I got into Law Enforcement knowing that I would be one part of one of the few careers that will see, hear and touch things that no other person may ever see. I knew that there will be things that I will live with forever that may haunt me. I have other things that I have learned to live through, so I didn’t think this would be much different.
The first year of my career, I was on a car crash where multiple people died, including children. We couldn’t get to them to check if they were alive or not. I felt helpless. One person lived. I was the one to tell him his family didn’t make it. That was my first call with fatalities and it stuck with me hard. The children involved caused me many sleepless nights.
I remember calling off duty and running the hardest and fastest I have run in my life.
I attended what I called a critical incident debriefing that was private and only for people who were involved in the call. It helped me work through it with others that went through the same thing as I did.
After that, I struggled with many calls emotionally. I had a string of death following me around wherever I went. I did CPR more times than I can count and no one ever made it. I started to wonder if the CPR classes we took were a joke. I wanted to save every last person I came across.
Not only were there deaths, but drive-by shootings, assaults with weapons and sexual assaults running rampant. This is literally the first year of my career. I vented and spoke with other officers as they are one of the few people that understand the realities you go through.
For months at the beginning of my career, there were no breaks in the worst of the worse calls. I didn’t start my career in a metropolitan area, but a rural area. This was not what I expected. Other veteran officers kept telling me that it hasn’t been this busy in a long time and I am getting great experience from the start. There were times I thought I should quit before I get too far down this rabbit hole, but I truly love helping people through Law Enforcement.
I found solace in exercise, specifically running. I ran my bad calls away. It was to the point I was running miles a day and working out for hours and hours. I wanted to journal but never did because I was afraid someone would read it and have to imagine the calls I live with.
Over time, it didn’t seem to bother me as much. I handled more high risk calls with what I thought was ease and emotional grace. I even fought with a homicide suspect who ended up breaking my hand. To explain my disassociation to everything, I worked the next day with a broken hand. My chief looked at me and my hand and made me go home. He said that it doesn’t look right and I needed to go to the doctor. I am now glad he did that for me.
I honestly didn’t think much of breaking a bone. It happens with the job was my thought process. Just a side note, that is obviously not normal to happen at work even law enforcement, but my brain was all messed up emotionally and my thought process was off.
I even have photographs of me trying on my wedding dress with my cast. I kept wondering why all these ladies thought it was a big deal I had a broken hand.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I was pretty much emotionless. I had learned to cope with the daily life of law enforcement by withdrawing myself completely. I was still able to use compassion and have the bad guys go to jail, but I disassociated myself to the point that I felt nothing.
And by nothing I mean, nothing. During work, I went from call to call. At home, it was much the same. It took me a while to realize that I was not happy, not sad, not angry or anything. I was just a body in the house. I didn’t find much enjoyment in anything. I will say I personally didn’t realize how bad I had gotten until I was off for a couple of months on maternity leave.
When I started back at work, I felt like a whole new person. I actually felt emotions I hadn’t felt in years and wanted to do things again. My husband and oldest child were suffering along with me and I hadn’t even noticed.
I decided I needed to talk to someone to keep myself mentally healthy. I knew I needed therapy or I would revert back to that emotionless zombie.
My youngest is now 2 and I have found enjoyment in many different aspects of life. I have cried when I am sad, laughed when I am happy and gone out of my way to just have fun.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I had turned into a complete stranger to myself without even realizing it. If I hadn’t taken time off, I am not sure where I would be right now with my family. They were suffering and I didn’t realize. I was suffering as well and didn’t know.
My therapist listened to me for a few sessions and said, I’ll be diagnosing you with PTSD. You have all the symptoms. I denied it at first saying that only veterans and military people get that. She said no, It sneaks up on you and takes a hold of your life without you knowing it.
She explained that traumatic incidents can cause PTSD or serious incidents that bother you. I had quite a series of serious incidents at the beginning of my career. I think that triggered me as a rookie before I was able to adjust to the life of a police officer. I know to make sure the rookies are aware of the dangers and to seek professional help if needed. Don’t be ashamed and to listen to family and friends when they say you need help.
Read More PTSD Testimonials Here.
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment if you can relate.