Feb 25 2019
Myth: Other people handle the trauma of this job better than I do. I am weak for struggling and need to learn to just suck it up.
Fact. The people who are “handling this job” well are the ones that allow themselves to experience the injury that trauma causes without considering themselves weak or damaged. They instead seek out support and work through the injury without being frustrated with themselves or ashamed that they are struggling.
Also consider the fact that there are at least 20 psychologists and licensed therapies in the Denver metro area who work with emergency responders. We wouldn’t have jobs if only a handful of people were struggling. Psychological injury is common and lots of folks seek help for managing that injury. You are not alone.
Feb 23 2019
“Only dead people never get stressed, never get broken hearts, never experience the disappointment that comes with failure. Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”
Feb 22 2019
Feb 22 2019
I’ve been getting a lot of questions and hearing a lot of concern from folks about the issue of talking openly about suicidal thoughts. So, let’s break this down a bit…
First of all, suicidal thoughts are NOT the same as suicidal behaviors. A clinician does NOT need to report suicidal thoughts to an agency unless there is real concern that without significant intervention, it is believed that the person will take steps to ATTEMPT suicide. Suicidal thoughts feel awful however, they serve a purpose…they exist as an internal alert system going off to tell you that you are at capacity for what you can deal with using the coping strategies you are currently using. Suicidal thoughts mean you need new/different coping strategies to help process through all the shit. What we need to cope changes over time…just because certain skills worked for you before, doesn’t mean you won’t need to update the system software sometimes. I have LOADS of suggestions for coping skills so feel free to let me know if you need some new ones.
And you know what’s pretty great? The body actually KNOWS WHAT TO DO WITH HUGE AMOUNTS OF STRESS. It knows what to do when it’s overwhelmed!!! As much as hearing “talk to someone” has become white noise to people, there’s a reason we keep harping on that….
**nerdy science lesson coming up next**
Connecting with someone releases oxytocin in the body. This stuff is awesome. It is nicknamed the Love Hormone because it is released when people bond socially. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and promotes feelings of loyalty and well-being. In other words, IT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER. Maybe not ALL better, but definitely moving in the right direction…And it’s totally legal!! You could try ecstasy to get a similar effect but I hear that’s frowned upon…SO let’s stick with oxytocin okay??? Sometimes people don’t want to tell others when they are struggling because they don’t want to be a “burden” but guess what, oxytocin is also released when you are HELPING others. Give the trusted people in your life a chance to get a good hit of this stuff by letting them help guide you through the darkness.
Having suicidal thoughts is a pretty tough dragon to slay. These thoughts are pretty nasty suckers and they are pretty good at getting you to feel isolated and to feel like the pain will never go away. Most people that have had suicidal thoughts say it’s not that they want to die, it’s that they want the pain to go away. I’ve been there…5 years ago (and what feels like a different lifetime ago) I had the first of two miscarriages and I battled suicidal thoughts for about six months. The doctor gave me a bottle of pain pills which was SUPER DUMB and I knew enough not to take them but that didn’t keep me from curling up in bed with them on a couple of occasions thinking how much I wanted the pain to go away. I lived for my mom. I lived for my dogs. And damn, am I glad I stuck around because I now live for ME and I have THE MOST incredible life that I could have ever dreamed up.
Everyone has scars…life is HARD. It gets SUPER HARD sometimes. If you aren’t ready to reach out then at least make sure you are taking care of yourself and showing yourself some compassion. Be kind and compassionate to yourself-mindfully coach yourself through it (one breath at a time, one day at a time, this too shall pass, etc.). Try and keep some structure to your life but also try and add some exciting new (HEALTHY) experiences to your routine too-when you are struggling, your system stops feeling pleasure in things you normally enjoy; new experiences can sometimes help reset the system. Travel helped me personally and so did A LOT of walking/hiking/being outdoors and positive/compassionate self talk.
I will NEVER judge you for experiencing suicidal thoughts. I don’t see that as weakness, brokenness, etc. My respect for you will go THROUGH THE ROOF anytime you are willing to work on yourself, actively participate in getting better, and recognize this whole “mental health” thing is a THING.
And to every first responder and loved one of a first responder out there, if you are looking for something you can do to help, share your story, admit that you’ve struggled (we all have), START THE CONVERSATION, post something uplifting about how you respect people for talking and reaching out. Make a suggestion of something HEALTHY that has worked for you when you were struggling. Recognize that people who are struggling are watching and listening, ALWAYS. Please choose to be a positive part of the conversation. If you have questions or just want to talk, let me know.