of that, I know I'm not ready to return, because the real supports aren't actually in place.

    I have co-workers that have successfully returned to work, and you honestly wouldn't know that they have ptsd. I also have other co-workers that won't be able to return, or came back unsuccessfully. It's just so individual. You know best how you truly feel, and the supports in place for you during the return to work process.

    How do you feel about returning?
    EddyMF and Freida like this.
  13. Friday

    Friday Raise Hell Moderator

    One of my single biggest mistakes -in my life, to accurately place the bar, here- was to quit working. Having done both.

    Shrug. I think this is one of those no-win answers. Some, like me, need the job / to be useful / to have purpose and structure. Others? Die in harness. They need the time off, different field, distance.
    zebbidee, Freida and brokenEMT like this.
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