During my first emotional flashback I really had no clue what
was happening and why I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with
emotions. Being in a public place at the time, I slammed the
proverbial door closed on those emotions.
This was created to try to explain how I felt my life was like
in the very early days (acute phase) of my PTSD/Depression.
Every day felt like my entire world was going to come crumbling
down at any moment.
Make The Rescue
We hear it all the time "We are here for you, you are not
alone, just reach out". The sad reality for many 1st responders
battling PTSD/Depression and suicidal thoughts is they don't
reach out for any number of reasons. Instead of standing on the
shore watching someone drown in a pond of water and saying "we
are here for you, you are not alone, just reach out" perhaps
it's time that we proactively "reach in". As rescuers we
eventually go into that water and make the rescue. Why do we not
do the same thing when a 1st responder is drowning from
PTSD/Depression/Suicidal Thoughts? Make the rescue !
Not All Will
This piece of art was inspired by a conversation with a friend
about those who don't reach out and die by suicide. As a 1st
responder, as a human, I have an extremely difficult time
accepting that there are some we won't be able to save because
they are lost and aren't willing to not be lost.
The Mask We Wear: I'm Fine
This was created to highlight the fact that many with mental
health challenges wear a "mask" that hides their true feelings
from sight. Who knew Robin Williams was depressed?
Not All Wounds Are Visible
Self Explanatory - not all wounds, especially mental health
injuries, are visible.
At some point for many battling PTSD/Depression, those inner
"demons" sometimes lie to you.
It's A Team Sport
You can't fix your PTSD/Depression by yourself and it
doesn't fix itself. You need help to conquer it!
For the last 27 years I have always been on the front lines
willing to risk my life in situations that were marginally in my
favour for something bigger then myself and yet the battle with
PTSD/Depression forces me to sit on the sidelines and watch.
This is a reality that many 1st responders battling mental
health challenges have a hard time accepting.
The PTSD Puzzle
Whether you're trying to completely build that picture of
understanding of your triggers and symptoms, or your
understanding of the recovery and therapy process or using the
therapy process to rebuild that picture of yourself prior to
your injury, the PTSD battle is definitely a puzzle and
Because You Can't Fix It Yourself
For many 1st responders we see ourselves as the problem solvers
of society. We have an incredibly difficult time accepting that
in most cases we can't fix ourselves.
The Elephant In The Room
Sanctuary Trauma occurs when an individual who suffered a
severe stressor next encounters what was expected to be a
supportive and protective environment and discovers only more
trauma.... It seems to be so prevalent in all of the emergency
services and yet attempts to discuss it are usually met with
silence or denial of it's existence. It truly is the elephant in
Vertical Ventilation: Release The Bad Shit
For way too many 1st responders including myself, we bury the
emotions we feel from the traumatic incidents we have responded
to over the years. Eventually, unless they are properly dealt
with, they come back to haunt you in unexpected ways.
Ways To Well Being
A psychotherapist friend of mine asked me to create a piece of
digital art that represented what her clinic represented with
regards to supporting 1st responders. This piece is the result.
The firefighter and police officer are friends of mine and the
paramedic is a friend of Angela's.
A moral injury can occur when an individual has experienced a
potentially injurious event by “perpetrating, failing to
prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that
transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” and the
moral/ethical violation resulted in “lasting psychological,
biological, spiritual, behavioral, and social impact”
While not part of the PTSD diagnosis, PTSD and Moral Injury
quite often occur together with moral injuries significantly
impacting the success of PTSD therapy.
Not all flashbacks are visual (like an unexpected movie or
discrete images) or somatic (physical sensations). There are
"emotional flashbacks" as well.
When triggered these flashbacks are like an unexpected and
unwanted onslaught of emotions that seem to come at you from
nowhere and everywhere surrounding you and trapping you in an
overwhelming emotional state and responses that are very hard to
distinguish from an "ordinary" experience of self.
It's sad that there are some, even amongst our very own, that
still hold this belief.
The 5 A's
As you travel through your mental health journey and make gains
through therapy it's almost like you slowly come out from the
fog and smoke of that mental chaos and darkness that dominates
your life in the early days. The farther out of that fog and
smoke you go and the more your understanding grows, the clearer
things become and....the weaker the grip of those demons that
tried to keep you in that fog and smoke filled darkness.
Triggers no longer remain unknown, understanding of symptoms
gives you power over them and life gets better, even if it's
just a baby step forward, you are better then you were. It
struck me that in my journey there were 5 things that all play a
vital part of my journey. I call them the 5 A's..
ADMISSION: admitting that you need help and actually reaching
out for it. It all starts right here.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT: acknowledging that you experience a variety of
PTSD symptoms when they occur and ridding yourself of the denial
so prevalent in the early stages of a mental health journey
ACCEPTANCE: openly accepting you have PTSD and accepting the
fact that therapy will require hard difficult painful work
AVOIDANCE: understanding that without avoidance, PTSD couldn't
really exist and that so many aspects of PTSD revolve around our
conscious and unconscious attempts to avoid...to avoid emotions,
to avoid memories, to avoid people, to avoid triggers and yes to
sometimes avoid the difficult painful hard work of therapy
AWARENESS: the "Big A"...awareness of your thoughts, awareness
of your triggers, awareness of your emotions, awareness of your
cognitive distortions, awareness of your varied attempts to
avoid, awareness of your window of tolerance, awareness of your
current mental and emotional state, and awareness of how your
PTSD manifests itself in your physical body.