PTSD/PTSI is an injury, not an illness or a weakness. The normal brain processing and functions have been seriously altered due to a traumatic experience are repeated exposure to acute stress. It's not about what's wrong with you - It's about what happened to you.
Though every first responder is susceptible, there are ways to prepare for and process trauma that can significantly reduce the intensity and duration of symptoms. There are also effective methods for professions to treat PTSD/PTSI.
Preparation is critical to being able to limit the intensity of the symptoms and to constructively process trauma. Symptoms include: serious sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, intrusive thoughts and memories, poor coping skills, risk taking behaviors, problems at work, relationship problems, depression, feelings of helplessness, poor concentration, anger or rage, all encompassing fear, physical ailments.
The Warning Signs…
- Isolation: There is a natural tendency to become increasingly more isolated, becoming disengaged and not wanting to make decisions away from work. They become distant, detached and uninvolved.
- Irritability: Becoming increasingly “on edge”, restless, agitated with a short fuse.
- Anger: A pattern of taking out stress and frustrating on others. Anger is used to control, keep others at a distance, and to avoid being engaged.
- Emotional Numbness: The tendency to eventually shut down emotionally unable to feel anything-to become emotionally dead and indifferent to everyone and everything.
- Loss of Work Satisfaction/Cynicism/Distrust: This along with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness can become overwhelming and all-consuming.
- Drinking or taking other substances as a perceived need to try to sleep, relax, or to forget.
- Depression: Ignored or suppressed, this may worsen to potentially become severe, resulting in substance abuse, broken family and lives, lost careers, and a host of other debilitation problems, up to and including suicide.
Training for the Spirit
It is from the spirit that we process stress, overcome trauma, and serve with compassion. It is our motivation, beliefs, character, and resilience. Traditional first responder training neglects the spirit. “Bulletproof Spirit” focuses on training the most essential component of us all that makes us human – our spirit.
-Retired Captain Dan Willis, La Mesa Department.
For more information on PTSD/PTSI please read Bulletproof Spirit by Captain Dan Willis.